O.Henry Ending

Jonni and Giorgio

How Norwood brought out the best in Hollywood

By Cynthia Adams

She may be
a Southern Belle, but cotton prints and housedresses were never her thing. Jonni “Jets” has a wardrobe suggesting a film star not a shut-in. (She won the “Jets” moniker from her grandchildren, given her love of travel, especially when involving nice hotels and shopping.)

Gold, lamé and sparkles are her basics.

Now topping the scales at 82 pounds, our little mama’s glitzy wardrobe is too large — even the extra smalls.

Last week, I opened the closet jammed with cruise-worthy finery, murmuring, “I have to help you clear this out.”

Then I paused: Where was the Giorgio Beverly Hills’ dress?

When my mother went through a rough patch some years ago, I suggested a trip, trying to incentivize her medical recovery.

Living up to her moniker, she suggested Vegas.

Not London, not New York. Jets wanted to do Vegas and got her wish.

On another occasion, after I was repaid an old debt, I was feeling flush and proposed another trip. Jets’ answer? L.A.

She turned her sites upon a city befitting a glamazonian, one who has spent more time in a hairdresser’s chair than Norma Desmond. I booked us into a classy B & B in Beverly Hills. Her head was entirely in the stars.

Upon arrival we learned actor Mickey Rourke demolished his room the prior night. My mom hissed, “Mickey who? Mickey Rooney?”

Her head swiveled around the lobby.

That afternoon I took her to the breathtaking Getty Museum. A spectacular flop for Jets, who slumped outside looking dejected, till I remembered whose trip this was.

I booked the Grave Line Tour (now the Dearly Departed Tours) featuring the last stops or “deathstyles” of the rich and famous. Mom sprang to life.

We walked Rodeo Drive. Mom gasped standing beneath the yellow-striped awnings of Giorgio Beverly Hills where Liz Taylor and Natalie Wood had shopped. Hooray for Hollywood!

With misgivings (all mine), we entered. Mom gasped with delight, her hand reaching for a bottle of Giorgio’s namesake fragrance. The staff sprang to action, spritzing her. She beamed.

The Giorgio’s people knew exactly what they were dealing with: two Southern ding-dongs unaccustomed to sipping bubbly when shopping.

To our utter delight, there was a major sale. Her red-carpet radar on full alert, Mom found a dress fit for the Oscars, replete with feathered boa. (They ship free! she breathed.) I bought nice towels.

With several flutes down the gullet, we shopped as if an entourage and a limousine awaited.

Inhibitions waaay down, I charged a leather skirt, jacket and a peculiar green hat that made me look like a dominatrix kitted out for St. Patrick’s Day.

Mom bought things ill-suited to her life back in N.C., but that was beside the point.

Pretty Woman’s version of shopping was wrong: Beverly Hills, like anywhere, rewards kindness. Nor did it hurt that my mother lavished praise.

The Giorgio dress was worth each luminous sequin and fluttery feather, although Mom never found a suitable occasion to wear it in Norwood. She resumed her life there, but breathlessly recounted the details of Valentino’s mausoleum, (maudlin), Lucille Ball’s home (modest), even Hitchcock’s iron gates with ravens (macabre.)

What did not disappoint were the beautiful people at Giorgio’s, and the dress.

And so, it remains in the closet, this thing of beauty. A joy forever. An utterly unnecessary essential.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor for O.Henry magazine.

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