IDENTIKIT ~ A FRAGRANCE TO DIE FOR! CHANEL No. 19 Parfum

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“It takes one day to die, another to be born…” Elizabeth Taylor reportedly said those words to her director Griffi when she came on the set the day after she left Richard Burton for their first divorce. So with that mindset she went to work on one of her most unusual, daring and controversial films. From the moment “The Diver’s Seat” begins you know you are in a strange place. In Europe the movie was called “Idendikit” so, with two names tagged to it thus making it schizophrenic from the first it easily falls into the realm of the ambiguous art film genre of the late 60’s and early 70’s. It’s star, Elizabeth Taylor, appears here in one of her most remote and dangerous roles. She plays Lise a woman who is consumed by insanity and the desire to find the ultimate lover, the be all and end all of boyfriends you might say.

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As the film opens you are presented with a shattered view of a woman on the edge of something terrible. The camera moves in a disjointed way, past naked mannequins heads covered in tin foil. Is this Lise’s view of others or is it a reflection of her inner life? Or possibly her future.  Upon being told to take a holiday from work after causing a scene in the office the film opens with her preparations to take flight to Rome. The film jump cuts from past to present as the police in Rome try to reconstruct the mystery of her holiday in terrorist gripped Rome. Even Rome comes off as off kilter. This is not the Rome of Audrey Hepburn or Marcello Mastroianni but a city one hardly recognizes from the lack of typical filming locations one associates with “Made In Rome!” movies.

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(Lise meets Andy Warhol at Fiumicino International Airport)

Director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi succeeds in presenting a inimitably Italian cinema verite film of the Muriel Spark novel. This is a unique film and very much of it’s day. Its non-linear, experimental, almost documentary style will be hard to get into for any one not used to movies of this sort. But it is well worth the effort. So strange and challenging a film it is that it left the opening night audience at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival in stunned silence.

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(with Ian Bannan)

The cast is well chosen and gives some oddly memorable performances. Ian Bannan as the macrobiotic sex-nut who tires to pick up Lise on the plane to Rome seems almost as mad as she is. It is a wickedly off kilter wild-eyed performance. The charming and always wonderful Mona Washbourne is sweetly touching as the woman who befriends the mad Lise and in doing so leads her to meet the man of her dreams.

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(with Mona Washborne)

But the glue that holds it all together is provided by Miss Taylor who tops off her short list of insane characters from Susanna Drake (Raintree County) to Catherine Holly (Suddenly Last Summer) with this daring and shocking portrait of Lise. She opens up as an actress that at the time would have been unthinkable to most of her contemporaries from the old M.G.M. days. That’s one of the wonderful things about her film career. She came from an era in old Hollywood where she was trained and groomed to be glossy and perfect. But as times changed so did she and in doing so became much more than an MGM glamour girl, she became an actress with guts. In “The Driver’s Seat” she shows her chops as an actress and her willingness to accept challenges in her roles and in Lise she found a great one. One stunning image of her is when in her loud madwoman dress and raccoon painted eyes she challenges the airport security to frisk her. In that scene she seems totally there, totally gone, and totally in control as an actress.

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***

Even the sweetest perfume has a hint of madness in it. That darkness must exist in a perfume or it has no chance of being complex or perhaps even a classic in time.

Perfume played a huge part in the theater which was Elizabeth Taylor’s life. A life lived before us all which unfolded in a flurry of purple and glittering diamonds in the center of the strobbing glare of paparazzi press for the last half of the twentieth Century. She was famous for wearing Bal a Versailles when she conquered not only Rome in 1962 but but also the denunciation of her by Pope John XXIII. Later in the 1980’s she created Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion and thus launched “Celebrity” Perfumes in to a realm yet untested.  Her perfume “White Diamonds” is still to this day one of the top sellers on the market.

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(Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol
at the 1974 screening of Identikit ~ The Driver’s Seat at Cannes)

It is interesting to ponder what perfume Elizabeth Taylor’s character Lise might have worn in the film “The Driver’s Seat”? Symbolism and nonverbal signals are an important aspect of her character, from her wardrobe, the way she applies her makeup and even the book she carries with her on her travels. Every visual aspect is covered in her quest. So, there must be a fragrance she employed to attract that which she seeks and in the end finds in the darkest part of the Borghese Gardens in the heart of Rome in the dead of night.

This fragrance must be green and full of life and promise and yet carry a dark heart and of the period, the early 1970’s.  For Lise it would be Chanel No. 19 Eau de Parfum (1970).  The last perfume made during Mademoiselle Chanel’s life, named for the date of her birth and a personal favorite of hers.

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It is known and loved as a superlative Green fragrance. It is in fact onion like in its layers upon layers of facets. Like enfiladed rooms opening one upon another leading to an unknown end. In fact, it is the marriage between the fresh crisp smell of grass and the opposing heavy indolic white flowers all wrapped up in a fine supple leather which only hints at its complex schizoid nature.  It is like slipping on a fine pair of white kid gloves be they for horseback riding in a French wood in spring or driving gloves for that mad getaway drive along the Amalfi coast in winter.  Both rides are just on the edge of losing control.

Then the darkness comes. It comes from the interior of that leather where deep under its folds you find nestled a dark dirty vetiver and a deadly serious oak moss. And deeper still below that there is the deeply sensual and frankly fleshy sex of Iris or perhaps full blown oris butter. Slipper smooth and intoxicatingly drenched over a softly sweet and green narcissus. The rose that lies in there near the heart is bleeding and barely alive encased in a coffin of sandalwood. And upon this coffin, is placed a wreath of lily of the valley and ylang-ylang. There under all that green rebirth in its beginning is the solemn promise that it will die.

No. 19  is in fact like Lise very beautiful and hides a complicated inner world of Belle vie et mort inéluctable. As Lise moved ever closer to her rendezvous in the dark gardens of her soul in the center of the eternal city she must have smelled the clean green of the grass and the bereavement in the decaying flowers where she lay down.

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One of the most wonderful aspects of No.19 is that anyone, man or woman can wear it. and at any age. It is timeless, ageless, classic and yet very modern.

CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE ~ CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22

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Red and white automobile lights glittered in the rain choked gutters, like discarded diamonds and rubies being swept into the parched sewers of the city.  Long into the morning the three globed very elegant Parisian streetlamps along Market Street shown in a warm glow of amber which added a ribbon of gold to the rubies and diamonds in the street. The rain danced in sheets across the wide road snatching dead sycamore leaves from the nearly barren trees to bring them down to earth.  The first rains of January were the best rains of the year. So all of San Francisco agreed and no one loved the gray skies and perpetual twilight of a rainstorm more than Matt Simmons.

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(Market Street ~ Artist  Hsin-Yao Tseng)

Wrapped in a long black Dior overcoat, with a white Pashmina scarf artfully arranged around his neck he made the dash across market at Stockton just as the yellow light turned red causing an Uber driver to swerve out of his path. The diver having just missed him peeled off toward “Twitterville” up at 10th in a shower of curses. Blithely unaware as the soundtrack of “Two For The Road” blasted through his earbuds he turned on to Eddy street. Diamond like raindrops sputtered from the ends of his Louis Vuitton Giboulées Umbrella. He felt filled with love for his city and radiated a joy for life that was infectious to almost everyone. This delight in life made him seem twenty years younger than fifty nine.

Seated at his favorite table in the warm cozy wood paneled old San Francisco glamour that was John’s Grill he ordered his usual, a Vesper martini.  He smilingly told Tommy  to make it three Vespers and that he would wait for his friends to arrive before ordering lunch.   Marie and Holly would be joining him for a fun run through the Union Square department stores on a perfume hunt. They usually met up about once a month to catch up, have lunch and go shopping. It was something to do on a Sunday.

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Tommy set the Vesper before him just as Matt noticed that there was beautiful piano music drifting down from the second floor.

“Live music in the afternoon Tommy? I thought that was only in the evenings. That wonderful Jazz I can’t get enough of.”

“We are trying it out on the weekends. You like it?”

“Lovely.”

Tommy vanished to the bar. As Matt sipped his cocktail he recognized the song. “Call Me Irresponsible” by‎ Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. Matt began to hum along.

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(Artist~ Seth Couture)

Just as the martini glass reached his lower lip for a second sip everything seemed to slow down around him. The glass wavered in his hand. He looked down at the swirl of lemon peel. His hand was shaking.

Had it really been only four years? Were there days now when he forgot to think of him? It was true, he didn’t think of him the first thing upon waking anymore. Matt set the martini on the white table cloth, took out his wallet and opened it. Richard’s movie star smile beamed up at him through worn and brittle plastic.   Eyes as blue as the skies over Paris and that noble nose that gave his face gravity as well as beauty.  Everything was still now only the rain outside and the piano playing.  He could hear Richard singing to him over the phone from Manhattan his broad baritone just as he used to on Sunday mornings.  His voice would come cross the Catskills and zoom effortlessly over the Great Plains. It soared over the Rockies, dipped low into the deserts of Nevada and finally climbed the over the steep shear eastern Sierra’s caressing a high note so effortlessly only to slip sweetly, softly into Matt’s waiting ear in San Francisco.

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“Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable
Throw in undependable too.”

Matt recalled the dream they shared of Richard moving to San Francisco, the promise to marry and build a mature life together. The dream that never came true

“Do my foolish alibis bore you?
Well, I’m not too clever; I just adore you.”

Richard’s last three voice mails still lived Matt’s on phone, the last one from the hospital where he died so suddenly and unexpectedly.

“Call me unpredictable, tell me I’m impractical
Rainbows I’m inclined to pursue.”

Richard’s photo glowed more beautifully than the golden streetlights on Market and it was more precious than any diamonds and rubies that were ensconced behind the rain spattered windows of Bvlgari and Cartier.

“Call me irresponsible; yes, I’m unreliable
But it’s undeniably true: I’m irresponsibly mad for you.”

Holly’s voice broke the spell. The lights brightened and the world sped up again. Marie was just behind her with a big smile.

“Sorry we are late. What a storm! It is coming down like the end of the world out there. How are you darling man?”

Matt slowly and gently closed his wallet and placed it in his coat pocket over his heart.

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 ( Hsin-Yao Tseng)

***

It is a perfume of lost love and rainy afternoons. Of missed trains to warmer climates and of melancholy cocktails in the twilight when everything turns lavender in the last moments of the day. It is a beauty that rivals its creators most famous creation. No.5.  Rumor has it that it was in the lineup for Coco Chanel to try when she chose No.5 to be her first perfume launch. If that is true it is no surprise for Chanel No.22 crated by Ernest Beaux released only a year after No.5, in 1922 is a more somber, romantic and even wistfully sad cousin to No.5.

Where No.5 is stunningly glamourous and breathtaking, No.22 is of a less obvious beauty. It has mystery a, blue dreamy sad mystery.

It opens with a gorgeous Aldehyde note that is less of a blast than you get in No.5. It is more like a breeze coming up from a damp garden after a rainstorm. In this breeze are carried the lovely floral note of Lily of the Valley and a fresh sharp Neroli. It is a dewy sun dappled and perfect opening to the beauty that is to follow.

Ylang ylang dominates the middle where it shimmers in all its golden glory supported by the famous Chanel jasmine, a subtle rich rose is denuded of its thorns and then there is the tuberose. This is not your grandmother’s screechy tuberose. Now that may surprise you being that this fragrance is from 1922 but in its reissue of 2007 by Jacques Polge it is a stubble touch of the tuberose that comes to lay close to the heart of the fragrance.

The bitter note that gives No.22 is melancholy is in the dry down where a crunchy dry vetiver marries with a creamy vanilla note. This is for me where the dance of the rising vetiver and the dying flower notes make this such a stunning fragrance. Sorrowfully dreamy and beautiful in its somewhat dramatic case of the blues, it likes feeling slightly tragic for after all it has lived in the shadows of No. 5 all these years.  Like that old Frank Sinatra song, No. 22 is “Glad To Be Unhappy.”

The longevity of No. 22 is very long, lasting on my skin a good 12 to 14 hours. The projection is not overpowering but at about a foot to eighteen inches. It is noticeable in tight quarters for sure but on the street it has a subtle grace about it. It is balsamic, aldehydic and powdery but not overtly so. It is a powdery scent for the faint of heart who shy away from the powder perfumes in general.  And as with almost all of the Les Exclusifs line No.22 works well on a man or a woman. If that man or woman is in the mood to be blue and sophisticated with an air of mystery about them.

CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22 ~ FIVE STARS *****

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WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS ~ Book Review “The Hotel on the Place Vendome”

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THIS BOOK WILL BE RELEASED IN MARCH 2014. 

(The only connection this has with perfume are in the Coco Chanel stories. You see, the book was so good I had to share it with you. This is a MUST read book for sure.)

An epic human drama that sweeps across the pages of history with might, misfortune and triumph, this is the story of “The Hotel on Place Vendome”.  The author Tilar J. Mazzio who wrote the endlessly fascinating, “The Secret of Chanel No.5” has created in this book about The Ritz Hotel in Paris a real page turner of a read. Sharply detailed, witty, brave, funny and tragic, it is a brilliant accomplishment.

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Everyone goes to the Ritz..

Like in the great World War II film, “Casablanca” everybody who is anybody in this true story goes to The Ritz. What happened in real life between the covers of this book surpasses anything of reel life that every came out of Hollywood in the golden age. Over the course of the story from the opening of the grand hotel to the end of the war a parade of unforgettable characters from Marcel Proust to Marlene Dietrich and everyone in between shows up to play out the most extraordinary drama.  The hotel staff, the permanent guests, the horizontal collaborators, the resistors, the conquerors, the liberators, the beautiful and the dammed, they are all here in these dazzling unforgettable pages.

The book opens with a cast of characters much like an old classic film from the thirties. Each is presented in a small capsule of words. Just enough is revealed to make the reader hungry for the story to begin. And begin it does with a cinematic sweep.

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“That was the day the Germans marched into Paris… I remember every detail, the Germans wore grey, you wore blue.”

With the arrival of the German Army and under Hitler’s order that “Paris remain happy and gay or else” the hotel stays open. The fear was that if they did not keep it going during the occupation it might be lost forever to its owners, the Ritz family. And in keeping it running over the course of the next five horrific years the hotel becomes a hub of French resistance, glittering parties, espionage, and horrific moments.

When Claire Booth Luce unbelieving that Paris was about to fall to the Nazis asked the hotel manager Claude Auzzelo: “How do you know the Germans are coming,” She said,

“Because Madame, they have reservations.”

The last night of freedom for the city is a stunning moment among many great moments in the book. Hemmingway, Arletty, Chanel, Picasso, operation Valkyrie, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hermann Göring and The Desert Rat, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel leap to vivid life on the page in one incredible story layered one upon the other.

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Chanel at the Ritz. Nazi spy or a heroine of the Resistance? 

I was amazed at the rich detail I found in this book. Tilar Mazzio in her research and interviews has unearthed a treasure of information about the hotel and its famed guests and fascinating employees. Research is not enough to make a great book. There has to be a great writer to tie the hundreds of story threads together and present them in a captivating way. Mazzio does this with great style, drama and timing. I just could not put the book down. Mazzio writes with such visual splendor and sweep that throughout my reading of it I kept thinking get this book to HBO. This is a mini-series crying out to be made.

“The Hotel on the Place Vendome” captures a time in history when the fate of Europe and the world itself hung in the balance between freedom and fascism. The seeds of modern Europe were planted in the Hotel Ritz and even though we know the outcome of World War II in fact, I was lost in the story and on the edge of my seat the entire time.

There comes the moment in the book when Major General Dietrich von Choltitz is sent the message from Hitler, “Is Paris Burning?”  I was chilled me to the bone at those words. What saved Paris? The answer is to be found in the Rue Cambon Bar at the Hotel Ritz and in this amazing and exciting book.

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“We’ll always have Paris.” 

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The hotel has its own scent. You can buy their perfume only in Pairs.

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Author of “The Hotel on the Place Vendome” and “The Secret of Chanel No.5” Tilar Mazzio

FALL FRAGRANCE FUN! ~ A Day With S.F. Sniff

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Saturday October 19th was the semi-annual meeting of the fragrant Facebook group known as SF Sniff. The day started off for me at 8:30 am at Café de la Presse where I met Hilary Randall for breakfast. Lovely Laura my new favorite waitperson at Café de la Presse (and in all of San Francisco in general) took great care of us. Café de la Presse is my morning hang out on weekends when I am downtown. With its authentic Parisian ambiance and the incredible magazine stand in its center it is like a slice of Paris with American waitpersons. They are so attentive bright and cheery at the Café and serve in double time the best breakfast in town. (The almond croissants are killer!)

I walked Hilary to work at Barney’s (we would see her later on) and then headed over to Fresh on Grant Avenue to meet up with the SF Sniff gang.

Our itinerary for the day was Fresh, Gump’s, Hermes, Diptyque, the Chanel Boutique then a break for lunch (a scrumptious ironic twist back to Café de la Press). After lunch we hit Neiman’s, and finished off with a real party at Barney’s where we ran into Mario Gomez and his partner and Mik of Mik Moi and his soon to be (this coming Monday) husband Jasper. We wound down the day at the fabulous food court at San Francisco Center. To my surprise everyone pulled out bags of samples and unwanted perfumes and there was a huge swap! Our feet may have been barking like dogs but our hearts were full of friendship, joy and the mutual love of great perfumes.

I got to meet some old fragrance acquaintances from SF Sniff and some new ones too including Sebastian Jara from Man Loves Cologne dot com. I have to thank our great leader of SF Sniff Tama Blough for organizing the event and being ever graceful and charming throughout our olfactory adventure. And we could not have had all that fun with out the glowing, welcoming participation of everyone at the stores we hit, including Hilary, Christina, Chase, and Sue at Barney’s as well as Irene, Rami, Suzetta and Fati at Neiman’s. And the wonderful folks at Diptyque were a highlight  And of course a very special shout out and tip of the hat to the entire team at Fresh who gave us not only tea and cookies but a spectacular beginning to our fragrant journey across the perfume palaces of San Francisco.

What follows is a photo essay of the epic ten and one half hour day.

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GRANT AVE. EARLY MORNING

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THE MANNEQUINS WORE PRADA

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THE DRAGON GATE ENTRANCE TO CHINATOWN

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MARATHON RUNNERS ON GRANT AVE.

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THE BEST PLACE TO GET FRENCH AND ITALIAN MAGAZINES

CAFE DE LA PRESSE

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THE ENGAGINGLY BEAUTIFUL HILARY

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MY FAVORITE MADEMOISELLE LAURA

FIRST STOP, FRESH!

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TAMA, TEA, AND COOKIES AND FABULOUS FRAGRANT FRIENDS!

WHAT COULD BE BETTER?

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IF I AM NOT MISTAKEN THIS IS TRISH FROM FRESH WHO WAS SO HELPFUL

AND INFORMATIVE ABOUT THE FRESH LINE.

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HERMES

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CHANEL

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ALEXANDER SAMPLES DIPTYQUE, SEBASTIAN FELL IN LOVE WITH VOLUTES.

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A PEEK AT BULGARI! ON THE WAY TO NEIMAN’S a9o

THE DOORS WERE WIDE OPEN FOR US AT DIOR.

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SMELLING THE ATKINSONS LINE AT BARNEY’S NEW YORK.

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THE SWAP!

IN THE END WE ALL GOT TO GRAB SOMETHING WONDERFUL.

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PHOTO STOLEN FROM B.B. BAIRD (FORGIVE ME SWEETIE?)

Sebastian Jara’s blog Man Loves Cologne:  http://www.manlovescologne.com/

Sebastian’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZZFHNMNvhKOefgISblmxuw

NO.5 ~ Chanel No.5

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1920***

Martine Belfort, nearly asleep as she soaked in her tub, barely opened one eye at the offensive jangling urgency of the contraption on her vanity. Why she ever had installed a telephone in her bathroom escaped her for the moment.

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“Juju hold it up to my ear.”

The maid did as she was told.

“Allo? Allo Martine are you there?”  It was Cecile Duvall her dearest source of gossip and most distrusted friend.

“Cecile? Are you back in Paris already?  I thought you were in Cannes?”

“I am ma chère but I simply had to call you at once. The most amazing thing happened tonight at dinner.”

Martine closed her eyes and sank to her chin in the tub and nodded to Juju to turn on the hot tap to warm her up.

“Oh do tell, who is your infatuation this time, a duke or some American millionaire?”

“It is Coco Chanel!”

Martine shot up in the tub both eyes wide open. “You are having an affair with Chanel?”

“No no! Silly pet, I have news about her.”

“Oh I never liked that woman! What happened? Did she stay out in the sun too long and burned to a crisp?  Is she dead?”

“No, nothing like that my goodness what an imagination you have Martine. She was dining in the same restaurant as I tonight and I kept noticing a commotion at her table. People going over and bumping about and hovering over her, well, there seemed such a lot of excitement. Soon the entire restaurant was abuzz.”

“A buzz about what Cecile, get to the point.”

“Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer and I went over and said hello. You know to sniff around and see what on earth could be so fascinating.  Coco gave me a cool smile. She knows we are friends you and I and well, she was very cool but cordial. I kissed her cheek and then it happened.”

Mon dieu! What? What happened?”

“She must have spilled a whole bottle of perfume on the table cloth, and herself as well.”

“Common as dirt, that woman?”

“No Martine you don’t understand, she smelled amazing, and unlike anything I have ever smelled. It was so, so… SEXY! I was about to ask her what it was when the Grand Duchess Zina Vladimirovich and a few other Russian ladies interrupted me to ask her the exact same question.”

Martine looked over at her vanity packed with Patou, Guerlain Caron and Coty.

“Coco said it was just something she found in Grasse and that she couldn’t remember exactly where. Then she asked us did we like it? Did we think she should try and get more? Then suddenly it all clicked in my head. She is launching a perfume. It was a set up. She had perfumed the table like a trap. And my dear it worked, we all fell into it. I simply have to have it. Nothing else smells like it. Nothing!”

“Don’t be ridiculous Cecile, I doubt very much that Mademoiselle Chanel would dare to go up against all those big men and there giant perfume houses. And if she does she will be ruined.” She nearly snorted, “I for one would never wear it.


1921***

Martine Belfort had only one bottle of perfume on her vanity. Chanel No.5. All the smart women of Paris agreed that nothing other than No.5 would do.

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1920 FLAPPER BY B.J.MOON

 1945***

Sergeant Beau Henson stood for a very long time on the sidewalk at East Mountain Street looking up at the handsome Spanish revival house where she lived. This beautiful peaceful street in Glendale California was a million miles away from the horrors of Remagen and the battle where he lost his best buddy Jack Markgraf.  A soft breeze ruffled his hair and reminded him to put his cap back on. He was in full uniform and befitted his duty to his friend.

Marjorie Markgraf answered the door she was wearing a sundress and her hair was the color of corn silk. She looked much younger than twenty six.  She invited him in as if she had known him for years. They had Iced Tea and talked for a long time about Jack, and what he was like before the war. Marjorie asked Beau about his life and if he was married. She was sitting on the chair he knew had been Jacks favorite. In war you learn everything about your buddies’ lives back home down to who they first kissed, their favorite radio show to the name of their dog. Finally Marjorie asked how it happened and if Beau was with him. He told her the best lie he could. That Jack didn’t suffer. Then he told her a bit of the truth, that he was with him when he died.

“When we were in Pairs in 44’ there was just one thing he had to do. He had to get this for you.”

He took a little travel worn package out of his pocket and handed it to her.

“Jack said you always talked about going to Paris together someday and buying a bottle. We stood together in the rain all day in a line of G.I.s on the Rue Cambon so he could buy it and bring it home as a surprise. I saved it for you….”

Marjorie carefully opened the package; it was the first time she cried since the day the letter came from the Army telling her Jack would not come home.

She never opened the bottle but kept it next to Jack’s photograph on her vanity.

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1962***

It was there on her dresser, all alone and forgotten. There in that naked bedroom with no paintings on the walls, just an unmade bed, some shoe boxes and purses stacked by the door and a phone off the hook on the carpet by the bed.

Some happier years before back on Doheny Drive she said it was all she slept in and there were those photographs to prove it. She wrapped sensuously in sheets with the bottle on the nightstand each adding heat to the legend of the other.

Now she was cold and wrapped in a blanked in the back of an ambulance. The bottle of Chanel No.5 sitting on her dresser would be tossed out or possibly snatched as souvenir buy some policeman and taken home to his wife. In any case it was there, on the dresser when she died.

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2013***

“Chanel No.5… I don’t get it.”  Jackie Belfort said to her girlfriend as she reached for the tester of Coco Mademoiselle at the Macy’s perfume counter inspected it and then handed it to her friend Tiffany Markgraf.

“It smells ‘Old Lady’” she said. “I just don’t see what the big deal is. So what if Marilyn Monroe wore it.”

“I know” said Tiffany, “It smells soapy, just like Palmolive! Ewww!”  She put down the bottle of Coco Mademoiselle and picked up a bottle of No.5.

Jackie grabbed the No.5 from Tiffany and fingered the beveled edge. “It is a pretty bottle…..My great Grandmother wore it all the time. She said she even bought the first bottle when it came out. She said she was best friends with Coco Chanel. Can you imagine?”

“No kidding? How funny, my granny had a bottle next to a picture of my grandpa. But she never wore it. I can understand why. Not even Brad Pitt could get me to wear it.”  She spritzed a generous spray onto the Chanel tester paper.  “Ugh… Old Lady is right.”

“Oh My God, Tiffany have you smelled Miss Dior Cherie? Yummy!”   She snapped her bubble gum.

“Oh My God! It is so sweet and fruity!  I just love sweet and fruity, don’t you? And it has POPCORN too! Have you tried that new Jessica Simpson perfume?”

Oh My God, No! Let’s go to Saphora and find it!

As soon as they were gone the woman behind the counter who wasn’t much older than Jackie and Tiffany turned to the woman next to her.

“Barbarians.”

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The old lady is a survivor and for good reason. She is a classic for the ages and one that is often misunderstood by those who have no sense of history or what real perfume means and smells like. It may even be that she is for some an acquired taste like avocados or escargot. In other words some people have to grow up to grow into it. By that I don’t mean that it has anything to do with how old you are, on the contrary there are those who love this perfume from a very early age. I think it has to do more with where your nose is in its journey thought the worlds of Perfume.

What ever the case may be for you and Chanel No.5, love it or hate it, the perfume is something to be admired for its place in the history of perfume, for the woman who commissioned its creation and for the man Ernest Beaux who created it.

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 Of course it is all about the Aldehydes in the opening. This is the popping of the cork of the Dom Perignon of Aldehydes. It is fizzing white and glorious as it catapults the cork of Neroli, ylang ylang, lemon and bergamot across the room to ricochet off the walls and unleash the legendary florals at its heart.

In the heart notes the three floral sisters of Iris, lily of the valley, and rose are the frame for the most famous jasmine in the world. The star of the show, the Grasse jasmine picked at dawn just for Chanel.  A luxurious and earthy orris root brings a dark and sexy touch to the center notes in No.5, This is pure adult glamour that speaks in soft full tones of elegance and pure sophisticated style and grace.  The dry down is a creative and brilliant blending of Oakmoss, sandalwood, amber rich and glowing in the late stages. Also a very Parisian bit of sexy skank comes to play in the form of Civet. I always love a bit of animalic frolic in my florals. It keeps it real for me. Real in the sense of the classic French perfumes of the past and that a little naughty makes a good time even better. There is a touch of patchouli, musk, vanilla and vetiver down here too but the major factor is how the Civet plays with the Oakmoss, amber and the fading glory of the florals. It is really spectacular and I can see when I compare it from opening to fade-out to other perfumes that survive in some form from before 1921 how revolutionary and special Chanel No.5 was and still is.

The women, the “Old Ladies” if you will, who first wore it, were the most exciting and free generation of women in two thousand years. They sent their beau’s off to die in the trenches of the Great War. Those in America of the 48 states and in Great Britain won the vote.  With the help of Chanel they cut their hair and threw away the corsets, rolled down their stockings and raised their skirts to scandalous heights. They smoked and drank with the men, danced shocking dances like the Black Bottom, the Shimmy Shake and the Tango. They went to work and left the home in ways and numbers they never had before. They kept their families together and going forward thought the Great Depression and then sent their husbands and sons to die in World War II. They were the foundation of womanhood for the 20th Century and the mothers of feminism. Those were the women who first wore Chanel No.5 and made it a legend.

There are women I know who tell me that Chanel No.5 is the only perfume they can wear. And when you come to know and understand the complexity and brilliance of No.5 it is easy to understand that statement. It is also a perfume I grew up smelling on the women in my family. When I smell it today I don’t see the old women they have become but the beautiful young women they were and always will be in my heart.

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 CHANEL NO.5 FIVE PLATINUM STARS *****

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

BIRTHDAYS AND CHANEL

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My friend Armin sent me this lovely Chanel No.5 for my birthday today. Thank you Armin, and Vickie Lester (for dedicating her blog to me today) Today was the best birthday I have had in years. I spent it with my friends at work whom I truly treasure.  Oh yes, and I wore Chanel Antaeus today.  Antaeus was created by the great Jacques Polge for Chanel in 1981. Notes are lemon, lime, coriander, myrtle, clary sage, and bergamot. The heart is composed of thyme, basil, rose and jasmine, while the base of patchouli, castoreum, labdanum, and oak moss.  Full review to come soon.

BIRTHDAYS WITH THE ONES YOU LOVE ~ FIVE PLATINUM STARS *****

LACERAZIONI ! ~ Chanel Cristalle

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How do you escape the noise, pressure and the maddening crowds of a city? It is something we all can do; all you need is a park and the sky. Lying on the soft grass on your back looking up at the sky is an instant escape. Everything sinks into the earth beneath the soft damp grass you are lying on. Work, time, pressure, anger, frustration, worry, they all slide away as you seem to levitate toward the sky. The one thing that doesn’t slide way is your sense of smell.

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My friend and fellow blogger Roberto Alborghetti is a wonderful artist. When I became enamored of his new collages entitled Lacerazioni “lacer / actions” I got to know him over time. Roberto creates his amazing collages from decomposing publicity posters and city signs. It is really amazing to see because there is not a trace of the source material in the finished pieces and you would never guess where they originated. He photographs details of posters and street signs and then transfers them to canvas, and video, and even to silk scarves. He is a renowned Journalist in Italy as well as the author of over 30 books and a television producer. But it is obvious from his passion about his collage work that this is where is heart resides, in his wonderful art. He is currently having a show of his work at Aldobrandesca fortress in Piancastaganio, Siena Tuscany.

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(Italian Artist Roberto Alborghetti)

Roberto came to me with a challenge recently. Was it possible to find inspiration in one of his paintings that could lead to comparison to a particular perfume? Could I unlock the connection between visual and sensual? That was indeed at first a baffling idea to me, so I accepted the challenge.  It took months of looking at the painting once a day and smelling a different scent in conjunction with the visual. Each attempt lead to zero, nothing clicked and I was beginning to think the task was an impossible one.

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(The Collage Challenge)

In Thursday’s mail I received a bottle of perfume I had been looking for and waiting to try for many months. Filled with that anticipation we who love perfume all share, I opened the box and tested the perfume on my arm. Instantly I understood what had been missing in my quest for the perfect scent to go along with Roberto’s painting. Chanel Cristalle Eau De Parfum entered my senses and opened my eyes with a fresh point of view about the painting.

 chanel cristalle

I was transported to the Villa Borghese, the wonderful and enchanted park in the center of Rome. The smell of the earth moist after a May rain shower meets the nostrils with a primal pungent primavera punch.  Flowers washed clean in the rain add to the aroma as you look up look up into the same sky in which Michelangelo must have envisioned God creating Adam amongst the clouds. There is a deep rich smell of bark in the background, the unmistakable smell of a city park. This is what I saw when I looked into the painting by Roberto as I was entranced by Chanel’s Cristalle’s very deep green and floral Chypre notes. I was lying on my back looking up at the most beautiful sky in the world.

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Cristalle opens brightly through the sun dappled leaves of the trees with a superb blending of exotic Mandarin, with hardy warm Sicilian Lemons. These are perfect Mediterranean citrus notes.  There is a little juicy peach in the back of the park warm and fuzzy in the sun adding a bright lush taste, up front at the entrance to the park Lilly of the Valley and bergamot join in right. It is going to be lovely here in the Villa Borghese.

 

In the middle notes just far enough into the park that the city sounds fade with the there is the “Chanel” Jasmine, like no other jasmine in the world it enfolds you in pure delight like the laughter of a beautiful woman in the dark. Rich earthy Iris adds a note of dangerous glamour and reminds you to dig your fingers into the moist richness of this experience. Hyacinth and Rosewood are found in this part of the urban forest and only enhance and deepen the sensuality of this fragrance.

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At sundown near the edge of the park the base notes of green woody vetiver and oak moss enhance the beauty of your visit to this place where the sky meets the city and there is escape for anyone seeking it.

Cristalle is marketed as a female perfume yet it is not at all overwhelmingly feminine. I would categorize it as a very bold uni-sex scent. Longevity is good and the silage respectable.

 

So at last I found the scent that met the challenge, at least for me. I am sure when you look at the painting or any of the works by Roberto Alborghetti you might find a special scent in your perfume wardrobe that it inspires.

 

To learn more about Roberto and his magnificent art please visit his blog: http://robertoalborghetti.wordpress.com/

 

ROBERTO ALBORGHETTI’S ART Five Platinum Stars *****

Chanel Cristalle Five Gold Stars *****

MY FAVORITE BLEU JEANS ~ Bleu de Chanel

This is what I call my Chanel for Bleu Jeans fragrance and I will tell you why.  There have been quite a few reviews around Fragrance town decrying Bleu de Chanel as being  disappointing. Not up to the standards of pervious Chanel scents. So this is my  experience with the fragrance.

While shopping a month or so back for a  new Chanel I picked up Egoiste Platinum and while I was looking at the various Chanels for men to expand my  horizons and add to my one and only Pour Monsieur the salesperson asked if she  could spay some Bleu on a card for me. I said sure, why not? I could take in  maybe one more sniff before my nose closed up shop. Well, that one little sniff  blew my Bleu socks off! I almost bought it on the spot but had already set my  shopping limit for the month. So I filed my Bleu card away for a future  purchase.

Last Saturday it was so incredibly beautiful here in San  Francisco and on a gorgeous day lots of San Franciscan naturally hightail it for  our magnificent shopping district around Union Square. I was moved by sun and  blue skies to visit our Chanel Boutique. I dressed for the occasion since I am  old fashioned and think one should never leave the house on a shopping  expedition looking less than smashing. Black Jeans, black cashmere turtle neck,  black spit shined loafers, chunky steel bracelet, a not so chunky yet stylish  gunmetal watch and a pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers. One quick check in the mirror  and I set off for my adventure.

(CHANEL MEN’S WEAR)

I was in and out of Chanel so fast that  the door on Maiden Lane didn’t have a chance to close. Then I popped over to  have a light lunch at the Sir Francis Drake and following that headed home to  un-box my little treasure. I really got a kick out of the bottle, a kind of film  noir blue black moderne take on the No.5 bottle design with a really nifty cap  that is magnetized so that it clicks back on in the same position with the  locked double C’s always facing front perfectly. A nice touch don’t you think? I  sprayed my wrist and sniffed…. Hum? Then I sprayed my collar bone. “That’s odd,  it’s kind of….hum?” I thought. And a final spritz behind my ears.

(BRAD KROENIG AND HIS SON HUDSON)

It was  not at all what it had seemed in the store the month before. What had happened? Where was that oh my god sensation? It was nice, it was interesting, and it was  perfectly fine. But something was missing. As the day wore on I discovered it  has some wonderful aspects about it. I love how the incense, ginger and peeper  all work together and it lasted on me a reasonable 5 to 6 hours. Yet still I was  vaguely disappointed. During the week at work it drew rave reviews. And that  puzzled me. THEY loved it; they wanted to know What it was that made it so  unique and exciting. Why did they find it so wonderful and I found it to be just …fine? To me it wasn’t the magic Chanel we all dream of, what we hope to find in  each new Chanel offering. It was just dare I say it, a work-a-day  Chanel.

(ANNA WINTUR SMILES!)

Then it hit me. It smelled just the same as it had in the store;  the only thing that had changed was me. I had been obsessing over that smell for  over a month, and in that time I had turned that sense memory of Bleu into  something it could not live up to. No perfume could. I had let the aura and  history of “Chanel” out Chanel the Chanel! It was fine and I liked it just fine,  and that is fine. Not every Chanel or any other perfume house can hit it out of  the park each time. But what Chanel did with Bleu de Chanel was make a good  everyday perfume. Something nice to throw on when you feel like being casual and  elegant around your frayed edges, like a pair of comfortable blue jeans. They  fit well and you know exactly what to expect from them, and they are classics in  their own way. So that is why I call my Bleu de Chanel my Chanel for blue jeans.

(MOVIE STAR GILBERT ROLAND 1929 AND MY BOTTLE OF BLEU)

Four Gold Stars. ****

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