It’s hard to express exactly how much I adore Phyllis Nefler. She is so insanely amazers in so many ways, my head explodes just thinking about it. For those of you who don’t know who she is, shame on you but I’m in a good mood, so I’ll introduce you. Phyllis Nefler (played by Shelley Long) is a fabulous Beverly Hills wife who, amidst a messy divorce, decides to move out of her zone de comfort to become the leader of her daughter’s Wilderness Troop (that’s right, Troop Beverly Hills). Uncertain and apprehensive at first, Nefler becomes the true leader, confidant and most importantly, BFF to the troop’s members – you know, the beautiful and complex off-spring of the Hollywood glitterati. And to me, she became a source of amusement, fashion inspiration and the embodiment of joie de vivre.
On the surface, Troop Beverly Hills may seem like a frivolous movie, but I ask politely to differ. If you pay a little attention and scratch the surface, you will notice that Phyllis teaches us some important rules to live by.
And thus, the top ten things I’ve learned from Phyllis Nefler:
- Vodka isn’t the only go-to beverage when drowning your sorrows. When depressed about her divorce, Phyllis gets wasted on bottle after bottle of Evian water. Why can’t I be more like her? My sorrows are too often drowned in bottles of calorie-laden Grey Goose, with a splash of lemon. I get busy turning my liver on overdrive, while Phyllis gives hers a toxin-flushing break. Perhaps all that hydrating makes your skin look so fabulous, it’s hard to stay sullen for long?
- “Being in the wilderness is no excuse not to look your best.” In this instance, I take the word “wilderness” to be the French word meaning “in the neighborhood running errands”. There is no good excuse not to look your best because when you look your best, you feel your best (that sounds incredibly cheesy, I know!). The truth is, I never regret looking good, but I always regret lazily running out of the house looking less than presentable. You always want to look sexy, especially when you run into your ex while buying a supermarket birthday cake to bring to your new beau’s party (i.e. eat at home alone while watching Clueless).
- Move out of your zone de comfort. When rain ruins the girls’ camp out, naturally, the troop relocates (via limousine – in the late 80s when limos weren’t so, you know, gauche) to a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Phyllis tells the evil head troop leader Velda that they found a place that was “much more [them],” and while they were more comfortable, they were still, in their minds, “roughing it” (“One bathroom for nine people?”). Whether it’s sharing a bathroom with 9 girls or running a half-marathon, it is always good to push yourself to try something different. Who knows, you might like it? And maybe even grow as a person? or shrink a little from the marathon stuff?
- Dessert is always important. Before fleeing the soaked camp site, which I must point out was catered, Phyllis goes through great lengths, even destroying one of her fabulous furs to save the girls’ fondue (“I’m coming girls, I’ve got the fondue”). I can’t stress this one enough. Dessert is important, and so is candy. Don’t forget to enjoy it, just maybe not with as much gusto as me.
- Hair hauntings are real. While at their 5-star camp out, the girls share ghost stories. Phyllis’s choice of horror story? The day her famed coiffeur Cristophe was replaced by a man named Rinaldo. Low and behold, he did the unimaginable… he permed her! (Side note: I have been having a weird feeling perms are about to make a comeback.) The lesson is hair mishaps are no joke, and can affect even the most confident women. I am still very much haunted by my decision to get cornrows on a Caribbean vacation as a child. Pay attention – don’t let this happen to you!
- Do what you love and the patches will follow. In this instance, I guess patches would be success or money. Since the girls aren’t “crackerjack wilderness girls,” Phyllis decides to create patches for activities that they excel in, such as “Gardening with Glamour,” “Jewelry Appraisal” and “Sushi Appreciation.” Get busy doing whatever it is you dig, and you too can excel. I’m still hoping that life hands out patches for producing anxiety, winning at the claw machine and drinking diet coke; the areas in which I most excel!
- Be resourceful. The girls are dying to attend the annual Wildness Jamboree and the ticket in? Selling 2000 boxes of cookies. Instead of having the girls go door-to-door, Phyllis whips up a wilderness-chic luncheon hosted by Robin Leach (“Khaki wishes, and cookie dreams”), has the girls perform on Rodeo Drive and sets up cookie-selling tables outside of Jane Fonda’s Work-Out World. It may not be right, but you have to admit, it is resourceful.
- Always help those less fortunate. Phyllis and the girls arrived late to her divorce court hearing because they were “describing fall fashions to the blind.” You may think this sounds trivial, but why shouldn’t they get to know about the fall’s hottest collections? Whatever you can give for those less fortunate, give!
- You can have a black belt in shopping!How do I know? Because Phyllis has one and she has the most amazing, to-die-for clothes. Over 20 years later, I still think most of her get-ups in this film are fabulous! A little over the top, yes, but fabulous none-the-less.
- Friendship is everything. Ladies, be a friend to other ladies, we need each other. We are always stronger when we work to build each other up rather than tear each other down. And without friends, who would we text with? drink with? drunk text with? and watch Troop Beverly Hills with?
I sometimes I wish I could live in this movie. Most people would probably want to live in some sort of romantic film, but I would die to be one of the girls in the troop with Phylis as my leader. Sadly, my plan to quit my life and join Troop Beverly Hills isn’t realistic, but what I can do is watch it over and over and live the lessons I’ve learned from the fabulous Phyllis Nefler.
by Joelle Boucai