NEW YORK — Isaac Mizrahi is starting off the year with a cabaret show and a new licensing deal for a girls’ collection. One has nothing to do with the other, but both trace back to his workhorse ways. As for finding the time, the designer said Thursday, “I don’t really do anything else but work. I don’t have kids. Some people would call me a workaholic but I just call myself ‘never bored.’”
Originally scheduled for October at the Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Cafe, “Ask Isaac!” had to be postponed due to his hectic calendar. Having performed at Joe’s Pub, Smoke and other venues over the years, Mizrahi said the build-up has become “a little less terrifying.” The crowd is still the wild card. “You don’t know how committed or fun they will be,” he said. “More than any other kind of performance, cabaret is like having dinner with them sitting in their laps for one hour and 10 minutes.”
During the three shows — Jan. 10, 24 and 25 — the Ben Waltzer Quintet will back up his crooning. “I want people to think of George Burns, Jimmy Durante, someone who really can’t sing. But I have been studying music since I was a little kid and I worked with the musicians on all the arrangements,” Mizrahi said. “The idea is, if I really have the nerve, I really want the audience to ask me questions.”
Prompted or not, turning 50, getting married and moving into an apartment where nothing works are a few matters that will be up for discussion. “Everyone chooses to mess up their life in a certain way whether by taking too many drugs or too few drugs. Or there are vegans who smoke a pack of Camels a day and get tattooed, but they don’t think about the toxins of getting a tattoo,” Mizrahi said.
He said Stephen Sondheim once gave him the sound advice of “Don’t think of this as a platform.” Truth be told, the designer really wants to play Brooklyn. “I’m from there,” he said. In the meantime, theatergoers may wind up leaving with a token or two. “I do regift at my shows. You don’t have to spend money at my shows but you have to take with you things that I don’t want,” Mizrahi said.
Through its just-inked deal with Jerry Leigh, Xcel Brands will launch the Isaac Mizrahi New York girls’ label this fall. In the meantime, Mizrahi is speaking with a few different people about a TV pilot he has developed.