It's inevitably intriguing to open plush design magazines and inspect the handiwork of men and women of impeccable taste.
Then again, April-May Elle Decor is refreshing precisely because it asks 50 "friends," mostly big-time fashion trendsetters, about the spaces they absolutely detest.
"The most disastrous room is a recently decorated dining room with the walls patterned in designs like Boulle furniture," says fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, omitting where it is. "Not one square millimeter is left unpainted. The effect is sinister -- the height of pretension."
A famous Paris restaurant, Maison Blanche, "wins the prize for pretentiousness," opines Linda Wells, editor in chief of Allure magazine. In particular, she can't stand the "indecipherable" ladies' room, bereft of doorknobs and faucets. As she was exiting, Sylvester Stallone's ex, Brigitte Nielsen, was entering. "Enough said," snoots Ms. Wells.
Fabled fashion designer Giorgio Armani has an odd pick, a 1970s-style Las Vegas house "with all the kitsch you could imagine. It was one of the worst places I've seen in my life." Giorgio, lighten up. As you admit, it was part of a movie set, for Martin Scorsese's new "Casino," and was done on purpose.
Decorator Stephen Sills says the most disastrous single space is the atrium in New York's Trump Tower: "It exalts everything that is without value."
Decorator Gabhan O'Keefe found a recent trip to a McDonald's a "truly horrific experience. The mindless, monotone burgerspeak, the wipe-down plastic furniture, the harsh eat-up-and-get-out lighting, and the terrible ceramic wheatsheaf tiles combine to make this a wrist-slashing interior."
Bruce Shapiro, an associate editor at the Nation, recounts with poignant anger his own bloody confrontation with violent crime in the April 3 issue. He details how, only weeks after writing an editorial in the magazine deriding the just-passed congressional anti-crime package, he was one of seven patrons at a coffeehouse in New Haven, Conn., badly wounded in one man's crazed knife attack last summer (one knife stroke cut his diaphragm and sliced his spleen in half). "Not a single one of those 412 pages [in the crime bill] would have protected me from our assailant," he writes in a piece deriding both big-talking, revenge-minded anti-crime politicians and intrusive press coverage.
Ever-sour arts critic John Simon, who couldn't stand Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" when it premiered in 1969, inspects its rereleased uncut version and still hates it. In April 3 National Review, Mr. Simon says the confusion of its plot is "even more palpable and obfuscatory."
Vol. 1 Issue 3 of Inquisitor, one of the proliferating personal-computer-generated, niche-marketed, often ad-free magazines, has an interesting essay on the seeming decline of camp humor. It targets as the cause a world where repressed expression, the key to camp (often a gay form of expression), has been replaced with "show-all tell-all no-holds-barred purgings by the entire world" ($5, P.O. Box 132, New York, N.Y. 10024).