THE MANHATTAN MAD HATTER ~ “Summer Rain” perfume 1939

DOLLY DUPUYSTER

THE MANHATTAN MAD HATTER

By Dolly Dupuyster

Summer is here darlings and the heat has hit our island like a Sirocco sandstorm blowing over a camel’s back on the Sahara. Where to go to get relief? Well there is always cocktails at “21” or a matinee in the air-conditioned cool deco comfort of Radio City Music hall or if you really want to, a weekend escape to Newport.

Tempo of the City 21, Fifth Avenue and 42thStreet, New York, 1938

HIGH SUMMER ON 5TH AVE.

  But for me, the high priestess of pulp reportage on the high and low of Manhattan High Society there is really only one place to go on a hot afternoon in New York. (And after all I can’t leave our island, I might miss something delicious.)  So off I go to that bastion of high fashion and fabulous frivolity, Black’s Fifth Avenue.

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BLACK’S 5TH AVE.

   I get all my duds at Black’s as well as my scoops and scopes on the darlings of the Upper East Side. The very upper Upper if you know what I mean and I know you do!  Well my dear readers this very morning I walked into Black’s, and deposited my angel Chow, Mr. Choo Choo Chow Chow with the doggie check (like the coat check at El Morocco, but for dogs) and wound my way over to my favorite counter girl in all of Black’s, Miss Crystal Allen in the perfume department. This honey is no wet firecracker and has a reputation for being one of the top sellers to the male clientele of the establishment. Men in the perfume department you say? Well, And no wonder! She is a stunner. And the boys have to buy there wives and Chorines perfume from time to time so off they go to see darling Crystal.

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CRYSTAL ALLEN

   Olga at Black’s who is a rather chatty manicurist told me just last week that Crystal may be seeing the husband of one of our most beloved socialites on the sly. She referred to Crystal as a “Terrible man trap” and said. “She has the kind of eyes that go up and down a man like a search light.”   Well a certain Mrs. S.H. should pay a visit to Olga if she knows what’s good for a marriage.

OLGA AT BLACKS 5TH AVE

OLGA GIVES SYLVIA FOWLER AN EAR FULL

   But back to the perfume counter. The charming Crystal and I chatted a bit before I told her I was on the look out for something new in perfume. I mean I have been wearing last season’s “Oomph!” so much of late that even Mr. Choo Choo Chow Chow is turning his nose up at me in shear boredom not to mention the doorman at the Stork Club. He no longer tips his hat to me but gives me the stink eye and the high hat in one fell swoop. Something had to be done!   Crystal said she had just the thing, brand new and just in from Pairs, “Summer Rain”. My dears to begin with the bottle is divine! A little crystal naked lady sporting an umbrella is the stopper! Magnificent madness must have possessed the bottle makers when they came up with this one!  Crystal pumped the air around me full of the fabulous fragrance and it was Midtown madness magic time for your Dolly! I have never smelled anything so heady, lovely, exotic, spicy, and sweet and sour! Like Dim Sum in Chinatown in the middle of a fragrant garden in Versailles while riding on the back side of a spice caravan from India. Crystal told me that it is an Aromatic Oriental Woody Chypre Floral Fougere eau de Cologne. She said it has EVERYTHING in it. And you know I believe her. It just goes on forever opening bright and citrusy aldahyde cocktail with mid-notes of every flower in creation and then drying down a dark amber oak mossy vetiver musky lushness. I was sold on the spot and bought ten bottles!  They say the Depression will be over soon anyway and did my share to boost the economy. Well the economy of France anyway. So darlings I have found my new signature scent. Forget Chanel No.5, Joy, and Tabu. This is the one for me.

And darlings on the way home in the limousine Mr. Choo Choo Chow Chow agreed that Summer Rain is the perfume for the summer of 1939.

 MRS HAINES AND SUMMER RAIN BOTTLE

A CERTAIN MANHATTAN SOCIALITE WITH HER BOTTLE OF “SUMMER RAIN”.

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Perfume in the movies is always a fun moment for those of us who are fumeheads. Be it in the wonderful “Perfume, The Story of A Murder” or Addie Loggins dousing herself with Evening In Paris in “Paper Moon”.  Perfume plays a key roll in so many “reel” lives just as it does in our real lives.

One of my favorite movies where perfume makes a very important appearance is “The Women” from M.G.M. released in 1939. The film boasts all the top female stars of that studio from Joan Crawford to Norma Shearer right down to Hedda Hopper as gossip maven Dolly Dupuyster. (Exactly the same profession ex-silent film actress Hedda had at this point in real life as a Hollywood tongue wagger for the Los Angeles Times.)

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When it came time to cast the bottle for the pivotal roll of “Summer Rain” art director Cedric Gibbons found the perfect “actress” in Czechoslovakia. The bottle was created by the son-in-law of glass designer Heinrich Hoffmann, Curt Schlevogt who along with his father-in-law created beautiful Art Deco bottles for perfume houses throughout Europe. This particular bottle was from the “Ingrid” collection of bottles. Gibbons added a plastic umbrella a label and some festive ribbon work to the nude figure on the stopper and “Summer Rain” was born an M.G.M. star.

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A SURVIVING BOTTLE WITHOUT THE UMBRELLA

At the time of the film’s release M.G.M. gave as gifts bottles of the perfume. No one today knows what the perfume smelled like but I would like to think that Dolly Dupuyster’s description is pretty accurate. There were two known forms of this giveaway, one clear crystal square and the other with a clear stopper and dark obelisk shape bottle.

This bottle design created in 1937 was one of the last Schlevogt bottles to come out of Czechoslovakia from before the out break of World War II. With the Russian Occupation of Czechoslovakia the factory was confiscated.  Curt Schlevogt ended up in Paris on the rue de Paradis dealing in quality glass by other designers.

 

“SUMMER RAIN” 5 GOLD STARS ~ “THE WOMEN” 1939, FIVE GOLD STARS

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NO.5 ~ Chanel No.5

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1920***

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

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“Juju hold it up to my ear.”

The maid did as she was told.

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

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

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

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

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

“It is Coco Chanel!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mon dieu! What? What happened?”

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

“Common as dirt, that woman?”

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

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

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

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


1921***

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

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1920 FLAPPER BY B.J.MOON

 1945***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1962***

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

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

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

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2013***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Barbarians.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…AND THE WINNER IS, ~ White Diamonds By Elizabeth Taylor

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Tomorrow night is the 85th Annual Academy Awards.  

I would like to present for your consideration. 

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Yul Brynner ripped open the envelope paused with a half smile looked up and out across the audience in the packed Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to find her eyes.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR OSCAR NIGHT 1961

“And the winner is…..”

The scandal would have ruined any other actress’s career. Only a few years before Ingrid Bergman had been vilified and exiled to Italy for leaving her husband and daughter to marry Roberto Rossellini and other lesser stars had fallen from the heavens of Hollywood for much less.

Yet she is still here, dressed in Dior, sitting back in her chair not expecting anything, waiting to hear if she is going home with Oscar.

She was the little girl with the grown-up face who had won the hearts of America when she dressed as a jockey and won the Grand National at twelve years old, the teenage girl who found her place in the sun when she steamed up the screen with the hottest kiss ever filmed and uttered the line that would define her for many.

“Tell mamma, tell mamma all….”

She had taken West Texas on at twenty two and tamed a rebel in the bargain. She revisited F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Paris, went mad in the midst of the American Civil War. But when she was that cat Maggie on a hot tin roof all hell broke loose.

Suddenly a few summers before this Oscar night the most beautiful widow in the world had stolen Tammy’s husband. This sealed her image as a modern day Cleopatra and in so doing convincing a failing studio that she was the only woman who could save them by barging down the Nile in style. But first she had a debt to pay. Metro said she had to play a prostitute before they would release her to play a queen. She hated the role and swore she would sleep walk through it. She took no direction from her director and had her crooner husband inserted into the film. The first few days of shooting where a nightmare but something happened to change it all. Her innate professionalism took over and her forth Oscar nomination was the result.

The housewives of America where horrified and fascinated all in the same breath by her performance on screen and off, she was the home wrecker they loved to hate and envied for her beauty. After playing the Park Avenue call girl she was off to London to make history as the woman who nearly brought down the Roman Empire. It didn’t start out so well and in a month she had to be carried on set for her costume test ill with the flu. Within hours she was fighting for her life when the flu morphed into a deadly form of pneumonia. A London newspaper announced her death at the very moment she came back from the edge at the urging of Mike Todd.

“Go back baby. You have more to do. I’ll be waiting for you when it is time.”

The tracheotomy scar at the base of her neck would be her badge of survival, one of many.

The world suddenly realized what a loss her death would be too their collective dreams. They had almost lost that beautiful little girl, the girl who had everything they needed to remind them that there was still magic to be found in flickering images on a silvery screen.

“And the winner is, Elizabeth Taylor….Butterfield-8”

 ELIZABETH TAYLOR OSCAR NIGHT 1961 WIN

The Santa Monica Civic Center exploded in jubilation. They and the world had forgiven her.

“I lost that Oscar to a tracheotomy” Shirley MacLaine whispered as she joined in the applause.

When Elizabeth still weak from her ordeal in London reached the podium she was visibly moved.

“I don’t really know how to express my gratitude for this and for everything.  I guess all I can do is say thank you, thank you with all my heart.”

All was right with the universe; everything was back in place in the heavens. Our National Velvet had won the prize and come home to us. All that was left for Elizabeth Taylor to do now was to fly off to Rome to meet her new Mark Antony.

 Loris Loddi, Elizabeth Taylor, and others., in scene from CLEOPATRA, 1963

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White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor is one of the most popular perfumes on the market. It has been a huge seller for over twenty years and a winner of the Fifi award (the Oscars of the fragrance industry). It has eclipsed Taylor’s first perfume Passion and outlived the many flankers of rubies, sapphires and emeralds.

It is in my view the best of her line. This Floral Aldehyde is sure to be viewed by the younger audience as an old lady scent. That would be a mistake. White Diamonds is really a nod to a classic and classy approach to perfume. It smells vintage, rich, elegant and glamorous. This perfume is a star and she is at ease in her skin as a stunning beauty with a great sense of humor. And she owes a lot to Chanel No.5 in her make-up. In fact you might agree that White Diamonds is a Hollywood star playing the role of No.5.

When the lights come up on set the star walks on with a glorious blast of fizzy and fabulous aldehydes that flash a stunning set of gems made up of bergamot, Neroli, orange and lily. This opening is a glittering  Bulgari necklace that accentuated the lush fullness of her décolletage.

Then she gets down to the business she excels at, drama! Her violets flash purple lights and she throws out petals of roses and laughing narcissus. She smiles with wisps of ylang-ylang and sensuous jasmine.  Then all is banished by the queen, Egyptian tuberose. How can you resist her?

At the end of the shoot just before the assistant director calls a wrap. She settles into her director’s chair with a relaxing cocktail of fuzzy comfy oak moss, patchouli, musk, creamy sandalwood and warming relaxing amber.

Like all great stars White Diamonds has longevity. (It is long lasting in more ways than one. The bottle I have is from 1991 and smells wonderful.) She lasts for hours and hours, eight to ten hours tops and that is fabulous. She remains young on the skin like a dusting of Max Factor powder that stays smooth and creamy well into the night. Her projection is professional and no need for a body microphone. She lets you know she is in the room and all eyes are on her.

White Diamonds like Elizabeth Taylor is unforgettable.

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WHITE DIAMONDS, FIVE GOLD STARS

“There is no deodorant like success” Elizabeth Taylor

A CHANEL CHRISTMAS

Zorro should have shown up on our front porch on Christmas Eve, or at the very least Ramona and Alejandro. A Mexican Christmas was very unique to our Irish American family. The night before Christmas we had enchiladas and chili rellenos for dinner. Then we would go out in the back yard and knock the heck out of a piñata. Mom would wind down the evening by reading “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to me and my cousins and we would sip on spicy Mexican hot chocolate, munch on Pan de Polvo (Mexican cookies)  and beg to stay up just a little bit longer. My mother who was born in Carthage Missouri was so taken with the Latin culture and history of Los Angeles that she decided our Christmas Eve would always have an early California theme to honor the Spanish founders of the state and the traditions of that lost romantic time.

(Mexican Christmas Piñata)

Around nine p.m. my very glamorous Aunt Betty (whom I was sure was a movie star in the daytime when she wasn’t being a nurse at night.) would put my cousins and I to bed with a hug and a special word for each of us. And for the next two hours Uncle Bud would be sent in every fifteen minutes to tell us to shut up and go to sleep.

Come Christmas morning at the pre crack of dawn the Mexican Christmas flew out the window as we three boys slid down the banister right into a traditional Christmas. A big hubbub around the Christmas tree as presents were ripped open to reveal ether that thing you wanted more than life itself, or a pair of socks. After the madness subsided and our fathers were set to assembling this or putting the batteries into that, Mom and Aunt Betty and Granny would get breakfast ready.

(Uncle Bud and Aunt Betty, Exposition Park Los Angeles 1948)

All of this was part of our family tradition. Yet there was one tradition each year that stood out to me later in life as something unique and very special. There was Uncle Bud who was married to Aunt Betty, and then there was Uncle Buddy who was Mom and Aunt Betty’s brother. He was not married, a little intimidating and very mysterious to me. He always showed up just after breakfast and while we kids were playing with new toys he would sit Mom, Aunt Betty and Granny down in the living room. Amidst the knee deep mess of Christmas paper and tattered ribbons he would do the most amazing thing every year which went unnoticed by me until the Christmas of 1961.

I looked up from my Spartacus Gladiator game to see my mother’s face. She was glowing and looking more beautiful than I have ever noticed before. Everything seems to shift to soft focus. Uncle Buddy was handing her a small white box with a black ribbon around it. Then he handed one to Aunt Betty, she was glowing too! And then the last box to Granny who was near angelic in her shimmering smile and just a hint of a tear in her eye. Very deliberately, simultaneously and slowly they each opened the presents. The lights from the Christmas tree glittered and refracted off the small glass bottles that were gently pulled from the white boxes. They were filled with a golden liquid and at the sight of them the women, my Mother, my Aunt and my Grandmother would exclaim. “Oh Buddy you shouldn’t have.”

But he did do it, and he did it every year.  He gave the three women he loved more than anyone else for his entire life the one thing they adored; a small precious bottle of Chanel No.5. Eau de Toilette.

    They dabbed a little behind each ear and the room was infused with the most wonderful smell. They hugged Uncle Buddy and thanked him for giving them the one thing they really wanted. And so they were set for the coming year. Each bottle was placed on a vanity and held the prized spot there. They were nurtured and used sparingly and made to last exactly 364 days.

I leaned that day in 1961 the power, allure and magic of perfume and how it could change everything. And that is why when ever I smell Chanel No.5 it smells just like Christmas to me.

Oh yes I forgot to tell you, after dinner on Christmas day we would have a good old fashioned table raising séance. We were a family of many unusual Christmas traditions.

(Chanel No5 ad circa 1961)

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