1932 ~ Les Exclusives de Chanel 1932 (Along With Guest Review by The Perfumed Dandy!)

diamant Gabrielle CHANEL

The Perfumed Dandy approached me with the wonderful idea of both of us reviewing 1932 at the same time and posting both reviews on each other’s blogs. Without letting on what we each thought of the perfume we dove right in and had a ball doing it. So here they are. 1932 times two.

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DIAMONDS AND RHINESTONES ~ Les Exclusifs de Chanel 1932 

The rest of the world is broke and going to hell but here in this town, well baby were in the money.  From all over the country they come every day, young hopeful ex-homecoming rodeo queens and the not so young but just as hopeful. From the dust bowl and impossible impoverishment, from Mobile and Milwaukee and points further east they blow into town with cardboard suitcases filled with celluloid dreams. On that first walk down the Boulevard they wear a smile they can’t hide and stick out to the initiated as fresh meat for the glamour grinder. Mecca of the movies calls to them in the form of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. They always end up there that first day to kneel and press there hands into the cement prints of someone who had all the right breaks. This is where the prayers begin. Welcome to Hollywoodland.

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At Warner Brothers someone new to town with soon to be gone platinum hair and eyes one could sing about is carving her place in the system. She is all seriousness as she stands on the porch of a cabin in the cotton conferring with the director. She would love to kiss you but Miss Bette Davis has just washed her hair.

 bette davis cabin in the cotton

At Paramount a blonde Venus is surrounded by as much smoke and mirrors as she is by hair and makeup people. Waiting to board the Shanghai Express she knows already from somewhere in her gut and the slight change of temperature on her face that the lighting is not quite right. Marlene Dietrich looks up above the false walls erected around her and sees that her key light has burnt out.

Marlene Dietrich Shanghi Lily

Too the south miles from Hollywood on a stage at RKO she stands at the top of the stairs all angles and Bryn Mawr bearing looking down upon the great Barrymore. Her big break has happened on Broadway and she is about to make it even bigger in the movies.  George Cukor calls for “action”, Katherine Hepburn’s star is about to be born.

Annex - Hepburn, Katharine (A Bill of Divorcement)_01

To the West on Washington Blvd. more stars have fallen from heaven to walk among the mortals at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer than any other studio in town. A shop girl is trying to make good as a secretary in the lobby of a grand hotel; she has made herself over and will again and again. It has been a long road from Lucille Fay LeSueur to Joan Crawford and she made her own breaks to get here.  There is still a long way to go.

 joan crawford grand hotel

Across the sound stage in a portable dressing room sits the Swede, the hated high heels kicked off she is waiting for her call to “action”. Perhaps she is the luckiest of all who came here to the edge of America. Greta Garbo doesn’t seem to care about being a star and thus shines the brightest of them all because of it. If she really does care she is not letting on. All she will say is, she doesn’t want to be alone, just left alone.

bull clarence sinclair 1932 greta garbo mata hari j

On stage 18 sitting in a rain barrel as if she is going to wash off the red dust of a rubber plantation, Jean Harlow laughs and jokes with Clark Gable. She is loved by the crew as just one of the boys.  She rocks back and forth in the barrel sloshing water on Gable and the boys in the rafters look down from above and smile. This girl is a platinum bombshell of a shooting star made for the movies. She will leave the limelight much too soon.

 Jean looks fondly

On the western edge of Beverly Hills at Fox the biggest break of all for the tiniest star in Hollywood is about to happen. She will be a symbol of hope to a nation and save the studio from going under singing of lollypops and good ships. But now, on this day in 1932 she is working on a one reeler spoof of “What Price Glory” called War Babies. Just a baby herself Shirley Temple is about to steal the show.

shirley temple 1

They all would be in their time the diamonds of the golden age of Hollywood, the ones who got the breaks and made it big in this town that eats people alive in order to make flickering dreams for the masses. No rhinestones for these women. These ladies are the real jewels of 1932.

When the police found Peg Entwistle lying smeared with blood and dust at the bottom of the big H at the foot of Hollwoodland sign she was wearing her fake diamond earrings.  As broken and dead as her futile movie career she was a never was star that failed to ignite above the town she, like countless others had come to conquer. No big break ever came her way. It ended with her swan dive off the sign in the Hollywood hills that brought a merciful end to the belly flop that was her career and sad life. As Peg’s body was loaded into the back of an ambulance the morning sun ricocheted through the fractured facets of the rhinestone earrings. They still gave off a flicker of glitter as the doors to the ambulance closed.

 Peg Enwistle

Peg Entwistle

And the busses and the trains still came loaded with the dreamers that day in 1932. They never stopped and they never will. Welcome to Hollywoodland.

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1932 by Chanel was released in the Exclusifs line as homage to the year that Coco Chanel debut her diamond jewelry collection. Not a zircon or rhinestone was to be seen in that magnificent presentation of stones which Mademoiselle gave to the world in the worst year of the Great Depression.  But we are not so lucky with the premiere of this new perfume.

1932 is not a star shimmering in diamonds from the silver screen. This is only paste in a beautiful setting, faux beauty made of mirrored glass and presented as glamour only to be outshone by the real stars that have come before from this house. No.5, Cristalle, No.19, Sycomore, Coromandel, Cuir de Russie are but a few of the stars of Chanel.  1932 is something brought in from Central Casting, a day player, an extra that fades quickly into the scenery. At her very best she is a stand in for a star like No.19, a pale refection of the real thing.

This Floral Woody Musk has all the right notes that have created great stars before. Aldehydes, bergamot, and Neroli open fast and then are gone. The have cleared the sound stage for the arrival of Jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac and carnation. This mid note arrangement is really dominated by the Jasmine, the ever familiar studio style of Chanel. Somehow none of these notes have the ability to present themselves in a mature manner. Then in the base it goes all wrong and too sweet with the notes of sandalwood, orris root, opopanax, iris, violet, incense and a heavy vanilla.  Too much is going on!  It is slathered with a strong vanilla that buries the vetiver and musk that might have helped to keep this from going to the prom instead of the red carpet premiere. 1932 is immature, a teenaged powdery sweet fragrance that may find admirers in girls under the age of 21. At Les Exclusifs prices they are going to have to be teens with their own sit-coms filming on the Fox lot.

1932 is depressed and failing to deliver the dreams its publicity department promised. Not even a feature length presentation comes from this effort, like Shirley Temple’s early films, it is a short subject. In an hour it is gone and like so many never were stars 1932 ends up for me to be just another broken heart in the shadow of the great stars of Chanel.

TWO SWAROVSKI CRYSTAL  STARS **

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THE REUNION 

Who was she?

No one it turned out had thought of her for years. Everyone remembered her, but no one remembered a thing about her. Not one of them could even recall her name.

bonjourtristesse

And yet there she was in nearly every photograph, almost hidden, somewhere towards the back, elegant, understated, almost, but not quite beautiful. Never looking directly at the camera, never, it seemed, talking or laughing or even, he realized now, even smiling. But then everyone said that no one had looked at those pictures for years. In his case it was true, very nearly exactly twenty years. Graduation shots, something to be taken, registered and filed away with a degree diploma and never looked at again.

Not until the day they thought of a reunion.

Of course they didn’t need a reunion for themselves, as thick as thieves those four from the class of 1992, lunch or dinner at least once a week, holidays together, married around the same time, parallel career paths. Settled.

rainy day lunch paris

It was at lunch: a hotel restaurant, in a conservatory, perhaps it was meant to be an orangery? Somewhere near the river? He was certain it was at lunch, over one glass too many of champagne, a birthday, a business deal? Yes, It was definitely at lunch that one of them suggested getting ‘everyone’ back together. The ones who weren’t in touch, the so and so’s who went to work abroad, or into teaching, who married and divorced young, who fell out of favour. Yes, it was time for a stock take, they would all be forty soon.

So he, with his forensic mind, was called upon to track them all down, all the missing so and so’s, all the loose ends and the dead ends and bring them back together again. And it was easy you know, a few feelers on facebook, half a dozen mutual friends, the notice in the alumni magazine and that was it, everyone accounted for. Dead or alive, willing or indifferent or opposed to the idea of a meeting. Everyone except for her.

jean seaberg 1958

And no one knew her name. The others said it didn’t  matter. Who was she anyway? But he would not be put off. He was determined that she would not be the only thing to elude him. The University wouldn’t help, couldn’t help, data protection they said. The protection fell away after a donation just large enough to the correct charity. Of course he would be welcome to have a look at the registry archives on the afternoon after he presented the cheque to the capital development fund.

No one had told the archive assistant, fine boned, grey haired, though only in her forties he guessed, somehow too done up: smelling of expensive make up, all powder lilacs and buttermilk irises, no one had told her to make him welcome. She thought it all very irregular and made no bones about telling him so as she led him to the files and back through the years: 2007, 2002, 1997, 1992.

Proper paper files he thought, though not for much longer: she assured him that all this would be hard disk within weeks. She seemed satisfied. Happy to be free of the smell he imagined: the slightly bleached smoke and wax of the copy paper, the incense-like dust collecting on files. No more paper chases he reflected.

She handed him one of those files and he noticed her hands: they were young hands, in fact, despite that grey hair he could see now that she was no older than him, younger perhaps. He started to look through the dossier, every student, their names, their applications, their academic records, exam results and all – so that’s what they had really got – and photographs on enrolment day.

Arranged alphabetically, he went from A to Z without seeing her face. Then, at the end, a file under separate cover. There she was, staring out blankly at him, that memorably unmemorable face. At that moment he realized that it wasn’t her face at all, not her face that he or anyone else remembered.

chanel_biennale_2012_collection_1932_collier_etoile_filante_3

What they all remembered was her necklace: a striking piece of costume jewellery they had all supposed, a falling star set with crystals and a jeweled train behind it. There it was, sparkling at him through time, wrapped around her shoulders.

He looked down to where her name should be. Nothing.

No name or address, no test results or school references. Nothing.

Just a candidate number for her finals:

One. Nine. Three. Two.

He shook the file in anger more than hope. How was this possible? How could she, of all people, escape him? A piece of card fell to the floor and he grabbed at it, an invitation, in French, to an exhibition at 29, Faubourg St Honore, Paris. And in neat, flawless hand on the back:

edposition de bijoux de diamants crees par Chanel

“I am going away, I may be some time. I may return, perhaps not.”

No name or address, no signature or date, except that of the exhibition:

7 au 19 Novembre, 1932.

Paris 1932

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For Chanel, 1932 is most remembered as the year in which the house unveiled its first mesmerizing collection of jewellery. The scent that bears the same name is unlikely to do anything to change that fact. This is a peerless example of a perfume with perfect poise, little personality and no apparent passion.

A practised opening of adroit aledhydes with sharp bergamot and neroli feels disconcertingly level headed, almost flat. The transformation into powder and wax floral heart is as seamless as it is soulless. Both the iris and a less latent than had been expected lilac are exemplary in their execution, but somehow fail to engender excitement.

The drydown is to a feint and faintly elegant smoke and sandalwood, with elements of the heart persisting. With a wave of jasmine and an undercurrent of wild grass, there is more depth to the conclusion that some may have you believe. In fact the formal structure is more than adequate but it is also simply unmoving.

For all the evident quality of the ingredients and the considerable consideration that has clearly gone into its composition, this aroma never catches alight. It might possibly have been a very slow burner, but to achieve this status the longevity must be massively improved. It is like something really quite good by a so so scent maker. It doesn’t feel like a Chanel. But it is.

Chanel 1932 is a beautifully made perfume, but it is not a beautiful perfume.

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The perfumes in the ironically named ‘Exclusifs’ range to which 1932 belongs are the least exclusively male or female of any of those made by Chanel.

Whilst this might not be the most obviously ready to wear for men, if the cut fits, why not?

There are better reasons than gender alone to give this fragrance a miss.

(You can visit The Perfumed Dandy here: http://theperfumeddandy.com/ )

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OIL IN THE ALABASTER BOX WINNER ANNOUNCED!

AUDREY HEPBURNS SAYS AND THE WINNER IS

Oh this day, this Easter Sunday I am happy to announce the winner on my Blog (as others are being announced on other blogs around the world) of the Oil in the Alabaster Box giveaway post.

 TONYS ELIZABETH TAYLORr1981

“THIS IS MORE EXCITING THAN GETTING DIAMONDS FROM CARTIER!”

The envelope please…………

HUGH JACKMAN AT THE OSCARS“I AM GOING TO KISS THE WINNER BACKSTAGE!”

Oh this is nice! The winner is A Gripping Life.

JENNIFER LOPEZ AND CAMRON DIAZ OSCARS“WAY TO GO GIRL!”

Congratulations my dear. Just email your mailing information to me at MGMtagame@yhaoo.com and I will forward the information to Brie who will send you your very special bottle of Spikenard Foot Oil. Brie has also made a more complex blend called Alabaster Wrist designed as an anti-anxiety oil. A sample will of this will be included in with your prize.

MERYL STREEP AT THE OSCARS

“WELL I CAN’T WIN THEM ALL YOU KNOW…”

Thanks to you all who participated in this exciting and special world wide harmonious endeavor created by the very kind Jordan River of  The Fragrant Man.

MEETING THE MAGICIANS ~ SF ARTISAN PERFUME SALON 2013

OVERTURE

Market Street was misty and nearly deserted at 8:30 last Sunday morning. I stood on the corner at 3rd street with “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” plugged into my ears waiting for Hillary. We were meeting this early spring morning to head off to the 2nd annual SF Artisan Perfume Salon.  I turned to look up the street towards Twin Peaks and saw Hilary walking toward me with a big smile looking like every inch Truman Capote’s New York City heroine and Henry Mancini’s music only added to the moment.

We caught the 30 Stockton at Kearney Street and gabbed and laughed as we passed through the red and gold of Chinatown and the green red and white of North Beach. On what bus other in the world can you pass from San Francisco into Hong Kong followed by Rome and end up with a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge?

There was a wonderful farmer’s market going on at Fort Mason where our event was to take place and being a little early we took a peak at the flower, and vegetables bright and fragrant in the early warm sunshine. When we arrived at the Festival Pavilion Hillary went in to meet Paul Kiler whom she would be assisting for the event. As I waited for the doors to open I took a few shots of my surroundings.

  

ACT ONE:

The ground floor of the event was devoted to chocolate. Chocolate of every description and a delight, it was hard to pass up as I headed for the elevated terrace at the back of the hall where the perfume show was just getting underway.

 PK PERFUME

PK PERFUMES

First off I met perfume composer Paul Kiler of PK Perfumes. Paul who was very gracious told me a bit of his story. He is self taught and has after many years of work and dedication to the art of perfume released his line. He showed me an amazing photo of his in home studio and being a one man show he does it all, from perfume making to designing every aspect of the bottling and marketing of his product.

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PAUL KILER AND HILARY RANDAL

   Of the ten perfumes I tried the real stand out to me were Red Leather, Ere (two years in the making), Gold Leather. He told me that for Ere he goes out into the Serra Nevada forests and to harvest a fern commonly knows as Mountain Misery or as the Native American’s called it Kit-Kit-Dizzie. He then extracts the oil from the fern himself.  Paul really impressed me as an artist with a passion for his perfumes.

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AT THE ENVOYAGE TABLE WITH SHELLY AND MARIO

ENVOYAGE PERFUMES

I ran into Mario Gomez at Shelly Waddington’s wonderful display of her perfumes. I took lots of photos and they had one of the best spots in the event with huge windows behind them looking out over the San Francisco Bay pocked with sailboats. There were some wonderful perfumes presented by Envoyage of which I found most enchanting Go Ask Alice. I was enchanted by the line and each perfume was unique and lead to lots of conversation about notes and the creative process.

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INEKE

INEKE

I was very excited to meet the beautiful and elegant Ineke in person and she and her wonderful husband could not have been kinder or more welcoming. I told her how popular her fragrances are with the women where I work both in office and with clients around the country that I have introduced her perfume to. We shared a giggle when I told her my sample selection has disappeared over the course of my showing it to the women in my life. Her new fragrance is Hot House Flower and it is a stunner. So between you and me, there will be more reviews in store for this wonderful perfume house.

And we can’t leave Ineke without mentioning here brilliantly beautiful and yes iconic flacons. There is symmetry and beauty in the shape, elegant and unique labeling for each make then all a work of art for your vanity. This kind of work demands a glass case with great lighting. And the wonderful sampler is packaged and presented like a fabulous jewelry box from Bulgari or Cartier. Everything about Ineke is just brilliant from concept to completion.

INTERMISSION:

9ON THE LEFT ROXANNA OF ROXANNA ILLUMINATED PERFUME

At this point I took a break to attend two lectures, the first by Roxanna of Roxanna Illuminated Perfume. (She makes a wonderful natural perfume called Bee)  She gave a very interesting and engaging talk on the his-story of perfume. From China along the Silk Road to Petra and the ancient Middle East we traveled with Roxanna through the history of perfume. The story of the spread of civilization and ideas is built upon the trade of fine fragrance. Through her story we walked the halls of the Lochais Palace in Alexandria with Cleopatra and learned of her mastery of the use of fragrance. Then on to Greece and Rome which took us into the middle ages and on up to pre Colombian Americas and into the present. Roxanna ended our tour with some wonderful samples to smell of the most unusual oils. My favorite came from a mushroom and smelled of wet earth and new life.

9A

THE WONDERFUL TAMA FROM CA FLEURE BON

Then there was an equally marvelous talk by Tama a perfume writer for the blog Ca Fleure Bon. Her talk was “How To Write About And Review Perfume” Tama is a great speaker and really held me in the palm of her hand as she explained that the title of the talk was given to her by the producers of the event and that she had a bit of a different bent on the idea. She took us though her journey of becoming a perfume reviewer by letting us first smell samples of some of the perfumes that changed here point of view and writing style, which gave her maturity as a perfume writer, perfumes that in fact lead her to her passion to write and write so very well about fragrance.  Then after we smelled the blotters we would give a one word impression. She then told us what perfume it was and read a little excerpt from the review. It was so interesting and really illuminating to me to learn of her process.

ENT’RACT:

After a quick lunch with Hilary lead me down to the chocolate extravaganza and together we raided a few chocolate exhibits, and a marvelous Absinthe maker by the name of Raff Distillerie. But that is another story…and probably with not a very pretty ending.

ACT TWO:

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MIK OF MIKMOI

MIKMOI

Hilary introduced me to Mik the nose behind Mikmoi San Francisco. This utterly engagingly delightful man led me through his gorgeous line of bespoke perfumes. First up was VESPER inspired by the cocktail invented by Ian Fleming in his book “Casino Royale” Well, since I am a huge Bond fan and I mix a mean Vesper he had me at shaken not stirred.  It was beautiful, one of the top scents I experienced at the event. And the bottles are breathtaking. Mik told me that they were imported Italian glass. The attention to detail and artistry by the glass blowers for these elegant bottles is evident. They carry in them the DNA of the simple beauty of the No. 5 bottle.

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The color of the juice is also very elegant and specific to a not often seen pastel in green and pink. The blue is Mediterranean aqua and the gold juice is pure Venetian. The line up is Aldwych, Vesper, Itoh and Ao. Before I moved on Mik hand wrapped in soft blue triangle cloth in the Japanese style a set of samples for me, as he did for each visitor. What a perfect gentleman he is.

9BSANAE

SANAE INTOXICANTS

The beautiful and very sweet Sanae of Sanae Intoxicants introduced me to her line of perfume. Meadow Slumber (lovely), Burning Ocean (arresting), Smoking Rose (gorgeous) and Bonnie Billy (My Pick for best of her line). We had a lovely chat about perfume and dreams they evoke along with the magic that comes along with perfume. Sanae was a delightful discovery.

 

DR. ELLEN COVEY

OLYMPIC ORCHIDS

I found a bit of home at the booth for the Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes by Dr. Ellen Covey. Her line comes from the heart and reflects her passion for fragrance over the idea of mass appeal. It was refreshing and fun to explore her perfumes. But when I picked up the bell jar over Olympic Rainforest I was instantly transported to my Mother and Father’s garden in Puyallup Washington. It was so powerful and evocative. Hilary also had the same experience with California Chocolate. One little sniff and she was transported back to her childhood and memories of her mothers favorite chocolate candy that was made from orange peels dipped in chocolate.  There you have it, right there in a bottle, a memory.

9CJOSH AND BRANDY OF IMAGINARY AUTHORS

IMAGINARY AUTHORS

Upon entering the world of imaginary Authors you infiltrate a world where literature and fragrance meet. I was welcomed by perfumer Josh Meyer and the charming Brandy Hibben like an old friend who shared their passion for beauty. The company is based in Portland Oregon and Josh has only been making perfume for eight years, but boy does he have a wonderful vision. The highlights for me in his line are Soft Lawn, Falling Into The Sea and the very wonderful Bulls Blood.

FINALE:

 BRUNO FAZZOLARI

BRUNO FAZZOLARI

BRUNO FAZZOLARI

Fine artist Bruno Fazzolari is a painter and has exhibited in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He initiated his way to perfume because he finds an undeniable link between art and fragrance and in so doing has taken a rather challenging step for himself into the unknown world of perfume. This was his launch event at SF Artisan Perfume Salon.

What a debut it was. This young man entered the arena with a polish and style unexpected by a newcomer. The entire presentation was clean, crisp and elegant. An artist eye was certainly at work in every aspect of the visual as you approached his booth. Perfect placement of each object from the white Hydrangeas to in a small square vase to the right to the elegant placement of the perfume blotters turned it into a visual art installation that drew you into the olfactory experience.

The perfumes are Lampblack, Jimmy, Monserrat, Five, and Au Dela. Each of them brilliant works of a master nose. I was staggered by the complexity and beauty I encountered with Bruno’s perfumes. What struck me is that they are so rooted in the classic scents of the past, very French and very haut couture in feel. I just happened to bring along a bottle of vintage Miss Dior to share with Hilary and when she put it on she exclaimed its Divaesque brilliance and how it compared so favorably to Bruno’s work.

This is a perfumer to watch. I certainly hope he keeps on working. And I for one can’t wait to see what happens next with his art and perfume.

EXIT MUSIC:

As the event wound down it was fun to watch the perfumers mingle and explore there fellow perfumers wares. And as Hilary and I were leaving I regretted that I had not visited all the booths before my nose had given up the olfactory ghost. And I keep feeling that there was something I had missed. On the way out we bumped into the very person who I had wanted to meet but somehow did not. Yosh! I have smelled her perfumes at Barney’s and love her work. But I kept missing her table as I made my rounds. Hilary introduced us and she was a delight, so sweet and kind after the long fun filled but exhausting day. I told her how much I enjoyed her interview with the Fragrance Bros. on YouTube and how sorry I was that I missed meeting her. I was gobsmacked when she said she would love to have me visit her studio. So as Hilary says, it is a perfect universe.

 9D

PK PERFUMES:

http://pkperfumes.com/

ENVOYAGE PERFUMES:

http://www.envoyageperfumes.com/store/

INEKE:

http://www.ineke.com/

ILLUMINATED PERFUMES:

http://www.illuminatedperfume.com/

CA FLEURE BON:

http://www.cafleurebon.com/

MIKMOI:

http://www.mikmoi.com/

SANAE INTOXICANTS:

http://www.sanaeintoxicants.com/

OLYMPIC ORCHIDS:

http://www.orchidscents.com/Default_v3.aspx

IMAGINARY AUTHORS:

http://imaginaryauthors.com/

BRUNO FAZZOLARI PERFUME:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/BrunoFazzolari

ART SITE:

http://www.brunofazzolari.com/index.php?/work/lampblack/

YOSH:

http://www.eaudeyosh.com/

THE OIL IN THE ALABASTER BOX ~ Guest Post and Giveaway by The Fragrant Man

Alabaster Box
Today we taking a fragrant journey back in time with Jordan
River
from The Fragrant Man.  Jordan is a very interesting blogger in the Fragrance community and I am sure you will find his post very interesting. This special Easter post will be appearing simultaneously in blogs around the globe from Tokyo to London. Jordan likes to think BIG!

He also has a gift to give away. Brie in New York has made some spikenard foot oil especially for this post. If you would like to encounter this scent and look after your own or your loved one’s feet please leave a comment stating that you want to be in the draw.

The gift recipient will be announced on Easter Sunday and mailed to you on the following Tuesday.

Spikenard or nard originates in India and Nepal, high in the Himalayas. The root of the plant is the source for one of the rarest and most precious oils.

Brie would like to say that she is not a professional perfumer. This is an interest for her. She blends with the best of intentions, carefully choosing oils for their healing properties as well as for the enjoyment of smelling. Brie says that spikenard is quite tenacious and challenging to work with as in her experience it takes over the blend (similar to tea tree oil).

Jordan wonders, are you spending too much on perfume? Here is his scented tale for you.

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The Oil in the Alabaster Box
There are many faiths in this world. There are also many myths and legends. It’s up to you to find the truth on your fragrant journey. Let’s travel to the east this Easter to visit with a woman living on the boundaries of her culture. She has recently met a man. She believes him to be her spiritual guide. He is surrounded by men at a dinner party. She is  uninvited and has to make her way past the guests to be able to offer her teacher a scented gift. The gift is spikenard oil, a costly perfume ingredient which at this volume, a Roman litra, costs the equivalent of spending a year’s salary on a scent; a scent so potent that the home where this story takes place becomes filled with fragrant air.

Carmen Sevilla - King of Kings

(Carmen Sevilla as Mary Magdalene in King Of Kings 1961)

The room grew still
As she made her way to Jesus
She stumbles through the tears that made her blind

She felt such pain
Some spoke in anger
Heard folks whisper
There’s no place here for her kind

Still on she came
Through the shame that flushed her face
Until at last, she knelt before his feet
And though she spoke no words
Everything she said was heard
As she poured her love for the Master
From her box of alabaster

Don’t be angry if I wash his feet with my tears
And I dry them with my hair
You weren’t there the night He found me
You did not feel what I felt
When he wrapped his love all around me and
You don’t know the cost of the oil
In my alabaster box

– lyrics: Janice Sjostran
for chanteuse Cece Winans
– an interpretation of Mark 14:3-9

Judas the accountant thought this money would have been better spent feeding the poor. Nevertheless the teacher accepted this gift from a woman’s heart.

Jesus looked at her with a smile “your deed will never be forgotten. Your story will be told throughout all the lands and for all time and in ways you have never even dreamed of“.

Little could she have imagined that one day the story of her alabaster box would be told on the World Wide Web.

– a Roman litra ~ 327 grams


Album Version – Cece Winans – The Alabaster Box
A more melodic version.

WHAT IS THAT SMELL? ~ AN EVENING AT ZGO SAN FRANCISCO

Something smells in the Castro, and it smells wonderful!

Yesterday I picked up my friend and perfume expert extraordinaire Hillary Randal at Barney’s in the early evening to head up Market Street to meet our friend Lane where the rainbow flag flies at the intersection of Castro and Market.

As we waited a few moments for Lane to arrive at the bustling corner in the heart of the City I shared a sniff with Hillary of the Chanel 1932 sample that I had just received from Surrender To Chance. I told her as she spritzed the juice on a perfume card that I had ordered it for my upcoming review of the newest addition to the Exclusifs line at Chanel. Lane arrived just as we came to the same conclusions about 1932. (You will have to wait a bit for my take on 1932) Hugs were exchanged all around and then we were off to the newest and most exciting fragrance venue in San Francisco, ZGO (Zen ~ Garden ~ Oasis) for their event to introduce the newest additions to their perfume line ups.

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PERFUME CELEBS LANE AND HILARY SPOTTED BY A FAN ON THE WAY TO ZGO

We arrived just as the party was getting underway. ZGO is on the corner of 19th and Castro. One of the best locations on the street it is in a classic Victorian storefront with 18 foot ceilings and a wall of windows that give the space a lot of light and warmth. As we entered we were greeted by one of our hosts the lovely Gabrielle Walker. She was so sweet and made us feel like welcome guests of honor. Now that is charm! Champagne was in our hands within seconds to refresh us after our trek up from the Muni station.

The shop is filled with the most amazing array of home scents I have ever seen in one location, Candles and diffusers from all around the world. Many of the candles were under large clear bell jars. When you lifted the jar and put it to your nose you could inhale what ever magic had been captured with in the jar. I just loved that!

At the central table we met Mario Gomez who was our olfactory ambassador for the newest arrivals to ZGO from Nez a Nez, Agonist and Nasomatto. Mario and Hillary are fragrance buddies so it was old home week for them. For Lane and I this was our first meeting with Mario.  We had become friends on Facebook recently and he proved to be charming and so very well informed on the lines he was representing. It was a real pleasure meeting him. I was very excited to learn that he is creating his own perfume line. I can’t wait for that to happen.

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MARIO GOMEZ AND HILARY RANDAL WITH CLAUDE GRATIANNE AT THE REGISTER.

Mario first showed us the Nez a Nez line and sprayed the perfume from each of the gorgeous bottles on mauve peacock feathers for us to smell. Now that was really fun and a great idea for sampling the perfume. I was most impressed with Ambre a Sade and L’Hetre Reve.  Hillary, Lane and I all agreed that this Parisian house founded in 2010 was a hit with all of us.

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AGONIST ON THE LEFT AND NEZ A NEZ ON THE RIGHT. NOTE THE OSTRICH FEATHERS!

Mario then showed us the Swedish perfume house of Agonist. There line is inspired by literature and film from Sweden and that as you know is something I can relate too. Mario explained to us as we delighted our noses that the line is famous for the very beautiful and expensive flacons handmade by glass artist Åsa Jungnelius at Kosta Boda.

But to make the line more accessible to everyone at a reasonable price they are now released in limited editions in simple elegant flacons. I found I really fell in love with the oriental notes of The Infidels. I was swimming in amber, rose, iris, vanilla, myrrh, cumin, patchouli…oh too many notes to go into but it was heaven.

Next up we had lots of fun with the Dutch house of Nasomatto. The flacons are all very masculine in design with the famous top heavy wooden caps. Lane recalled the old wooden caps from English Leather from years ago when he picked up the bottle of Hindu Grass.

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WOODEN TOPS AND GLASS BOTTOMS

“My husband said when he saw these flacons that the tops seemed more important than the bottoms” Hilary told us. “But in the Castro I think the tops and the bottoms are of equal importance” I just adore Hilary’s sense of humor and spontaneity.

I found the Narcotic Venus to be the most interesting. Lane fell under the spell of Hindu Grass and went the full monty and spayed his wrist. For the rest of the evening we three repeatedly smelled Lane’s wrist to enjoy the fascinating progression from musty basement to freshly worked garden soil. It is a rather avant-guarde perfume and lots of fun in the context of an event like this. It certainly kept us entertained.

There were also other perfumes to explore as well. Wall after wall of the most incredible candles met us at every turn, everything from Aquiesse to Modern Alchemy  Nest and Voluspa and Votivo.  Too many to mention here but I must tell you that the prices are amazing! You can find the candle of your dreams at ZGO at the most reasonable prices I have ever seen ranging from $8 and up. ZGO will be my go to shop for candles from now on. Brilliant presentations and a wonderful selection is what ZGO is all about.

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As we made our way around the store more people joined us in the olfactory adventure and it became quite festive. Hillary pointed out that the Castro was the perfect place for ZGO to be because in that neighborhood beauty in all things is appreciated and celebrated. Lane found the Histoires de Parfums display and we really had fun with the martini glass shaped bell jars as we sampled this most interesting house. There were wonderful candles and perfumes from Comme Des Garsons Insense 3 series as well as the perfumes and candles from the #2 and Monocle lines from the house.  And they carry a very large selection of Diptyque as well. By this point I was getting a little light headed.

The big treat for me was to find the Amouage perfumes and to get the chance to see the incredibly beautiful flacons in person and to smell them for the first time. Lane found them to be exquisitely designed and I was surprised that my friend who is all about Chanel Sycomore as his signature scent enjoyed the seductive rich and complex aromas from Oman. But then he has a great nose and does appreciate a beautiful perfume whether or not it is one he would wear. He is so much fun to have along on a perfume sniff.  I sampled them all as Hilary placed each bell jar to my nose. Upon smelling Opus VI I fell into a vat of pure desire for this lush exotic oud perfume.

The evening shifted into full party mode as tray after tray of the most scrumptious sushi came out followed by delightful little cupcakes of every description and flavor. At this point we met one of the owners of ZGO, Claude Gratianne. Tall, handsome and delightful Claude told us a bit about the history of his shop that he and his partner Tani Kampakum  founded. It has only been in the Castro for a short time and began as a candle venture online followed by a shop in the Hayes Valley.   Today in their beautiful new location they are expanding into the world of perfume. Claude is very excited about the new world that perfume is opening up to he and his partner, the store and his clients. He is looking forward to adding even more perfume houses to his stock.  We talked about how important his ongoing online business is as an intrical part of the brick and mortar shop. It makes ZGO and its wonders of scent available to everyone who cannot make the trip to San Francisco. Now that is exciting isn’t it?

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CLAUDE GRATIANNE

(Photo from ZGO Facebook page…I forgot to take his picture!..three glasses of champagne. Oh well!)

As the evening wore down, Lane, Hillary and I bid our gracious hosts Gabriell, Tani and Claude and Mario a reluctant goodnight with much thanks and a promise to return. As we headed into the night in our respective layered clouds of perfume and stuffed with sushi and cupcakes we all agreed that ZGO is a much needed and unique addition to the olfactory scene in San Francisco. New York has Min, Los Angeles has The Scent Bar and we here in San Francisco now have the fabulous ZGO.

For more information AND online shopping  please visit ZGO’s website: http://www.zgostore.com/

ZGO

600 Castro Street

San Francisco, CA. 94114

Phone: (415) 692-6511

Toll free: 1.888.789.4753

Store hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 7pm

Sunday 11am – 6pm

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LET THEM BATHE IN PERFUME! ~ Cologne Royale la Collection Privée by Christian Dior

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“It looks just like our Petit Trianon back home.” I said as I took photos of my friend William in the tiny and cramped gate house framing him against the little round window through which could be seen the private diminutive palace of Marie Antoinette.

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“But it is the real thing.” He said. “Ours in San Francisco is a pale copy.”

It was our last day in France and we had saved Versailles for our finale immersion in all things French. The palace was magnificent, the gardens sublime. No more so than off the main paths that lead away from the Grand Canal to the Grand and the Petit Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine. The further away from the grand Château we walked the less we saw of others touring the grounds. By the time we reached the little palace we were quite alone.  The planned wildness of the gardens had captured my imagination and I could almost believe that around the next box hedge I would find a small group of courtiers from the court of The Sun King. What magic it all seemed to possess, a sad haunted magic in the end.

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A soft mist was falling from the grege colored April sky as we walked into the entrance of the intimate little hideaway of the Queen. As we passed from room to room we could feel the presence of something extraordinary. The furnishings were all put back in place as they had been before the Revolution. The only light in the rooms came from the French windows giving each room the softness of a watercolor in blues and silvers.

I stood at the window of the dining room looking out over a small formal garden feeling so peaceful and a little at home.

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“OH Harry just look at this room! It’s just like Sylvia and Oscar’s dinning room in Oyster Bay!” Her voice could crack open the lost tomb of Alexander the Great.  I turned to see her sweep into the room overdressed, painted, pulled and plumped. She ran her hand along the edge of the dinning table and then picked up a plate. “I have to find this exact pattern when we get back home.”  She flipped the plate over to inspect the bottom.

Her private guide was paled by her snatching up of the priceless porcelain. “Please Madame you must not touch. These are priceless museum pieces.”  She ignored him as she tossed her teased dyed Titian tresses and grabbed her ancient husband by the arm and squeezed it till he winced. “We just have to recreate this room in the new house. I want it to be better than Sylvia’s. I want it to be better than even this!’ She whipped out a camera from her YSL bag and backed up into an 18th century cabinet taller than she was and set it rocking.

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“Madame Please! We must move on now.” The poor guide whimpered. Harry gave him a nasty look. When she was quite finished she swept past William and I as if we were just dusty window treatments that she was most definitely not impressed with.

I looked at my friend horrified and embarrassed by this woman from my country who felt so entitled that she had no respect or appreciation of where she was or what she was really seeing.

“That woman was a pig!” I said.

“I bet she yells at Parisians in English thinking they will understand her.”  William said.

Then I saw it. The cabinet she had bumped into had pressed up against the wall and and had left a crack in it.

“She broke the wall!”

We went over to investigate. “No she didn’t” William said. “It’s a hidden compartment in the wall. When she bumped into the cabinet it must have hit the trigger on the wall. See it’s right here and…Look!”

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We both leaned in at the same time and hit our heads together. Neither of us felt the bump.

“What do you see?” The rain was coming down really hard outside and made it so dark in the room that I couldn’t see anything in the cubby hole.

“Wonderful things…” He whispered as if it was King Tutankhamen’s tomb and he was Howard Carter.

It all came into focus. There was a black silk fan covered in dust and cobwebs, some coins, an old parchment letter with the wax seal broken and a small bottle of perfume.

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I reached for the bottle.

“Don’t touch it!” My friend cautioned but it was already in hand.

I read the faded writing on the perfume label, “Cologne Royale” I whispered. “It is a bottle of Cologne Royale. What does the letter say?”

He gingerly opened the ancient manuscript and part of the edges fell away. “It’s in French I can’t read it. But it is addressed to ‘Votre Majesté Royale and signed Hans Axel Von Fersen.’ Open the bottle … what does it smell like?”

I pulled at the sealed stopper but to no avail. There were voices coming now from the next room. “I can’t get it open!”

“Someone is coming! Put it back!” He shoved the letter back into its tomb.

“No I want to smell it.” He tried to take the perfume away from me and in the struggle it fell to the floor and shattered.

That is how we ended our vacation in France, Two loud ugly Americans explaining to the French police how we found the lost treasures of Le Petit Trianon and destroyed forever the only surviving bottle of perfume owned by Marie Antoinette.

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Cologne Royale la Collection Privée by Christian Dior is a modern elegant take on the classic 18th century Eau de Cologne. In fact inspired by just such colognes, it is delicate and beautiful in the way the best colognes are. One is reminded of No. 4711 eau de Cologne which as been in production since 1790 or of Santa Maria Novella Acqua de Colonia which was created for Catherine Di Medici, Queen of France. There is a long and colorful history of smelling good in Paris and what better way to celebrate the history of that tradition than with a classic royal cologne from the house of Dior.

Perfumer Francois Demachy has chosen the most wonderful blend of citrus, neroli and musk to bring a vision of the glory days of powdered wigs and scented fans to life. But it is not stuffy or old fashioned in the least. For in choosing a strictly narrow style of the eau de cologne Demachy has somehow managed to breathe new life into an old form. It is the perfect after bath refreshment and a wonderful base on which to layer a more substantial fragrance for later in the day or evening. It is more refreshing than merely “Fresh”.

Like all eau de colognes the projection and longevity are short lived thus making Cologne Royale the ultimate in a luxury fragrance. One must be extravagant and rather caviler to wear Royale at about, at the very most three hours and such a price. But if you are of the let them eat cake mindset then why not indulge in a bottle of Cologne Royale. What a lovely couture fragrance for the Comte or Comtesse in every perfume lover.

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Madame le peuple puent. Laissez-les se baigner dans parfum!

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COLOGNE ROYALE FOUR GOLD STARS ****

JUST FOR FUN ~ LET THEM EAT CAKE

THE COMEBACK ~ Beige Les Exclusifs de Chanel

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Reflected in the prism of the descending mirrors like a painting by Marcel Duchamp, Mademoiselle Coco Chanel sat on the stairs in a beige boucle box suit with black trim.  She narrowed her eyes dropped her head slightly to peer from under the brim of her hat to the bottom of the steps. She could just see the shoes and shins of the first three people seated in the first row. Hundreds more were out of sight beyond the curve of the staircase awaiting this; her return into the world of fashion.

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“Why did I return? One night at dinner Christian Dior said a woman could never be a couturier.”  Ah yes, that quip to some American reporter was now being repeated all across Paris as the entire city and in fact the world waited to see if she still had it in her to be modern and innovative. In fact, if she was still No.1.

She could smell the freesias at the top of the stairs where the models were assembled waiting to walk down upon her command. There was also a hint of frangipani and hawthorn flowers which permeated the air like a golden honey and took her for a fleeting moment back to Chateau de Royallieu and Boy Capel. Her new line, even the beige suit she wore was really the result of, a refection of his style. If it hadn’t been for Boy: She stopped herself. It was time.

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She looked up to the models. They were ready. No time left for nerves now, time to be courageous. She nodded to the first one, Marie and watched as the young woman passed her in the navy suit that would in only a few moments signify her signature look for the rest of her life and beyond. She could let herself smile just a little now as the model in black dress passed by, then the white, and then the beige, her favorite color these days.

She would prove Dior wrong, on this February day in 1954. She would show the world that she, Gabriel “Coco” Chanel was back to stay, indeed that she, a woman was a great couturier.

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Beige is the new Black. It is what Bill Blass’ Basic Black wishes it could be. From Les Exclusifs collection by Chanel the very chic and smart Beige makes its entrance with the smooth glide of a legendary fashion model from the 1950’s. Suzy Parker is who I see as the perfect woman in Beige.

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COCO AND SUZY PARKER

Jacques Polge took the idea of one of Chanel’s favorite colors (the others being black, white and navy) and turned it into a beauty of a perfume. This is what honey should smell like when done right. Not heavy or sticky and sickening but smooth and mellow with just touch of queen bee to add a bit of a sting. There is freesia here that is bright and a bit spicy adding the perfect complement to the wild honey. These two notes introduce the premier model of the show which is one of my favorite scents from years ago, frangipani. This wonderful flower also known in Hawaii as Plumeria, the most popular flower for the Hawaiian lei is invigorated with a sultry tropical beauty that gives this perfume sensuality and fullness.  Underneath the feminine curves of the honey, freesia, and frangipani is a straight forward masculine hawthorn. It really ties the four notes together and presents them with a seriously chic sophistication. Yes just four notes in Beige, simple yet elegant.

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This is a perfume that stands up beautifully throughout the day. Impressive longevity but never in your face, no, this is a perfume that is great without having to be flashy or loud. It is self-contained, confident that it will always be the right choice for a woman of any age who possesses perfect taste and impeccable style.  The best part is that Beige goes with everything.

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BEIGE LES EXCLUSIFS DE CHANEL FIVE GOLD STARS *****

HERE IN THE LAST SCENE OF  “COCO AVANT CHANEL” (2009) YOU CAN SEE A RETROSPECTIVE FASHION SHOW OF CHANEL’S DESIGNS.

A WALK IN THE PARK ~ Bois D’Argent La Collection Privée by Christian Dior

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On the last days of March Matthieu Maggi would still, at 95 emerge from his home at number 22 Avenue Foch just behind the Alphand monument and walk the long tree lined avenue to the Bois de Boulogne.  For his age he was very athletic and looking a mere 75 he made the trip in no time. The people who passed Monsieur Maggi always noticed that he seemed a bit out of time sporting “The New Edwardian Look” of the 1950’s. He always wore a hat. It was his signature.

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(Monument to Jean-Charles Alphand and 22 Ave. Foch)

     As he passed beneath early blooming plum trees near the park entrance he would think inevitably of her and the place in the Bois she called the silver woods. He walked there every day and always it seemed like moving through enfiladed rooms of the past when he crossed the circle at Porte Dauphine. Each room had a silver polished silver name plate beside the door, the 90’s, the 80’s, 1958, 1947 1939, 1929. When he stepped into the park he was a boy again.  1925.

Germaine Krull, Ave du Bois de Boulogne Paris 1928

   His parents of an old Moneyed Parisian family had moved to what was then called Avenue du Bois de Boulogne that year when he was ten years old. To be so near the wilds of the park excited him. Matthieu always found a way to slip away form his nanny, or the tutors and sneak off to the park to explore. He imagined it to be many things but is favorite was a wild jungle in the Belgian Congo.

Spring was about to explode over Paris the day he discovered he was lost in a part of the park he had never been to before. It was so unusual and almost magical with the trees pushing out a silvery green new leaves and the bark a most shimmery nearly hoary grey. He sat down on the moist grass and breathed in deep the wonderful smell of the silver woods. He closed his eyes and dug his fingers into the earth and thought of the book he was reading, Tarzan of the Apes.

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    The sound of a guttural low purr vibrated next to his left ear sending an electric shiver to his toes and back up to the top of his head. Hot moist nostrils nudged his ear and the purr turned to something of a growl.  He opened his eyes and turned his head just enough to be face to face with a cheetah wearing a huge diamond dog collar. His eyes went wide and wild and he was about to jump and run.

“Don’t be afraid” The woman spoke French with an American accent. She was dressed in silver with a huge corsage of Iris on her shoulder. “Chiquita likes little boys. Not to eat of course, she just fancy’s boys.”

Chiquita’s long rough tongue slathered up the side of his cheek and made him giggle and squirm and suddenly feel safe. The extraordinary café au lait woman laughed like a song bird, crouched down next to him took a purple and yellow silk handkerchief from her bag and tidied up his wet face.

“You are Josephine Baker!” He said in amazement. “I have seen you in the papers! What are you doing here?”

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(La Baker and her pet Cheetah, Chiquita)

She stood up and winked “Let’s walk a bit.” Chiquita pulled Mademoiselle Baker forward by the leather leash and Matthieu fell in step beside her. She explained how since her arrival in Paris it was her greatest joy to walk Chiquita in the Bois in the early afternoon. This was her time to contemplate and be alone away from all the madness of Théâtre de Champs Élysées and the stage door Johnnies who hounded her after they had seen her “Banana Dance”. Enraptured and perhaps a little in love with the exotic lady and her cat Matthieu listened to every word in utter adoration. Before he knew it they had come to Allée de Longchamp where her extremely long green and gold limousine and driver were waiting.

Chiquita jumped into the car when the chauffer opened the back door. Mademoiselle Baker turned and kissed Matthieu on the cheek.

“Shall I see you tomorrow?” she smiled down at him.

A cold March wind came up from the Seine and pushed into the park shaking the silver leaves threatening to tear them from the branches. Monsieur Maggi snapped back to the present and looked around as if he had never been to this spot before. He shook his head, smiled and turned toward home. Maybe tomorrow he would see her, The Creole Goddess, his first love.

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The extraordinarily lovely and subtle Bois D’Argent part of La Collection Privée by Christian Dior is from the moment it drifts onto your skin until I fades into memory like a spring walk in the park. Typically a Woody Chypre is bold and dramatic but not this time.  The nose for this perfume Annick Menardo had something else in mind when creating Bois D’Argent than your typical Woody Chypre, something unique and very sophisticated.

It really is a fragrance made of memories and each time I wear it seems slightly different and hard to pin down. It changes exactly the way memories change a little with each visitation. On me Bois D’Argent is soft and cool and rather reminiscent of Cristalle by Chanel minus the purple hyacinth. It has a remoteness that seems to intone a mystery that one hopes to unravel as it unfolds on the skin. But don’t try to solve its mysteries just enjoy them

Bois D’Argent opens with a swaying cypress note blended in with dark slightly dirty iris that is moist as if just pulled fresh from the earth after a rainstorm. A jingle jangle of sharp gin like juniper berries tickles the nose for a bit. You are at once deep in the woods from the opening on. Those woods are the main thrust of this perfume. As the mid notes come up it sweetens a bit with a halo of incense and myrrh that is very soft and fades in and out on the breeze and underneath on the floor of this cold brusque park is a bed of dried patchouli leaves. But always the woody notes dominate.

The dry down is really exceptionally lovely. Here it seems to warm a bit like an early spring afternoon with the woods carrying on as a trail of honey and resins drip down over silver tree bark. A very slight flavor of vanilla soaked amber and musk caress the woody notes and the elegant smooth brush of suede leather like the inside of well worn ridding gloves keeps it interesting.

This perfume last on my skin around ten hours and seems to move from good silage at 4 hours to very close to the skin. Bois D’Argent suggests an air of great affluence; style and elegant confidence. It denotes a certain casual beauty that goes deeper than skin and lasts long past the frivolities of youth. It remembers everything and whispers the memories over and over softly in your ear. It is made for grown ups and wouldn’t want to be anything other than just what it is.

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BOIS D’ARGENT FIVE PLATINUM STARS *****

THE STUFF THAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF ~ Cinema by Yves Saint Laurent

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Detective Tom Polhaus: Heavy, What is it Sam?

 

Sam Spade picks up the black bird and considers its history and all it has caused to happen in his life.

 

Sam Spade: The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.

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Fade to black.

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The stuff that dreams are made of, that is after all what Cinema is and always will be. Cinema is many things but the main engine that fuels the dream machine is love.

It began with the first flickering in 1896 when John Rice puckered up to May Irwin in, The Kiss. It became rapturous as a wordless Garbo  embraced her absent lover’s roses as if they were actually him. Epic in scope and passion when Rhett Butler’s kiss devoured Scarlett under a flame tortured Atlanta sky. It was no more heart meltingly satisfying as it was when Jennifer Lawrence surrendered to Bradley Cooper as he kissed her tears and came finally home to his true meaning of excelsior and a chance at a silver lining.

In the dark we as a world embrace the dream and surrender to the agreement to disconnect from reality and move into the art of the possible. Be it in an outdoor theater in the savannas of Africa, a neon modern moive-plex in Shanghai, that old movie house on main street or a grand place on the Champs Élysées everyone forgets nations and boundaries and we become one in the dream.

The faces of the luminous, the ones who live in that silver nitrate dream have many names, Valentino, Harlow, Mitchum, Monroe, Brando, Taylor. In truth they are our avatars, Dream catchers and soothsayers, the vessels that tell our mythic tales of love to us and promise if not a happy ending, then the truly bittersweet legends of the lost.

These cinematic dreams have shaped our perception of what love is, sometimes it falls near reality but most of the time we prefer our dreams to lie to us, to be unattainable and effervescently unwise to peruse. Unrealistic expectations aside and hearts broken over them, we always come back to the dark, to the Cinema to try and capture at last the stuff that dreams are made of.

 

(100 YEARS AT THE MOVIES – A SHORT FILM BY CHUCK WORKAMN FOR TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES)

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When I smelled it for the very first time Cinema by Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Deneuve came at once to mind. Partly because I always remember her at his side at a retrospective of his work towards the end of his life, also because she was a muse to him, and mostly because she embodies my perception of the French Cinema Star.

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Cinema is a delicate Floral Oriental that plays with light on the skin as softly as a misty gauze filtered close-up plays across the screen. It is very refined and elegant but like Deneuve is on the screen; it is illusionary and just out of reach. This is not to say it is weak or watery, not at all. It is ethereal.  Aloofly beautiful it opens in blonde notes of sweet Clementine, and white almond blossom with a hint of honey rouge in the cyclamen. This flickers and fades into a sublimely subtle rose that finds the confident support of white peony and a flurry of windswept jasmine. The attention to refinement and lush expense is lavished here as it would be on the costume of a great star. The middle is really lovely and here is where it begins to blend with the skin as the vanilla comes up from the bottom notes. This vanilla is not heady and cloying but light and frothy.

All stars flicker and dye and for Cinema there is no escaping that the dry down comes too soon. Legendary star that it is, it lingers on and retains a memory of its former beauty with a little nip and tuck from the amber, musk and benzoin.

The longevity is moderate at about six hours (imagine sitting through a six hour film and that now seems not such a short time for a perfume). The silage is good in the first hour and then it moves in for its close-up and says there to capture the attention of anyone who is attentive.

The bottle presentation is breathtaking. A tall rectangular clear bottle topped with a simple square golden cap the juice is the color of the Palme d’Or of Cannes. And through the glass running in gold from bottom to top like rows of moving film is the name Yves Saint Laurent with CINEMA brazened across the front. It really looks like a star on the dressing table. With all this glamour going on can a man dare to wear Cinema, but of course he can. It would be a perfect fragrance for a elegant evening in a tux or for a late night dive along Mulholland Drive to a midnight supper with someone very special. Just like in the movies. Sounds kind of dreamy, doesn’t it?

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CINEMA BY YVES SAINT LAURENT ~ FOUR GOLD STARS **** 

LOVE STORY ~ Patchouli Imperial by Christian Dior

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On the docks of Marseilles in the time of the last king Louis Philippe there was told the story of the scandalous woman known as Olympe.   Her father was the proprietor of a spice shop near the center of town and as a young woman of 15 she often went to the docks with her father to meet the ships arriving from the East. Spice ships laden with every imaginable wonder from the Orient by way of Silk Road and the Red Sea routes to India.  The ships were also full of sailors.

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(Port of Marseilles)

   Olympe was not beautiful but she was tall and of a certain elegant carriage. She had little interest in boys let alone men at an age when her girlfriends were giddy with mere dreams of affairs of the heart. That all changed in an instant one August morning when a ship known as The Marie Thérèse docked at Marseilles. As her father was inspecting a shipment of coriander Olympe idly twirled her parasol made of Mysore sandal wood and Belgian lace and became fascinated by the play of light that threw dancing shadows across her face.  Something on deck flashed silver though the tiny holes in the lace parasol and she stopped twirling it. Slowly she tilted the parasol up to peek from under its brim. The silver braid on the epaulet of the right shoulder of the most beautiful captain’s uniform she had ever seen was twinkling in the morning sun. She looked up to the face above it. He was eating a mandarin orange from Sicily and as he bit into it the gold juice exploded in to his right eye. Olympe laughed too loud and the squinting captain turned with an angry grimace to see her. She covered her mouth with a gloved hand but could not stop laughing. That was when he smiled at her as he whipped his chin and tossed the now forgotten and ravaged orange overboard. The cedar gangway swayed as his impressive form sauntered down to the dock. He bowed and took her hand to kiss it. Olympe had just caught up with her girlfriends.  The Captain would teach her to surpass them on the road to scandal in ways she could never imagine.  She would remember always that that the first time he kissed her he smelled of a refined masculine Indonesian patchouli.

THE CAPITAN

After he deserted her, and his bastard baby died there was no reason to stay in Marseilles. Her father wouldn’t have her in the house and tore here heart when he called her a whore. In Paris her luck changed. She went to work for a dress maker Prudence Duvernoy who as it turned out was in the business of turning out courtesans. Olympe had the kind of look that was popular with the aristocratic young men who haunted the Opera and in no time at all she was in demand. She was famous for her charm and dry wit. She was always laughing, never sad and very busy. For a brief time her only rival for business was a young courtesan by the name of Marguerite Gautier.

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Only late at night when she was thankfully alone at last and no one could see her would she let down her guard. In the ritual of preparing for bed she would peel a mandarin orange form Sicily and eat it. Then sitting at her vanity with her hair tied up in a hundred cotton bows to tighten the curls she would dab on her wrist, behind her ears and on her décolletage the rarest Indonesian Patchouli bought at a very great and dear price. On occasion as she inhaled the alluring seductive fragrance one tear would slide though the powder on her cheek to her chin and twinkle in the candlelight for a moment before it fell.

cora-pearl

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From La Collection Privée by Dior comes the stunningly melancholy and hauntingly beautiful Patchouli Imperial. This elegant perfume was created by François Demachy who is the nose behind so many incredible perfumes, Colonia Intensa, Dior Homme, Fan di Fendi, The lion’s share of the Privée line to just scrape the tip top of his the perfume career.

This enticing elixir is captivatingly designed to work well on men and women and envelope the wearer in a vale of oriental splendor that shimmers and vibrates with only a few well chosen notes. It opens with the majesty of the great bell at Notre Dame deep and resonating Indonesian Patchouli leaf that dominates the perfume. Smaller simultaneous notes ring in of Sicilian mandarin orange, Calabrian bergamot, Sandalwood, coriander and cedar.  Blending together these wonderful notes play off of each other in the most complementary tones. It isn’t in any way symphonic and complicated like some great perfumes are but rather like chamber music for cathedral bells.

Patchouli Imperial wears so well and for a considerable time. I have had it on now for ten hours and it is yet to diminish in its blooming tendrils that like a tide move in and out and have been delighting me all day. It has a good projection too at about arms length for the first three to five hours and then moves in to be more personal at about ten inches.

Seductively inviting and not your grandparent’s patchouli of the 1960’s at all. There is so much more here in this refined and truly oriental patchouli than you would ever suspect if you only know the old hippie oils of the last century. There is a feeling I get when I wear it that it is as I mentioned, melancholy, not sad but more nostalgically romantic and filled with memories of first love before the world and fate stepped in to wake up the dreamer. 

o.18978

PATCHOULI IMPERIAL BY CHRISTIAN DIOR ~ FIVE PLATINUM STARS

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(PHOTOS OF 19TH CENTURY BRITISH BORN PARISIAN COURTESAN CORA PEARL)

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