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November 09, 2008

Remembering Mr. Blackwell

The designer and mordant fashion critic who dared to call Madonna the "bare-bottomed bore from Babylon" died Oct. 19 in Los Angeles. Richard Blackwell, a.k.a. Mr. Blackwell, of the infamous worst-dressed list, made a name for himself not with his own creations but by skewering those sported by celebs on the red carpet. In addition to Madonna, Blackwell famously knocked Camilla Parker Bowles as "the Duchess of Dowdy" and even put the newly married Diana, Princess of Wales, at the top of his list in 1982.

His favorite targets, however, were celebrities like Zsa Zsa Gabor and Britney Spears, who he felt lacked any innate sense of style or glamour. He said his criticism had nothing to do with talent and once remarked that Meryl Streep looked like a "gypsy abandoned by a caravan."

Born Richard Sylvan Selzer in Brooklyn, N.Y., Blackwell started out as an actor but switched to fashion in 1958 when his career stalled. Fame came with the publication of his first list in 1960. Although he often admitted he was uncomfortable about appearing so publicly mean, Blackwell also said he was compelled to poke fun at celebrity style because fashion designers were not doing their job: they failed to make women look beautiful. While his original intention was to act as a sort of fashion watchdog, Blackwell and his list became a dreaded Hollywood institution that paved the way for other red-carpet critics. The annual issuing of the list, on the second Tuesday in January, became its own kind of fashion moment.

And though the list began to lose its luster by the late 1990s, the ever acerbic Mr. Blackwell never lost his bite.
Source: Time Magazine

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