Before I entered the PR biz, I toiled as a theater producer (and sometimes director) in the Bay Area. Along with two very smart British friends, I ran a small, professional theater company out of a progressive, private school on Berkeley called Black Pine Circle. It was a beautiful space -- small, elegant, and adaptable to meet the Equity "waiver" rules which enabled us to work with great local talent, but at reduced cost.
And the talent, indeed, was great. A number of wonderful people graced our little stage, mostly from the solo-performance world. One person was Josh Kornbluth, a college friend, who had already made a name for himself in theater and film (today he has a show on public TV). And another was Cameron Silver, a dapper singer/actor who had been touring the country with a critically acclaimed retrospective of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht songs. The show was called from Berlin to Babylon (Babylon meaning Hollywood, of course). It was a very strong show -- understated, but beautifully designed and executed -- and Silver made a big impression on us. It was as if we were visited by the ghost of long-dead Hollywood actor. Silver was bigger than life, I remember thinking, and not quite from this life.
Well, just the other day, my wife informed me that Silver has a new life, and that he's the subject a long feature in the most recent edition of The New Yorker. Shortly after the Babylon show closed, he started a vintage clothing business in, uh, Hollywood, and he is now a trendsetter in the fashion business and a celebrated confidante to the stars (Marisa Tomei, Salma Hayek, Catherine Deneuve, among many others). And, of course, he is still the performer; the only thing is that he is performing on a different stage. Says Tomei: "he's got a vaudevillian heart inside there, and I connect with that."
I've always felt odd about the world of fashion, and this is not the first time that I've had an encounter with someone in that world. My sister-in-law is a designer, and in fact has a store directly across the street from the restaurant where I last met with Silver (I picked up the check, I'm pretty sure). But I am reminded of the fact that people communicate not only in words, not only in images, but with the clothes they wear every day. Tom Wolfe, a dapper writer who would fit comfortably in Silver's salon, has learned how to decipher the social world with a designer's eye. I can't say I see the world the same way, but I am acutely aware others do, and that they use their talent like night vision while the rest of us naively go about our business.
Hey, Cameron -- fit me into your calendar next time I'm in LA. I'd love your advice on what I should wear to next year's NewCommForum.