When in Rome… remember to wear orange
Talk about a fashion faux pas’….
This one almost ranks up there with the time I left the Princess Whitewater Pageant, still dressed in drag, and went to a quiet neighborhood bar (which is now the Flatiron), only to find out that since my last visit the bikers had taken it over, parking surreptitiously around back so as not to scare off unsuspecting crossdressers, I suppose. (They were not impressed with the Ogi Faye Banker character I’d created for the male beauty pageant and were even less impressed that I’d won.) At least I didn’t fear for my life this latest episode, but I sure was squirming.
First a little back story. As a few of you know, I like to wear neckties even when the situation doesn’t call for it. I started collecting novelty and conversational ties around 1990 and it just sort of mushroomed. They grew from a few racks to a whole closet to the point where today I have a tie room. I’m so overboard with this thing that I dress up for radio. I know, it’s nuts.
So when my pal Bill Shore, a Clemson grad and die-hard booster, called last Tuesday inviting me to be his guest at an IPTAY (Clemson booster club) function at the coliseum, my first thought was, ‘“what to wear, what to wear?’” (OK, my first thought was, ‘“free eats, free eats,’” but it was a close second.) But I do enjoy these types of sports-related events, and the fact that football coach Tommy Bowden was the main attraction made it a no-brainer. (We didn’t know it at the time but Tiger basketball coaches Oliver Parnell and Cristy McKinney were also on the dais.)
With a 5:30 start, I barely had time to dash home and change ties, but it was obvious that a football-themed cravat was in order. I gave a moment’s thought to changing into an orange shirt, but since I have no real allegiance to Clemson decided that would be just too hypocritical. I settled on a very nice number from the Van Heusen 417 Americana line, a furled flag with a football at the bottom.
Entering the coliseum plaza, we were met by a sea of orange that was just this side of blinding. Of the 200 or so folks there, perhaps a dozen of us did not have on something orange, and I think most of those were the catering staff or coliseum employees. Still, with my football tie on I didn’t feel all that out of place.
But something seemed ‘— I don’t know how to describe it ‘— off kilter, out of balance, a little weird. I mean, the Tiger alums weren’t overtly hostile or anything, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit like the redheaded stepchild at a family reunion. Surely they couldn’t tell that I was a Duke fan and ECU alum just from my demeanor, could they?
As we were sitting there enjoying our ravioli and fried chicken, Bill couldn’t take it any longer and leaned over and asked, ‘“Why did you wear that shirt?’”
‘“Well, it’s the one I wore to work today. What’s wrong with it, anyway?’”
‘“Did you notice the color?’”
‘“Sure, it’s a deep garnet, or maybe burgundy.’”
‘“Does that mean anything to you?’”
‘“It means it goes well with the tie.’”
‘“It’s also the color of South Carolina!’”
‘“Oh my God, I hadn’t given it a second thought.’”
Then the guy sitting beside Bill said, ‘“Yeah, it’s the first thing I noticed,’” and the couple across from us chimed in, ‘“Me too.’” Another guy echoed, ‘“I saw you talking to [ex-Clemson All-American and 11-year NFL offensive guard] Joe Bostic, so I figured you couldn’t be a spy.’”
Well, that’s encouraging.
Now, being a sports fan I’ve always known of the pathological hatred between Clemson and USC. I remember quite well the melee their football teams had the year before last. But when the Clemson AD got up and announced that he heard on the radio on the way over that South Carolina football coach Lou Holtz had been tapped to head up FEMA, I understood the true depth of the rivalry. Yep, turns out he’s the only man in America who can empty 80,000 people out of a stadium in no time flat.
At any rate, thanks to Joe Bostic and the fact that I sat there and minded my own business for the rest of the evening, I made it out unscathed. The next morning I told my office mate Sylvia about my faux pas, made even more peculiar by the fact that it just so happens that she was a cheerleader at, of all places, the University of South Carolina.
So now I’m thinking, if I really want to make a lasting impression, next year I’ll get Sylvia to loan me her old USC cheerleader outfit.
I do look exquisite in garnet.
Ogi can be reached at email@example.com, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on ‘“The Dusty Dunn Show’” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on ‘“Triad Today’” Friday at 6:30 a.m. on ABC45 and Sunday at 10 p.m. on UPN48.