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Keeping It In Perspective with Iris Apfel: Thoughts, Quips, and Advice to Live By From Albert Maysles’ Latest Documentary Diva

Keeping It In Perspective with Iris Apfel: Thoughts, Quips, and Advice to Live By From Albert Maysles’ Latest Documentary Diva

It has been nearly
forty years since The Maysles swung open the door of Grey Gardens, the
rambling, rambunctiously run mansion of Little and Big ‘Edie’ Bouvier Beale.
Filled to the brim with cat food tins, possums, and ill feelings, the titular
documentary has ascended to cult classic status, particularly among the queer
set. Little Edie’s singular sense of style and persistently patriotic persona
went a long way toward garnering the Maysles and their film a slew of fans. But
the Bouvier Beale’s isolation, their derelict-but-glamorous remove from the
high society in which they were brought up was perhaps the most appealing
aspect of their story. They were outsiders of the highest quality and their
confidence, at least on the surface, went a long way toward making their lives

Now, with a slew of
short and feature-length documentaries in between, Albert Maysles has returned
with a new film about a glamorous outsider that is screening at this year’s New York Film Festival.. Iris Apfel is the star, a wealthy
uptowner who, were she a little more average, might be among the socialite
elite. As it stands, Iris is a widely known name in the design and fashion worlds
who only recently achieved national recognition from a 2006 Metropolitan Museum
of Art exhibition displaying her diverse and vast collection of jewelry,
clothing, and accessories. A longtime fabric designer alongside her husband,
Carl, the self-proclaimed “geriatric starlet” is now a model, teacher, and
speaker on topics surrounding fashion and personal style. Though always
successful, her late-in-life career turnaround is remarkable. Her fascinating
demeanor is even more astounding.

Interestingly, her private
life is very much like that of the Bouvier Beale’s: the Apfel apartments (yes,
multiple) are filled to the brim with trinkets, stuffed animals, and,
naturally, Iris’s growing collections of apparel; she has much of the same
vivacious energy possessed by Little Edie, with sudden downward turns
indicating that old age is nipping at her heels; and though she comes from a
subset of society based almost entirely on expectation and limits, they are no
match for Iris, insubordinate and fashion goddess extraordinaire. Her way of
living life–to the fullest, and with the biggest jewelry possible around her
neck and wrists–is inspiring. 

No doubt “Iris” is destined for “Grey
Gardens”’ queer cult success,
due not only to her looks, but also her epic one-liners. To tide you over
before the film’s release, enjoy this selection of inspired quotations and
words of advice. Iris’s alternately self-possessed, wise, and campy voice
speaks out loud and clear:

On Putting It Behind You:

“I like
individuality. It’s so lost these days. So much sameness, everything’s
homogenized… Whatever!”

On Obedience:

“I don’t have any
rules, and if I did, I’d break them.” 

On Religion:

“My mother worshipped
at the altar of accessory.”

On True Love:

“I figured he was
cool, he was cuddly, and he cooked Chinese, so I couldn’t do any better!”

On Hard Work:

“Nothing I ever did,
I intended to do. It just happened.”

On Peaking Late:

“I’m an octogenarian
starlet. I think that’s kind of fun!”

On Shining Bright:

“Color is so
important. Color can raise the dead!”

On the Perks of Old Age:

“I had to call the
ambulance. But God
is good. They brought me the two most delicious guys!”

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