Fashio Follies

HOUSTON -- "I was thinking, 'I don't care what I look like -- just don't let me fall off the stage,"' said Candice Schiller, moments after disembarking from the fashion runway. A friend floated up and told Schiller she'd been stunning. Smiling,...

HOUSTON — “I was thinking, ‘I don’t care what I look like — just don’t let me fall off the stage,”‘ said Candice Schiller, moments after disembarking from the fashion runway. A friend floated up and told Schiller she’d been stunning. Smiling, Schiller replied, “Well, that was my two minutes of fame. So I figure I have 13 left.” Schiller, part owner of the Houston restaurant Cafe Annie, was one of 22 “celebrity models” — a parade of tall Texas blondes, with a few exceptions — in a show of fall fashions from Tootsies, staged in the Houstonian Hotel’s Fitness Center. The show started with breathless gyrations by Fitness Center aerobics instructors — tiny muscular women in stretchy, skin-tight black gear. Professional models followed, interspersed with the “real people,” some of whom were so nervous they tossed back tequila shots backstage to calm themselves.

Patsy Fourticq and Barbara Jones trotted out briskly as if they were freezing, and Gigi Huang didn’t quite make it to the end of the runway. “Oh, baloney,” she said later to a friend. “I went down the whole thing.”

They needn’t have worried, though — the crowd loved them all, cheering wildly and chanting their names — and most of the models looked like they were having a blast, smiling and strutting proudly. “Don’t you just love these Texas girls?” said Gena Sylvester.

The “celebrity models” loved the clothes they showed, too — more than half of them bought the outfits they wore on the runway.

Though Donna Karan, DKNY, and Moschino were all strongly featured, the spotlight fell on Los Angeles designer Pamela Dennis. “She’s kind of our new Donna Karan, as far as eveningwear goes,” said Tootsies owner Mickey Rosmarin. “It’s luxury dressing at its best.”

Not many in the audience cared for the tightly fitting, trendy velvet numbers by such designers as Norma Kamali, DKNY and Donna Karan. “It looks like someone’s used the drapes and the tablecloths to make clothes,” said Martine Weitz. Shelly Tamborello said, “You can’t wear them if you have any curves. It doesn’t work.”

All ticket sales, which amounted to $43,575, went to the Design Industries Foundation for AIDS’ program for women and children. There was one sobering moment when a group of artists, gallery owners and museum curators showed up dressed as gay bikers in black leather and spikes to protest the fund designation. “It’s comforting to know that only women and children get AIDS,” said photographer Rob Ziebell.