Sunday, July 28, 2013


Today:  Some straight-up art history.

Tweeting:  "Beale Street Blues,"  Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges, Back to Back.

Oh, we're going to be so sick of these two pages!

Someone this week said I looked as if I were going to a gallery opening after work, which was a nice compliment.  Then my one of my shoes fell apart as I crossed the atrium on the way to a sandwich.  Only time I ever saw the lead security person crack a smile and I no longer looked as if I were headed to a gallery.  Nice while it lasted!

In 1959, I could have been heading to New Art Center to snap up Andre Derain's "Head of a Child" for $300 ($2,400).      Blurbage:  "This tender sketch is by the notable French painter and sculptor who, with Matisse and Viaminck, formed the heart of the Fauve exhibit in Paris in 1905 and who died in 1954."

Thank you, Vogue, for the tiny art history lesson!  Here is Derain's Charing Cross Bridge, from the Musee D'Orsay.

In trying to figure this out, I came across a very interesting account of an auction of French art in 1922. Several of Derain's works were sold, among works by Picasso, Matisse, Courbet and the American artist Arthur B. Davies (never heard of him).   The article noted that many of the works were bought by other artists; one of them was the photographer Arnold Genthe, famous for his photos of San Francisco's Chinatown.   All had been owned by Dikran Khan Kelekian, a mysterious collector of Islamic art, who apparently scooped up several stacks of paintings, drawings and sketches in Paris at the turn of the century.  Also a mysterious death:  fell from the 21st floor of a hotel in New York in 1951.

Dikran Khan Kelekian, stolen from Flickr

(Speaking only monetarily, works that went for $100 in 1922 would have sold for $172 in 1959:  yet $100 in 1959 became $800 this year.)

I don't think I would have paid $300 for that drawing and I would have been a total idiot because here is a page from his sketch book that a Russian dealer is selling for $5,000.00:

This March, at the same time a Jackson Pollock painting was in the news, this painting by Derain was offered by Christies.  Having never heard of Derain, this made no impression - or post impression - on me at all.

This was supposed to go for $15 million dollars, but no one wanted it.  Must have been ind of awkward!  But, still, whoever was smart enough to buy the little sketch probably did very well indeed.

Andre Derain, self portrait
Next:  Number Three in the Art Roadshow.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

More Dash Than Cash

Tonight:  First Night of fabulous new game show, "More Art Than Money!"  How well did Vogue do?

Oh, boy.  Just, oh boy.  These aren't the only pages.  Introductory blurbage:

In this Vogue annual, its ninth, are twenty-three works of art, all from New York galleries.  The artists stretch from living Americans to an unknown Greek sculptor who lived about 600 B.C.  The price stretch:  $36 to $400 ($289 to $3200)."

Quite reasonable.

Starting with left page, upper center, oblongish blob.

"Henri-Georges Adam:  'Flagstones, Sand and Water, No. 3':  black and white copper engraving.  By the fifty-five-year-old French sculptor, famous for his engravings and tapestry designs, whose work has been exhibited in Paris (where he lives), and twice here. "  At $36, this is the cheapest selection.

Here it is - probably not the identical piece - in the French gallery Galerie Gimpel & Mueller:

Looks better!

You can read a biography of Mr. Adam, in a heavy French accent, at the Champetier website (below). Here's what he looked like:

That is one fine French artist!  The hair, the cigarette, the gaze  . . .

Another French gallery, Michelle Champetier, sold yet another engraving from this series for 1,000 euros, which would be $1327.

$36 in 1959.  1000 Euros now.  Adjusting for inflation and currency:  $289 became $1327.

Well done, Vogue!

This was sold at the Staempfli Gallery, which had just opened in 1959.  George William Staempfli was a Swiss artist and curator who specialized in artists such as Mr. Adam.  Mid level, I'd say.

Not very many of them are going to be this easy.

Tweeting today:  more Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Of All Posts, One Must Be Worst, And This Is Probably The One

So much for blogging every day - today: the last suit.

Now Tweeting:  "St. Louis Blues," Back to Back, Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges.  Very nice.

Red jersey Ben Gershel suit.  Which I like.  Cost $190 ($1500).  That I don't see.  It strikes me as the kind of suit a regular person would buy at Nordstrom during the Anniversary Sale, a sale I shopped very successfully on Sunday.  Third time with my shopping lady.  I just put myself in her hands and we try to cram as many items into my budget as will fit.  Three hours and I'm done.  Then I don't go near the place for another year.  Works perfectly.  This year we were pretty heavy on the Michael Kors, a designer I have always viewed as an old fart.  But good enough for government work.

Michael Kors does seem so old - yet he's younger than me.  Oddly enough, he was three months old when this issue hit the stands.  I wondered about his fashion lineage:  pure Bergdorf Goodman, as it turns out.  Sprang fully formed from Better Dresses.

I like the photo.  I like the lumbering school bus in the background.  The model - who is she? - looks impatient.  Karen Radkai, photographer.

Who was Ben Gershel?  No idea.  Seventh Avenue stalwart, that's obvious.  During the 1950's, Robert Knox was the house designer for Ben Gershel.  Can't find anything at all on him, either.  Well, just found something on Vintage Fashion Guild, but I like to use more original sources - not that they aren't good at VFG, I just don't want to lift their research.

Tomorrow: art history.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Tonight:  well, there you see it.  Left side; Jane Derby suit, Hattie Carnegie suit.  Jane Derby has the advantage of still being alive in 1959.

First - what I forgot to add yesterday:

This woman would have worn Antilope.

"FAVOURITE'S RETURN.  Jacket and dress, above left, of wool gabardine.  Fresh news here, caramel colour, white linen cuffs.  By Jane Derby, in Forstmann gabardine; about $225 ($1,805). Ronay handbag.  Both at Saks Fifth Avenue, suit also at Neiman Marcus."

Even Vogue can't get excited about this.  Jane Derby was a stalwart "better dresses" designer from the 1940s to the early 1960s.  I am simply cribbing from her obituary:  a very lady-like designer, she softened the edges of 1940s military look, believed skirts should be no shorter than mid-calf, was from tiny Virginia town that doesn't even list her as a notable native, lived in Manhattan and Bermuda for many years, while managing to raise Hereford cattle.

She gave Oscar de la Renta his start, which makes perfect sense.

Swiped again from that eBay seller.
She looks formidable here, but needs a Yorkie on her lap.

Next up:  a red jersey suit that would have looked a lot better in red.  Lilly Dache hat; Hattie Carnegie suit.  Hattie Carnegie was one of fashion's originals - a completely American success story.  Immigrant from Vienna, took fake "rich" name, could not sew and never made a dress herself, fabulously rich in the 1920s. . . but she died in 1956.

So, who designed the suit?  I do not know.

Tomorrow: a fine example of fashion photography.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jacques Tiffeau

Tonight:  New Blood in Fashion

Tweeting the lovely "Fillie Trillie" by Duke Ellington.

I like this suit a lot.  I like the gloves, the bag, the hat - although I think she would look better with her hair long and loose.  I love the way the sleeves fit.  The skirt is an inch too long, but that creates a kind of dowdy elegance.  What does Vogue say?

"FLARING SKIRT NEWS.  Suit of lacy blue worsted, with wide collar, a skirt that leads a fuller life.  This, north or south, now.  By Monte-Sano & Pruzan; about $225 ($1,805).  Ronay handbag.  Cloche: Christian Dior New York.  All:  Bonwit Teller; I Magnin.  Suit, also at L.S. Ayres.  Laguna necklace. Kislav gloves."

Bag Lady University has a nice page on Ronay in the 1940s and '50s. Kislav gloves has an intriguing story that we will tell some other time.

This season marked the debut of Jacques Tiffeau  as designer for Monte-Sano Pruzan, a decades-old maker of dressmaker suits and better dresses.  He won a Coty in 1960 for his two collections for Monte-Sano  Pruzan, the same year Rudy Gernreich won for bathing suits - not yet the bathing-suit-whose-name-shall-not-again-be-written:  pee you bee kay eye enn eye.  (I suddenly stopped getting searches for this, leading me to actually believe that everyone who wanted to see had already tried this blog and turned away, disappointed.  In reality, something happened to Sitemeter.  I just realized that Blogger is still tabulation away on the old blog, and the top search is for IT.)

The NYT first mentioned M. Tiffeau in a 1958 piece about four recently-arrived French designers by the late Carrie Donovan.  How startling it is to see her byline! I had never heard of Jacques Tiffeau, but several sources called him the first celebrity designer.  We'll be following him in the issues to come.  It was hard to find, but I tracked down and lifted this 1964 photo from an eBay seller:

Oddly enough, the same eBay seller has the only photo of Vincent Mount-Sano and Max Pruzan that I've come across:

It looks like the eBay seller is selling off a newspaper morgue - head on over!

Tomorrow: More suits!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Tonight:  Not What You Wanted to Know About Christian Dior

Still tweeting Duke Ellington, "Tymperturbably Blue."

She looks so teeth-achingly coy.  Daisies and a Yorkie.  I almost bought a jacket just like that last year at the Nordstrom sale.  Surprisingly becoming, but those sleeves really do need gloves and who's going to wear them unless it is freezing?   Blurbage:  "The Unexpected Jacket.  Suit with a surprise -- the topping of a wool flannel dress with a squarish jacket in camel-coloured wool; the sleeves short.  By Maurice Rentner."  Maurice Rentner, the "Napoleon of Seventh Avenue" died in 1958.  We looked at his obit last issue:  ambitious young immigrant, jobber, discovered fashionable dresses sold better, went to France, learned to produce "quietly expensive" dressmaker suits, spent years in lawsuits to protect his  - and others - designs from cheap knockoffs.  Very worthy, but kind of dull.

The little hat is by Christian Dior.  What an elegant name that is!  How startling it is to learn that he couldn't keep lovers because he was too plain and liked to chase down a hearty meal with five hot dogs and plenty of mustard.

The normal American of 1959 would have seen some of these photos in Life:

Tomorrow:  the mysteries of Monte-Sano Pruzan.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mother and Daughter

Tonight:  A Fashionable Mommy Dearest

The right side:

I like everything about this suit - well not the puffiness in the lap.  Blurbage:  "A tireless grey flannel suit with the freshening of grey-checked cotton gingham collar and cuffs.  (These are subtractable, and the gingham idea continues as lining.) So it's very versatile at $265 ($2,100).  You could buy it at Saks, Neiman-Marcus and Hutzler's.  Hutzler's is gone, but the other two are still here; we're following them on Twitter.  (But they're not following us!  Nor have we heard back from @JaneFonda.  Pity.)

Hat by Sally Victor; bag by Nettie Rosenstein; gloves by Fuchs.

The suit is by Pattullo-Jo Copeland.  This is the first time we've come across Jo Copeland, which is rather remarkable.  Jo Copeland began her career as a fashion illustrator in the 1920 for Pattullo.  She became a partner in 1938 and remained until the firm died in 1970.  Then she designed scarves and gowns.

She pioneered the two-piece suit worn without a blouse, using her own figure to drape.   Like Claire McCardell, she was very much an American designer, designing for the American woman,which usually means less formal.

She married Edward Regensburg of Regensburg cigars . . .

but divorced him in 1953.  Her daughter was the writer Lois Gould (died, 2002), who wrote Such Good Friends  and other novels in the 1970s, mostly categorized as "women's fiction."  (I have a feeling we got her novels from Book-of-the-Month Club; possibly Literary Guild.)

This is a fascinating family to whom I'm not doing any justice in this small space.  Lois Gould also wrote a memoir of her mother - Mommy Dressing - A Love Story, After a Fashion.

Jo Copeland and Joan Crawford were very good friends, but that is not the only link to Mommy D - (which doesn't quite work as gracefully evocative as someone must have thought).  Book is "on the shelf" at the main branch, so more to come.

This is why I still like doing this - you'd never expect to get all of this from that suit.

Tweeting today:  still Duke Ellington, with "All of Me."  Very sunny man.

Tomorrow:  Suit Three of Seven.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Plaidness Done Biasly"

Tonight:  Back to  business with some "advanced thinking" about suits.

Karen Radkai

How demure she looks.  Also, too young for this suit.   Some choice verbiage:

"Fort Worth Avenue now or Fifth Avenue under fur -- a slim suit of miniature plaid worsted, etched in black and white.  The plaidness, done biasly around the jacket hem."

Fort Worth Avenue, I'm guessing is Miami.  No, Dallas.  So, probably not a reference to resort wear.  That skirt just looks dowdy.

Credits: Paul Parnes suite ($145 -- $1,161 today.)  I don't think this looks quite that expensive - even at Vogue prices.   Available at Bonwit Teller, I. Magnin, Julius Garfinkel, Montaldo's -- so nowhere now existing.  Lilly Dache hat; Fiancees shoes.

I know we've had Lilly Dache before, but I can't remember a thing about her.  I know we'll have her again, so, in the meantime, here she is on What's My Line?

Kind of a boring hat, though.

Tomorrow:  another suit.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The David Brooks of 1959 Vogue

Today:  A pundit lectures; the glory of People Are Talking About 

Well, here it is - the Marya Mannes essay we heard about a page ago.

And what has this mind at work produced?  The first paragraph:

"When certain words go out of fashion the qualities they describe ebb with them, or -- if they still exist -- no longer seem to rate high in the public favour.  Noble, generous, gallant, largehearted -- who is elevated now for these attributes?  They have a soft and antique sound, echoing down the corridors of the past."

The last paragraph:  

"I would like to think that if we took a cardiograph of the nation's heart we would find it sound -- sounder, in fact than a dollar.  But this noble organ needs a campaign for rehabilitation as the prime factor of our greatness, individual and national."  Etc., etc., etc.  

And a lot of words in between about the nobility of Henry the Fifth, Abraham Lincoln, how nasty and small minded  it is to always "look out for number one."  And this very nice paragraph:

"I think it is time we reinstated the heart.  The head alone can never solve the affairs of men, whether it is the division of race in our own land or the division of power on earth.  Man and woman, labour and management, black and white, capitalism and socialism; between each is a no man's land where the only passport is understanding -- not only in the head but in the heart -- and the only safe-conduct is compassion. . . "

But then this:

"But it is easier -- much easier -- to 'stand firm,' not to give an inch  Our society is now so organized that we are free to stand on our rights without acknowledging those of others:  and here a reader may notice that she might be saying something that could weirdly apply to the Zimmerman trial, but no - 
the right of a bus driver to deny a passenger information; the right of a saleslady not to say 'Ma'am'; the right of a stenographer not to punctuate; the right of a worker not to do a full day's work for a full day's pay; the right of a waiter not to wait; the right of a nurse not to smile; the right of a manufacturer to charge more for cheaper products; the right of a wife to demand more than her husband can afford; the right, in all cases, to take and not to give."

Oh, twaddle.  Many similarities to David Brooks.  The meandering piffle, the bizarre grievance, the harkening back to more noble days when people knew how to behave - not quite separated at birth, but close.  

Enough of her.

A quick recap of People Are Talking About (leaving out the scant bit of fashion on these pages)  -  (* denotes that I am glad to have met)

All together in one place -- 


Nancy Walker, comedienne

Maynard Ferguson, jazz musician

Jacques Lipchiz

Richard Lippold (To be visited - sculptor at San Francisco cathedral)

Giulietta Simionato, opera singer

Antoinietta Stella, opera singer

Jane Fonda, in her hamster fur skirt 

Rufino Tamayo

Shelley Berman

Medardo Rosso, forgotten sculptor

Marya Mannes, pundit

Art Carney

Lisa Bigelow, cover girl * (and Alfred Leslie, husband and artist)


The Light of Common Day, Lady Diana Cooper (To be discussed in a longer post.) *

Hawaii, James Michener

You Come Too, poems for children by Robert Frost (To be discussed later - very briefly)

The Mansion, Faulkner (pretty much ignored here)

Dear Beast, Nancy Hale *


Wild Strawberries, Ingmar Bergman

The Magician, Ingmar Bergman

The Cousins, Claude Chabrol


The Gang's All Here - Bert Wheeler as the "Happy Grifter" in the utterly amazing Harding administration

The Sound of Music - the "odd-faced" children singing songs that are "sensible, amused, right."

Take Me Along - Robert Morse as 17 year old provincial stealing the show

Gypsy - Sandra Church 

Bayanihan - National Dance Troupe, Philippines

Heartbreak House, Maurice Evans and Pamela Brown


The Guggenheim *

The Four Seasons 

Upstairs at the Downstairs, comedy club

Allen's, a bar on Third Avenue - in New York, what other Third Avenue?

The Bowser Garage, NYC


". . . The voices on the radio summing up their reactions: 'But, Wow!'"

". . . The three letters that spell a certain New York milieu:  WAM, for wit, art, and money. . ."

". . . marching bands playing the Peter Gunn music. . ."

If I were really good at this, I'd put in some more photos and links back to the original posts.   But we need a video.  So, for no reason except that this is Penn Station in 1959 and that Penn Station is no more, and Vogue might as well be called New York Vogue. . .

Tomorrow:  suits for all seasons.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Artist and Model

Today: model Lisa Bigelow, shortly before her marriage to artist Alfred Leslie.

What did the regular person in 1959 say for fuckin' and shit as all-around-lazy noun? Just wondering.   Starbucks:  Guy who grew up in Chile, attended conservative private school then attended public school in Hawaii - just plain SoCal accent - fears his Second Amendment rights have been taken away, also that it is illegal to protest.  Thinks the CIA helped found Facebook because Twitter is best way to catch terrorists.  No longer a Democrat.  Outraged that Californians failed to pass GMO prop.  Thinks people are spying on him.  And they are.

So, failed to post every single day from July 4th to Labor Day.  Life.  At least this, for now:

Karen Radkai - old friend of RVV

The blurb:  "Sweater life, one of the great American fashion biographicals, looks newest now in white, with the added creaminess of beige.  Here, a white cashmere hooded sweater, beige flannel skirt, worn by Lisa Bigelow, a new young model find who appears for the first time on the cover of this issue of Vogue.  (She lives in New York, has three children in the four-to-six bracket, and -- when she has time -- paints "great big abstractions."  Hadley sweater, about $38.  Evan-Picone wool skirt, about $20.  Bergere bracelets.  All, at Peck & Peck.  Sweater and skirt, also at I. Magnin."

I. Magnin, gone.  Also Peck & Peck.  Evan Picone still very much with us.  The same old department store stuff that we are still wearing.

We interrupt this post for ---
Goodness - a very fashionable 80-something woman just passed by.  Mid-heel black sandals, bare legs - not bad, sleeveless black and green striped jersey dress, some kind of designer sunglasses, red lipstick, chic bag.  You don't see that in Berkeley!

It's unusual to learn who the cover model is.  I'm glad we do know, because we'll be seeing her for a long time.  (Spoiler:  same photo is on cover of January 1960 UK Vogue, up next.  Next, being kind of elastic.

I don't think Lisa Bigelow had a very long career.  In 1960, she married Alfred Leslie, a big-deal artist I just heard of, accidentally because of this.  She had a fourth child with Mr. Leslie.  They divorced in the mid-1960s.   If you google Lisa Bigelow, you find this photo of Lisa and Alfred in happier times (by Richard Avedon.)

That's Mr. Leslie, looking totally not 1959.  Some people today try to recreate this photo for their wedding albums.  I am not going to embarrass them further by posting their efforts here.

Taking this up later, while trying not to listen to blaring television - challenging.

Alfred Leslie has a very nice website, appears to be still going strong.  Here is a 2004 profile in the NYT.  In 1959, presumably when he and Ms. Bigelow were dating, Mr. Leslie made an ode to beak-nikery, called Pull My Daisy. That year, he was also featured at the Museum of Modern Art as one of "16 Americans."  He had a loft, back when it probably was a loft.  It would be interesting to know how it all worked out - artist, model and three kids in the four-to-eight bracket.

The first Mr. Bigelow - I have no idea who he was.  I have not much idea of Lisa Bigelow's life.  Was she the Lisa Bigelow who married in her freshman year at Smith?  The descendent of Parsons of Parsons engineering?  Not sure.

Mr. Leslie made a painting of Ms. Bigelow, called "Lisa Bigelow" that ended up at the University of Indiana.  I couldn't find a photo, but here is a description.

"Leslie, a 20th-century artist, painted an image of his wife in heroic proportions called "Portrait of Lisa Bigelow." When they then went through a divorce he painted over her jewelry piece by piece until only the wedding ring was left."

On that note -  tomorrow, two pages of epic boredom.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Last of PATA

Tonight:  A visit from the future, 1968 and The Future!

The last Claire McCardell garment.  Hard to see, but this also has a diaper bottom.  Strange.  Courtesy of the Met.

Tweeting today: "Medley Toot Suite," Duke Ellington.

People Are Talking About . . . although the party's almost over . . . "The high comedy in which Shaw's Heartbreak House is played, with Maurice Evans silver bearded, his feet shuffling in embroidered carpet slippers, inducing everyone in his odd house to tell all, including the truth."  Wait a sec, Vogue, I don't know this play, but from this blurb, all I can think is that people hear the shuffling and break down and confess.  Go on.  "It is a disconcerting analysis, particularly to his younger daughter, played with shining, rare style by Pamela Brown, who believes that all that is needed for the healthy life is horses: 'Go anywhere in England, where there are natural, wholesome, contented and really nice English people. . . the stables are the real centre of the household. . . .There are only two classes in good society in England:  the equestrian classes and the neurotic classes.'"  Ba BOOM.

We are talking about the little picture above the lyrics (which belong to a blurb some pages back, featuring Robert Morse, which has generated the least interest of anything yet appearing here.  It's not one of the worst posts - it has Robert Morse!)

This is a very weird photo -if that's what it even is.  First - the man is a dead ringer for my next-door neighbor, hard of hearing, movie mad, who has startled most of my visitors.  Conversation stops and we wait for the hill to be stormed, the outpost taken, the steamy sex to run its course.  Once it was Sid and Nancy.  Now that other neighbors have complained and he uses earphones, I miss the company.  I swear that's Robert in the picture.

Well, it's supposed to be Bernard Shaw - or Shaw.  If I write Bernard Shaw, it may seem like I think his first name is Bernard, so let's stick to GBS.  The play doesn't seem to have been a "high comedy."  It's about silly old England going to it's doom and good riddance to the whole pack of ninnies.  So-so review.

As soon as I looked up Pamela Brown and saw this photo, I knew exactly who she was (and possibly not the person in the Vogue photo.)

She had a supporting role in I Know Where I'm Going, a Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger movie of 1945.  It's sort of like I Capture the Castle, and not just in the structure of the title.  Go see it!

At first I couldn't place Maurice Evans.  Vaguely figured he was a Shakespearean actor - aren't they all?  In addition to the vast amount of American television he did . . . I had the good fortune to see him in this, at the drive-in when it first came out:

I still remember how exciting this movie was.  And how shocking.  Endlessly discussed around the pool at  night.  Shivers!  Oh, Maurice Evans, of course, is the token orangutan.

Tomorrow:  the next page!  We did it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Aspects of Norton

Tonight:  A Brief Visit With Art Carney

Claire McCardell - courtesy the Met
Just the forced march tonight -  Tweeting now, Duke Ellington, Ellington Jazz Party, "Malletoba Spank."  Kind of pretty.

Pentultimate PATA. . . People Are Talking About . . . "The thin face, the delicate mimicry of Art Carney, a master comedian on television. . ."

But not worth a picture.

And not on The Honeymooners!  In 1959, he had his own variety show, The Art Carney Show.  A snippet:

An inexplicable snippet.  But wait, there's more -

A pre-historic rap version of "The Night Before Christmas."

Tomorrow:  The LAST of PATA.

Monday, July 8, 2013

North and South

Today:  Why haven't we heard more about Nancy Hale?

Claire McCardell - evening gown, early 1940s.  Metropolitan Museum of Art
It doesn't seem that this dress is an evening gown!
     Tweeting today:  "Flamenco Sketches," the last of Kind of Blue.  Overheard today in original Peets:  Two guys in their 40s - old farts! People in their 40s are still old farts, even though I'm long past that decade.  They just seem old - discussing music that holds up.  Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis.  One wanting to impress the other going on about a new trove of Davis-iana unearthed recently in Paris.  So People Are Still Most Definitely Talking About Miles Davis.

     People Are NOT Talking About Nancy Hale, although they should.

     Vogue: " . . . Dear Beast, the Nancy Hale novel, intelligent, gay, and mannered, centering (sic) about a Northern girl married into an old Virginia family, a new woman in a town where even new silver is "a delicious, risky vision, not even to be contemplated unless one's pedigree were so watertight that it would be obvious that one possessed ancestral silver"; its action turning on a silly device, a visit from an un-Life-like Life photographer.  Miss Hale sees the South's characteristics, through her alien, Northern eyes, as idiosyncrasies, and plays them for laughs."

     I disagree.  Vogue makes the book sound more like The Egg and I.

      I got the book from the inter-library loan and read it shortly after seeing The Help.  We are very much in the same white world; Dear Beast doesn't venture over the tracks.     Abby, a Northerner, has haphazardly married a Southerner and moved with him to Virginia. Abby, thinking that "when you made a friend in New York, she was likely to be all you would ever know of the complex of her life; you might never meet her sister or best beau, let alone her mother or her father," attends a luncheon, very much like those in The Help.

     "She looked up and down the long, oval table, with its centerpiece of white July roses, surrounded by women who had been brought up that it was bad manners ever to allow a silence.  Not one of them but was imbedded in layer after layer of relationships -- relationships with connections of their husbands, with friends, with friends of friends, with servants, with the families of servants, with their own families stretching back generation after generation.  The life they led consisted of people; people in all colors and degrees, people loved, hated, dealt with, people on terms of familiarity, people held at arm's length. Tradespeople, servants, children, cousins, spouses, friends by the dozens depended from each of these women, as from the myriad udders of an Oriental animal goddess.  They moved and breathed within relationships; they never stirred unaccompanied; even their thoughts were group thoughts, family thoughts; they were region thoughts, race thoughts."

     And at the same party, a southern woman has gone north, "married General Foods" and attended a charity event. She reports back:

     "This particular benefit is for International Orphans Incorporated -- a charity that brings children over from Europe." . . .

     "Charity begins at home, I say," Relia Fenn put in.  She rang the tiny silver bell, at her right hand, and the two Negro maids in  gray uniforms with organdy aprons, reappeared and began to clear away the dessert plates.   "I truly do.  You can spend your millions of dollars all over the globe on your stark heathen and your coal-black, and it won't do one particle of good if there isn't charity in your heart."  Her words were swallowed up by the torrent of generally voiced agreement.

     "Abby's eyes followed the colored maids as they passed in and out through the swinging door to the pantry.  Her eyes returned to the tableful of ladies.  By some association of ideas, she visualized her diary, lying in its drawer beside the bed, at home.  Then she allowed herself to swept on again by the avalanche of opinion around her,"  endlessly debating, who is the better friend of" the niggra?"  The hypocritical Northerner or the soft hearted Southerner. . .

     The forgettable Life photographer comes to town, consternation ensues, a book is written, Abby goes North.

     The New York scenes are the weakest in the book; remarkably, it gains strength and keeps on gaining when Abby returns South to her quintessentially college-sports-mad husband, who, against all odds, becomes a fully-realized human being.

    Nancy Hale was another  Vogue alumna, like Marya Mannes, writing under a pseudonym in the 1930s.  She was also a grand-niece of Harriet Beecher Stowe - a fun fact that might be mentioned in a novel about the South!


Then, as now, Vogue uses writers and columnists as a roving cast of characters:  not sure what the top photo was about, but in the bottom, Nancy Hale models a halter top made from a dime-store handkerchief, something we were still doing when I wore halter tops.  Here is a photo from 1932:

     In the Berkeley Public Library, you can still find her books on Mary Cassatt and the intellectual heritage of New England.   In 1959, her best-known book would have been her 1942 novel, 700 pages, The Prodigal Women.  Dear Beast is mentioned neither in her NYT obituary, or a biographical sketch introducing her papers at Smith College.  I'm not sure why this sank out of sight.  It didn't deserve to.

Tomorrow:  Art Carney and a new album.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Antilope - Fine French Filth

Today:  Bayanihan Dance Troupe and a perfume for black patent leather.

Claire McCardell playsuit, 1940s, Metropolitan Museum of Art
I remember wearing something like this when I was about five, and even then, I wondered,  "Why?" They collect a lot of mud if you are squatting in a puddle, not that the Claire McCardell-wearing woman would be doing that.  But still.

Tweeting today:  "All Blues."  Miles Davis.  Simply reminds me that I am still fairly jazz-resistant.

Not that Vogue thought them worth a photo, but People Are Talking About . . . "the touring Bayanihan dancers from the Philippines, the women pretty as cherries, the dance patterns oddly arresting, sometimes broken, syncopated by the slapping together of bamboo poles and coconut shells. . . "

Vogue is talking about Bayanihan, the National Folk Dance Troupe of the Philippines, which premiered in Brussels in 1958, and broadcast on the Ed Sullivan Show.   And Vogue is right.

The video shows snippets of the repertoire.   The Spanish dances are bland; the non-Spanish dances wake you right up again.

There is a point in this Vogue that, once I reach it, I will not go beyond.  That is the sanity point.  But there are still good things in those last pages, one of which I will fetch up now:

This ad turned out terrible, no matter what I've tried.  I'm going to steal two other ads, utterly without context, simply to show that this actually existed - or still does.  (Not sure at the moment.)  Why on earth would you want to smell like an antelope? And why is this woman practically bathing in it?

I procured a sample of the vintage perfume - either from Surrender to Chance or The Perfumed Court - both fine and dangerous establishments.  (Bought myself a half-birthday present of samples of each of the Chanel Exclusif scents.  Very nice.)  I am not wearing Antilope at the moment because I woke up chilled, with a head ache and sore throat.  Antilope would prolong the misery.

Not that it is bad.  It is very good.  It is as strong as a Buick - a Buick crossed with a gazelle, as Jack Nicholson said about Jessica Lange.  It is formidable; it is not casual.  You should wear it with a black suit and black patent leather pumps.  It is female, without being particularly feminine.  The first time I wore it, it kicked in a couple of hours after I put it on - too much - at the checkout stand at Safeway.  I nearly jumped back.  Apologies to fellow shoppers!  The feel of it lingers after the scent is gone.  I am guessing that that is the filth, a good thing in perfume.  

Now for the research:  Created in 1943 or 1946, supposedly an aldehyde floral (like Chanel No. 5), but I didn't get that.  I did get the musk, vetiver and leather of the base.   I try not to be skeptical about perfume descriptions - the topnote, the base, etc.  Perhaps I confuse perfume critiques with wine reviews - I don't get those, either.

Potted research from around the Internet:  Weil brothers were furriers who created scents to mask the gaminess of the furs, then developed regular perfumes.

The Weil brothers fled to New York during the war.  In 1942, the Vichy government stripped them of their French citizenship.  I can't easily find a picture of them.

But I did find this, by accident, in searching for "Weil" and "perfume" in the New York Times.  (A magistrate named Weil is mentioned in this  1927 story about a man who was caught selling fake Coty perfume to stores.  La plus ca change, etc.)

Tomorrow:  We meet some characters from The Help, as seen in 1959.
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