MOVIE MEMORY ~ Butterfield-8 1960

`The most desirable girl in town is the easiest to find. Just call Butterfield-8!’ So trumpeted the posters of this, Elizabeth Taylor’s first Oscar winning performance. The film is a modernization of the 1935 novel by John O’Hara, which was based on the real life of the 1920’s New York City call girl Starr Faithful.

Miss Taylor was dead set against playing Gloria Wandrous. She felt was a deliberate play by M.G.M. to capitalize on her recent notoriety in the Liz-Eddie-Debbie scandal. Also, she was anxious to move on to her first ever million-dollar role in Fox’s Cleopatra. She was told by M.G.M that if she did not fulfill her contractual obligation to her home studio for one final film on her eighteen year contract that she would be kept off the screen for two years and miss making Cleopatra all together. She swore to the producer Pandro S. Berman that she would not learn her lines, not be prepared and in fact not give anything more and a walk through. Mr. Berman knew her better than she suspected. In the end Elizabeth Taylor turned in a professional, classic old style Hollywood performance that ranks at the top with the best of her work. She brings a savage rage to live to her searing portrait of a lost girl soaked through with sex and gin. A woman hoping against all hope to find salvation in yet one last man.

Weston Leggett, a man who is worse off than she is in the self-esteem department. In her frantic quest for a clean new life Gloria finds that the male establishment will not allow her to step out of her role as a high priced party girl. She is pigeon holed by her past and the narrow mores of the late 50’s are not about to let her fly free. Not the bar-buzzards of Wall Street, not her best friend Steve who abandons her at his girlfriend’s insistence. Not even her shrink Dr. Treadman believes in her. The three women in her life are blind to who she really is. Her mother will not admit what Gloria has become. Mrs. Thurber will not believe she can ever change and Happy, the motel proprietor is too self involved in her own past to care who Gloria is She is the dark Holly Golightly and this is the lurid red jelled Metro-Color Manhattan that is the flip side of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (also 1960). Wilder’s New York is cynical. Liz’s tony East Side phone exchange rings only one way, the hard way. This New York is dammed. The film concludes in a melodramatic blaze that Douglas Sirk might have envied in place of his usually unsettling, unconvincing happy endings. In the end we have a bravura performance by the last true star of the old system. Yes she deserved the Oscar more for `Cat’. Yes it was given to welcome her back from the brink of death in London. And even Shirley MacLaine’s lament on Oscar night, `I lost the Oscar to a tracheotomy.’ can not diminish this must see performance by Miss Taylor.

In what one could call a perfect example of what an `Oscar scene’ is all about she says it all. `I loved it! Every awful moment of it I loved. That’s your Gloria, Steve. That’s your precious Gloria!’ She gave it to us with both barrels blazing, and M.G.M., and Berman be dammed.

 

What perfume did Gloria wear? Elizabeth may have favored Bal A Versailles at the time but in the opening scene of the film she wanders into Dina Merrill’s dressing room and samples a few perfumes on the vanity. Gloria finally settles on one. She liberally applies it thoroughly enjoying the sensual act of perfume meeting skin. The perfume was Caron’s Tabac Blonde. Created in 1919 by Ernest Daltrof this Leather perfume’s notes are: leather, carnation, lime blossom, iris, vetiver, ylang-ylang, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, ambergris, musk. Tabac Blonde, a smokey leather scent perfect for Gloria’s walk of shame in nothing but a silk slip and a mink as she hails a cab at dawn on 5th avenue.

(On the left an Amphora of Tabac Blond at Caron in Paris)

The beautiful Gloria’s Theme From Butterfield 8 (Played by the composer of the score Bronislaw Kaper)

MOVIE MEMORY – The Razor’s Edge 1946

The 2005 DVD release of 20th Century Fox’s production of W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge” is a cinematic treasure. The direction by Edmond Goulding is top notch and captures the glamour and decadence of post World War I Paris in glittering perfection. Much praise must go to the art and set direction by Richard Day and Nathan Juran. Over 80 sets were constructed; some only glimpsed for a few moments evoke the period and splendor of the time and place. The production values of this picture are of the highest quality of this, Fox’s “Important Picture for 1946”.Goulding was famous for long takes and he is aided by the brilliant cinematographer Arthur C. Miller. The score by Alfred Newman is magnificent though surprisingly sparse for a film from the 1940’s His use of source music and songs of the period help to inform the viewer of character and mood. His main theme is majestic and stirring and its reprise at the end is something near to epic played against a close-up of Tyrone Power and dissolves into the crashing waves against a tramp steamer.

(Herbert Marshall as Somerset Maugham, Clifton Webb, Gene Tierney, Anne Baxter and Tyrone Power)

Though a little too old and too handsome for the role of Larry Darell Tyrone Power, turns in a beautifully felt performance of a man in search for himself and his place in the world. A very modern and complex idea for the 1940’s involving a trip to India and consultations with a guru. Gene Tierney is perfect as the woman who loves him and will stop at nothing to get him. This underrated beauty gives one of her best performances in an unsympathetic role. Anne Baxter, who won her Oscar as Sophie, is at times touching, real and yet manages to chew her share of the scenery toward the end of the picture. She is just plain fun to watch.

(Anne Baxter as Sophie)

But the picture is completely stolen by the wonderful, prissy and perfect performance of Clifton Web. His bravery as an actor in his last scene when he cries “There are going to be fireworks” is to be applauded. He perfectly captures the futile collapse of a shallow man as not many in Hollywood at that time might have dared.

There is one scene that epitomizes the skill and craft of film making in the end of the golden age and that is the chapter on the DVD entitled “Last Fling”. All the powers of the actors, director, cinematographer, set designers, lighting technicians, and composer come together in this nearly silent montage and the subsequent scene at dawn in Tierney’s Paris apartment. Larry’s and Isabel’s night on the town moves through a sumptuous Paris nightclub, to a Russian restaurant, and on to a hot jazz club where a fist fight ensues. Watch the extras in this scene. They are the stars here and each have a tale to tell in there brief moments on screen. I was reminded of Scorsese’s Coconut Grove scenes in “The Aviator” by this impeccably directed montage and wondered if it had in fact influence him being the film historian he is.

But the best is yet to come, upon arriving home Isabel and Larry move through a brilliantly choreographed scene that leads up to a kiss and then a rejection. There is no dialog, only the pantomime of the actors and the accompaniment of the musical score. In this we learn all we need to of her motives and desire and his reaction and acceptance. It is very sexy and intense and the only bit of clothing that is lost is her shawl.

It is brilliant and movie storytelling at its best.

There is also a wonderful commentary by film historians Anthony Slide and Robert Brichard. Also included is a Fox Movietone News reel of other aspects relating to the film. Don’t miss this wonderful classic from Fox’s brilliant Studio Classics collection. They really know how to present their treasures to us as few other studios do.

On a perfume note: My pick for Isabel’s fragrance would be My Sin by Lanvin. A floral aldehyde that is a seductive masterpiece by the mysterious “Nose” from Russia called Madame Zed.  For Larry I would choose the classic Eurcis by Geo. F. Trumper. Created in 1912 it is a classic floral woody musk eau de cologne with a touch of sandal wood and black currents.

Now the lights are dimming, it is premiere night at Grauman’s Chinese Theater 1946. The plush red curtains slowly part to the thunderous strains of Alfred Newman’s score to “The Razor’s Edge”.  Enjoy the show.

(The Seduction Suite by Alfred Newman from The Razor’s Edge 1946)

MEMORY ~ E.T. and Me

This one is for Vickie

“I bet nether one of you know about Parma Violets. Well, they are very delicate, and they are what people give when they want to give something really special,  when they’re in love, or someone dies….”  Zee Blakely ~ X, Y, and Zee 1972

There is no such thing as true violet eyes. What seems to be violet is made up of the deepest dark blue and flecks of green. I was surprised when I found that out. But despite that truth there was a myth that was in fact a greater truth and reality.  Her eyes were violet. Like violets of Parma, violet of legend when I finally saw them in person they were the kindest eyes I had ever seen.

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When I was thirteen years old and Marilyn was gone nearly a year I was doing very badly in math at school.

“If you get a B on your next report card, your step-father and I will take you into Hollywood to see “How The West Was Won.”

“In Cinerama?” I had never seen a movie in Cinerama. The mere prospect of a night out, dinner at Musso and Frank’s, reserved seats AND a glossy program all about the movie caused my voice to reach and octave higher than Jane Powell’s.  I worked harder for that B than I ever had in school and forced my brain to embrace problems and figures that were like poison ivy to my grey cells.

Three months later I was sitting in Musso and Frank’s too excited to eat. Dinner half in me and threatening to not stay there I asked to be excused to go to the bathroom. I was excited about the movie yes. But what had my stomach riding the roller coaster at Pacific Ocean Park was what I had seen from the car as we drove down Hollywood Boulevard, the Pantages Theater all decked out for the arrival of the Queen of Everything! I slipped out the front door of the restaurant into the rare night air that only movie stars breathe and ran the six blocks from Las Palmas to Vine just to see the outer lobby of the Pantages. It was covered in photographs of the movie that was to open later that week. The movie everyone in the world had been waiting for over two years to see.  “The most anticipated movie event of all time” the adds read….and up until then it was.

The splendors of Egypt seared my eyes in gold and sapphire, the might and grandeur of a plaster of Paris ancient Rome engulfed me, and everywhere HER. I only had a minute to look and it was almost too much to bear. How could Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Carol Baker, Karl Malden, Eli Wallach, George Peppard and Carolyn Jones compete with this?  Was the West being won from the Indians more important that the ancient Near East being lost to the Romans? I had two choices, pass out on the star strewn sidewalk or run back to Musso and Franks. I turned to run and instantly I saw the most incredible thing my thirteen year old eyes had ever beheld.  High up on the side of the Hollywood Taft building right next door to the Pantages soaring up into the starless inky smoggy night was a painting of HER.  It was seventy; no it must have been a hundred feet high. She was seated on a replica of Tutankhamen’s throne in a green and gold crown, dressed in plunging neckline purple Irene Sharaff gown and holding the emblems of Upper and Lower Egypt across her bosom. Her violet eyes looking down upon me not with imperious hauteur, but with a kind of understanding as if she were the mother of the lost boys.

“We are going to be late….” A hand took mine. It was my step-father. He had known exactly where to find me.

(Painting by Howard Terpning that was on the side of the Hollywood Taft Building.)

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“There are never enough hours in the days of a Queen, and her nights have too many…so I fill them with memories of what might have been.”  Cleopatra 1963

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At seventeen I had my own movie studio. It was a super-8 movie studio named after the father of movies David Wark Griffith,  D.W.G. Studios it was called. I had saved up money from baby sitting and stripping and waxing kitchen floors for the women in the neighborhood to buy my movie editor, my fist step to running a studio. Why the editor first? At fifty bucks it was the cheapest of the necessities I would need. Camera cost eighty dollars and the projector a whopping one hundred and twenty five so I figured if I had the editor first I would be forced to save up the money to get the rest of the equipment. My step-dad and mom took pity on me and got the camera and projector for my birthday and Christmas that December.

My fist epic was an eighteen minute version of “Antony and Cleopatra”. Surprise! The cast was made up of all the kids I baby sat. Cleopatra was eight years old and her brother at nine played Antony. The love scene was a little uncomfortable to say the very least. Unlike Elizabeth’s version my Cleopatra and her Antony came in under budget after two weeks in production at seventy five dollars. And, I had to make that money back or the studio was sunk! So I put on my post production, marketing and advertising hat and got to work.

I planned to run the film for three weekend showings on Friday and Saturday nights in our garage. I painted a huge reclining Cleo and put it on the roof of the garage with Christmas lights and papered the double car garage door with a sign. “Opening in three weeks the film the entire neighborhood has been waiting for!” I didn’t name it…Cleo on the roof said it all.  I sent out invitations to every person I had ever met. Then, almost as an after thought I sent one to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in care of Merto-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. M.G.M. had been Elizabeth’s home studio for eighteen years. She was no longer under contract to the studio, but maybe they still forwarded her mail.

Three months later I came home from school to be met by my mother at the front door.

“What did you write in that invitation you sent to Elizabeth Taylor?”

“Oh I don’t know…I told her about myself. I just wrote to her like she was anybody. Why?”

“This came today.”  She produced from behind her back an robin egg blue envelope. On the back were three words. Elizabeth Taylor Burton. Mom had to turn the hose on me to calm me down.

Thus began a on again off again correspondence that lasted four years. The Burtons got an invitation to every film that came out of D.W.G. and lots of drawings. They never did make it to my premieres but she always supported my artistic endeavors with a kind note.

 

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“I’m an artist, I paint. Nobody buys. Then I turn out watercolors when I need grocery money.” Laura Reynolds ! The Sandpiper 1965

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At nineteen I was a Theater Arts Major in Junior College. By twenty one I came to the realization that I hadn’t the talent to be a good actor, let alone a movie star, I was smart enough to know that Hollywood was sure to break my heart.  But I could paint. So after six months as an English major where spelling proved to be my downfall I became an Art Major.

When I found out in 1971 that I was going to summer school in Guadalajara Mexico and that I would get to spend a weekend in Puerto Vallarta I got an idea. I wrote to Elizabeth allowing the usual three months for the letter to find her where ever she was in the world and told her I wanted to give her a thank you gift for all her support. Would she send me her favorite photograph of her with Richard?

She sent the photo taken when they appeared in Doctor Faustus at Oxford. I painted a very large portrait from that photo of them in costume, he as Doctor Faustus and she Helen of Troy.  It hung in an English Pub in town until it was time to take the train from Mexicali to Guadalajara. The train left at night and there waiting on the platform for the three day trip stood I with my suitcase and the Burtons all boxed up. I was towering at six feet three like mount Popocatépetl above a sea of Mexicans none taller than 5’6″. Everyone was looking at the giant gringo with the long hair and beard. I came to understand during my entire visit to Mexico what it must be like to be famous! Everywhere I went the locals were fascinated by me. Children called me “El Barbo” and ran up to me to tap me for luck.

(The Photo she sent when I asked for her favorite photograph with Richard Burton. grey silk caftan by Vicky Tiel.)

I shared my little private Pullman room on the train with the Burtons. When the bed was made up the only place for them was in the bed with me. The first night crossing the Senora Desert was fine. But on the second night in the mountains it was insanity. Every time the train turned and twisted though the Sierra Madre mountains the Burtons would fall over on me. They kept me up all night.

I stayed with the Ramirez family in Guadalajara. They spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish. Senora Ramirez loved the painting so it hung over her dining table for three weeks, until it was time to fly to Puerto Vallarta and surprise the Burtons. My American roommates translated so consequently I never learned any Spanish, except how to ask for scrambled eggs and even that I got wrong. Seems I was asking for “revolting eggs’.  The house maids loved me.

Armed with a friend who spoke Spanish and English I found the Burton house on Calle Zaragoza in Gringo Gulch.  A pink bridge crossed the street connecting the two parts of the house and under the bridge was the front gate. No door bell…just a rope with cowbells hanging down for any one to pull. I was as nervous as a cat on a….you know the rest. I pulled on the cow bells and nothing. My friend yanked on them and again nothing. We were about to leave when a voice came from the bridge above us.

 

“¿qué es lo que quieres?” We looked up to see a handsome young Mexican man who looked to me to be a dead ringer for one of Ava Gardner’s beach boys in “The Night of the Iguana.”

My friend explained in Spanish my story. He must have done a good job because the beach boy told us to wait and disappeared across the bridge into the main house. Moments later he appeared at the iron gate with two maids in tow.

He demanded to see the painting. I pulled it out of its travel worn box.

“aye qué hermoso!” the maids exclaimed and grabbed the painting and ran up the stairs into the house.

My friend translated to me as the beach boy spoke.

“I will see that Mr. and Mrs. Burton get the painting. They just left yesterday for London for the birth of Mrs. Burton’s first grandchild.”  He thanked me and shut the gate. I missed them by only a day.  I never saw the painting again.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the Burtons were in trouble and in a few years they would be divorced. The letters from Elizabeth  stopped and I understood why.

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“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”  Elizabeth Taylor

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Many years and three husbands later for Elizabeth I was working in the collections department at Macy’s in San Francisco. The big news was that Elizabeth Taylor was coming to promote her perfume “Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion”.  It was announced that for two hundred and fifty dollars you could have tea with Miss Taylor and about two hundred other people in the Macy’s cafeteria on the eighth floor. My card was maxed out and I had to work that day so there was no way I could see her, let alone meet her.  What would I say? “You don’t remember me but….” I didn’t want to be that guy.

When the hour arrived that she was due on the main floor I blacked out.  The next thing I remember is that I came out of my blackout very close to the stage and she was walking on to it. Everyone was screaming!

Over my lifetime I leaned many things from Elizabeth Taylor. I learned how to face life straight on and survive the hard times. I learned that it was a blessing to be different. I learned that kindness and honesty and being the real you brings unexpected rewards. I learned by watching her with Montgomery Clift, James Dean, and Rock Hudson that loyalty is the hallmark of being a real friend. I learned how to use my eyes to speak when the world was too loud for words.

The day Elizabeth died she gave me her last gift. Just a month before I had so angered the love of my life, Bryant Lanier so much that he had cut me off and ended our relationship. It was so final that I knew I would never again speak to the man I had waited a lifetime for. As time crept onward I took on each day and climbed over it knowing from experience that I would survive …. And then Elizabeth died.

I heard the news getting ready for work.  No tears like for Marilyn when I was 10. Too much had happened for tears now. I went to work. Everyone I met that day said “Elizabeth Taylor died today, why are you here?”  There was nothing else to do but live that day through and go on. I learned that from her, you just keep going on.

The following Sunday there was an email from Bryant.

I haven’t thought about anything in the wake of Liz’s death but you,,,in fact I just made myself LOL. Wondering how long you’ll wear black!

They’re playing a nice tribute to her on the CBS Sunday morning show and ,,if u get up in time..(9 AM ) I’m sure you’d love to see it ….

There may someday be plenty to say,,,and some things may go unsaid thank god…

Have a good day..

I love you

B

 

PS Call me when you get this.”

In an odd way, Elizabeth’s death gave me a second chance with him. I used to tell Bryant how much he reminded me of Burton because of their shared acting talents and personal demons.  I had Bryant in my life for nine more months before he went to join Elizabeth in the place where there are more stars than there are in the heavens. Three days before he died he said. “You are my Elizabeth.”

As Elizabeth Taylor walked on to the stage that day at Macy’s back in the 80’s she was radiant. She waved out to the packed store. Then she turned and she saw me.  She smiled, and then she winked. That was enough.

Her eyes were like Parma violets, the very flowers I used to send to Bryant on his birthday.

(Bryant Lanier ~ Actor, Singer, Director )

A SONG OF LONGING ~ Mitzah Christian Dior Paris

Deep in the most ancient part of Istanbul, a honey yellow Turkish crescent moon of midnight creeps over the walls of the Topkapi palace. Summer dreams on the Bosporus are heady with the heavy exotic fragrances of the Grand Bazaar that linger in the  serpentine streets as they waft toward the incense filled gardens on the edge of the city. In such gardens on just such a night  as this lovers have met ever since scandalous Theadora danced before the infatuated Emperor Justinian at the dawn of Byzantium.

  

    Rare and sensuous this night is filled with promise and sweet delights of desire tinged with danger. Women of ripe beauty peek in the moon glow from behind screens of carved ebony. They whisper to one another that the night is never long enough when He is near and always unending and eternal when he is not. That is the song of longing, of loves promise never fulfilled. Desire and dust wrapped in silk put away to save for the thing that can never really be. It is the dream of love.

This is all and everything I have found in the glorious perfume from Dior called Mitzah. Named for Christian Dior’s muse and friend Mitzah Bricard it is heady and hypnotic but never overwhelming. It is what I would call deep and multi layered in its design, a real stunner for me that never shouts but rather insinuates and seduces the one who wears it. And in so doing casts a spell of enchantment beyond the wrist, or from behind the ear out into a waiting world of yes.

Mitzah opens in a temple garden loaded with incense where a smooth coriander feeds and supports an ethereal velvet red rose. Then suddenly oriental fresh spices scatter across the skin as if spilled from huge terracotta jars in the bazaar at Alexandria.

It is so well made that the middle notes slowly unfurl like Cleopatra wrapped in an oriental rug that lay for years on the floor of a cinnamon warehouse. The highly erotic labdanum snakes over this rug and licks like a cat the creamy warm vanilla within this bowl of golden scent. You dare not close your eyes or you will be lost in a sumptuous whirlpool.

There is a long lazy luxurious slow stretching dry down where the thick honey still sticks to the honey comb and drips down over a layer of pungent patchouli.  All of this majesty and resplendency is carried on the remaining whisper of that first incense from ancient temples dedicated to pagan gods of love.

 

Mitzah has a stable and long lasting silage that speaks of quality and lasts on my skin a good seven to nine hours. It comes on strong but don’t let that scare you. It is an oriental with a genteel soul and the longer it lays languorously on the skin the softer it becomes. It never powders down but rather wafts on with that incredible smoky slightly sweet incense. Mitzah is listed as a woman’s fragrance but in my experience it is remarkably masculine in a smart Near Eastern manner. When I wear it men invariably ask me what it is and where they can get a bottle. Mitzah is a sly seducer that works well on a man and is his equal on a woman and will blend with both chemistries  The chemistry it inspires is of skin upon skin that sparks the heart to a sweet madness.  This meeting is in fact the Algerian love knot fragrance that two lovers could wear. Smelling of each other when they are apart and bending into a kiss of fragrance when they meet.

FIVE GOLD STARS *****

MEMORY ~ Marilyn in August

When Clark Gable, my mothers childhood idol died in 1961 I saw my mother cry for the first time…and I didn’t understand why. A year later I understood.

(little me)

Early on the Sunday Morning of August 5 1962 I was sitting at the breakfast table eating a bowl of Trix.  With Motion Picture magazine open before me, I was reading all about the adventures of Liz and Dick in Rome. That summer I was so engrossed in the incredible drama and getting a real education at twelve all about morals and Hollywood, and how mean the ladies on my block could be about a divorcee. Liz and my Mother were the most famous divorced women that anyone on my block knew of. Between them they kept the hens of Orchid Street clucking and pecking for hours.  Suddenly in a crackly transistor radio second  Shelly Fabares’ Johnny Angel was cut off by the announcer. “Actress Marilyn Monroe was found dead this morning in her Brentwood Home……..” I burst into stinging tears.

All I could think was…”Gee if only she had known me I could’a helped her.” I found out over the years that lots of kids thought that very same thought. My friend Lane’s brother Cameron who was turning 12 wanted only one thing for his birthday on that very August 5th and that one thing was Marilyn Monroe, nothing else, just Marilyn. Imagine how HE felt when he heard the news.

Later that day my father picked me up for mandatory visitation. When I got into the car he noticed my red rimmed eyes. “What’cu been crying about now?”

“Marilyn Monroe” I barely managed to whisper her name. I knew what was coming but I at least owed her the courage of the truth. Someone owed her some kind of respect or something on this day….didn’t they?

Geez kid what are you crying over her for? She was a dumb stupid lush and a slut. Grow up and be a man!  She ain’t worth thinking about. She was just a dime a dozen movie star. Geez you and your damn stupid movie stars. Stop being such a sissy for Christ sake or I will give you something to really cry about!”

The best thing my Mother ever did when it came to my father was to divorce him.

I knew deep in my gut that he was wrong, that Marilyn was worth thinking about. She had changed us by being on the screen. Especially those of us who were children in her time on earth, children who were in trouble, unloved, abandoned, different.  She spoke to us in ways adults couldn’t hear. And we understood and loved her for it. She was one of us.

 

(MARILYN ESCORTED TO THE PREMIER OF “RIVER OF NO RETURN” BY HER CO-STAR TOMMY RETTIG)

But with her gone I had no role model. On that Sunday morning as I rode beside my father in the Chevy Bel Air on the way to the beach in Santa Monica we passed under a bridge on Olympic Blvd, the old deco bridge that connected the two lots at Twentieth Century Fox.   There across the bridge in huge gold letters a word shimmered with the promise of what would change my life for ever. “CLEOPATRA” it screamed. “Coming Soon!”.

That is another story.

THE NEW LOOK ~ La Collection Privée Christian Dior

New shoes clicking along the sidewalk up Stockton Street gave rhythm to my excitement as I approached Neiman Marcus for the opening night of La Collection Privée Christian Dior and the new Dior Boutique. I was on my own for the event and as always in such cases a bit shy on entering into the social swirl of such abundant and easy glamour and glitz. I took a few moments to warm up to the idea as I snapped a few shots of the glass encased rotunda of one the most beautiful department stores in Union Square.

 

   With eminent rain bearing down on the city from the Gulf of Alaska I decided it was just about the right time to go in. The first floor of the rotunda of Neiman’s is ringed with glittering boutique after glittering boutique. The usual suspects are lined up around this arena of glam, Chanel, Guerlain, Tom Ford. As you move along on what feels a little like a circular fashion show catwalk around the rotunda, all eyes from behind crystal and chrome counters turn to greet you…and always the eyes are smiling.

There just past Chanel in about the best spot possible (not too close to the door and not buried beyond the rotunda) is the brand new Dior Boutique. The New Look has arrived at Neiman’s and it is as fresh and beguiling as it was in 1947. Dior never looked better than here in gleaming black and white. A gorgeous elegant design has been executed in small yet comfortable space. Within it accommodates the stunning showcase of the perfume line as well as a very efficiently laid out makeup demonstration area in the center. Even with the event in full swing it was easy to move around. The lighting is superb and with mirrored ceilings it is defused and flattering.

 

 Music filled the rotunda provided by a lovely violinist which added a touch of Baroque elegance to the entire feeling of the affair. Accompanied by a cascade of classical notes Hillary Rayvis Randall, turned to greet me, stunning in black with her hair up like Scarlett going to Ashley Wilkes Birthday party she was the picture of sophistication.  The last time we had met about three weeks ago she had informed me that “Something wonderful” was in the works and this was it! Always gracious and the perfect hostess Hilary, introduced me to the delightful perfume collector Mary Eddington.

 

(HILARY AND MARY EDDINGTON)

   Champagne and canapés appeared as Hilary invited me to smell Mary’s wrist where she had just sprayed Ambre Nuit and on her thumb a bit of Mitzah. This was my first introduction to the Privée line. I wrapped my nose around the scent from Mary’s presented for inspection wrist and I fell into the garden of earthly delights. The Ambre Nuit was all amber, pink pepper and roses. The Best Rose I have ever smelled in perfume and the Mitzah is all about incense cinnamon, spices and honey.

“It is like passing from a cloistered rose garden into a cathedral at Easter Mass.” I noted.

 

As Hilary excused herself to greet new arrivals Mary and I got down to the business of “How did you first get into perfume?” On this question we met on common ground. It was all about our mothers and exploring the wonders of their perfume vanities as little children  Dusty late afternoon sunlight streaming through gauzy curtains that fell upon mirrored dressing tables loaded down with glittering scrumptious treasures. Mary told me how almost excruciatingly exciting it was to go shopping in San Francisco when she was a little girl. Entering in open mouthed wonder the old and long gone venues such as The White House, and The City of Paris, and how the glamour of it all was near to overwhelming. She was hooked at a very early age. If I recall correctly her first love was Jicky by Guerlain. We also shared stories of meeting Andre from Jacqueline Perfume shop and how he was really a San Francisco treasure. It turns out I was not the only person afraid to go into Jacqueline. But our fears were unfounded; if you have a passion for perfume Monsieur Andre will sense that and take you on a tour of his enchanted garden.

We agreed that we both loved the adventure of perfume and the excitement of discovery of a new scent. The fun involved in opening notes and exploring and deciphering notes as a perfume unfolded in three acts. I mentioned that I had heard that Diorella was a great fragrance that was not only suited for a woman but worked well on a man. That led us to a bottle. It was very nice but as we explored together Mary and I both agreed that Dioressence was perhaps better on my skin. That explosion of aldehydes gets me every time. Hilary was across the display where the Privée stars were lined up in their dazzling colors in their simple chic gloriously huge bottles. She invited us to join her.

(SOME LAUGHTER AFTER I CAUGHT THE WOMAN ON THE RIGHT SPRAY HER ANKLE WITH DIOR AND I SAID, “WASN’T IT COCO CHANEL WHO SAID TO PUT PERFUME WHERE EVER YOU WANT TO BE KISSED?”)

When I mentioned that I liked the Mitzah on Mary Hilary said with an impish twinkle: “I have just the thing for you, Oud Ispahan.”  Oh yes Hilary knows my love for Orientals and she was right. Oud Ispahan was singing to me its song of sensuous seduction. Like the most wonderful rendition of Bali Hai in French!

From there Mary and I sampled on cards each and every bottle of the Privée line. Some stand outs for me were Vetiver, a woody wonder. Cologne Royal, classic citrus eau de cologne. New Look 1947, Parisian perfection rich and seductive and of course Mitzah and Oud Ispahan.

 

As the evening began to wind down Hilary presented us with some samples of those we liked and Mary went home with full bottles of Ambre Nuit, Mitzah and Dioressence. When Mary took her leave we both agreed it had been a great pleasure meeting over the perfume counter.  We hugged goodbye and a new friend was found.

Not quite ready to leave myself I sniffed around some of the other Dior fragrances that had yet to be explored, Jules, La Dolce Vita, and Dior Homme. Yet after so many wonders I was on overload and a veritable walking perfume sampler.

Thanking Hilary for the wonderful evening that I didn’t want to end she held me back for a moment.

“Did you notice that gentleman who was speaking in French behind you a moment ago; I want you to meet him. He is the best Nose in all of Union Square.”

She caught his attention I turned to see a very tall handsome fellow with a beaming smile heading over to us. Hilary introduced me to Michal Gizinski, and mentioned to him that I was the writer of the Scents Memory blog. She added that the two of us should meet and perhaps do an interview.

“Oh yes I would love that, anytime!” He said.

“So would I,” I agreed. “In fact I would love to interview both of you. Pick your brains about how you came to perfume, what it means to you learn a little about what you know.”

We shook hands and it was agreed that an interview would be a delightful prospect. So stay tuned on that front for upcoming posts with Hilary Rayvis Randall and Michal Gizinski

 

(MICHAL GIZINSKI)

With a wave and a wink I was off and out the door. New shoes clicking along the sidewalk off Stockton Street and in a layered cloud of Dior magic I embraced the beauty of the night and the joy one finds in meeting new friends.

The line up of La Collection Privee Christian Dior

AMBRE NUIT

GRANVILLE

BOIS D’ARGENT

MILLY-LA-FORET

GRAND BAL

EAU NORIE

COLOGNE ROYALE

OUD ISPAHAN

MITZAH

VETIVER

NEW LOOK 1947

I DREAM OF GENIE ~ Al Oudh by L’Artisan Parfumeur Paris

Deep in the desert between the rose red city of the dead and Aqaba is the fabled Wadi Rum, where in I found myself standing before the tent of a Bedouin Sheikh. The great royal blue curtains heavy with gold embroidery and pearls the size of cherry pits parted to reveal the most inner sanctum of the cool spacious palatial tent. Here far from the Western world and deep into the mysterious desert of Jordan I entered upon a dream beyond those of Scheherazade, T. E. Laurence or even the great Darius of Persia.

 

(WADI RUM JORDAN)

I stood alone in listening to soft voices of the desert jinn carried from the heart of the desert upon the wind to my ears. They whispered scented words of magic and wishes and wonders beyond the dreams of kings. The wind rose and fluttered the roof of the tent and made the tent polls of myrrh wood to creak and sway gently. Tiny bells like rain on the hot sand broke the air and urged me on deeper into the tent. A brassier in the center of the tent burned in amber and crimson flame revealing just beyond it a small myrtle wood chest intricately studded in ivory and gold.  I knelt on cushions of indigo silk and with hesitant hands opened the box. Within lay a glittering glass bottle of golden liquid. As I reached for it the tent began to swirl in heady waves as though I and all about me were being lifted on the wings of a great bird to be carried to another world.

I opened the bottle and the air about me changed instantly and transformed the dry warm night of the desert into magic filled with music and desire. I blinked… there before me stood a Jinn. Magnificent in form and enticing in his smile he leaned toward me and winked. I was so startled by the apparition that I dropped the bottle spilling what remained of the golden juice.

“My son you have set me free and for this I grant you….” His voice was rich and deep and full of the promise of all things imagined and many more things undreamed of.

“Three wishes?” I managed to squeak out.

A well manicured brow shot up as he cocked his head to one side. “No! I give nothing so common as a wish for you my lord of my emancipation. But rather, I give this.”   He picked up the empty bottle held it out to me.

“An empty bottle?” very disappointed.

The Jinn chuckled causing the walls of the tent to flap lightly… and beyond them there were tiny silvery giggles from the moonless night.  He put the bottle to his lips and filled the chamber with his breath then capped it quick as lightning with a golden seven sided stopper. The Jinn held it before me and dropped it into my open hand. In a flash of fire and rain he was gone. I looked down at the bottle with its red Arabian grillwork and read the words emblazed in warm buttery gold letters. “Al Oudh ~ Eau de Parfum.”

The magic held within Al Oudh by L’Artisan Parfumeur Paris is indeed like a dream. It opens with the delicious delights of pink pepper, Dates, dried fruits, caraway, cardamom and orange blossoms. They hang in the air about six glorious seconds only to be violently embraced and seduced like Velma Banky by Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik.

(THE FIRST VALENTINO, RUDOLPH ~ THE SHEIK 1921)

A beatific incense, elegant agar wood (Oud) and rich dark sexy leather, make up the heady scrumptious almost religious concoction full of church and sin, sex and redemption that takes over here. This center is supported by iris, saffron, Neroli, and rose. Yes Al Oudh is a caravan of oriental exotics poised to poison you with delirious olfactory pleasures. This Parfum packs a punch not meant for those who prance and dance lightly in green fields covered in laundry lines of drying white cotton sheets and shirts. The ever evolving dry down meets this caravan of pleasure with its own treasures from the east. Sandalwood, Tonka beans, vanilla and the dirty sexy little civet come to the orgy with a grounding musk, rapturous patchouli, rich caramelized myrrh all encased in a fine Cedar.

Yet even hours into this fragrance you never loose the gloria in excelsis which is the trinity of incense, Oud and Leather.

A word to the wise on this one, as with most perfumes as compared to Eau de Toilettes a very little goes a very long way. So be gentle when you apply. For men one spritz will do the job. Two will kill at ten paces. And believe me boys it will last all day and well into the night so on longevity it is a stunner. Not for work only for special events or evening wear. As for silage there it gets gold stars too.

I must thank and acknowledge my friend Hillary at Barney’s New York who guided me to this wonderful perfume. Her expertise is without compare and she is both gracious and beautiful. If you are ever in San Francisco go by Barney’s and say hello to Hillary. She will be your very own personal Jinn and find you just the right fragrance to fulfill your every wish.

FIVE PLATINUM STARS *****

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TRIP BABY! ~ Ulysee by Vicky Tiel

She is the inventor of the mini skirt, the only American woman in history to have a couture design house in Paris which is still producing clothes today after forty plus years. She put Elizabeth Taylor in her first caftan, and thus became the designer to the jet setting glitterati of the 60’s right up to the celebrated stars of today.

(CAFTANS FROM X,Y, AND ZEE 1972 ~ ELIZABETH TAYLOR)

This is Vicky Tiel and this is her one and only fragrance creation for men. Ulysse comes with this great history and pedigree and at a very reasonable price. As a mater of fact this brilliant wonderfully layered nearly symphonic scent is a steal at twenty dollars for 100 mil.

Rich, exotic, mature and no doubt inspired by Tiel’s several odysseys on the Mediterranean abroad the Burton’s yacht Kalizma. You can smell the crisp salt air of the Mediterranean sea blending with citrus aromas of Italy opening with neroli, yuzu, and Greece with the mignonette and Mandarin and lime blossom. As you sail along with this fragrance the spices of the Near East nutmeg, hawthorn, trefele and sesqui woods and those of the islands of Cypress and Crete, clover carnation and lavender rise up to meet you in pure splendor. It is an olfactory voyage that unfolds in surprising richness over about a seven hour dry down of patchouli, rich resinous benzion, musk, vanilla bean and Kiawah tree moss.  It smells so very expensive!

(VICKY TIEL WITH ELIZABETH TAYLOR LONDON 1972)

Ulysse is an overlooked masterpiece and I have to again thank MisterCrazyLegs over at Fragantica for his guidance to this discovery of a Homeric inspired treasure. AND the Bottle! Deeply carved bas relief crystal like glass is so unusual in its unique beauty against the stark sleek design of so many other designer’s bottles. Like some ancient glass found in a Hellenistic tomb. It is a classic little treasure in and of itself.

(CAFTANING AT MALCOLM FORBES VILLA IN MOROCCO)

I really love this fragrance and look forward to many more voyages of adventure with Ulysse.

FOUR GOLD STARS ****

(CLIPS FROM “X,Y,& ZEE ~ SWINGING LONDON LOOKS 1972)

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