And though he speaks to Dr. Mayes about once a week, she says, it is also true that, as Ms. von Furstenberg said, “you have to work at being his friend. It is not always easy. Sometimes he doesn’t call for months.” He can be, according to many reports, as cutting and dismissive as he is warm and generous.
In any case, “I don’t cook, and I wasn’t going to lie,” he said. “I may go in and boil some eggs, but I’ve never cooked a whole meal.” Skinny for most of his life, his eating issues began when his grandmother died in 1989.
“Food is emotion for me,” Mr. Talley said. “I associate it with childhood.” At one point Ms. Wintour and Mr. de la Renta staged an intervention, and later he went to the Duke Diet & Fitness Center. He has now been about seven times, but each time, “you come home and start your old patterns and old addictions and old obsessions,” he said. Especially when “there’s no one at home saying stop after two cookies instead of six.”
Still, he has a formal dining room, elaborate china, antique linen — though he has never had a dinner party. “I guess I wanted to make a special environment for me,” he said. “I think of this line from Tennessee Williams’s play ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’: ‘It was a gilded hell of my own making.’” (The actual line is “I know exactly the kind of gold-plated hell I’m going to,” but he has André-ified it to be more relevant to his story.)
He also thinks a lot about Josephine Baker, who died destitute, and Loulou de la Falaise, a Saint Laurent muse, who likewise died poor and largely abandoned by the fashion world, as a recent oral history by Christopher Petkanas makes clear. “I am very afraid of that,” Mr. Talley said. “Fashion does not take care of its people. No one is going to take care of me, except I am going to take care of myself.”