I GOT A LITTLE STORY I THINK YOU SHOULD KNOW…For Men Michael Kors 2014

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(painting by Zachary Johnson)

He was down. Way way down in the 20s on 8th Avenue in a little dive called, “Set Um’Up”. And you guessed it; the bartender’s name was Joe. Can you believe it?  It was three in the morning and it was just Joe and me and him. I hung around way after the place had cleared of its regular flies because of him.  He was big, BIG big. One of the biggest stars on Broadway, only nobody recognized him here cause of the puffy eyes and three days of stubble on that matinee face of his. The face that made the ladies pony up nearly two hundred dollars for the first row of  any show he was in.  Besides, what would he be doing here so far from the Upper East Side and the bright lights of, well you get the idea. His million dollar smile was nowhere to be seen. Cause he was down, way way down.

I was just close enough to hear his story as Joe poured him another scotch. It was on the rocks. He laughed when Joe pointedly shoved him the drink.

“I guess I like it that way,” Mister Broadway said. “my scotch and my love life….on the rocks.”

I fed the juke box some quarters and picked what I though would be the right kind of blue note.

A peanut hit me in the back of the head. “Thanks buddy…that was our song.”  He shot me a weak version of his star bright smile. “What are you drinkin’?”  He didn’t wait for my answer, too worse to care. He just went on bending our ear with the story.

“You see it isn’t easy finding love under the microscope of fame. You just can’t trust um’. Any of um. But this one Joe was solid. Not in the Biz. Don’t ever fall for someone who acts for a living guys. That brake up is over the bathroom mirror…most times. If not that then it is because of that old Star Is Born cliché. What are ya gonna do?  It is what it is. “

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“Yeah but this one was different, didn’t even know who I was when we met. I didn’t believe it at first. Thought it was an act to get next to me. You’d be surprised what some jerks do to date a star. Or, maybe you wouldn’t be surprised. But no Joe, it was the real thing. I mean the REAL thing….ya know?”

“Things were going great. As great as they can when you’ve swallowed the hook. As Margo Channing once said, the honeymoon was on. When there was a big show biz event did that matter? Nope “let’s go camping upstate? Or drive out to that little bed and breakfast at Montauk. I just want to be with you.”  We had even set a date…..you can do that now you know…when you fall in love too easily.” He lifted his half empty glass to his lips and scrutinized the ice. “It is what it is.”

“What happened?” I said and caught Joe rolling his eyes. He must have heard it all before.

“What happened?” His eyes got all cloudy. “Yeah, what happened?”

For a minute it got too quite, all except for Sinatra singing soft and low.

“Yeah, that’s my cue….I gotta go.” The wounded star slid of the bar stool and gave me a short last curtain bow. Then insinuated his way through the tables and stacked chairs to the door. He turned the door half open to the chilled black autumn morning.

“Thanks Joe.” He gave us a half hearted two fingers to the brow salute and then at last that million dollar smile that slays the ladies from the front row to the back of the top balcony. “Funny thing is….his name is Joe too.”

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***

For Men by Michael Kors after a rocky start has been re-released. The wait was worth it. It is a melancholy sophisticated love song singed around the edges with a bit of a broken heart. It is smoky and moody, lush a mix of cocktails and regret and in the end filled with a longing for something lost and just beyond ever finding again. It is beautiful.

This masculine fragrance is perfect for fall and winter. It is magnificent on a man but boy could a woman wear it well and smell great. It would be the olfactory equivalent to a woman wearing her boyfriend’s crisp white dress shirt with jeans. Or nothing but the shirt. Effortless and elegant on both sexes in ether a formal night out for theater and a late cold supper or on a sunny fall picnic in Central Park. It works so well for any setting. That’s what I love about Michael Kors clothes and his two fragrances in his men’s lineup.  The nose is Harry Freemont who also created among many fragrances CK One for Calvin Klein, Modern Muse for Estee Lauder and Grey Vetiver Eau de Toilette for Tom Ford, and of course the fist men’s fragrance for Michael Kors, Michael.

It opens with a dominant and beautiful star anise, which shines in a dark kind of glamour as the coriander, thyme and pepper buzz just below this star giving it that signature you will recognize from the opening of Michael from 2001. There bergamot that is there is very light and almost imperceptible to my nose but what is wonderful is the addition of the elemi that adds a smoky sweet melancholy to the opening and sets everything up for what is to come.

The fragrance moves into its mid notes with the most wonderful twisting tendrils of incense that rise up like a cobra from a snake charmers basket. But there is also something wonderful in that basket, a wreath of sage and the smoothest richest suede note I have smelled in a long time.  It is simply entrancing and here is where the beauty of the fragrance departs from the generic designer signature and enters into the realm of fine perfume in a classic style.

The dry down comes on with the masculine lines of fine polished wood, a nearly caramelized sandalwood, lush rich layers of patchouli and musk add just the right light to the fade out and final curtain of this fragrance.

Now for some the bad news comes here. The longevity on my skin is not great, around four to six hours. The sillage is moderate which depending on your taste and personal style can be a good or bad thing. But for me this is not a make or break issue since I am a proponent of the liberal and lively art of the re-apply.  Being a designer scent the cost is very reasonable for what you get. A beautiful men’s fragrance that can take you uptown, downtown and all around in great style.

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FOR MEN MICHAEL KORS Five Gold Stars.

Press play to hear Robbie Williams sing One For My Baby.

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THE FAIRY GODMOTHER OF 5TH AVENUE ~ Quelques Fleurs L’Original by Houbigant

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When she swept past the doorman at Bergdorf Goodman she smelled of Prell shampoo and crisp starched linen.  He smiled and nodded as he held the door open for her, she was one of his favorites of the working girls who breezed over from Madison Avenue on their lunch hour and out again in less than fifteen minutes. She was as fresh and just as pretty as any young ingénue on or off Broadway.

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There were so many of them hurrying along 5th Avenue, secretaries and stenographers from the advertising houses and the book publishers. Between 11:30 and 2:00 p.m. they hit all the department stores from Bonwit Teller to Bergdorf’s with one thing on there minds; a free spritz of some exotic and impossibly expensive perfume. June Ramsey was no exception. She smiled at the doorman. He winked at her, like he always did.

She worked at Harper and Row in the secretarial pool for $75 a week. For her perfumes were a luxury she could not afford unless it was some horrid eau de toilette from Woolworth’s. She was not a Woolworth’s kind of girl.

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“If you want to smell like Chanel No.5 but can’t afford it honey, just dab some Palmolive dishwashing liquid behind your ears. Smells just like it!” Louise from accounting had given her that tip one day during a coffee break.

“No June that is so cheep! Do what I do. Make Bergdorf’s perfume counter part of your daily toilette routine.” Maggie from the reading department whispered so that Louise would not hear her dig. “And especially if you have a big date!”

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She stood at the counter looking at the assortment of romances bottled and packaged for dreams. There was Shalimar, No.5, L’Interdit, all exquisite, but somehow not right for tonight. June fingered the buttons on her home sewn Simplicity “Chanel” suit and closed her eyes.

“Having trouble deciding?”  June opened her eyes. There next to her was an exquisitely dressed woman of 50 or so. She smelled amazing and looked every inch very, very Upper East Side.

“Oh! Yes, I mean no… I am just looking.”

The woman nodded and then picked up a bottle of perfume and showed it to June. “This is my favorite for a very special night out. Like the one you are heading for tonight I am guessing.”

“How did you guess? It is a first date; he is taking me to see that new show, “Camelot” at the Majestic.”

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“I am good at reading people.  Here why don’t you try it? It is called, Quelques Fleurs.”

“Well, I… I can’t afford it. $30 a bottle.” She sighed

“A sample spray can’t hurt your pocketbook,” She smiled mischievously. “Besides, all the girls who work around neighborhood sneak a spray. I bet you do too. And you never know what a perfume like this one might add to your first date.”

“Alright, maybe just one little spritz.”

“Close your eyes my dear….”

 

When June walked out of Bergdorf’s the doorman caught a whiff of her perfume. He grinned and looked back into the store. Mrs. Goodman was afoot and playing fairy godmother to the working girls again.  He chuckled at the thought of just how surprised that young lady would be when she opened her purse.  There she would find a bottle of Mrs. Goodman’s favorite perfume beautifully wrapped in Bergdorf Goodman tissue paper with a kind note tucked neatly in among her lipstick and Kleenex.  Mrs. Goodman always had the girls close there eyes when she sprayed them. That was when she made the drop!

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***

 

Quelques Fleurs L’Original was created by the nose of Robert Bienaime for the house of Houbigant in 1913. It is still in production today and presented by the house with great attention to the finest absolutes in its notes and to the preservation of the original beauty of the perfume.

I have to thank my dear friend at Niemen Marcus, Michal Gizinski for giving me a sample of this amazing perfume to try out. He, as I have said before is one of my great teachers in the realm of perfume. I am ever thankful for his guidance and generosity.

Just imagine it, this perfume is one hundred and one years old and yet as fresh and romantic and relevant today as it was in the twilight of the Edwardian era.

The top notes are orange blossom, green notes, tarragon, and bergamot, lemon and citrus. This burst on the skin fresh and bright as spring’s first flowers is gorgeous. It is a rush to the senses of white blossoms from rows and rows of orange trees and lemon on warm hillside groves. If you have ever been in such a grove you know just how beautiful this arrangement can be.

Then the heat of your skin awakens the garden that lies in the mid notes. A really stunning and photo realistic rose that truly to me smells of fresh cut roses, not that sharp synthesized rose I usually smell in perfume. But a real rose. The tuberose ads a generous helping of high glamour along with a indulgently lush jasmine. Oh does it ever sing! Behind these notes there are traces of lilac, heliotrope, creamy ylang-ylang. And intertwined are rapturous hints of lily-of-the-valley, violet and iris and even an earthy dash of one of my favorite notes, the austere silvery orris root. You have the entire garden here from deep within the earth up to the sky. “Hey buds below, up is where to grow!”

Then finally in the dry down we find the woods and the animals of the garden,  Covered in Honey a civet romps among the roses, This little sexy cat is musky and sweetened by a dash of vanilla, tonka bean and amber. All of this is warmed by a creamed smooth sandal wood and the sharp masculine notes of Oakmoss.  It is a classic French romp in the sheets if you ask me. Sweet but not cloying, and a little dirty and not afraid to be just what it is, a real perfume for a person who knows how to be a flesh and blood sensual voluptuary who is madly in love with life.

As with most of the old school classic perfumes it is very long lasting on the skin. I got twelve good hours out of it and the sillage is impressive. They are going to know you are wearing a masterpiece when you wear Quelques Fleurs L’Original.

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Quelques Fleurs L’Original Five Platinum Stars *****

ARRANGE TO BE BORN IN PARIS! ~ Diana Vreeland Perfumes!

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For those of you who don’t know, yes I have a YouTube review channel. (One wonders, What won’t he NOT stoop too?) In any case here is my take on the just released perfumes by Alexander Vreeland of the new Perfume line Diana Vreeland.  Something more in depth is bound to show up here on the blog in a week or so as I get to know these (3 out of the 5) better. In the meantime enjoy my rambling and endless ums and ahs.

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THE BEYOND ~ Au Delà by Bruno Fazzolari Editions

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Glinting in the winter morning light, freshly varnished and perfectly manicured nails drummed on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. They were exactly the same shade of Vreeland red as the magazine with a laughing Kate Hudson on the cover. She was unaware of this little serendipity of color as she looked out over her vast living room to the snow dusted terrace that hung twenty eight floors above 5th avenue.

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New Years Eve morning. L’Ascension by Olivier Massiaen was playing on the radio.  She sighed, and flipped open Harper’s Bazaar. A beautiful girl with a perfume bottle, The page turned. “Kate Hudson gets festive in this season’s hottest styles. Welcome to Holiday Glamour……”  And indeed the actress looked very festive and hot and stylish and all the rest. Turned page. Chanel models in Chanel, Page on to Dior bags followed by Louis Vuitton.  A blond having too much fun being a blond in Michael Kors. The smile that made Julia Roberts a mega star smiled over her shoulder from the page for Lancôme. Still a pretty woman.  Austere Armani, proud Prada, Gucci Gucci Gucci. Any other day it would have been fun, like it always was.  Magazine meandering usually ended up in a trip down 5th to Bergdorf, then Barneys and always Bulgari for a bauble. She tossed the magazine aside and sank back into the silk over stuffed pillows of her now back in style Michael Taylor sofa.

Another Sigh. The sun shifted and a beam bounced off the ice on the terrace banister, glance a crystal on the chandelier and hit the facets of her pale violet diamond Deco inspired engagement ring. All twelve of the flawless carats caught fire. She lazily wiggled her ring finger and watched Tiffany & Co. dance within the stone. She pushed against the pillows, rose up from the sofa and tightened the sash on her Stefano Pilati silk robe.

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The deep pile of the Nepalese rug caressed her toes as she sauntered to the terrace doors to look out to the West over Manhattan. She had hours to get ready before dinner at the Waldorf Astoria. Hours to think. The trees in the park encrusted from the ice storm the night before looked like a Swarovski forest from Doctor Zhivago. Beautiful and cold, it looked as if there were wolves down there howling at the silver plated sky. Only last month she had been warm in San Pancho under the November sun on the Nayarit coast of Mexico. She met Jane and Earl Miller and fell in love with them when she went to stay at their little hotel. Getting to know them as she lounged by the pool at Roberto’s Bungalows was when it began, slow and steady and building over Thanksgiving and into December. The realization that she wanted what they had. She couldn’t put her finger on just what made their marriage seem authentic and real. But she knew now that she would not find that kind of love staring at her across the well appointed table at the Waldorf on New Years Eve.

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Late in the afternoon as she applied the finishing touches to her make-up she felt terrible for what she was about to do.  She knew he would not understand, she understood that he thought he loved her. She realized nether he or she had any idea what love was really about. Finished dressing by five-thirty she called for her car, put the engagement ring into its box and into her purse. There was only one thing more to do. She looked at the array of perfumes on her vanity. She picked up the small unassuming bottle of Au Delà and applied it to her wrist and neck. The old world yet modern beauty of the perfume enfolded her, comforted her, and promised of life to live beyond tonight. It whispered very softly just behind her ear “…the beyond.” She smiled for the first time, just a tiny hint of a smile really. After Auld Lang Sine she would be free to find out who she really was.

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(Bienvenidos paraíso, Roberto’s Bungalows) 

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Au Delà by perfumer and artist Bruno Fazzolari is something very special. I first smelled it along with the other perfumes of his initial launch into the perfume world last March at San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon. You can read about that event in my post, “Meeting The Magicians ~ SF Artisan Perfume Salon 2013”.

Au Delà immediately struck me as a fabulous perfume that recalled the great days of the house of Dior in the early 50’s. It is so reminiscent of such beauties as the old original Miss Dior. Not the silly girl she has become today in her reformulations but the beautiful confident woman she was at the dawn of post war glamour. I have to give credit to Hilary Randal who was the one to pinpoint for me what I was smelling in that bottle of Au Delà that day back in March.

Bruno has in his collection all of which was released in 2013, Lampblack, Jimmy, Five, Monserrat,  It’s Better Not To Worry Abut It and Au Delà. Each are exquisite and should be explored by any and every perfume lover, but for me Au Delà is the masterpiece of the line. It is the goddess in a bottle, the essence of French chic created by and artist who grew up in both in France and the United States.

This perfume was inspired by one of the major French composers of the 20th Century, Olivier Massiaen. And in this inspiration there is music, glorious music. To equate this fragrance to the inspiration just listen to L’Ascension by Massiaen and you have the tones and notes of this perfume.

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(Au Delà is right for any woman with the slightest chic)

It opens with a simple clear, glowing note of coriander. This note is almost immediately obliterated by an unfolding song from a beautiful jasmine that is wreathed with Neroli and orange blossoms. This plays its melody with increasing sensuality as it is aroused by the arrival of the base notes of Amber, Oakmoss and something magical created by Bruno known as Immanence. Immanence is a fantasy note that is as ephemeral as a dream and as real as fairy dust. It is the God note that encompasses everything and exists in all creation. It is there in the base of the perfume and gives it wings, shimmering wings on which to fly.

NYC Man(Au Delà is perfect for a man with great personal style)

This Chypre is indolic, intoxicating and inspiring. It loves to live on the skin of both men and women and in so doing finds the essence of male or female sensuality in the meeting of perfume to flesh. Since its release Au Delia has won both the Gold Medal for Top Artisan Perfumer at the International Artisan Fragrance Awards and the Gold Medal at the San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon.

I found this award winning perfume to be sublime with a respectable sillage and good longevity. You can find it at Bruno’s Webpage and at Tigerlily in San Francisco. Tigerlily is the first brick and mortar store to carry Bruno Fazzolari Editions. For a debut perfumer Au Delà is exceptional and I look forward to watching Bruno Fazzolari’s journey as an up an coming perfumer.

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Au Delà by Bruno Fazzolari Editions  Five Gold Stars *****

BRUNO FAZZOLARI WEBSITE: http://brunofazzolari.com/

TIGERLILY: Love & Luxe

(Tigerlily pop-up)

1169 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA94110

Hours: 12 – 6 Wed, Thurs
11 – 7 Fri, Sat
12 – 5 Sun

415 648 7781
info@loveandluxesf.com

ROBERTO’S BUNGALOWS: http://robertosbungalows.com/

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Listen to L’Ascension by Olivier Massiaen

THREE A.M. ~ Dior Homme by Christian Dior

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Her eyes were half closed in her trademark lets make love look. With  lips that shimmied and shimmered in a lush Max Factor red lipstick, she seemed to be reaching out from the screen and all the way up to the second row in the third balcony of Radio City Music Hall. She was looking at him and only him.

“The French are glad to die for love.

They delight in fighting duels.

But I prefer a man who lives,

And gives expensive……”

Jules…..Jules….JULES!”

“Huh? What?” he mumbled half awake trying to figure out where she went?

“You are singing in your sleep again.”  His wife said overflowing with three a.m. frustration. “Gentleman may prefer blondes but I prefer that you didn’t do showtunes in the middle of the night.”

“Sorry honey….” Jules whispered and waited.

A heavy sigh was her reply. He took quiet short breaths until he could hear her low adenoidal snore. He turned over in the bed toward the glow streaming though the window of Manhattan after midnight.

“Hi!” She was tangled in white sheets and propped up on one elbow right next to him in the bed. “Who’s the grumpy tomato? She doesn’t like showtunes?”

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(Photograph by Douglas Kirkland)

He squinted and then rubbed his eyes.

“Well?” she said not in her breathy movie voice but in her own natural and beautiful voice, a voice melodic with a hint of melancholy and on the edge of laughter.

“ah….no she likes showtunes… it’s just that I can’t sing.”

“Nonesense! I think you sing like Frank.”

“Frank?”

“Sinatra silly!” she laughed and pulled the sheet up a little higher over her bosom, lifted her head to the left and looked over his shoulder.  “You didn’t answer my first question, who’s the tomato?”

“Believe me, she’s no tomato she’s my wife.”

Was she really here he wondered. Did it really matter? Don’t question the night just keep talking.

“How did you get in here?”

“I don’t know.” She looked up at the sleep tossed lock of champagne blonde hair hanging down over her right eye. With a crooked kiss she blew it back into its cinemascope ready place.   “I just turned over and here you are.”

“Me too!” His eyes wandered slightly. “Don’t you have anything on?”

She wiggled her shoulders and gifted him with that sleepy half lidded smile. “Just this sheet, and some perfume.”

They talked until the sky began to brighten.

At 6:30 the alarm went off and he woke up slightly dazed and a little dazzled. His wife moaned. He hit the buzzer and then hit the shower. While dressing for the office he remembered her from the night before and smiled. What a strange and somehow lovely dream it had been.

He absently picked a white Brooks Brothers shirt from where it lay folded with the others in the cedar closet.

There it was as real as sunlight and twice as lovely, a red lipstick kiss on the back inside of the collar. He put the shirt on . He could almost feel her lips brush the back of his neck. For the rest of the day he could smell the luscious Max Factor red lipstick kiss from Marilyn Monroe

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Dior Homme is a man’s fragrance famous for it’s lipstick on your collar smell that trails and lingers about a man’s neck like the playful fingers of a beautiful woman.  When you first put it on, it entwines into your hair and runs along the pulse points of the body in a warm sensuous touch that is both sexy and enticing. The amazing thing is how simply masculine it is and that is all about the Iris and falling in love with a man’s skin.

The fragrance opens with a dry hills sage smell warmed buy a summer sun. This is layered over by bright bergamot citrus zing and clean fresh lavender. This hangs around for a very short time just setting you up for the main players.

From deep in the base opens smooth refined leather note that encases the middle notes like a finely made Dior handbag. Yes it smells a bit like the inside of a woman’s purse. And in that purse is a right rich, lush and powdery scent of make-up. This aroma specifically reminds me of the old Max Factor pancake makeup my mother used to wear in the 50’s and 60’s. The make-up scent is carried off by the Iris which is huge but not overbearing. Then with the addition of cacao there comes a waxy sensual lipstick smell which is enriched with a very deep and luxe amber. It is so well designed that I find myself sniffing my wrist repeatedly in the first of many hours of long wear.

I know what you are thinking, Lipstick, makeup and masculine? How can that be?  It is all in the base where the testosterone resides and pumps relentlessly up and into the fragrance giving it its more masculine edge. Vetiver all rooty and rough mixes it up with a punch-drunk patchouli. These boys hit the dry down with the afore mentioned refined and long lasting  leather, The three carry Dior Homme into a lingering finale. At this point I found that from time to time it would  on occasion, rise up to envelop me as if my body heat had revived it from the dead long after I thought it was finished.

Dior Homme surprised me. I originally bought it to use as a layering scent, something to give oomph and panache to more understated scents like for instance, Dior Bois D’Argent. (That is a stunning combo created by my friend, Dior Fragrance Specialist Hilary Randall). But what I found it that this fragrance which is dearly loved by the online fragrance community is a stunning standalone beauty. It is complex in its simplicity, chic and sleekly masculine in its style, And it says something, that something is: I am Dior Homme, women love to wear me but they love it even more when you wear me.

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Dior Homme Five Gold Stars *****

Gatsby’s Garden ~ Shalimar Parfum by Guerlain

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“When I was a girl of 17 I went to all of Gatsby’s parties. That’s were I met Bill .”

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It was just before dawn. Mark Post closed his great grandmother Marie’s ancient diary and put it in his backpack. He looked at the rusted gates of 111 Kings Point Road and took a deep breath. The no trespassing sign hung sideways from one screw and was almost completely covered with ivy. He looked up and down the road. There was no sign of anyone watching. In a scrabble of arms and legs he was over the gate in fifteen seconds. When his feet hit the driveway he could have sworn he heard music coming from the beach beyond the trees.

It was a quarter of a mile though the trees overgrown with ivy along the cracked and buckled drive to where the house once stood.

“I never met Jay Gatsby. No one ever saw him. We just came there every weekend from the city because the word was out that he gave spectacular parties. The place overflowed with free liquor and the best jazz bands from Harlem.”gatsby pool party

A robin’s egg blue predawn sky dimly lit the pit overgrown with weeds where the chateau of dreams Gatsby had built for his Daisy once stood. Three Corinthian columns were all that remained of the portico that opened to the terrace and the formal gardens that stretched from the house to the beach of Manhasset Bay.

Mark hopped up on the low foundation wall and made his way gingerly to the columns. He stood in silence and looked out over the expanse before him. In the distance across the bay twinkled the lights of Sands Point where Daisy’s house stood until just a few years ago. The cloudless sky behind those winking fading lights was turning pale pink. When he walked down the broken steps to the dirty marble terrace once again he heard distant strains of an old tune.

“Bill was an odd duck. He was not a rich boy and had no prospects. But he was handsome and could dance like nobody’s business. He wore Shalimar. All the girls called him sissy to his face because he wore that perfume.  They thought he was “funny that way”.  But I knew he wasn’t and I didn’t care because it smelled wonderful on him. Bill just laughed at those silly women and then swept me onto the dance floor and held me tight as we pivoted into a fox trot.

Mark moved slowly across the terrace and down the last sweeping set of stairs to the haunted remains of the formal garden. There were wildly overgrown roses on ether side of the wide path that lead to the beach. They seemed all to be leaning toward the east in anticipation of the sunrise. Ancient flowers filled with perfumed memories of  past loves long dead. Only the sunlight could make them bloom and bring love to life again.

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“On the day I married Bill he gave me his bottle of Shalimar and said he would never wear it again. He told me that he only wore it because he knew that it was the perfume that would lead him to the woman he would marry. ‘It is your perfume now’ he told me. And ever since my wedding day, it has been and always will be my perfume.”

Mark reached the place where the garden ended and the beach began. Rotting wooden posts reached out from the shore into the bay where the old dock once stood. They seemed to be forever reaching toward the lights of Sands Point and a long forgotten green light.

Mark opened his backpack and took out a small silver box and a tiny bottle of Shalimar.

“Bill has been gone now for many years.  And now in my 104th year I know I will be joining him soon. I hope that heaven is like those glorious parties at Gatsby’s and that I will meet Bill there and dance forever in his arms enfolded in an eternal cloud of Jazz music and Shalimar.”

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(Photo stolen from Mr. and Mrs. David Aylor)

At the edge of the garden where Mark imagined Marie had first met Bill he buried the silver box containing a few mingled ashes of his great grandparents. Then he opened the bottle of Shalimar and dabbed a bit on his wrists and behind each ear. He swore at that moment that he would wear Shalimar until he found the woman it belonged to.

He could hear the music from the past clearly now. The fist ray of sun hit his eyes and blinded him. He turned around and for a shimming moment Gatsby’s house was ablaze with lights, the music roared to life and the party was just beginning.

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Shalimar the classic (and very first) oriental perfume created in 1925 by Jacques Guerlain is one of the best selling perfumes in the world. It remains today a perfume of magical and romantic qualities. But in the 1920’s it was a bit of a scandalous fragrance. It was said that there were three things a good girl didn’t do, “Bob her hair, smoke cigarettes and wear Shalimar.” That certainly didn’t stop the new modern women of the age who agreed with Mae West when she said. “Good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere!”

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Shalimar is a grownup perfume. Heavy on incense and leather, blooming with rose and jasmine and insolently overflowing with opopanax, civet and sandalwood it is a glamorous sumptuous and sensual perfume. Very French but at the same time very universal.

Shalmar Woman

It opens with blue rhapsody of a jazzy clarinet solo in citrus. This consists of the notes of mandarin orange, bergamot, lemon and a note that usually can be found in the base, Cedar. That Cedar note tells you right off that this is going to be interesting.

The heart of this jazz age symphony is replete with more mixing of high and low notes. There is a rooty iris mixed in with a grassy vetiver. This comes in to lush harmonics with a rose dressed to thrill and all a sparkle is a sexy seductive jasmine.  The low dark and slightly naughty patchouli rushes in to stir the entire center of the fragrance into a pure lush modern jazz ballet.

Finally there comes the boozy slow blues after midnight dry down. From opening to the end of this perfume there is a huge billowing fabulous incense note that pushes out into the room. The body and soul of the perfume is here in its smoky presence as the incense pares up with opopanax and the two get kinky with the dominatrix leather note. This trio is not shy about slapping things into submission as they pull in a scampy civet that plays around adding a dash of danger and bite to the party.  Lush sandalwood is made more creamy and sexy by the arrival of Tonka and vanilla. The jazz age urgent sexy pulse of this perfume is made to last for hours by the ever present support of a beautiful musk.

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This perfume may be a challenge to some for its complexity and adult signature. A signature I might add that is no where to be found in the realm of immature perfumes of this day and age. It is something many have to grow into. Another aspect of the perfume is its sexual ambiguity. The meeting of florals with Cedar, citrus and a snappy leather make it most wearable for men. Not an office scent by any means for a man but something that works well after dark and on formal occasions. But weather for a man or a woman Shalimar is the height of elegant chic confident sexy jazz drenched glamour.

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Shalimar by Guerlain Five Platinum Stars *****

WINTER MEETING ~ Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene

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It was more than I could bear the thought of being in Manhattan and not doing it.  So with very little planning or thought I was up an hour before the sun and out of the Park Central Hotel on 7th avenue. My pajamas were cleverly covered with wool slacks and my feeble California winter jacket, a small bath towel was standing in for a muffler all in an effort to stay warm on my trek. Still the shock of the February freeze was paralyzing and the wind that came with it took the top layer skin of my cheeks off as quick as powdered sugar flies off a donut in a hurricane. It was the coldest I had ever been. But it didn’t stop me. In few brisk blocks and I would be warmed up I was sure of it.

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   I was struck as I headed north on 7th toward Central Park at how deserted the streets were. Not a cab or bus, not a person, pigeon, rat or cat. I was as alone in The City as Harry Belafonte was in “The World, The Flesh and The Devil”. Only there had been no atom bomb to leave me alone on the streets. It was just a Saturday morning in the dead of winter.  I loved the feeling. For the time being New York belonged only to me.  I trudged past Carnegie Hall as a blast of steam from a manhole engulfed me and carried Judy’s ghost within its comforting fog. “We’ll sing em all and we’ll stay all night! ”  The wind grabbed the memory of her and whisked it away down 57th street toward the East River and on to the morning star.

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I pushed on up the Avenue. The street lights along Central Park South winked in the icy mist that swirled around them.  There ahead where West Drive cut into the park I saw a man crossing heading east on Central Park South. We would meet at the corner to head east together if indeed he was going to continue east. There was something familiar about his walk, his shape, his aura, just before he stepped up on the curb I smiled in my recognition. As I turned and we fell into step beside each other I nodded.

“Good Morning.”

“Good morning” He smiled. He was dressed like a proper New Yorker for winter. And very stylishly too.

For the next long block we said nothing but kept time with our feet. I could hear music in the air sharp with the threat of snow. Music I had heard since childhood. I was comfortable walking and not talking to him, both of us pretending that I didn’t know who he was.

Just before the Plaza Hotel the man nodded. “Have a nice day kid.”  He disappeared into a glowing golden foyer before he could hear my response.

“You too sir…”

Walking in the predawn darkness with Tony Bennett and not a soul around added magic to my mission.

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When I reached the Plaza I knew I couldn’t go another block without getting warmed up. I scooted in the side door as quickly as Cary Grant heading for a cocktail and his date with destiny in “North by Northwest”.  As I warmed up a bit along the walk past the Oak Room to the main lobby I remembered that Grant had lived here, also a little girl by the name of Heloise. “Psst! Hey Mister want to have an Elevator race?” Her real name was Liza Minnelli and she had inspired Kay Thomson to tell her tale to the world.

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Sweeping out the doors of the Plaza like I too belonged there and down the red carpeted stairs onto Grand Army Plaza I pushed into the wind and nearly ran to the shelter of good old Bergdorf Goodman and its glamorous glittering imperious widows. My face was instantly numb nullifying my visit to the Plaza. There was nothing to do but cover my lower face with the bath towel like Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago and solder on down 5th Avenue. At 57th on the sidewalk next to Van Cleef and Arpels was salvation, a little silver coffee wagon, more like a small mobile home steaming and gleaming with the promise of hot coffee and Danish.

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   The East Indian man served me pronto and then slammed the little window in my face against the winds hands that threatened to slap him hard across the face. Mitten-less I cupped my java and turned to behold my objective.

“When I get the mean reds the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and head straight to Tiffany’s!” I barley whispered the line.

There it stood in the very grey blue light at 5:56 a.m., Tiffany’s. I wasn’t cold anymore. I walked to the corner and crossed the empty intersection against the light on the diagonal from the northwest corner of 57th to the southeast corner. I sipped my coffee and looked down 5th… Picture 46

A cab was coming along at a good clip, an old one from the early 1960’s. It bounce gracefully twice on the dips along the street and pulled up in front of me and stopped. The back door opened and a black satin evening pump extended to touch the street. In a blink of time it was gone. I turned back to look in the window. Just the setting for the jewels was there, the jewels themselves were locked away. I nibbled on my Danish and walked to the next window see what wasn’t there and imagine what might be.

“Here’s to you Truman, and to you Holly and most of all to you Audrey.”  The wind kicked hard against my back and grabbed my empty Danish bag out of my frozen hand sending up against the building and around the corner to disappear down 57th. My breakfast at Tiffany’s was over.

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Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene is a classic from 1975 created by Andre Fromentin. This Woody Oriental has been a part of my perfume life almost since it hit the market back in the first years of the rise of Disco and a new age in men’s fashion and style, along with the ascent of the GQ man and the death of the hippie as fashion god.  It is a classic that to me embodies New York and the sartorial glamour of that city as few other American fragrances can.

It opens with a stylish warm citrus blast of Neroli, bergamot and lemon which are made unusually sophisticated by the addition of a very bitter rich green galbanum and a woody citrus petitgrain. This opening is bright and sharp and swiftly over to be followed by what I think is the showstopper surprise.

Here we move into a floral perfume for men that is stunning in its complexity and daring by today’s standards and ideas for a masculine fragrance.  Spring is in full bloom along 5th avenue atop the gardened terraces of the deco apartment buildings that face Central Park; it is all here in the middle notes. A sensuous blend of bold Violet, irreverent Iris, rose over flowing the planters, golden Mimose, green heady Narcissus, are tethered to a grounding desert sage, and dirty earthy geranium.  This Sage and the geranium keep the notes all low like a humming baritone cello and pull the chorus of soprano florals into a beautiful masculine tone. It is Tony Bennett singing “Maybe September”, smooth, sophisticated and a little melancholy.

The base notes are a strong foundation of the old standards of Oakmoss, Tonka bean, Cedar and a sharp very green vetiver. This is spiked with a bit of almond that gives the perfume a woody nutty warmth in the dry down.  There is a bit of a soapy feeling too but not detergent or cheap bar soap, but rather a very superior rich soap reminiscent of some of Roger e Gallet’s fine soap scents.

As for longevity it is a real long distance runner. Well paced for the long haul and comes in a winner every time. People always comment in the positive when I wear Grey Flannel. The sillage is out there as is the norm of these old classics from the 70’s so it is something to use with discretion. After 8 hours it moves in close and stays there.

This fine woody oriental fragrance is something for a man of taste and a well developed nose. Often younger noses find Grey Flannel to be a bit more than challenging.  I believe that is from the over glut of the Cool Water’s and Aqua Di Gio’s of the last twenty five years. Not to mention the supper sweets of A-Men and sickly bubble gum 1Millions. The watering down of the public tasted in perfume. Mainstream perfumers have moved away from complex and challenging creations to meet the demands of the buying public that only want to smell “clean and fresh” One only hopes that time will bring style and originality back into the mainstream.

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GREY FLANNEL BY GEOFFREY BEENE FIVE GOLD STARS *****

(MAYBE SEPTEMBER ~ TONY BENNETT)

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)

LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON ~ Barneys New York, San Francisco

Spending the afternoon with Hilary Randall in the perfume department at Barneys New York ~ San Francisco is like spending the afternoon with Audrey Hepburn. An afternoon of charm, grace, beauty, a bit of a “Charade” in Paris with a little Holly Golightly on the side. It’s love in the afternoon perfume style!

It all began when my best buddy Lane and I were planning an afternoon of lunch n’sniff for this weekend.  The Union Square jaunt was centered on picking up the next big ticket on my perfume parade, Les Exclusifs de Chanel Sycomore. The boutique has been out of the travel size for a few weeks so they advised me to call ahead. I had saved up my pennies in anticipation only to hear when I checked in on Friday that it would be another week until it came in. Lane and I agreed not to let this little set back detour our adventure and agreed to meet Saturday morning anyway and make a day of it.

We timed our trip downtown so precisely that we ended up meeting on the M Ocean train on Muni. The plan was lunch first then a bit of perfuming.

“Let’s go to Barneys now and do lunch after” Lane said as we surfaced from the Powell street station into one of those glorious October Saturdays that seem like summer will never melt away into the rains of winter.

“Yes and we can say hi to Hilary” I agreed.

 

(BARNEYS NEW YORK ~ SAN FRANCISCO)

   As we crossed Market Street dogging the Giants fans running amok with the hordes of last minute tourists I recalled that it was only last week that I had popped into Barneys to say hello to Hillary whom I had met last month at the Diptyque Premier of Volutes.  She had greeted me so warmly the week before, as if we had known each other since the fall of the French Monarchy at Versailles. In the course of that visit she introduced me to L’Artisan Parfumeur, Arquiste, and Aedes de Venustas. She is so incredibly knowledgeable about perfume and the history of it. All aspects really that she is, simply in my eyes the Muse of Perfume at Barneys. (Everyone that I have met there are expert in their department that is one of the things that makes Barneys so interesting and a pleasure to visit.) As I left that day I was loaded down with a captured cache from a hijacked caravan of exotic niche perfumes. (Reviews forthcoming naturally) When I shared the samples with Lane last week at work he returned them to me with one mysteriously missing. Aleksandr by Arquiste.  He had fallen in love with this perfume based on the last day of Aleksandr Pushkin’s life. Russian fumehead, DrBatson’s review at Fragantica even says that it smells like winter in St. Petersburg Russia. Well if that is what winter smells like in St. Petersburg book me a flight!

(THE GRAND STAIRCASE AT BARNEYS)

    We entered Barneys and as always were greeted by warm smiles and friendly hellos. As we descended the last steps into the subterranean perfume vault (like a wine cellar, cool with no sunlight to harm the perfumes) we heard our names and turned to see Hillary beautifully dressed as always coming toward us with outstretched arms.  I told Hilary about the missing vile of Aleksandr. She laughed and we were off for the next forty minutes on a wonderful tour of the treasures of the fragrance world. We heard the stories of the histories of the various perfumes and the noses behind them. Lane became enamored of Oranges and Lemons Say the Bells of St. Clement’s by Heeley of Paris (Like Worth, another Englishman making good in Paris)  That has to be the longest name for a perfume I have every heard.

 

    On the way to L’artisan Parfumeur for my sniff beyond Saville A L’aube  (oranges, incense and corn tortillas)  we took a side trip for a test of Fredric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady. (Glorious but I am no lady) and in the mix we discussed how Americans love the clean scents and in Europe it is more about diversity and skank.  Hilary mentioned that the French have a saying when a fragrance is too clean like fresh laundry. “il n’ya pas de cul.” She said and then translated with “Pardon my French.”  At the end. In the 19th century as she told us, it was like this “Good girls wore light florals like orange blossom, and the bad girls wore tuberose and jasmine to cover up how busy they had been with their clients.”  I mentioned to Hillary that I like the heavy Orientals, like I said before, I am no lady.

Then it was on to L’Artisan Parfumeur where we revisited Saville A L’Aube. Yes we agree the three of us that there were corn tortillas at the top, the best and freshest in the land. I mentioned that I had heard about Dzing and Hillary smiled with a knowing nod. “Yes a trip to the Circus, sawdust, and leather and even a bit of the animal cages” she said.  I loved it…It was a trip to The Pickle Family Circus indeed! Then somehow we ended up at Al Oudh.  Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Yes I heard bells!

 

Hilary by now had us loaded with samples just when beautiful Adrienne whom we had also met at the Volutes opening arrived to take her to lunch. We agreed to all take a lunch break and meet back in a few hours.

After lunch and much smelling of wrists over sandwiches Lane and I dropped in to Diptyque to say hello to Madeline and thank her for the invitation to the holiday candle event this Wednesday. Madeline is so much fun to pop in on and always has something new and interesting to show you.

On the way back to Barneys we passed Mr. Jacqueline’s but had no time to stick a head in the door and take a chance on hello. Next time Monsieur Andre.  When we reached Barneys I knew it was decision time and it was between the Circus and Sex…Dzing and Al Oudh I tested my wrist and clearly those bells were still ringing off the harnesses of the caravan camel’s carrying the rare and wonderful Al Oudh from the East. Lane was leaning heavily toward the Oranges and Lemons etc. and while Hillary and I agreed that Dzing was for Spring and I bought my bottle of oud scented dreams Lane caved in and bought his Bells of St. Clement’s. Hilary decanted a sample for him. Spritzed him and his Barneys bag then did the same for me. There were hugs all around and a lovely goodbye until we meet again. (And that will be very soon for Hilary has invited Lane and I to a very Special Event next month which my friends will be a secret for the time being. But one hint…. There will be nothing old about this new look coming to San Francisco this November. So stay tuned.)

 

(WALL OF SCENT AT BARNEYS)

Lane and I ended our day having coffee and croissants in the window of Tout Sweet overlooking Union Square recalling what fun we had on our olfactory adventure. And on the way home as I walked though Patricia Green along Octavia Street I realized that an afternoon with Hillary was even better than spending an afternoon with Audrey Hepburn.

AUTUMN IN NEW YORK ~ Perry Ellis for Men 1985

The setting sun turns the high end apartment buildings along  5th Avenue Petra rose in the late Fall. Low slung in the western sky over New Jersey it casts long shadows from the Metropolitan Museum across the avenue as taxis stream past blinking in and out of the sunlight. In the brisk air of the fading afternoon young bright men are dashing for a cab to head out for supper and a club or leaving a note with the doorman at the apartment of the fresh young thing they just have to see again. The smell of rain is in the air. Off of 5th Avenue along any block in the upper 60’s walk gentlemen of infinite experience who take more time in their pleasures. Men with the kind of style and grace one only acquires as life scrapes along leaving beautiful scars that tell the tale. The year  is 1985 and wealth and luxury have not been this desirable to the masses or so easy since the 1920’s. The signature scent of the day is Perry Ellis for Men.

Perry Ellis opens sweetly romantic and young. The carnation mixes with the leather and rose to give it a youthful yet effortless sophistication. There is a bit of bergamot mixed in with galbanum and oak moss to add a well rounded dry down and the vanilla shimmers with a bit of sweet luxury in the blended notes. It is a good starter for a young man who wants to try something a little more daring than a citrus or the standard “clean laundry” aura that is all the rage today. This smell is masculine, authoritative without being chauvinistic or arrogant. And not everyone or every guy who lives on his block will be wearing it. That is the nice thing about the old school classics, what is old can be new again.

As with most men’s fragrances from the 1980’s it is powerful and should be respected as such. The projection is substantial but not invasive. This gentleman has staying power galore. Eight to ten hours is the norm. Good for any evening occasion be it La Traviata at Met or a club in Soho.  It may be a bit heavy for daywear unless you are in showbiz.

If you are going for that 80’s elegance with out the “Dynasty” over kill then, think rich, preppy, Upper East Side Manhattan…it could even carry within its fragrant promises a few dangerous liaisons.

Four Gold Stars ****

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