"Honey, i'm a total animal," says Lauren Ezersky, fashion animal, into her cell phone during an early-September pedicure at the Stephen Knoll salon on Madison Avenue. She's wearing bright red-and-white-striped overalls, her earlobes are weighted down by two rows of dusty diamond earrings, and the pedicurist is artfully avoiding a golden toe ring. "I'll do, like, anything . . . ," she says in her signature Fran Drescher whine. She snaps her phone shut. "It is, like, the best time of my life ever," she drawls.
As the host of Behind the Velvet Ropes, a decade-old fashion-industry talkfest (currently shown ten times a week on the Style Network), Ezersky is fashion's most joyously kooky cheerleader, dragging cameras and chihuahuas through the showrooms of the industry's top designers, providing animated commentary and swooning over the clothes, the clothes, the clothes. Elsa Klensch she's not. Her black-and-white-streaked hair, raccoon-kohled eyes, and "I love fashion" getups (one night she can look like the Addams-family child who ran away with John Galliano, and the next like a forties housewife in head-to-toe Prada: stacked heels, tweed suit) have always seemed outrageous in a town where most fashion editors walk around like soldiers in the Army of Michael Kors.
Nevertheless, Ezersky, at 48, has become a force to be reckoned with. Those in the fashion world who matter -- Calvin, Donna, Marc, and so on -- have all appeared on Behind the Velvet Ropes at least once, and the program can currently be seen in twelve countries and counting. This season, for the first time, she'll also be covering the New York shows as a Style Network correspondent, in addition to writing her fashion column for Paper magazine. "It's been hard for us cartoon girls, like me and Lauren and Pat Field," says designer Betsey Johnson, "but Lauren's really stuck it out, and now it's working for her."
Agrees Nicole Miller: "She's here to stay."
At the very least, she's here to be noticed. Witness her at work during Fashion Week last February, as the Japanese paparazzi chant her name. "Lauren, Lauren," they call, trailing her all the way to the Porta-Johns.
And here she is backstage at the Marc by Marc Jacobs show ("I've known Marc, like, twenty years! Since he was a salesboy at Charivari!"), interviewing the designer. As the models peel out of their brightly colored, mismatched layers -- which call to mind Sesame Street circa 1978 -- she interprets the look for her viewers. "Marc doesn't expect his girls to wear something head to toe," she stage-whispers to the camera. "And I'm like, 'I love Galliano, I want the shoes, I want the bag. I want it a-wall.' I love Prada. I want the whole, whole thing."
At an industry party, she's cornered by more fans. "Oh. My. God," exclaims Hervé Pierre, design director at Bill Blass. "The interview you did with Helmut" -- only he says it El-moot -- "Newton. It was amazing. Amazing. When we look back, when our children look back, they will say that was the most important interview with Monsieur Newton. Ever. It will be our eee-story." Ezersky smiles. New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham snaps her picture. "Hi, Bill!" she says sweetly, and everyone from Diane von Furstenberg to Stan Herman to Iman comes by to pay their respects. "Do you have enough Paloma?" the P.R. girl for the perfume wants to know. "Because I'll send more . . . "