On the day after Thanksgiving, this trendy T-bone headed for the Plaza along with everyone else. There, amid the jammed sidewalks, the Strip happened upon a curious sight at the corner of Nichols Road and Pennsylvania.
A handful of women were handing out glossy fliers headlined "When Plaid Goes Bad." Figuring they were performance artists pretending to be the fashion police, the Strip took a flier and about fainted at the image of one of its four-legged friends in a cage with bones showing through its bloody legs.
The Strip gasped. Nearby, women were holding up signs that read "No Skin Off Your Back" and showing a big picture of a barely recognizable dog, stripped of its fur nothing but flesh and muscle.
The women were members of PETA, and they were protesting Burberry, the luxurious British fashion company, just 10 feet away from the Plaza store's front door.
"Please boycott Burberry," they urged passers-by. "They use dogs and cats for fur."
(The Strip later learned that, three days earlier, activists in New York City had splattered fake blood on the display windows at a Manhattan Burberry outlet. Since the fall, when PETA kicked off an international campaign against the retailer, animal-rights activists have targeted the company's designs on Italian runways and held protests at stores as far away as Sydney, Australia. A Burberry spokesman in the UK declined to comment for this article.)
Now, the Strip has little patience for activists who resort to ridiculous antics. But it was fascinated by the Plaza protest's organizer.
With long blond hair and a yellow-diamond ring the size of a Jolly Rancher, Emanuelle Carter fit right in with the other upscale Plaza shoppers. She wore a dark skirt that nearly grazed her black high heels. When her handbag started humming, Carter pulled out a Barbie-pink cell phone and snapped it open with a French-manicured nail. And her pitch to passers-by sounded as though they'd just arrived at her cocktail party.
"Awesome, girl, thank you," she said when a 20-something woman, loaded down with boutique sacks, accepted her "Bloody Burberry" leaflet.
At one point, a sniffling teenager walked up to the group, weeping after being informed by the Burberry clerks that the store's fur was, in fact, real. Turned out, the sensitive 17-year-old was a member of PETA, too.
"Oh, my God," Carter crooned. "You can stand out here with us."
About five minutes later, a pair of Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department squad cars arrived.
An officer with a mustache got out, addressed Carter as "ma'am" and asked to speak to her. "You can stand there and hand out pamphlets if people ask you for them, but if you start stopping people and harassing them, I'm going to have to arrest you," he told her gravely.
"We're not stopping anybody, sir," she said.
"Well, I just need to explain to you, because we got a call down here from the folks in the store who said you were heckling their customers, OK?"
In a sweet tone, Carter explained the group's intent. The officer softened. Moments later, he and the others sauntered back to their cars. The Strip had never seen cops so charmed by a protester.
Now, the Strip wants to save its own hide just as much as the next fella, so this smitten sirloin got Carter's number and, a few weeks later, met up with her to learn how she became a PETA activist.
Growing up in a conservative and ultrareligious family, Carter tells the Strip, she was raised with the impression that animals were "dirty." Aside from sponsoring an Indian child with the Christian Children's Fund when she was 16, she had no experience in activism. Everything changed, though, after her parents gave her a full-length mink coat for her 18th birthday, and she planned to wear it on an East Coast shopping spree.
"My girlfriend was like, 'You are not going to wear that to New York, are you? You know there are PETA people out there, and they'll throw paint all over you. And I thought, That is just absurd. What nut jobs. But, of course, I didn't want my fur to be ruined, so I wore a regular coat to New York. And then, when I returned to Kansas City, I kept thinking, Is this a legitimate organization? Is it legal to have people do that?"
She called PETA, where the receptionist confirmed that the group had a problem with her wearing fur and asked if they could send her some literature. "I said, 'Why, by all means, please send me some literature, so I can respond.'"
They sent brochures, along with undercover videos exposing how the fur and meat industries treat animals.
"For a couple of days, I cried a lot. I thought, How can society let this happen and all these people like myself, we have no idea that's how fur is made? I actually thought farmers just have hundreds of acres and go around and pick up dead animals. I didn't know animals were raised for fur, kept in cages from birth to death." Just the thought of it brings tears to the Strip's eyes, too.
To atone for her old ways, Carter sent a chunk of change to PETA. Then she stopped eating all animal products. And, as a manager for her family's Northland real estate company, Carter could take advantage of the fact that she didn't have to work a typical 9-to-5. She's traveled all over the world and, when all her properties are rented, she'll take a two-week vacation to, say, the Italian Alps with one of her girlfriends. Free of work constraints, she's hopped flights around the country over the past decade to protest for animal rights.
That's not to say that this Vineyard Church member has gone liberal. She leans right in her politics. "Most of my acquaintances are very conservative," she says. In social situations, if she finds herself dining next to a carnivore, "I'll usually say something like 'You know, I think you're an evolved person. Why don't you try to evolve into being a vegetarian?'"
Anyone who knows anything about fashion knows fur isn't in style anyway. "It's just not in to wear fur anymore," Carter says matter-of-factly.
The Strip appreciates Carter's effort on behalf of its furrier friends, but it also knows the sad truth: Leather never goes out of style.