Sunday, July 22, 2012

1959 or 2012?

This week - life gets in the way, and Hounds of the Baskervilles - old and new.

Not a bad spread; it should work, but it doesn't.  I find myself uneasily mesmerized by that bottle of Joy.  I have slacked right off these past weeks.  In my other life, I have taken a promotion.  Two, actually.  And in the mysterious ways of government work, it means I'll be taking home less money for a while.  (Fancy that happening at Private Sector Firm de Jour!) Which has a direct bearing on Joy.  Alas.

In 1959, it would have been difficult for anyone of my gender to have had my former job and it probably would have been impossible for a woman to head a department of investigators, even our weak-sauce regulatory variety.  Most of my colleagues wouldn't have had the jobs they have.  

On the other hand, in 1959,  a man in my position could easily have supported a family and could have sent his children through the California university system for free.  Free.   It was called being middle class, one of the quaint customs of the day.

Enough. Let's shop for bras!

Vassarette is still around - Target, Wa\\lMart, etc.  Hollywood Vassarette was created in 1958 specifically to shape your body so you could wear the latest fashions.  "Bras to give you a bewitching swell of bosom for wide-eyed necklines . . . by gently boosting you above the cup curve itself!"  The "Temptress Bra" and "Temptress Torso" both came in black over pink, but no larger than a 36 B, so we're not talking big boosts here.   Supposedly the Temptress Torso would cost $115 in today's dollars.     Seems a lot for Vassarette, unless, like a lot of other brands, it has dropped down in class.  Revlon, for instance, was sold in fine department stores.

Utter fail - haven't the time, energy or spare cash to acquire vintage samples of Joy, Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar for one big perfume smack down.  This year.  There will be other December issues.  Meanwhile, Joy is said to be unchanged from 1929, when Jean Patou stirred up a batch to cheer American wives whose husbands had taken dives in the stock market.  (How were they supposed to afford it?)

I've actually got the Chanel and Guerlain, but the vintage Chanel has changed a lot since I uncorked the tiny little vial it came in.  It was like the hundred dollar bottle of wine I serendipitously enjoyed one evening several months ago - a revelation.  These things exist.  But now is is like a good Gallo.  So I have to start again.  Meanwhile, I finished a little bottle of Jicky that came with the Shalimar.  It's like half of Shalimar and I found myself easily wearing it every day, until I spilled the last few drops on the bathroom floor.  And even then it wasn't bad.  

But, no Joy.


Couldn't get them in a row.  Forget it - let's go to the movies!

*  Second Hammer Film with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  Better than The Mummy.  That's about all I can say.

*  Not feeling Hammer Films.  And there are so many of them.

* Co-incidently, "Hounds of Baskerville," an episode of the new BBC series Sherlock,  arrived in the mail this week, illustrating another reason why I like living in 2012:  smart and fun television series with what seem like real people - at least psychologically real people.  Add this to your Netflixt list today!  (Another reason to like 2012 - even if there was Netflix in 1959, think of all the movies you couldn't see!)

Next week:  last pair of ads before heading into guts of the issue.  (Only took a year!)   

Saturday, July 7, 2012


This week: I am overcome by traditional Spanish decor in personal adornment, ripples from the past, and a timely accidental education in elemental physics.

Well done, art department!  (Or whoever decided these things.)  Very nice.

Maja - I almost bought some of this the last time I was in The City.  Went around to the peculiar perfume shop, but couldn't bring myself to go in this time.  I admired the huge bottles of perfume in the window, but the owner was behind the counter.  I felt like an eight year old spying on the neighborhood eccentric.  What was he doing?  There are never any customers.  He particularly hates people who think they know anything about perfume - that fake-o Chandler Burr.  People who ask questions . . . He stocks an ample supply of Maja, but I just wasn't up for it.  Oddly enough, around the corner the Betsey Johnson shop was going out of business -- bankrupt! -- and I bought this:

I didn't know it was a dress!  Everyone in the store was wearing it - or its sister - as a blouse.  With decorative bra straps, which takes the rose out of your teeth, so to speak.  Wildly inappropriate, but had an inexplicable Fleetwood Mac moment.  It's gorgeous.  Wore it for a rare night out for drinks - tamarind margaritas.  I had to have this - had just been contemplating Maja soap, and there it was.

Maja soap in color from defunct,  but interesting, blog.

So, Maja soap.  (Pain killers much?  Makes for a bloggier blog - free floating, all the time in the world . . . )

Well, Maja appears to be among the walking dead.  Quick research:  Myurgia was the Spanish house that launched Maja in 1916 (or 1918) and again in 1945.  A respectable drugstore choice until sold in 2000 to Puig, a Spanish brand conglomeration with a mission statement and a lot of fluff on its website, but no Maja.  Some sources say the soap is still made in Mexico.

Who was Maja?  Actually, the question should be, what is a Maja?  More quick research:  a lower-class woman of Madrid who dressed in an exaggerated style and possibly beat up people she judged to be too "Frenchified."   A girl of the hood.  The extreme dress is fascinating - ancestress of the Zoot suiter and the chola?

Here Goya's Naked Maja:

And another Naked Maja:

From ---- 1959.   (Reviewed in NYT in June 1959.)

If only this had been on Netflix, and not the regrettable Journey to the Center of the Earth.

But I digress.  Let's have a look at the Maja ad:

First, that's not a Goya.  Confusing, no?  Look up Maja and art and you get Goya.  You can read a signature in the bottom right corner:  Julio Moises.  Best I can tell, he is Julio Moises Fernandez de Villasante (1888-1968).   Haven't confirmed to my satisfaction, but here, from a blogger, is another painting by him and it looks very similar.

I love the typeface in the entire ad.  Here is the blurbage:

"The Maja, immortalized by Goya, and a favorite subject with Spanish painters, is a delightful name for the favorite complexion soap of beauties all over the world.  Its sylvan bouquet -- floral-mossy-chypre- - imparts a lasting perfume to your skin.  And compounded with Spanish olive oil, a beneficience to your complexion.  Elaborately presented, Maja is traditionally Spanish in its decor.  You'll love using it and giving it.  'Maja' means beautiful woman."

Well, no, it doesn't, but that might be harder to confirm in a casual check in 1959.  Interesting to see the perfume notes deconstructed.

Done that to death!   This is so great - pointless research is so relaxing.  I have forgotten my ravaged gum and swollen cheek.  Next page:

I don't know if the Warner people were very clever, or too clever for their own good.  I see this ad and think, "I dreamed I floated . . . in my -- wait that's not Maidenform!"  I would probably go to the store and buy a Maidenform corselette, even if I intended to buy this one.

One of the reasons life is nicer in 2012:  No more shoulder strap strain, of this type, at least.  You can still maim yourself pretty bad in a too-small body shaper, but at least you're not bound together from shoulder to toe.  Imagine: the stockings connected to the garters, making one huge series of pinches.

But not with the free lift!  To the blurbage:

"Now you can forget all the tug-o-war stories you've heard about corselettes!  . . . The secret of this shapely slimmer is Warner's exclusive separation feature.  The embroidered nylon bra is free beneath the cups. Result: the bra moves with you . .  reaches with you!"

The bra will now move with you, but will leave your breasts behind because I bet that they have removed the wire.  No patent is mentioned in this one, so that avenue of research is closed to us.  I remain unconvinced.

 And now to the physics:  a couple of things happened this week involving people we met in this issue. In one case, intimately; the other, not so much.   I was thinking:  echos from the past?  Reverberations?
Looked it up:  neither.  I was thinking of a ripple.  But for the first time, I actually understood what a sound wave is and why there is a difference between an echo and a reverberation.    The Higgs boson coverage helped.  Still haven't grasped the mechanics of nylon and Dacron, but the reality of sound waves finally sunk in.  Hope for everyone!

First up:  Remember Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and her trip to New York?

Here is part of that post:

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.

Andy Griffith died this week.  I doubt their paths ever crossed again, however tangential.  When I wrote that post, I was completely mystified at Andy Griffith on Broadway.  The Andy Griffith Show was a few months away.  Just curious:  What did Princess Beatrix see?

Well, first, it had been turned into a musical, apparently not in the league of The Music Man and Sound of Music, which just opened in late 1959. I have not tracked down the music to Destry, if any still exists, because I prefer not to make up my own mind about Broadway musicals.  I can barely stand them,so I'll take the world's word for the better ones.  From the Brooks Atkinson review of Destry Rides Again:  "Is it necessary to hire (various decent artists to waste their talents on this) . . . Andy Griffith, still the ingenious Southern hillbilly of No Time for Sergeants to impersonate Destry?"  And:  Mr. Griffith "brings disarming enthusiasm" to several romantic numbers.  That is all there is about Andy Griffith. Mr. Atkinson noted, "Last night's audience seemed to be besides itself with admiration."  Mr. Atkinson seems to have had a better handle on it.

Second, let's revisit my favorite society photo: (Fall 1959 Opening of the Philharmonic.)

Lord and Lady Londonderry (Derry! Damn it! RVV's ancestors are straight out of Sligo,by way of several generations in Davenport, Iowa, but still.  Derry.) and Gloria Vanderbilt.  I've always admired Gloria Vanderbilt for just taking the bit in her teeth and living. I usually don't admire socialites, but there's something about her that makes you think she would have been remarkable no matter where in society she landed.  I love the way she is looking at the tragic, but seemingly dim, Lady Londonderry.  Don't think she cares much for Lord L, either.  Does not look happy.  In 1959, she was still married to Sidney Lumet, her third husband, who died just last year.  Sidney Lumet had two films out in 1959:  The Fugitive Kind, with Marlon Brando, one of my least favorite films of the year (or 1960, as it turned out.)  The other film:  That Kind of Woman, with Sofia Loren and Tab Hunter, not on Netflix.

I am not producing the ripple that I want.  Gloria Vanderbilt divorced Sidney Lumet in 1963, married Wyatt Cooper a few months later.  Anderson Cooper was born in 1967.  And of course he announced this week that he is gay.  Certainly no cause and effect - not a ripple, more like beads on a string.  Here is Gloria, unhappy in a photo; here is Anderson, making news himself.  Why not earlier?  Human mystery surrounds both beads.  

Let's Go to the Movies!

*  I would have fallen asleep, but I was waiting for the dimetrodons.  They were good.

*  It should be impossible to have James Mason and Pat Boone in the same film - matter and anti-matter.  James Mason so utterly wrong for this. Pat Boone much worse here than Ricky Nelson was in Rio Bravo.  

*  If a duck is the most charming character in the film, then, when it seems that the duck is in terrible trouble, it should turn out that the duck is o.k. after all, and not a pile of discretely bloody feathers, done in by the second villain that appears after the first villain's character has been however sketchily established, and then disposed of early in the film by the never-really-explained second villain.  Poor Gertrude!

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