Saturday, March 24, 2012

Minor Mysteries; Major Espionage

This week:  a mishmash of obscurity, espionage.  

Party dresses!  Which look a lot like what I wore to school every single day through Kindergarten and first grade - a few years after this.   Then they began to disappear.  Little girls changed, too.  

You'd never see an ad for a girl's dress in today's Vogue.  In fact, I don't know when I've seen an ad for children's clothes in any magazine, except for Gap Christmas ads.  

I can find very little about R.A.R. Moppets.  You could find them at Capwell's in Oakland for what would be $86.00 now.  Here is Capwell's after the '89 quake, before it became the strangest, saddest Sears in the world.  I most recently waited while an old man returned Reese's Peanut Butter Cups with much complication.  How does that even happen?  


What a mess!  A long-gone perfume, Memoire Cherie.  Even The Perfumed Court has no sample.  According to this ad, and many others in newspapers across America, Memoire Cherie is the "one perfume in the world to win the treasured Coupe d'Or!"  The only other thing I can find that has won this is a French beer in the 1990s.  It is given out by something called the Comite de Bon Gout de Francais.  If they have a website, I cannot find it.  Let's get out of here!

We are looking at two spreads this week, both awful.   This is like a road trip that you start out by planning to stop at all of the little towns along the way, then after a while you just say 'the hell with it' and get back on the freeway.  Is this cheating?  

On the right, Dacron from DuPont.  It seems like only yesterday we had Orlon from DuPont.  You would think that, by now, I would know the difference, right down to molecular structure.  I don't.  

Dacron, which no longer exists, was produced from 1953 in Kinston, North Carolina, at a factory that actualy  still exists.  Although "significantly downsized," according to the city site, the factory is now bio-fueled.  

"Behind Every Olga, There Really Is an Olga."  I remember this ad slogan that ran for years with a picture of a smiling Olga Erteszek, who seemed to really understand all of your lingerie problems.  In fact, I wore Olga bras for many years.  I even worked in the office for a few days as a temp.  I remember the building on Haskell in the Valley, the address in this ad, but I have no idea what I did there.  

I don't remember ever wearing anything this pointy!  

These are the first Asian models I've seen in Vogue, or anywhere else.    I wonder how it came about.

Back to the Society Pages.  Refreshing your memory:

Facts one can find on the internet!   Somewhere in this photo is chairwoman Virginia Page Hart (Mrs. Creighton Carlton Hart), in a pale blue brocade gown.  Debs, of course are in white.  Any woman in black is a post-deb.  First Jewel Ball given in 1954.  Apparently still continuing.  It is a benefit for the Symphony and art museum - how?  Is there an entry fee - like for the Kentucky Derby?

Princess Galitzine, an attractive Italian visitor.  There were many Princess Galitzines in the last century. NYT headlines:  Princess Galitzine . . . is killed by a bomb (Catherine, 1940). . . married in London (Anne Marie, 1956) . . . records greedy-pleasure seeking (Aimee Crocker Galitzine, 1933) . . . becomes designer of Liberty of London (Shelaigh, mid 1950s).  The only Italian Princess Galitzine seems to have been Irene,  a Russian princess, not Italian.  In 1959, Irene Galitzine was already a notable Italian fashion designer; in the 1960s she would be credited for palazzo pants.  But is this that Princess Galitzine?   A prince-laden family, the Galitzines!  Russian refugees, like Prince Matchabelli. Or maybe Georgian, like Prince Matchabelli.

This could be anyone, really.

Let's Go to the Movies!

*  A melancholy vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana becomes reluctant spy.

*  Intelligent adaptation by Graham Greene of his own novel - much of the screaming sadness of the book bleached away, thank goodness.   Shot on location immediately after the revolution, which is alone worth price of admission; lovely score.

*  One of my favorite Alec Guinness roles; the surprises here are Burl Ives and Ernie Kovacs.  But the drawings of the weaponized vacuum cleaner steal the show.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Holland Americana

This week:  Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Plan 9 From Outer Space, With Special Guest Appearance by An Issue of Vogue.   

Shoes are beginning to look like this again.  I have led such a sheltered life in recent years that I hadn't realized that shoes (and perfumes) have been carefully calibrated to attract the bleary attention of some lout in a bar.  You only need to walk from the taxi to the bar stool and then provocatively entwine your leg around the bar stool.

The interesting thing about this ad is that it mentions stores in Huntington Park, Highland Park, East L.A. and Stockton.   Glamour must have been spread more widely in 1959.

Now - let's meet some more new friends!

Vogue, this month - as I should have mentioned last week - attends "A New York party for Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands; a debutante ball in a Kansas museum; a centennial gala in Denver; and in New York, a whirl of parties and luncheons for visiting Italians."

Some then-and-now differences:  movie stars aren't invited; neither are fashion designers, or if they are, it's because they're nobility first and designers second.   Young girls are left at home, unless they're Princesses.

Catching up with Princess Beatrix:

From left to right, we've met Mrs. E. F. Hutton, but we aren't sure if she is the second or the third Mrs. E. F. Hutton; and we've met Mrs. James H. Van Alen, horsewoman, and tennis museum founder.  Shall we shake hands with the lady trying not to laugh?

It is the house of Mrs. Arthur A. Houghton, but she is not giving the party.  She is dressed like Mamie Eisenhauer.

Hmm . . . this is either the first, second, or third Mrs. Arthur A. Houghton.  In 1973 a fourth was created.  Mr. Houghton, and this is rapid NYT research, appears to have been the son of Corning Glass Arthur Houghton.  He donated his New York house to the United Nations to serve as the residence of the Secretary General.  So - it's probably this house.  Yes, 3 Sutton Place.

Ah, here she is:  Elizabeth McCall Cain, who was married to Mr. Houghton from 1944 to 1972.   She was only 39 in this photo.

And next, annoyingly "centre," here is Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands.


Click for video.

She was 21 in 1959, studying law and history at the University of Leyden.  She had an apartment near campus and did her own cooking.  

 Her trip to America was a huge deal.  It was part of the celebration of the 350th anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing up the Hudson River, an event that, for me, has never moved beyond a chapter of a fifth-grade history book.  According to the NYT, 200,000 people came out to see her motorcade. In New York, she bought 15 classical albums at Sam Goody's, talked to regular people and avoided the press.

Princess Beatrix "surprised reporters" because she did not want to shop.  Instead she spent three and a half hours at the Met, with her uncle, the "Far East curator."  Later she ditched "The Music Man" on Broadway and saw "Destry Rides Again," starring Andy Griffith, instead.   Interesting choice.

Here is her wedding in 1966:

From the Royal Website

Princess Beatrix became Beatrix of the Netherlands in 1980.   I vaguely remembered that a member of the royal family had been in the news recently:  In February, Prince Friso, her second son, was buried in an avalanche while skiing in Austria.  He is now in a hospital in London, in a coma.  Prince Friso was not in line for the throne because the Dutch government did not believe that his wife had been completely honest about her ex-boyfriend, a drug lord.    That must have made for some interesting Dutch C-Span.

Saving your scrolling nerves, I repeat the photo:

Next to Princess Beatrix, we have Mrs. John H. G. Pell.  Pell Grants?  More or less.  Step sister and/or sister-in-law of Claiburn Pell.   First NYT hit is the announcement of a daughter born in 1931 to Mrs. John H. G. Pell, the former Pyrma Tilton, daughter of Mrs. Herbert Claiburn Pell.  Never going to sort that out.  Story points out that the infant is the great-great-granddaughter of the late John Bigelow, who turns out to have been Ambassador to Britain under Lincoln.  Quite a lot of geneaology for one little paragraph.  Well, here is some help - family reunion of Pells in 1979 and their long history in this country.  Not as long as mine, I may add.  (On paper, anyway.)   Unlike the Pells, my more-or-less ancestors never met an opportunity they could make anything out of.  So - good for the Pells.  Although I would like to point out that eventually the family was able to produce a President of the Garden Club of Oskaloosa, Iowa, who did appear in similar photos in the Oskaloosa Herald, welcoming visitors from Ottumwa and points beyond.  

More than 1,000 hits for "Mrs. John H. G. Pell!"  She was everywhere - flower shows, debutante bashes, weddings, charities.  She is a swan compared to the other women in the photo.

Two more ladies.  And probably two more thickets of family trees.

Shake hands with Mrs. William A. M. Burden.  If we can figure out which one.  In my other life, I have often noted that if you want to perpetuate white collar crime and avoid punishment, spread your deeds across several counties and be sure and have several family members with the same name.  This works for the higher rungs of society as well.

"Mrs. William A. M. Burden" gets 966 NYT hits.  First up is an obituary of 1969 for Florence Vanderbilt Twombly Burden, age 87.    Not this one, but the Vanderbilt says it all.  From the obit, though, I learn that there are multiple Mrs. William A. M. Burdens" co-existing, probably, in 1959.   Is this Leslie Hamilton who married into the family in 1950?  Women looked so much older than their ages.

Based on the presence of William A. M. Burden, Ambassador, I think this must be the former Margaret Livingston Partridge, dare we presume?   These Burdens produced the William A. M. Burden I thought was married to the woman in the picture, (now even I am confused) who then produced Wendy Burden, who wrote Dead End Gene Pool, which I cannot wait to read.

 Let's move on to the bored, unhappy looking Mrs. Stephen Van Rensselaer.

Well, for one thing she is obviously some connection of Vogue contributing editor Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer.  Perhaps this is why this story appears here at all.  A scoop!

There have been Stephen Van Renssalaers upon this land for centuries.  My best guess is that this lady in the picture is the former Lillie Langstroth of Honolulu, a Cal grad, who was married to this particular Stephen Van Renssalaer in 1946 in Piedmont, near Oakland, where I will be going tomorrow.  The reception was at the Claremont Hotel, up the hill from  my mechanic.  It feels absolutely great to know this territory.

Perhaps she looks bored and unhappy because she's missing a Cal game.

And if I've got the wrong one, I don't want to know.

How good a time did Princess Beatrix have at this dinner, anyway?

Let's go to the movies!

* Earthlings endanger the universe; denizens of outer space intervene wiith the weaponized recently dead,  much to the consternation of the local police.

* Bela Lugosi sadly walks around San Fernando ranch house; Eartha Kitt appears at the Mocambo (we just see the sign, but interesting shots of L.A.) I thought the ruler of the space invaders was a Shakespearian actor down on his luck, but he was actually drag queen Bunny Breckinridge, who was probably related to at least one of the ladies in the photo, as he was descended from a founder of Wells Fargo and all really rich people are related.   Too bad this was his only film!  "The earth people who can think are so frightened of those who cannot . . ."  Beautifully spoken.  Tor Johnson actually very good, by any standard.

* Mona McKinnon is sitting on the patio, with not enough light, reading the August 1956 Vogue and smoking Winstons in the scene in which her husband tells her to be sure and lock the door because there have been some strange things happening in that graveyard, what with the flying saucers and all.  This is, I believe, is original research.  What other scholar has employed freeze framing and zooming techniques, coupled with additional research, in order to ascertain this culturally significant discovery?  What does it say that Vogue was chosen, and not Ladies' Home Journal or Saturday Evening Post?   What does it say about the aspirational impulses of residents of the new suburbia?  And can we any longer call Plan 9 a low-budget film?  Certainly not!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Encountering the Natives

This week - Intermediate Perfumery, Other People's Parties, and War.

The first time we came across Caron perfumes, I was surprised to find that they still existed.  I gave the link and thought nothing more about it.  My education in perfume has progressed to the point that I now know that I can buy tiny little sample vials online, not only of present-day Caron, but vintage Caron.   And I almost did it.  That would make this "Reading Vintage Vogues -- Accidental Insanity."   I am trying to think how a person in 1959 could do as much damage to her bank account in the middle of the night.  Write a check to a stranger in a bar?

I am going to cheat and give the short descriptions of the present-day versions of these three perfumes from Perfumes - The Guide.  Bellodgia - "lemony germanium." Fleurs de Rocaille - "carnation floral." Nuits de Noel - "marron glace."   Well, that's not too helpful.  They like the Nuits de Noel the best, but it is "ample flesh, but no discernable bone structure."  Still - four stars.  

I am saving more of Chanel v. Shalimar for the coming Shop Hound pages - truly the dog days of Vogue.  But one thing I've learned is perfume is almost alive.  And that the lesser versions - the eau de parfum and the eau de toilette - are mostly worthless.  You have to buy the real thing.  Maybe even the real, real thing that comes from the dregs of a bottle found at an estate sale.  For a lot of money.  And it will be worth it.

Along the same lines, I unexpectedly had a glass, or two, of very, very, very good wine last night.  Something that retails for about $130.  I had no idea anything could taste that good.  I'm a little sorry I found out.  But the good thing about perfume is $130 of perfume lasts a lot longer than $130 of wine.

Let us now visit the world in which no one is shocked if something is good.

Who are these people?

Ladies in floral dresses - let's look at them from left to right:

Mrs. Edward F. Hutton -- E. F. Hutton.  Ring a bell?

This always seemed so barbaric - the obliteration of a woman's name upon marriage.  And confusing.  Which Mrs. Edward F. Hutton is this?   I simply can't recognize faces from photos -- is this the second Mrs. Edward F. Hutton, who was otherwise Authentic Grande Dame Marjorie Merriweather Post?  Or was it the third, much younger,  Mrs. Edward F. Hutton, who had been Dorothy Dear Metzger until she met Mr. Hutton, who was the father of a girlfriend.  Huge scandal.  I'm going to guess this was Mrs. Edward F. Hutton Number Three.

Well, whichever one she was, we know who her husband was.  Here he is:

And here's one of those obnoxious E. F. Hutton commercials from the 1970s:

Next, we have Mrs. James H. Van Alen, (second from left), who apparently never had a first name, as she is never identified as such in the Sotheby's Press Release announcing the sale of her things.  

 I am being tiresome.  And I finally found it in the Notes of Social Activities, October 24, 1929.  It was noted that the former Eleanor Langley and James H. Van Alen had been recently married and were about to begin an around the world wedding trip.  Yes, hella one per cent in 1929.  Mr. James H. Van Alen was devoted to tennis and is credited with inventing the tie breaker in that sport.  Mr. and Mrs. James H. founded the International Tennis Museum in Newport, Rhode Island in the former Newport Casino.

Here is the sporty Mrs. James H. Van Alen with two horses.  Photo is by Steichen - I didn't know that he did society portraits.

It looks much better if you go here and then "full size."  She has an interesting face, very serious and rather boyish.

Well, two down - how many to go?  Next time.

Let's go to the movies!

*   Gregory Peck's earnest portrayal of a particularly inane military action in which ordinary soldiers obeyed cretinous orders the best they could.   Seems to have been made on the cheap, which is a shame because the talent in the cast runs very deep.

*  Besides Gregory Peck:  Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, George Peppard, Woody Strode, Gavin MacLeod, Martin Landau .  . . Harry Dean Stanton and Clarence Williams III have tiny roles.  Robert Blake is very good, but the big surprise is Norman Fell as the guy who should have been on his way home, but the Army screwed up.

*  Interesting non-handling of newly integrated troops and the Japanese-American Lieutenant played by George Shibata, who was the first Japanese-American to graduate from West Point.  A surprisingly intelligent movie.  Bosley Crothers gave it a respectful review, noting it was a good movie to see on Memorial Day Weekend and ended it the way most NYT reviews ended, with a description of what else you'd see at the movies:   

"Appearing in the stage show at the Roxy are The Goofers, comedy musicians; Helen Halpin, singing comedienne; Darryl Stewart, Australian tenor, and the dance team of McKay and Charles."

Ladies and Gentlemen - The Goofers!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Say, 'Y - e - e - s!'

Very little time these days for eccentric scholarship.  Piles of field notes, though:  The Chanel boutique, Saks Fur Salon, vintage  Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar.  Next time.   This time:  last week's pages, this week's pages and an old, leftover movie.   

Let's save time by cutting out the editing.  Go!  Another handsome spread, really.  The white dress, the pale fur, the faces turned to one side.  The orange-red dickey or whatever and the red lipstick. . . good job, ad page selecting editor!

Beads.  Orange-red beads  Orlon - that never sounded very nice to wear.  Orlon is the brand name of DuPont's acrylic.  In 1959, the company was still referred to as E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., Inc.  I had assumed it was American.  Here is a short article announcing this fabric.  From hunting around I learned that no acrylic fabric is now made in America.  Why?  What is this stuff made out of?  I am beginning to recognize its chemical shape, but just can't picture it's original form.

Another in the bewildering series.  Emba? Umpa?  Mutation mink?  Ranch mink?  Couldn't a mutation happen on a ranch?  This might look better in person; the colors are a bit dead in the photo.  Another Virginia Thoren photo.  Fur in general - my gut feeling is that I'm going to be as hypocritical about fur as I am about lamb.  I can think, "cute little lamb" and "lamb fricassee" at the same time.  If that is hypocritical and not just realistic or brutal.  Brutal, probably.  You feel damned good in a fur coat.

Again, good page mates!

Look at all of those hands!  I love this ad.  Finally, some life and fun.  And I have always liked Martini & Rossi.  In fact, that was some more field work.  It's really very nice over ice  and this was such a warm weekend.  I'll have to try the dry vermouth next time.

We have met Prince Matchabelli and Colonel Schick - did you know there was a Count Martini?   Several, in fact.  Here is Count Martini Rossi in New York in 1930:  "When asked if he believed in prohibition, Count Rossi replied: "Yes, for America if Americans want it.  But for Italy - no.  You see we Italians are not blessed with the great sense of humor the Americans possess."

I picture him as a round little line drawing.  No good photos!

What's with all the linen dresses?  I think this is our fourth, very similar sheath.  This seems like a very uncomfortable dress to wear at a resort unless your idea if a good time is not moving.

Well, that was the unedited, vermouth-fueled speed blog.   No time for a movie.  Here or in real life.

But we have to have some kind of video - and we did see Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo.

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