“Penny..!!” she yells up the stairs. We wait a few seconds for a sign of life. “Penny??” she tries again. “Are you sleeping?” It is 11 AM on a cold Sunday morning. The house is quiet except for the dog’s exasperated tugging. I smell coffee and spot a plate with croissants on the kitchen counter. Just how it’s supposed to be. “Penny, can you take the dog please? She’s howling!” The blonde English cocker in question, Dusty, has been pulling her leash like mad ever since Michael left the house. So far we’ve willingly moved the puppy from one door knob to the next solely for the purpose of proximity and in anticipation of potty-training issues. “She still pees on the floor and chews anything that comes near her mouth,” laments Laurie. Finally we hear stumbling on the floor above us and a teenage girl with shoulder-length green hair, dressed in cut-off grey corduroys and a cream lace camisole stomps down the stairs. “Hey…” she greets me. She goes to fix herself some oatmeal and disappears with Dusty up to her room.
Laurie Henzel runs Bust magazine. And she has been since she and two other women launched it as a “stapled and xeroxed zine” in 1993. “It was a labor of love,” she tells me proudly. “Each time we made a little money, we put it back into making the magazine better, with color ink, glossy paper and so on. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary.” I am not an avid reader – Bust is to print what Jezebel is to on-line – but I have a feeling I am missing something. “We want the take-away to be that you feel good about yourself after reading an issue, the opposite of most women’s magazines, that make you feel inadequate (too poor, not pretty enough, not thin enough). Bust looks at everything through a feminist lens, and we showcase women doing cool things that often inspire others.” They are what you might call the Anti-Vogue. “I think our most successful issue was when we put Tina Fey on the cover in 2004,” she remembers. “It was her first cover and people were really starting to realize how amazing and special she is. That one sold like crazy. In 2010 we wrote about women who hunt for their food, and that caused a big ruckus.”
With the dog tucked away safely in Penny’s room (which by the way is like an arts and crafts war zone) Laurie and I bond over far more frivolous things, like her lack of heels – “They hurt my feet!” – and her obsession with sunglasses – “They make you look cooler!” and her daily work uniform of jeans, striped shirts and Clark’s desert shoes – “I’m lazy and a big fan of comfort”. When it comes to vintage though, she perks up. “When I go out I usually go vintage, something a little bohemian or mod,” she says when we inspect the selection of clothes she brought back from storage. “My grandmother, who was extremely elegant, used to take me to consignment shops as a kid and I was horrified! But when I was about fifteen a lightbulb went off in my head and I “got” it. I love vintage. When I try to go shopping in a normal store, I never like anything! And usually I can’t afford the fancy stuff. Plus I like the idea of recycling, it’s good for the environment!” Some of her style icons are Nico and Francoise Hardy, whom she rightfully resembles with her fine features and wispy bangs. She tells me about her Pucci phase in the 80s, when the nice lady at the store would sell her dead stock at the cheapest prices. “I got several amazing vintage Pucci bathing suits from her, and I loved their underwear, sadly they don’t make panties anymore. Boo.”
I’d be hard pressed to find a man and a woman – except for my own parents in Belgium – who have been married for twenty-plus years and still enjoy, or should I say re-enjoy, the dealings of 30-somethings at a bar in Cobble Hill on a saturday night. It’s almost inconceivable these days to find people who stay together. But it is every bit as real for 49-year old, New York native Laurie and her husband Michael Lavine, who I met out together in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. Their daughters Olive and Penny are both grown up – Olive studies Environmental Studies and Sociology at Tulane University and Penny goes to La Guardia in hopes of becoming a painter/farmer – and don’t need anymore babysitting. Neither does Slayer, their black adopted cat, who’s “incredibly anti-social, but a real looker and we love her despite her mean streak.” Laurie and Michael moved into their first real house in June of this year – their previous homes were respective lofts on Fifth Avenue and in Soho. The building is a work in progress but it feels as if they are finally settling into a quiet life of leisure and comfort. “I absolutely adore this neighborhood, last night I heard geese fly over!?” she says incredulously. This year will be their first Christmas together in the new house. “I’ll cook and bake and eat for a week straight!” cheers Laurie. When I suggest putting a pair of heels on her wish list she laughs: “Ha ha! No, um, I kind of want a deep fryer? But my husband refuses. He knows that it would be a death sentence!” Like I said, Laurie: heels.