Please pardon the interruption from our usual comic book news for this, a moment to talk about someone else’s book, one without pictures, and one that should be required reading.
“In the Internet age, even the word manners seems antiquated. Life moves so rapidly these days that it’s easy to feel justified in being rude.”
That line comes from the introduction of Tim Gunn’s new book GUNN’S GOLDEN RULES: Life Little Lessons For Making It Work and if anyone knows how to make it work, it’s Tim Gunn. He is the consummate gentleman, an incredibly thoughtful man, and someone who honors everything that has come before worth honoring. From looks to literature to Legos (yes, Legos), he’s never forgotten what makes things work and what can break a person- in fashion, friendship, and family. Most of all, he has never forgotten the power of simple manners and etiquette in a time when so many have. That’s one of the reasons his new book comes at the perfect time and is essential reading. But that is only one reason.
I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends over the past few years with Tim, and I can tell you, what you see on TV, read in books, or experience in a passing moment IS Tim. He is the most genuine person I know. Honest in every way, courteous to everyone, and thoughtful in every action. We were riding back on the subway (yes, he takes the subway) from a book signing once at Midtown comics. Tim had graciously and enthusiastically allowed himself to be in the first issue of MODELS INC., a 4-issue limited series about a murder mystery set in the world of fashion. In the first issue, Tim starred in the back-up story in which the man who can wear a suit like no other donned a suit unlike any other- the Iron Man suit. In his every day life, he fights crimes against fashion and in this back-up story, he got to fight crime in 4-color detail with repulsor beams. Throughout the process of making the book, he was incredible, from being open to the ideas that writer Marc Sumerak and editor Charlie Beckerman presented to being on a variant cover by Phil Jimenez to the promotional appearances John Paretti and myself asked of him.
Through it all it was incredibly giving of his time, an endless font of gratitude, and always a gentleman. You would have thought WE were the celebrities and he had just won a golden ticket to be in a Marvel comic. It was an amazing introduction. Now, flashing back, or forward rather, to the subway. We were taking the subway back to our neighborhood (it turned out he had recently moved just a few blocks from me), and were talking. It was one of the first times I had the chance to just sit (or stand in this case) and and talk about things outside of comics with him. I was nervous for all of 10 seconds. Tim has a way of putting you at ease no matter the setting. We there we were, chatting away, and a woman I noticed who had been staring at him from the moment we boarded the train, excused herself and asked if he was, indeed, Tim Gunn from Project Runway. Tim replied he was and then introduced me, explaining “We’re doing a Marvel comic together!” The woman talked about her fashion dreams, Tim complimented her on her outfit, thanked her for watching the show, and encouraged her to pick up Models Inc. All in a polite yet fully engaged conversation. The woman got off at the next stop, beaming. In 90 seconds, she had a complete and genuine conversation with Tim Gunn. And he had meant every word of it. That’s when I knew that he was a rare man.
Tim Gunn IS Tim Gunn.
You can read that either way and it’s true. The man you watch each week on Project Runway is as encouraging to designers as he is to a stranger on the subway. The man you sit and have iced tea with is as interested in what you are doing in your life as he is in what’s happening at Liz Claiborne- if not more so. He is a gentleman. He is witty, thoughtful, and just snarky enough without being rude or crass. And he is open about everything. I’ve gotten to know that side of him, and now, he’s allowing the world to see that.
His book is more than just a master class in modern manners. It’s filled with life-lessons that he has learned and applied to his own life from his own experiences. It’s autobiographical in its approach to these titular “Golden Rules,” covering his early life, personal life, professional life, and life as- he would say- an unlikely TV personality. He throws open the door and invites you in. You learn not just why these are important lessons to apply to your own life, but how they have shaped his. Want more from a book (even though those stories alone are worth the price)? How about some behind-the-scenes dish about Project Runway, the fashion world, and celebrities that are less genuine or courteous. He offers up fascinating tales of what NOT to do by telling tales that are as hysterical as they are shocking. And he names names. Brave man, Tim!
What are some of these lessons? Get Inspired If It Kills You. Never Underestimate Karma. Don’t Lose Your Sense Of Smell (one of my favorites in its meaning). When You Need Help, Get It. Take Risks- Playing It Safe Is Never Really Safe. There are 18 Rules in all, and every one can be applied to any person I know.
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy, which I devoured in a day, laughing and gasping at some of the stories. I’ve started to re-read it because I found myself swept up in the some of them that I felt the need to go back and see if what I read was what was actually on the page! And it is, all there for the world to see and learn from. And you should. Best of all, now you can!
The book is now available in stores and online, and it is absolutely required reading. It’s a great gift to yourself and would make a fantastic present for those you secretly think could use better manners! ABC.com has an excerpt from the book you can read here.
As someone who strives to be genuine and kind to people as much as I can, I found myself learning things in the book that made lightbulbs go off and I smacked my head in “D’oh!” moments, recognizing ways I could or should handle even simple things in a better way. As a lover of TV and fashion, I was engrossed in finding out more about these people who influence the very clothes on many people’s backs. And as a friend, I feel as though I know Tim a bit more now. This really is a gift in the truest sense of the word because this is Tim Gunn giving himself up, both his successes and flaws, for the world to see and learn from. This IS Tim Gunn. Personally I’d like to say thanks, Tim. You really are a wonderful man with lessons we all can learn from.
OH! And if you ever wanted more insight into the life of J. Edgar Hoover, Tim’s father was the infamous FBI director’s ghostwriter and close friend. Tim has an AMAZING story about the rumored man who may have loved dresses that you have to read for yourself. I won’t spoil it for you here.
Basically, buy the book. Please & thank you. And as the final chapter says, Carry On!