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)

THE MAN IN THE SILVER BENTLEY ~ Bentley For Men Intense

Ivory white in the moonlight the poplar trees in their winter nakedness seemed to be leaning in over the road that lead away from town.  Reaching their arms overhead to hide the moon from view of anyone under their cover. The effect was that of theatrical branch shadows cast down upon a platinum ribbon of concrete. Edward Henry Porter the forth pressed his foot down hard on the accelerator pushing the British engine into a well-tuned purr. The headlights of the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1 reach ahead though the night all the way to the curve looming ahead next to the entrance of the long-abandoned Newport estate known as Wicker Hill.

As the car took the tight curve at 47 and a half miles per hour the tires screamed, the high beams flashed across the old lion gate that blocked the drive up to Wicker Hill.  Edward laughed contemptuously as he pushed the peddle to the floor heading for 80. The leather seat next to him still smelled of Sage Benton of the Newport Benton’s. that smell precisely being of her crushed geranium corsage and spilt rum from the flask in her Mark Cross purse. To Edward, in fact, it reeked of her silly, spoiled, entitled Bryn Mar bitchiness which when pressed she insisted was merely “being cute”.

She was drunk more times than not and only then would she show just how rotten money had made her. Tonight, was the capper. She had mocked a busy boy and called him a dirty Mick to his face from the center of the dance floor where she was doing a sloppy rhumba with Carl Everett. Another example of monied inanity. Incensed by her outburst Edward left the dinner dance with her stumbling and calling after him. In the car, she opened her flask to take another drink.

“What’s the matter Eddie Honey? Aren’t you having a good time?”  Edward snatched the flask away spilling most of the liquor on the leather car seat and the rest on her Ceil Chapman evening gown.

“Eddie my dress! You’ve ruined it. Daddy is going to kill you!”

“Get out of the car.”  He said just loud enough for her to hear.

“What?”

“Get the hell out of my car!”

He was through with her, with the country club, with Harvard Law, and most of all with his parents mansion on Belleview Avenue. He couldn’t stand any of it. Of the privileged life that had always seemed somehow wrong but everyone told him was so right. So them, so him.

When he reached the New England Turnpike he turned the Bentley south toward New York. By dawn he was driving over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey. Once he reached New York he realized it was much too close to Newport. Where he was going had to be somewhere far away. Where he could be free, write like he always wanted to. Someplace where people did something with their lives, where there was a different beat. The clip of the tires on the concrete seams of the road seemed to match the beat of his heart. The Beat. The West, The Beat.  The West.

A week later Edward sat in a sunny window of Vesuvio Cafe on Columbus Street. He had found a job as a door man at the Hungry i. As good a place as any in San Francisco to begin an alive life. He was finally going places, the kind of places with the kind of people he belonged to. The Beat was in his soul. The only thing he had left of his past was the 1959 Silver Bentley Continental S1. He would have to sell it soon not that he wanted to. But for the first time in his life, he needed the money.

***      ***     ***

Bentley For Men Intense was created as a flanker to Bentley For Men in 2013 by perfumer Nathalie Lorson for the prestigious British car company Bentley. Lorson is a prolific nose who has a massive number of perfumes in her credits. She has designed for everyone from Lalique, Encre Noire to Yves Saint Laurent, Black Opium.  In fact, she is the nose behind every fragrance in the line for Bentley.

(NATHALIE LORSON)

So, I was intrigued to try a fragrance from this house to see how it stacks up against some of her other fragrances and against other automobile perfumes such as Jaguar, and Ferrari. (Porsche is out of the running as I have not yet tested it.)

I must say I am pleasantly surprised in some ways and not so much in others. First off, the bottle is simply amazing, elegantly heavy glass on a luxurious level. Beautiful silver topping of the top fourth of the glass with the Bentley winged B logo deeply etched and very hefty silver cap. The design echoes the lines and beauty of a Bentley, just as it should. Here the house has trounced its competition in Jaguar, Porsche and Ferrari who’s bottles overall are a disappointment.  The bottle is smart, sleek, and chic. Simply put, the chassis is classy.

What is under the hood? Well this is where it gets interesting. At first sniff I was sold. As well, on initial wearing is was humming along quite nicely. Then on my second outing in my new Bentley For Men Intense there were some potholes in the tarmac. Then on the third through fifth test drives it was much the same thing. I loved it some of the time and I was sometimes put off by it. What can be the problem?  The only thing I can say is that it dances between something brilliant and gorgeous and then slips at other times into a kind of ho hum slump. Dust in the carburetor?  Or maybe it is simply the driver?

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Let’s concentrate on the good things, on the best test drive, today in fact. Bentley Intense opens with a great peppery African Geranium that is speckled with, black pepper. This makes it sharp and attention grabbing. Which is what fragrance houses want their top notes to be. (the notes that sell a fragrance to the average customer) But that isn’t all, added in is a rich, boldly thick dose of incense.  Intense incense if fact gives it elevated wings. I loved that combo of the incense match with the overdose of pepper and geranium. A stunning opening.

This opening that becomes almost boozy lasts 30 to 40 minutes before it evolves into the cruising speed of mid notes.  The lux interior of the Bentley automobile in perfumed notes. Super fine, highly polished Leather of the highest quality. The kind of leather you can sink into for a nice long ride is enhanced by a leathery aromatic clary sage which adds a sexy depth. Labdanum is brushed over these two notes bringing in a fine combo accord of even more leather steeped in an amber like wash.

The dry-down is an exceptionally fine with noticeable dose of patchouli, and silky sandalwood finishes off the base with cedar shavings giving it a kind of somber aromatic heat.  This ride is indeed smooth and well-appointed, leaving Jaguar and Ferrari in the dust. (Of those I have sampled at least.)

So that is Bentley For Men Intense when it is purring along on my skin on a rainy day like this. So, what is the problem. Why am I of two minds about this EDT? Perhaps is it simply the season in which I am testing this fragrance. Early Spring. On the sunny warm days, Bentley For Men Intense battled with my skin until well in to the late middle notes where it finally ran smooth. But on a rain cool day like today it works beautifully. So, the lesion I have learned thanks to Bentley For Men Intense is this.  Some fragrances really do fall into seasonal boxes. When I love Bentley, I am very much in love, and when I hate it, I am reminded of Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” when she says to Johnny Farrow, “Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven’t you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.”

Well, lets not get that dramatic, I’m not going to die from this fragrance. But, with Bentley For Men Intense, it’s, what else can I say? A classic love/hate relationship. And at this moment, I love it.

Liaisons Secrètes ~ EAU D`HERMES & ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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After World War II movies became more frank in subject matter. This was in part due to the changing mores of the returning vets and the women they came home to. After the horrors of war things would never be the same for them or for Hollywood. The other factor was the slow demise over the 50’s of the studio system and the rise of television as a threat to the box office. The censors began to relax and allowed more adult themes to be presented on the big screen. By the early 1960’s movies were well on there way to growing up. Taboo subjects such as prostitution, homosexuality and adultery were now subjects Hollywood was now eagerly taking on.

One of the more interesting and surprisingly un-judgmental of these films was the 1960 Colombia release, `Strangers When We Meet’. Produced by Kirk Douglas’ company Bryna Productions and Richard Quinn Productions and taken from the novel by Evan Hunter the film is a fascinating look into the suburban lives of a Los Angeles architect, his wife and the other woman in his life.

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Kirk Douglas gives a fine, understated performance as the architect Larry Coe. It is a stark contrast to his epic Spartacus of the same year. At a cross roads in his life Larry is given the chance to build the kind of house he always wanted to for upcoming novelist Ernie Kovaks while his company wants him to go on doing the same dull work they expect.  He fights for his chance to take the chance of a life time with the skill of a fine screen actor. Add to this his character’s  meeting one fall morning with Miss Novak at at school bus stop, and you have not only a fine actor living within a character but the beginning of a truly electric cinema chemistry. An impact of flesh and desire that jumps off the screen.

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As his wife, Barbara Rush is outstanding in one of her finest moments on screen. She is cold and withholding yet needy of her husbands love. Her finest moments come in her scenes with Douglas where they argue over their future and in her chilling confrontation with the lecherous Walter Matthau on a dark rainy afternoon. A scene that is so shocking in its brutal and frighting portrait of a man who thinks women are disposable sexual objects. Barbra Rush is amazing to watch as she struggles to thwart off Matthau’s creepy advances.

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As Maggie Gault actress Kim Novak turns in a nuanced and deeply felt performance. She is a woman that men have been hunting down all her life. Her beauty is something that brings her only sorrow and despair through a string of meaningless affairs. Her husband seems to be the only man who has no interest in sleeping with her and though she does love him he drives her away embarrassed by her open and honest desire for him. When Douglas says to her on their first meeting in a supermarket, “You’re not so pretty.” it throws her and intrigues her. Throughout the affair she embarks on with Douglas she is smart enough to know that this like all the others will ultimately lead nowhere. In the final frames of the film she is shown this very fact when faced with another leering man.

Kim Novak is so cool and remote at times that it seems the perfect fit for her, the role of Maggie. She is the kind of natural actress that when left alone with her instincts and the eye of the camera she surprises the viewer with the dark emotions that live just beneath her lovely features. One scene among many where she shines is when she is confronted with her past and has to tell the truth to Douglas about it. This too shines a harsh light on how men expect women to behave when it comes to previous encounters with other men.

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The cinematography is wonderful to see in the widescreen aspect and shows the great talent of cinematographer, Charles Lang who also shot such classics as `Charade’ and “Some Like It Hot’ and the stunning “One-Eyed Jacks”.The score by George Dunning is the perfect meeting of the romantic and dramatic. It stands along side his classic scores for “Bell, Book, and Candle”, “The World of Suzy Wong” and “Picnic.”Jean Louis one of the top designers of costumes for actresses of the period turns in just enough suburban glamour to keep the ladies in the cast looking wonderful.

Director Richard Quinn pulls it all together with his usual style. He presents us with not only a good drama but also an interesting look at the suburban life of Los Angeles in 1960. The locations are memorable, the glamorous old Romanoff’s restaurant, the stunning house that is built through the course of the film, and the beautiful beach at Malibu where the lovers rendezvous. This film stands along with “Suzy Wong,” “Bell Book and Candle”, and “How to Murder Your Wife” as some of his best work. The film holds up after Fifty plus years as a fresh and timely look at the relationships between husbands and wives and lovers who are always “Strangers When We Meet.”

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***

Illicit love has a scent, the scent of the forbidden, of excitement, and danger.  In Strangers When We Meet we are presented with two of the most photogenic and arresting faces of the early 1960’s. Both Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak were at the height of their careers, fame, and beauty.

As Larry Coe, a well-dressed, smart, and stylish Southern California architect Douglas brings a gentle yet powerful machismo to the role. What would he splash on in the morning, every morning before he went to the drafting table to design his dream house. My cinematic nose tells me that it would be a classic, something that in fact in this period in history was becoming a byword of elegance and sophistication in the Movie Colony at the time. Cary Grant wore it, as did Ava Gardner in the 50’s. Larry Coe would have certainly been drawn to its simple straight forward beauty. Acqua di Parma Colonia. Created in 1916 it would be a perfect Citrus for the sunny casual lifestyle in Bel Air.

Woody, fresh and spicy with dominant notes of blended Italian citrus, sharp eye opening lavender and rosemary it would be perfect for him.  There is a dash of rose and jasmine that waft over the senses in the middle and are fine-tuned by a sharp bright Lemon Verbena. A shimmering smooth sandalwood with an earthy snap of vetiver and the laundry fresh white musk just make it perfect for both men and women. The dry down is subtle and lush with amber and patchouli joining in on the woody beauty of that sandalwood.  It is a classic that works it’s magic every time.  And If Larry did wear it well, Maggie Galt would I’m sure find it a scents memory that would stay with her the rest of her life. His scent … bitter sweet and haunting.

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As Maggie Kim Novak is conflicted in her sensuality, both yearning and repressed. Banked fires smolder in her soul making her irresistible to most men. She is smoky, both in her voice and in her movement. She trails and lingers and wafts. What better scent for her than Eau D`Hermes.  Created by Edmond Roudnitska in 1951 this leather based fragrance also has a warm spicy edge to it. A mix of masculine and feminine that like Acqua di Parma’s Colonia make it very wearable for both women and men.

It opens with a bold blend of cinnamon, lime, lavender, and cardamom. And a surprising sprinkle of clover. Oh, boy but it’s beautiful even arresting in this opening. Like Novak herself it is almost too much of a good thing at first, but you sink into it and get lost in its heart. A heart made up of a glorious jasmine, geranium, and a brilliant slightly sweet tonka bean.

As it wears over a long period of time (up to 8 – 10 hours on my skin)  the vanilla comes up to warm it and keep the leather in its base supple as a fine cedar along with a dry white birch add vibrant vibrations to the smooth sandalwood dry down.   It is a classic that adds class to whoever wears it or to any occasion. Even when you are meeting an intimate stranger.

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***

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO KIRK DOUGLAS BORN DECEMBER 9, 1916

THE FIRST MEETING OF DOUGLAS AND NOVAK IN THE OPENING SCENE OF

STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET.

THE ROOF OF THE WORLD ~ Jasmin Rouge by Tom Ford

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Annapurna Massif Panorama

An explosion of laughter came over the gun barrels sending a damp chill up Lily Chu’s back. The voice belonged to a short rough man dressed not as Chinese military but in mountain garb of a Nepalese bandit. He was clean shaven and wore wire rimmed glasses.   A trickle of clammy sweat escaped Lily’s temple and ran down her jaw to her neck.

“Your horses and escort await my old friend!” the bandit spoke like an Eaton College man.

“Aatish! So you found us after all, I was beginning to doubt that you would make it over the border undetected by the Chinese. “

Lily turned eyes wide to her British protector. “You know this man?”

“He winked at her. Like I said, you will need your mink. Come on!”  They were surrounded by the small band of men and lead away from the truck and into the dark foothills.

“Whos is he? How did he find Us? How did ….Wait!” She ran after him determined to get an answer.

Hours later just before dawn Lilly, wrapped up in her mink under which was a dirty stinking pair of men’s trousers, a wool shirt that itched and Yak hat, clung to the neck of mountain horse as they approached the border from China to Nepal. She dared not look down into the gorge below. If she did she was sure she would faint.  The hooves of the horse ahead of her clattered on the rough stones sending loose rocks plunging to the river below, the wind howled and whipped around her with the ferocity of an irate yeti.

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At a somewhat wider part of the mountain path her companion rode up next to her giving her horse a start. Lily buried her face in the horses main and held on even tighter.

“What are you doing?”

He laughed without humor. “Relax we are fine…for now.”

“For now?”

He pointed to the rope suspension bridge ahead. “On the other side  is Nepal. We will walk over, then the horses will be brought over by the smallest men. You must be very quiet. There may be Chinese solders about. Aatish thinks we are being followed. They more likely than not just might try to shoot us off the bridge. We have to get across before the Sun comes over the ridge and makes us even better targets.” Lilly followed his eyes up and up to the highest point of the highest mountains she had ever seen. Ice and snow made pink in the pre-dawn glow loomed in impersonal splendor.

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When they reached the bridge the wind was at its most ferocious. She could hear the cry of discernable pain from the ancient ropes as they strained to hold the swaying contraption together. The floor of the bridge was of wooden slats that did not meet or touch. She looked down only once through the cracks.”

Lily hesitated.

“You can do it.” He said. “After all, I promised you a bath in perfume on the other side.”

She looked at him with a smile of brave relief. “Yes you did and I am keeping you to your promise.”

He smiled back. Suddenly the sound of a galloping horse from the rear of the line and shouts echoed off the cliffs surrounding them.

“RUN! The Chinese are behind us!” Aatish yelled.

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Their horses raced the short distance to the bridge. Lily jumped from her mount onto the narrow ledge she was too frightened to be afraid. She looked back to see a line of mounted Chinese soldiers just coming around the last bend along the sheer cliff side. The British man took her by the hand and together they charged onto the bridge. Gun fire erupted, bullets ripped into the frayed ropes. There were distressing pings and snapping sounds like strings on a huge cello snapping. The bridge lurched and began to swing violently just as the first rays of the sun hit the far side of the gorge.

 

 ***

Tom Ford’s lush oriental fragrance Jasmin Rouge from the private blend collection is something a mix of romance and danger, an enveloping adventure.  Crated in 2011 by one of my favorite noses Rodrigo Flores-Roux who is also known for his beautiful works for Carlos Huber’s Arquiste line. A few of his creations being among my favorites are Fleur de Louis and Flor y Canto which I have reviewed previously. Also I have a weakness for the stunning Oeillet Bengale by Aedes de Venustas and so many more. He is a truly great modern olfactory artist.

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(Rodrigo Flores-Roux)

What he has created her is a lush voluptuous romantic poem of superlative blending, a perfume that opens with the clear rose hues of dawn and flowers into the full rush of dazzling Jasmin, amber and leather beauty. Exotic and enticing it floats and flows about the body like an entwining spell. It has a classism that speaks to me and that I have not found in many Tom Ford presentations.

The opening is bright with bergamot, and mandarin. These citrus notes are sprinkled with the king of ancient spices, cinnamon, and a springy sharpened ginger note. Upon his lively opening is added an aromatic cardamom, black and white pepper top of the top with a zing.

In the mid notes we have the eponymous Jasmine. This is a Sambac Jasmine that comes from the Himalayas. This sweet flower from Nepal, India and Bhutan is also used in tea. Here in Jasmine Rouge the white flower, the queen of perfumery is married with exotic yellow ylang ylang, golden Spanish Broom, neroli blossoms that keep the bright glow of the opening going along with the aid of a dry Clary Sage. Arberous, leathery and with a hint of lavender this Clary Sage sets us up for what is to come. This blending brings out sense of high drama in low tones, it whispers promises and desires too deep to explore and yet draws you onward to the denouement of the fragrance.

The base is brilliant. The voluptuous sensuality of a ripe labdanum is rubbed deep into the almost boozy amber. Warmed by the skin the leather here is thick and sensual and rises with the pulse point heat to warm a rich delectable Mexican Vanilla…and still there is the hint of cinnamon that only enriches the entire dry down. There is an infusion of arid wood notes that give the perfume a decidedly austere and very elegant finale.

The longevity for me is about 6 hours at full bloom and then becomes a skin scent for another six hours, I put it on at 6 p.m. on my last wearing and the next morning at 6 a.m. the fragrance still lingered on my wrists.  The sillage is moderate at about 18 inches. It becomes a skin scent me at about two hours.

Overall a delightful sexy experience can be found here in Jasmin Rouge. Strong enough for a femme fatal and butch enough or her intended hero.

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CARELESS BEAUTY ~ Cologne Intense by Houbigant

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Hothouse lilies white in the window seemed almost invisible against the falling snow beyond the arches of the portico along Rue Royale.  Durocher’s was famous for the best flowers in Paris and the most beautiful blooms of roses and lilies flown in from the greenhouses in the South of France.

 

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Madame Durocher looked beyond the lilies to the other side of the street where Noël Boulet stood in the snow watching the shop. She smiled, Poor boy, utterly and hopelessly crushed by his infatuation with Alizée, the young girl who helped Madame in the afternoons.

The door opened with a gust of snowflakes borne upon icy wind.

“Good day Monsieur, how can I help you?” Madame Durocher put her glasses that rested on a chain around her neck on the bridge of her nose then as was her odd custom dropped her head so as to look over the top of them.

“I would like an arrangement of Freesia and Lilly of the Valley; they are for my housekeeper.”

As Madame set about writing up the order for whom she knew, without asking his name, was Rene Michel Petriz. He and that actress were all over the news. She didn’t care much for his kind or that American Actress ether. “A notorious gigolo and a cinema harlot on the downslide of life.” she would say, if anyone cared to know her opinion.

Alizée came from the back of the shop carrying a huge bunch of Hyacinths for the client she was helping. Rene Michel at first barely took note of her. He turned to look at the lilies in the window and was amused to see a young man with his nose pressed against the glass. He was dreamily gazing at the girl with the Hyacinths.  Rene Michel then turned his eyes back upon the subject of the boy’s adoration.

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It amused him even more to note that she had barely noticed the boy. Her only reaction to his presence on the sidewalk under the portico was when she looked at him only once, to wrinkle her nose as if she smelled something slightly sour. Then without her even being aware of what followed, she smiled sweetly to herself. It struck Rene Michel that she was indeed, for a girl of maybe at the most 17, an exceptional beauty.

Madame presented him with his flowers perfectly wrapped in cellophane and white ribbons. “I hope your house keeper likes them Monsieur.”

He paid her and turned to leave. The boy in the window seemed now literally to be frozen to the glass.

Rene Michel could not let this moment pass. He turned back to the counter. Madame Durocher was gone only Alizée remained. She was arranging a small bouquet of Forget Me Nots.  And all the while giving the boy outside a disapproving look.

“Why don’t you invite him in?” Said Rene in his most seductive professional voice. The one he used with his new clients. “He looks cold out there.”

She was taken aback. “Who?”

“That poor love struck young man at the window.”

“Oh Noël?  He is a nuisance.” She smiled up at Rene and suddenly was caught simultaneously by his charm and good looks and being so caught it followed that she recognized him. A little gasp as she tried but failed to recover her composure.    “He is just a boy.” She said softly. She dropped the bouquet and smiled into his hazel eyes that were ringed in gold.

“When I was young and just like that boy there was a girl like you in a little shop.  Had she been kind to me rather than cruel, well both our lives might have been different.  We might have been…happy.” He gave her a glittering smile.  “Ah well I suppose it is the way of things Mademoiselle. To be so pretty and young and so quick to break a heart so carelessly. Au revoir. “

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Photograph JOEL SAGET

As he passed through the door out into the snow Alizée, looked after the handsome man who all of Paris adored as a scoundrel. Then her eyes shifted to Noël Boulet.  He smiled his funny crooked smile, that when she narrowed her eye she could see was a rather handsome and kind smile. But still he was annoying. Sometimes.

“Madame my I go for my lunch early?”

“Yes I suppose but be back in half an hour.”

She walked out of the shop and turned to face a shivering, smiling, wonderstruck Noël.  Alizée took his rough woolen gloved hand in hers. “Would   you like to come with me for a cup of hot chocolate?”

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   ***

 

The nose behind the new masculine fragrance by Houbigant, Cologne Intense is Luca Maffei. He is a young nose in the fragrance industry that is making a name for himself with such stunning fragrances as Perris Monte Carlo’s Oud Imperial and Rose de Taif. What he has created in Cologne Intense is something brilliant bold and breathtaking. The presentation of the fragrance which comes in both Eau de Parfum and Extrait Parfum is classically elegant. The 100 mil bottle is the same sophisticated masculine bottle that was created for Houbigant’s 2010 re-release of the exquisite Fougere Royale from 1882. The juice is darker in Cologne Intense which only adds a golden richness to the presentation. Just as the No.5 bottle is used for other perfumes by Chanel so it is that Houbigant is presenting this release in the same bottle as Fougere Royale. This smart marketing gives a certain instant house recognition. You see the bottle and you know the house at once. Class and sophistication are assured.

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(Luca Maffei creator of my favorite fragrance release of 2015 ~ Photo Cafleurebon)

The parfum is classified as a citrus aromatic. I agree, it opens with sharp crisp summer freshness of Sicilian lemons, a bitter bite of Calabrian bergamot which sparks brilliantly on the skin then gives way to the wonderful green petitgrain and Moroccan neroli. It is a show of green citrusy skyrockets that shimmer as they rise and sparkle as they fall way to reveal the center of this fragrance.

 

Here within the heart in this classic a savory tarragon takes the center stage. It is richly blended into a complex dance with red pepper, a touch of lavender, and a whiff of Indian Jasmine. Oh that Jasmine is nice if subtle, as it should be. And the pepper is sharp adding depth to the tarragon and lavender.  I love the middle of this fragrance but my love turns to obsession when we reach the dry down.

 

In the bottom notes I find a fine and creative blend by Luca Maffei that make this a truly memorable release of 2015. The two magical notes he introduces to the fragrance are a bitter Mat Tea and lush deep and hypnotic incense.  The effect with the fading mid notes is sheer olfactory heaven. The longevity on my skin last between 6 to 8 hours. the sillage is at about 18 inches.

 

Cologne Intense is one of my top favorite releases of last year. It is a beautiful addition to the venerable and historic house of Houbigant that is both a tip of the hat to past classics, an era of refinement and grace but also embodies a youthful modern vibe.

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A ROUGH PATCH ~ Tom Ford, Patchouli Absolu

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“That mink is going to come in handy when the road starts the climb.” He winked and then nodded to slats in the side of the truck. Lilly Chu looked through them and saw the wall of mountains that crossed the southern horizon from end to end. The full moon reflected off the snow covered peaks in a ghostly glow causing them to look like mountains on the moon. The mere sight of them made it seem even colder. She pulled the collar of her coat up around her chin. “Wherever we are it is coming in handy right now. Where are we?”

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“We are in the back of a sheep truck on the Friendship Highway the only way out of China into India. In short we are in Tibet. Before we reach the border crossing we will have to lie on the floor and cover ourselves with that hay.”

“Can’t we just use our passports?” The wet hay smelled of sheep dung.

“No, too dangerous now after Dunhuang and Shanghai.” He said in a voice as cold as the bodies of the two men who he killed there.

Lily had forfeited her canary diamond ring to bribe their way out of Dunhuang. She lost her luggage in the Gobi the only thing she had left was her mink. Not only were they being pursued by the hit men hired by those she had robbed back in the States but by the Chinese police as well.  They didn’t react well to foreigners killing thugs in China..

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She shivered more from fright than cold. “I could certainly use a bath and some….”

He laughed. “Forget about it. If we make it to India alive you can bathe in a fountain of perfume.”

“Do I smell that bad?”

“I can’t smell anything but these sheep.” She looked at her Englishman who was her only chance of survival. “After all we have been through, won’t you, tell me your name?”

LILY CHU

“I told you before; who I am is not important Lily. My mission is get get you to safety.”

The truck hit a pothole sending the sheep into a panic. He reached out and pulled her back to his side of the truck as the headlights from passing cars lit his eyes.  The sapphire in them had turned to ice. She saw a flash of her reflection in his eyes. Sudden darkness and in the blackness he pulled her closer.

“Please tell me your name…” she whispered.

“If you insist, but once you know my name I will have to kill you.”

She laughed for the first time in days. He formed his hand into the shape of a gun and touched her lips with the tip of his index finger.

“My name is….”

The truck lurched again then a squeal of worn metal as the driver slammed on the breaks. The sheep began to scramble and scream. The doors on the back of the truck flew open in a blare of blinding light. All that Lily could see were the dull black barrels of automatic rifles pointed at her.

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     ***

Patchouli Absolu by Tom Ford is a challenge for me. A huge whack across the nose of dried patchouli leaves. It is bold and rude and at times a dirty. There is a bit of the back end of a truck full of sheep in there as well. It is a late night ride down a rough road to a rendezvous with a mean and dirty lover on the wrong side of town. And sometimes that can be just right.

Created in 2014 this eau de parfum develops in an interesting way. It opens with of rush of WOW that almost turned me off. At the opening top notes of Bay leafy, rosemary and Moss are burned to a crisp in a hot skillet. The only thing that really lingers is the moss, dirty wet moss that is steaming as it assaults the senses. Yes, a very hot skillet and when the mid notes hit with that huge patchouli, laid on and layered over Guaiac wood, Violet wood, Cashmere wood and Cypriol it is amazing. A flaming pyre that is almost stupefying in its swirl of lush crushed leaves and burning wood. There is a moment of familiar behind the redwood curtain patchouli oil and madras bedspreads, a bit of Humboldt County in the 1970’s that floated toward the surface to tease my memories of those day.  It took a few tokes of dreaminess and settled to the bottom and let the bad boy come out to play.

Here is where it rose above the old hippie patchouli and moved into a modern more sophisticated range with just a hint of danger. The base notes of Tonka bean, amber, musk and a tough long lasting but supple leather bring it all together without ever taking off the edge. There is that underlying feeling in the dry down that it could turn dirty again, rough you up and whisper things that only you want to hear at three in the morning. It is an exciting fragrance, a challenging fragrance, a damn sexy fragrance.

Long lasting, yes like a 20 year old boy on his first trip to the Bunny Ranch. Sillage is large and in charge. This is not a perfume that everyone can wear, but if you have the big boy pants to pull it off then you will shine. For the rest of us…well it’s Mister Toad’s wild ride through the patchouli patch on the way to Storyville.

Exciting, dangerous, big and bold Patcholui Absolu is something special, rare and wonderful. But I wouldn’t wear it on a first date, After all,  I am not that kind of guy. But on the third date yes!

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HOW INSENSITIVE…. Prada Amber Pour Homme

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At the door to Dior he tried to clear his mind and continue his morning walk along the Avenue Montaigne but it was no use.  As he strolled past the minuscule and austere square park next to Gorgio Armani he realized the street that usually made him happy did not make him happy on this very early clear late June morning. The lush green fingers of the Horse Chestnut tree leaves seemed to point down at him in disdain.

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The snappy click of his red soled Smoker Flats seemed not smart but rather muffled, scuffed and sad. He had been walking all night unable to sleep since the opera ended and he said goodnight her and then without much thought a sudden and final goodbye.

There were no tears this time, usually there were. No slap in the face. That too was de rigueur with some of them in fact it had never gone out of style. Euros had not been flung in his face. No name calling, no pleading, nothing. Nothing but that last look.

Ending an affair had never been so easy. And yet he could not sleep and only walking had gotten him through the night and to this early dawn under the accusatory trees. Rene Michel Petriz had no idea that for the first time in his life he was caught by something so foreign to him that he didn’t recognize what it was that would not leave him alone. His heart had no room for words like regret, guilt, remorse or the most dangerous word of all, love. He was built for speed, designed in fact to please the eye, to entice the touch and the sound of his voice had more than once obliterated a woman’s defenses. Born with the lucky combination of looks, charm, intelligence, and most importantly sans regret had made the most desirable gigolo in Paris. So this little fling he had ended, a gratis diversion from the wealthy women who kept him secure should have never started. It was best for all that he had killed it last night. And it was good for business. She had cost him a lot of time and money. He looked into the dark windows of Armani and was shocked when all he saw in them was the reflection of that last look in her eyes, not cold, not crushed, simply disappointment.

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  If only it were later in the day and the stores were open. Silk ties and fine linen shirts would take his mind off of her and that final look when he told her it was over. He walked on. The ruby geraniums on the balconies of The Hôtel Plaza Athénée glistened with diamond like touches of morning dew. He smiled remembering the rich Argentine woman whom in that very hotel had dropped her Van Cleef & Arpels diamond and ruby cocktail ring in his glass of champagne as payment for the night. It was a cold memory and his smile faded. He needed to get back to work.

For the rest of the way, to the end of the avenue he was oblivious to the passing windows of Bottega Veneta, and Prada filled with things he would never need. At the Place de l’Alma he crossed to the intersection of Avenue Montagne and Avenue George V and stopped in front of Chez Francis.

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It was just opening. He took a seat outside on the sidewalk just behind the green hedges. The young waiter brought him a coffee and then retreated back inside to leave Rene Michel uncharacteristically slouched in his chair long legs stretched out before him exposing his scuffed Louboutin soles, He took a sip of his liquid breakfast and contemplated the light traffic on the Pont de l’Alma. Slowly the flame of liberty across the place de l’Alma came into focus.

kvefr1466sIt marked the entrance to the tunnel where in 1997 Princess Diana died. On the balustrade above the entrance to the tunnel and just behind the Flame of Liberty thousands of messages were scrawled in many languages lamenting the loss of the Princess. Messages of love and farewell. The spot had become an unofficial memorial to her.  Rene Michel starred at the flame of Liberty, his coffee untouched turned cold.

When, the night before, he told her on the steps of the opera house that he was leaving her for good. She looked at him in disappointment.

“I love you.” She said.

He just stared at her in icy silence then turned and walked away. He walked all night.

Gregory fitoussi as Rene Michel Petriz

***

Prada Amber pour Homme (2006) created by perfumer Daniela (Roche) Andrier under the guidance of the head of Prada Miuccia Prada is an interesting fragrance to me. One that challenged me and in so doing became a good object lesion in the understanding that sometimes a perfume takes time. You see, I almost ended the affair before it began. How insensitive of me.

This oriental fougere is not a bold in your face amber based fragrance but rather a soft, distantly elegant men’s fragrance that in my first encounters left me disappointed.  This was a case of expectations from the name not at all from the actual understated beauty I came to know in this fragrance. Amber! Amber in the name of the fragrance was my downfall. Expectations. I forgot for a moment what I have learned in life about expectations. If you leave expectations at the door you will never be disappointed and often times you will in fact be surprised.

I was hoping for a full lush symphony of deep romantic amber such as one finds in Ambre Nuit by Christian Dior.  But in truth I can find no amber in the fragrance per se but rather an accord of amber created by the blending of notes. Thus it is more of an amber veil rather than a smooth polished and hard amber note.

The fragrance opens bright and bracing with a beautiful mandarin, neroli and bergamot combo that is given an interesting edge of masculine sweat that shimmers the citrus with a glistening dash of cardamom. This gives it a touch of the sensual. But the sweaty aspect is never off putting or in need of a bath but rather like the salty deliciousness of a lover’s skin. The opening lingers for some time before the mid-notes enter.

With the arrival of these mid-notes we are awash in clean soapy musk, which is sweetened by a spray of orange blossoms. There is a really great geranium here as well along with a touch of bitter green vetiver gives the fragrance its strong masculinity. This is layered over with an exotic surprise of myrrh that is just the right touch. This is one of the best soapy accords I have found. Very complex and rich without a detergent brashness to make it common.

In the dry down there is more sensuality but of the understated variety coming from labdanum. It is smooth and soothing as it meets a note that Prada is famous for, Leather. It is suede like leather and very expensive smelling. Sandalwood and saffron add elegance to the mix. There is, I have read supposed to be tonka, vanilla and patchouli in the fragrance but they escape my nose if there are in fact in the game.

The silage is not overwhelming but respectable. It entices notice to those nearby rather than commanding their attention.  Prada Amber Pour Homme lasts a very long time on my skin clocking in at a good solid ten hours. Its wearablitly and versatility ranges in my estimation from office wear to evening. You will find that it will carry you thought the workday and into evening with great ease and elegance.

Overall it is understated, sophisticated and accessible. Commercial and wearable by a wide range of men and women. It may not be what one expects. But it surprised me in its development once I let go of what I wanted it to be and allowed it to stand on its own and be what it is, a fine masculine fragrance.

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PRADA AMBER POUR HOMME

FOUR GOLD STARS ****

A SPLASH OF CAPRI ~ Smashingly Brilliant by Diana Vreeland

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“He just quit! Balenciaga just shut up shop and quit.” Mona Bismarck’s voice was on the teeter-totter of emotions between tears and laughter. “No darling QUIT, Can you HEAR me? We have a bad connection. Cristóbal says no one has style any longer. It’s the hippies I tell you! They’ve killed fashion!”

Diana could hear Mona on the phone from the cool blue of the villa’s interior. Her voice tumbled past the chiffon drapes seeming to almost push them out against the incoming warm breeze and across the terrace to where Diana stood. It was the end of an era no doubt about that, If you wore Balenciaga you were the only woman in the room – no other woman existed. But now that he was finished how boring it would be to hang on to the past, with all the magnificence of today and tomorrow opening before the world.

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    The Bay of Naples sparkled all blue sapphires and white diamonds in the sun and in the distance Vesuvius wore a broad sunhat of flat white clouds.  Diana smiled to herself and walk to the edge of the terrace to where the path lead down the steep cliffs to the roman sea of Catullus’s poetry and Tiberius’ treachery. As far as she was concerned the hippies had great style and it was born from being positively original. The 60’s were the most exciting decade since her youth bubbled over in the 1920’s. The music, the colors the street fashion and Mick Jagger’s Lips! Positively Marvelous!

1968, was it really only two years ago that Reed died? Her first time back to Capri since then. There were so many wonderful times with Reed in Capri. Mona’s hissing rising voice plucked at her ears like stinging harpies. She looked up at the statue of Augustus perched on the precipice arm stretched out over the tops of the juniper trees that clung to the cliffs below. He was pointing to Sorrento. Suddenly she had to get away.

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   When she reached the beach the heat of the day was at its zenith. That wonderful caressing heat that snaked across the sea from Africa laden with the smell of flowering Italian lemon trees and climbing geraniums. She kicked off her sandals at the edge of the water and pushed her Chinese red lacquered toenails into the cool water.  She wiggled them watching with great amusement the rubies that were her toes dance under the turquoise salted waters. All of this in the wonderful light of Capri…well lighting is everything in a color.  She’d said that often enough.

Down she sat on the small marble white pebbles keeping her toes submerged and looked across the bay to the mountain that loomed over Pompeii. That was where she and Reed first saw the fresco of the slave girl in “Capri” Sandals. The easy sensuality of those ancient shoes worn by a young girl frozen in ashy time had impressed her as timeless, beautiful and somehow tender. She shut her eyes and drifted into the past.

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“You smell like Capri Diana.”

She opened her eyes to see Reed coming out of the Tyrrhenian Sea, golden tan, young and in love with life and with her.

Still sometimes a little shy of him she smiled with reserve.  “I have been making my own perfume out of bergamot and suede and germanium petals. Do you like it? I think it will be the hit of 1928.”

“The height of vanity, making your own perfume.” He teased and followed it with a wink.

“I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.”

With his intrinsic grace he descended to sit beside her looking every inch Apollo with his noble head blotting out the sun thus making it his crown. He leaned over and smelled her skin. “It is divine darling. Like summer after the rain.”

Diana watch him as he turned his face away and looked out over the bay. She wondered still that this marvelous man, had come into her life and found her as fascinating as she knew she was. “Do you like it here Reed?”

“No prohibition here and it is beautiful. I love it Diana.” He turned back to her.

“Prohibition. Insane idea. Try to keep me from taking a swallow of a cup of tea and I’ll drink the whole pot.”

Reed laughed. “You have wit my darling. That is one of your charms you know.”

“A funny person is funny only for so long, but a wit can sit down and go on being spellbinding forever. Witty talk is without question the most fascinating entertainment there is.”

He smiled and looked up at the ruins of the Villa Jovis.  “Do you like Capri?”

“Heaven on earth my love, utterly and completely divine. The only thing I find I like better than this island is London and like London only because it is so close to Paris. ”

“Then we shall come back again as often as we can.” Reed said as he turned back to her as a sunflower follows the sun. He leaned in to pull his young wife into his arms. She closed her eyes and inhaled.

“You also smell like Capri darling.” She said softly and looked up into his eyes “And it is smashingly brilliant.”

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(Reed and Diana Vreeland)

***

I have not been to Capri the island of the virgin daughters of Phorcys known as the Sirens.  But I have been very close, the Amalfi Coast. And if Capri smells anything like the junipers and lemon groves of Sorrento in spring then I know I would love it as much as Diana Vreeland did.

The new release Smashingly Brilliant by the house of Diana Vreeland was inspired by her love of Capri. Being the newest addition to the line this has burst upon the spring scene like the much anticipated release from winter’s grip that we have all been waiting for. This is a fragrance that will not merely carry one into spring, but on though the high heat of winter and into the lingering warm days of a fading fall. Smashingly Brilliant is the first fragrance from Diana Vreeland designed for both men and women. This is wonderful news, for though I truly believe that many in the line are uni-sex Smashingly Brilliant opens the doors to men of a less adventuresome nature. And that is great! This house should be discovered by everyone who loves magnificent perfumes.

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   The nose behind this Citrus Aromatic is Clement Gavarry who also created two of my other favorites in the line, Extravagance Russe and Simply Divine.   Amani Code, Prada Amber, Lovely Sara Jessica Parker and Black Violet Tom Ford are a few of his many highlights as a perfumer.

Clement Gavarry opens the fragance bright and sunny and very Italian with the top notes of Italian lemons, succulent Calabrian bergamot, summer warmed aromatic juniper berries and a true Italian touch, basil. It gleams and sparks on the skin, a real wake up happy and ready to go opening.

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   The heart note is a solo star center stage and in full spicy bloom. The aria in Vreeland Red that is a beautiful peppery geranium. It unfolds on the skin in stages like the blooms of the flower it comes from. Fluttering open at the rise of heat from the skin as the flowers do in the full glory of an adoring Mediterranean sun.

The geranium carries into the dry down that is as comfortable as a pair of those Capri sandals Mrs. Vreeland first saw in Pompeii. The suede note is soft and caressing on the skin and warms up the dry down in a creamy supple leather note. Not a hard biting leather but buffed relaxing leather like those fine perfect driving gloves one finally finds at Bergdorf Goodman or Neiman Marcus. A perfect fit on the skin. This wonderful leather is wrapped around fresh wood notes that add to the masculinity of this side of the scent. It is smart, bright and ready to go. Purely scintillating from top note to bottom.

Silage is low and close to the skin. With a fragrance like this made for the outdoors and sporting around in convertibles and on the tennis court who would want it any other way. For some the longevity may be an issue for on my skin it fades at between three and four hours. For me that is just the perfect excuse to refresh. In the words of Diana Vreeland, “Perfume is an extravagance.  But it’s odd that Americans, who God knows are an extravagant people, have never used scents properly.  They buy bottles, but they don’t splash it on.  Chanel always used to say, keep a bottle in your bag, and refresh yourself with it continually.”

And how refreshing Smashingly Brilliant is. Go ahead, splash it on!

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UNA NOTTE A ROMA ~ Le Gemme Bvlgari Haute Parfum

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Slick and glittering of ruby and emerald reflected from the traffic lights, the Via Veneto was empty after the predawn spring rain. Nick Abbot walked down the steps of the Excelc6ior Hotel and trough the porte-cochère filled with the thrill of his first morning in Rome. He could not sleep from the excitement that keep waking him to whisper “five days in Rome…why are you sleeping?”

On the sidewalk near to where he remembered Marcello had returned Ekberg to the Hotel in black and white a half a century or more ago, he smiled. It really was Rome…and it felt like coming home.  He looked up the street. Café de Paris was half hidden by the sycamore trees its sapphire blue neon swirling. The sidewalk before it held the memory of Valentino as a youth bumping into destiny and Giancarlo Giammetti on that very spot.

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Beyond was the ancient Porta Pinciana gate in the Aurelian walls that opened onto the Borghese gardens. He crossed the street and just past the Fellini plaque he turned down the Via Ludovisi.

A Ferrari convertible sped past sending a spray of water up from the street. Caught momentarily in the headlights the water arched over the sidewalk and became spray of diamonds as they fell in slow-motion into a pool of shimmering platinum. The woman driving waved to him her fingers fluttering bejeweled in amethyst. In the rear view mirror He caught her smile, so like Claudia Cardinale’s.  He walked on not knowing where he was going. He just wanted to feel and smell and embrace the city he had waited forty nine years to come home to at last.

The only sound was the click of his heels on the cobblestones.

“Marcello! Where are you?”

At the sound of her voice he stopped and turned in front of the Villa Maraini? Silence, only silence. The kind that only exists in a city as it breathes slowly in and out as it sleeps.  There was no one behind him. He walked on past the Hotel Eden and turned left along via Francesco Crispi. The sidewalk became narrow and kept him close to walls washed in citrine and terracotta. A shutter opened across the street as he turned the corner onto via Sistina and he caught a glimpse of a dark woman. She looked down at him and laughed and shutters closed. That laugh was so familiar. He stopped…wait a minute. He knew that laugh and that dark beautiful face. Anna Magnani! But that was impossible. He laughed softly, it must be jet lag he thought and walked on toward the obelisk up ahead. At the Hassler the street opened onto a small piazza.

“There you are! We have been waiting for you.”

He turned to see young Monica Vitti standing in front of the spinning gold and glass revolving doors of the Hassler. Smoking a cigarette, she was black and white film incarnate. No color except for spectacular Technicolor diamond and emerald necklace which she touched lightly with her right hand. There was a matching ring. And likewise the earrings danced from her ears matched the entire suite. She dropped her cigarette onto the cobblestones and walked right through him. Astonished Nick turned to watch as the Italian star skipped in her evening gown to meet Alain Delon who was waiting in the shadow of the obelisk.

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“I can’t believe……” Nick’s heart skipped five beats as he saw them walk to a flight of stairs then disappear down them. He ran to the stairs and was stunned by his first sight of the Spanish Steps as they tumbled and spilled before him down to the Piazza di Spagna.

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The celluloid phantoms of Vitti and Delon were gliding down the steps toward the Via dei Condotti. Nick stepped down onto the first marble step worn by centuries of those who walked before him. The air became light, and the sound of Nino Rota’s music filled the sky as the first touch of dawn rose at the top of the steps over the Trinità dei Monti . Nick was near euphoria as he moved down and down amid a parade of cinema dreams. Ingrid Bergman passed on his right carrying a parasol…from her neck hung diamonds to dazzle the most jaded eye. She smiled at Nick. From his left came Virna Lisi dripping in scintillating stones she smiled into his eyes. As she passed him she caressed his chin with the tip of a finger and priceless rubies winked from her ears. Legends from every era of film came and went as he descended. Joan Collins in black pearls, Sharon Stone in gold, Grace Kelly in sapphires, Romey Schenider resplendent in amethyst. Audrey Hepburn met him half way down and took his arm. She was eating a gelato on a cone and held it out to him to take a taste. It was like nothing he had ever tasted before. Audrey then led him to the bottom of the Spanish Steps to the man waiting below. She kissed his cheek and vanished in swirl of stars.

Richard Burton stood before him. As he turned to lead the way he spoke as only he could in that baritone made in heaven at Shakespeare’s suggestion.

“’We will have rings, and things, and fine array’”

Nick followed unbelieving and wanting to go on forever in whatever magic this was.

Richard Burton stopped half way down the first block and turned. He smiled.

Nick looked up at the building. One word over the door. BVLGARI.

“That is the only word Elizabeth knows in Italian.”  Burton said.

The music stopped, the street was deserted …they were all gone except for Nick.

A touch of breeze up from the Tiber tosseled his hair and whispered in his ear.

“Welcome to Rome.”

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The new haute perfume collection of perfumes by Bvlgari is inspired by the iconic stones for which the Roman jewelry house is famous for. Six fragrances from six stones that create what Bvlgari calls “The Bvlgari Gems Road”.

The collection is called Le Gemme (The Gems) and it is something to celebrate.  The house known for adorning the necks, ears, wrists and fingers of most if not all of the legends of the 20th century and beyond has in the past impressed us with such fragrances as the amazing Bvlgari Black, The Jasmine Noir collection, The Aqua collection and Bvlgari Man collection and Omnia.  But with this new and very exclusive release the house is concentrating on perfumes that represent the very core of the Bvlgari brand. The soul of chic that is Bvlgari jewelry.

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First in the lineup is Ashlemah, (sweet dreams) is based on the amethyst. A stone associated with divinity, spirituality and purity. This perfume is the aristocrat of the line. It is highly sophisticated in nature and wears on the skin with regal beauty. Purple after all is the color of kings. The notes are lavender essence, Iris absolute and musk. No muddle of too many symphonic notes but rather a chamber piece of clarity and beauty. It opens in Lavender but the star in the evening sky is the imperial cool beauty of a lovely iris note. This is held aloft on the skin by a clean clear musk.

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Sunlight over Capri, Joy and la dolce vita are what we find in our second fragrance Maravilla (delight / marvelous ). The stone that we explore here is the golden Citrine, the stone of intelligence, and sunny disposition. In fact this chypre fragrance is my favorite of the line, bright, effervescent and shooting light and joy right off the skin. This is a lemon grove hugging the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast. The notes of Italian Lemon tree, Orange flower absolute are married to a playful and yet grounded rich patchouli. Again just three major notes and what a magic marriage of notes these three are. The patchouli with the two citrus notes is a brilliant move by the perfumer Daniella Andrier who is the nose for the entire collection. It is woodsy and warm. This will be a huge summer and spring hit.

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Mystery and solitude are Calaluna, the moonstone. The goddess, this stone is associated with magnetism, and intuition. Calaluna is also a beautiful isolated bay on the island of Sardinia. Azure waters and white warm sands are the signature of this place where the cliffs dotted with caves falls it the sea. This fragrance of White Iris, almond flavored Heliotrope and Sandalwood is warm and lonely. Not the sad kind of lonely but the self-possessed solitude of one who lives comfortably in one’s own skin. This is a very contemplative fragrance. When I wear it I feel the doors of introspection and discovery unlock and open before me. Truly beautiful, and again only three notes that blend to do all of this. Less is becoming the minimalist’s everything. That everything embodied here is the pinnacle of cool and chic.

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Lilaia was a Naiad of Spring to the Greeks and Romans. A fresh water nymph and daughter of the river Kephisos. She also lends her name to this green fresh fragrance by Bvlgari. Lilaia is inspired by the green Peridot a gem of rebirth and change. So fittingly this is a beautiful aromatic slightly fruity perfume. The notes are Galbanum, Mastic absolute, mint, bitter orange and musk. The Mastic give the aromatic resinous galbanum a full round lushness of a green Mediterranean forest of pine and cedar like accords. This to me smells like the umbrella pines on the Palatine hill in Rome. There in the Farnese gardens at the top of the hill just before you enter the ruins of the imperial palaces there is an overlook perched over the Forum. At that spot, under those umbrella pines you are enveloped in the most wonderful woody green scent. This to me is where Lilaia now lives singing her song in harmonious lovely notes.

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The Pink Tourmaline is a spitfire stone from Brazil, and at Bvlgari they call her, Amarena. In Italian, Morello Cherry. She is all about heat and glamour and a big bold flower in her hair. This fragrance sambas on the skin to a wonderful tune created by the notes of Amarena Cherry, Violet, Rose Centifolia and Tuberose. This is a glamorous floral that becomes more entrancing after the sun sets. In fact there is a rather playful war of the roses going on here. A tug of war between the temperamental rose and the heavy lidded languorous tuberose. But as you move into the fragrance the two kiss and make up ending in a rather intricate sexy tango. For a winter seduction under the stars in the Borghese gardens wrapped in chinchilla. Well look no further, is your arsenal of love.

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From across the empire and beyond the deserts of the Middle East came spices and the rarest of gems to tantalize and intoxicate the aristocrats and emperors of Rome. For thousands of years and to this day the markets of Rome such as the open air market at the Campo de’ Fiori are filled with wonderful smells. Here in the last presentation of Le Gemme, Bvlgari dazzles us with the exotic Noorah. Inspired by the Silk Road between China and Rome one particular stone made its way through the East to the capital on the Tiber. That stone was Turquoise. Noorah means the “exuberance of the heavens” and what a perfect name for this exotic sensual perfume. Galbanum, cardamom, and vanilla found in the markets of Rome are lush and interesting here in the opening. I pick up a rich sweet tobacco note along with the very intriguing note of candied dates from Arabia. The caravan from Petra has arrived! This one when it first hits the skin is a bit biting but settles down nicely into a warm embracing and very inviting scent.

I found it interesting with each fragrance in the line that they vary in intensity and each as it should for what it is. Some lighter as in the Maravilla and others bold and deep such as in Amarena. With them all I found the longevity to range from good to excellent. The most interesting aspect of that would be that at about five or so hours they seemed to die but then about twenty minutes later they bloomed anew. I found that delightful. In all they last between eight to twelve hours on my skin. Projection is fine Amerena being the one to push out the most. So there is, in this respect something to please almost any taste in that regard. Marketed to women for the most part they all, to me work well as unisex scents. So fellows don’t be shy, step up and try some truly wonderful fragrances to wear with that great Bvlgari watch.

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The line is making its U.S. debut this month April 2015 in a select number of Bloomingdales across the country. As for Europe I am under the impression it has already launched. The beautiful Bvlgari 6-piece Collection box of 10ml sprayers is available at $260. A 30ml bottle retails at $155 and the 100ml bottle at $310

Le Gemme Bvlgari collection has been a joy to explore. A wonderful olfactory journey though the past and present along a road paved with jewels, gems and memories.

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A COMEBACK…. “I hate that word! It’s a return!” Norma Desmond.

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I have been away from the written review since Novmeber 2014. This was due to my computer issues which have at last been adressed. More reviews are on the way but in the meantime here is something special from my YouTube review Channel. Get some popcorn, turn off the lights and hold on to your martini and gigolo… this one is scary.

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