Thursday, May 23, 2013

American Originals

This time:  Some fashion history.  Eventually.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Taking up in the middle of the page. . . People Have Been Talking About Claude Chabrol and Peter Gunn.  The conversations turns - improbably, I say - to Robert Frost.  "The new book for children, You Come Too, a collection of familiar poems by Robert Frost, whose poetry abounds not only in strong read-along rhythms, but also in those foreboding shadows that properly shiver the minds of youngsters. . . . "  I got this from LinkPlus, photographed a particularly apt poem, but can't get at it until after a trip to the Genius Bar.  Now, if I had copied it out, we could get somewhere.  You were a child with a very solid upbringing if you found this book under the tree.  But hard to imagine any child actively delighted by it.   And I doubt that whoever bought it thought, "Just the thing to unsettle Junior's peace of mind!  Could you gift wrap?  Perhaps that Gorey paper?"

In a livelier corner, People Are Talking About . . . The Third Avenue bar, Allen's where the food is pretty good, the walls covered with non-sequitur group photographs, and the juke box plays new records, often too loud."  Oh, go home and have some Ovaltine.

I don't know if this was a forerunner of Joe Allen, which I think used to have a branch in L.A., which I think I went to once; it was that time a very short, intense disco-type guy tried to pick up my friend Betty by inviting her to a weekend meditating somewhere - very vague descriptions, possibly UFO involved - and I finally asked, "Well, do you have breakfast, or what?" and he requested that I go outside because I was ruining the vibrations.   Tenuous, tenuous.

Somebody is holding forth on William Faulkner. ". . . The cloudy power, like a thunderhead building up, of The Mansion, the last volume of William Faulkner's trilogy about the Snopes family whose only morality is survival: every Snopes meanly sinful, and each ugly, despicable Snopes surviving, prevailing, and by virtue of this 'equal to any, good as any, brave as any, being inextricable from, anonymous with all of them: the beautiful, the splendid, the proud and the brave, right on up to the very top itself among the shining phantoms and dreams which are the milestones of the long human recording."   Played too loud.  Vogue and Faulkner inextricably entwined.

Always avoided Faulkner, so this was a good opportunity to give him a go.  First, the preface in which he says he's been writing about these people for so long that he's got them kind of mixed up, but he's sure not going to go back and fix things at this late date.  Second, the name really is Snopes.  I can't read about people named Snopes.

In dinner culottes: Sandra Church
"Dinner culottes worn by Gypsy's Sandra Church, in an everything's-coming-up-roses pink silk.  The neckline is halter, and the back bare -- a fashion concession to the fact that in America at home clothes should be compatible with central heating.  By Townley.  About $120.  At Henri Bendel; Neiman-Marcus; I. Magnin."  First - it would be about $958 today.  But more important, if this isn't exactly by Claire McCardell, who had died in 1958, it was certainly more than inspired by one of her designs.

A few years ago I tracked down her 1956 book,  What Shall I Wear?  I longed to have the ability to reissue it; someone else had the same idea.

Claire McCardell was kind of the American Chanel and also the anti-Chanel.  That's her red dress at the top of the post; go to the Met for 150 or so of her designs, including many versions of the puzzling diaper bathing suit.  Don't get that one.

Third, Gypsy? Both Sound of Music and Gypsy in 1959.   Not much Sandra Church on YouTube; best we can do:

We may or may not meet the 1962 movie - will any of us live that long, the way this is going?  It was one of those movies I watched every time it was on television.   I was fascinated by the tenement poverty, the hard luck, the Chinese restaurant, the teenage marriage and utterly mystified at Natalie Wood's transformation.  Funny - we started this spread with the utterly repellent Sound of Music and wandered into Gypsy, which I thought was sad in many ways, but rather more moral than Sound of Music.

Next time:  the end in sight of PATA.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

An Old Friend Makes Good

This week:  a visit to Islamabad; some visits from old friends.

We haven't visited the Sitemeter lately, which is kind of like a bird feeder inside your computer, attracting visitors from all over the world.  Or more like the log of a bird feeder, capturing little footprints from afar.   Which would make the blog itself the actual bird feeder.  With Tweets!

This week - last week, by the now - we had a new visitor from Islamabad, Pakistan who was searching for "gingham print for wedding dress."  That led the searcher to this page that has a glimpse of Brigitte Bardot's pink gingham wedding dress.  This spring, men, in particular,  are be-ginghamed and how very nice they all look.

Sometimes I take the co-ordinates of whatever it is that shows up on Sitemeter, plug it into Google Maps and ask it to find the nearest Starbucks.  From the address in Islamabad you get this:

Driving directions to a Gloria Jean's Coffee Beans!

The Islamabad Branch of Gloria Jean's
On the map, near Gloria Jean's you see the Margalla Hills National Park, which kind of looks like Southern California on a smoggy day, except with monkeys.

Co-incidently, today we have Berkeley's best festival: Himalaya Days in the park down the street.  Part Berkeley yoga/spiritual/far-away-uncomfortable-travel culture and part chance for every Indian restaurant around to sell stuff, and part county fair for people who come from the Himalayan region - dancing, food, music.  I will be looking for the Hugging Guru's Institute - best curry plate and most mango-y lassi.

This is the next page of . . .

A far cry from the Himalayas.

People Are Talking About. . . "Claude Chabrol, the young French triple-play movie man, his own writer, director, producer, whose career has been based on a minimum of money and a maximum of message; his point, corruption everywhere.  The Cousins, his second movie, peculiarly flamboyant, glossily decadent, is about to open in New York, shows off the cleverness of Chabrol who used his friends and his village for his first movie, but changed the village for Paris in the second. . . "

William Klein photo - would like to see rest of this shoot

Hey, we know him!  We met him in the last issue, a friend of  journalist Derek Prouse, who co-wrote The Champagne Murders with Chabrol in 1966.  And then we actually saw The Cousins for the Let's Go to the Movies of 1959.  Well, maybe we didn't.  Very hard to keep up that page - what a mess.  Sorry.

Another old friend in the news this week - covered on Twitter - where you'll find all the breaking news.  

Barnett Newman, of song and paint -   remember him?
Detail of exhaustively blogged Irving Penn photo of AbExs

His big blue painting sold for $43 million bucks, apparently to Miuccia Prada.

I have been thoroughly, accidentally educated on the Abstract Expressionists.  Whether I've wanted to be or not.  Taking a brief moment to note what I believe to be the difference between information and education:   First, I meet Mr. Newmann in the pages of an old Vogue.  I find out a few facts about him that I no longer remember.  I see his work at the AbExNYMOMA rerun.  None of that art sinks in.  I forget about him.  Then there's a small headline in the paper and I feel all of these connections taking root in my brain.  Physically.  But I do not understand why someone would pay $43 million dollars for it.  I think it is more the case that $43 million dollars does not mean the same to Miuccia Prada as it does for most people; not that this painting is 43 million times better than what I have on my own walls.

People Are Talking About . . . "Marching bands playing the Peter Gunn music. . . "

That's fantastic!  We already know that Henry Mancini's Music From Peter Gunn was the Number One album from 1959, although not on Vogue's list.   Charming to imagine bands immediately rushing onto fields all over America.  As they still do.  Everywhere there is a band.

Here's one from Brazil, I think.

So, let's go to the movies!

* Hmmm.  I did see this - but what is sticking after a year?  Not much.   City mouse hipster v. country mouse grind.

*  Gorgeous music; beautiful black and white film; great little apartment in Paris.

* Good triple feature with 400 Blows and Pickpocket -- all from 1959.

Next: more, yet more PATA; and then some more and then some more.   This week we're Tweeting Benny Carter and Music From Peter Gunn.  Daily.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Reading, Writing, Work - And The Gentle, But Compelling Dress

This time:  James Michener, Medardo Rosso and David Levine.  And we finish this page!

Leading off with anything that's not this:

In 1959, I would not be sitting in a Culver City Starbucks, enduring the cacophonous eruption that marked the beginning of Half-Price Frappuccino Happy Hour, mixed with the howls of laughter from the world's loudest Japanese students in their gangsta finery.  None of that!  Culver City would have existed, but on its long, downward slide.  It still would have had the West Side's glorious June Gloom, that blooms at any time after and before the rainy season.    But where would you write your screenplay without coffee shops?   Ship's?  Don't get me started on the still-lamented Ship's.  The toasters!  Geneva, the waitress!

Anyway, not everyone would have fit at Ships.  No need.  The guy working on his cat cartoon on a Sunday afternoon would probably have been doing that at a drafting table at a job that paid a living wage - maybe I'm just being nostalgic.  

Housekeeping note:   This really is on Twitter.  And for a good reason.  I've been tweeting the tracks of the albums from the What Albums to Buy for Christmas 1959.   (Working through the Dave Brubeck album this week.)  Also tweeted news of Queen Beatrix's abdication because we covered - exhaustively - her luncheon with some Vogue swells when she visited New York in '59.  RVV is "following" any business that advertised in the issue, anyone mentioned (Queen Beatrix, Jane Fonda so far; Anderson Cooper briefly because his mother doesn't tweet, but he looks too much like Glenn Beck in his Twitter photo and he's boring to boot) and anyone who follows RVV.  Just seems polite.  We'll see how it goes.

People Are Talking About. . . "Hawaii, the enormous, thoroughly overwritten novel by James Michener, who still manages to be interesting if the reader skips judiciously, particularly the islands dreaming of a sugared Eden; when Michener gets to the complications of mixed nationalities and their taboos he becomes fascinating, except when he dips out of a vat of specialized glucose that should only be taken intravenously. . ."

This was his first door stopper.  I suppose one of them had to be first.  I remember them holding down a lot of real estate in the bookcase at home.  Hawaii was the third "grown up" book I read.  The first was A Woman of the People, nowhere near as brutal as the The Kite Runner (which seems to be the default mature novel shoved down the throats of hapless middle schoolers), and also not sanctioned by any   grown up.  You had to know yourself if you were ready to leave the safety of children's books.)  The second book was Exodus, which left my friend Arlene and I determined to drop out of school, somehow get to Israel and start making ourselves useful on a kibbutz - baking bread, learning to shoot.  All that.  All I remember from Hawaii is seething with fury at missionaries for making the Hawaiians put on clothes and get pneumonia.  Funny, on this page we have The Sound of Music on stage and Hawaii in print - Julie Andrews starred in movies of both and both were vats of "specialized glucose."   I feel no need to read this again.

People Are Talking About . . ."The extraordinary skill of Medardo Rosso, an Italian sculptor who lived in the tradition of Rodin and died in 1928; this month New York's Peridot Gallery will hive him a belated show, including this impressive figure, 'The Bookmaker.'"

I think he meant, "The Bookie."

Stolen from Twittering Machines, a blog about esoteric (to me) art and music.  

A sculptor with poor hygiene and social skills finally gets his due - that is always the theme for him.  And if it looks as if it were carved out of butter - close.  Wax.

The dress!  "The shape of after-six clothes; instance, right, this brown silk chiffon dress with floating-power sleeves and a way of saying 'fashion' that's gentle but compelling."  By David Levine.  Could find nothing out about him.

Moment of quiet, line is gone, now my chance for one of those new-fangled caramel frappuccinos.

Next time:  the next page.

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