A GLITTERING RIBBON OF CELLULOID ~ “You Or Someone Like You” Fragrance Review

When the light hits just right at sunset, Hollywood Boulevard looks like a 70mm strip of celluloid unspooling with memories of the Golden Age of the movies. As dawn breaks in the high bleak valley between the distant eastern peaks of Mt. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio the rays of the Sun race westward toward the Pacific.  About seventeen miles before the sea the morning sun slams into the ivory top of the Deco step pyramid that caps Los Angeles City Hall. In its faded splendor at first light the old building that cradled that famous last shot in Mildred Pierce eclipses the modern Manhattanized towers that surround it. By noon when the summer sun is baking the City from Boyle Heights to Santa Monica beach the City Of Dreams is more alive, more exciting, more dangerous than any femme fatale that every walked the pages of a Raymond Chandler novel. Los Angeles is a city of hidden treasures. A city that only shares its veiled beauty to those who take the time to look past her endless prairie of post war tract houses. The very prairie which at midnight from the top of Mulholland Drive becomes a jewel box of lights more spectacular today than they were when James Mason told Judy Garland that all of the city below was hers when her star was born.

It is the city where I was born under the shadow of the walls of M.G.M. The city that gave me my first taste of life in the false lush simi tropical green that would be gone in one summer were it not for the water it syphons from the north. The Los Angeles of my infancy the major exports were Airplanes, Oranges, and Movies. As a child, my grandmother would take me to Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown L.A. and there in a fake redwood forest I would eat strawberry Jell-O with wiped cream wrapped in a day dream of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees. There were trips to the Alligator Farm in Buena Park, to the Huntington Gardens, the L.A. County Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits which have bubbled there for hundreds of thousands of years. Who knows how many Saber Tooth Tigers lay entombed in its sticky goo?  Then most wonderful of all, were the high walled movie studios full of secrets and the old movie palaces that lined Hollywood Boulevard filled with escape.

Every Friday night and Saturday afternoon I would go to the movies. They were my textbook of life. They taught me all about history, religion, and love, Hollywood style. Everything a kid in L.A. needed or wanted to know. To me Andrew Jackson was Charlton Heston, David and Bathsheba were Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. Marylin Monroe was cotton candy and lipstick glamour yet somehow sad around the edges.  And Elizabeth Taylor? Well, she was not only the Queen of Egypt but Queen of Everything. In the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater I would wander among the hands and footprints of my personal Gods and Goddesses. At ten my hands fit into Shirley Temple’s hand prints. By twenty they fit perfectly with Clark Gable.

As I grew older and began to explore Los Angeles on my own I began to put my Movie star fueled ideas of the world into perspective without losing the dreams.  This is when I began to realize that the Spanish words and world that Los Angles grew out of were so very important to the fabric of the city. A major part of what made it so magical. Real History.  Then there was the architecture. I began to see the beauty of the unique way in which Los Angles embraces the architecture of the world. The revelation was clear, all of Los Angles is one mega backlot. You can find the walls of Babylon at the old Firestone Tire Company. In Beverly Hills, Italian Villas snuggle up next to Elizabethan country homes. The Japanese gardens in San Marino.  Hong Kong re-imagined in Chinatown butts up next to the glorious Spanish Revival cathedral that is Union Station. All at once in one epic sprawl, all of it is tacky, beautiful, insane, and wonderful. Knit together with freeways and festooned with imported Royal Palms. A city like no other on earth. The city where the past is tomorrow.

I have not lived in Los Angeles for a very long time. I miss it often and sometimes I will pop an old movie into my DVR that will take me back to different times in its history from the 1920’s to today. Some of the images I see of the city tug at my heart and whisper to me “come home. The dream is still here.”  That opening shot in “Strangers When We Meet.” In particular, reminds me of my childhood. But something is always missing in my movie visit to Los Angeles. The smell of the place in summer.  It was the most unlikely mix of smells that could make up a memory, but it is none the less one of the strongest and dearest memories I have of the place. In the summer, the scent covers the city in a loving embrace. The smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, white flowers, and Max Factor red roses caresses by the hint of a Santa Ana wind from the north. Burning Eucalyptus leaves and sharp Italian cedar. Wet freshly mown grass.  And everywhere the smell of entire Orange trees from the blossoms to the waxy leaves.  This is complemented by the slight burning of carbon monoxide and dangles in the smog, and the clear clean nearly antiseptic sent of chlorine from a million swimming pools.

It is the smell that takes me home.

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The new fragrance by Etat Libre d’Orange was inspired by a novel by Chandler Burr and in fact shares the name of the book. “You Or Someone Like You.” The fragrance came into being when Etienne de Swardt, founder of Etat Libre d’Orange read the novel and called Chandler Burr to ask if he could make a perfume based on the book he had so loved. He wanted to base the perfume on the setting, Los Angles, and the narrator Anne Rosenbaum wife of a powerful Hollywood film executive. The story revolves around her resulting transformation when she is asked to create a reading list for the head of a studio. That leads to an unexpected interest from screenwriters, agents, and producers around town. A Hollywood book club is formed where Anne blooms in the process. Then when a religious crisis in her husband’s life occurs when their son journeys to Israel , Anne is challenged to save her marriage.

(CHANDLER BURR)

For Chandler Burr who not only wrote the novel but was also the New York Times fragrance critic and author of “The Perfect Scent” and “The Emperor of Scent” this was both a challenge and very exciting. Over the course of the creation of the scent it became tremendous learning experience for him.  The experience was so profound he has noted that he feels that he should have made a fragrance before becoming the critic for the New York Times. For the creation of the scent Chandler as creative director for the Eau de Parfum teamed up with perfumer Caroline Sabas and together they came up with “You Or Someone Like You.”

For me this is an extremely emotional fragrance, moving and nostalgic. Chandler Burr says it is not Los Angeles stuffed in a bottle but to me, it is like coming home to my long-abandoned home town.  It carries all and more that I wrote about above in the memories and feelings this fragrance brought up for me. It inspires me to dream of spring and summer in the city of angles. A spring that comes in February and a summer that ends in November. It is a uni-sex fragrance that carries in it the DNA of classic citrus colognes of the past. Yet like the city of Los Angeles it is layered with facades of modernity over a historical base.  There is in “You Or Someone Like You.” Elements of the sage brush of this Hollywood hills baking in the heat, of tropical flowers and swimming pools, high above the exhaust clouds of the 405 freeway. Peeling eucalyptus bark and dyeing orange blossoms and the wonderful scent of night blooming jasmine. All it comes together in “You Or Someone Like You” in a bright opening. It carries and holds for me this feeling, this L.A. sensation all the way through the fragrance to the end. Yet it does evolve as it goes along from the “morning” of the fragrance all the way through to the “evening” and finally into a “magic hour” drydown. It swirls, rises, and falls in intensity only to rise again on my skin.  I found this aspect of the fragrance to be delightful.

For those to whom such things matter about a fragrance, it projects at about six inches, the sillage is soft. The longevity is substantial, being that is an eau de parfum over an eau de toilette it lasted on my skin nearly to eighteen hours. And even then, the next morning there were faint traces of it.  It wears best for most in spring and summer, but I’m sure that I shall be visiting “You Or Someone Like You” in fall and winter for a brief trip to my past, to the land of the lotus eaters, the place where dreams are manufactured and Hollywood Boulevard at sunset looks like a glittering ribbon of celluloid.

(CHANDLER BURR TALKS ABOUT THE FRAGRANCE)

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BONJOUR BALENCIAGA ~ LE DIX AND JEAN SEBERG

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Bonjour Tristesse the 1958 film is from a novel by Françoise Sagan and was published when she was only 18. This stylish film is one of Otto Preminger’s best. The French New Wave has influenced him in his opening shots, but only on a visual level. This is pure Hollywood on ever other level. The melding of the two styles works perfectly and begins by setting the stark mood in stunning black and white widescreen shots of 1958 Paris. The present is painted in shades of grey and silver,

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where Cecile portrayed by the beautiful Jean Seberg moves aimlessly thought her pointless upper crust Parisian life. Only when she encounters her father David Niven later in the evening does the past seep in on the edges of the Cinemascope frame in vivid color and finally takes over moving us from the present to last summer on the Riviera. The device is used several times as we move from past to present and finally at the end of the film it creates a stunning effect once you know what suddenly happened to Cecile and her father last summer. The thing that changed everything forever and allows Preminger’s camera to linger in the last frame of the film on Jean Seberg as she wipes away the make-up from her perfect face.

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David Niven is perfectly cast as Raymond the aging playboy father of Cecile. He has the cool style and humor of a man who can’t commit to any woman and treats his daughter like a playmate rather than his child. His particular talents as an actor are that he seems to be playing the “David Niven” character in most of his films but here in `Bonjour’ as he often does in so many roles he makes a nice little twist on the “character”. He catches you off guard to wrench his and the audience’s emotions and prove once again what a good actor he is.

The French actress Mylene Demongeout is delightful as Elsa, Ramon’s summer plaything. She thinks everything that happens to her is “Brilliant!” when in fact most of the time it isn’t at all. She is  “Brilliant!” in the role.

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At first Deborah Kerr also seems to be playing her role by rote but it is just a ruse to set us up for her fall. As does Niven she too digs deeper in to her persona as Anne Larson and carries the film to its surprise ending. She is a joy to watch as a film actress and here she is particularly wonderful.

Jean Seberg who with her short cropped spiked hair is the heart of the film. The emotional lens through which the audience experiences the unfolding story. In certain shots reminded me of Sharon Stone in her youth, Seberg had that kind of blonde goddess look that Miss Stone possesses. She was only 19 when she made the film and in the hands of her director she presents us with a sensitive and spellbinding performance as Cecile. She is at once a teenager in turmoil and a young girl on the verge of becoming a woman. This is a delicate high wire act that the young Miss Seberg executes with charm and elegance. She is fascinating to watch and just right for the role.

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The subject matter is even today a little shocking and indeed this is one of the films of the 1950’s that put the sin in Cinemascope. Despite the restrictions of the day or because of them filmmakers of that time were challenged in ways they are not today. Challenged to be inventive and insinuate things that we were supposedly too innocent or too naive to know happen in the world. Those filmmakers knew that the imagination is more vivid and titillating than what they might show. It was good that the antiquated production code of the Hayes office crumbled in the 60’s but with its passing we lost a whole vocabulary in film. Here is a wonderful example of the meeting of the Movies and 50’s cinematic innuendo that serves this delicate story to a tee. I think “Bonjour Tristesse” is `Brilliant!’

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I find that Cecile is at times very grown up and at others a typical teenager filled with angst and petty jealousy. What perfume would she sport?  Well for a young girl like Cecile who wants to be all grown up but still has a taste for sweeter fragrances only one will do. Le Dix by Balenciaga. Created in 1947 this Aldehyde Floral (Some call it a Chypre Floral) by nose Francis Fabron is a mature yet playful fragrance. Joyful and yet there is a dark sexy undertow to it. It contradicts the expectation one has for an aldehydic perfume by being more grounded and earthy than one would expect. And then there is a vanilla fruity ambiance that meets with the florals to make it into a scrumptious invitation to come in closer, close your eyes and brush your lips next to the ear of the wearer. You almost want to lick the skin when smelling it. If Cecile wore it there most definitely would be a Lotiaesque air about her yet without guile. Like when a little girl puts on her mothers perfume just to smell grown up.

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Perfumer Franics Fabron not only created Le Dix (The Ten) but is most famous for creating for Givenchey L’Interdit and for Nina Rici L’Air Du Temps. Three masterpieces of the late 40’s and early 50’s. Each of them should be rediscovered and enjoyed L’interditi and L’Air du Temps can be found in newer forms but you have to go on a hunt for vintage Le Dix.

It opens with top notes of aldehydes, coriander, peach, bergamot, and lemon. this is the fruity young opening that would capture Cecile’s attention. The bubbly sweet champagne cocktail that she might sip on the terrace overlooking the French hills tumbling into the Mediterranean Sea. With the rising heat of the southern afternoon the bubbles subside and the mid notes arrive, Lavender, a dry and very grownup Oris Root, (Lush and rich this adds a dusting of powder to the fragrance) and it mixes in with rose, ylang-ylang, and that very French note of Lily of the Valley. Here the fragrance moves away from the playful and toward a slightly more austere glamour. But his is just foreplay to what comes in the magnificent dry down. Pure dark sensuality and danger are introduced with a dose of Civet. The exotic woods of Peru Balsam, Sandalwood and layered over with a rich thick amber and then the huge vanilla and tonka bean bring in a frothy swirl of delectable deliciousness. Finally, around the 10th hour is settles into a lingering warm skin scent bolstered by white musk and vetiver.

Le Dix is a ten for me, a classic that I feel works as well today, as it did in 1947. If you like a floral that borders on a chypre with a fruity fresh edge then may I recommend it? It will work well for most women from 18 to 81 and in some cases, myself included for men with a daring and delicious sense of fun. Wear Le Dix and you will be brilliant.

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Liaisons Secrètes ~ EAU D`HERMES & ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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After World War II movies became more frank in subject matter. This was in part due to the changing mores of the returning vets and the women they came home to. After the horrors of war things would never be the same for them or for Hollywood. The other factor was the slow demise over the 50’s of the studio system and the rise of television as a threat to the box office. The censors began to relax and allowed more adult themes to be presented on the big screen. By the early 1960’s movies were well on there way to growing up. Taboo subjects such as prostitution, homosexuality and adultery were now subjects Hollywood was now eagerly taking on.

One of the more interesting and surprisingly un-judgmental of these films was the 1960 Colombia release, `Strangers When We Meet’. Produced by Kirk Douglas’ company Bryna Productions and Richard Quinn Productions and taken from the novel by Evan Hunter the film is a fascinating look into the suburban lives of a Los Angeles architect, his wife and the other woman in his life.

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Kirk Douglas gives a fine, understated performance as the architect Larry Coe. It is a stark contrast to his epic Spartacus of the same year. At a cross roads in his life Larry is given the chance to build the kind of house he always wanted to for upcoming novelist Ernie Kovaks while his company wants him to go on doing the same dull work they expect.  He fights for his chance to take the chance of a life time with the skill of a fine screen actor. Add to this his character’s  meeting one fall morning with Miss Novak at at school bus stop, and you have not only a fine actor living within a character but the beginning of a truly electric cinema chemistry. An impact of flesh and desire that jumps off the screen.

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As his wife, Barbara Rush is outstanding in one of her finest moments on screen. She is cold and withholding yet needy of her husbands love. Her finest moments come in her scenes with Douglas where they argue over their future and in her chilling confrontation with the lecherous Walter Matthau on a dark rainy afternoon. A scene that is so shocking in its brutal and frighting portrait of a man who thinks women are disposable sexual objects. Barbra Rush is amazing to watch as she struggles to thwart off Matthau’s creepy advances.

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As Maggie Gault actress Kim Novak turns in a nuanced and deeply felt performance. She is a woman that men have been hunting down all her life. Her beauty is something that brings her only sorrow and despair through a string of meaningless affairs. Her husband seems to be the only man who has no interest in sleeping with her and though she does love him he drives her away embarrassed by her open and honest desire for him. When Douglas says to her on their first meeting in a supermarket, “You’re not so pretty.” it throws her and intrigues her. Throughout the affair she embarks on with Douglas she is smart enough to know that this like all the others will ultimately lead nowhere. In the final frames of the film she is shown this very fact when faced with another leering man.

Kim Novak is so cool and remote at times that it seems the perfect fit for her, the role of Maggie. She is the kind of natural actress that when left alone with her instincts and the eye of the camera she surprises the viewer with the dark emotions that live just beneath her lovely features. One scene among many where she shines is when she is confronted with her past and has to tell the truth to Douglas about it. This too shines a harsh light on how men expect women to behave when it comes to previous encounters with other men.

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The cinematography is wonderful to see in the widescreen aspect and shows the great talent of cinematographer, Charles Lang who also shot such classics as `Charade’ and “Some Like It Hot’ and the stunning “One-Eyed Jacks”.The score by George Dunning is the perfect meeting of the romantic and dramatic. It stands along side his classic scores for “Bell, Book, and Candle”, “The World of Suzy Wong” and “Picnic.”Jean Louis one of the top designers of costumes for actresses of the period turns in just enough suburban glamour to keep the ladies in the cast looking wonderful.

Director Richard Quinn pulls it all together with his usual style. He presents us with not only a good drama but also an interesting look at the suburban life of Los Angeles in 1960. The locations are memorable, the glamorous old Romanoff’s restaurant, the stunning house that is built through the course of the film, and the beautiful beach at Malibu where the lovers rendezvous. This film stands along with “Suzy Wong,” “Bell Book and Candle”, and “How to Murder Your Wife” as some of his best work. The film holds up after Fifty plus years as a fresh and timely look at the relationships between husbands and wives and lovers who are always “Strangers When We Meet.”

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***

Illicit love has a scent, the scent of the forbidden, of excitement, and danger.  In Strangers When We Meet we are presented with two of the most photogenic and arresting faces of the early 1960’s. Both Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak were at the height of their careers, fame, and beauty.

As Larry Coe, a well-dressed, smart, and stylish Southern California architect Douglas brings a gentle yet powerful machismo to the role. What would he splash on in the morning, every morning before he went to the drafting table to design his dream house. My cinematic nose tells me that it would be a classic, something that in fact in this period in history was becoming a byword of elegance and sophistication in the Movie Colony at the time. Cary Grant wore it, as did Ava Gardner in the 50’s. Larry Coe would have certainly been drawn to its simple straight forward beauty. Acqua di Parma Colonia. Created in 1916 it would be a perfect Citrus for the sunny casual lifestyle in Bel Air.

Woody, fresh and spicy with dominant notes of blended Italian citrus, sharp eye opening lavender and rosemary it would be perfect for him.  There is a dash of rose and jasmine that waft over the senses in the middle and are fine-tuned by a sharp bright Lemon Verbena. A shimmering smooth sandalwood with an earthy snap of vetiver and the laundry fresh white musk just make it perfect for both men and women. The dry down is subtle and lush with amber and patchouli joining in on the woody beauty of that sandalwood.  It is a classic that works it’s magic every time.  And If Larry did wear it well, Maggie Galt would I’m sure find it a scents memory that would stay with her the rest of her life. His scent … bitter sweet and haunting.

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As Maggie Kim Novak is conflicted in her sensuality, both yearning and repressed. Banked fires smolder in her soul making her irresistible to most men. She is smoky, both in her voice and in her movement. She trails and lingers and wafts. What better scent for her than Eau D`Hermes.  Created by Edmond Roudnitska in 1951 this leather based fragrance also has a warm spicy edge to it. A mix of masculine and feminine that like Acqua di Parma’s Colonia make it very wearable for both women and men.

It opens with a bold blend of cinnamon, lime, lavender, and cardamom. And a surprising sprinkle of clover. Oh, boy but it’s beautiful even arresting in this opening. Like Novak herself it is almost too much of a good thing at first, but you sink into it and get lost in its heart. A heart made up of a glorious jasmine, geranium, and a brilliant slightly sweet tonka bean.

As it wears over a long period of time (up to 8 – 10 hours on my skin)  the vanilla comes up to warm it and keep the leather in its base supple as a fine cedar along with a dry white birch add vibrant vibrations to the smooth sandalwood dry down.   It is a classic that adds class to whoever wears it or to any occasion. Even when you are meeting an intimate stranger.

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO ACQUA DI PARMA COLONIA

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HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY TO KIRK DOUGLAS BORN DECEMBER 9, 1916

THE FIRST MEETING OF DOUGLAS AND NOVAK IN THE OPENING SCENE OF

STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET.

POWER, PASSION, MURDER & PERFUME: “FALLEN ANGEL” (Movie Memory)

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I knew you’d come back Stella.

[She looks at him from her chair in disdain, rubbing her sore feet] Okay.

One of the great Femme Fatales of the Film Noir entrances. With that disgusted and tired look at her boss in the Diner Stella sets the tone for a nearly forgotten masterpiece from Director Otto Preminger: Fallen Angel 1945.

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“Fallen Angel” is overshadowed by Preminger’s Laura 1944 but today it is making a comeback.

This great and newly appreciated Noir from is packed with power, passion and sex. It has more wallop than I expected. In fact the shocker is like a slap in the face from a baby in a pram. It is dark and moody. The great cinematography by Joseph LaShelle turns the combined sunny locations of Orange California and Pismo Beach into a menacing and dangerous fictional beach town drenched in greed, deceit and murder. It’s dark nights are shot in great deep contrast and slashing shadows that illuminate danger rather than mask it. The music by David Raskin is haunting and perfect for the film and the screenplay by Harry Kleiner from the book by Marty Holland is sharp, and biting and in the dance scene at the bar a brilliant example of how to beat the Hayes Code to a pulp with innuendo and wit.

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The cast is outstanding with the lead Dana Andrews as a shady guy on the make willing to do almost anything to get what he wants. Alice Faye turns in a subtle and deeply colored portrait of a spinster about to be taken for a ride along with Anne Revere who shines as always as Faye’s uptight doubting sister. The wonderful Percy Kilbride shows that there is much more to him than Pa Kettle. He is brilliant as a hash house burger slinger in love with the hard edged tough as nails local femme fatale Stella.

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And what a fatal femme she is! Lush, gorgeous and much underrated Linda Darnell makes the aforementioned unforgettable entrance in the film and then proceeds to give us a modern no nonsense dame who knows there is only one way for her to get up and out of Nowheresville California. She cashes in on her looks and sex appeal with a biting glee and desperation that lights up the screen and nearly ignites the sets.

She plays this role with ease and a great command of the screen and shows that she was more than just a beauty in the movies. She was a movie star with great screen talent.
This is a wonderful film with a twist that will leave you gasping. Great movie and a star making performance by Miss Darnell.

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White flowers in her jet black hair and a slink and sway that could burn a church to the ground by just walking past it leads me to ponder the type of perfume Stella would wear? Fracas is a little to easy a choice and came out a year or so after the film. She may wear white flowers in her hair but she is too earthy and hard to be that obvious. L’Air du Temps is to soft and lovely for this Siren.  Those white flowers are a hiding her spiders web… she would be more pungent and almost too sweet, like near rotting plums and peaches about to turn brown in the sun. And there it is. the dark purple of Stella’s soul, bruised by too many men trying to trap her and leaving her hard and distrusting. She would wear Edmund Roudnitska’s dense and dangerous Femme from Rochas (1944) It’s dry Chypre in constant battle with the lush plum fruitiness of it makes perfect sense. Spicy, and above all like Stella, earthy and in your face. Oakmoss, leather, benzion, amber, cinnamon and vanilla add to the always changing and deceptive nature of Femme. It is indeed well named and arrived on the world fragrance stage at just the right time and place to match and meet on the Hollywood sound-stages the very fascinating creature, the deadly and enticing, Femme Fatale.

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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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AT THE WINTER PALACE ~ Melancholy No. 60/3 by Nimere Parfums

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“Paris polishes pretty young things.” Countess Zoya Semyonova poked the old Count with the end of her fan.

“What my dear?” Slumped in his chair he sputtered. In a near dozing state he did not uncross his arms and barely looked up from under his bushy grey bristle brows.

“Oh you are impossible! I was talking about Tatiana Korneva. After her parents died her Aunt Sonja took her to Paris for a year. And now at 16 just look at her. She has returned to Petersburg a woman of charm and grace.”

The Count cast his lazy eyes in the direction of the young lady under the Countess’ scrutiny.  “Oh yes the Korneva girl. Lots of money there and not so bad to look at either.”

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Tatiana Korneva

 

“Oh yes my dear!” The Countess smirked. “Let’s not forget the family fortune. It is a shame she has no title otherwise the Tsar’s son might take an interest. Well the best her Aunt Sonja can hope for is a match with a no account forgotten prince or country count further down the line.

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Tatiana and her Aunt were seated at a medium sized tea table near the French doors of the blue salon in the Winter Palace. They were taking tea with a small gathering of one hundred or so of Princess’ Anna’s closest friends. Tatiana barely knew the Princess but somehow with her Aunt’s influence found herself at the Tsar’s youngest daughters table, a rather plain girl of nearly eighteen.

“How did you find Paris? Was it lovely?” Princess Anna said in French. Punctuating her question with a sweet smile she waited for Tatiana’s response.

“Oh yes quite lovely Your Imperial Highness.” Natalie placed her tea cup onto the saucer before her. Schooled by her Aunt in Court etiquette she waited for the next question. Then without guile she blurted.  “But not as lovely at Saint Petersburg is in the winter.”  Aunt Sonja kicked Tatiana’s foot under the table.

The Princess laughed truly delighted in the girl’s boldness. “Ah yes I quite agree. Our harsh winters turn Petersburg into a wonderland. And Papa must have all those winter balls just to keep us warm. What is the theme for tonight’s ball? Oh I can’t remember. Tell me my dear, did you fall in love in Paris? The city has a reputation not unlike that of Cupid for putting pretty girls like you in romantic danger. Were there any young men who captured your heart.”

Tatiana was about to speak when she noticed a flash of gold and amber behind the Princess. She glanced to the French doors beyond her. There dressed in imperial uniforms where two men, one dark and the other blond. They were laughing and jostling each other in a contest to see who would open the door and enter first. At a flash of white teeth, the Earth’s spinning slowed to the beat of her heart. The sound of its beating filled her ears. A glint of sky blue eyes through the glass of the doors were quickly overtaken by hazel eyes, and the baritone song of the two men laughing rang out.

Tatiana quickly looked bat to the Princess. “No your Imperial Highness, I have….”   The door suddenly burst open with an explosion of laughter.  The two men nearly stumbled into the salon.   “I have never been in love.”

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Prince Pyotr

The Princess turned to the commotion behind her. “Petya! Georgiy! Whatever are you boys up to?”  The two men snapped to attention. But could not contain their smiles. Tatiana look from one handsome face to the other and could not decide which of the two men was more beautiful. There was a jolt within her chest as each of the men’s eyes carelessly passed over her. Their smiles like summer sun warmed the room turning it from blue to shimmering yellow. She blinked.

The Princess motioned the two men to her side.

“Honestly such ruffians. Ladies you all know my brother Prince Pyotr and my cousin Prince Georgiy.”  in unison the two men snapped their boots and gave a quick warm nod of the head to the ladies in general.

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Prince Georgiy

As an afterthought the Princess continued. “Oh, but I don’t believe you have met Miss Korneva. Tatiana, this is Petya and Georgiy. Two more useless boys I have never known. And look at you both. Snow on your boots and in your hair. And your uninforms are wet! Where you wrestling in the snow? And you are making a puddle on Papa precious parquet floor! Oh! I give up!”

Pyotr and Georgiy advanced around the table to Tatiana. They bowed and one and then the other took her hand to kiss. They smelled wonderful like tobacco and spices. Then in a flash of clairvoyant clarity she knew that one of them was going to make her very, unhappy. It would be the most beautiful unhappiness she would ever know. But which of the two would she love? she did not yet know.

“May I ask you Miss Korneva, are you coming to the ball tonight?” Prince Pyotr asked.

‘Yes you must Miss and promise all your dances to me.” Said Prince Georgiy.

 

 ***

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From the old Russian imperial city of St. Petersburg comes the perfume house of Nimere Parfums. The Venice of the north as it has been called was founded and built in Baroque splendor by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.  The city is famed for great art, architecture and history. Drama and beauty are the mortar between every stone in every building of this magnificent city. It is fitting that this house founded by Parfumeur Nikolay Eremin should come from such a place.  Mr. Eremin was kind enough to send me sample of the entire line and a few vials of new works. I have to say I as supremely impressed with the wide range of options from the classical to the very modern. There is something for everyone to love from the house of Nimere.

Nikolay Eremin

Perfumer Nikolay Eremin

I have spent several months as Fall melted into Winter exploring the line. And at one point broke a vial of Eva while opening it and thus cutting a finger in the process. So that fragrance which I loved was lost to memory as it spilled over my desk.  The challenge for me was to narrow down the remaining fragrances to those I truly fell in love with. Among those were Sweet Kiss, a coconutty sweet rich perfume, Melancholy No. 60/3, Time Stood Still No.81 an animalic classically sexy fragrance, Killing Beauty, No Name H.M #2 (a new perfume) and Court Intrigues a masculine beauty smelling of leather boots freshly polished, spices and dry austere woods.  What I landed on finally for this review was Melancholy No. 60/3

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Founder of St. Petersburg, Tsar Peter The Great

   The perfume was inspired by a great love story of  between King Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson. In particular, the love letters from Wallace to the king. (some of which were scented with spilt perfume) For me this perfume registers in the olfactory sense of the beauty of classic perfumes from the late 1800’s to the late 1930’s. Complex, hypnotic in the way the perfume unfolds and blooms on the skin. The life it has on the skin is sensual, romantic and slightly dangerous and naughty. It is in fact everything that a love affair possesses.

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Melancholy No,. 60/3 opens with a fresh spicy Indian Calamus, this note embraces with a carmine red, languorous Saffron from an Eastern Bazaar. It smells expensive right off the top. A rich exotic, near erotic opening that would have shocked the more prudish noses of the early 20th century. Without the traditional citrus in the opening this perfume has flesh impact. It is an erotic invitation to plunge head long into the sensual.

The heart of the fragrance is indigo in color shot through with gold treads like a veil from the far East. And like a veil it floats in floral rhapsodic blending of purple iris earthy and low. A powdery lighter purple of the more elevated violet. jasmine like nuances of a golden Ylang Ylang are tied deep into a green lush Palmarose note. Over this and rising from some deep desire buried and smoldering deep within Melancholy rises tendrils of heady incense. As it develops the florals are enhanced to near intoxicated perfection by this mysterious smoke.  The flowers are in fact by the arrival of the dry down, drunk on the incense.

In the final stage of the perfume we find a fascinating and quite crowed house of notes. Woods from the Cedar, Guayak, Sandalwood, and the Araucaria tree. More commonly know as a Monkey Puzzle Tree. These woods give the romantic feminine side of the perfume a strong twist toward the masculine. And that is nice because if makes the fragrance all the more interesting. There is a great patchouli here as well as a dry Nagarmotha (related to papyrus) the classic Oak Moss and vetiver vie for supremacy but are mellowed out my creamy not too sweet vanilla, and its cousin Tonka bean. All of this in the dry down is made all the more stunning by the soothing amber beauty of  Tolu Balsam. The perfume lasts on my skin around a good solid seven hours. the projection is at about eighteen to twenty five inches for around three hours. then if falls in upon itself to become an invitation at skin level.

Whatever story you find in Melancholy No. 60/3, be it the forbidden love of a king for a commoner or the fresh first stirrings of erotic young love this perfume is something truly lovely. More beautiful that I can describe it brings me back to my tiny vial seeking yet another story, another romance to explore, to burn out, lose and find again in my ongoing love affair with Perfume.

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You can contact Niemere Parfums on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/NimereParfums/

Or email Nikolay Eremin for sales information at: ereminn75@mail.ru

THE ROOF OF THE WORLD ~ Jasmin Rouge by Tom Ford

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Annapurna Massif Panorama

An explosion of laughter came over the gun barrels sending a damp chill up Lily Chu’s back. The voice belonged to a short rough man dressed not as Chinese military but in mountain garb of a Nepalese bandit. He was clean shaven and wore wire rimmed glasses.   A trickle of clammy sweat escaped Lily’s temple and ran down her jaw to her neck.

“Your horses and escort await my old friend!” the bandit spoke like an Eaton College man.

“Aatish! So you found us after all, I was beginning to doubt that you would make it over the border undetected by the Chinese. “

Lily turned eyes wide to her British protector. “You know this man?”

“He winked at her. Like I said, you will need your mink. Come on!”  They were surrounded by the small band of men and lead away from the truck and into the dark foothills.

“Whos is he? How did he find Us? How did ….Wait!” She ran after him determined to get an answer.

Hours later just before dawn Lilly, wrapped up in her mink under which was a dirty stinking pair of men’s trousers, a wool shirt that itched and Yak hat, clung to the neck of mountain horse as they approached the border from China to Nepal. She dared not look down into the gorge below. If she did she was sure she would faint.  The hooves of the horse ahead of her clattered on the rough stones sending loose rocks plunging to the river below, the wind howled and whipped around her with the ferocity of an irate yeti.

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At a somewhat wider part of the mountain path her companion rode up next to her giving her horse a start. Lily buried her face in the horses main and held on even tighter.

“What are you doing?”

He laughed without humor. “Relax we are fine…for now.”

“For now?”

He pointed to the rope suspension bridge ahead. “On the other side  is Nepal. We will walk over, then the horses will be brought over by the smallest men. You must be very quiet. There may be Chinese solders about. Aatish thinks we are being followed. They more likely than not just might try to shoot us off the bridge. We have to get across before the Sun comes over the ridge and makes us even better targets.” Lilly followed his eyes up and up to the highest point of the highest mountains she had ever seen. Ice and snow made pink in the pre-dawn glow loomed in impersonal splendor.

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When they reached the bridge the wind was at its most ferocious. She could hear the cry of discernable pain from the ancient ropes as they strained to hold the swaying contraption together. The floor of the bridge was of wooden slats that did not meet or touch. She looked down only once through the cracks.”

Lily hesitated.

“You can do it.” He said. “After all, I promised you a bath in perfume on the other side.”

She looked at him with a smile of brave relief. “Yes you did and I am keeping you to your promise.”

He smiled back. Suddenly the sound of a galloping horse from the rear of the line and shouts echoed off the cliffs surrounding them.

“RUN! The Chinese are behind us!” Aatish yelled.

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Their horses raced the short distance to the bridge. Lily jumped from her mount onto the narrow ledge she was too frightened to be afraid. She looked back to see a line of mounted Chinese soldiers just coming around the last bend along the sheer cliff side. The British man took her by the hand and together they charged onto the bridge. Gun fire erupted, bullets ripped into the frayed ropes. There were distressing pings and snapping sounds like strings on a huge cello snapping. The bridge lurched and began to swing violently just as the first rays of the sun hit the far side of the gorge.

 

 ***

Tom Ford’s lush oriental fragrance Jasmin Rouge from the private blend collection is something a mix of romance and danger, an enveloping adventure.  Crated in 2011 by one of my favorite noses Rodrigo Flores-Roux who is also known for his beautiful works for Carlos Huber’s Arquiste line. A few of his creations being among my favorites are Fleur de Louis and Flor y Canto which I have reviewed previously. Also I have a weakness for the stunning Oeillet Bengale by Aedes de Venustas and so many more. He is a truly great modern olfactory artist.

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(Rodrigo Flores-Roux)

What he has created her is a lush voluptuous romantic poem of superlative blending, a perfume that opens with the clear rose hues of dawn and flowers into the full rush of dazzling Jasmin, amber and leather beauty. Exotic and enticing it floats and flows about the body like an entwining spell. It has a classism that speaks to me and that I have not found in many Tom Ford presentations.

The opening is bright with bergamot, and mandarin. These citrus notes are sprinkled with the king of ancient spices, cinnamon, and a springy sharpened ginger note. Upon his lively opening is added an aromatic cardamom, black and white pepper top of the top with a zing.

In the mid notes we have the eponymous Jasmine. This is a Sambac Jasmine that comes from the Himalayas. This sweet flower from Nepal, India and Bhutan is also used in tea. Here in Jasmine Rouge the white flower, the queen of perfumery is married with exotic yellow ylang ylang, golden Spanish Broom, neroli blossoms that keep the bright glow of the opening going along with the aid of a dry Clary Sage. Arberous, leathery and with a hint of lavender this Clary Sage sets us up for what is to come. This blending brings out sense of high drama in low tones, it whispers promises and desires too deep to explore and yet draws you onward to the denouement of the fragrance.

The base is brilliant. The voluptuous sensuality of a ripe labdanum is rubbed deep into the almost boozy amber. Warmed by the skin the leather here is thick and sensual and rises with the pulse point heat to warm a rich delectable Mexican Vanilla…and still there is the hint of cinnamon that only enriches the entire dry down. There is an infusion of arid wood notes that give the perfume a decidedly austere and very elegant finale.

The longevity for me is about 6 hours at full bloom and then becomes a skin scent for another six hours, I put it on at 6 p.m. on my last wearing and the next morning at 6 a.m. the fragrance still lingered on my wrists.  The sillage is moderate at about 18 inches. It becomes a skin scent me at about two hours.

Overall a delightful sexy experience can be found here in Jasmin Rouge. Strong enough for a femme fatal and butch enough or her intended hero.

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WINTER IN ROME ~ Mandarine Glaciale by Atelier Cologne

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Rene Michel Petriz had a flat look, dead eyes smiled at her. The rich American Actress who was on the beginning of her long slow decline from Goddess to “who was she?”, handed him a parting gift. She had enjoyed her fling with the Parisian Gentleman for hire and she understood that it was nothing more than a business arrangement. Besides the French and English Press had caught wind of her liaison dangereuses. It was time to pay him off and board the plane for Rome before she made a fool of herself on TMZ.  He took the red box from her not looking at it. Something from Cartier to add to his collection that might come in handy when his long slow decline began.

ca. 1960s, New York City, New York, USA --- French actress Anouk Aimee wearing hip-length coat made from the tails of Russian sable; bracelets by Jack Gilbert. --- Image by © Condé Nast Archive/Corbis

Rolling along the partially closed Via Imperiale in the back of a Silver Cloud Rolls Royce Rosaline Roclaire looked out the window the view of the shattered ruins of the Imperial Forum whizzing past. She sighed and sank back into the lush warm cushion created by her grey Russian sable coat. Rome was not a disappointment even on a cold and overcast February it always made her happy. A good place to forget the loss of time and youth amid so many broken stones.  She noticed the street vendors along the side of the road selling postcards and tacky knick knacks in the cold.

“Alberto, stop the car.”

“But Signora there is no parking here.”

“Then pull over and let me out. I want to walk.”

“It is not wise, lots of tourists here. They will recognize you and you will be mobbed.”

“I don’t care, Stop the car!”

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photo by Giorgio Clamenti

She overpaid a sweet old man who had no idea she was the biggest movie star in the world for an accordion folded set of picture postcards of Rome.  Rosaline dropped the twelve Euro at the Forum gate then sauntered down the pitched path into the Forum between the temple of Antonius and Faustina and the stumps of marble that were all that was left of the Basilica Amelia. She pulled the collar of her sable up to her chin. The Roman winter air was much colder than It looked it, much colder. Despite Alberto’s warning the Forum was devoid of tourist. She was all alone. She wandered on taking in the shapes of crumbled temples and tried to imagine what they might have looked like two thousand years ago. Much more impressive than the false fronted forum she’d seen at Cinecitta, she was positively sure of that.

At the entrance to the Palatine she caught a glimpse of a little girl all in white running up the path ahead. She turned and smiled at Rosaline. And with a laugh she skipped ahead. There was something so familiar about the way the girl laughed.

“She must be very cold in that skimpy white dress and sandals.” Rosaline thought as she climbed up to the top of the hill where the fountain stood at the entrance of the Farnese Gardens its waters frozen over. There was music, in the distance beyond the gardens. Percussion and reeds, and then a voice singing in… was it Latin? She followed the sounds that led her to the ruins of the house of Augustus. She could just barely see down into part of what remained of the atrium.

“This way, come this way….”

 

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The music suddenly expired, she turned to see who had spoken to her. There was no one there. It began to snow. She walked on through the ruins of the imperial palaces. Snowflakes drifted down to settle on her hair, and the shoulders of her sable coat. She came to the lookout over the Circus Maximus and the Aventine Hill beyond. One of her favorite views of Rome. She lit a cigarette and watched the early rush hour traffic race along the Via Del Circo Massimo. Headlights flickered in the low light, taillights winked. She stood there dreamily alone and at peace for a long time as the snow fell. By the time she realized that it was getting dark the snow had completely covered the ground. She turned to go back. There before here were foot prints in the snow. Someone with very small feet had come up behind her and stood there watching her and was now gone.  Then she heard the little girl laughing from very far way.

“This way, come this way…”

She never found the little girl, she was always just turning a corner or running too fast and far ahead. Finally Rosaline did find her way back to the Excelsior on the Via Veneto where Paparazzi lay in wait for her.

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“Ah well,” she thought  “the little Parisian scandal has reached Rome.”  As they rushed screaming her name like hungry seagulls she smiled and endured the onslaught.

Rosaline looked back over her shoulder and swept her sable in a dramatic arc when she reached the top steps in the Port Coacher and struck a pose. She then gave the little boys of the Press a grand movie star go to hell glamour smile. The photos made the tabloids but she didn’t care, her walk in the ruins had been the most fun she had known in a very long time.

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***

A new presentation from Atelier Cologne last year (2015) one of four in their exclusive Collection Azur   release though Sephora (also available Atelier Cologne’s website), Mandarine Glaciale is a summer time fragrance perfect for a snowy winter day by which to conjure up the warm sunny shores of the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  It is romantic, enticing, and filled with passion and desire. All the things we find so appealing when the weather grows frosty. Not to say that Mandarine Glaciale is not right for the spring and summer. Well in fact this spicy bright as sunshine over Ischia fragrance is perfect all year round.

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It splashes across the skin in stunning opening notes of Delicious Mandarin orange, tart, succulent Sicilian Lemon, and bitter green Calabrian Bergamot all of these together are so reminiscent to me of the smells one gets in the spring and summer along the coast of Italy from Castellammare di Stabia to Positano.

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The heart of this fragrance is where we get a spicy bite, the romance of the fragrance dwells here. There is a sharp almost peppery Ginger that shoots into the air like Italian fireworks, a creamy Jasmine adds glamour, and greet sharp Petitgrain from Paraguay keeps it lively and sparkling. In the dry down there is a grassy earthy touch of Heart of Vetiver, a rich dark Oakmoss adds depth and weight, and it is all topped off with a very subtle touch of White Amber. This Amber gives a creamy sophistication to the ending of the fragrance leaving you wanting to spray it on again.

The nose behind this stunning fragrance is Burgundy born Jérôme Epinette

Jerome-Epinette-new-Pic-Aug-20121-001who was educated in the art of perfumery in Grasse at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery. He is known for such creations as Bal d’Afrique by Byredo, and Fougere by Jovoy Paris. He has done seven fragrances for Atelier Cologne as well including Sud Magnolia.

Mandarine Glaciale along with Sud Magnolia, Figuier Ardent, and Cedar Atlas all presented by Atelier Colognes in their Collection Azur.   Each fragrance was inspired by places in the south warmer climates. From the American South to Morocco, Southern Italy and the south of France. So there is certainly more beautiful fragrances to explore in the collection.

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For me it is a perfectly blended pure perfume not a cologne as is often the common mistake people make when it comes to Atelier Cologne’s fragrances.  The pure perfume therefore gives it a fine life on the skin of about six to eight hours. The sillage is moderate but when you get up close quite enticing, inviting and invigorating.  Mandarine Glaciale for me is a winner for any season. A Beauty that will be a part of my collection for years to come.

Mandaerine Glaciale

 

Mandarine Glaciale Five Gold Stars *****

CALL ME IRRESPONSIBLE ~ CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22

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Red and white automobile lights glittered in the rain choked gutters, like discarded diamonds and rubies being swept into the parched sewers of the city.  Long into the morning the three globed very elegant Parisian streetlamps along Market Street shown in a warm glow of amber which added a ribbon of gold to the rubies and diamonds in the street. The rain danced in sheets across the wide road snatching dead sycamore leaves from the nearly barren trees to bring them down to earth.  The first rains of January were the best rains of the year. So all of San Francisco agreed and no one loved the gray skies and perpetual twilight of a rainstorm more than Matt Simmons.

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(Market Street ~ Artist  Hsin-Yao Tseng)

Wrapped in a long black Dior overcoat, with a white Pashmina scarf artfully arranged around his neck he made the dash across market at Stockton just as the yellow light turned red causing an Uber driver to swerve out of his path. The diver having just missed him peeled off toward “Twitterville” up at 10th in a shower of curses. Blithely unaware as the soundtrack of “Two For The Road” blasted through his earbuds he turned on to Eddy street. Diamond like raindrops sputtered from the ends of his Louis Vuitton Giboulées Umbrella. He felt filled with love for his city and radiated a joy for life that was infectious to almost everyone. This delight in life made him seem twenty years younger than fifty nine.

Seated at his favorite table in the warm cozy wood paneled old San Francisco glamour that was John’s Grill he ordered his usual, a Vesper martini.  He smilingly told Tommy  to make it three Vespers and that he would wait for his friends to arrive before ordering lunch.   Marie and Holly would be joining him for a fun run through the Union Square department stores on a perfume hunt. They usually met up about once a month to catch up, have lunch and go shopping. It was something to do on a Sunday.

maltese140.JPG The sign announcing John's Grill seen from the second story of the restaurant. The falcon statue was stolen nearby. A replica of the famous Maltese falcon used in the 1941 Humphrey Bogart film has been stolen from John's Grill restaurant in downtown San Francisco. {Brant Ward/San Francisco Chronicle}2/12/07

Tommy set the Vesper before him just as Matt noticed that there was beautiful piano music drifting down from the second floor.

“Live music in the afternoon Tommy? I thought that was only in the evenings. That wonderful Jazz I can’t get enough of.”

“We are trying it out on the weekends. You like it?”

“Lovely.”

Tommy vanished to the bar. As Matt sipped his cocktail he recognized the song. “Call Me Irresponsible” by‎ Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn. Matt began to hum along.

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(Artist~ Seth Couture)

Just as the martini glass reached his lower lip for a second sip everything seemed to slow down around him. The glass wavered in his hand. He looked down at the swirl of lemon peel. His hand was shaking.

Had it really been only four years? Were there days now when he forgot to think of him? It was true, he didn’t think of him the first thing upon waking anymore. Matt set the martini on the white table cloth, took out his wallet and opened it. Richard’s movie star smile beamed up at him through worn and brittle plastic.   Eyes as blue as the skies over Paris and that noble nose that gave his face gravity as well as beauty.  Everything was still now only the rain outside and the piano playing.  He could hear Richard singing to him over the phone from Manhattan his broad baritone just as he used to on Sunday mornings.  His voice would come cross the Catskills and zoom effortlessly over the Great Plains. It soared over the Rockies, dipped low into the deserts of Nevada and finally climbed the over the steep shear eastern Sierra’s caressing a high note so effortlessly only to slip sweetly, softly into Matt’s waiting ear in San Francisco.

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“Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable
Throw in undependable too.”

Matt recalled the dream they shared of Richard moving to San Francisco, the promise to marry and build a mature life together. The dream that never came true

“Do my foolish alibis bore you?
Well, I’m not too clever; I just adore you.”

Richard’s last three voice mails still lived Matt’s on phone, the last one from the hospital where he died so suddenly and unexpectedly.

“Call me unpredictable, tell me I’m impractical
Rainbows I’m inclined to pursue.”

Richard’s photo glowed more beautifully than the golden streetlights on Market and it was more precious than any diamonds and rubies that were ensconced behind the rain spattered windows of Bvlgari and Cartier.

“Call me irresponsible; yes, I’m unreliable
But it’s undeniably true: I’m irresponsibly mad for you.”

Holly’s voice broke the spell. The lights brightened and the world sped up again. Marie was just behind her with a big smile.

“Sorry we are late. What a storm! It is coming down like the end of the world out there. How are you darling man?”

Matt slowly and gently closed his wallet and placed it in his coat pocket over his heart.

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 ( Hsin-Yao Tseng)

***

It is a perfume of lost love and rainy afternoons. Of missed trains to warmer climates and of melancholy cocktails in the twilight when everything turns lavender in the last moments of the day. It is a beauty that rivals its creators most famous creation. No.5.  Rumor has it that it was in the lineup for Coco Chanel to try when she chose No.5 to be her first perfume launch. If that is true it is no surprise for Chanel No.22 crated by Ernest Beaux released only a year after No.5, in 1922 is a more somber, romantic and even wistfully sad cousin to No.5.

Where No.5 is stunningly glamourous and breathtaking, No.22 is of a less obvious beauty. It has mystery a, blue dreamy sad mystery.

It opens with a gorgeous Aldehyde note that is less of a blast than you get in No.5. It is more like a breeze coming up from a damp garden after a rainstorm. In this breeze are carried the lovely floral note of Lily of the Valley and a fresh sharp Neroli. It is a dewy sun dappled and perfect opening to the beauty that is to follow.

Ylang ylang dominates the middle where it shimmers in all its golden glory supported by the famous Chanel jasmine, a subtle rich rose is denuded of its thorns and then there is the tuberose. This is not your grandmother’s screechy tuberose. Now that may surprise you being that this fragrance is from 1922 but in its reissue of 2007 by Jacques Polge it is a stubble touch of the tuberose that comes to lay close to the heart of the fragrance.

The bitter note that gives No.22 is melancholy is in the dry down where a crunchy dry vetiver marries with a creamy vanilla note. This is for me where the dance of the rising vetiver and the dying flower notes make this such a stunning fragrance. Sorrowfully dreamy and beautiful in its somewhat dramatic case of the blues, it likes feeling slightly tragic for after all it has lived in the shadows of No. 5 all these years.  Like that old Frank Sinatra song, No. 22 is “Glad To Be Unhappy.”

The longevity of No. 22 is very long, lasting on my skin a good 12 to 14 hours. The projection is not overpowering but at about a foot to eighteen inches. It is noticeable in tight quarters for sure but on the street it has a subtle grace about it. It is balsamic, aldehydic and powdery but not overtly so. It is a powdery scent for the faint of heart who shy away from the powder perfumes in general.  And as with almost all of the Les Exclusifs line No.22 works well on a man or a woman. If that man or woman is in the mood to be blue and sophisticated with an air of mystery about them.

CHANEL LES EXCLUSIFS NO. 22 ~ FIVE STARS *****

NO 22

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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