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Your local dry cleaner: adviser to the stars, jet-setter, nationally syndicated radio personality.
“People spend between 5 and 10 percent of their income on clothing each year, and they want to protect it,” says former retailer and third-generation dry cleaner Steve Boorstein. “We have car doctors, love doctors…The time is perfectly right for a clothing doctor.”
Response to Boorstein’s recent book, The Ultimate Guide to Shopping & Caring for Clothing, and its spinoff radio show, The Clothing Doctor, would seem to support this belief. Now 15 weeks into its run, The Clothing Doctor has expanded from its original markets of D.C., New York, and Los Angeles to include Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Denver, and San Francisco. The energetic 49-year-old does the show from New York every weekend, commuting from his home in Bethesda, and he traveled to L.A. this year to broadcast live during Oscar week.
Boorstein earned his doctorly credentials as the owner of Parkway Custom Dry Cleaning in Chevy Chase, Md.—“an upscale cleaner’s that caters to the crème de la crème” of local celebrities and designers. Contracts with the Smithsonian Institution and other museums ensured that Boorstein became an expert at preserving all types of fine fabrics—and at removing all kinds of nastiness.
“People take stuff to the cleaner without pointing out stains because they are too embarrassed,” he says. “You need to tell them, ‘This is sweat. This is discharge.’ Believe me, they’ve seen it all.”
But a concert by the house band at New York’s Café Wha? a few years ago opened Boorstein’s mind to pursuits more creative than color preservation and pit-stain removal. He spent eight months making a documentary about the legendary club, and he enjoyed the process so much that he sold his 16-year-old business to concentrate on his next artistic effort: a book. Beginning in 2000, he worked on The Ultimate Guide every day for two years, until he felt that he’d addressed “all the latent questions we have about our clothes but never ask.”
It was while hawking his book on ABC’s The View and various news shows that Boorstein fell in love with broadcasting. Itching to conduct his own interviews, he hired a consultant and began to piece together his own call-in radio show. The format quickly took shape: Half of the hourlong show would be dedicated to cleaning, storing, and caring for clothes; the other half would feature various guests from the world of fashion.
“I am somewhat fashion-forward, but I’m not as skilled in that area,” admits Boorstein. “My guests bring in more of the what-to-wear-and-when-to-wear-it aspect.”
To that end, recent guests have included stylist Kim Meehan—who’s dressed stars such as J.Lo and Eddie Murphy—and Kevin Lennox, an editor at Glamour magazine. Boorstein is also joined every week by co-host Gina LaMorte, stylist for Teen People, and he often invites two bubbly interns from the Fashion Institute of Technology into the studio.
Despite the show’s glamorous trappings, Boorstein says that the majority of calls have been about—yes—perspiration stains. “The average person sweats, dries, and re-sweats about four or five times a day, and it reacts with their deodorant,” he says. “Then they toss their dirty clothes aside, where they sit until it’s time to go to the cleaners—or, worse yet, they’re worn again.” —Anne Marson