Cats meow, p.1
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       Cat's Meow, p.1

           Melissa de la Cruz
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Cat's Meow


  SCRIBNER PAPERBACK FICTION

  Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Rockefeller Center

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  www.SimonandSchuster.com

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Text copyright © 2001 by Melissa de la Cruz

  Illustrations copyright © 2001 by Kim DeMarco

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  SCRIBNER PAPERBACK FICTION and design are trademarks of Macmillan Library Reference USA, Inc., used under license by Simon & Schuster, the publisher of this work.

  For information regarding special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-800-456-6798 or business@simonandschuster.com

  Designed by Colin Joh

  Set in Goudy Old Style

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  5 7 9 10 8 6 4

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  De la Cruz, Melissa, 1971-

  Cat’s meow : a novel / Melissa de la Cruz ; illustrated by Kim DeMarco.

  p. cm.

  1. Young women—Fiction. 2. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction. 3. Fashion—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3604.E43 C38 2001

  813′.6—dc21 2001020467

  ISBN 0-7432-0504-9

  ISBN: 978-0-7432-0504-7

  eISBN: 978-1-439-14333-9

  For Mike Johnston

  acknowledgments

  This book would not be possible without the following people: my wise and patient editor, Doris Cooper; my fabulous co-conspirator, Kim DeMarco; my tireless agent, Stacey Glick at Jane Dystel; the indomitable Hint party patrol: Lee Carter, Horacio Silva, and Ben Widdicombe.

  I would also like to thank Airié Dekidjiev, Jessica Jones, Todd Oldham, Tim Blanks, Tom Dolby, Simon Doonan, Michael Musto, John Strausbaugh, Andrey Slivka, Geoff Kloske, Kathleen Cowan, Liza Sciambra, Amy Larocca, Jennie Kim, Mindy Schultz, Caroline Suh, Ellen Morrissey, Thad Sheely, Gabriel Sandoval, Ruth Basloe, Alicia Carmona, Peter Edmonston, Andy Goffe, Gabriel de Guzman, Tristan Ashby, and Tyler Rollins for their friendship and enthusiasm.

  Last, I extend heartfelt thanks to my family: Bert and Ching de la Cruz, Francis de la Cruz, and Steve and Christina Green, whose love and support have been invaluable.

  You’re a slave to fashion and your life is full of passion … But you keep asking the question One you’re not supposed to mention When will I, will I be famous?

  —Bros, “When Will I Be Famous?”

  I’ve learned a tremendous amount from maids in my life.

  —Diana Vreeland, DV

  contents

  PART ONE: AVANT LE DÉLUGE

  1 Introducing the Quixotic Cat

  2 Plus One

  3 Good Help

  4 Bankruptcy, Barneys, and Public Humiliation?

  5 Charity Begins at Home: The China Syndrome

  6 Belle of the Ball

  7 Life Beyond Cashmere

  8 Three Plans and an Unexpected Coincidence

  9 The New Tenant

  10 A Room with a View

  PART TWO: FASHION WEAK

  11 Condé Not

  12 Billy the Kid

  13 Stealth Wealth

  14 Motherhood: The Latest Urban Affectation

  15 Fashion Editrix

  16 Live from Bryant Park

  17 They’ll Always Have Paris

  18 IPOver

  19 Thanksgetting and a Proposal

  20 Surviving Sun Valley

  PART THREE: KINGDOM COME

  21 Castles in the Air

  22 Alien Abduction

  23 The Princess Bride

  24 Deus Ex Mummy-na

  EPILOGUE: THE AFTER-PARTY

  25 The Return of the Park Avenue Princess

  *PART ONE*

  avant le déluge

  1.

  introducing the quixotic cat

  My name is Cat McAllister. Tonight I will celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday for the fourth time. Things I like: birthdays. Things I don’t like: liars.

  I’m the kind of girl who laughs loudly, smokes incessantly, and appears to be hell-bent on destroying herself, but stylishly. Really, I should have tragically overdosed by now. Or else succumbed to some harrowing disease brought on by vodka tonics and Tic Tacs. So the least I can do is refuse to age gracefully—to defy it every step of the way, just like Melanie Griffith.

  I used to be famous—well, maybe famous is too strong a word. I began my career as the smiling baby on the side of the Pampers box, an auspicious beginning considering Jodie Foster started out as a bare-bottomed Coppertone kid. But unlike Jodie, whose preeminence in Hollywood began through roles in movies like Taxi Driver, Freaky Friday, and Stealing Home (a rare stumble), and who ultimately garnered double-fisted Academy Awards, I auditioned for the role of Gertie in E.T. but ended up the poor man’s Punky Brewster. My specialty was variations on orphan roles: on Miami Vice I played a spunky street urchin, on Growing Pains the Seavers’ stray before Leonardo diCaprio usurped my role with that bowl haircut and dimple of his, and on Webster, where I became lifelong friends with Emmanuel Lewis. The apex of my career came when I starred in my very own network vehicle. I played the precocious adolescent adopted by Pat Morita and Dyan Cannon, but our little “dramedy” failed after one season. Apparently the world wasn’t ready for Party of One.

  As a teenager, I was set to reign as the Gisele of the day—the ruling model of Paris, London, and Milan—but instead I became an Asahi beer calendar girl in Tokyo. In fact, I’m the sixth Spice. I tripped on my five-inch platforms on the way to the MTV shoot and missed out on the taping of the “Wannabe” video. I’m stuck in that seventh circle of celebrity hell where I’m just recognizable enough that people think they know who I am but on second thought can’t place me for the life of them.

  Oh, well.

  Maybe the reason I turn twenty-five every year is that I feel like I’m in a holding pattern. Because while I’ve done almost everything and been almost everywhere and I know almost everybody in New York, I’m nowhere on the New York Observer’s yearly sociopopularity index. My one consolation is that I own the appropriate wardrobe should Annie Lebowitz ever come calling—a closet full of designer labels, ostrich feathers, fox stoles, tulle underwear, silk kimonos, sequin shifts, and cigarette holders. I even own the pink dress Marilyn Monroe wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Madonna has a knockoff).

  Things you won’t find in my closet: shoulder pads, tie-dye, wash-and-wear.

  My life just wasn’t supposed to be so … stagnant. Everyone who’s anyone has certainly moved on from the impromptu-striptease-on-the- dance -floor stage—now either glowingly pregnant and happily married while launching their own clothing line or making their directorial debuts at Sundance or overseeing billion-dollar cosmetics companies—the jet set is simply so talented now (days of lolling about in chair sedans decidedly over)—but the only thing I seem to have accomplished is the ability to shop while blindfolded. How utterly humiliating to realize that I still haven’t made a handsome match while saving the world with a cure for cancer, or at least hosting a benefit for the cause.

  It’s terribly unfair, because I was made for paparazzi stalkers and tabloid headline notoriety. After all, I was born on Park Avenue and baptized just down the street from the holy temple of Bergdorf Goodman. Daddy was an up-by-his-bootstraps kind of guy, a self-made businessman from Queens whose success bought prime beach-front acres in East Hampton. Mummy was a woman of devastating b
eauty and outlandish charm—she was a flight attendant. They met over first-class cocktails sometime in 1970. Back then Mummy wore a smart little Yves Saint Laurent uniform made of blue polyester with orange trim, but she soon graduated to Saint Laurent couture. Yet for all her efforts to penetrate the Mortimer’s-American Ballet Committee-Rockefeller Foundation crowd, Mummy was always too nouveau even for the nouvelle, who saw her as a vulgar interloper (this was before the eighties, mind). When my father lost a sizable amount of his net worth through a series of bad investments—million-dollar restaurants that never gained more than one star in a New York Times review, waterfront property for a baseball stadium that never materialized, a controlling interest in Betamax—she stopped trying to fit into New York society altogether.

  I was eight years old when my parents divorced. Daddy found solace in a series of young blondes who didn’t seem to mind that he had been downgraded from billionaire to millionaire, while Mummy took up with a succession of men of descending importance in the political and entertainment fields—from Academy Award-winning directors and Republican congressmen to Latin American playboys and Norwegian parfumiers. Mummy also retains a marginal hold in the public eye by writing an astrology column for the National Enquirer.

  * * *

  I live for velvet ropes and open bars, aviator sunglasses and seaweed scrubs, Hello Kitty lunchboxes, pony-skin handbags, peacock-feathered shoes, and gold-leaf invitations to VIP events. The kind of exclusive fete frequented by glossy-magazine editors, DJs, models, photographers, stylists, kindersocialites, the several pseudo-celebrities “cajoled” into showing up (Gary Coleman, Sylvia Miles, Monica Lewinsky) as well as the legions of assorted fashionable hangers-on—aggressive party crashers who more often than not spend their days manning the M.A.C. counter at Bloomingdale’s—star-struck kids with a talent for self-invention who have just arrived in the city from Florence … or Fresno.

  I’m happy to report I’m booked every night of the week, except on Friday and Saturday nights, of course, when the city is filled with a strange kind of people. Those who hold jobs. Not that my manic partying isn’t work. That’s why weekends are devoted to maintenance and television. It’s the only time I can devote myself to Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Popstars, put on my oxygen mask, and practice my breathing. Sometimes I’ll even do all three at once.

  So where did I go wrong? In the back of my mind, I always thought that by the time I reached thirty, I’d have something: either a rich and successful husband who kept me in couture or else a fabulous and fulfilling job that garnered me the respect and envy of my peers. But instead of ascending up the New York circles via legacy or meritocracy, I spend my days in Madison Avenue dressing rooms and my nights in the unsavory confines of certain nightclub bathrooms. It’s all getting to be so predictable and surprisingly tedious, and loneliness, as Bryan Ferry croons, is a crowded room.

  Perhaps I should mention that my erstwhile fiancé, Brockton Moorehouse Winthrop the Third, or “Brick” for short—recently broke off our on-again-off-again engagement. He dumped me for a Victoria’s Secret supermodel. One Pasha Grigulgluck—otherwise known in the press as the “Tits from Transylvania.” Pasha was a high school dropout and runaway from the national figure-skating team. Two months and two silicone injections later, “nineteen”- year-old Pasha was pouting down from a billboard on Times Square and had my ex-boyfriend wrapped around her little finger.

  Brick is a polo-playing venture capitalist, an extremely busy and successful man. We dated on and off for years. Oh sure, we rarely saw each other—he was always racing his hot-air balloon somewhere over Uzbekistan while I was shopping on Carnaby Street, but that was the point. We kept in touch via speakerphone—Brick would dial me from his Gulfstream V, so his voice always sounded vaguely far off, as if he were some kind of god. But I don’t really miss Brick as much as I miss the idea of him.

  India says I’m being silly, because how can I be lonely when I have her in my life? India Morgan Beresford-Givens is New York’s reigning postoperative transsexual. In other words, a drag queen who’s gone the distance. She’s also my best friend in the whole world. India swears she’s descended from the Astors, as well as being a bastard cousin to the British royal family. Her life has been one of scandal, intrigue, painful hormone treatments, and invitation-only Chanel sample sales. I’ve known India forever. We’ve gone from New Wave groupies with asymmetrical haircuts and Duran Duran fixations, to clown-suit-wearing club kids in ski masks, to Gucci-clad fashionistas tripping over nail-heel stilettos. India doesn’t understand loneliness, mostly because she never sleeps alone. I, on the other hand, can hardly stand the thought of soiling my fivehundred-thread-count Frette.

  “Cat, is something wrong?” India asked, horrified. “You’ve hardly touched your vodka tonic.” We were having our usual late-afternoon liquid lunch at Fred’s, the restaurant in the basement of Barneys.

  “I know,” I mourned. “What’s wrong with me? I detest angst. I’ve done angst. I’ve been to college.”

  “What you need,” India chided, “is a new man. Look at me, I feel fabulous. Invigorated.” India had a new man every other week. “You’ve got to stop whining about Brick and the supermodel. You need something new—more specifically, you need someone new.”

  “But who?” I asked, hiding behind oversize sunglasses that used to belong to Jackie Onassis. India knew as well as I did that I was hopeless when it came to men. My relationship with Brick lasted for so long because we didn’t have real conversations. Brick was the King of the Monologue, and expected the Nancy Reagan treatment at all times. I highly suspected I didn’t really want a man—not for all the typical reasons, anyway. I wanted a “handbag”—something that would look nice on my arm. Sometimes I wished I could just skip the whole relationship thing and proceed straight to the alimony checks. So much easier that way.

  “Well, obviously, it’s got to be someone worthy. You can’t just end up with some regular Joe Schmoe off the street,” India said.

  “Obviously,” I agreed, rolling my eyes at the very thought.

  “What about a de Rothschild? A Whitney? A Vanderbilt? A Whitney-Vanderbilt? A Rockefeller?” India threw out last names like clothing labels—which wasn’t too far off, when you thought about it. A Louis Vuitton lifestyle funded by a princely American fortune—isn’t that what a modern Manhattan marriage was all about? Except all the new billionaires were over in Silicon Valley, and God knows I would never move there. I mean, where would I have my hair done?

  “Darling, doesn’t your mother know anybody nice?”

  I gave India a look.

  “Oh, that’s right, dear. I keep forgetting.”

  My mother flitted about so much, exchanging men like foreign currency, that the only way to keep track of her movements was by consulting an international collection of dubious celebrity magazines. “There was a small mention in Paris Match about some sort of birthday party for her pet poodle last week,” I said. Sometimes I did receive the occasional cablegram inquiring about my health. Mummy on e-mail? She didn’t even know how to dial long distance!

  But it was useless to complain, as Mummy did what she could. For my fifth birthday, she threw an authentic barnyard bash—at the Waldorf-Astoria, just like Elsa Maxwell—complete with real animals—cows, pigs, goats, and chickens. “But, madam, we cannot have livestock in the ballroom!” the scandalized concierge had protested. But they did, by custom-making felt slippers for the animals’ hooves. The hit of the party was Elsie the cow, who milked champagne and vodka from her udders.

  “I’ve got it!” I said, quaffing my cocktail in a gulp, finally understanding what it was I really wanted in a man. “Von und su!”

  “The right possessive pronouns,” India agreed, impressed.

  “A little Thum und Thaxis.”

  “De or du.”

  “Or better yet—an ‘of Something’! Not even a last name—just a country!” I was inspired.

  “With an HRH in front.”

>   “Hmmm…”

  “Hmmm…”

  “But what about—egads, HRH Princess Marie-Chantai of Greece?” I asked.

  “Err—it does give one pause.” India nodded.

  “But I suppose I could live with it,” I decided. “I’ve got it! Stephan of Westonia,” I said, remembering a recent conversation with social gadabout Cece Phipps-Langley.

  “The Royal Prince of Westonia?” India asked, cocking an eyebrow. “Hmm … could be a good prospect. And not bad-looking either, even with the eye patch.”

  “Oh, it’s all about the eye patch,” I said. “By the way, where is Westonia exactly?”

  “Somewhere in the Baltic, I think, near the Balkans. Or is it Bavaria?” India mused.

  “Cece said he keeps homes in Buenos Aires, Baden-Baden, and Beverly Hills … and that brokers are taking him to look at penthouses on Fifth Avenue and beachfront cottages in Sag Harbor,” I said. Cece never gossiped about anyone who wasn’t important. “Apparently his title dates back to the Holy Roman Empire and he can trace his ancestry to all the royal houses in Europe, the imperial court of Russia, as well as Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, Franklin Roosevelt, and, urn, Serge Gainsbourg.”

  “So what does he do now?”

  “Mmm … I don’t know for sure. Some sort of financial thing with a Wall Street bank, I’m sure. Don’t they all? Supposedly he has gazillions. Not one of those all-castle-no-cash kind of things. He’s only thirty-five and—get this—unmarried,” I said in a breathless rush.

  “And he’s not gay?” India asked keenly.

  “No, I don’t think so. Cece said he just came out of a secret relationship with Princess Caroline.”

  “Of Monaco?” India asked, impressed.

  I nodded eagerly.

  “Well, then, how… serendipitous indeed.” We silently contemplated this minor miracle. Rich. Titled. Single. Straight. Parfait!

  “And you know what they say. A good man possessing a great fortune should soon be parted from it through marriage,” I said to India. “Or something like that.”

 
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