Do I really have to explain who he is? Okay, okay. If you’re such a philistine that you don’t recognize the name of the grandest man in fashion, I forgive you…and pity you more than a little. Tim Gunn has been an iconic presence in the world of style and fashion for more than thirty years, starting out at Parsons School of Design and bursting into my consciousness (and millions of others’) on Project Runway in 2004. He’s dapper, insightful, original, gracious, smart, funny – I could go on indefinitely. I am a fan of almost limitless proportion.
Two days ago, my husband and I were out in the not too brutal July sun for a walk down Broadway. We were strolling, but with a purpose. As we crossed W. 92nd Street, he said, “Tim Gunn.”
“What?” I replied. All my attention, which had been dispersed throughout my field of vision, became pinpointed by those words. I stopped and turned to him.
“Tim Gunn just walked by.”
“Oh, yes, just look.” He pointed to a man now about a half-block behind us. There was no question. I recognized the back of the immaculately groomed silver-haired head. The high-water pants and shoes with no socks only confirmed what I already knew.
I took off, an unfamiliar mix of manic joy and laser-like intention filling every molecule. I could hear, as if from a great distance, my husband calling after me: “Where are you going? Are you following him?” I didn’t have time for a conversation.
At first I walked briskly, then I began to scurry. I was closing the gap. I was without doubt that I would speak to him. I just didn’t know exactly when and how. I picked up speed. I guess you could say I was now trotting after him. Just then he turned into a store, Radio Shack. I knew that my fate had been sealed. I waited a beat or two, gathered myself into a modicumof calm and poise (a façade, of course), and opened the door. Once inside I could see that Tim was walking to the back, a less open part of the store, lined with shelves. There were almost no other patrons at that moment. Good for me.
I walked with body and spirit held together by my all-consuming need to make contact, until I was a mere two feet from the man.
“Excuse me. Excuse me.”
He turned, with a most benign and receptive look on his handsome bespeckled face. “Yes.”
He was as one would expect, dressed to the nines, sport jacket, tie, gorgeous plaid shirt. Now I kind of lost it.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve never done this before. I’ve never accosted anyone before. But I’m a big fan of yours.”
With the gentle humanity and wry humor that is his trademark, he replied, “Accost away!”
He then extended his hand. “I’m Tim Gunn.”
I was now touching an idol. Life had become sweeter than I could have imagined. “I’m Karen, and I know who you are. I am a huge fan. I love everything you do.”
“Aren’t you sweet? You must be a neighbor.”
He was actually talking to me. As if I were a peer. How much better could this day get?
“Yes, I live on W. 95th Street.”
“I’m on 90th Street.”
There wasn’t much more after this, just the glow of true joy which filled me. I was merciful and left him to his privacy after a few more moments. But I bounded out into the street where my husband was waiting, wonder and amusement writ large across his face.
Now, all semblance of maturity left me. “I HAD A CONVERSATION WITH TIM GUNN.” I repeated this many, many time, dancing down the street. I was fourteen. Not a day older. After a quick run-through of what had happened in Radio Shack, I stopped and made a call to my best friend. I knew she, too, was a big Tim Gunn fan, and I just had to share. I sounded a little crazy. So she told me later on. But, with the patient understanding that is a given with her, she listened, making appropriate responsive sounds.
“This,” I asserted as we resumed our walk, “is the best day of my life. I’m so glad I’m lost all that weight. I couldn’t have done it if I were still overweight.”
Don’t judge me for my superficiality, there’s a deeper meaning to all this…it’s a relief that I CAN permit myself to be shamelessly impulsive, without any interference from that negative voice-over which used to plague me and tell me I didn’t look good.
After a few more minutes, I looked down at what I was wearing: lavender slacks and an azure blue tee shirt. “I just wish I were wearing a cuter outfit.” Fourteen.