Scatter My Ashes at BIBA: Requiem for a Department Store
In these moderately to severely depressing times, most people are finally coming face-to-face with the realities of capitalism -- meaning that many New Yorkers have halfheartedly liked a tweet about how someone (else) should really get around to collecting their local baristas' Venmo usernames. Others have spent an astounding three seconds considering bringing the apartment building together to sign a card for the mailman. (They'd leave him cash, but really, it's contaminated. Plus, their Amazon packages have been really, REALLY slow to arrive lately and somehow, that's his fault.)
I myself have been enjoying thinking a lot about death -- especially when it comes to my funeral outfit.
This kind of forward thinking has been in my family for generations.
Years before she died, my grandmother had picked out which pictures of herself she would like displayed on her casket during her visitation. She was not over 30 years old in any of these photos. She looked amazing. In other words, she set the bar high.
Since I've always planned on being cremated, one would think my funeral outfit really shouldn't be that big of a decision for me -- maybe just something flammable, like a nice floral print cotton shift dress. We're going to have to find a way to speed up the cremation process in the near future, so wearing something that immediately goes up in flames the minute someone lights a match within three feet of it seems like the ethical thing to do.
But the thing is, I've already sacrificed a lot.
I've stopped ordering Seamless. I've used some of my valuable Lysol disinfectant spray on my building's front door handle. To leave enough fresh vegetables and healthy snacks for everyone, I've taken to eating exclusively brownies and Easter candy. I'm down to my last Cadbury Egg, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to find another one (it should be noted that there is certainly NOT a national shortage of Peeps, at least not if the Duane Reade on 86th and 1st is any indication.)
I've even, for the greater good, decided that it's safer for everyone if I stop working out altogether -- yes, even from my own home.
So, after everything I've done, I think we can all agree that I deserve to really take my time during the cremation process. The dead can wait. I plan to not just burn, but SMOLDER. I'm talking embers for days. I'm also planning to ask if they can douse me in 6 or 7 bottles of YSL Opium so that I can give off a nice scent, too. This is a luxury cremation -- think Midsommar's final scene without the tacky bear costume. (Ritualistic hut/tent with special Isadora Dunace style dance sequence, however, is encouraged.)
Seeing as I own a vintage store, even if I don't actually want to, I'm pretty much going to have to wear vintage. The great thing is that, because I'll be lying (now is not the time for the "lay vs. lie" debate) flat on my back, no one will know that the size 00 dress does not, in fact, zip on me.
Since size isn't an issue, I pretty much have the world at my fingertips (speaking of, half-moon red mani for the death nails, please) when it comes to dresses.
And please don't talk to me about a budget, it's uncouth.
People love to say things like, "You only get married once," but we all know that's not true or even a good idea for most people. I've seen enough shitty first husbands to prove it. But I'll tell you what you definitely DO get just one shot at -- dying. So empty your wallets, people, and use the leftover dress fund money for the open bar, my mother will need it.
In browsing for potential funeral outfits on eBay, I came across some pretty fabulous Biba pieces that I feel could be contenders. However, as is so often the case, we go to the Internet for one reason, and we stay for the 97 Internet tabs we've managed to open in six minutes.
In other words, I came across a bunch of old photos of BIG BIBA --- which sounds like a backroad drag queen name but is actually the name of Biba's 1970s London Department store.
It was then that my plans changed.
I realized that I didn't want to be cremated at all.
Instead, what I now want is to have someone reconstruct the entire seven-story Big Biba department store and bury me inside of it like a Pharoah's tomb. (Complete with wooden figures of shop assistants and alteration specialists who will come to life to serve me for all eternity.)
Here's a great pic of me waking up in the afterlife:
This department store had it all, and, given the recent closure of Barney's, it's only right that we all stop for a moment and consider other BEAUTIFUL GHOSTS of department stores from days gone by.
First of all, there's the "70s does Art Deco" vibe of the entire store. While this look will likely horrify most people, anyone who has seen the interior of my apartment will understand that this represents everything I've ever wanted for my life.
Case in point: this absolute MESS on the home furnishings floor:
Think about it. You won't need a bathmat if you just go ahead and commit to putting it IN THE TUB to begin with.
Then, there are these highly important images, taken from Big Biba's food and grocery floor.
I'll be honest, this puts the rustic charm of Agata and Valentina, who at this stage are probably charging $45 for a single tomato, to shame. SUDS. Brillo Pads. Persil. It's a Warholian paradise here on aisle 12.
For those who aspire to look like Dolly Levi at all times, choose from the thousands of feathers on display here. Sure, you'll have to bend down and examine yourself in the mirrored drawers, but that's exactly the kind of scrappy, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps Yonkers energy that Dolly (and Carol Channing) represent.
Biba also provided what was clearly excellent childcare while parents shopped. Just look at the smiling, happy faces of these eager young people in the children's department:
A Closer Look:
Meanwhile, Mom's clearly abandoned them on the other side of the store, reconnecting with her youth:
MORE DOLLY LEVI REALNESS with these feathers.
Should you need a place to rest, don't worry -- this elegant sofa with matching carpet has you covered.
I think I speak for all of us when I say, "I am ready to die here:"
Of course, in the afterlife, I don't plan to give up on my obsessive need to collect lingerie. Luckily, I don't have to. First, please observe this incredible ad for Biba's lingerie floor:
Followed by the Lingerie Floor itself:
Wait, is that a giant leopard print teddy bear on a circular bed with a mirror above it surrounded by lingerie?
Why yes, yes it is.
Of course, in the afterlife, one also needs friends. That's why it's such good news that Biba's Rainbow Room -- decidedly less touristy and much more genuinely cool than New York's embarrassing wedding venue/disastrous first date bar for people who want other people to know how much money they have.
Here's a shot of Twiggy pretending like she had to wait for a table.
And here's the room itself, which the painfully cool among you may recognize as the backdrop of David Bowie's "Blue Jean" video and the setting for Roxy Music's "Let's Stick Together."
Biba clearly knew what it had in the Rainbow Room, as evidenced by this "tsk-tsk" of a menu footnote forbidding diners from even THINKING about having a glass of wine or a drink without committing to a full sit-down dinner.
In short, I want to live, love, die, and live again in this department store, so if coronavirus takes me, I hope I end up here (even though, like everything else worthwhile, it's long since shuttered its doors.)
Looking at Biba's founder, Barbara Hulanicki, it's no wonder the place looked so cool. Look at these two. They look like they're about to summon a demon, do some tarot, and maybe do a quick Satanic ritual with all those beauty products.
I truly don't think I could ever have enough to say about this department store and what it means to me, so I'll leave you with this one extremely depressing image: Biba's Rainbow Room, turned into an Equinox that, thanks to the Coronavirus, no one can even work out in anymore.
Reconverting it back to its former glory for my tomb will require a little bit of elbow grease, but I think we can all agree, it's worth it.