Fifty is a milestone. Like 16, 21 and, I recently learned, 40 before it, 50 claims its own category, a cottage industry brimming with its own cards, napkins, styrofoam gravestones, and other commercial and cultural trimmings to mark the moment.
Thankfully, we were spared of all that treacly flotsam at a birthday celebration for Ray Azoulay, as unpretentious as it was chic. We washed down fried chicken and seven-layered red velvet cake with glasses of cold rose, and danced to a jazz-hip hop quartet which is the Tuesday night house band at the local dive bar, The Brig.
Ray is a consummate aesthete in every facet of his life. He’s a more towering presence than his physical height already reaches, thanks to both a jaunty personality and sartorial sense. We first spotted Ray at MOCA’s Murakami gala last fall, a giant figure in antique welder’s goggles, a fur-collared coat and floor-length Yoji Yamamoto skirt. “What is that!” I declared happily.
I found out a week later, when we opened our Venice branch of A+R. Through a triangle glass revealing a slice of stairs to the loft above our shop, I spotted Ray, dressed in red plaid Yoji trousers and inky black riding boots. “It’s him!” I yelled. The silver-haired fox lives upstairs. His home is as carefully curated as his wardrobe, each room minimally outfitted with an eccentric mix of art and ornaments: surrealistic modern paintings, a tar-coated teddy bear, discarded wood paneling from New York’s Lincoln Center, an enormous bust from an old public library and a Victorian-era taxiderm baboon (the home and owner are profiled in the July issue of Angeleno Magazine).
Ray’s shop Obsolete, on Main Street in Santa Monica, is similarly a treasure chest tricked out with finds from his constant travels– stuffed bobcats, skulls affixed with silver screws, life-sized artist mannequins and other utterly bizarre curios.
That might also describe some of us at Saturday night’s party, which was kept at a jolly pace thanks to Ray’s dynamic duo pals, the Nancys (MacNamara and Lucas, whom I met eons ago at Armani and Chanel). Obsolete might be a shop by day, but on this evening, we were all more than perfectly at home.
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