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

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

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

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(Lise meets Andy Warhol at Fiumicino International Airport)

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

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(with Ian Bannan)

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

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(with Mona Washborne)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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THE FALL OF ROME ~ GOLD, Les Compositions Parfumees by Lalique

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Gold, she was completely covered in gold….

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She hardly noticed the fingers flitting from her collar to her cleavage as Irene’s hands plucked and pulled at her golden Isis winged cape adjusting it so it hung just so.  At the foot of the black fiberglass beast a line of men with highly oiled skin shuffled past in leather loincloths to their appointed place where the huge ropes waited to be lifted and hauled, their number was in the hundreds. Ahead of them stood the unfinished back of the Arch of Constantine, (set historically at the wrong place at the wrong time) a construction of pipes, scaffolding and plaster of Paris which had been standing a year already just waiting for this day. To the left of it were banks of lights and behind them electrical generators humming low and hot. A myriad of gaffers, technicians and gofers scurried and rushed to serve those machines and gigantic bulbs that would very soon all be turned on and turned toward her. All of this she barely noticed as Joe whispered last minute instructions in her ear. What she did notice was the low rumble of thousands upon thousands of voices beyond the arch. They sounded dangerous and hungry.

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“It’s time.” Joe said. He patted her hand then he and Irene climbed down from the gilded platform leaving her sitting there three stories high with a six year old Italian boy next to her who had no idea that a wave of vertigo was threatening to engulf her. Nor could he understand that she was in the eye of the biggest scandal to rock Hollywood in forty years. Only yesterday the Pope had denounced her publicly in an open letter in the Vatican newspaper as a wanton home wrecker and a sexual vagrant. Her falling in love with the married Richard Burton had even knocked the Cuban Missile Crisis off most of the front pages of the world’s newspapers. The sound of the mob rolled and rumbled ominously beyond the arch in what was a Roman Forum twice as large as the real one just six miles north of Cinecitta. The sound of it hit her in the pit of her stomach. There had been bomb threats that morning which she was not supposed to have known about, but she knew. Another wave of vertigo hit the pit of her stomach as the three thousand extras turned in unison to look toward her. Devout Roman Catholics all, and they all by now had read the Pope’s letter. Some of them might have rotten tomatoes, or rocks or a gun. She could barely make out Richard on the steps of the Senate house next to Rex. He was nervously fingering the hilt of his freshly sharpened gladius. Only then did she realize that she was clutching the little boys back for dear life. He was looking up quizzically at her as if he were about to ask her if she was alright. But he didn’t speak English so he said nothing. She smiled at him. She had to be brave for his sake and the sake of her own children and mother and father who were watching from the sidelines.

Suddenly Joe’s voice came thought a bull horn calling “Action!” The playback music began. Pounding drums deep and majestic that in turn where haunted by flutes and reeds. The three hundred men below began to strain against the ropes and slowly buy one inch then two the great black sphinx began to move laboriously forward toward the arch. All she could hear now were the drums. Was it the playback or was it the sound of her racing heart in her ears? The mob was deadly silent and waiting. Waiting for her. She set her eyes on Richard and concentrated on only him. Nothing else mattered, where she was, the scandal, the damnation of the world that had been hurled at her head faded to a blur and there was only him. No matter what was about to happen in the next moments, she knew he was worth it. They were screaming, they were shouting and they were surging forward as the beast of Egypt’s Queen cleared the arch baring between its paws a goddess of pure gold.

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“Here we go Bessie….” She thought. Then it hit her right between the eyes and shot straight into her heart. The three thousand Roman Catholics were waving and with smiles beaming, blowing kisses and cheering “Liz! Liz! Baci Baci!” kisses kisses. The sphinx came to a dead stop and she was surrounded by nothing but love. It was the most purely golden wonderful moment in a year of heartache, regret and madness. Her eyes were so filled with tears that she couldn’t see Richard until he was atop the gleaming stairs of the sphinx reaching up to her tears stained his beautiful pockmarked cheek. Joe was there too with wet eyes but the most surprising thing was to see that old crusty cameraman Leon Shamroy sitting beside the camera atop the crane crying and clapping.

In the summer of 1962 Elizabeth Taylor, sat on her golden throne atop a monstrous black sphinx at the center of her fame shimmering in the Roman sun in her 24 carat gold Isis costume. She had conquered Rome not to mention the Pope.

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Gold by Lalique is part of the Les Compositions Parfumees 2015 release. A collection of five perfumes that are all based on precious metals. This is a very interesting and exciting point of view for perfume. To create in scent the image, the essence and the emotions elicited by highly prized earthly elements that in essence have no real olfactory signature.  The other four perfumes are Electrum, Zamak, Bronze and Silver. It seems only fitting that we begin with gold.

The nose behind Gold is at this point a mystery. I could not find out who it is but perhaps that just adds to the glamour of this fragrance. A perfume that is smooth and polished to a brilliant shine. Almost austere but there is a warmth in it that like Gold itself draws one in with its fascinating glow. Enticing velvety and rich. There is a velvet buttery beauty to gold when it is polished to mirror brilliance. It is the element that can only be created in the universe when a star goes super nova. The death of a star creates our most precious metal here on Earth. Gold is so rare and prized that the ancient Egyptians believed that the skin of the gods was made of it. And of course if you drop the “L’ from gold in English, what do you have? God.

Gold opens with only two top notes, bergamot and lemon, this is I am told meant to create the brilliance of gold. In fact in the opening the spark of the two citrus notes is brilliant and illusive. It glitters on the skin but momentarily and then streaks away leaving the way open for the star of the perfume, a note that resembles the heavy beauty one finds in the finest of Italian gold jewelry. Before our star note arrives in the mid notes of the perfume there are satellite notes, lovely ones of Egyptian Jasmine and lily of the valley. They are soft and hum in the background like a Greek chorus announcing the arrival of the superstar. It enters as a gorgeous smooth hard edged iris note that if left on its own could very well be too dry, somber and severe. But there is a surprise in the bottom notes that gives the iris a warmth and beauty beyond expectations. The bottom notes are a gift to the iris. And this surprise package is wrapped in earthy patchouli. Within the box as the patchouli gives way is the gift of the perfumer that complements the iris, a stunning blending of vanilla and benzoin. Here is a creamy buttery mix that never goes sweet or cloying but in its marriage with the iris they turn Gold into a golden beauty.

This is a floral chypre that is elegant, smooth and perfect for almost any season. It has both masculine strengths and feminine curves. A uni-sex perfume that invites one in and enhances the beauty of the wearer with its brilliance and allure. When you wear Gold on your skin there is no reason to wear anything else.

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(ELIZABETH TAYLOR IN GOLD)

A NEW LIFE ~ 21 Bonaparte by Vicky Tiel

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

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

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

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

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

“Teal is not a good color on me Diana”

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

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

“Pardon Madame.” The driver mumbled.

“Are we almost there?”

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

“We arrive Madame… 21 Rue Bonaparte.

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

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

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

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

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

 White_Gardenia_flower

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

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

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(Vicky Tiel)

21 BONAPART ~  FIVE GOLD STARS *****

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TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR ~ Bulgari Exhibit at the deYoung

-0 Bulgari

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

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

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

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

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Ingrid Bergman

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Monica Viti

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Claudia Cardinale 

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Sophia Loren

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

Elizabeth Taylor 1964

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

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

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

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FAMSF Bulgari

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when you wish upon a star……..

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

UNTITLED AND M.A.D. QUESTIONS FOR CHANDLER BURR ~ A Series of Interviews

The_Perfume_Magazine__Chandler_Burr

“My intention with The Untitled Series is to give 100 people a month the same opportunity I had at the Times, the experience of perfume unprotected / constrained by marketing and unassisted by the sense of sight. ” Chandler Burr

(Photo Matthew Furman)

Imagine my surprise to discover only two weeks ago that Chandler Burr, author of “A Separate Creation”, “The Emperor of Scent”, “The Perfect Scent” and “You Or Someone Like You” was on Facebook. Not a group page or a fan page but just there, accessible  and smiling.  I then noticed that some of my fragrance friends were friends with him as well. There it was, the “+1 Add Friend” button right in front of me. Why not click that button I thought?

The next day I received a notice that Chandler Burr had accepted my “friendship’ request, so it was only proper to send a thank you note. And that connection leads us to this series of interviews with the former perfume critic for the New York Times, Former Curator of, the Department of Olfactory Art at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City.  Author, lecturer and organizer of the incredible Scent Dinners and the man who couldn’t get Matt Lauer to loosen up and smell the roses admit he liked a perfume on the Today show.

Over the next few weeks Mr. Burr will be interviewed by a select group of perfume bloggers each with very different and exciting points of view. (You will be able to follow them from here with links as they happen.) The two main topics we will be discussing are as follows.

The recent Museum of Art And Design exhibition created by Chandler Burr, “The Art of Scent 1889 – 2012”  and the wonderful Catalog and the essays from the exhibition.  And the incredible “Untitled Series” at Open Sky.  On this series a perfume is presented blind each month to be tested with out the participants knowing anything about it. Then at the end of the month the perfume is revealed with the opportunity to be purchased if the participants so desire.  At the end of this interview there are links to the M.A.D. catalog and the Untitled Series. (The catalog with samples of each perfume are for sale. The link is at the end of the interview)

It gives me great pleasure to present to you my interview with Chandler Burr, a man of great charm, wit, talent, and generosity. A man with a magnificent nose.

Lanier Smith:   Let’s talk about a few of the perfumes and artist featured in the Catalog you’re your recent “The Art of Scent 1889 – 2012” exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design.  Actually less about the perfumes but about the questions that arise in my mind from the wonderful essays you wrote in the catalog. “Jicky” and genitals. As I understand it, at the time that “Jicky” was created in 1889 there were no gender assignments to perfume. Just as there is no gender assignment to the Eiffel Tower created the very same year. When did that change and why?

 Aimé Guerlain

Aimé Guerlain (1834–1910)

“ The genius of Jicky is that it could never have existed
in nature. Guerlain had created both a new work of art
and a new art form.” Candler Burr

Chandler Burr: It changed mid-20th century for a very specific reason: the industry needed to sell perfume to heterosexual American men, and given that for some reason straight American men instantly equate scent with femininity—which Italian and French men don’t, at all—perfume marketers had to use gendering to give them psychoemotional permission to wear scent. So they put “homme” or “for him” or whatever on the bottles, and the guys calmed the hell down.

Francis Fabron

Francis Fabron (1913–2005)

“L’Interdit
is extraordinary for its strange beauty,
which ignores time. It is a work that
smells as if it were made tomorrow.” Chandler Burr

Lanier Smith: The legend says and the ads would lead us to believe that “L’Interdit” was created by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn. Now thanks to you turning the spotlight on the true artists of the medium of scent we know it was created by Francis Fabron. How important is the actual smell of a perfume to the fashion house—Givenchy for instance—compared to the advertising? Where does most of the money go in the creation of a perfume?

Chandler Burr: I get this question all the time, and the answer is a little frustrating because it’s easy to respond that—somewhat infuriatingly—most of the money goes into the packaging and marketing. And on a bottle by bottle basis, that’s true; in general the majority of the money per bottle goes into the bottle + cap + cardboard liner + cardboard box + the marketing images on the box, in billboards, on the designer’s website and vimeo and the Condé Nast Entertainment network + the film in which a model or actor walks moodily through a Greek ruin/ Versailles hallway/ high-production value film set.

But it’s not that simple. It’s been a surprise to me to be told the actual prices of several of the juices we take for granted, frequently perfumes I didn’t think of as particularly expensive (they are). And the willingness of a patron to give the artist a serious amount of money to work with per kilo makes it somewhat irrelevant that, per bottle, the packaging costs more. (Add the complexity of the different concentrations, which hugely changes the price.) Multiply 100ml of expensive oil-in-alcohol-solution, and you can get to a vertiginous investment very fast.

When Jerry Vittoria brought the Firmenich perfumers and evaluators on a tour of the Dept of Olfactory Art at MAD we had a fascinating debate about whether or not they, the perfumers themselves, cared about the bottle. Again, surprisingly to me—I just assume everyone in the industry shares my “who the hell cares about the wrapping, let’s just smell the juice” opinion—Harry Fremont said he absolutely wanted his perfumes in their bottles with their images. At which Ilias (I think it was) said he absolutely would prefer everything in a lab bottle, which I agreed with of course, at which other perfumers argued that the visuals were inherent to the experience, and I said my usual thing about “You don’t wear the bottle or the girl, you wear the juice” (startled at having to make this argument to perfumers) and so on.

By the way my understanding is that de Givenchy told Hepburn he was naming the perfume “Audrey Hepburn,” to which she replied, “Je vous l’interdit!” (I forbid you from doing it), so he called it l’Interdit. Who knows if it’s true; it certainly makes a nice story. And it’s an insanely killer perfume. Imminently wearable today. One of the all-time greats. I wear it.

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Magazine add for l’interdit by Givenchy

Lanier Smith:   With the emergence of the American School with “Aromatic Elixir” by Bernard Chant it seems that opens the way to many other American design houses to take off as they did in the 1970’s and 80’s. Yet isn’t it true that the first American perfume to rock the French establishment was Estee Lauder’s “Youth Dew”? Was that a fluke or a forerunner to the emergence of the United States as a power in the world of perfume?

Bernard Chant

Bernard Chant (1927–1987)

“Aromatics Elixir transcended the somber
formality of classical French style and
gave way to a work capable of conveying
multiple narratives simultaneously.
Here was a French story, but the story
was told, for the first time, in English.” Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr: My understanding is that, yes, Youth Dew was the first American perfume. Commissioned by perhaps the greatest of American scent patrons, Estée Lauder, created by an American artist, Josephine Catapano. It was a forerunner, but as I pointed out the Art of Scent exhibition, when artists import styles from other cultures, they often work in the school then-dominant—or, even more conservatively, a previous, hallowed school. In this case it was the classical late 19th-century French school. Youth Dew reassured clients that, even though it was Made In America, it was thoroughly French, in the way that Lexus first put out cars that if anything out-Mercedesed Mercedes. Made In Japan but as good as Made In Germany. Once established, Lexus came into its own, as did American patrons and scent artists.

Lanier Smith:   I never got “Angel” by Olivier Cresp and thought it too sweet for my nose. But in the context of Surrealism it makes perfect sense and I can appreciate its maladjusted juxtaposition of notes with a fresh nose. Now it is fun. Placing perfume in the world of art is extraordinary and to some it seems a stretch.  Why is it important for the world to understand that a bottle of “Angel” is just as valid and important as the “Christ of Saint John on the Cross” by Salvador Dali?

 Olivier Cresp

Olivier Cresp (b. 1955)

“Cresp’s use of ethyl maltol, which he
transformed from subtle ornament to
fundamental structural material,
pushed olfactory art to new extremes
and placed shocking artificiality in
full view. This was the progenitor of an
olfactory Pop Art movement that arrived
in the mid-1990s and continues today.” Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr: I’m glad it made sense for you when seen as Surrealist art. That one seemed overwhelmingly obvious to me—as does Industrialism for Drakkar Noir, which is in fact a better example of Industrialist art than virtually any other you could name in any medium—but I was concerned about some of them. Calder’s work that broke sculptures up into pieces and made them move in space around each other, dividing and re-coalescing into the same-but-different works, seemed quite like Cresp’s approach in Light Blue. So I called Calice Becker, somewhat apprehensively, started to explain my aesthetic reasoning, and at the words “Alexander Calder” she said, “Perfect.” I was relieved.

Lanier Smith: The tastes of the masses seem to be at a watered down level of safe sugar and laundry fresh. Geared more toward the teen-aged audience than more sophisticated noses.  For a very long time perfume has been moving away it seems from the classic feel of perfumes like “Chanel No.5”, “Shalimar” and the like. But with “Prada Amber” by Carlos Benaim, Max Gavarry and Clement Gavarry in the “Art of Scent” exhibition you herald the arrival of Neo-Romanticism. Do you believe that the truly great perfumes of the future will only come from “niche” designers or can a Dior or Chanel still be viable to as important creative perfume houses?

Carlos Max Clement Prada Amber

Carlos Benaïm (b. 1944),
Max Gavarry (b. 1937), and
Clément Gavarry (b. 1977)

“Prada Amber, however, is a unique
contemporary work in that it draws
directly and principally from the 19th century
school. In lesser hands, it could
easily have fallen into a mere pastiche.” Chandler Burr

Chandler Burr: I admit it’s extremely rough for the big houses to take risks, perhaps the largest risk being—again—putting a serious amount of money into the work. I can make lofty statements like, “In the long run if they don’t make beautiful, which means somewhat costly, works, they’ll find [mass] clients dropping away [mostly just by buying less mediocre perfume, not due to trading up to expensive niche]” but there are, of course, so many exceptions to that that who knows if it’s true. For a good suit, you drop coin. See under: Tom Ford—I don’t even go in the store at the moment, maybe in a few years. For shirts, shorts, flip flops, I love Old Navy. There are some awesome perfume flip flop equivalents, and there’s nothing wrong with wearing them. But they’re not going to last. I’m thinking about the top 30, and some are Old Navy’s, but others are (metaphorically) Tom Fords.

Beyond Paradise and Sensual were both very expensive juices and innovative perfumes. Neither made it; my personal opinion: Beyond Paradise is excellent. Flower Bomb, Coco Mademoiselle—a work of pure loveliness—Angel, Pleasures, all of these are innovative and costly, all are commercial brands, and all are killing it. So who the hell knows.

Lanier Smith:   Now I have a few questions about the exciting Untitled Series on Open Sky. Did this idea come from your Scent Dinners? If not how did you come up with the concept that is so exciting. A whole month of smelling a perfume without Brad Pitt or Natalie Portman whispering in your ear how much you should love it.

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Chandler Burr: The idea for the Untitled Series didn’t come from the Scent Dinners. It came directly from the way my assistant and I smelled things at the NY Times. I had great assistants. The point of my Scent Notes column was that it was exclusively juice, juice, juice, so we had a very specific approach. Every week my assistant would arrive before I did, unpack the new scents that had arrived that week, and I’d come in half an hour later, drop my backpack, and sit down. He or she would, wordlessly, hand me an unmarked white blotter, and we’d smell. You weren’t allowed to change expression at all. When we felt like it, one of us would start reacting, and the conversation would go from there.

The scents we agreed were good we’d then put on skin—the canvas on which perfume is designed to be experienced—again without looking at the packaging. I tried not to look at the packaging until after I wrote the column.

My intention with The Untitled Series is to give 100 people a month the same opportunity I had at the Times, the experience of perfume unprotected / constrained by marketing and unassisted by the sense of sight. To be honest it’s insanely difficult to arrange each episode, and the Series never would have happened if it hadn’t been for Miuccia Prada. I asked her, and she personally agreed to let me take Infusion d’Iris out and put it in a little lab bottle. She anchored the whole thing.

Smelling perfumes this way is a physically different experience. Your reaction is deeply different. It just is. And that shouldn’t be surprising at all, and I have a very specific example. Think of someone lending you a painting. It could be an original, authentic Tatsuro Kiuchi, whose work I love.

 Tatsuro Kiuchi

It could be a Cy Twombly, whose work I loathe and look down on and which sells for zillions.

 Cy Twombly

It could be a Velázquez, who I think is stupendous.

 Las Meninas

It could be a real Alex Katz, whose work I disliked until Ecco, who published my novel, put two of his paintings together to create my jacket cover, and after 24 hours I loved it.

 You Or Someone Like You

Or it could be a canvas by some kid at NYU art school that you bought for $200. Not a fake. Just not a work recognized as having any aesthetic significance or brilliance. I would never be an asshole and put a crappy juice in an Untitled in order to run some sort of Emperor’s New Clothes experiment, the less important reason being that the people buying the Untitleds are a self-selected group who in about three seconds would be saying, “Yo, Burr, this is garbage.” This really isn’t a game, and so the more important reason is that the Series exists to present masterpieces. Of all kinds. The Untitled you order may indeed be a Goya or a Katz—a Ropion, a Buzantian, the new Vasnier, where the artist’s name is a brand like Goya’s, a name that would immediately make you give the work respect (and market value) even before you’ve smelled it, but as an Untitled you get to smell works without any “startist” (terrible word, but you get the idea) baggage crowding you.

The lab bottle the UPS guy delivers to you may also be a work by a total unknown, some artist you’ve never heard of who has no cachet at all but who I think has produced something extraordinary. Or you could be getting what I consider an underrated masterpiece. That’s one of the explicit purposes of the Series, rediscovering these things. That’s why I did S01E02. Mugler Cologne will, I believe, be recognized by art history as one of the greatest works of olfactory art ever created. And we have another wildly underrated great by a famous artist coming this fall. You’ll get it somewhere in S02E01 to E04.

As for S01E10, it’s by an autodidact artist and is brand new on the market. And I’m going to include one in spring 2014 that is a twist on that—not that exactly but sort of that. And it’s not, at all, just about the juice. As several people who are playing have noted, the cost is the ticket price to an experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else: the experience of blindness in an ongoing exhibition of works in an art form that really is only perfectly experienced by the blind

Lanier Smith:   Will you be popping in an old classic to see how that plays with the audience? Perhaps “L’Aimant” by Coty just to see how many people think it is “No.5”? Well that might not be fair but will there be some classics in the Untitled Series?

Yes.

Lanier Smtih:   I think we neglect our noses and since I became involved in my passion for perfume I have noticed that my sense of smell is much more acute. The format for Untitled Series is very much like a college course in fragrance with a lecture, class participation and experimentation and interaction. Don’t you think there should be a class or two in universities on how to use your nose? How would you go about teaching a class in fragrance? Art History, Science, Economics?

Chandler Burr:  My whole goddamn life for the past seven years has been building the case for every art historian, art history and fine arts department, museum curator, and gallerist to treat scent the way they would paint. Teaching a class in olfactory art should be no more, or less, difficult than teaching a class in music—or music theory or color theory; that’s the equivalent of teaching a class in scent materials and their interactions and qualities versus teaching a class in the works made with them. It’s going to come in the future. Just as photography came and settled in. And when it’s established people will wonder why it ever didn’t exist.

Lanier Smith:   Is there a chance “The Art of Scent” exhibition may hit the road and visit other cities around the world?

Chandler Burr: We’re actively working on traveling “The Art of Scent.” I’m writing a new introduction to the show, I’ve designed another section, which is an Entry, to go along with the Gallery section and the Salon section and to set up the conceptual basis for the show more clearly than the Museum of Arts and Design version. It will in fact be very different and much better experience.

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Lanier Smith:   My favorite perfume moment in the movies is from “Butterfield-8”. That delicious Metro Color infused opening scene when Elizabeth Taylor in her skin tight Helen Rose slip sits down at Dina Merrill’s dressing table and passes judgment over a few bottles of perfume. Then finding one she likes, “Tabac Blond”  I am told, slathers herself with sensuous abandon then coolly steals Miss Merrill’s mink coat.  Do you have a favorite perfume moment in film?

Chandler Burr: I actually don’t. In fact I’m thinking about it and—I haven’t seen “Scent of a Woman,” which would have given me one—I don’t think I can name a single moment in any movie that uses scent. I take that back. In “Duplicity” Julia Roberts lands at the airport and drives around for 20 minutes to make sure she isn’t being tailed before she parks at the house where Clive Owen is waiting for her. He grabs her at the front door, leans in to kiss her, murmurs, “You smell terrific,” and she rolls her eyes, pushes him off and says, “I *smell like a rental car.” Which is a very precise and very powerful line. The estimable Tony Gilroy wrote it.

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Julia Roberts passes a perfume counter in “Duplicity” (2009)

Tony-Gilroy-267539-1-402Writer Dirctory, Tony Gilroy

M.A.D. Catalog (which you can purchase) : http://thestore.madmuseum.org/products/the-art-of-scent-1889-2012

Untitled Series on Open Sky: http://www.opensky.com/member/chandlerburr?content=loves

Chandler Burr’s Website: http://www.chandlerburr.com/

Interview Participants in order of appearance:

The Perfumed Dandy:  http://theperfumeddandy.com/

Australian Perfume Junkies: http://australianperfumejunkies.com/

Smelly Thoughts:  http://smellythoughts.wordpress.com/

Another Perfume Blog: http://anotherperfumeblog.com/

EauMG:  http://www.eaumg.net/

What Men Should Smell Like:  http://whatmenshouldsmelllike.com/

The Scented Hound: http://thescentedhound.wordpress.com/

The Fragrant Man: http://thefragrantman.com/

Photos of the olfactory artists and selected excerpts are from the Museum of Art and Design catalog “The Art Of Scent ~ 1989 – 2012”

…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.

elizabeth-taylor-white-diamonds-ad

WHITE DIAMONDS, FIVE GOLD STARS

“There is no deodorant like success” Elizabeth Taylor

MOVIE MEMORY ~ Butterfield-8 1960

`The most desirable girl in town is the easiest to find. Just call Butterfield-8!’ So trumpeted the posters of this, Elizabeth Taylor’s first Oscar winning performance. The film is a modernization of the 1935 novel by John O’Hara, which was based on the real life of the 1920’s New York City call girl Starr Faithful.

Miss Taylor was dead set against playing Gloria Wandrous. She felt was a deliberate play by M.G.M. to capitalize on her recent notoriety in the Liz-Eddie-Debbie scandal. Also, she was anxious to move on to her first ever million-dollar role in Fox’s Cleopatra. She was told by M.G.M that if she did not fulfill her contractual obligation to her home studio for one final film on her eighteen year contract that she would be kept off the screen for two years and miss making Cleopatra all together. She swore to the producer Pandro S. Berman that she would not learn her lines, not be prepared and in fact not give anything more and a walk through. Mr. Berman knew her better than she suspected. In the end Elizabeth Taylor turned in a professional, classic old style Hollywood performance that ranks at the top with the best of her work. She brings a savage rage to live to her searing portrait of a lost girl soaked through with sex and gin. A woman hoping against all hope to find salvation in yet one last man.

Weston Leggett, a man who is worse off than she is in the self-esteem department. In her frantic quest for a clean new life Gloria finds that the male establishment will not allow her to step out of her role as a high priced party girl. She is pigeon holed by her past and the narrow mores of the late 50’s are not about to let her fly free. Not the bar-buzzards of Wall Street, not her best friend Steve who abandons her at his girlfriend’s insistence. Not even her shrink Dr. Treadman believes in her. The three women in her life are blind to who she really is. Her mother will not admit what Gloria has become. Mrs. Thurber will not believe she can ever change and Happy, the motel proprietor is too self involved in her own past to care who Gloria is She is the dark Holly Golightly and this is the lurid red jelled Metro-Color Manhattan that is the flip side of Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (also 1960). Wilder’s New York is cynical. Liz’s tony East Side phone exchange rings only one way, the hard way. This New York is dammed. The film concludes in a melodramatic blaze that Douglas Sirk might have envied in place of his usually unsettling, unconvincing happy endings. In the end we have a bravura performance by the last true star of the old system. Yes she deserved the Oscar more for `Cat’. Yes it was given to welcome her back from the brink of death in London. And even Shirley MacLaine’s lament on Oscar night, `I lost the Oscar to a tracheotomy.’ can not diminish this must see performance by Miss Taylor.

In what one could call a perfect example of what an `Oscar scene’ is all about she says it all. `I loved it! Every awful moment of it I loved. That’s your Gloria, Steve. That’s your precious Gloria!’ She gave it to us with both barrels blazing, and M.G.M., and Berman be dammed.

 

What perfume did Gloria wear? Elizabeth may have favored Bal A Versailles at the time but in the opening scene of the film she wanders into Dina Merrill’s dressing room and samples a few perfumes on the vanity. Gloria finally settles on one. She liberally applies it thoroughly enjoying the sensual act of perfume meeting skin. The perfume was Caron’s Tabac Blonde. Created in 1919 by Ernest Daltrof this Leather perfume’s notes are: leather, carnation, lime blossom, iris, vetiver, ylang-ylang, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, ambergris, musk. Tabac Blonde, a smokey leather scent perfect for Gloria’s walk of shame in nothing but a silk slip and a mink as she hails a cab at dawn on 5th avenue.

(On the left an Amphora of Tabac Blond at Caron in Paris)

The beautiful Gloria’s Theme From Butterfield 8 (Played by the composer of the score Bronislaw Kaper)

MEMORY ~ E.T. and Me

This one is for Vickie

“I bet nether one of you know about Parma Violets. Well, they are very delicate, and they are what people give when they want to give something really special,  when they’re in love, or someone dies….”  Zee Blakely ~ X, Y, and Zee 1972

There is no such thing as true violet eyes. What seems to be violet is made up of the deepest dark blue and flecks of green. I was surprised when I found that out. But despite that truth there was a myth that was in fact a greater truth and reality.  Her eyes were violet. Like violets of Parma, violet of legend when I finally saw them in person they were the kindest eyes I had ever seen.

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When I was thirteen years old and Marilyn was gone nearly a year I was doing very badly in math at school.

“If you get a B on your next report card, your step-father and I will take you into Hollywood to see “How The West Was Won.”

“In Cinerama?” I had never seen a movie in Cinerama. The mere prospect of a night out, dinner at Musso and Frank’s, reserved seats AND a glossy program all about the movie caused my voice to reach and octave higher than Jane Powell’s.  I worked harder for that B than I ever had in school and forced my brain to embrace problems and figures that were like poison ivy to my grey cells.

Three months later I was sitting in Musso and Frank’s too excited to eat. Dinner half in me and threatening to not stay there I asked to be excused to go to the bathroom. I was excited about the movie yes. But what had my stomach riding the roller coaster at Pacific Ocean Park was what I had seen from the car as we drove down Hollywood Boulevard, the Pantages Theater all decked out for the arrival of the Queen of Everything! I slipped out the front door of the restaurant into the rare night air that only movie stars breathe and ran the six blocks from Las Palmas to Vine just to see the outer lobby of the Pantages. It was covered in photographs of the movie that was to open later that week. The movie everyone in the world had been waiting for over two years to see.  “The most anticipated movie event of all time” the adds read….and up until then it was.

The splendors of Egypt seared my eyes in gold and sapphire, the might and grandeur of a plaster of Paris ancient Rome engulfed me, and everywhere HER. I only had a minute to look and it was almost too much to bear. How could Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Carol Baker, Karl Malden, Eli Wallach, George Peppard and Carolyn Jones compete with this?  Was the West being won from the Indians more important that the ancient Near East being lost to the Romans? I had two choices, pass out on the star strewn sidewalk or run back to Musso and Franks. I turned to run and instantly I saw the most incredible thing my thirteen year old eyes had ever beheld.  High up on the side of the Hollywood Taft building right next door to the Pantages soaring up into the starless inky smoggy night was a painting of HER.  It was seventy; no it must have been a hundred feet high. She was seated on a replica of Tutankhamen’s throne in a green and gold crown, dressed in plunging neckline purple Irene Sharaff gown and holding the emblems of Upper and Lower Egypt across her bosom. Her violet eyes looking down upon me not with imperious hauteur, but with a kind of understanding as if she were the mother of the lost boys.

“We are going to be late….” A hand took mine. It was my step-father. He had known exactly where to find me.

(Painting by Howard Terpning that was on the side of the Hollywood Taft Building.)

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“There are never enough hours in the days of a Queen, and her nights have too many…so I fill them with memories of what might have been.”  Cleopatra 1963

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At seventeen I had my own movie studio. It was a super-8 movie studio named after the father of movies David Wark Griffith,  D.W.G. Studios it was called. I had saved up money from baby sitting and stripping and waxing kitchen floors for the women in the neighborhood to buy my movie editor, my fist step to running a studio. Why the editor first? At fifty bucks it was the cheapest of the necessities I would need. Camera cost eighty dollars and the projector a whopping one hundred and twenty five so I figured if I had the editor first I would be forced to save up the money to get the rest of the equipment. My step-dad and mom took pity on me and got the camera and projector for my birthday and Christmas that December.

My fist epic was an eighteen minute version of “Antony and Cleopatra”. Surprise! The cast was made up of all the kids I baby sat. Cleopatra was eight years old and her brother at nine played Antony. The love scene was a little uncomfortable to say the very least. Unlike Elizabeth’s version my Cleopatra and her Antony came in under budget after two weeks in production at seventy five dollars. And, I had to make that money back or the studio was sunk! So I put on my post production, marketing and advertising hat and got to work.

I planned to run the film for three weekend showings on Friday and Saturday nights in our garage. I painted a huge reclining Cleo and put it on the roof of the garage with Christmas lights and papered the double car garage door with a sign. “Opening in three weeks the film the entire neighborhood has been waiting for!” I didn’t name it…Cleo on the roof said it all.  I sent out invitations to every person I had ever met. Then, almost as an after thought I sent one to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in care of Merto-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. M.G.M. had been Elizabeth’s home studio for eighteen years. She was no longer under contract to the studio, but maybe they still forwarded her mail.

Three months later I came home from school to be met by my mother at the front door.

“What did you write in that invitation you sent to Elizabeth Taylor?”

“Oh I don’t know…I told her about myself. I just wrote to her like she was anybody. Why?”

“This came today.”  She produced from behind her back an robin egg blue envelope. On the back were three words. Elizabeth Taylor Burton. Mom had to turn the hose on me to calm me down.

Thus began a on again off again correspondence that lasted four years. The Burtons got an invitation to every film that came out of D.W.G. and lots of drawings. They never did make it to my premieres but she always supported my artistic endeavors with a kind note.

 

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“I’m an artist, I paint. Nobody buys. Then I turn out watercolors when I need grocery money.” Laura Reynolds ! The Sandpiper 1965

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At nineteen I was a Theater Arts Major in Junior College. By twenty one I came to the realization that I hadn’t the talent to be a good actor, let alone a movie star, I was smart enough to know that Hollywood was sure to break my heart.  But I could paint. So after six months as an English major where spelling proved to be my downfall I became an Art Major.

When I found out in 1971 that I was going to summer school in Guadalajara Mexico and that I would get to spend a weekend in Puerto Vallarta I got an idea. I wrote to Elizabeth allowing the usual three months for the letter to find her where ever she was in the world and told her I wanted to give her a thank you gift for all her support. Would she send me her favorite photograph of her with Richard?

She sent the photo taken when they appeared in Doctor Faustus at Oxford. I painted a very large portrait from that photo of them in costume, he as Doctor Faustus and she Helen of Troy.  It hung in an English Pub in town until it was time to take the train from Mexicali to Guadalajara. The train left at night and there waiting on the platform for the three day trip stood I with my suitcase and the Burtons all boxed up. I was towering at six feet three like mount Popocatépetl above a sea of Mexicans none taller than 5’6″. Everyone was looking at the giant gringo with the long hair and beard. I came to understand during my entire visit to Mexico what it must be like to be famous! Everywhere I went the locals were fascinated by me. Children called me “El Barbo” and ran up to me to tap me for luck.

(The Photo she sent when I asked for her favorite photograph with Richard Burton. grey silk caftan by Vicky Tiel.)

I shared my little private Pullman room on the train with the Burtons. When the bed was made up the only place for them was in the bed with me. The first night crossing the Senora Desert was fine. But on the second night in the mountains it was insanity. Every time the train turned and twisted though the Sierra Madre mountains the Burtons would fall over on me. They kept me up all night.

I stayed with the Ramirez family in Guadalajara. They spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish. Senora Ramirez loved the painting so it hung over her dining table for three weeks, until it was time to fly to Puerto Vallarta and surprise the Burtons. My American roommates translated so consequently I never learned any Spanish, except how to ask for scrambled eggs and even that I got wrong. Seems I was asking for “revolting eggs’.  The house maids loved me.

Armed with a friend who spoke Spanish and English I found the Burton house on Calle Zaragoza in Gringo Gulch.  A pink bridge crossed the street connecting the two parts of the house and under the bridge was the front gate. No door bell…just a rope with cowbells hanging down for any one to pull. I was as nervous as a cat on a….you know the rest. I pulled on the cow bells and nothing. My friend yanked on them and again nothing. We were about to leave when a voice came from the bridge above us.

 

“¿qué es lo que quieres?” We looked up to see a handsome young Mexican man who looked to me to be a dead ringer for one of Ava Gardner’s beach boys in “The Night of the Iguana.”

My friend explained in Spanish my story. He must have done a good job because the beach boy told us to wait and disappeared across the bridge into the main house. Moments later he appeared at the iron gate with two maids in tow.

He demanded to see the painting. I pulled it out of its travel worn box.

“aye qué hermoso!” the maids exclaimed and grabbed the painting and ran up the stairs into the house.

My friend translated to me as the beach boy spoke.

“I will see that Mr. and Mrs. Burton get the painting. They just left yesterday for London for the birth of Mrs. Burton’s first grandchild.”  He thanked me and shut the gate. I missed them by only a day.  I never saw the painting again.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the Burtons were in trouble and in a few years they would be divorced. The letters from Elizabeth  stopped and I understood why.

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“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”  Elizabeth Taylor

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Many years and three husbands later for Elizabeth I was working in the collections department at Macy’s in San Francisco. The big news was that Elizabeth Taylor was coming to promote her perfume “Elizabeth Taylor’s Passion”.  It was announced that for two hundred and fifty dollars you could have tea with Miss Taylor and about two hundred other people in the Macy’s cafeteria on the eighth floor. My card was maxed out and I had to work that day so there was no way I could see her, let alone meet her.  What would I say? “You don’t remember me but….” I didn’t want to be that guy.

When the hour arrived that she was due on the main floor I blacked out.  The next thing I remember is that I came out of my blackout very close to the stage and she was walking on to it. Everyone was screaming!

Over my lifetime I leaned many things from Elizabeth Taylor. I learned how to face life straight on and survive the hard times. I learned that it was a blessing to be different. I learned that kindness and honesty and being the real you brings unexpected rewards. I learned by watching her with Montgomery Clift, James Dean, and Rock Hudson that loyalty is the hallmark of being a real friend. I learned how to use my eyes to speak when the world was too loud for words.

The day Elizabeth died she gave me her last gift. Just a month before I had so angered the love of my life, Bryant Lanier so much that he had cut me off and ended our relationship. It was so final that I knew I would never again speak to the man I had waited a lifetime for. As time crept onward I took on each day and climbed over it knowing from experience that I would survive …. And then Elizabeth died.

I heard the news getting ready for work.  No tears like for Marilyn when I was 10. Too much had happened for tears now. I went to work. Everyone I met that day said “Elizabeth Taylor died today, why are you here?”  There was nothing else to do but live that day through and go on. I learned that from her, you just keep going on.

The following Sunday there was an email from Bryant.

I haven’t thought about anything in the wake of Liz’s death but you,,,in fact I just made myself LOL. Wondering how long you’ll wear black!

They’re playing a nice tribute to her on the CBS Sunday morning show and ,,if u get up in time..(9 AM ) I’m sure you’d love to see it ….

There may someday be plenty to say,,,and some things may go unsaid thank god…

Have a good day..

I love you

B

 

PS Call me when you get this.”

In an odd way, Elizabeth’s death gave me a second chance with him. I used to tell Bryant how much he reminded me of Burton because of their shared acting talents and personal demons.  I had Bryant in my life for nine more months before he went to join Elizabeth in the place where there are more stars than there are in the heavens. Three days before he died he said. “You are my Elizabeth.”

As Elizabeth Taylor walked on to the stage that day at Macy’s back in the 80’s she was radiant. She waved out to the packed store. Then she turned and she saw me.  She smiled, and then she winked. That was enough.

Her eyes were like Parma violets, the very flowers I used to send to Bryant on his birthday.

(Bryant Lanier ~ Actor, Singer, Director )

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TRIP BABY! ~ Ulysee by Vicky Tiel

She is the inventor of the mini skirt, the only American woman in history to have a couture design house in Paris which is still producing clothes today after forty plus years. She put Elizabeth Taylor in her first caftan, and thus became the designer to the jet setting glitterati of the 60’s right up to the celebrated stars of today.

(CAFTANS FROM X,Y, AND ZEE 1972 ~ ELIZABETH TAYLOR)

This is Vicky Tiel and this is her one and only fragrance creation for men. Ulysse comes with this great history and pedigree and at a very reasonable price. As a mater of fact this brilliant wonderfully layered nearly symphonic scent is a steal at twenty dollars for 100 mil.

Rich, exotic, mature and no doubt inspired by Tiel’s several odysseys on the Mediterranean abroad the Burton’s yacht Kalizma. You can smell the crisp salt air of the Mediterranean sea blending with citrus aromas of Italy opening with neroli, yuzu, and Greece with the mignonette and Mandarin and lime blossom. As you sail along with this fragrance the spices of the Near East nutmeg, hawthorn, trefele and sesqui woods and those of the islands of Cypress and Crete, clover carnation and lavender rise up to meet you in pure splendor. It is an olfactory voyage that unfolds in surprising richness over about a seven hour dry down of patchouli, rich resinous benzion, musk, vanilla bean and Kiawah tree moss.  It smells so very expensive!

(VICKY TIEL WITH ELIZABETH TAYLOR LONDON 1972)

Ulysse is an overlooked masterpiece and I have to again thank MisterCrazyLegs over at Fragantica for his guidance to this discovery of a Homeric inspired treasure. AND the Bottle! Deeply carved bas relief crystal like glass is so unusual in its unique beauty against the stark sleek design of so many other designer’s bottles. Like some ancient glass found in a Hellenistic tomb. It is a classic little treasure in and of itself.

(CAFTANING AT MALCOLM FORBES VILLA IN MOROCCO)

I really love this fragrance and look forward to many more voyages of adventure with Ulysse.

FOUR GOLD STARS ****

(CLIPS FROM “X,Y,& ZEE ~ SWINGING LONDON LOOKS 1972)

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