Book pays homage to 'wacky' B.R.U.N.C.H. bunch

If little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, then the women profiled in Simon Doonan's "Wacky Chicks" must certainly have been made of sass and vinegar.

Doonan, a columnist for the New York Observer and the creative director for Barneys New York, has gone through his Rolodex of "wacky chicks" and written endearing sketches about them, showing what makes them eccentric and why women should feel free to follow their lead and shirk conformity.


AP Photo

Simon Doonan, author of "Wacky Chicks," published by Simon and Schuster.

Doonan quickly establishes that a wacky chick is not spacey or flighty or even off-kilter, but rather what he calls "B.R.U.N.C.H.": Belligerent, Resilient, Uninhibited, Naughty, Creative and Hilarious. Using this recipe of extroverted behavior, the women Doonan portrays have propelled themselves into lives they love surrounded by people and things they couldn't do without.

Some of Doonan's subjects have achieved a degree of fame, including actress Amy Sedaris, the sister of writer David Sedaris; and Brigid Berlin, who served as an inspiration for Andy Warhol during the 1960s.

Those with a lower profile include Park Ranger Spider Fawke, a former fashion designer; and Mary Christmas, a Gen-Xer who organized the Radical Cheerleaders, a group that creates feminist chants and cheers to empower themselves and other women.

Doonan writes: "Wacky chicks are entertainingly diverse -- socioeconomically and personality-wise -- but they have one thing in common: They are all blowing a giant raspberry at society's expectations."

He hopped right into the trenches with these women, getting into their homes and businesses, and spending time with their pets (which include iguanas and rabbits). His work shows that his subjects not only take their eccentricities in stride but build their lives around them.

Doonan spent time with Pearl Harbour, the former front woman for the 1970s New Wave band Pearl Harbour and the Explosions. She has given each of the rooms in her enormous house a different theme, from cowboy to vintage kitchen memorabilia.

"Such collections are designed to simultaneously appall and delight any visitor. They send a strong nonverbal message about the mistress of the house and her idiosyncratic anti-bourgeois worldview," Doonan writes.

Doonan, who could easily be categorized as a wacky guy (if such a thing existed), writes with flair and energy. He loves these women and wants everyone within earshot to know about them. His writing style is light and funny, perfect reading for the beach or airplane flight.


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