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Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera)

Libretto by Jeffrey Lependorf

Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) Libretto by Jeffrey Lependorf Hi, I’m Tim Gunn and this is my podcast for the Miss USA Episode. So, as we enter into this new episode, Keith is the winner, and he has immunity so he cannot be eliminated in this challenge. And Stacey, is out— um, regretfully— she, she is good, has a lot of potential, but somebody had to go. But, we have lost her at this point.

So, we enter into a new challenge. Heidi introduces Tara Conner, Miss USA, to all the designers on the runway. And explains the challenge. They are going to design the gown that she will wear to the Miss Universe pageant. And this is a big, big deal.

Most aptly and formidably demonstrated by the fact that the evening gown competition at Miss Universe is one third of the voting, so it’s really significant, it’s really big and you can feel the buzz around that runway from the designers. They’re very excited and in some cases they’re very terrified. So but, Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


it’s, it’s good. And it, and it’s a wonderful challenge and we have a real client before us.

So then I meet with the designers in the workroom and I have Tara with me. We talk again about how big this is and how important it is, and Tara talks about what she’s looking for in a gown. What’s really interesting is that she uses the term “red carpet” as opposed to “pageant.” She says I really don’t want something that’s “pageanty,” “I want something that would look great on a red carpet.” And there really is a difference. And you can see in Kayne in particular you can see that resonating in him, because he knows that difference. And he is nothing if not a superb, sublime, pageant gown designer and he knows the difference between that and red carpet.

Laura clearly is very comfortable with eveningwear. Um, we have Keith our winner, who has only made one dress but won a challenge with it. I know, he was little daunted by this. At the same time, he’s a little arrogant so he’s not going to show too much of that. Vincent is confident. Um, Angela is fearful. Katherine has never done anything quite this ambitious. And in various parts of the room there are various reactions to this.

Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


I then explain to the designers, having thanked Tara, that they will have thirty minutes to sketch and that they’re going to be pitching their ideas to Tara. And Tara and I go off, and we leave them alone.

So, Tara meets with each of the designers. They each have their own little audition. She absorbs all of this, and she will select seven of them. And those seven will serve as team leaders, and each of the seven will in turn choose a team member. We go at it!

And, uh, Tara is really an excellent critic. Um, she knows what she likes. She knows what looks good on her, and most of the designers listened and, and responded to what she said in a, in a, in a very articulate way. And in some other cases we had some “episode-two” stubbornness, where my idea is so strong, and so powerful, that she will change her mind about what she likes. OK, I don’t thinks that’s gonna work.

So Tara announces that, uh, her seven designers are Keith, Uli, Vincent, Laura, Malan, Jeffrey, and Kayne.

Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


Um, and Kayne was last and I could tell, I kept watching him; I could tell he was turning into a wreck. And then I produce our wonderful, magic, and scary, velvet bag and choose their names and that’s the order in which they will be choosing their teammate. And Laura’s first, she selects Michael. Kayne is next and he chooses Robert. Um, and I have to add— I’m just going to interject at this point—that we had this, I, I became aware of this craziness, that actually didn’t take place in front of me. And it was Angela, campaigning to Kayne, to put her on his team. And and when I learned of this, I, I, uh, well, and I… I have a lot to say about this topic. And unfortunately I learned about this after this challenge was over. And I have a lot to say about my behavior during this challenge, which you will not see in the show.

[distant sound of thunder] Woops, there, if anyone heard that thunder it’s the gods getting angry at me. Um, and I have to say that the reason I was peeved with Angela when I learned all this, was because I was very supportive of her and the conflict that she was having with Vincent, and once I learned about this coo-coo-ness, it really amended my whole point of view. So, Kayne did not choose Angela, but, but I think precisely because she was so persistent. Um, if she’d merely lobbed out that she’d love to work with him, it might have been a nice thing,

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like, “Oh, I’m flattered, thank you so much,” but instead, I gather, she was nagging, haranguing, and relentless. So, that doesn’t work with any of us. All right, back to the selections.

So Jeffrey chooses Alison, Malan chooses Katherine, Uli choose Bonnie, and Keith is now faced with Bradley or Angela. And he chooses Bradley, and says it’s because he’s the, he’s the only acceptable person now, because he was not about to choose Angela. So, I don’t know— given that she was the last person standing— I don’t whether this behavior that was demonstrating itself during the thirty minutes of sketching was as irksome to everyone else as it was to, um, Kayne, but I suspect that it was. So I didn’t know about all this, again, until later, and, and I just thought [chuckle] that they just didn’t like her bubble skirts, but I didn’t know that they were responding to a behavior, and clearly they were. And I would have too. So, Vincent’s the last designer to choose, and he has no choice other than Angela. So a team made in heaven it is not.

At this point the design is determined.

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Um, the teams are determined. Uh, and I say that the, the design is determined because the, the, the designer, the seven designers chosen by Tara and their team member will execute the design leader’s design. It’s not a question of, “all right, now we’re going to collaborate, now we’re going to merge these two concepts into one”— that wasn’t going to happen— so as soon as the teams were chosen we were ready to shop. And off we went with a budget of three hundred dollars and the designers had two days for the challenge. So, during the shopping, uh, expeditions, I am the timekeeper and I am walking around making certain everyone was aware of our time constraints. And I do the countdown: thirty minutes, twenty minutes, ten minutes, five minutes, three minutes; whatever it is. Well, Angela was doing her own countdown, and, it was really annoying to Vincent,

and it explained why when I came to them as a team I’d get these looks like, “You know we already know this”—ha, ha, ha!— well I didn’t know that but I wanted them to hear it from me. Um, but the tensions were mounting even at that point and I was very aware of it. And it seemed that in terms of even the fabric selection, Vincent was dominating and I’m not implying by saying that

Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


that he shouldn’t have been, but Angela was shrinking as he was dominating, so the chasm that was already there between them was getting wider and wider and wider. And I, uh, even at that point, scratched my head and asked myself what’s going to transpire in the workroom— we’ll see…

All right, we return from shopping and at this point I really want to get into the workroom and fully understand what the designs are, but I don’t. I let them work together for a while, so at least by the time that I do come into the workroom and make my rounds, there’s something tangible there, there’s something to be seen, and it’s more than just an idea in the ether. Um, so I left them alone for a number of hours and returned, um, later that afternoon or early evening.

There are varying degrees of progress. I mean, most were still working in muslin at that point and it’s, it’s good to go through the whole muslin prototype and work out the silhouette. I was worried about Kayne and Robert, because the dress, the muslin, looked so big, and— I mean big— and exuberant, um, and I thought, I looked at Kayne and I said, “Remember, it’s red carpet, it’s not pageant,” and he said, “It’s red carpet, it’s red carpet, don’t worry.” All right. Um,

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Uli and Bonnie, um, were working very confidently. Seemed good, seemed fine.

Um, I was a bit perplexed with Keith and Bradley, because it looked as though, and I’m not saying this can’t work, but it was different from the other designers— it looked as though each had assignments and it’s, it’s as though, well, you do the top and I’ll do the bottom. Well, how are those two things going to come together, and this has to happen. Um, so as long as they were having a consistent dialogue and constantly checking, I thought , “OK, just leave them alone with their own style.”

Um, Jeffrey and Alison seemed to have very good synergy. Um, Jeffrey was clearly in charge, and Alison seemed like a good sous chef, and I saw the muslin, and, didn’t fully understand it, and Jeffrey assured me that once they worked in real fabric I would, and I said, “But this is a template. I mean, the fabric in a way is decoration on top of it, and this template concerns me.”

At any rate, it was early, I thought “Let them, let them do what they’re doing. Um, Laura and Michael Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


were getting along like they’d known each other for years and seemed to be in great shape. And I thought, “Wonderful.”

Then, on the other side of the room, we have Vincent and Angela. And, so palpable was the tension between them that I could feel it on the other side of the room. Um, it was profound and unsettling.

And I have to say, I don’t like conflict, and I, that’s, that’s why you’ll never find me stirring up a pot when it doesn’t need to be stirred— a pot of stuff that is. At any rate,

I stepped into this and just asked what was going on. And Vincent instantly is dismissive. “Oh, nothing, nothing Tim, you can go away, nothing’s happening, everything’s fine.” I said, “But it doesn’t look fine, it doesn’t sound fine, it doesn’t, doesn’t feel fine.” No, it’s fine, there’s nothing wrong.” Angela? “Well, we’re not really getting along very well.” Well, what’s the issue? “Well, Vincent wants to do everything himself.” Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


“That’s not true, I don’t want to do everything myself.” “Yes you do.” “No I don’t.” “Yes you do.”

All right. There’s no conflict? This looks like conflict. So, what are you doing to resolve this? “There’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing going on,” Vincent says. All right, I’m around if you need me. I’m around, I’m walking away from this right now.

And of course I’m looking at the other designers. They’re all rolling their eyeballs and like, “Oh, if you only knew.” I don’t want this to sound, well, it will sound, I mean I don’t want this to sound in any way like I’m favoring one over the other. I think of them all being my kids in a way, but given Vincent’s, the, the words that he used to me and, and that I knew there was something going on, and “No, no, no, there’s nothing going on,” nd it’s like, well, “What, do you think I’m some kind of an idiot.” Um, I was much more inclined to listen to Angela, who at least I thought wasn’t in a state of denial, or, or wasn’t in a state of misrepresentation, so,

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I left the room feeling I’d really like to know from Angela alone what’s really going on, but I thought let this play itself out a little longer, because it could resolve itself. At the same time, I don’t want to have to be breaking the two of them apart if I don’t have to.

All right, Malan and Katherine. I saw this big top— this big, giant top. I remember saying that it, it, and the fabric, the look of it, the ruching, that it looked like it had been carved out of a log. As I think about it now, it was like a giant piece of fudge that they’d formed. I mean, it, it, but confectionary it was not; leaden it was. It was like my mother’s fudge— forgive me, mother. Um, and I could tell by Katherine’s face, even though she’s not experienced evening wear, this would not be the evening wear she would experience. And Malan is a very, very thoughtful individual and designer, I mean he really is; and he’s very talented, so I was trying to extract from him what was going on with this, was it going to evolve into something that would be an amendment of what this thing was, and I guess first and foremost what I wanted to know was,

Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


did he think it was working, and he said he did think it was working. And I asked him what client— and we have a client here.

And she’s diminutive in her own way. You should note, she’s the second shortest Miss USA in history— this is not a tall woman— so, she doesn’t want to look like she just came out of the forest primeval, as, not a water sprite, but a Yule log. I was worried about it, because there’s a client. It’s not just a matter of having our judges there. They’re expressing their, their own point of view, and their own taste level about this. We have a client who’s going to say, “That dress is mine, and that one is not, and I, and I dislike this one the most.” So, I was worried about that. So Katherine is looking at me sort of knowingly, like, “Oh boy, you’re reading my mind,” and Malan is looking concerned and I respected that. I thought good, you should be concerned, unlike, like Mr. Vincent, next door to him. Sorry, Vincent. So I thought, again, all right, I’ve, I’ve dropped my little grenade. Let me step away from this and let’s see how they resolve it.

In the sprit of transparency, I’m gonna,

Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


going to, um, tell you, about a whole series of things that happened, that were edited out, and I knew that they would be. And the reason— ha!— I knew they would be, was because our producers actually stopped all the activity in the room to bring me out— ha, ha, HA!— and to ask,

“Tim, what are you doing?” Because, I was having a private tête-à-tête with Angela— it was in front of everybody— but it was Angela and me, sort of head-to-head, my elbow on the work table, my chin on my hand. Um, and Angela in a similar position, where I was just saying, saying to her because she had nothing to do. Vincent wouldn’t let her anywhere near him. As a matter of fact, when I went into the room earlier he actually said to her,

“I want you to step three paces away from me, I want you three feet back,” which is not three paces, but he kept changing it. And I thought, what is this, she’s some kind of poison and she’s going to infect him? I mean, this was, it was, it was extremely disrespectful and it really made me want to blow, and I was close to blowing, and there’s a whole thing with me and Angela and Vincent, where I am challenging them to tell me what’s going on, again, this is now for the second time.

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And at this point the dress is much more fully developed and frankly speaking it’s a homely bag of garbage— I’m sorry— and I say to Vincent, “This does not look like design, this looks like dressmaking, and not nice dressmaking.” And he’s being his, um, I don’t hear you, I don’t see you, I don’t want to know what you have to say self, and it’s like “Yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh, I got a dress to do Tim, goodbye.” And Angela’s saying, “Well, you know something, I really don’t like this either, I’m concerned about it.” “Well you haven’t helped, you haven’t participated, your voice doesn’t matter.”

And I’m saying, “But wait a minute, the two of you are going to be presenting this, a lbeit it, Vincent, it’s your design that Tara chose, but Angela’s part of this team.” “She’s not part of the team!” I said, “This is, this is bad, and you know, part of the challenge here is the relationship that the two of you have. I mean, it’s the classic Make It Work… and this is not working. Um, you need to listen to Angela.” I, I have to say, I was putting it all on him at this point. “Um, and you, you need to, enlist her,

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uhhh, support, and she needs to buy into this design with you.

She could sell you out on the runway.” “Well, I could sell her out!” “Well indeed you could, I mean, but you could both go.” I said, “I have no idea what the, where this is going to go in terms of eliminations, I really don’t, but it could be decided two people are going, and at this moment, I know what I’d decide,” and thankfully, I reminded them I’m not a judge.

Anyway, I was irate, to say the least. I left the workroom. I was really, unsettled. I was tense, I was pacing in the hallway. I felt really bad for Angela. And I wanted, I wanted to give her some support.

So I went back in the workroom. She was at her table, because, she had no place else to go. Um, she certainly wasn’t going to be working with him. And, I just wanted to go have a little therapy session with her. Frankly, I, I, I, upon reflection, Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


it was more of a therapy session for me, and we were both venting about him. And, I have to say, I mean, it wasn’t as though, as though I’d just met him, I mean, I had had the experience of him of Challenge One, and that preposterous look on the runway with, I mean, it’s just, I, I, I, I’ll never get over it. Um… yes I will. But it’s still fresh in my memory. And, his, um, what I also… and it’s not that the look; I mean, the look was preposterous, but what, was… what’s the way, what’s the way to express this? What was… rritating to me, and, and, and, and, and, an irritation that I couldn’t get rid of, was his intractability in the workroom about supporting the design, about how great it was, how wonderful it was, and oh the judges were going to love it. And then the judges didn’t love it. And then he does a hundred and eighty degree about-face, and says, “Oh you know, I was concerned about the hat, oh yeh, I was concerned out this…” No you weren’t. You weren’t concerned about it at all. You had, you totally dismissed me, and said, “You know, I love it, get away from me!” Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


OK. Face the runway.

Um, so, I already had, I was, I already had a kind of a case [chuckle] against Vincent and I hate to say it that way. This is when the producers pulled me out, and they said, “Your ire against Vincent is so strong and so profound and so evident to all the other designers; this isn’t good. We can’t have the designers lose confidence in you.” And it threw this sort of unbridled support for poor Angela— Angela, poor Angela— um, who, a-a-and again, upon reflection… she was… definitely part of the problem. She wasn’t, she wasn’t, the poor, the poor victim that I was making her out to be. Um, and, I was gonna to have to work with Vincent by hook or by crook anyway, um, and, and I have to say Zulema he is not. He is not. I will take Vincent over Zulema any day. It was a, it was a bitch-slap and it was a necessary one.

So we had two days for the challenge. This is the morning after. The models are coming in. There’s two hours to prepare everything,

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and looking around the room, there are, there’s just a lot of unfinished work. Still. You know, we had a deadline of midnight the night before, and I’m beginning to think that by Challenge Two the designers are all kind of like, “oh well, you know the models will come in we’ll still have time to finish all this.” Well, you never know how much time, really, and again, there was a lot to do, and in the case of Malan and Katherine, we still had a dress that was way too long, and what are you doing with this? “Oh, we’re gonna hem it when the model gets here.” You’re gonna hem it when then the model gets here? What are you gonna use, Crazy Glue? The dress is entirely too long. They’re gonna get it on the model, they’re gonna measure it, they’re gonna cut it. Well, send in the models…

About thirty minutes later, I’m in the room, and, I’m really staring with incredulity at this skirt, and the reason I am is because a good two feet is gone from it, and so it went from being entirely too long, to, this, ridiculously, I mean— ridiculous— it was simply a horrifying length, it’s that length that will take the most beautiful creation and make it a homely, unacceptable, piece.

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And I felt kind of sick, frankly.

So off to the runway. We have our runway presentation. Heidi calls the designers onto the stage. She calls the models onto the stage. Declares that the two best designs, and the two worst, will remain on the runway, and the rest will be spared. So, Laura and Michael are spared; Keith and Bradley. And an aspect of this is that Keith has immunity, but I have to say I thought the dress was good. And Jeffrey and Alison… So, they leave the runway.

And there’s no question who’s at the bottom. It’s Malan and Katherine, and it’s Vincent and Angela. So, we have Kayne and Robert, and Uli and Bonnie there for the best looks. And, they are, they really are, I mean I, I was, um, I was a little concerned about the fit of the dress that Kayne and Robert did. Um, I have to say this, and this speaks to her experience and her, it, it speaks to her working with, with designers.

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Tara could see through that. She could see how that could be amended for her and she was really projecting herself into each of those gowns and she does a superb job of doing that, and she did.

Uli’s dress, f or me, was the most modern, the most contemporary, the most now, but that also caused me to say, this may not be the right dress for Miss Universe. And Kayne’s, Kayne and Robert’s design, or Kayne’s design, and their work together, um, it was a very editorial moment. Uh, it was something you could really see in a magazine and it would have, uh, pizzazz, and, and it would be memorable. Malan and Katherine’s would be memorable, but not for the right reason. Uh, I mean the thing was a hot mess— I’m sorry— it just was a hot mess, and the top you couldn’t defend, I mean big, lumpy sack! uh, that skirt! I mean you couldn’t even look at it, other than that horrible fraying hem. Short, fraying hem.

And then, Vincent and Angela...

Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


I mean when it was all said and done it was a very simple column. Um, some of the judge’s comments I felt were extremely generous, I think Nina loved the back, it was, well, you’re gonna look at something, yeh, look at the back. But it was not well constructed, in fact I’d said to them, when we were still up in the workroom, are you gonna steam this?

“Oh we already did.” You did? And then I looked closer and I realized that all the puckering was because of how it was sewn. Um, but of course Vincent playing the martyr, “I had to do it alone, if I’d had some help it wouldn’t have happened.” Give me a break, save it.

Um, and then these ridiculous epaulette sleeves, I mean, talk about “beam me up Scottie,” I mean, where were they going? To Judy Jetson’s birthday party? Um, it was, it was just a ridiculous kind of thing. But thank god she wasn’t wearing a hat, because you can imagine what that would of looked like. Um, and if Angela had been helping, I’m sure Vincent could have done a hat. We wouldn’t have wanted to see it.

Our winner is Kayne, Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


which, I have to say, my heart skipped. I was so thrilled. I mean, he is our pageant designer. I mean, this is what he does, this is his passion, and frankly, he’s incredibly good at it. So had he not won this, I was thinking, “Oh he’s going to have to go home to Oklahoma and board up the store.” Um, but now he can go home to Oklahoma and put a big crown on top of the store. Um, it’s great for him, and, and he really earned the win, he deserved it, and I just love the fact that this was his challenge, I mean he should really win this, and he did. So it was a thrilling, thrilling win. It was really wonderful.

In our next challenge, Heidi tells the designers they are to use a fashion accessory as the inspiration for their design, and I just have to say, I don’t think any one of you will be able to guess what it is.


Tim Gunn’s Podcast (a reality chamber opera) © Jeffrey Lependorf 2007


Profile for Jeffrey Lependorf

Tim Gunn's Podcast (a reality chamber opera)  

an opera libretto by Jeffrey Lependorf based on a podcast of "Project Runway" fashion guru Tim Gunn, in which designers compete creating a g...

Tim Gunn's Podcast (a reality chamber opera)  

an opera libretto by Jeffrey Lependorf based on a podcast of "Project Runway" fashion guru Tim Gunn, in which designers compete creating a g...