The door of the rented limo opens and out comes a vision in outrageousness: a Valkyrie by Fellini. In five-inch stiletto heels and a three-foot blond mane that’s been streaked, permed, sprayed, pressed and fried, she stands a formidable 6’2″. For this grand soir at the Palladium, New York’s club of the moment, she’s wearing “something simple—rubber with fringe.” The dress is fluorescent white, unthinkably low-cut and as tight as Saran Wrap.
The lady in latex is Dianne Brill, a 26-year-old fashion designer who has become, seemingly overnight, First Citizen of Manhattan nightlife. If there’s an opening, a party, a lotto drawing, anything where cameras are clicking from Harlem to Tribeca, she is there. In an era when status is determined by visibility, her bursting hourglass figure is the highest profile in town. When she arrives, the party begins.
Inside, shouts of “Dianne, Dianne!” greet her as she blitzes toward a backstage party for Debbie Harry. “Dianne is a cornucopia,” says makeup artist Way Bandy. “She’s one of my best friends. But then, isn’t she everyone’s?” Well, maybe not everyone. A shocked Lisa Birnbach, creator of The Official Preppy Handbook, says, “She looks like Venus rising from the primeval slime.”
Brill’s metamorphosis from working girl to Queen of the Night can take six hours. “I like to be very glam,” she says. “I shine my mouth and I slant my eyes.” Her hair, jonquil gold, is streaked every couple of months, but the real devotion goes to those clothes. “I’ve always worn corsets as tops, especially with jewels on them, but these days I’m into rubber. It’s easier for me to zip up a rubber dress than put on a T-shirt. It presents your body in the shape of a statue,” she says, rubbing hands down her gown. “It fits every tiny little curve. You have to really love your body to wear rubber because it shows everything. I love my body.”
About that body. “I just want to stick a pin in her and watch her deflate,” says Andy Warhol. Brill admits, “I’ve always had a comic book figure. I feel real proud of it. I’m big. I’m 5’9″ soaking wet and 40-27-40.” There is some question about the 27, but little argument about the rest. And there’s not a mean bone in there. Annie Flanders, the editor of Details magazine, credits Brill with helping to create a new image for buxom women: “Dianne has made me proud to have breasts. For 10 years I would hide them, tie them and camouflage them. She believes in making the most of what you’ve got.” Brill hasn’t always had that shape. In fact, she confesses, “I was flat-chested until I was 17. At night I would say, ‘Please God, let me get boobs.’ ” Wearing falsies to school, she was too embarrassed to take a shower after gym class. “I had a sunken chest, and everybody made fun of me. It was terrible.” Then she breaks into her toothy smile. “I showed them. Ha ha!”
The eldest of four children, Brill grew up in Tampa, the only daughter of a realtor and a journalist mother who taught her never to fear anything. Attending progressive private schools through junior high, the free-spirited girl expressed her individuality in her clothes: tight jeans, T-shirts turned inside out and platform shoes. “I realized that visually I frighten people,” she says. “I tried putting on softer makeup, wearing those cheap acetate dresses with matching underwear and being quiet in school, but it just didn’t work.” When she started attracting attention from boys in high school, her father got worried. “He was afraid things were going on,” she says. “I was a little naughty, but not much. A lot of guys were disappointed to find out that Dianne Brill does not put out. That’s not what the package said. They didn’t know that I just wanted to dress up.”
Her interest in fashion began when she got a job selling jeans. “I got really hip and slick when designer jeans started happening,” she says. “Very Florida. I thought I was the hippest saleswoman in the hippest jean store in the hippest mall.” Dropping out of the University of South Florida in 1979, she went to England to pursue a career in the funky boutique world, then moved to New York the next year to be a buyer for an antique clothing store. Making connections and hitting the clubs, Brill did some designing on the side, and this year—with the backing of Australian Gary Bogard—started her own line of menswear. “Men’s bodies are the ones I appreciate the most,” she explains.
Though she’s been on the scene for four years now, this is Dianne’s big moment. In August she presented her first collection—oversize suits of screaming purple and robin’s egg blue, with dollar bills pinned on their lapels. Says Flanders: “They’re for club-going guys who want to dress up and look more extreme without looking like they came from another planet.” She’s also caught the eye of Playboy, whose editors wanted her for a nude pictorial. “There’s a time I would have loved to do it,” she says. “But it’s sleazy now. Besides I told them I show enough being totally dressed.”
At work every morning by 9 a.m., after staying up till 4:30 or so, Dianne survives by following three self-imposed rules: no drugs, no booze, no weekend gallivanting. She uses those evenings for sleeping. “It’s lockup time for me,” she says. “Besides, that’s when the bridge and tunnel crowd comes out at the clubs.”
But the weekend starts tomorrow. Now it’s not quite midnight, and the evening is young. Next there’s a homage to disco at Area. Then the Pyramid Club, where a man named Happi Phace dances with drag queens on the bar. Then some predawn sushi. As she rounds up her entourage, kissing one more friend good night, Dianne is asked why she’s so popular. She beams. “I live out their fantasies for them,” she says. Then the lady bountiful hikes up her rubber dress and moves, again, into the night.