In Their Shoes: Brian Atwood and Melissa McCarthy on Their Friendship

Brian Atwood and Melissa McCarthy - P 2015
Courtesy of BPCM

The longtime BFFs, who have known each other since high school, recall how they first met (a motel was involved) and their support for one another's successes.

On Friday night, celebrity florist Eric Buterbaugh's sublime mid-century oasis in West Hollywood was strewn with signature red velvet roses, while legendary DJ Lina spun everything from Disclosure to late '90s deep house tracks and shirtless men served truffled popcorn as guests entered. The occasion was held in celebration of luxury shoe designer Brian Atwood's new book, Pumped, a study of men in stilettos. (Atwood himself makes an appearance in the book in a pair of his black suede pointy-toe stilettos: size 44.) Part of the proceeds from the book went to support The Trevor Project, a crisis hotline for LGBT youth.

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Melissa McCarthy, who's been BFFs with Atwood since high school, hosted the event and welcomed a bevy of Atwood's longtime A-list friends, including Kate Hudson, Kris Jenner, Rachel Zoe, Scout and Tallulah Willis, to name just a few. Top stylists Johnny Wujek and Tara Swennen also made appearances before heading over to Olivier Rousteing's birthday bash. Said Swennen of Atwood's creations: "I know that every time I pull them I'll get a level of unparalleled sexiness that's just amazing. His lasts are classic and his platforms are really wearable and beautiful and architectural."

During the star-studded event, McCarthy and Atwood chatted exclusively with Pret-a-Reporter and revealed how their first encounter involved a motel and a hunt for fabric. Since then, they've developed a decades-long friendship that is still going strong (McCarthy even had Atwood as her bridesman at her wedding).

How they met:

Melissa McCarthy: Oh, I remember it exactly. It was at like a Red Lion Inn — or a some kind of dank motel, with an emphasis on the "M." There was a high school motel party.

Brian Atwood: Yes, yes! It was downtown!

McCarthy: It was? OK, fancier than I remember. And I remember everyone was like mingling around the two beds and all I was trying to do was get to Brian because I knew he made clothing, and I made clothing and I wanted to know where he shopped for fabric, so everyone was really trying to get blasted and I was trying to get a fabric question answered.  And we met and that was it. Oh, and my sister was very intoxicated and went down on the floor.

Atwood: No, she got up from the floor and she was like "Melissa!" Then, bam! Down!

McCarthy: She was up and down a few times that night! Didn’t you guys work Taste of Chicago that night?

Atwood: Yes! And then we came there after — that’s exactly it. We were selling cheesecake then headed to the motel party! Melissa and I were inseparable after that. It was crazy, I was with her during her shaving-the-side-of-her-head and going-goth phases, and I’m shocked we’re still alive for sure. That we weren’t disowned. Our parents were angels, just angels.

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On getting in trouble together:

McCarthy: The fact our parents talked to us, and to each other is amazing. And I just remember Brian’s mom coming home one night, and we were being as dorky as possible, cutting out patterns.

Atwood: For a Gianni Versace pant! From Vogue patterns.

McCarthy: His mom came up, threw off her fur and said, "Anyone who doesn’t live here is leaving!" And I remember being terrified — "We’re not done with the pattern!" And that was probably the only time we weren’t up to no good.

Atwood: We had balls of steel. We went out downtown Chicago all the time when we should have been...not doing that. For the night!

McCarthy: The entire night!

Atwood: And then there would be a blizzard. And we're driving home obviously....

McCarthy: And depending on the clientele of the club — we were young and didn’t have a lot of money — and I may have insinuated or implied that someone would get to talk to Brian if someone brought us two drinks. Which I literally was like, "Wanna meet him? Bring us two greyhounds!" It never led anywhere, but I implied!

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On moving to New York:

Atwood: Then we moved in together. I knew, I just knew, Melissa was destined for more than cutting out a pattern. I knew she was too funny to not let everyone enjoy her passion and charisma. Wait, I remember, were you a nanny in Colorado?

McCarthy: You came to see me in Colorado and were like what the hell are you doing here?!

Atwood: I said what are you doing? Come to New York!

McCarthy: And then two days later I moved to Brian’s in New York. Meanwhile, when I got to New York, with like $30 in my pocket — not very smart — I arrived and he was living in someone’s living room and I showed up with all my stuff and this girl was not happy to see me. And it was the first time I realized you didn’t not have your own apartment in that moment and you were crashing in someone’s apartment! The one in Murray Hill.

Atwood: Oh shit! I forgot about that one! Damn! Yes I was totally crashing with that girl.

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On success and drive:

McCarthy: The crazy thing is you were doing full fashion shows in high school. Full-on! That’s a crazy thing to be doing.

Atwood: At age 17!

McCarthy: There’s never been a question what you were going to do.

Atwood: No, never.

McCarthy: I mean we met at 15 and he knew what he was doing.

Atwood: And I went to an all-boys school and I was like, you know, a guy doing a fashion show. It was like, OK people. Get ready.

McCarthy: But there’s always been a really easy confidence about him — even in that environment where it’s like all football or nothing, all boys, "We’re all weird because we’re in high school and we don’t know what to do with our feelings." And somehow Brian just made it all right, it was cool and he had a tunnel vision knowing what to do. I remember you not wanting to model because you didn’t want to tarnish your design work but funny how that all worked out anyway — pretty interesting.

Atwood: I knew exactly through all the jobs I did, working at Starbucks and every restaurant and everything I did, if you have passion for anything, I don’t think it's possible to fail if you have that drive. If you have it, nothing is going to beat you down. You take it and you just, it's gonna happen — if it happens when you’re 20 or happens later. I knew Melissa had stardom written all over her — 300 percent!

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On Melissa's favorite pair of Brian Atwood shoes:

McCarthy: Brian made my shoes for my wedding. He was one of my bridesmen. And he made my shoes for the Oscars with an inscription on them. He has always been there — literally when I was in labor, for my wedding, he was first person to put me on a stage, he was the one who walked me down to go to the Oscars.

Atwood: I love you.

McCarthy: I’m getting choked up.