I’ll admit it: I stole someone else’s idea.
But it’s a good one.
In the past few months at several charity fundraiser lunches, I’ve interviewed a celebrity designer in a format modeled after the Bravo hit program, Inside the Actors Studio. I play the James Lipton part and end the session by asking the subject the same 10 questions Lipton asks his famous guests.
I don’t feel too bad about pilfering Lipton’s idea because he stole it from French television personality Bernard Pivot, who borrowed it from Proust.
Originality is overrated.
When Italian jewelry designer Roberto Coin was at Neiman Marcus last week, I had the opportunity to quiz him at a luncheon honoring Denise Bahr, who with husband Philip is co-chairing the Houston Grand Opera Yellow Rose Ball saluting Lynn Wyatt next April.
Coin believes the art of making fine jewelry is in the Italian DNA, dating back to Roman and Renaissance times. He went into the fine jewelry business in 1977, making pieces for such noted names as Cartier and Piaget before he struck out on his own in 1996.
In a little more than a decade his name has become one of the best known in the luxury jewelry business. He believes his success came quickly—and continues—because he creates 400 distinctive new styles each year, so there’s something for everyone.
“We are not a typical brand. Almost every brand would like you to dress the same way. I would like you to dress differently. We don’t like to wear the same clothes. I don’t see why you should wear the same jewelry,” he said.
Times have been tough lately for the luxury business, he admitted.
“The market is confused, but the world goes ‘round,” he said. “For two thousand years, we’re been making jewelry, through the wars and so on. The husband knows it is the best investment he can do.”
Now for the Lipton/Proust questions and Coin's replies:
Q: What is your favorite word?
A: Two words that mean the same thing: Joy and happiness. Because I am a happy person.
(“I’ve never met a sad Italian,” I tell Coin. “I have—my ex-husband,” one woman in the audience remarked loudly.)
Q: What is your least favorite word?
A: I don’t have a least favorite word. I am not a negative person, so I never think negatively.
Q: What turns you on?
A: The future.
Q: What turns you off?
Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: The sound of silence or the music of the water.
Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: I only hate one thing: Flying. The noise of taking off.
Q: What is your favorite curse word? You can say it in Italian.
A: Actually, I will say it in English. Whenever I am really, really annoyed. I say “Bloody (something).”
Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: Anything that is noble is important. I like writing.
Q: What profession would you not like to do?
A: I’m not a good swimmer, so I would not be a good sailor.
Q: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
A: I think God is a very good accountant. Regardless of what religion you are or whatever you are, when you a do good thing, it’s a plus. And when you do a bad thing, it’s a minus. So I hope He says “Mr. Coin, you are a plus."
At the luncheon table afterwards, Coin offered another important piece of advice.
“Never marry a person unless you dance with him,” Coin told the ladies. “The dance makes you feel you are suitable (for each other).”
When asked how he felt when he first danced with his wife, his face turned beet red — just thinking of the memories — as he flashed a broad grin.
That’s so Italian.