Monday, 26 September 2016

London Calling

"Women should be women, who wants them to be asexual?"

"It's only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of over-smoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate."

"You have to set standards for yourself. I have a strong feeling about not letting myself go."

"I cannot wear the same thing too often."

Another day, another adored leading lady to celebrate - as today, none other than the utterly captivating Miss Julie London would have celebrated her 90th birthday...

To demonstrate quite why we all adore the lady so much, here she is in her natural element: lolling around, made up like "Endora" in Bewitched, among luxurious animal prints, singing a risqué number in her huskiest "seduction" voice... it's (probably) a theme tune for all of us, dear reader - Nice Girls Don't Stay For Breakfast:

Julie London (born Julie Peck, Gayle Peck or Nancy Peck [sources differ]; 26th September 1926 – 18th October 2000)

Sunday, 25 September 2016

My legs are my fortune

"Gossip doesn't worry me - I'm an open person. I've mixed around in this business long enough not to be embarrassed by anything pertaining to sex."

"My really big disappointment was being told I was too tall for the ballet. When I got on my toes, some of those male partners were way down there."

Miss Juliet Prowse - star of the high-kicking movie Can-Can, as well as innumerable television variety shows and Vegas-style spectaculars, would have been eighty years old today.

  • Miss Prowse was the very first guest star on The Muppet Show.
  • She had affairs with both Frank Sinatra (to whom she was briefly engaged) and Elvis Presley - at the same time.
  • Born in Bombay, India, her British family relocated to South Africa when she was 3; it was here, as a teenager, that she became a championship dancer.
  • In 1987 she was mauled - twice - by an 80-pound leopard while rehearsing for television shows; afterwards she restricted such appearances in future to animals "no bigger than an alley cat."
  • Her brother is Dave Prowse, who played "Darth Vader" in Star Wars and was the "Green Cross Code Man" in children's safety campaign TV ads in the 1970s.
Juliet Anne Prowse (25th September 1936 – 14th September 1996)

More of the delightful Miss Prowse here and here.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The glamour, excess, frivolity and modernity of the decade

A Fashion Phantasy by illustrator Gordon Conway

The Dolly Sisters

Prada design for the film The Great Gatsby

Twenties showgirl "Dolores" - my muse

We're in our element! A new 1920s-themed fashion and photography exhibition opens in London today. As the blurb explains:
From Paris and London to New York and Hollywood, the decade following the Great War offered the modern woman a completely new style of dressing. With over 150 garments, this stunning selection of sportswear, printed day dresses, fringed flapper dresses, beaded evening wear, velvet capes, and silk pyjamas reveals the glamour, excess, frivolity and modernity of the decade.
From Women's Wear Daily (now known as WWD):
All of the clothing is part of the private fashion collection of Cleo and Mark Butterfield, the largest of its kind in the U.K. Cleo began collecting jazz-era clothing in the Seventies on her numerous trips to the vintage flea markets on Portobello Road. “I told myself, ‘You will not get these things in the future so get it while you can,’” said Butterfield.

The clothing displayed reflects the massive social and political changes of the decade. To illustrate the modern woman’s more active lifestyle, the exhibit is divided into sections based on different settings in which she may have found herself. Fur-collared coats and rich coloured velvet capes accompany lamé and silk dresses. A standout piece is a trompe l’oeil heavily sequinned Elsa Schiaparelli original. In another section are shorter tennis skirts and sportswear, which exemplify the increasing popularity in female athletics. One room is completely devoted to sleepwear. “I wanted it to be what ordinary people wore, not just couture. I wanted to get away from that flapper stereotype,” Butterfield said about the selection.

Alongside the clothing are miscellaneous popular culture items. Magazine covers, cigarette cases and even some of the first self-tanner for women, which all help to put the fashion on display into context. In the final room of the exhibit is a collection of photographs and celebrity portraits by James Abbe. By capturing more candid moments in the lives of film stars like Fred Astaire and Louise Brooks, Abbe may very well have started the whole celebrity paparazzi craze.

“It is no surprise that Jazz Age fashion is a key reference point for our students and visitors: the quality, characteristics and rich vocabulary of design forged in the decade set the standard for generations to come,” says Celia Joicey, head of the museum. “If you need further proof of the decade’s lasting influence, a line of display cases filled with Miuccia Prada’s creations for the 2013 version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ greet you on your way in and out of the exhibit.”
We are organising our group visit as we speak...

1920s Jazz Age Fashion & Photographs is on at the Fashion and Textiles Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1, 23rd September 2016 to 15th January 2017

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

It's moved on...

...with its bananas [from Charlotte Olympia]...

...clowns [courtesy of Ryan Lo]...

...big wigs [actually an advertising stunt for Captain Morgan rum]...

...made-over Radio 2 DJs [Jo Whiley as you never saw her before, thanks to Vin & Omi!]...

...and "Jazz Age" concoctions [Gareth Pugh - who else?]...

...London Fashion Week has ended, leaving its usual befuddled audience behind. Milan Fashion Week, here we come!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Holding that mirror up to people

“That’s the job of the writer. Holding that mirror up to people. We’re not merely decorative, pleasant and safe.”

"If Attila the Hun were alive today, he'd be a drama critic."

“What I mean by an educated taste is someone who has the same tastes that I have.”

“I write to find out what I'm talking about.”

“You're alive only once, as far as we know, and what could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realising you hadn't lived it?”

Sad news today, as we hear of the death of the magnificent playwright Mr Edward Albee.

By way of a tribute, I am re-posting my blog about the great man over at Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle from way back in 2009:
Adopted by a high society couple as a child, Albee ran away from his constrictive upbringing to join the literary set of New York's Greenwich Village in the 1950s. And his phenomenal legacy began there, with critically-acclaimed works such as Zoo Story and The Death of Bessie Smith. He was awarded the Pulitzer prize for A Delicate Balance, Seascape and Three Tall Women, and continued to produce award-winning plays over five decades, including The American Dream, and most recently with the 2002 hit Broadway and West End play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.
"I'm loud, and I'm vulgar, and I wear the pants in this house 'cos God knows, somebody has to! But I'm not a monster, I'm not!!"

But it of course for his masterwork Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf that he is (rightly) most admired and remembered. This tortuous dissection of a stifling relationship between two headstrong (and drunken) characters is held up today as a classic of world drama. It caused massive controversy in the straight-laced early 60s for its uncompromising use of vulgar language and uncomfortable scenes of verbal humiliation and implicit "sexual decadence".

The 1966 film adaptation was a massive success, featuring possibly the very best cinematic performances of all the leading players' careers - Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis and George Segal. All four were nominated for Oscars (the film itself having been nominated in all thirteen eligible categories, unprecedented at the time), and Miss Taylor and Miss Dennis won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.

In the hands of these masters, the movie is a brilliantly disturbing and engrossing example of modern film noir, as the viewer "eavesdrops" on the agonies of Martha and George's spiteful attacks on each other, and experiences the growing discomfort of their humiliated guests.

The film, as the play before it, caused uproar in an age when cinema censorship was still rife, and apparently Jack Warner chose to pay a fine of $5,000 in order that it would remain as faithful to the play (with its profanity) as possible. His faith in the project certainly paid off.

Here are just a couple of clips from this, one of my and Madame Acarti's favourite films ever:

A sad loss, but what a legacy.

Apparently, before undergoing a major operation a decade ago, Albee wrote a statement to be released upon his death: “To all of you who have made my being alive so wonderful, so exciting and so full, my thanks and all my love.”

RIP Edward Franklin Albee III (12th March 1928 – 16th September 2016)

Friday, 16 September 2016

At a Bacall house party...

...there's music...

...there's dancing...

...there's gossip...

...plenty of booze... with friends... gays...

...and a buffet...

...a grand way to start a weekend!

Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske, 16th September 1924 – 12th August 2014)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A little nonsense now and then

[Roald Dahl aged 17 in 1934]

"Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."

"When you're writing a book, with people in it as opposed to animals, it is no good having people who are ordinary, because they are not going to interest your readers at all. Every writer in the world has to use the characters that have something interesting about them, and this is even more true in children's books."

"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

His books James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator were my favourites, alongside the works of Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton, many moons ago - it is the centenary today of an integral part of my (and many generations of kids') childhood, Mr Roald Dahl (13th September 1916 – 23rd November 1990))

Thursday, 8 September 2016

S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G, we're shopping...

Some practical footwear...

A game for all the family...

Something inspirational...

And a little ornament for the garden...

Friday, 2 September 2016