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.

OVER THE TOP ORGY IN ROME! (Movie Memory)

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

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

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

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

***

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

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A SPLASH OF CAPRI ~ Smashingly Brilliant by Diana Vreeland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“You smell like Capri Diana.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(Reed and Diana Vreeland)

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UNA NOTTE A ROMA ~ Le Gemme Bvlgari Haute Parfum

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

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

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

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

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

“Marcello! Where are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Welcome to Rome.”

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  ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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***

 

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

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(Michael Rogers of Acqua di Parma)

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

 

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

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Barney’s NY San Francisco

77 O’Farrell Street

(415) 268-3500

Limoncello Sky ~ Acqua di Parma Colonia Essenza

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Every morning God paints Rome in a new color. It could be Della Robbia Blue, or Parma violet, and on a rare occasion it has bee Cardinal red. But on this morning, the first morning of Sally’s visit to Rome God chose Limoncello yellow.

Sally was up early, before the other girls of The Joplin Southern Baptist Women’s Tour group. She needed alone time, away from the women who keep asking if there was a MacDonald’s in Mantua or a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Venice. She peeked out the window of her hotel room in the Centro Storico as the last stroke of yellow splashed across the walls of the houses across Via Del Seminario.

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  She nearly skipped out the door onto the street she was so happy to be on her own at last. She turned right and walked past the early morning shuttered shop doors. The end of the street she stopped, the breath nearly sucked out of her lungs by the sudden beauty of the Piazza Della Rotunda. It spilled out before the Pantheon in ancient stony splendor, cool and imperial, yet strangely familiar and comforting. Weakened by its beauty Sally leaned against the buttery terracotta wall to take in the moment of magic to file away in her heart.

 

“Carriage lady?” The rich baritone tickled her ears and what stood before her awakened her eyes.  He was next to his horse and carriage only a few feet away on the Via della Minerva. His curling chestnut hair peeking beneath his hat was kissed at the nape of his neck by the roman sun. Sally had never seen a more beautiful man.  He patted the neck of his mare, “This is Sophia, and she thinks you are a very pretty lady.”

 

“No…thank you.” She whispered.

 

He cupped his right hand to his ear.

 

“Grazie, no…” She managed to call out to him as she hurried out into the piazza and scooted past his glittering smile. “No… I can’t afford you.”  Her research before the trip had informed her of the exorbitant cost of a carriage ride in Rome.

 

“I am not so expensive!” He called after her. Sally looked over her shoulder.  He winked at her. She whipped her head forwarded just in time to avoid walking into fountain in the center of the piazza.  The heat of embarrassment mixed with a flighty excitement she had never felt before rose up her neck and flushed her cheeks.

 

Over the next few days when she walked onto the Piazza della Rotunda he was there. He would tip his hat; dazzle her to the bone with his smile and say, “Today you come with me?”

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Once, one of the girls from The Joplin Southern Baptist Women’s Tour caught the look that passed between Sally and the carriage driver.  She shot Sally a stern scowl. “Oh! These Italians are so….so…Italian!”  That was the moment Sally decided to ditch the tour and stay on for a week by her self in Rome. Everyone disapproved strongly. One young girl who was fond of Sally broke into tears “I am worried for you. This place is dangerous.”

 

Sally smiled into her tear washed eyes, “I know…isn’t it marvelous?”

 

Very early on the morning after the tour flew off to America Sally walked into the deserted Piazza della Rotunda. He was not there waiting in the sun as he had been every morning before.  Her stomach dropped so alarmingly that she suddenly felt old and foolish. She turned back the way she had come.

 

“Carriage Lady?” She had walked right past him without realizing it. He looked so different without his horse. He was dressed in a dark suit, sunglasses pushed up on the top of his head standing next to a Vespa looking like an Italian movie star from the 1960’s.

 

Sally stepped back and looked back down the Via del Seminario then back at him. She didn’t know what to do.

 

He held out his hand toward her. “Come, we have breakfast, then I show you Rome, my Rome.” He smiled beneath the Limoncello sky, his silk tie was Cardinal red and as Sally stepped toward him she realized she had never before seen eyes that were Della Robbia blue.

 

As their fingers entwined he said. “This is my Vespa, I call her Gina.”

 

Sally laughed. Rome felt like home.

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                                                 ***

 

Acqua di Parma Colonia Essenza was created in 2010 as a flanker to the original Acqua di Parma Colonia that was launched in 1916 in the midst of World War I. The original, nearly a hundred years old is very beautiful, very classic and very Italian. Where as the deco bottle of the 1916 classic is clear glass to reveal a golden juice the bottle of Essenza in the same design but is rendered in opaque black glass with an elegant black and white label. It is as formal and stylish as a great Italian suit by Armani or a Brioni tuxedo.  Masculine, romantic and filled with a history of glamour of the house that was a favorite of such stars as Cary Grant, Ava Gardner and David Niven Essenza does not disappoint. It is glorious, chic and supremely beautiful.

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A bold Citrus Aromatic, it opens in summery warm notes of bergamot, lemon, mandarin, orange, grapefruit, petit grain, Neroli. These notes never fade but are built upon by the addition of the aromatic herbs of sage, rosemary and clove. These give the fragrance its classic barbershop center. And this barbershop is not a typical corner barber but a grand luxury barber such as you might find in the Excelsior hotel on the via Veneto in Rome.

 

In the center of the fragrance there is a small floral flourish of rose, jasmine and lily of the valley. These notes are very much in a supporting player mode and remain soft and comforting.  Like the manicurist who does your nails while your face is wrapped in seaming towels before a shave. All is burnished to a rich beaten gold hue in the dry down by the arrival of amber, patchouli, musk and oakmoss. In essence, the soothing finish to a relaxing luxurious and very pampering shave.

 

For cologne it is surprising in its longevity lasting on my skin a good eight hours. The push out of the sillage is moderate after the initial spays that come on very strong. For me it was a love at first sniff and a real stand alone fragrance in the Acqua di Parma line. When I bought it I was actually on the hunt for a new incense heavy fragrance but when I was shown the line and sniffed Colonia Essenza my shopping itinerary changed and I decided to find out just what magic there is in this magnificent Italian house.

 

Sono innamorato di Roma e si sente nel mio cuore come tornare a casa.

head-COLONIA_ESSENZA2ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA ESSENZA ~ FIVE PLATINUM STARS *****

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gondolier winked. “Maybe domani?”

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

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

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

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

“Signore! No sit!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Look William, it is all for us.”

“La Serenissima is winking.” William said softly.

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Gondoliers watch the fireworks from Venice across the Giudecca

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

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

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Accademia Foscarini Bar e Pizzeria

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

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

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

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10 Corso Como Uomo ~ 5 Platinum Stars

IO SOGNO DI ROMA ~ The Dreamer by Versace

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The Italian police at the airport customs carried automatic rifles! That was the first thing Charlie Finn, short for Finnegan, noticed.  His first trip Rome, his first to Europe in fact and at 49 Charlie was suddenly a kid again. Full of giddy excited anticipation. When the stern looking customs agent looked him up and down Charlie couldn’t contain his joy at being in Italy. He grinned and said. “Buon giorno!”  The customs agent smiled at the very moment the Italian sun cut through the morning clouds and filled the customs hall with angelic light. “Welcome to Italy Mr. Finnegan.” The agent said as he stamped Charlie’s passport.

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Fiumicino International Roma

   The flip flops multiplied in his stomach as the bus pulled away from the loading zone at Fiumicino International, He had jumped into the front seat on the “Bella Italia Tours” bus so he could see everything head on and agog at what zipped past him.  His new best friends (for the next two weeks) chattered to each other or scanned the guide book provided by the pretty tour guide as they sallied up the highway along the Tiber toward Rome. The city he had dreamed of since 1959 when “Ben-Hur” captured his imagination from the back row of the old Loews Theater and opened up the possibility of Rome to his dreams.

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EUR ~ ROMA

   As the bus crossed the Tiber river to the east side he saw the great modern edifices of EUR. Mussolini’s master plan for the new Rome he had hoped to build before the Allies put a stop to it all on April 25, 1945. All Charlie saw when he looked at it was a giant Anita Ekberg towering over the city tempting Dr. Antonio to drink more milk in “Boccaccio 70”.

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DRINK MORE MILK!

   Charlie couldn’t believe this wasn’t a dream.  The bus pushed into Rome and past the pyramid tomb of Cestius where the Via Ostiense turned into the Viale Aventino as it passed though the ancient gate of Porta San Palo. Then with heart stopping suddenness as the mad roman traffic engulfed the bus the immense field of the Circus Maximus unfolded on the left. Just above it where modern Romans jogged on the track chariots once raced, the majestic ruins of the imperial palaces climbed as they have for centuries up the Palatine to look out over the city in their arrested glorious decay. And there were Umbrella Pines everywhere!

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CIRCUS MAXIMUS AND THE PALATINE

   At the end of a tree lined Viale past the remains of the Aqua Claudia that once fed water to the Emperors stood the gleaming newly cleaned Arch of Constantine. His favorite Arch in all of Rome since Elizabeth Taylor had passed through it on that great black stone Sphinx in “Cleopatra”

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VIALE AVENTINO TO THE ARCH OF CONTANTINE

It loomed before him only to be outdone in majesty when the bus burst out of the trees at an alarming speed onto the great circle that encompassed two thirds of the most magnificent sight of all. The one thing that proved to Charlie he wasn’t dreaming, the Coliseum. The chattering on the bus suddenly stopped and every face on the left side of the buss was pressed against the glass. Everyone at the same time on the tour hit the massive fact that they were no longer in America but in the center of the Roman Empire.  But for Charlie it was a different realization. He was no longer dreaming. He understood to his very core that his heart was finally united to his soul and at long last he had come home.

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THE COLISEUM

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The Dreamer by Versace has for the longest time eluded me. The scent has always reminded me of something I could never quite put my finger on, Clouded and veiled it teased my memories and laughed at my stumbling block that kept me from finding the key which would open me up to The Dreamer.  In the past when I would spray it on my skin it smelled so familiar and I would smile and enjoy it but still not connect in that way that makes a fragrance special to me. That all changed today.

This morning I pulled my gorgeous bottle of The Dreamer out of the back of the line up in my fragrance cabinet and looked at it. It really is very beautiful with the embossed Versace Medusa with its clever gold and black cap that you don’t remove but simply press down on to spray the clear juice. Looking like an eau de cologne bottle from the toilet of a long forgotten nineteenth century Sicilian Prince. Who are you Dreamer? Why can’t I decide if I like you or not? What is your mystery?

I sprayed it on a tester strip, waved it under my nose and boom! It all came together. I, like Charlie Finn made my first trip to Rome in 1999, three years after The Dreamer was introduced. And smelling it on paper, not my skin I recognized that this was the smell of Rome in the last year of the 20th Century. Everyone that year must have been wearing Dreamer. It permeated the Via Veneto and the lobby of the Excelsior Hotel. It was in the museums and cafes and on the bus to Pompeii or the train to Florence. During my first week in Rome the smell of The Dreamer entered my memories and then somehow got buried.

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(photograph by Lane Tibbs)

I understand it now and I have fallen in love with this fragrance because it takes me back to Rome and like Charlie it feels like home.

The Dreamer opens with a dry lavender blast that finds warmth in mandarin orange notes and a dusting of Clary sage. It recalls the mix of smells one encounters in the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome around one in the afternoon when the morning odors of fruits mingle with the heated afternoon scent of herbs and flowers.

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CAMPO DE’ FIORI ROMA

In the heart of the fragrance you find an interesting mix of those Campo de’ Fiori flowers, and something extra in the rose and carnation, and germanium permeated by a smooth rich tobacco. It reminds me of those wonderful tobacconists shops in Rome where you go in to buy your bus tickets and you smell the rich aroma of boozy un-smoked pipe tobacco mixing with old woods and the perfume of the man behind the counter. This middle is really warm and cozy like a classic 1980’s man’s fragrance in the best possible way a man’s fragrance can be.

Up from the bottom notes comes the note that most connects me to Rome and that is the fir note which is so reminiscent of the beautiful umbrella pines in the city. Redolent with green resin and wonderfully bright and sharp this note dominates the fragrance from the late middle though the dry down. There is a touch of Tonka bean which is ever so light like the cream on the top of a morning cappuccino. Vetiver and Cedar round down the notes and it all seems like a lazy summers dream under the afternoon sky in Rome.

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Lanier in Saint Peter’s Basilica Rome

(photograph by Lane Tibbs)

The longevity of The Dreamer is as immense as the Roman Empire. After twelve hours on my skin is still quite decernable and projects extremely well at about six feet for the first three to four hours.  It is to be applied with a light finger or you might find you are overpowering as you pass the innocent bystander.

I am so happy I didn’t give this bottle away when I first purchased it. The beauty of the bottle kept it in my cabinet. The Dreamer by Versace proved to me that not all fragrances are love at first sniff but given time and the willingness to revisit them you might just find the lost key to your dreams.

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THE DREAMER by Versace 5 Gold Stars *****

IN THE SHADOW OF VESUVIUS ~ Oscar for Men by Oscar de la Renta

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“Can you imagine the sound it must have made?”  I said almost to myself in the garden of the House of the Faun as I caught sight of Vesuvius over what remained of the ruined back walls of the villa.

“Or how frightened they must have been?’  My mother said as she came up beside me. She took my hand in hers and held it. She hadn’t done that for a long time. Not since I was a little boy. Not like that.

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August 24, 79 A.D.

It was February 14, 1999, my mother’s birthday. My step-father had brought my mother to Italy on a tour with his old Alma Matter to celebrate her entry into her seventieth year. He had invited me along because since I was a boy I was fascinated with Pompeii and all things Roman.  I was so enamored of the civilization that after the rains came to Southern California I would build roman cites in the wet adobe mud. They would bake in the sun until the other kids in the neighborhood found my roman cities and destroyed them.  I called those children “the barbarians.”

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RECONSTRUCTION OF A POMPEIAN GARDEN ATRIUM

Pompeii is deserted in February; it is the only way to see it. Our group of fifteen on the Cornell University Alumni tour was as it turned out on this chilly afternoon, the only living people in the entire city. As we wandered the remains of the House of the Dancing Faun our Italian guide explained that when the gardens of Pompeii were excavated the archaeologists found remains of the plants that had been living at the time Pompeii died. The remains were analyzed and all the gardens were replanted and look just as they did exactly 1920 years before. Almost the same as they had been that noon day in August when the city was full of people none of whom knew that there was a continent beyond the Pillars of Hercules that would one day be called America or for that matter what a volcano was. The guide explained that there is no word in Latin for volcano and that the Romans had no idea that Vesuvius was one.

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THE FIRST OF TWO GARDENS IN THE HOUSE OF THE FAUN

After lunch we had a little free time and I told the guide I wanted to explore on my own. He gave me I had a half an hour before we were to leave and said we could meet up by the gate to the city. In agreement he volunteered to tell my parents where I had gone.

I strolled into the Forum and peeked into a warehouse full of objects found in the excavations. Rows of amphora behind a wrought iron gate, and in the center the plaster cast of a crouching man in the position he had been in at the moment that the pyroclastic flow from the mountain hit him.

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Further on the garden courtyard of the temple of Apollo found me at its center.  I took in a quick and deep breath of awe as I stood before the one remaining statue of the god. He looked from where I stood as though he was about to set the top of Vesuvius alight like an ancient lamp. The smell of the garden was soft and full of aromatic evergreens, cypress and a few very early plum blossoms. I closed my eyes and I could hear off in the distant voices murmuring on the edge of reality.

“Hello? Do you speak English?”  I opened my eyes to see a beautiful young man standing under the statue of Apollo.  “Are you lost?”

I smiled and told him no, that I wasn’t lost. I turned to point to the entrance of the temple courtyard.

“I am with my family and a group off…..”   I turned back and he was gone. The wind came up from the sea and made a low moan as it pushed against the trees and through the columns of the portico. It was so sudden and strong that I staggered against it. The distant voices grew clearer. They were calling a name, my name.

What had just happened? Everything was suddenly intensified a thousand times, colors, sounds and most of all smells.  I was flooded by the smell of, rich resinous fir trees and garlands of roses, jasmine and lilies, violet leaves as purple as the roman sea. I could smell the ancient market filled with oranges, nutmeg and cloves and a bright sharp dark Indian pepper that bit into my senses.  There was leather and sandalwood from the humming workshops along the edges of the forum and the musky smells of pack animals entering the city. Above it all swirled the intoxicating heady aroma of temple incense. The perfume of the gods used to carry offerings and prayers to the very gates of Olympus.

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THE TEMPLE OF APOLLO, POMPEII

I stepped back and reached out to steady myself against a marble column older than anything I had ever touched before. The voices were more urgent now that called my name seemingly over the centuries; backwards or forwards I could not tell. I walked to the gate leading to the street. Turned for one last look at the statue I shook my head to clear it.

“There you are!” My mother came up and swatted my arm. “Why did you wander off without telling anyone?”

“I did tell the guide.” I mumbled still in a fog.

The others in the group were laughing and my stepfather patted my back. “You gave your mother a scare.”

We walked through the city gates and down to the waiting bus that was to take us to Sorrento. I was seated next to our guide as the bus navigated the corkscrew that is the Amalfi road. He studied me with knitted brow and then smiled. “Something happened to you in Pompeii, didn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”  I said.

His look was all knowing and warm. “The city remembers you. It happens sometimes. ”

Not until today when I first sprayed Oscar for Men my Oscar de la Renta did I think again of that moment in Pompeii when time slid away and I just may have met Apollo, the god of the Sun.

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POMPEIAN WALL PAINTING

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Oscar for men opens beautifully and instantly transported me to the smell of Southern Italy and the gardens of Pompeii.  The Top notes of this very masculine perfume are mandarin orange, fir resin, bergamot and pepper; middle notes are nutmeg, lily, lavender, jasmine, violet leaf, cloves and rose; base notes are leather, sandalwood, musk, balsam fir, vanilla and incense. It lasts on my skin for a good ten hours and the projection is immense. This is a spicy, woody incense blast that would do any roman emperor proud. It could fill the Flavian Amphitheater and eradicate any other offending smells of bloodstained gladiators, lions, senators or saucy prostitutes under the arches.

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OSCAR FOR MEN FIVE GOLD STARS *****

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BBC DRAMA ABOUT THE LAST DAY IN POMPEII

PERFUME PARTY IN ROME! ~ Campo Marzio 70

Campo Marizo 70 is an incredible and beautiful perfume shop in Rome. They carry a wide range of hard-to-find perfumes such as, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Paris, Creed, Annick Goutal, Frank Los Angeles (Love this house!), Lalique, Pavillon des Fleurs, Penhaligon’s. and San Franscisco’s own Yosh! My next trip to Rome will find me walking in the door with a warm and happy “Buon giorno!”

Enjoy this fun opening party for the store in March 2011.

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