By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
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It's a sausage fest in Old Town Scottsdale on this Thursday night. And the J-grrl and I are at Martini Ranch, beholding a sea of horny, white and mostly male faces. I haven't seen this many ofays since the last time the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship. The testosterone is flowin' in here like Cristal champagne at the VMA awards. There are some ladies present. I just wish there were more to offset the frat-house feel of the joint. A couple of brothers wouldn't hurt, either, though I do see one holding it down on the security detail.
Onstage is the house band, which looks a little like Huey Lewis and the News, the Early Years. They're doing Top 40 covers while this drunken blonde in a blue-jean skirt is dancing by herself. The dudes ogle the dudette, trying to keep themselves from going into pre-gang-bang mode. After all, they're here for the same reason the L-word Uma Thurman and I are here, to peep the triangles on the shorties at the Ranch's "Summer's End" back-to-school bikini fashion show. So I reckon I can't blame them much.
"Kreme, where the tight boo-tays at?" the Jettster asks me like I own the damn place.
"I dunno," I reply. "Should be starting soon, but the Average White Band here is making me nauseous. Let's look out back."
Like an OG Green Hornet and a lezzie Kato, we move through the crowd, trying to sniff out the babeage we were promised by the promos. Past Martini Ranch's Hard Rock Cafe-esque main room, we enter the large, enclosed patio and catch a glimpse of some model honeys clustered toward the back waiting for the band to take a powder so they can move into the limelight. Hanging with these ladies is the fashion triumvirate of the evening, Susan Di Staulo, Sommer Christine and Jaymie Chague. Di Staulo, the leader of the pack, is an ex-New Yorker who left behind her career in Gotham to follow some formerly lucky fella out to the desert.
"Oh, I've had a hundred boyfriends since then," the thin, attractive blonde explains. "I've been in the Valley since 2001, and it's a lot easier doing fashion out here. There's a real thirst for design. I mean, I made my debut at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. You don't get that kind of access in New York."
Di Staulo relates that she was asked to create bikinis for this show by the folks at Superstar Entertainment, part of whose thing is pairing fashion events to unlikely venues, like Martini Ranch, where Daisy Dukes seem more appropriate than haute couture. Bikinis are always a crowd-pleaser, and so perfect for the masses at the Ranch.
"Is it easier designing bikinis than other types of clothes?" inquires my gal pal Jett, who fancies herself a bit of a style maven. "After all, there is less fabric."
"You know, the human body is amazing," says the delicious-looking Di Staulo. "Ultimately, all fashion is about being naked, so with the bikini you can work with that and take it any place you want."
"So if I'd like one of your designs to prance around the house in, where could I buy them?" wonders Jett.
"The Lilypad Shop in Scottsdale, and Kontrive in Tempe," answers the design diva.
Next to her in a skintight, violent orange Pucci shirt is fashion-meister Chague, 22, who has his own line called J'Mi. He has five pieces in the show, and explains he moved out to the Zona (by way of Cali) from Connecticut, partly for the weather and partly -- like everyone else -- to pursue his dreams.
"I plan on staying here for a while," says the young, talented fella. "I'm still sort of experimenting with my line, but my forte's always been evening gowns, and that's what sells. Big skirts and lots of ruffles. Plenty of velvet and taffetas, and you're all set. But doing bikinis for this show has been fun. I just tried to make mine girly and cute. Though one of them has a sort of James Bond theme. The others are sort of basic bathing suits."
To his right is the 23-year-old Christine, a homegirl all the way from Ahwatukee. She has a young, girl-next-door look, and has been creating ever since her mom stuck her in front of a sewing machine when she was a kid.
"I'd always get compliments on my designs," she tells us. "So I finally decided to take it to the next level. I'm working on developing my own line right now. This is my first adventure into bikini-land, so to speak."
"So what was the inspiration for your bikinis?" I query, getting all Harper's Bazaaron her.
"Whatever I make, I want it to be sexy, but soft and sophisticated," says Christine. "I love the juxtaposition of ideas in context. So I like to be girly, but at the same time, you've gotta be able to move. I'm a girl, but I'm not going to sit by and let someone do something for me. So anything I make has that availability."