BOARD OUT OF THEIR MIND
True to his word, Designer Tom Ford gets Winona a shot at her beloved Hoover Pressley Museum. To gain a seat on the board, the WINONA, INC. staff launches a media campaign, bringing in Twitter and Instagram love from celebrity pals, great PR for the museum and even an old flame reappears, upping the drama to boiling point level. But in the end hard choices must be made. Can she live with her final decision?
Tom Ford comes through! He gets me an interview with the board of the Hoover Pressley Museum. Pulling out the arsenal, I send invitations to five key members for a Sunday brunch at my home. This killer view overlooking Central Park should count for something, right? I hire SWEET BASIL to cater and spend several nights soaking up the museum’s history online. Desi is on various boards around town and he gives me an idea of what to expect. “You know they’re choking on your past, darling. So be honest about it. The drugs. The booze. The scandals. I mean, every nasty little thing you did for twenty years was splashed across the front page of gossip rags all over the world. It’s already out there. Own it.”
Winona is wearing Oscar de la Renta
Brunch is served! Slices of brioche french toast, with glazed apples, are an inch thick. The poached salmon is moist and juicy. Everything is presented with great panache and every dish is to die. While the bellinis flow, to loosen things up, I work in a few shady celebrity stories, just to wet their panties a little. Mazie Porter, on my left, shoves a forkful of pork tenderloin into her face and finally asks, “What can you bring to our board, Winona?” I go Humble Hannah on them, grateful for the opportunity to travel the world and make such valuable connections. But getting over racist roadblocks and my own personal demons to build WINONA, INC. is nothing to be modest about. I don’t hide a thing and Dr. Ing and Atty. Livingston appear to be impressed.
My formal interview with the entire board takes place at the museum. It’s a tough crowd of twelve but I walk out of their finely paneled conference room feeling pretty secure about my acceptance. I think they’re ready for me. The very next day my staff, Marc, Terri and Curtiss, launch a “Let’s Get Winona Warner on the Board!” social media campaign. They upload several model shots of me from back in the day and within hours the campaign grows legs. Phones are ringing. Calls are coming in from HUFFPOST, PAGE SIX, ESSENCE, FORBES. They all want a statement.
Winona is wearing Ralph Lauren
I contact my girl MICHAELA ANGELA DAVIS to handle the news media. She can go places where my staff just can’t. “Forget about a press release,” she says. “Let’s do an interview!” They don’t call her an image activist for nothing. We shape my statement and agree that taking a full-out knee might not be necessary but how lame would it be NOT to mention my unique spot as potentially the first African-American on the museum board? When the interview hits a few days later, because Michaela is a force, it’s all anyone’s talking about. Marc, in the meantime, is very strategic with his online photo selections. Mick, Ralph, Andre Leon, Anna. But the shot of me sharing ciggies with Hollywood legend Bette Davis is his favorite. “Those dusty old board queens are going to collapse when they see this!”
Friends like Tracee, Will, Naomi and SJP come through with hearts, likes and kudos on Twitter and IG. The museum is getting loads of pub, too. And then one morning Marc comes upstairs to my office to show me something special. A real blast from the past. My ex, Riccardo Sims. He’s posted the shot of us from the MET GALA years ago, tagging the agency and the museum board. “You’ll never find a brighter gem for your crown,” he wrote. Wow. How sweet is that? I haven’t seen this shot since it was taken. Look at him. Smooth as silk. Naturally swaggy. And we were so gorgeous together. I really liked this man. Scratching my head, I can’t remember what went wrong between us. Where did we go off the rails?
My curiosity won’t let me rest. I call him. And just his hello gives me feels. I thank him for the post on Instagram and ask what he’s been up to. No longer at ATLANTIC RECORDS, he writes fiction now, under a pseudonym. Fiction? I roll my eyes. But swearing me to secrecy, he confesses. “I’m Roman Carlucci.” I gasp and choke on cookie crumbs. He’s laughing. “Are you okay??” But I don’t—I can’t—believe my ears! How does a gracious man like Riccardo Sims conger up such a sordid tale? A pop singer with secrets. Foul secrets. Ugly stuff. But SHOOTING STAR was one of last years’ most popular reads and stayed on the TIMES best-seller list for twelve whole weeks! “Have dinner with me tomorrow night”, he asks. I have plans…but they are so cancelled.
The traffic on 5th and 31st is at a standstill and I’m twenty minutes late. I exit the towncar and walk the remaining block to the restaurant HENRY, where Riccardo is waiting. My heart is jumping around in my chest as the maître d’ leads the way to his table. Riccardo stands. Still rocking a suit better than any man I know, his head is bald and his beard is big and bushy. And silvery white. I hardly recognize him. But when he kisses my cheek, my knees go weak, just like the night we first met at that dumpy club downtown. The tip of his nose brushes along my jaw and earlobe. I feel him inhale, breathing me in.
Riccardo is wearing Cifonelli
We chatter all through dinner. There’s so much to talk about. Afterwards, hopping into a taxi, we head uptown. Sitting close in the back seat, he takes my hand and presses it to his chest. “I’m so glad you called me,” he says. “I think about you often.” We pull up to the COVE LOUNGE on Lenox Avenue in Harlem and take an empty table towards the rear, away from the small pockets of latenighters scattered around. When Riccardo leans in to kiss me, his lips are warm and his beard soft. Oh yes. This is going to happen. He drops two twenties on the table, we leave the club and with our arms wrapped around each other, we walk the few blocks to his brownstone on 128th Street.
One month after the brunch, a letter from the museum arrives. Federal Express. This is it. In the study I pour a victory goblet of wine, open the envelope, unfold the page and — wait. What’s this? I’ve been rejected?? They’re turning me down! I haven’t cried in years but I’m fighting back tears. How dare they? All I can think about are the fat manila folders on my desk filled with arrest reports, mug shots, affidavits. My detective friend, the one I keep on retainer, collected the good stuff on several of their upstanding members. Domestic abuse, ODing on prescription drugs, insider trading, even statutory rape. And everything kept on the downlow with payoffs and bribes. But they’re rejecting me? Oh, just think what I could do to them. One by one. But…
There’s Riccardo. Lying in my arms last night, he reminded me of just what derailed us the first time. Traveling a lot for work back then, he only knew Central Park West Winona. It was a while before he got a good whiff of South Bronx Winona and when he finally did, it flattened him. “I’m not lining up with a bunch of other suckers for you to grind into the dust,” he said. “If you’re still out here collecting scalps, tell me now.” With a sigh, I slide everything back into the folders and file them deep inside the desk drawer. A man like Riccardo you don’t throw away twice. Yep. I’ve decided to ride the monogamy train for awhile. Just me and him. Let’s see where it goes. But I promise you. If things get derailed again, for any reason, those muthafuckas on the museum board are in real deep trouble. You feel me?