A GLITTERING RIBBON OF CELLULOID ~ “You Or Someone Like You” Fragrance Review

When the light hits just right at sunset, Hollywood Boulevard looks like a 70mm strip of celluloid unspooling with memories of the Golden Age of the movies. As dawn breaks in the high bleak valley between the distant eastern peaks of Mt. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio the rays of the Sun race westward toward the Pacific.  About seventeen miles before the sea the morning sun slams into the ivory top of the Deco step pyramid that caps Los Angeles City Hall. In its faded splendor at first light the old building that cradled that famous last shot in Mildred Pierce eclipses the modern Manhattanized towers that surround it. By noon when the summer sun is baking the City from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica beach the City Of Dreams is more alive, more exciting, more dangerous than any femme fatale that every walked the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Los Angeles is a city of hidden treasures. A city that only shares its veiled beauty to those who take the time to look past her endless prairie of post war tract houses. The very prairie which at midnight from the top of Mulholland Drive becomes a jewel box of lights more spectacular today than they were when James Mason told Judy Garland that all of the city below was hers when her star was born.

It is the city where I was born under the shadow of the walls of M.G.M. The city that gave me my first taste of life in the false lush simi tropical green that would be gone in one summer were it not for the water it syphons from the north. The Los Angeles of my infancy the major exports were Airplanes, Oranges, and Movies. As a child, my grandmother would take me to Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A. and there in a fake redwood forest I would eat strawberry Jell-O with wiped cream wrapped in a day dream of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees. There were trips to the Alligator Farm in Buena Park, to the Huntington Gardens, the L.A. County Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits which have bubbled there for hundreds of thousands of years. Who knows how many Saber Tooth Tigers lay entombed in its sticky goo?  Then most wonderful of all, were the high walled movie studios full of secrets and the old movie palaces that lined Hollywood Boulevard filled with escape.

Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon I would go to the movies. They were my textbook of life. They taught me all about history, religion, and love, Hollywood style. Everything a kid in L.A. needed or wanted to know. To me Andrew Jackson was Charlton Heston, David and Bathsheba were Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. Marylin Monroe was cotton candy and lipstick glamour yet somehow sad around the edges.  And Elizabeth Taylor? Well, she was not only the Queen of Egypt but Queen of Everything. In the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater I would wander among the hands and footprints of my personal Gods and Goddesses. At ten my hands fit into Shirley Temple’s hand prints. By twenty they fit perfectly with Clark Gable.

As I grew older and began to explore Los Angeles on my own I began to put my Movie star fueled ideas of the world into perspective without losing the dreams.  This is when I began to realize that the Spanish words and world that Los Angles grew out of were so very important to the fabric of the city. A major part of what made it so magical. Real History.  Then there was the architecture. I began to see the beauty of the unique way in which Los Angles embraces the architecture of the world. The revelation was clear, all of Los Angles is one mega backlot. You can find the walls of Babylon at the old Firestone Tire Company. In Beverly Hills, Italian Villas snuggle up next to Elizabethan country homes. The Japanese gardens in San Marino.  Hong Kong re-imagined in Chinatown butts up next to the glorious Spanish Revival cathedral that is Union Station. All at once in one epic sprawl, all of it is tacky, beautiful, insane, and wonderful. Knit together with freeways and festooned with imported Royal Palms. A city like no other on earth. The city where the past is tomorrow.

I have not lived in Los Angeles for a very long time. I miss it often and sometimes I will pop an old movie into my DVR that will take me back to different times in its history from the 1920’s to today. Some of the images I see of the city tug at my heart and whisper to me “come home. The dream is still here.”  That opening shot in “Strangers When We Meet.” In particular, reminds me of my childhood. But something is always missing in my movie visit to Los Angeles. The smell of the place in summer.  It was the most unlikely mix of smells that could make up a memory, but it is none the less one of the strongest and dearest memories I have of the place. In the summer, the scent covers the city in a loving embrace. The smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, white flowers, and Max Factor red roses caresses by the hint of a Santa Ana wind from the north. Burning Eucalyptus leaves and sharp Italian cedar. Wet freshly mown grass.  And everywhere the smell of entire Orange trees from the blossoms to the waxy leaves.  This is complemented by the slight burning of carbon monoxide and dangles in the smog, and the clear clean nearly antiseptic sent of chlorine from a million swimming pools.

It is the smell that takes me home.

*******

The new fragrance by Etat Libre d’Orange was inspired by a novel by Chandler Burr and in fact shares the name of the book. “You Or Someone Like You.” The fragrance came into being when Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre d’Orange read the novel and called Chandler Burr to ask if he could make a perfume based on the book he had so loved. He wanted to base the perfume on the setting, Los Angles, and the narrator Anne Rosenbaum wife of a powerful Hollywood film executive. The story revolves around her resulting transformation when she is asked to create a reading list for the head of a studio. That leads to an unexpected interest from screenwriters, agents, and producers around town. A Hollywood book club is formed where Anne blooms in the process. Then when a religious crisis in her husband’s life occurs when their son journeys to Israel , Anne is challenged to save her marriage.

(CHANDLER BURR)

For Chandler Burr who not only wrote the novel but was also the New York Times fragrance critic and author of “The Perfect Scent” and “The Emperor of Scent” this was both a challenge and very exciting. Over the course of the creation of the scent it became tremendous learning experience for him.  The experience was so profound he has noted that he feels that he should have made a fragrance before becoming the critic for the New York Times. For the creation of the scent Chandler as creative director for the Eau de Parfum teamed up with perfumer Caroline Sabas and together they came up with “You Or Someone Like You.”

For me this is an extremely emotional fragrance, moving and nostalgic. Chandler Burr says it is not Los Angeles stuffed in a bottle but to me, it is like coming home to my long-abandoned home town.  It carries all and more that I wrote about above in the memories and feelings this fragrance brought up for me. It inspires me to dream of spring and summer in the city of angles. A spring that comes in February and a summer that ends in November. It is a uni-sex fragrance that carries in it the DNA of classic citrus colognes of the past. Yet like the city of Los Angeles it is layered with facades of modernity over a historical base.  There is in “You Or Someone Like You.” Elements of the sage brush of this Hollywood hills baking in the heat, of tropical flowers and swimming pools, high above the exhaust clouds of the 405 freeway. Peeling eucalyptus bark and dyeing orange blossoms and the wonderful scent of night blooming jasmine. All it comes together in “You Or Someone Like You” in a bright opening. It carries and holds for me this feeling, this L.A. sensation all the way through the fragrance to the end. Yet it does evolve as it goes along from the “morning” of the fragrance all the way through to the “evening” and finally into a “magic hour” drydown. It swirls, rises, and falls in intensity only to rise again on my skin.  I found this aspect of the fragrance to be delightful.

For those to whom such things matter about a fragrance, it projects at about six inches, the sillage is soft. The longevity is substantial, being that is an eau de parfum over an eau de toilette it lasted on my skin nearly to eighteen hours. And even then, the next morning there were faint traces of it.  It wears best for most in spring and summer, but I’m sure that I shall be visiting “You Or Someone Like You” in fall and winter for a brief trip to my past, to the land of the lotus eaters, the place where dreams are manufactured and Hollywood Boulevard at sunset looks like a glittering ribbon of celluloid.

(CHANDLER BURR TALKS ABOUT THE FRAGRANCE)

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OVER THE TOP ORGY IN ROME! (Movie Memory)

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Che bella citta Roma! Vincent Minnelli’s “Two Weeks In Another Town” is pure glamour, trash, camp and Hollywood glitz. In other words it is great fun. Don’t go into it expecting anything more than over the top soap opera with the suds on overflow and you won’t be disappointed.

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Rome takes center stage in the film and is shown in all its “La Dolce Vita” glory of 1962. So much was happening there at this time. The birth of the paparazzi, the filming of “Cleopatra” and the international “Jet Set” had just landed in Rome to make it the fun capital of the world. The film captures all of this with high gloss and a tip of the fedora to Fellini who had first shown a light on the goings on along the Via Veneto a few years earlier.

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Kirk Douglas plays a down and out movie star just released from a mental institution / rehab center when he is invited to fly to Rome by his old director and ex friend Edward G. Robinson to take a small comeback part in his epic being filmed at the famed Cinecitta Studios. Well I don’t want to spoil the fun so all I will say is that there are plenty of gorgeous Italians running amok and lots of fabulous jewels bedecking Cyd Charisse. Tons of locations throughout the Eternal City and even an orgy! But the highlight of the film is the climactic scenic drive through the streets of Rome that Douglas takes Miss Charisse on after the orgy. That drive has to be seen to be believed! Words fail me at the sheer joy of this over wrought fun fest.

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Trust me, it isn’t anywhere near the brilliance of “The Bad and The Beautiful” of which it is a kind of follow up on, But it is beautifully bad in the very best way.
The DVD says remastered. But don’t expect Blu-ray quality, it is fine nothing spectacular in it’s re-mastering. But the color is good and the picture is clear.

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All those jewels and great gowns on Miss Charisse lead me to wonder what perfume her character would have worn? Well, it has to be nothing less than, Caleche Parfum by Hermes, a heady floral aldeyhyde with seductive notes of Iris, Gardenia, Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Sandalwood and Amber. Those are just the notes that stand out to me. A lush, even cinematicly dramatic fragrance that is perfect of a night of abandon in Rome.

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BUONA SERA E BENVENUTI A BARNEYS! ~ Acqua di Parma Launch at Barney’s

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Last Thursday night I co-hosted the launch of Acqua di Parma at Barney’s NY here in San Francisco. I was invited by Michael Rogers the rep for the line at the exclusive department store to help set up the event and introduce him and the line to the Barney’s customers.

Here is what I had to say about the Acqua di Parma that night.

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As far back as I can recall I have found a fascination with the lands that are kissed by the salty waves of the Mediterranean. The golden glamour of Egypt, the mystery that is Marrakesh, the fallen heroes of Hellas, and the place where God met man in so many different languages, but of all these lands one claimed my heart when I was very young. There in the middle sea stretching down from Europe toward Africa like an exquisite Ferragamo boot is Italy.

In dark Cinemascope dreams, painted in lush strokes of Technicolor….as a little boy in the front row of the Fox Theater I found the map to my heart’s home. It was the 1950’s and after the horrors of World War II Hollywood went on location and in so doing took me and the rest of America on a grand tour. “Roman Holiday” made a Vespa ride through the eternal city the hart of bitter sweet romantic possibilities.  “Summertime” gave us Venice as we had never dreamed it could be, at any age.  De Sica showed us “The Gold of Naples”,

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Luchino Visconti swept across a Sicily now gone with the wind in “The Leopard” and Fellini gave us “8 ½” thousand ways to  re-imagine our dreams, It all happened in the darkness of that old theater. A darkness that to me was brighter than sunflowers in Tuscany and as fragrant as Parma violets.

 

In the midst of this boom of movie making in Italy the imported Hollywood stars I was watching on the screen, like Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner

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and David Niven discovered the Perfume house of Acqua di Parma. They fell in love with unique beauty of the fragrance first created in 1916, Aqua di Parma Colonia.

 

Think of it, 98 years ago. Hemmingway was driving an ambulance in the Alps, Paris was the last stop before Hell and the world was fighting for inches in trenches in the Great War to end all wars. Out of that terrible time came this beautiful fragrance and many more to follow.

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It survived World War I, this cologne fist created to scent newly sewn Italian suits and men’s handkerchiefs. The great depression didn’t diminish its beauty. And then it was liberated by the Allies on April 25, 1945 to a new world with a new look of glamour and sophistication. It became so interconnected with Old Hollywood that to this day it carries a cache of chic not many other houses can match. In one very real sense Acqua di Parma is Hollywood on the Tiber in a bottle.

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But it is much more than that to me. It is the smells of Italy. In each bottle from the Colonia of 1916 to the newest of the Blu Mediterranio it is there. The leather scented air of Florence, the Lemoncello nights of Positano. It is there in that little deco bottle. From the twisted juniper trees on high Sardinian cliffs to the rich gourmand blend of pasta and wine that is Rome. It is there.

 

When I finally made my way to Rome, to see it for myself, to be immersed in my own dream, and to wake every morning and realize it was better than any movie, it was real.  I smelled the trampled earth of the Circus Maximus after the rain, and a smoky incense swirl that meets the air when a church door opens, the flowers cut fresh at the foot of Giordano Bruno in the Campo di Fiori, and the shimmery slippery wet cobblestones of the via del Corso. Italy is fragrance, it is perfumed by history. These smells are the essence of Italy and as I breathed them in I knew at once that I had come home at last.  Now it is your turn to find your story in the bottle, your turn to smell Italy and become a part of the dream.

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***

 

We had a nice turnout and everyone enjoyed Michael’s presentation of all of the fragrances of the line. He was so engaging and entertaining. I was so impressed by the time and effort he put in to the presentation. The table was beautiful and there were even samples of the ingredients for everyone to smell. Every aspect of Acqua di Parma is hand made. Even the beautiful boxes the fragrance come in. Of particular interest were the new Leather and Oud fragrances. At the end of the event every guest received a goodie bag packed with samples to try out at there leisure.

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(Michael Rogers of Acqua di Parma)

 It was so much fun to be a part of this wonderful launch and I want to thank Michael and Christina and the entire fragrance department staff who are always hospitable and wonderful. And welcome to Barney’s Acqua di Parma!

 

If you are in the San Francisco area, do drop by Barney’s and say hello, smell some incredible fragrances and tell them I sent you.

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Barney’s NY San Francisco

77 O’Farrell Street

(415) 268-3500

A NEW LIFE ~ 21 Bonaparte by Vicky Tiel

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Diana Vreeland looked across the luncheon table at her and put it quite plainly: “My dear at your age and with a face like yours you simply cannot be a smug Mademoiselle.”

Vivien Van Volkenburg looked up from her Chanel compact and smiled. “Diana what a thing to say!”  she snapped the compact shut.

“It is not that you aren’t beautiful, it is that you are to smart to stay here in Manhattan. You simply must go to Paris. For a newly minted divorcee like you Paris is essential, like caviar or oxygen. You simply must have it to live! And while you are there it is vital, VITAL that you have a love affair.”

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Screaming horns and screeching tires brought Vivien back to the present. She opened her eyes and looked out the window at the gushing fountains of the Place de la Concord as the taxi that carried her whizzed past in a glittering shower of December rain. The mixture of the ozone from the rain and the heady fumes from the cars and taxis cutting across the Place to turn up the Champs Élysées made her delightfully dizzy. Her taxi did not turn with the others onto that famous boulevard but lurched forward toward the Seine and the 6th arrondissement. She wiped the steamy window just in time to see the Christmas lights strung for a good mile in the trees all the way to the Arch de Triomphe.

“When you get there you simply must make a Bee line to this perfectly charming boutique on the left bank. Forget Dior and Coco’s little shop behind the Ritz. This is the place for you. You have the body and the look that was made for wearing Tiel.”

“Teal is not a good color on me Diana”

Diana tilted her head upon her great swanlike neck and vermillion red lips parted in a smile. “It is not a color, it is a person.”

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Just before the Pont de la Concord the taxi driver made a hard left just missing the front fender of an on coming bus and sending Vivien sliding across the well worn leather seat to slam up against the left door.

“Pardon Madame.” The driver mumbled.

“Are we almost there?”

He ignored her as they speed along the Quai Francois Mitterrand. Vivien cleared the window with her leather loved hand just in time to catch a glimpse of hundreds of little Larks wheeling up from the Tuileries and out over the river toward Notre Dame.  Despite the crazy ride across the city Vivien smiled. She was in Paris after all. It was beautiful and somehow, just as Diana had promised her, being here was as easy as breathing. It felt like coming home.  The taxi decelerated from 50 to 15 to turn onto Pont Neuf. The little finger park on the end of the Île de la Citéwas deserted yet inviting as it separated the waters of the Seine like an elegant trowel. Another sharp right onto Quai de Conte that within a block became Quai Voltaire, then a sweeping honking mad turn onto a little narrow street. Moving too fast down the street there was just a flash, a wet impression of the École des BeauxArts in passing in a jumble of stones then a sudden stop.  Vivien leaned to the window and looked out. The driver turned around in his seat.

“We arrive Madame… 21 Rue Bonaparte.

***

 

21 Bonaparte, the new perfume by famed Paris based American couturier Vicky Tiel is classified as Oriental Floral. It is more than that, it is sensual, elegant, refined, a woman’s perfume.fiorentina

Launched in 2013 its creation stretches back many years to a glittering night in the South of France.  The night Elizabeth Taylor won her second Oscar for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  The star did not attend the awards in Los Angeles, she was on the Rivera finishing up “The Comedians” and Vicky was with her. When her husband Richard Burton lost the best actor award Elizabeth was very upset and stormed out of the villa heading down the stone steps that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea. Vicky was worried for her friend and followed  to see if she was alright.  As she followed she noticed the night was filled with the scent of Jasmine, Gardenias and Tuberose. She stopped and looked about to find that she was surrounded on either side of the marble staircase by the very flowers which filled her senses and in so weaving their white magic cemented an indelible memory. She made a mental note on the spot that some day she would make a perfume from that impression.  She then continued down to the sea to find Elizabeth. It took some time, 47 years to finally realize the perfume in memory of that night.

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The name 21 Bonaparte is for the address of the dress boutique in Paris she owned with Taylor. The bottle is a regal beauty worthy of Taylor’s inspiration, the color, purple which Elizabeth loved.

The perfume opens a tad sweet and spicy with black current, Mandarin Orange and star Anise. And at first it seemed to me to be a little too sweet. But in moments that sailed away leaving the perfume to become in every way that garden on the French Rivera in 1966.

The middle notes are glorious, Jasmine, Gardenia and tuberose. Now it should be noted that true gardenia scent is impossible to extract from the flower and must be created with the expert blending of other white florals. Often times the attempt by perfumers fails to delver a believable facsimile of the scent, but in 21 Bonaparte we have a photorealistic Gardenia blooming and lush. Here in the middle of the life of the perfume these flowers are joined buy a very subtle smoky vanilla, It seems to waft into the white midnight garden like an exotic incense.

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The dry down consists of Patchouli, Vanilla and smooth, woody and rich, sandalwood. The Patchouli brings a certain masculine vibe along with the sandalwood making 21 Bonaparte accessible to men. But only those who appreciate the indolic joys of white flowers on skin.

The perfume lasts a very long time, around ten to twelve hours with a heavy sillage in the fist quarter of its lifespan.  21 Bonaparte is exclusive to and only sold on HSN. I have tried other perfumes by Vicky Tiel and found Sirene to be very nice, Ulysse for Men stunning, but 21 Bonaparte to me is her grand opus, a fine tribute to her friendship with Elizabeth Taylor and quite simply her best perfume to date.

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(Vicky Tiel)

21 BONAPART ~  FIVE GOLD STARS *****

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GO TO “L” ~ For the Beguiling Vickie Lester.

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Esther: (Walks up to the pay window on the studio lot) Paycheck for Esther Blodgett please.

Paymaster: “Go to “L””

Esther: Now wait a minute!

Paymaster: You’re new here right? You got a new name, you’re Vickie Lester, V. I. C. K. I. E.   L. E. S. T. E. R. Got it? Go to the window marked “L”.

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Esther: (walking way she tries the name on) Vickie Lester? Vickie …Lester. (It’s a fit) Vickie Lester!

I was only four years old when A Star Is Born staring Judy Garland premiered at the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd. I don’t remember the locally televised premier when I lived in that hell hole of a town outside of Los Angeles, called Fontana. I don’t remember going to see it at the movies either. What I do remember is seeing the film and falling in love with it at nine when it was played every night for a week on the Million Dollar Movie. It was all about Hollywood, that mythical place just 50 miles to the west. That place that I wanted to be, not where I was, wedged between Kaiser Steel and the stinking chicken ranches. Which ever way the wind blew…it smelled like rotten eggs.

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Each night when the Million Dollar Movie came on at eight p.m. and the great Warner Brothers logo appeared on the tiny black and white television, I was there pushing my imagination inside that t.v. tube to another universe. The WB faded to reveal the night lit diamonds scattered below the Hollywood hills that made up my dreams, and as the searchlights twinkled on and the orchestra swelled I knew I was going to see a real movie about an unreal place. And then there was her, the star being born night after night and that song, a song that has followed me all my life.

(Outtake of That Song)

That was the first time I heard the name Vickie Lester and over the years that passed since that spring of 1960, through war and assassination, protest and peace, disco and the devastation that is AIDS, and the man that got away her story and music have been with me. As the years piled up my Hollywood dreams were put away but whenever Vickie Lester showed up on the screen they were dusted off and tried on of a few hours of dreaming. What I never imagined was that one day I would meet Vickie and she would turn out to be more wonderful than in the Movies.

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When I was just beginning my blog I surfed around to find other blogs that might be of interest to follow. One day I happened upon Beguiling Hollywood by Vickie Lester. Vickie Lester! At once I knew that anyone who would write under that nom de plume had to have a great sense of humor. Then to my delight I discovered that not only did she have a great sense of humor but she was a Hollywood history buff, a lover of the eclectic electrically exciting architecture of Southern California and a great, great writer and storyteller.  And most fun of all, being an insider in that town of make-up and make believe she had stories. She knows the dirt and how to dish it veiled just enough to keep her audience guessing. “Did that really happen?”  She won’t say for sure, and neither will I.

In time and over many posts and then a phone call or two and finally a visit to her home on a very Mildred Pierce street in Los Angeles we became friends. So close in fact that I call her Sis and she calls her big brother. It is a friendship forged by dreams and elevated by mutual admiration and a great recognition of souls and love.

Today is Vickie Lester’s Birthday and I would like to share with you this hope. The hope that for each of you a star has been born somewhere out there in the world where dreams really do come true, some one you can always call a dear and beloved friend. A special someone who is better and more exciting than any movie star in the firmament of the Hollywood heavens, someone like Vickie Lester.

Happy Birthday Sis…

Me and Vickie Lester

(Vickie Lester and Lanier Smith smelling wildflowers in the Hollywood Hills. Photographed by Lane Tibbs.)

Please do visit Vickie Lester’s blog Beguiling Hollywood

http://vickielester.com/

And her novel It’s In His Kiss comes out in June!!

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(Times Square 1954)

IN MEMORIAM ~ Bryant Lanier January 19, 2012

-0 BRYANT

 

How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan was slain in your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
You have been very pleasant to me;
Your love to me was wonderful,
Surpassing the love of women.

2 SAMUEL 1:17

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR ~ Bulgari Exhibit at the deYoung

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Yesterday I went with three of my closest friends to the M.H. deYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park to see the exhibit, The Art Bulgari ~ La Dolce Vita and Beyond 1950 – 1990 .

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It was my birthday present to my friend Joe (a link below to his fabulous blog, The Way I See It.) The museum was amazing, the show was incredible. As the four of us entered the show we were greeted by three tremblant brooches.

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They are designed so that the stones tremble in there settings with movement. And the do!  They were like three little galaxies on the outer edge of a spectacular new universe that only hinted at the splendors that waited us. 

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 The jewelry was astronomically beautiful and within this universe of diamonds, rubies, Emeralds and more there floated such stars as Ingrid Bergman, Monica Viti, Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren and more. All photographed dripping in Bulgari. The show consisted of four rooms dimly lit with the art of Bulgari in windows along the walls and in small cases in the center of each room . Every decade from the 1950 to the 90’s unfolded in glinting glittering glamour as you passed from room to room. You were presented examples of how Bulgari introduced multi-color settings in the 50’s, The use of ancient coins in necklaces and bracelets in the 80’s and the huge very Roman dog collars of the 90’s. All of this was inspired by where the jewelry is made. ROME. The traditions are blended from ancient Rome, Renaissance times and the 19th century to create the unique and very modern look that is so identifiable as Bulgari.

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Ingrid Bergman

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Monica Viti

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Claudia Cardinale 

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Sophia Loren

But at the center of the this universe of glitterati was the mega star with a room devoted just to her.

Elizabeth Taylor 1964

“The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari: Richard Burton.  

We were speechless at the treasures that once hung from the ears, rested on the bosom and graced the writs and hands of Elizabeth Taylor.  There was window after window exquisitely lit to show off the magnificent gems. An interactive picture album on a table that when you turned the page the page became illuminated with photographs that moved from the book up a curved wall for all to see. Some were stills and some were motion pictures of the star accepting awards or arriving at an event always in Bulgari. Elizabeth was gifted in many ways and for many reasons some of the most incredible jewels in the world. Sometimes as Burton once said he would give her some little treasure from Bulgari, “simply because it is Tuesday.” Here is a video that can say more about this room than I can.

After the show the four of us went to the museum cafe and had the most wonderful lunch of lobster bisque, Salmon Salad, quiche and Italian red wine (what else would you drink at the Bulgari show?)  It was the perfect last Saturday of 2013.

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FAMSF Bulgari

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when you wish upon a star……..

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JOE’S BLOG, THE WAY I SEE IT : http://josephb54.wordpress.com/category/elizabeth-taylor/

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

LA SERENISSIMA WINKS ~ 10 Corso Como Uomo by 10 Corso Como

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William and Charlie always took a vacation from each other in the middle of their vacation. When they ware abroad this practice helped to keep their friendship fresh and happy while in such close quarters. On this particular trip the “Your on your own day” happened on a Wednesday and it happened in Venice.

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For there stay, William rented an apartment on the Piscina Sant Agnese near the wooden bridge on the Academia side of the Grand Canal. There was only one key to the apartment. So it was agreed on this Wednesday that one of them would hold the key and return to the apartment at two just in case the other needed to pop in to freshen up in la stanza da bagno.

Out the door and at Calle Chisea William said “goodbye” and went left and Charlie said “see you later” and went right.

“Gondola Mister?”  The handsome blond gondolier that Charlie saw every morning at Ponte San Vio called out to him and tipped his hat followed by a graceful bow that set his gondola to seductively sway at its moorings.

“Grazie no Signor.”  At one hundred fifty a pop Charlie knew it was a luxury he would have to pass up.

The gondolier winked. “Maybe domani?”

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Charlie laughed and began to whistle “Meglio Stasera” and in so doing turned his morning outing into a Pink Panther adventure sans inspector Clouseau.

At two thirty-five Charlie realized that William was most likely not coming back to the apartment. He decided to have a small glass of Lemoncello. At two forty five he had another and realized he hadn’t eaten lunch yet. At three with William a no-show Charlie headed for Campo San Barnaba for a bite of of something to soak up the Lemoncello that was making him feel just on the edge of silly.

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Sitting under a square white umbrella in the clear luminous light of the campo where years ago Katherine Hepburn fell into the canal in “Summertime” Charlie savored the best lasagna he had ever tasted.  He called the waiter over and ordered third glass of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. When the forth glass of wine was set before him he saw William coming across the campo from the Ponte dei Pugni he nearly knocked over his wine when he jumped up to wave to his friend he hadn’t seen in seven hours.

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Reunited and refreshed they each bubbled over with stories of there exciting day. Another glass of wine was ordered. After lunch they crossed the Grand Canal on a traghetto, the poor man’s gondola. Feeling a wee bit tipsy from the wine and the Lemoncello Charlie sat down to keep from re-enacting Hepburn’s tumble into the indubitably questionable waters of the Grand Canal.

“Signore! No sit!”

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By five that evening Charlie was somewhat recovered and able to stand in a traghetto, when William suggested it, he was very agreeable to a having a cocktail. Why not they were after all on vacation weren’t they? Besides that, there was an hour or three to kill before dinner. The view from the tables outside at the Accademia Foscarini Bar e Pizzeria was the money shot of the day and the friends agreed it would be a stunning spot to rest their feet and lubricate the liver. They ordered Negronis. Charlie had never seen such a huge cocktail tumbler in his life.

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The May sky which was streaked with rose and amber over the Grand Canal an hour before was now spangled with stars as they headed out to dinner at Osteria San Barnaba. Fueled with Negronis and un grande amore vivo e tutte le cose italiane, the two friends charmed the waiters at the Osteria. By one in the morning they were sharing a gasoline like drink called Grappa with their waiter Antonio and singing “Volarie” off key but with great feeling. At two A.M. Antonio bid them buona notte on the street outside the Osteria.

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Shoulder to shoulder, very fuzzy and smudged at the edges William and Charlie wandered through the sleeping city.  Suddenly they stumbled upon the immense splendor and expanse of the dark choppy Giudecca Canal. Bobbing gondolas glimmered a rich dark shellac in the moonlight. There was not a sound but for the soft slapping of the water against the stone stairs that led down into the ink blue waters.  William had fallen moodily silent and was looking intently at the wet velveteen waters as they slapped the ancient stones.

“Don’t do it.” Charlie said. “It is so beautiful and it would be a dramatic end…a death in Venice, but don’t jump in.”

William smiled. “I wasn’t thinking that, I was thinking of The Wings of the Dove.”

Charlie put his arm around his best friend. And at that moment the sky above the Giudecca exploded in a glittering shower of fireworks.

“Look William, it is all for us.”

“La Serenissima is winking.” William said softly.

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Gondoliers watch the fireworks from Venice across the Giudecca

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10 Corso Como Uomo by 10 Corso Como is a beautiful Spicy Oriental for men. The house of 10 Corso Como which is dedicated to art, fashion and design was founded in Milan by Carla Sozzani a gallery owner and publisher. It began as a gallery in 1990 and has since grown to include fashion, food and a hotel. The philosophy behind this house is to present the world of art, music, design, cuisine and fashion to reflect the inspiration of world cultures.

The perfume opens in a clear spicy zing of ginger ringing with notes of bergamot and mandarin orange. This is a lovely crisp and eye-opening scent, not shocking to the system but rather delightful and warm in its opening presentation.

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Accademia Foscarini Bar e Pizzeria

The dominant note in the perfume enters rather fast to join in the sparkle created by the ginger and as the bergamot and mandarin fade to the back this lively Pepper takes center stage. Along the way in the heart of the fragrance the peeper is joined by a shy Ylang-Ylang and a bashful jasmine. Together these two floral notes smooth the pepper and ginger out and lead the way to a really nice dry down.

In the base notes there is a clean Musk that never gets soapy but stays true along with the Cedar to a classic masculine oriental feel. This is added by a light shimmering veneer of amber and vanilla.

Overall the perfume lasts about eight hours on my skin and has a noticeable sillage in the first few hours. I must thank Michel Gizinski at Neiman Marcus for introducing me to this wonderful fragrance. Michel is an incredible ambassador of fragrance, so knowledgeable and eager to share the world of fragrance with his clients. He has been dubbed “The Nose of Union Square” and indeed he is the go to man for many San Franciscans who are into perfume. The nose knows!  And because of this lovely man, I always find myself coming back to 10 Corso Como Uomo when I am looking for something sophisticated, unusual, and neo-classical in feeling.

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10 Corso Como Uomo ~ 5 Platinum Stars

WINTER MEETING ~ Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene

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It was more than I could bear the thought of being in Manhattan and not doing it.  So with very little planning or thought I was up an hour before the sun and out of the Park Central Hotel on 7th avenue. My pajamas were cleverly covered with wool slacks and my feeble California winter jacket, a small bath towel was standing in for a muffler all in an effort to stay warm on my trek. Still the shock of the February freeze was paralyzing and the wind that came with it took the top layer skin of my cheeks off as quick as powdered sugar flies off a donut in a hurricane. It was the coldest I had ever been. But it didn’t stop me. In few brisk blocks and I would be warmed up I was sure of it.

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   I was struck as I headed north on 7th toward Central Park at how deserted the streets were. Not a cab or bus, not a person, pigeon, rat or cat. I was as alone in The City as Harry Belafonte was in “The World, The Flesh and The Devil”. Only there had been no atom bomb to leave me alone on the streets. It was just a Saturday morning in the dead of winter.  I loved the feeling. For the time being New York belonged only to me.  I trudged past Carnegie Hall as a blast of steam from a manhole engulfed me and carried Judy’s ghost within its comforting fog. “We’ll sing em all and we’ll stay all night! ”  The wind grabbed the memory of her and whisked it away down 57th street toward the East River and on to the morning star.

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I pushed on up the Avenue. The street lights along Central Park South winked in the icy mist that swirled around them.  There ahead where West Drive cut into the park I saw a man crossing heading east on Central Park South. We would meet at the corner to head east together if indeed he was going to continue east. There was something familiar about his walk, his shape, his aura, just before he stepped up on the curb I smiled in my recognition. As I turned and we fell into step beside each other I nodded.

“Good Morning.”

“Good morning” He smiled. He was dressed like a proper New Yorker for winter. And very stylishly too.

For the next long block we said nothing but kept time with our feet. I could hear music in the air sharp with the threat of snow. Music I had heard since childhood. I was comfortable walking and not talking to him, both of us pretending that I didn’t know who he was.

Just before the Plaza Hotel the man nodded. “Have a nice day kid.”  He disappeared into a glowing golden foyer before he could hear my response.

“You too sir…”

Walking in the predawn darkness with Tony Bennett and not a soul around added magic to my mission.

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When I reached the Plaza I knew I couldn’t go another block without getting warmed up. I scooted in the side door as quickly as Cary Grant heading for a cocktail and his date with destiny in “North by Northwest”.  As I warmed up a bit along the walk past the Oak Room to the main lobby I remembered that Grant had lived here, also a little girl by the name of Heloise. “Psst! Hey Mister want to have an Elevator race?” Her real name was Liza Minnelli and she had inspired Kay Thomson to tell her tale to the world.

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Sweeping out the doors of the Plaza like I too belonged there and down the red carpeted stairs onto Grand Army Plaza I pushed into the wind and nearly ran to the shelter of good old Bergdorf Goodman and its glamorous glittering imperious widows. My face was instantly numb nullifying my visit to the Plaza. There was nothing to do but cover my lower face with the bath towel like Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago and solder on down 5th Avenue. At 57th on the sidewalk next to Van Cleef and Arpels was salvation, a little silver coffee wagon, more like a small mobile home steaming and gleaming with the promise of hot coffee and Danish.

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   The East Indian man served me pronto and then slammed the little window in my face against the winds hands that threatened to slap him hard across the face. Mitten-less I cupped my java and turned to behold my objective.

“When I get the mean reds the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and head straight to Tiffany’s!” I barley whispered the line.

There it stood in the very grey blue light at 5:56 a.m., Tiffany’s. I wasn’t cold anymore. I walked to the corner and crossed the empty intersection against the light on the diagonal from the northwest corner of 57th to the southeast corner. I sipped my coffee and looked down 5th… Picture 46

A cab was coming along at a good clip, an old one from the early 1960’s. It bounce gracefully twice on the dips along the street and pulled up in front of me and stopped. The back door opened and a black satin evening pump extended to touch the street. In a blink of time it was gone. I turned back to look in the window. Just the setting for the jewels was there, the jewels themselves were locked away. I nibbled on my Danish and walked to the next window see what wasn’t there and imagine what might be.

“Here’s to you Truman, and to you Holly and most of all to you Audrey.”  The wind kicked hard against my back and grabbed my empty Danish bag out of my frozen hand sending up against the building and around the corner to disappear down 57th. My breakfast at Tiffany’s was over.

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Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene is a classic from 1975 created by Andre Fromentin. This Woody Oriental has been a part of my perfume life almost since it hit the market back in the first years of the rise of Disco and a new age in men’s fashion and style, along with the ascent of the GQ man and the death of the hippie as fashion god.  It is a classic that to me embodies New York and the sartorial glamour of that city as few other American fragrances can.

It opens with a stylish warm citrus blast of Neroli, bergamot and lemon which are made unusually sophisticated by the addition of a very bitter rich green galbanum and a woody citrus petitgrain. This opening is bright and sharp and swiftly over to be followed by what I think is the showstopper surprise.

Here we move into a floral perfume for men that is stunning in its complexity and daring by today’s standards and ideas for a masculine fragrance.  Spring is in full bloom along 5th avenue atop the gardened terraces of the deco apartment buildings that face Central Park; it is all here in the middle notes. A sensuous blend of bold Violet, irreverent Iris, rose over flowing the planters, golden Mimose, green heady Narcissus, are tethered to a grounding desert sage, and dirty earthy geranium.  This Sage and the geranium keep the notes all low like a humming baritone cello and pull the chorus of soprano florals into a beautiful masculine tone. It is Tony Bennett singing “Maybe September”, smooth, sophisticated and a little melancholy.

The base notes are a strong foundation of the old standards of Oakmoss, Tonka bean, Cedar and a sharp very green vetiver. This is spiked with a bit of almond that gives the perfume a woody nutty warmth in the dry down.  There is a bit of a soapy feeling too but not detergent or cheap bar soap, but rather a very superior rich soap reminiscent of some of Roger e Gallet’s fine soap scents.

As for longevity it is a real long distance runner. Well paced for the long haul and comes in a winner every time. People always comment in the positive when I wear Grey Flannel. The sillage is out there as is the norm of these old classics from the 70’s so it is something to use with discretion. After 8 hours it moves in close and stays there.

This fine woody oriental fragrance is something for a man of taste and a well developed nose. Often younger noses find Grey Flannel to be a bit more than challenging.  I believe that is from the over glut of the Cool Water’s and Aqua Di Gio’s of the last twenty five years. Not to mention the supper sweets of A-Men and sickly bubble gum 1Millions. The watering down of the public tasted in perfume. Mainstream perfumers have moved away from complex and challenging creations to meet the demands of the buying public that only want to smell “clean and fresh” One only hopes that time will bring style and originality back into the mainstream.

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GREY FLANNEL BY GEOFFREY BEENE FIVE GOLD STARS *****

(MAYBE SEPTEMBER ~ TONY BENNETT)

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