If this is your first time here, I recommend starting from the first episode and working your way forward. Of course, that's entirely your call.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Season 2, Episode 13: The Auction

I've run into an interesting conundrum. As it turns out, the DVDs order the episodes differently than online resources like the IMDb or Wikipedia do. Since I've trusted the internet's ruling on such matters up until now (as it has been my only source), I will continue to follow it despite physical media's recommendations.

In this episode, Clair is looking through an auction catalogue (for no discernible reason) and finds a painting by her great uncle. The man in question is not a fictional character, however, but real-life artist Ellis Wilson, and the work being auctioned off is his actual creation, "The Funeral Procession."

She paid $11,000 for it. That's roughly $22,000 with inflation.

While Mrs. Huxtable goes on a quest to reclaim this family heirloom, Elvin drops by to learn more lessons about how not to be such a misogynist all the god damned time. The story takes place over two days and features several day players, so we've got plenty of ground to cover. Sit tight.

TV auctioneers typically have the same speech patterns as the
homeless people on the train who talk to themselves.

Since it's an auction, it couldn't hurt to start off with the auctioneer. This is John Marion, who in 1986 made three screen appearances as an auctioneer: after this, he did an episode of The Colbys (a Dynasty spin-off that lasted two seasons) followed by the Robert Redford/Debra Winger/ Daryl Hannah comedy Legal Eagles. Eight years later, he earned his only other credit: a man named Carlos in the 1994 action flick DaVinci's War. My guess is that he was a real auctioneer, though I have no idea what to make of that last role. Anyhow, he's dressed in regulation '80s business dress for men: navy coat, white shirt, red tie. The matching pocket square (which in this era wouldn't even be a "pocket square" but a proper handkerchief) adds a little something, and the pinkie ring is a surprise, but really there's not much here that I would consider noteworthy. He does serve to remind us of the perils of huge grandma glasses, though. Today's twentysomethings, take note: you look in the mirror and see a fashionable, cleverly ironic artist. I look at you and see this man.

It's so lovely having a huge house for all our expensive things.

These three all show up at the auction as well. We'll work from the left. That first dude is Stephen Oxendine, whose character goes unnamed. This episode is his only credit of any kind on the IMDb, and a Google search turned up no other professional information. He just showed up one day, wore a blue suit with a tie I don't like, and then vanished. Next to him are the rich people. Like, basically the millionaire and his wife after they got off of Gilligan's Island. David O'Brien, the nameless husband, died three years after this episode aired. His resume shows a solid background in television, plus the occasional theatrical release, dating back to 1961. Betty, his wife, is portrayed by Eileen Letchworth. She's done television work here and there, including appearing as herself on an episode of Donahue for reasons not immediately clear to me. Regardless, they're doing a solid job of looking wealthy, though that pastel sweater is too of-its-time for me. I think a classic look is the best way to suggest aristocracy: well-made and expensive is better than current. And if you must go new when dressing your 1% characters, go runway. She wouldn't shop at Macy's, she'd have her assistant pick up the Ralph Lauren original from his studio, you know?

The saddest part of Annie Hall's legacy.

Michelle Pierce plays Darlene, Theo's arty love interest for ten minutes. It's later implied that her father is the dude with the mustache in the frame above. Like him, she has no other acting credits. Her style is clearly meant to convey both her social status (wealthy enough to have a pearl neck brace at 15) and weirdness (strange enough to dress like Diane Keaton, Private Investigator to the Stars). There's a lot that's going well for her , all things considered. She's playing with the right shapes and taking good risks. The overcoat with the contrast cuffs is a catchy concept, and there's something about the flared bottom of the jacket against the tapered ankles on the high-waisted pant that all sort of gels for me. Then the grown-up blouse with the excessive jewelry and precocious purse complete the look in a real statement-making way. Her neckline in particular has a lot of interesting things happening: beyond the necklace onslaught, there's the shirt's cowl neck and the lapel-free opening of the trench... it's all heading in a fabulous direction. The proportions are a little off throughout, though: she's swimming in this. I'm disappointed that she didn't belt the pants, but more disappointed that there's so much olive drab being thrown around. It's a great complement to that rich purple, but either the trousers or the coat should be a different shade. I also think the black of the cuff is a bad call. Basically: silhouette, yes; tailoring and palette, no.

Baking a he-cake in the man-oven.

Elvin is in that liminal space between regular and guest star, so we'll use his outfits to transition us into our look at the show's central figures. His first contribution has an old-fashioned air to it. The boxy plaid feels like something Dr. Huxtable might wear. I wonder if the generational discord is meant to parallel his outdated attitudes toward gender roles. (He's in the kitchen baking a cake to learn about "women's work.") At the same time, the flashes of pink bring him back to a more collegiate space. And he's wearing jeans that may as well be Theos's. Did they really just make one cut of jeans in the '80s? Am I just forgetting that fashion denim came, like, a decade later? Why do all the men have that same mid-toned, straight-legged look? Anyhow, I'm realizing as I write this that I can't stop looking at that little tuft of chest hair peeking out from Elvin's collar. I think I might have a crush on Geoffrey Owens circa 1986. In fact, I'm sure of it. This blog has forced me to confront terrible truths about myself.

Tension makes his face visibly wider, it would seem.

He's a little less adorable here, but he's nervous because Clair is present, and he's learned the hard way that crossing her is a bad call. But he's all dressed up to go to the auction with her. So sweet! His styling here is pretty spot-on except for that distracting neon stripe through his tie. It's the kind of detail that instantly ruins a classic look by throwing in a hint of the worst contemporary sensibility. That pink has no place in this color story. Otherwise, he's clearly wearing the nicest clothes he owns in an attempt to impress his future mother-in-law. Smart move, dude. This lady will make you work. She's worth it.


Since I shun her so harshly most of the time, let's take a look at Rudy first. I mean, we have to face facts: this getup is killer. Pink and yellow? Old man cardigan? Matching striped layers? This is just the most precious thing I've ever seen. And seriously, her presence on this show is golden. I'm glad they nominated her for an Emmy, because we couldn't find a cuter little girl even if we spent years building one in a lab.

The best.

Yeah, I can't really talk about it. It's just too perfect.

Sweaters, go-getters, and jet-setters.

We'll start with Vanessa here. The skirt is from episode #2.7, as are the (out-of-frame) matching flats she's wearing. This look exemplifies her aesthetic: lots of yellow, lots of pattern. At the same time, it's a little more pulled together than usual. I wouldn't say it's dressy enough for the occasion based on the choices made by some other family members, but it's not awful. The sweater in particular is winning me over. I wasn't on its side at first, but somehow I've come to accept and even enjoy it. This might be the same Cosby-induced brain damage that caused me to consider making out with Sondra's future husband. If this blog ever becomes a book deal that earns me serious cash, I'm spending it all on psychoanalysis and antipsychotics.

Since she's up there pulling focus, let's cover Denise next. I won't discuss her clothing at length, because she's already worn this exact outfit in #2.10, with a repeat of the gray parts in #2.11. I will say that she's tragically underdressed, though. She may as well be in a bathrobe.

When Outfits Attack.

Things didn't start off much better for Denise, unfortunately. If you're not doing aerobics, playing sports, or otherwise sweating, then maybe lay off the sweatband. That's a phenomenal shade of red, especially with the satin sheen of the belt, but it's played against one of the ugliest browns I've ever witnessed. Maybe a chocolate or espresso next time. As for how it's all built, I'm perplexed by what she might be trying to accentuate. The outfit can't be intended to flatter her body. "Hey, everyone: what do you think of my boxy Transformer torso with diagonally bisected breasts? Maybe you're into giant ham hock arms that taper into tiny doll hands? They go well with this blood-colored diaper, don't they?"

Even weirder: this is her aunt's sweater. Sarah wore this top under her jacket in episode #2.9. I'm going to assume that it was a gift, because - spoiler alert for next week - sweater theft is about to become a big deal in the Huxtable household.

He's going to bid on a lot, if you know what I mean.

I'm starting to worry about Theo. Once again, he tries to bring his A Game but chokes instead. This time, he's taken his blazer from episode #2.3 and juxtaposed it with some decidedly uninspired options. He's usually not one to play it safe, but other than the teal in that tie, he's kept his garments in the same dark, bluish color family. As a result, his look lacks definition. The individual parts end up blending together. He's a few stripes lost in an inky haze. We know that he knows how to work with brighter pieces, so why doesn't he? Where'd you go, Theo? This man needs to get his groove back.

I wish she didn't bother me so much, but she just does.

The sweater she's wearing here is the same one Denise wore in episode #1.7, judging by that telltale insignia on the chest. But there's no need to think that she didn't ask permission to wear it. For all we know, this is her sweater that Denise inherited as a hand-me-down. Either way, it's something we've seen before, but not necessarily stolen. I'm not wild about this outfit, but it's more boring than offensive. Sure, the brown belt and tucked-in t-shirt are the styling choices of a 75-year-old, but otherwise this is jeans and a red top. Jersey and denim, primary colors. Moving along.

This season's hot new look: Living Chess Piece.

It was hard to get a decent shot of her second outfit, but then again it's not much to look at. I think the turtleneck might be fine on its own. She's generally comfortable in pale robin's egg and sea green shades. But she's gone and tucked it into a criminally thick skirt that begins literally just below her rib cage. A high-waisted skirt should never be made of plush velvet curtains. It's so ungainly. I can't help but worry over how stifling and heavy it must be. Her legs have got to be drenched in sweat. The weight of the garment probably makes it difficult to walk. This is such baroque torture. Because her skirt seems to absorb light, it's tough to tell exactly how ugly it is. If you look closely, though, you can see the hint of a giant strap across the top, suggesting that further knowledge of its properties will only enhance its abhorrence. Beware.

She paints with two of the colors of the wind.

I think I liked this jacket better in episode #2.10 when it was belted. The tangerine shade is also a little much over a maroon dress. It's not terrible, but it's another one of those moments when someone is wearing two assertive solids and should have thought about patterns instead. A print could really soften this look. I hate saying this, but take a page out of Vanessa's book once in a while. (It just sounds wrong, doesn't it?) Oh, how I wish we could see this dress without the coat. I have a feeling it's fabulous. That high belt makes me think that she's probably throwing down legs for miles, and one of those long butts that were so popular in the '80s. To avoid objectifying the incomparable Phylicia Rashad, however, let's focus instead on her epic gold jewelry. You wish you were wearing a matching cutout earring and necklace set right now, don't you? You do.

Like a torso, but moreso.

There's no way to discuss this sweater without immediately jumping on the shape it makes in profile. From the snug waist, it billows outward in a way that makes him look like such a barrel. The palette isn't bad; the indigo and black lay a nice foundation for those red horizontal lines, even if the grid is a little Tron for my tastes. I dig that hint of pink shirt. But really I'm eager to fast-forward through this part of the review because oh my god his auction outfit, guys.

Oh holy mother of knitwear.

This is, without a doubt, a turning point. A line has been drawn in the sand. For the first time in the show, Dr. Huxtable has shattered the definition of "sweater" as we previously knew it. Look at everything that's happening here! A giant crosshatched (leather?) circle with a multicolored stripe rocketing through it set against a vertical black-and-white print background, topped off with full leather sleeves. I'm... I... what does one even write? This defies critique. There's no good or bad anymore. He's off the map as we know it. I can't even really say whether it matches the rest of his earthly garments, because how does one establish any sort of fashion continuity once this has entered into play? It's difficult for me to form sentences right now. Hopefully this piece is on display in a museum somewhere, because I should really make a pilgrimage to visit it. Wonder fills my brain.

By the way, leather sleeves are now happening, typically on denim jackets. P. Diddy showed his Huxtable Hotness off at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards, while J. Cole put his sleeves on display on the Jimmy Fallon show earlier this year. Looks like B. Cosby knew what he was doing with those sweaters.

As usual, I'm ending this entry by begging. Huxtable Hotness is not a source of income for me, nor do I expect it to be. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind breaking even. My expenses are minimal: just the cost of the DVDs. If you enjoy this blog, consider donating a dollar to keep it running. Even a quarter would help. All donations are rewarded with a personal message from yours truly. (I know that's a super lame prize, but really I have nothing else to give you.) Anyhow, here's the happy yellow button that magically funnels your cash into my account. THE FUTURE!

Thanks, all. See you next Monday.


  1. I can't believe that sweater, it's like someone glued a manhole cover to Cliff's sternum!

    1. That's a good line. I kinda wish I'd thought of it.

    2. If it comes up again, feel free to use it.

  2. Apparently Jake and the Neverland Pirates was inspired by Denise's outfit here: https://www.google.com/search?q=jake+and+the+neverland+pirates&client=firefox-a&hs=E2J&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=W3mJU_CYCc-IogS9soKABw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1469&bih=800#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=OnkIyaU6H0GJyM%253A%3BFvu7O_xNH6xPIM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252F0.tqn.com%252Fd%252Fpreschoolers%252F1%252F0%252FP%252FF%252F-%252F-%252F124722_JAKE.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fpreschoolers.about.com%252Fod%252Ftechnologyentertainment%252Ftp%252FPopular-Characters-From-Jake-and-the-Never-Land-Pirates.htm%3B1870%3B3000

  3. Apparently Jake and the Neverland Pirates was inspired by Denise's outfit here

  4. How are you gonna cover this episode's fashions and leave out Claire's ensemble she wore to the actual auction?!?! That's what I was searching for in particular and was surprised it wasn't here. She had on a marvelous mink or brown fox stole

  5. How are you gonna cover this episode's fashions and leave out Claire's ensemble she wore to the actual auction?!?! That's what I was searching for in particular and was surprised it wasn't here. She had on a marvelous mink or brown fox stole

  6. Listen carefully to the auctioneer's descriptions of items. Also pay attention to the conversations going on around you, as this may help you determine the value and authenticity of a piece of art sell old paintings.