It's been over four months since Graydon Carter teased a Christopher Hitchens column on male grooming at the National Magazine Awards:
Carter says Hitchens is at work on a piece about self-improvement, describing how Hitchens returned from a manicure to have Carter suggest he tackle waxing next. Hitchens asks Carter where men get waxed, exactly. Carter's response: "The back, the crack and the sack." Hitchens' reply: "In for a penny, in for a pound."
Screw the Kurds! Hitchens describing sack-waxing sounds like the stuff on which next year's Ellie win will be founded. And for all the women who find his thoughts on their humor unfunny, there is the added appeal of laughing at his pain.
When October's Nicole Kidman cover appeared online Tuesday, the bottom headline was reason alone to run and buy the issue. Or at least have the folks at Vanity Fair email the PDF. "Christopher Hitchens Gets A Really Extreme Makeover" with pictures? Genius. And they italicized "really", so it must be extreme.
A quick flip to page 198 (or download of the PDF) and the excitement builds: Hitch in a mud mask and hair band, smoking.
A chest waxing has yet to happen, should it be in the cards. But the article's title is worrying: "On the Limits of Self-Improvement, Part I". Part One? Uh-oh. Nonetheless, we read on. The column begins with a lengthy, anonymous account (best read in Graydon's voice) of why Hitchens is due for an "Executive De-Stress Treatment" at a "high end spa". Some highlights from fake-Graydon's introductory words on Hitchens:
- He has "fabled blue eyes and long, curled lashes" that have been "the toast of both sexes on five continents"
- He shaves in the morning "through a cloud of blue cigarette smoke"
- He smokes in the shower
- He has fanglike teeth, ratlike claws, small puffy hands, and an "extraordinary genital endowment"
That brings the reader to the second page, where Hitchens is photographed both smoking in the shower as he soaps up and smoking while he shaves. Only towards the end of page two does Hitchens begin writing.
By page three of four he gets shipped to a Four Seasons in Santa Barbara where he is massaged with hot stones and given facials, all while drifting in and out of a slumber. More pictures of Hitchens smoking at the gym and drinking scotch during a body wrap.
He watches his female yoga instructor demonstrate stretching on the beach. "Even regarding her in this way was workout of a kind." There are pictures as he follows along. Smoking. Wearing sneakers.
He describes detoxifying wraps and body scrubs. He tries a treadmill. All enjoyable, but there's only one page to go.
Page four, still nothing. Hitchens sums up his life of scotch and cigarettes.
I need the junky energy that scotch can provide, and the intense short-term concentration that nicotine can help supply. To be crouched over a book or a keyboard, with these conditions of mingled reverie and alertness, is my highest happiness.
Then he gets an avocado/citrus body wrap.
And it's over, a photo-punctuated warm-up act with Hitchens as hairy as before. The article ends with a "To be continued" message.
In the next installment our correspondent confronts extreme smoking cessation, high-end dentistry, bespoke tailoring, cold-turkey booze withdrawal, and ultimate waxing.
Ultimate waxing. It sounds sort of like ultimate fighting, but better.
And a note to whomever writes the cover headlines these days: Massages and fruit rubs do not constitute a really extreme makeover.
As for you Vanity Fair, well-played. See you October 4th.