Saturday, 29 December 2012

Never apologise, never explain

“Never apologise, never explain - didn't we always say that? Well, I haven't and I don't.”

"Maybe the most that you can expect from a relationship that goes bad is to come out of it with a few good songs."

“The morning sun touched lightly on the eyes of Lucy Jordan
In a white suburban bedroom in a white suburban town
As she lay there 'neath the covers dreaming of a thousand lovers
Till the world turned to orange and the room went spinning round.

At the age of thirty-seven she realised she'd never
Ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair.
So she let the phone keep ringing and she sat there softly singing
Little nursery rhymes she'd memorised in her daddy's easy chair.

Her husband, he's off to work and the kids are off to school,
And there are, oh, so many ways for her to spend the day.
She could clean the house for hours or rearrange the flowers
Or run naked through the shady street screaming all the way.

At the age of thirty-seven she realised she'd never
Ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair
So she let the phone keep ringing as she sat there softly singing
Pretty nursery rhymes she'd memorised in her daddy's easy chair.

The evening sun touched gently on the eyes of Lucy Jordan
On the roof top where she climbed when all the laughter grew too loud
And she bowed and curtsied to the man who reached and offered her his hand,
And he led her down to the long white car that waited past the crowd.

At the age of thirty-seven she knew she'd found forever
As she rode along through Paris with the warm wind in her hair”
Marianne Faithfull (born 29th December 1946)

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A sacred unicorn

David Wolfe, from Paperdollywood:
"She dedicated herself to her appearance, learning the art of make-up, the craft of lighting (a butterfly shaped shadow under her nostrils was vital, as was a white line drawn down her nose to narrow it). Dissertations have been written about the evolution of her amazingly artificial eyebrows! She willingly stood for hours and hours at costume fittings, sometimes suggesting that a single sequin be repositioned over and over again. Even her personal wardrobe garnered the same attention and the House of Dior records that she required sixteen fittings for every garment."
Erich Maria Remarque, her longtime friend, in his novel "Arch of Triumph":
"The cool, bright face that didn't ask for anything, that simply existed, waiting - it was an empty face, he thought; a face that could change with any wind of expression. One could dream into it anything. It was like a beautiful empty house waiting for carpets and pictures. It had all possibilities -it could become a palace or a brothel. The face of an icon. One could dream into it anything."
Cecil Beaton, full of veiled compliments, wrote:
"Marlene is certainly a great star, not without talent, but with a genius for believing in her self-fabricated beauty, for knowing that she is the most alluring fantastic idol, an out-of-this-world goddess or mythological animal, a sacred unicorn."
Noel Coward, introducing her nightclub debut in London:
"Though we all might enjoy
Seeing Helen of Troy
As a gay cabaret entertainer,
I doubt that she could
Be one quarter as good
As our legendary, lovely Marlene."

Marlene Dietrich (27th December 1901 - 6th May 1992)

More Dietrich in my tribute from last year.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

"I am going to make everything around me beautiful"

From the Architectural Digest:
Though dead for half a century, Elsie de Wolfe remains an icon to this day, revered as America’s first decorator. The key elements of her style are as fresh as ever, and the aura of celebrity she brought to her profession has been passed on from one to another of her successors.

Born in New York City, (“Our home is now Macy’s front door”), ugly little Elsie spent some early years in Scotland and in 1885 was presented at court to Queen Victoria (“a little fat queen in a black dress and a load of jewels”). After having had some success in amateur theatrical circles in New York, she became a professional actress and performed various light comic and historical roles throughout the 1890s. Her appearances, however, were praised more for the clothes she wore than for what she did in them, as de Wolfe enjoyed the unusual arrangement with her producer of being allowed to choose her own wardrobes - usually couture ensembles she ordered in Paris from Paquin, Doucet or Worth.

As early as 1887 de Wolfe had settled into what was then called a “Boston marriage” with Elisabeth “Bessie” Marbury, a formidable figure in New York society who also happened to be a wildly successful literary agent and business representative for, among others, Wilde, Shaw, Bernhardt, Sardou, Rostand and Feydeau; she even brought the play Charley’s Aunt to the United States.

After having restyled with some panache the house the two women shared on Irving Place - sweeping out her companion’s Victorian clutter, opening spaces and introducing soft, warm colors and a bit of eighteenth-century French elegance - de Wolfe decided in 1905 to become a professional decorator, issuing smart business cards embellished with her trademark wolf-with-nosegay crest. That same year a group of powerful New York women, named Astor, Harriman, Morgan, Whitney - and Marbury - organized the city’s first club exclusively for women, the Colony Club. Its handsome headquarters at Madison and Thirty-first Street were designed by Stanford White, who, along with Marbury and other friends on the board, got de Wolfe the commission to do the decoration.

When the Colony opened in 1907, the interiors established her reputation overnight. Instead of imitating the heavy atmosphere of men’s clubs, de Wolfe introduced a casual, feminine style with an abundance of glazed chintz (immediately making her “the Chintz Lady”), tiled floors, light draperies, pale walls, wicker chairs, clever vanity tables and the first of her many trellised rooms. The astonished reaction of the members to her illusionistic indoor garden pavilion put de Wolfe’s name on many lips and led to a number of lucrative commissions across the country.
Philip Core (who features her in my bible Camp: The Lie That Tells The Truth and also The Original Eye: Arbiters of Twentieth Century Taste) said of her:
"Of all our century's arbiters of elegance, Elsie probably left a more definite heritage than any other: no superb collection, no trend-setting discoveries among bohemian artists, no political applications of taste, but rather the whole concept of Taste as a career."
She was also renowned as a society hostess. From Lucindaville blog:
In the early 50’s [the author] Ludwig Bemelmans wrote of Elsie, "I have never known any hostess, hotel manager, chef, or maître d’hôtel who gave the attention to a party that Lady Mendl did."

His description of a party offers sage advice to today's hostess:

"The dinners were exemplary and simple, and the rules laid down for the serving of meals were sensible. The basic laws were a cold room and hot plates, the floral decorations low, so that one could look across at the other people and talk to anyone without bending around a vase or candlesticks.

Her love of things green and white went so far that the place cards were tropical leaves on which the names were written in white ink. The lighting was indirect and the service the ancient Russian, which is the most convenient for the guest at table as well as the help. It consists of a small rolling table, or, in the case of larger parties, of several of them. The food and the plates are placed thereon, and the servitors arrange the food on the plate and set it before the guest.

Since there was always a small green and white menu at the table the people new what was coming, and they could choose more of the first course, if they liked that, or more of the second, if that course had more appeal to them."
Facts about Elsie de Wolfe:
  • She is credited, among other things, with the introduction and popularisation of faux-Louis XV mirrored walls; pale greens, blues and greys as colour themes for walls, fabrics and furniture; and the blue rinse for old ladies.
  • Despite her four-decade lesbian relationship with Bessie Marbury, Elsie shocked everybody when, at the age of 61, she married and became Lady Mendl.
  • Her exclamation on first seeing the Parthenon, "It's beige - my colour!" has been cited by many, Mr Core included, as a classic example of the frivolity of camp.
  • Cole Porter included the oft-repeated anecdote of Elsie's outrageous entrance to a society ball, turning cartwheels as she went, in the lyrics of Anything Goes.
  • She was invited by the future Edward VIII to redecorate some of the apartments at Buckingham Palace, but the abdication crisis began before the commission did.

"The cardinal virtue of all beauty is restraint."

"Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you."

"It is the personality of the mistress that the home expresses. Men are forever guests in our homes, no matter how much happiness they may find there."

"I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life."

"You can't take it with you. There are no pockets in a shroud."

Elsie de Wolfe (20th December 1865 – 12th July 1950)

Read the lovely Stephen's excellent tribute to her over at Post Apocalyptic Bohemian

Saturday, 22 December 2012


At the end of an Olympian year comes the outrageous Drag Queen Olympics in Amsterdam, where participants can compete in events including the 100 metre sprint, musical chairs and the Christmas present throw.

The games are part of Pink Christmas, the winter equivalent of the Amsterdam Gay Pride.

Drag Queen Olympics

Friday, 21 December 2012

Flapper apocalypse

The world didn't end on 12/12/12, so it must be today - 21/12/2012.

Or something.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

What are you saving yourself for?

Now Is All There Is: Bodies in Motion, an exhibition of 34 stylised images of Royal Ballet dancers taken by photographer Rick Guest.

The exhibition takes its name from a quote by choreographer George Balanchine calling for his dancers to be "in the moment", to never hold back and to give everything: "What are you waiting for? What are you saving yourself for? Now is all there is!"

Now Is All There Is: Bodies in Motion is on display from 25th – 27th January 2013 The Gallery at The Hospital Club in Covent Garden.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Foxy Lady

Lynn Bari was awarded more than her share of beauty and pin-up titles during World War II. The one that especially pleased her was “The Perpetual Pin-up Girl” bestowed by Darryl F. Zanuck and 20th Century Fox to make up for the fact that they hadn’t given her the recognition she deserved. Lynn was, in fact, one of Fox’s more popular stars. With 8,825 fan letters addressed to Lynn arriving in one week, she was, at one point, second only to Betty Grable.

A title that Lynn disliked most was “Queen of the B’s” which was inherited from her best friend, Claire Trevor. Lynn explained, “It really limited my chances for advancement to lead roles in major pictures.” “The Woo Woo Girl” was another she found demeaning, but “The Girl With the Million Dollar Figure” proved rewarding, as she subsequently received many offers to pay her for endorsing clothing, soap, and beauty products.

There have been many versions of the year of Lynn Bari’s birth. She said it was December 18, 1919, and once, when mentioned to be appearing in 1959’s Pillow Talk, Lynn admitted to forty. Most publicity generated by Fox indicated 1920, but 1913, 1915, and 1917 have also been printed, with the last of these, 1917, being the most likely.
"I seem to be a woman always with a gun in her purse. I'm terrified of guns. I go from one set to the other shooting people and stealing husbands!"

"I guess the top brass thought I was a lady Hugh Herbert, but the audiences, the public, continue to remember me, and what greater accolade can an actress get?"

Lynn Bari (18th December 1917 – 20th November 1989), eternal B-movie villainess and singer, one-time Mrs Sid Luft, and largely forgotten today.

Foxy Lady: The Authorized Biography of Lynn Bari by Jeff Gordon.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

If you are going to do Xmas window displays... may as well do Art Deco ones!

Seasonal window displays at Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York, 2012.

[Thanks to Msitress Maddie over at The Casa du Borghese for highlighting these!]

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Monstre sacre

From his obituary in The Independent:
Jeannot, as he was known to his friends and fans, was a monstre sacre of the French stage and cinema. He had a long career that took on mythical proportions. His friend (and one might almost say "creator") Jean Cocteau defined Jean Marais' appeal to both men and women: "It does not depend only on sensual grace. It flows from the child still at the heart of the mature man. That is the true source of the expressive beauty of his eye, of the way he looks at you, imposes his physical presence."
"Life is unfair. I got nothing but the best."

"As a child, I think I must have been a real monster. There was a show-off side to me, because I wanted to be an actor. I would do anything to attract others; and in order to do so I set out to improve myself in all those areas where I felt there was some lack in me. So people have always liked me, even loved me, but I often had the feeling that it was for the wrong reasons."

Jean Marais (11th December 1913 – 8th November 1998)