Bumbling Before the Bumbys

bumbysThe art made me nervous. The art had me rethink my outfit. The art was staring at me. The art was critiquing me.

Now, that’s a whole new level of provocative.

The “art” in this instance is New York-based performance artist duo the Bumbys, currently in residence at the Cosmopolitan’s P3 Studio. “Gill” and “Jill” are anonymous, mysterious, incognito mutes behind typewriters who give “Fair and Honest Appraisals of Your Appearance.” They mask themselves in sunglasses, headphones and bandit-style bandanas, ostensibly so that you cannot judge back.

I wasn’t all that apprehensive, having become familiar with the Bumbys over the past year thanks to massive press coverage, including features inThe New York Times, Elle and Glamour. From my reading, I knew that Gill first started in New York City subways in 2006, later adding Jill to the act for a female perspective. They’ve since amassed an impressive clientele—Vogue, Guess and GQ have hired the Bumbys to “perform” for guests at events. But until I was in line for my own evaluation, I didn’t realize how I’d be affected by the specter of their musings pecked away on a 4×6 card—and the subsequent moment of obsessive self-analysis about my hair.

Standing in front of Gill, I was thankful someone had just brought him a cocktail in hopes it’d make me look better in his eyes. He furiously typed, pausing a few times to look up.

The results: You look like you would walk down a line of Martin Scorsese hopefuls and though you would have to make quick cuts to keep the filmmaking process running on time the movie would come out brilliant all the same.

Hmm, I did attend the Las Vegas Academy for theater. And as for his later bit about how I “ran the big city school,” well, I was in student council.

I was quite pleased with his colorful descriptions, as well as my overall rating of 9.2 out of 10 (maybe too generous, but I’ll take it). Typos are inevitable and part of the Bumbys’ charm, as are the ink stamps finalizing the evaluation.

I couldn’t resist seeing if Jill was as astute. “You look fun as the dickens!” she typed. “You remind me a bit of everyone’s favorite Shirley Manson from Garbage,” she continued. As a fan, I’ll take that as a major compliment. Also drawing attention to the houndstooth dress I was wearing, she inquired if we could relive the ’60s together, followed by tea at the Ritz and macaroons at Ladurée. Jill added the extra touch of signing the cards with a Sharpie, turning each one into a collectable piece of unexpected art to take home. I’m planning on framing mine.

Laughter abounded as strangers happily compared evaluations. The Bumbys don’t tear down their subjects, but instead provide insightful and creative first impressions, with nobody seeming to score below an eight.

From photographers on assignment to hotel executives, including the Cosmopolitan’s CEO John Unwin, everyone got in on the action. Gill’s evaluation of him? “You look like success personified. … You know what laying it on the line and having to go big or go home feels like down to the smallest molecule.” Reading it, Unwin laughed: “These guys are obviously very perceptive.”

Originally published in Vegas Seven.

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