Saturday, November 26, 2011

On the First Day of Christmas . . . One Vogue Subscription

Just a lick and a promise this week - how strange that phrase looks in print!

It's Christmas!  The orbits of 1959 and 2011 intersect this month, so let's just break the rules and skip around the issue, hitting as many Christmas pages as possible.  Will be posting randomly and often until Christmas.  First up - Vogue itself.

It doesn't look any better in real life.  An eye lurking behind a dried-up bit of Christmas tree.  Why not a half-eaten cookie as well?

Verbiage:  Vigilant.  Exacting.  With the sure touch of authority, Vogue reports the important fashion news in its 20 issues a year . . . 
Within each Vogue -- complete reports of fashion in all its phases . . . clothes, accessories and personal beauty . . . decor, entertainment and travel . . .news in names, scenes and events . . . provocative contributions of acclaimed authors. . .

I wonder if anyone has ever described herself as "vigilant and exacting."  Does sound like the typical Vogue editor, though.  

"Excitement" is missing.

Twenty issues a year?  Six-fifty sounds like a deal, but in today's dollars that would be:   $50.58.  You can get 36 issues for $40.00 now - either way you look at it (years or issues), it's a steal.  Either that, or Vogue was a very expensive magazine in 1959.  On purpose.

The post card is still attached!  The address:  Vogue, Greenwich, Connecticut.  All spelled out - no ZIP.  No possibility to pay by credit card.  How did it ever work?

Let's go to the movies!

* Aliens attack.  Led by Japan, the Earth fights back.

*  Like the other space movies this year (so far), no attempt whatsoever of nuanced, or even recognizably human types.  But I soon began to notice that scene after scene was a living Analog cover. I couldn't wait for what came next -- an Oscar-Meyer weiner space vehicle!  Attack of the Teletubbies! And the music was great.   (By the ridiculously prolific Akira Ifukube, best known for  Godzilla.  Can't resist:  Go here and read the list of movies and their English translations.

*  A lot of fun.  Here's the American trailer, also very choice itself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lesser of Two Evils - But Which?

This week:  fur, chemicals and my own personal Jesus.

This woman does not look like 1959.  Maybe it's her makeup, but she looks unmodern.  Rather late 1940's.  Her expression is tense.  She reminds me of the few European women I knew in Orange County in the 1960s - out of place, old fashioned.

The fur is another EMBA Autumn Haze, once more photographed by Virginia Thoren.  See my earlier post for the EMBA/UMPA thing.  Coming soon:  a fur cheat sheet and a field trip to the Saks fur salon - if there is one in San Francisco.

Maybe it is because I am doing this, but I have never before noticed so much fur in present-day Vogue editorials.  So much unapologetic fur.  (And once more -- how bad is it, really?  It is repugnant.  But so are a lot of things that don't trigger the moral outrage that fur does.)

Fur and me:

I had a mouton jacket that my mother wore in the 1950s.  I wore it in college and could not possibly have looked fat, but always felt roly-poly.  Don't know what happened to it. It had that nice, satin lining you see in fur coats - but not the embroidered initials.  

Tried on a fur coat at the fancy Salvation Army Store in Pasadena once.  Either mink or raccoon.  It did not suit me.

In the mid-1960s we lived in an apartment complex in Fullerton, California.  It was said of a woman from "back east" whom nobody liked:  She's the kind of woman who wears a fur coat to empty the garbage.   That was because she did wear her fur to empty the garbage.  She did not look elegant emptying the garbage.

Jack Winter pants, the premium denim of their day ($15.00 converted to $113.00)   They don't look too comfortable.  Ur- mom-pants.

Quick facts on Jack Winter:  manufacturer of ladies' pants from 1953 through the seventies.  Not slacks - pants.  Based in Wisconsin.  Engineered for a tight fit. Although I don't think that worked out so well on the model in plaid.

These pants were half wool and half acrylic.  I am still not able to explain what acrylic is.  Oddly enough, when I first started this blog, I was very curious about the physics of various fabrics, why they were stretchy or shiny.  Despite staring at numerous scientific websites, I still haven't a clue.  But I do understand this:  Creslan was made by American Cyanamid, a company that upon its demise in 1994, left a foul chemical corpse.

Which reminds me that I have come across fur one other time: there was a small mink farm in the woods next to the small town in Germany where my husband grew up.  You could smell it for quite a ways.  One year we went back and the mink were gone.  I don't know how badly the woods were contaminated, but it wasn't as bad as a Superfund site.

I'm coming down once more  cautiously on the side of cruelty:  there is something in-your-face loathsome about killing a mink to make a coat.  The impersonal poisoning of a chemical dump is also loathsome.  I'm beginning to accept mink farms.  Can't countenance seal fur.  Which turned up this month in Vogue.

But is fur necessary at all?  No.  Thus indefensible.  Like fois gras, I suppose.  Still, it is beautiful and I'm open to persuasion.  How about some gorgeous animal that died a natural death?  Why not?

Does anyone actually wear fur?  Certainly not in Berkeley and Oakland.  Although, I have long had the notion  of sweeping into the Tuesday night Berkeley City Council meeting, dripping with mink and Shalimar, demanding first cleaner sidewalks, then foreign policy.   I won't do it without the mink.

Let's Go to the Movies!

  *  The ups and downs of a Prince of Judea, with mystical interludes and a cast of thousands.

  *  Charlton Heston is often acting by himself, especially with Stephen Boyd - a big year for him - who seemed a lot happier in Best of Everything;   chariot race and dramatic pacing better in 1925 version; story doesn't even make sense;  no dramatic tension; turgid direction gives ample time to ponder holes in plot both big and small:   Why do Esther and Ben Hur's mother send him into the leper cave alone only to blunder around the leper tents scaring the poor occupants and causing much distress to his beloved, dying sister?   Why does it seem as if only a few hours elapses between the Sermon on the Mount and the crucifixion?  If Ben Hur is the Prince of Judea and filthy rich, why does he have no friends to help him find his mother in prison?  Aside from the sea battle and chariot race - why doesn't anything really happen?

  *  Jesus (Claude Heater) and I were once agents at the same Prudential Real Estate office in San Francisco.  He was notable for little selling and much opining.

Hey - it's December 1959!  Let's shop  A Vogue Christmas from now until the end of the year - our year.  Best music, food, gifts of 1959.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Watery Pursuits

 In 1959, it was the best of times (booming California sportswear industry) and the worst of times (the food); and at the movies, Charlton Heston remembers to act.

Let's get the slab o' print over first.

"Mediterranean flavour" -- flavour.  American Vogue continues suffering its sad inferiority complex.  Did no one see Room at the Top this year?  Or Expresso Bongo?  Did British Vogue spell it "flavor" out of some weird friendship pact?  All right - I won't mention it again.

But British Vogue was far superior in at least one way, and that is flavour.

Here we have Peter Powel, whoever he is, with his gruesome directions to "slowly and painstakingly" crush salt cod in milk, "crushing away like mad" for half an hour to achieve some kind of paste to spread on toast to eat with potatoes and truffles.

They have Elizabeth David and French Regional Cooking.  (Or anyway, she's in the one British Vogue I have - August, 1957.  A very good issue.)

Why didn't Jessica Daves hire Julia Child?

This is the second issue in which there is an article on food that no one in her right mind would ever cook.  The directions are jokey; the ingredients often unattainable, especially in 1950's America.   It is all very arm's length - in October, whoever it was gathered recipes from her Portuguese friends, who collected them from their cooks.  This time:  "Here, four fresh ways to cook fish, the recipes gathered by Peter Powel, whose lot it has been to spend a number of years along the Mediterranean shore."  That qualifies him?

Apart from cod butter:  deep-fried cod with capers, garnished with walnuts and olives and  blanketed by a wine sauce - (actually, it sounds very much like something you'd find in a tapas bar, except for the wine sauce); a fish soup; a description of poached moustelle,  one of the "finest and rarest" Mediterranean fish.  Find it at your local Piggly Wiggly!

Food in 1959 Vogue is pretentious, unsavory, mysterious, and not at all sensual.  This is as far as it gets from the intrepid Jeffrey Steingarten, The Man Who Ate Everything, and one of the reasons I've kept my Vogue subscription no matter what.  Not to mention a recent piece in which intrepid - only word for it - Hamish Bowles climbed through the backyards of West Oakland looking for free food -- an article I cannot link to.  Hella lame.

*** (denoting an interval of research)

Ah - my ignorance is on full display.  And I am unfair.  The cod butter is brandade de morue, a real dish, made also by Julia Child.  A food processor eliminates the need to "crush away like mad" for half an hour.  Here is a picture (and recipe) from a Jacques Pepin version:

I lack intrepidness.  I am not going to make this.  

This woman's neck is a bit too elongated.   But never mind.  A rare bit of gush-- I love mille fleur.  I like the bodice and the waist of this, the way the bottom of this is cut, your thighs would never look good.  Still -- a nice suit and an arresting ad. (The background looks better in real life.)

I will also gush over the "Limited Editions" font.  This suit is one of the "Crown Jewels of the Sea."  I have seen other Rose Marie Reid ads - many of her swimsuits are mere "Jewels of the Sea."  And, anyway, this is a swimsheath named Cambria.  First great phrase of the issue:  ". . . mere ounces of softness shape you. . ." 

I've always liked the Rose Marie Reid ads.  But who was Rose Marie Reid?  

She was one of the big swimsuit designers and manufacturers, along with Cole of California and Catalina -- all West Coast brands.  She was a devout and active Mormon, originally from Canada.   Most interesting, for me, in 1960 she opened a $2,000,000.00 "modernistic" model factory in the San Fernando Valley.  I have a sneaking feeling that it is located at the bottom of the Sherman Oaks Galleria, or whatever it's called now.  She was also remembered (somewhere in the comments of a Mormon blog - lost it now) as an early equal-opportunity employer.  More later - I've ordered the biography written by her daughter.   

In keeping with aquatic theme - let's see the other Charlton Heston film of 1959 --

*  A salvage boat owner finds more than he bargains for on what seems to be an abandoned freighter.

*  This turned out to be a pretty good, engrossing thriller about maritime insurance.  Really.  Gary Cooper is old and sad; I swear there's a moment when Charlton Heston seems to make the decision to help out a fellow actor.  

* Richard Harris very good in a supporting bit.  Exciting storm at sea.  Definitely worth a remake.

Next week: fur vs. chemicals, and Ben Hur.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tale of Two Factories

This week: a cotton mill and a perfume factory meet different fates;  and, at the movies, an alien octopus threatens mankind.

First, these ladies are standing in front of a gigantico Mexican sugar cookie!  

A lot of different companies came together for this, including a slew of defunct department stores listed in the small print at the bottom of the ad (Bullocks!).  Avondale Cotton - a company that appears to have been known for both its progressive "corporate welfare" and its exploitation of workers -- no, we're not getting away from this.  Briefly - founded in Alabama in 1897, boomed after World War I and into the 1920s, partly because of extensive use of women and children night workers.  In early 1930s, labor unions got the work week down to 55 hours for day shifts and 50 hours at night.  Still better than being a sharecropper.

The problem in the 1950's for the American cotton industry was cheap imports from Japan.  (What happened to the Japanese cotton industry?)  Also - makers of unnatural fibers seemed to do to cotton what the oil industry did to the Red Cars and other city trains.  We'll see a lot more mention of Dacron, etc. than cotton.  

The Avondale company went thoroughly defunct in 2008.  In June 2011, its factory in Pell, Alabama burnt:

 But, hey - let's party!

"Terrifico!  Magnifico Fiesta De Mexico by Sportmasters of California"

"Fiesta fashions -- bellas, inspiradas!  En pic 'n' rib cotton de AVONDALE (little-or-no-iron).  Con embroidery por Joseph Aarons.  Isobella wears:  Pant-alons y Mexican wedding shirt.  Carmen wears:  peasant skirt y Caballero camisole. . ."  

Worst gringo Spanish ever.  One of the worst ads, so far.  But not as strange as this:  


When I look at that picture, my first thought is not she is a "woman who wants to be loved;" but that she is a woman casting  a spell on David Bowie's older brother - note the one blue eye!  

I have a vague awareness of DuBarry, but know nothing about it.  Oh, hey!  It's British - or was.  Good call, that.  Many people have fond memories or reveries of the DuBarry factory in Hove, which has been turned into flats.   

The factory is lovely:  

From "Hove Daily Photo" at blogspot

The DuBarry motto:  For Loveliness That Lasts.  And it has.

Let's Go to the Movies!

* Something is wreaking havoc under the North Pole!
* Atomic submarine warfare, a UFO, an octopus from outer space - none of it adds up to anything. Good poster, though.
* I had a little plastic submarine that you put baking soda in and it cruised around the bottom of the bathroom sink.  And it starred in this film!
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