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

MOVIE MEMORY ~ The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) 1963

The Leopard is perhaps the most beautiful films in Italian Cinema and one of the best from this country of great filmmakers. Directed by the master of period films Luchino Visconti it is sweeping, grand and magnificent in the telling of the story of the unification of Italy from the point of view of Sicilian Prince Don Fabrizio Salina. It encompasses the fall of the old ways of the aristocracy of a divided Italy and the rise of a new country with a healthy vibrant middleclass that would change Italy forever.

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The film is dominated by the best work captured on film of the great American actor, Burt Lancaster. He inhabits the role of the Italian Prince Salina with the dignity, power and grace of a true prince of cinema. It is reported in the extras on this Criterion DVD that he based his character on that of the equally aristocratic Visconti. Shrewd man that Lancaster was, for he presents us with two portraits, that of Visconti vision of the prince and that of his own interpretation embodiment of the director. Throughout the film there is in Lancaster a touch of the wounded or fallen hero. As the film progresses he fades in power and seems the verge of some terrible loss. His world is dying and he is on the edge of death itself. He seems, and is in fact in the end very near death though we are not shown anything more than a mere indication of his doom. In his final moments on screen he is heartbreaking.

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There are so many other wonderful performances in the film. Rina Morelli is proud, haughty, silly and touching as the wife of the Prince. Terrance Hill is wonderful in his small role of Count Cavriaghi, friend and wartime companion to the prince’s nephew Tancredi Falconeri. Alain Delon creates in Tancredi a magnificent spoiled and ultimately self-destructive young man who at first embraces the changes in the new Italy even to the point of wooing a woman from the middle class who a few years earlier would never have even been considered suitable. He gives in this film one of his best performances.

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And among the most luscious women of the Italian cinema of the 1960’s is Claudia Cardinale. A star of so many memorable films in both Italy and the U.S. she is here so stunningly beautiful and perfect as the fiancée  of Tancredi that she seems almost unreal. Her Angelica Sedara is both ethereal and earthy. The scene where she reacts at a formal dinner to a ribald story told by Delon is perfection. Her presence at the ball at the end of the film is truly memorable.

The sets, costumes and locals of the film are resplendent in scope and detail from the magnificent villa of the prince with it’s real silk walls to the ballroom at the end of the film set in the center of a palatial villa of unequaled splendor. The film is so magnificent that it is almost impossible to take it all in at one time. It bears repeated viewings and on the largest screen possible.

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This Criterion presentation is magnificent and loaded with wonderful extras that shed light on the making of and restoration of this masterpiece. The DVD is full of insights, included are interview with the screenwriters, set and costume designers, and the producer as well as the charming Miss Cardinale. You are also given the chance of viewing the Italian version or the re-cut (by a young Sydney Pollack) American version.

Visconti was an incredibly gifted and fascinating filmmaker who should not be overlooked by any true lover of cinema. The Leopard is his masterwork.

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What perfume would  Prince Don Fabrizio Salina have worn? Well for my money in the saving scene it would have to be ,  Garofano by Santa Maria Novella. One of the oldest perfume houses of Italy. This carnation perfume created in 1828 would have been perfect for the prince with its  top notes of  lemon, bergamot, mandarin and neroli. Middle notes of rosemary, petit grain, lavender and clove. a nice drydown of carnation and benzoin. An eau de cologne fit for a Prince.

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