Life is hard personally and globally. Who can bear to watch the news? Things are falling apart—Yeats by way of Joan Didion—”the centre cannot hold.” So within this current madness along comes not “some rough beast,” but that drunken duo Patsy and Edina from Absolutely Fabulous, in full pratfall, adorned in Dior, and swigging from a bottle of Bolly.
Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana, Garfunkel & Oates’ Riki and Kate, The Simpsons’ twin sisters Patty and Selma. Across the pond, these two Brits have been exuding the same charisma held together by the bonds of friendship. Likewise, the comedy is off the charts. In our world gone mad we need a Patsy (Joanna Lumley) swooping down by helicopter to rescue her friend stuck on a NYC roof. Or was it Edina (Jennifer Saunders) rescuing Patsy? Oh, who cares. It’s Deus Ex Machina all the same. “I couldn’t find the stairs,” is a useful catchphrase when life gets tough.
For me, Ab Fab catchphrases are mantras. I remember the first episode I ever watched. I had been living in Russia and was visiting my friend Danny in New York. I think we were drinking Bombay and tonic as we sat in his living room on West 43rd. And there on the television was Edina—bitter and hung over—having just turned 40, refusing to get out of bed while her goody two-shoes daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha) was trying to celebrate her mother’s birthday. When Eddy, eavesdropping on her own party, fell down the stairs, I fell in love.
The first line from Ab Fab that became my mantra was Edina’s phone call to ‘channel a color.’ “Chanting as we speak,” says Eddy. Self-help mindfulness scented with Patchouli was turned on its head! Danny and I used that phrase time and again through the oughts: “How are you doing?” “Chanting as we speak.”
“Pop open some Bolly and let’s go to Harvey Nicks,” my expat friends said to each other in Moscow by way of greeting. Many of them would shop at Harvey Nichols when they went to London, although frankly I discovered it from Ab Fab just like I only learned about Manolo Blahniks from Sex and the City. Russians LOVED Ab Fab and Harvey Nicks. And honestly, so did I.
Then somehow I moved on from Ab Fab to Mad Men. Life got serious. Danny died in 2008 and I stopped taking British Air soon after the Concorde retired. Not that I ever flew on the Concorde but I’ll never forget Edina and Patsy jetting to NYC that way one afternoon in search of a door handle for Eddy’s kitchen that had burned from a fire sparked by Patsy’s cigarette. Over 24 hours and all they had to show for their transatlantic efforts was a door handle. I’ve had days like that. You can call them “my door handle days.”
Is that making light of something grievous? Shouldn’t we be more serious right now with the news getting worse and worse? These are indeed serious times. My mother, a child of the Depression, answered that question decades ago with Hollywood musicals – but there’s no sing-along in sight. So let’s use Ab Fab: The Movie as our much-needed get out of jail free card. Let’s break out the Bolly and have a blast. Even though we are living on “mung beans and air” and “chanting as we speak,” we could all do with a laugh.