Thursday, April 12, 2018

Undercurrent (1946, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, Robert Mitchum)

Good morning!!

How's tricks?

Undercurrent was part of a multi-disc set of Katharine Hepburn movies I bought circa 2007, back when I was a single gal working in a fully grown up job with hardly any bills and I used to trawl for good eBay deals on classic box sets (bid time return, lol). It's hard for me to remember back to a time when I was actively collecting dvds, but there you go-- fossil record evidence of the pre-streaming days. I remember having liked the movie more than I thought I would back then, but ten years later, in the throes of this Robert Taylor kick I'm on, I thought I'd give it another spin. And oh, what a spin it was.

The movie follows scientist's daughter Katharine Hepburn, at first glance messy in slacks and a shapeless shirt, who falls for dashing industrial millionaire Robert Taylor when he comes to discuss some mineral's commercial possibilities in government contracts with her father. Taylor pitches woo, Hepburn unstupidly marries him, and they fly off back to his home-base of Washington, DC to start their happily ever after. However, the introductory cocktail party thrown in honor of the happy couple is a nightmare for Hepburn as she is dowdily dressed among the swans of political high society and out of the loop for all the Congressional shop talk, and things only go downhill from there. Everyone keeps mentioning "Michael, Michael, Michael" as they congratulate the newlyweds-- where's Michael? Has anyone seen Michael? What about Michael? The young man is revealed to be Taylor's brother, a presence that hangs spectre-like over the onscreen proceedings. Did Taylor have something to do with his disappearance...or dare we say it, possible MURDER? What connection does the sultry, sleepy-eyed caretaker (played by OH HELLO ROBERT MITCHUM I FORGOT YOU WERE IN THIS) at Michael's ultra modern cliffside hideaway have to the mystery? Why does an increasingly more agitated Robert Taylor react so violently to the mere mention of the brother's name?

While I was deeply invested in the midcentury women's magazine story going on here (which, indeed, was adapted from a story by Thelma Strabel that was serialized in Woman's Home Companion magazine between 1944-5), Undercurrent is a bit of a mess. A beautiful, well meaning mess, but a mess just the same. 

For one, the movie owes a substantial debt to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, which made a more successful transition to the screen only a few years earlier, and in that sense, also to Rebecca's spiritual predecessor, Jane Eyre. Both Rebecca and Undercurrent follow the plot impetus of an inexperienced woman who marries hastily and finds herself ill-at-ease in the soignée circles to which her new husband belongs-- each features a husband harboring some dark past that yet haunts the marriage by way of an unseen character is continually brought up to stir the mystery. In Rebecca, no less a luminary than the fresh-off-the-set-of-Gone With the Wind Vivien Leigh was turned down for the role of the timid second Mrs. de Winter in favor of a more believably maladroit Joan Fontaine. No such favors were done in the casting of Undercurrent. My GOODNESS could they have chosen a more ill-suited actress to fill the unsure shoes of the protagonist in this than Katharine Hepburn, who, in spite of her extraordinary acting chops, is by very definition brimming with brash self-confidence.

At a turning point in her career by 1946, Hepburn had already clocked two distinct phases in her onscreen persona. Her 1930's body of work, in which homegirl won not one, but TWO Best Actress Oscars, was defined by a dewy, vulnerable, unusual-but-lovely-in-her-way Hepburn, always playing an endearingly odd duckling, full of vigor and strident self-assurance but also secretly susceptible to showing real hurt in a way that would bring tears to the moviegoers eyes as they did to her own (see: Morning Glory, Alice Adams, Stage I just start crying thinking about them). In the 1940's, the ingenue gave way to the brassy society/career girl, who traded well-enunciated barbs with Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant in The Philadelphia Story and tackled taming sportswriter Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year. The brisk, assiduous spinster/semi-spinster roles she was to play in the latter half of her career (Summertime, Desk Set) were yet to come. And so why not, well-meaningly enough I'm sure, plop our Kate into one of the LEAST believable characterizations of her career (yes, I'm counting this as only third behind her role as an Ozark mountain hillbilly in Spitfire and her role as a native villager in rural China in Dragon Seed...because those really did happen somehow). Even 1930's Hepburn in this role would have been too headstrong to play Ann Garroway-- she's EVERY kind of wrong for this role, and yet somehow, I guess through the magic of consummate professionalism, she manages to make the best of things and comes off only just "wrong" and not "embarrassingly wrong". 

Now this hat, on the other hand-- that may actually be embarrassingly wrong.
There's a shift in her costuming after the disastrous dinner party when  the character begins to care about her appearance and suddenly her blade-of-grass-slim figure is hung with designer clothes instead of sloppy slacks and untucked blouses...some things go well on that front, and some not so well. I would like to mention in a special category though the ankle-strap wedgies she wears for a large portion of the movie, which should have got their own line in the credits. Ahem:

Robert Taylor, freshly returned to the screen from war service as a flying instructor in the U.S. Naval Air Corps, is very good excepting the occasions in which he is very bad-- he has a habit of darting his eyes around like some kind of cartoon villain to telegraph caginess, which...could be better than it is.  Nobody's perfect! However, it's a credit to his charisma and a fault with the casting in that you can't really dislike him in the way that's necessary for you to dislike him to make the part work. This is a Cary-Grant-in-Suspicion type husband role, where you should be charmed by him at the same time you're distrustful of him. Cary Grant had a kind of darkness to him, which made him a great Hitchcock leading man, and believable as someone who is only *pretending* to be as sans souci on the exterior while nursing some strange grudge, and Taylor just doesn’t have it in him to be as convincingly layered as the role demands.  

My biggest gripe from the movie (SPOILERS AHEAD, stop reading if you haven't watched it yet) is the ending. There's a weird clash between the married Garroways about twenty minutes from the end that makes no sense, where Hepburn is suddenly afraid Taylor is going to kill her, and also inexplicably "in love" with Michael. I understand how this makes sense from a "ooh, wouldn't that be a fun way to end an already kind of histrionic movie" point of view but in terms of the development of the characters, what in the Sam Hill were they thinking?

"Wait we're what? I'm doing...wait, who am I in love with?" -KH in the end of this movie

What happens in the end of the movie: Robert Taylor either inadvertently or purposefully caused the death of the immigrant scientist upon whose work his company's fortune is founded, Robert Mitchum threatens to reveal him as a murderer/fraud, Taylor threatens to off Mitchum, Taylor and Hepburn argue, they go off on a horse trail together with their neighbor, Taylor schemes to get Hepburn alone and tries to force her horse off the cliff, Hepburn is thrown from the horse and the horse tramples Taylor to death. Mitchum comes to visit Hepburn in the family home where she's recuperating from her accident and there's a kind of understanding that they may get together sometime after the credits roll. Me, eyeballing the "the end" card like "WHAT. DO YOU MEAN."

What should have happened: Robert Taylor inadvertently caused the scientist's death but thought covering it up was better than being accused of murder and ruining the family name-- his weird neuroses come from being under the strain all these years. Mitchum threatens to reveal Taylor as a murderer, Hepburn continues to press Taylor about his brother, Taylor continues to act weird and lashes out at Hepburn. Taylor and Hepburn argue, they go off on a horse trail together and Taylor has some kind of complete mental breakdown because he's been kind of neurotic the entire time and now the added stress of Mitchum and Hepburn dips him over the edge. Time skip (calendar pages fly, fall turns to winter turns to spring, etc). Hepburn visits a sanitarium where she meets with a doctor in his office. The doc says Taylor's doing much better, but the delusions he's been suffering under will only improve if he has the love and support of his wife and family. Hepburn and Taylor have a scene in his room where he's in some very sharp pajamas in which he's obviously much better and contrite/vulnerable and Hepburn pledges to see him through this illness. She runs into Mitchum in the lobby who's coming to visit Taylor, they have a little mini-resolution scene, Hepburn has some great line referencing the "undercurrent" mentioned earlier when they first met, music swells, end credits. Me: "Ahhh. MUCH better."

Unfortunately, no one consults me in these matters. WHY. WHY. I'll have to go soak my head, I guess-- you guys check out all these contemporary-to-the-time press clippings, courtesy of the archives over at the Media History Project, while I do.

So! Seen any great, little-seen movies lately? Had a crush on an actor or actress that had flown under your radar previously? What's your take on Katharine Hepburn? Let's talk!!

That's all for today, but I'll see you again soon! Take care!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Confessions of a Plant Killer (Plantscape Inc. Interior Landscape Review)

Good morning!!

Tell the truth-- are you a low down plant murderer like myself or are you one of the blessed few of my acquaintance who could keep an orchid alive in the Kalahari? And if you're in the latter category-- how on earth do you do it? 

I feel like "plant tending" is one of those adult competencies no one mentions to you until you're far too far behind to hope to catch up-- nothing looks as grown up as a room full of floor-trailing leafy limbs and ferns and palm sprouting things in full verdant splendor, but good golly, it's hard to keep those green things green. I had a nice, Victorian-looking palm plant in a big pot that I proudly bought at Home Depot some years ago, whose green fronds turned yellow and then brownish and then just shriveled up and died without so much as a pause in between color change stages for me to ask myself what I was doing wrong. I'm not sure if I was overwatering, underwatering, or just putting too much of my faith in the Lord Jesus to keep the plant alive if I couldn't...but in whatever case, that plant in heaven now (RIP).  However! Oddly enough, this inauspicious beginning and taste of plants in my house didn't discourage me-- it only convinced me that I needed a more forgiving plant in my life. And so far, I have two-- a Christmas cactus I bought heavily discounted after Christmas, and an Easter Lily, both of which are alive if not totally thriving in my back bedroom after getting kicked out the living room by an overly inquisitive toddler. I do wonder, though, if the real answer is in Dustin Hoffman's dad's friend's advice from The Graduate: "One word. Plastics."

To dreeeeeam....the impossible dreeeeam..... (source)
Plantscape Inc, which describes itself as a "leader in the manufacturing of interior landscaping related products exclusively for commercial projects and the wholesale trade", contacted me via email the other day, and was I pleased! All my blogger friends back in the heyday of personal blogs would get offers from eShakti and the like and all I ever got were weird offers to "organically increase traffic on my website" or "order metal bracket pulls at commercial prices" (I wish I was kidding). When Plantscape offered me a plant of my choice to review for the blog, so you'd better believe I snapped one up tout de suite. The process took less than I think a week or so from ordering to having the plant in a large box I originally mistook for a flower delivery on my front porch.

Here's what the plant looked like on the website (minus the hearts...the hearts are mine):

And here's what it looks like at home with me:

Sorry about the unintentional camouflage, outside on the patio was the only
place bright enough to photograph this guy!

Not bad, huh? I honestly think it looks a little better than the photographs, and how often is that the case (trick question: never). I also always worry that the plant will be smaller than I imagined it when I ordered it online, but this one was about exactly the size I expected it to be, and packaged safely enough that none of the leaves were bent or broken in transit. All I had to do was "fluff" some of the leaves and I honestly am ready to have it on display.

I was impressed with the quality of the plant. I feel like the field of plastic plant-making must have come a long way since my memory of very noticeably fake ficus trees and the like in the dentists' offices of my childhood. I can remember, too, my mom putting together flower wreaths for family plots at the cemetery that, in spite of her good eye for color, bore about as much resemblance to a real flower as Velveeta to Wisconsin cheddar. This, however, minus a few little places where the glue shows and I might need to scrape a bit of the excess, looks like a very realistic plant!

I think the key to good fake indoor plants, beyond buying one that isn't egregiously fake looking, is just blending it in where a real plant would look reasonable or WITH other real plants. Sometimes, reading interior design blogs, I'm shocked to find that the fiddle leaf fig I was drooling over and wondering if the owner misted every day with a perfumed spritzer or exactly HOW they'd managed to coax such an exotic thing into living in a non-climate-controlled Nashville sitting room, was not from a nursery but from Overstock's large selection of fake indoor houseplants (as in Elsie from ABM's guide to fake plants in ya own home environment). Color me impressed.

Image result for decorating with fake plants
Now if I could only get that midcentury wall unit AND that possibly real, possibly fake fiddle tree, I would be so happy. Source
Now, the thing left to do, and the thing I should have already done before I committed to writing a blog about the new fake plant in my life, is to find a suitable pot to put it in, and then I think I'm going to put real dirt in around the ersatz stuff in the plastic container the plant came in. Usually, landscaping rocks and dirt together would look better in my opinion, but having a toddler around with curious hands who likes to put anything/everything in his mouth, I feel like dirt is less likely to trigger a visit to the emergency room than smooth river stones. Though, I mean, ideally, he'll just leave it alone ( ha, ha, HA, I can hear you's ok, I say it to myself, too). The last fake plant I had, which I kept in the living room and loved DEARLY, I had to eventually surrender back to Hobby Lobby because I felt bad about having this $100-ish dollar home decor object that Remy was 400% going to destroy before the end of the year. He liked to take each of the approximately 24" leaves and pull on them as if they were something in a ribbon twirling competition. While this mischief hadn't caused any major damage yet, I knew it was only a matter of time (glad I kept that receipt).

Look how cute that plant looked. God speed, fake plant from Hobby Lobby.
I'm hoping to put the new Plantscape plant in exactly the place of the old one, but what kind of planter should I use? I think all of these look great. I might just run out to World Market or Hobby Lobby and grab something this weekend.

one, two three, four

So! If you're a green thumb, what are your tips for keeping a plant this side of the land of the living? If you have fake plants in your house, how do you style them to keep them looking less like "80's resort lobby" and more like "I can't believe that's not real!" ? Let's talk!

Back to movies next week, but we'll talk again soon! See ya then.

For more on Plantscape:

interior landscape design

interior plant service

This is a review post for Plantscape Inc. All opinions are my own. I was compensated for this post with a product supplied by them.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ebay Shopping: Vintage Celebrity Letters edition

Good morning!

How's March treating you? I am still kicking. Today I thought I'd pop back in and show you a few of the things I've been drooling over in my free time (such as it is) that I in no way shape or form can afford-- letters from classic Hollywood celebrities on eBay!

Many, many moons ago (or not that many, maybe like a year and a half ago), I came across a letter from Tyrone Power to a screenplay writer back in Hollywood on eBay. Power was filming a movie in Spain and, to say the least, having a bad day. Typed out under his scrolled initials on his personal notepaper, he vented for two pages about the lackluster scripts and the general listlessness that has settled in on him after forming his own production company a year or two previous. He went on to describe how he felt everything had been for "f-cking nothing" before apologizing for being in such a black mood and closing with some tidbits about what he would be doing in the next month or so. The content itself, the fact of the letter existing was riveting to me-- homeboy has been dead since 1958, and here, I think maybe five or six years before his untimely death from a heart attack while filming overseas, was a letter from a person who didn't know how his story would end, who wasn't the two dimensional almost obscenely handsome guy from all those Loretta Young or swashbuckler pictures, but a real person with feelings and moods and all the rest. This was someone who sounded like me gmail chatting at the end of particularly crummy shift at the library. And you could own it! You could have in your hands the same letter written by the same guy the letter so plainly illustrated. I was hooked! And I was disappointed-- I think it had a buy it now of $300. I may be profligate with my money in the service of a good, selfish cause sometimes, but that's $150 a page, guys. It sold, and my heart was sad...but ever since, when I have a free half an hour or so to binge, I stalk around on the Movie Memorabilia listings looking for similarly revelatory evidence of the lives movie stars lived in and around their famous careers.

1) Charles Boyer, 1946

One of France's best Hollywood exports, I've spoken before at length about how Charles Boyer is near the top of historical mystery dates I'd like to open the door to-- I have an original autograph of his in my collection, but wouldn't I give my eye teeth for this two page letter, currently. Only $600! Or $28 for 24 months-- it sounds so much less expensive like that (also if I start buying on celebrity autographs on time I would never stop). The letter is in French, which is less difficult for me to decipher that Boyer's tiny, elegant handwriting, which sometimes makes m's that look like w's and forms q's as p's. Nevertheless, I got out my magnifying glass and made good progress with what the letter said. Here's a taste for you, an exclusive transcription and traduction by yours truly:
Je ferais à vous dire combien ma femme et moi étions près de votre peine. Puisse le destin favoriser la cause pour laquelle Raoul s’est battu avec tant de ferveur jusqu’à son dernier jour. (I would have you know how much my wife and I feel your pain. May fortune favor the cause for which Raoul fought with such feeling to his last breath).
Interesting stuff, right? Boyer wrote this letter in 1942, to the mother of a friend, Raoul, who it sounds like was killed in action during WWII. It's very beautifully written in a way that reminds you of how eloquent people used to be in print (as opposed to say my habitual "where you at you've been gone forever don't forget fries" text sent to my husband during his time at the grocery store). I wish I could find out more about who Raoul was but the context clues (including a mention of Geneviève Tabouis and the French language newspaper Pour la victoire) have turned up goose eggs so far. I appreciate that Boyer is as beautifully spoken off screen as I would have imagined him to be, and that this heartfelt condolence letter made its way to eBay where I could read it.

2) Claude Rains, undated
2 Page Letter By claude rains
This letter is far less literary, but I'm obsessed with it because of who wrote it-- my OTHER, and possibly top of the list, crush, Claude Rains. It's $500 or only $45 for 12 months (this is obviously a shorter loan term and seems more expensive, lol). In searching for an autograph of his for sale online, I've found many examples, all of which were in the high three digits or low four...but god willing, I'll locate some less pricey cocktail napkin or coaster he scribbled on eventually and add that trophy to my autograph wall. I think Rains may have the worst Hollywood handwriting I've seen so far-- his autograph is usually just a hasty scrawl at the bottom of an 8 x 10 (or, cheekily in this case, along the collar of his photographic self's dress shirt). This, however, is a full on letter, on his personal stationery! It reads (I think) :
Dear Charlotte [?? something "man"],
Your treatment of Mr. Johnson is a beautiful work of art and I shall treasure his works even more! Here is your check. I have an idea—culled from your library (such a lovely place for work)—a glass case for maybe the open book. If and when you can, could you give it a thought and tell me where to go for such a rarity? Always my most grateful thanks and real appreciation. You are a great packer too. 
Sincerely, Claude Rains 
I love how excited he sounds about this glass case to display her book on (probably) Ben Jonson, an early modern playwright. Can you just hear him reading this letter aloud?

3) Errol Flynn, 1956

This one is a pip simply because Errol Flynn is POPPING. OFF. on a producer of his mid fifties' tv show, Errol Flynn Theatre. Don't be fooled by the letterhead and may look like slash WAS official correspondence, but the tone is decidedly unprofessional (and FANTASTIC as a result). Lots of celebrities had anthology tv shows in the fifties'-- Boyer was part of Four Star Playhouse, which included Ida Lupino, Dick Powell, and David Niven to round out the quartet; The Barbara Stanwyck ShowDouglas Fairbanks Presents, The Joseph Cotten Show, and Robert Montgomery Presents all featured the title presenter as an occasional actor to bring new faces to the screen and try to hang on to the relevance of their forties' motion picture stardom. What surprises me is that I've never even heard of this one, in which Flynn and third wife Patrice Wymore would turn in thirty minute live performances of adapted material (I found an episode on that I plan to watch after posting this). I've never heard of it (or retained memory of it) and I've been through AT LEAST four or five books on Flynn, he's one of my favorite movie stars! You can read the letter itself, but in sum, Flynn is up to here with the lack of quality and corniness of the scripts presented pre-production for this series... throwing around terms like "old hat", "corny", "ordure", "mediocre" in a scathing but somehow still lighthearted memo. Speaking as someone who has watched a lot of 1950's tv in my day, I can attest to the low grade material that was sometimes placed in front of tv dinner eating maybe this was more of the same. However, the hilariously literate way Flynn, a published author in his own right outside of his acting work, lights 'em up makes me wish there was a book collecting his correspondence-- if this was a throwaway business communication, I'd love to see some of the personal stuff.

Whoever bought this for $220, kudos! You have a treasure on your hands.

4) Katharine Hepburn, undated
Katharine Hepburn Letter Signed

The jerkiness of Hepburn's imprecise script in this letter seems to mimic to me her own idiosyncractic speech pattern...I like to think of all those either ellided or staccato tones as recreated here by the individual letters. Look at the e's in "feel" and the general rectangularness of each line! I'm no graphologist, but that has to mean something to a handwriting expert. Ebay seller "historydirect" transcribes most letters, God bless them , so this is an easy one to read if you're looking at the listing:
"I came back from Florida to be greeted by your huge Stowaway treat - then found the grapefruit & the tangerines - You are obviously quite insane & must be going broke rapidly. They are all so good but I worry that you spend too much on me- Your letters always make me feel fine & your story of the broken dish - oh how often i've done just that. Trying to catch up with the endless letters. Affection." 
"You are obviously quite insane and must be going broke rapidly" is such a cheeky little line, I love it. I revere Katharine Hepburn...but I hated...hated... HATED her autobiography, "Me". One, for its ersatz ee cummings tone and composition-- two, for the fact that, considering this is someone who had to have lived THE MOST AMAZING LIFE, she was surprisingly tight lipped on anything I had any interest in, and all too open with things I had no interest in. The audiobook was a little better because you could hear her perform the otherwise almost too self-indulgent text, but I still give it failing marks-- Garson Kanin's book about Tracy and Hepburn was about a million times more interesting. Just FYI. Yet another person I wish had a book of letters collected so that we could see more of "the real [insert name here]".

5) Clark Gable, 1938
Clark Gable Typed Letter Signed 1938
I thought this would be a boring letter because it's typed, but it's pretty interesting! Lots of typed correspondence like this is strictly business-- contracts, "I hereby do" whatevers, etc etc. Or else professional blurbs under the guise of letters-- I've seen ones from silent star Colleen Moore and another from the aforementioned Tyrone Power that was really less a personal letter and more a press release for an upcoming project. However! "The King" wrote this letter on his personal letterhead to the editor of Sports Afield magazine, in November of 1938, a little more than a year ahead of the release of Gone With the Wind. It reads:
"I hate alibis and this isn't an alibi-ing letter. I feel as though I have no good excuse for not having written sooner. I arrived home Sunday morning going directly from the station to the studio and haven't been idle one day since then. This has been the busiest and most difficult picture I have ever made. Still have three weeks to go. I am writing this between shots on stage. Needless to say I had a marvelous time up there with you and all the fellows from Minneapolis. Haven't been duck shooting down here but once. There were no ducks as usual. The pictures they sent to me I have distributed around the local duck hunters just to let them know there are ducks in some parts of the country. When I told Harry Fleischman about all the ducks and mallards he looked at me with a movie studios eye; however, having seen as many as I did I had a convincing ring in my voice, I know, because now all the guys here are saying, 'when you go up there again, take me with you.' Received Clara's letter giving me all the news. Are Murphy and Walt still working out in the club house every afternoon after the shoot? Give them my regards and tell them I hope to bend the elbow again with them next year. Are you going to spend the winter here in California or in Florida? If you are coming out here let me know because I'll have to kill the Fatted Calf'. Had a letter from Nick Mahler the other day regarding some skates that he was sending to me. Nick is a swell lad and never seems to stop doing things for someone. That was a swell party he threw and I enjoyed meeting all of his and your friends. Quail season opened here today but unfortunately I am stuck here as usual. All the gang went up by Bakersfield to warm up their guns. I think they will get their limits as quail seem plentiful here this year. Imagine the ducks are in at your place by now pretty thick. Wish I could be there for a couple of days shoot with you, however I am grateful for the fine shoot that I had. Kindest regards to all the gang and to yourself and Clara." 
Is that not a great letter? Like the others, can't you just hear him saying it? I love the jocular tone and the little jokes like "The pictures they sent to me I have distributed around the local duck hunters just to let them know there are ducks in some parts of the country." Gable was an avid outdoorsman who was frequently shot for Photoplay and other fan magazines in full hunting gear, tramping around his farm or up the country with his gorgeous wife Carole Lombard or friend Gary Cooper in tow. I'm always surprised and heartened to see my movie idols turn out to be kind of like they are in the movies-- doesn't Gable seem like a hail fellow well met? Somebody wire me $2,200 so I can keep this encased in lucite under my pillow.

6) Douglas Fairbanks Jr. , 1987
This is one of my favorites because the idea of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Laurence Olivier being good enough friends to play little jokes on each other even into their respective eighties' is adorable to me. DFJr, former husband of Joan Crawford, wrote this letter to Crawford's former personal secretary. In it, he reveals that he and "Larry" used to pal around with frequent Crawford co-star Robert Montgomery (the often tuxedoed-in-1930's-movies father of Bewitched actress Elizabeth Montgomery), but apparently hated him. DFJr thought it would be a lark to send Olivier a picture of Montgomery made out to him personally and asked if the secretary had one of "any size, kind or description" for him to follow out his little prank. I live for it. The handwritten postscript is funny too: "PS. How and where are you!" Above, I've added pictures of Olivier and Fairbanks with Lillian Gish at an awards ceremony in the late 80's, Robert Montgomery in his prime, and Betty Barker, the assistant and recipient of the letter. I'm still getting a kick out of how cheeky this is days after I initially found it, so there.

7) Natalie Wood, 1974
This is a GREAT and suitably bubbly letter from a pregnant Natalie Wood, on holiday in the south of France with her husband Robert Wagner. The addressee is Dr. Joseph Milstein, an LA ob-gyn who I think may have been her doctor...hence all the details on the pregnancy? It's very friendly either way.

The letter reads:
Dear Joe,
Greetings from the South of France & Happy New Year! R.J. had 2 ½ weeks off so we flew here for a terrific holiday! It’s gorgeous here & London is absolutely pre-war, miserable, cold, & everyone has a tight lip! I might mention that before we left London I weighed in at 143 and when Gordon Bourne finished fainting he recorded the baby’s heartbeat, announced that since the heartbeat was 130 it would be a boy, and gave us the cassette. After R.J. and I finished fainting we wondered if he could be right & decided he had a 50/50 chance to be – or 106 to 100 if my current readings are correct! Here in France they have all kinds of special creams for the prevention of dreaded stretch marks & so far much of my holiday has been spent in the religious application of the aforementioned creams! I’ve been feeling great and we have a lovely flat in London & only 1 more month to be there so all goes well! Hope you had terrific holidays and every good wish for health, happiness & all good things for you & your family for ‘74
Love from R.J. and Natalie
Spoiler: the doctor was wrong, and Courtney Wagner was born March 9, 1974 (three months after the letter was written!). Only slightly creepy for the way things ended up for Wagner and Wood. :( Still, I love seeing her very legible handwriting and reading about how excited she was to have this baby, having been through the same myself what seems like yesterday.

8) Cary Grant, undated

Ugh! This may be the one I wanted the most out of the whole batch. An Affair to Remember: My Life with Cary Grant is the ne plus ultra of celebrity girlfriends/wives memoirs, in equal parts romantic, dishy, and well-told-- I have read it at least four times, and that's coming from someone who never likes to re-read anything. Its author, Maureen Donaldson, is the intended recipient of this note on Faberge letterhead, written to her it sounds like slightly after the breakup of their four year relationship. The handwriting! The writer! (As I just sigh my dreamiest sigh). 

It says:
This-- the enclosed-- will relieve a little of the pressure. Now concentrate on your work, your reputation, and the daily [promise?] of self pride! You looked well and I was very pleased to see you.
I know, from several biographies I've practically committed to memory as well as Donaldson's book, that the man was probably no picnic to live with in real life, but my GOODNESS the suavité. "You looked well and I was very pleased to see you", coming from Cary Grant? Stop IT. I think this must have originally included a check ("the enclosed") and was probably a nice gesture from a very wealthy (though notoriously tight fisted) man to his ex girlfriend, who was at the time starting a career in photography. Speaking of, I googled "Maureen Donaldson" in Getty Images to see if I could spot any photos of her and Grant out on the town, being stalked by paparazzi-- instead, it came up with A BLUE MILLION late 70s/early 80s publicity photos she took of some people who took off, and some who didn't! Click here to see early Jim Carey, Jodie Foster, Heather Locklear, and more.

Well! I think I have talked your ear off enough for today. What did you think? Which is your favorite letter? Is there an old time Hollywood actor or actress you'd just love to snag a memento of? What kind of weird things do you look up on eBay when you're not really looking for anything in particular? I'd love to hear from you!!

I'm glad to be back on the semi regular and hope to keep in the habit of writing. Take care, and we'll talk again soon!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Bing Crosby and Dean Martin à la française (French Records, 1953 and 1962)

Good morning!!

I have been gone but hopefully not forgotten-- how's tricks? Things are swimming along as smoothly as you could hope for with an almost fourteen month old under foot, but I thought I'd pop by and bend your ear on the subject of some vintage records that have recently come to my attention. In sum:
GUYS. THERE ARE TWO FRENCH-THEMED ALBUMS BY BING CROSBY AND DEAN MARTIN, RESPECTIVELY. I'd heard of these some time back but just got a chance to sit and listen this week thanks to Spotify. Wanna hear all about it? I knoooow that you do, haha.


1) Le Bing: Song Hits of Paris: Sung in French by Bing Crosby:

This album popped up when I was looking through the Crosby discography to weed out Christmas records. Bing Crosby's contribution to supermarket/department store PA system soundtrack music from approximately October to December 25th is greatly appreciated, and "White Christmas", contextualized into its WWII beginnings and listened to for on its own merit outside of how popular it became, is incredible...but I was looking for more of his early crooner stuff after seeing the knock-your-socks-off PBS American Masters doc on his life and work and having read a really solid biography of the same. And...what the heck...did I spy with my little eye A WHOLE RECORD OF BING SINGING ENTIRELY IN FRENCH? I did, mesdames et messieurs. I did.

And ten easy lessons later...we have Le Bing!

Der Bingle is actually not too bad at the French accent! I am impressed by his dedication to doing the entire album without switching languages-- a lot of people would have gone for translations with a bit of French sprinkled in (spoiler: see Dino's record below), but he definitely goes whole hog (cochon entière).  The re-issue includes several French to English songs or Franglais songs, but the original record is mostly all French. Crosby sounds about like you would expect him to and doesn't make any hideous or egregious mistakes in accent-- HOWEVER. I would like to point out to the jury exhibit A, track four of this album, in the case of "does Bing speak French or is he working on this phonetically". 

If you live on planet Earth, you've probably heard Edith Piaf's gorgeous signature hymne de l'amour, "La Vie en Rose". You may or may not have heard Louis Armstrong's English language version, which is *so* beautiful and maybe my second favorite interpretation of the song. For Armstrong's version, the lyrics are changed from Piaf's, because French to English translations sometimes have to take liberties to preserve the elegance of the sentiment. The English version's opening line: "Hold me close and hold me fast / The magic spell you cast / This is la vie en rose" is not exactly the same as "Quand il me prend dans ses bras/ Qu'il me parle tout bas/ Je vois la vie en rose". The French directly translates "When he holds me in his arms/ When he talks to me softly/ I see life in pink". As this is a woman singing, notice it's when he holds me in his arms, when he talks to me softly. In some French language versions I've heard with a male singer, they either switch the pronoun to "she" (elle) or take a note from the English version and say "you" (tu, in the familiar, which makes sense, as a person who makes my life la vie en rose is probably beyond the vous stage of the relationship). Bing blithely sings the song exactly as it was written for Piaf, meaning you have him saying things like "C'est lui pour moi/Moi pour lui dans la vie/ Il me l'a dit, l'a juré pour la vie" (It's him for me, me for him in life, he told me so, swore it for life). Um. Which, believe me, is very cool with me if he meant to sing a wrenching beautiful torch song to a man, but-- I don't think this was intentional. And it would have been such an easy fix!! Verdict: Our favorite ba-ba-ba-booer is not a genuine francophone, but puts up a pretty dang good show of it.

A typically pithy quote from him, cribbed from the Wikipedia page on this record:
Of his French accent, Bing remarked at the time that any complaints should be sent 'to the back door of the United Nations'.

File:Bing Crosby in Road to Singapore trailer.jpg
"So sue me." (Poursuis-moi, alors)
The rest of the disc is a bit of a sleeper-- it reminds me of a lot of Eisenhower era crooner records in that you can put it on and forget that it's on outside of some standout tracks. No less than my blessed Frank Sinatra is guilty of this with some of his lesser Decca recordings. Overall, though, I have to say I was so pleased with the novelty of the foreign language format that I would listen again. It might even get better on a second spin, qui sait.

Verdict: Three out of five croque monsieurs:

2) Dean Martin: French Style

Dean Martin: French Style is MUCH livelier, if more English-speaking, than Le Bing. If you remember, along with the likes of Jerry Vale, Connie Francis, and Al Martino, Dean Martin was part of a wave of second generation Italian singers, making up like an entire GENRE of music in the fifties' and sixties', the Italian American Italian language ballad. So! To have him travel up the continent to France isn't a stretch but a very interesting stamp on his musical passport nonetheless. Dino's waggish spoken asides are as light-hearted as his appearance on the cover en blouse d'artiste, béret, et  porte-cigarette (and doesn't he wear it all with a dash!). Most of these songs are about France with tiny bits of French included, but I can appreciate a concept album right along with the best of them. Can you imagine someone's mom and dad / grandma and grandad pulling the cellophane off this record brand new in 1962, and putting it on a console record player while making beefaroni for the family? Something about the earnestness and unselfconsciousness of making a somewhat tongue in cheek but not satirical or snarky record cements a record like this so FIRMLY in the time period for me.

Songs to look for? Dino tackles "La Vie en Rose" in English with exactly the same timbre/pathos of his classic "Non Dimentecar", which I never realized sounds kind of like an Italian cousin of this song. I like his version of "I Like Paris"on this record-- but I looooove the "I Love Vegas" version on this live Rat Pack record. His riffs on his own song catalog in his Rat Pack performances are always one of the highlights of show for me. But I digress. Some low points include throwaway lyrics in between accordion blasts on songs like "The Poor People of France", which includes such lackluster paroles as "I feel sorry for the French/Every guy has got a wench/ Every couple's got a bench/Kissing shamelessly"...uh, this is like late movie career Elvis bad in terms of songwriting. BUT! I still think overall it's a lot of fun.

Dean Martin Y Jerry Lewis
With Jerry Lewis in Paris-- did you know that restaurant is still in business?
Verdict: four out of five jambon emmental sandwiches from Monoprix, which have no earthly right to be as good as they are, considering they come out of a refrigerator case at a corner store:

You can listen to both of these albums on Spotify or even Youtube! What are you waiting for?

Well that's it for this installment of "what's been buzzing around in Lisa's head"-- I hope to share more weird recent finds with you soon. In the meantime, what you been listening to? Any great midcentury finds in either English or French? What do you think about non-native speaker foreign language celebrity records (what a section that would be in a record store)? Parlons-nous!

Take care, and we'll talk again soon!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Unsolved Mysteries

Good morning!!

Howaya, howaya, howaya. It's Tuesday, saints bless us, and I thought I would take a minute to tell you about your show of shows, Unsolved Mysteries, and its triumphant return to syndication. I mentioned a while back in my birth story post that we'd been watching episodes of UM on my phone while waiting for Remy to make his grand debut, and isn't it surreal that I'm sitting here, nine months later, with a not-so-newborn in my lap and Robert Stack telling me about a suspicious car fire...happier than a pig in mud.

I watched a lot of the show when it was first aired on NBC, because in those long ago days of the late 80's and early 90's, there was no cable and just a single television set... meaning if your folks were watching Cheers, and you wanted to watch something on tv, you, too, would be watching Cheers. Hard to believe in this age of having multiple screens, technology on demand, etc, etc, but I can see myself on the brown shag carpet of the living room, probably chewing on the wood stick of a grape popsicle and wondering if the "someone may have the answers, that someone may" tagline was true...though , to be fair, my sphere of influence was pretty small at nine years old and the killer/missing sister/UFO witness would have to be in my second grade classroom or my mom/dad/grandparents for there to be much of a chance of me being the missing link in this investigation. "God, I wish I knew more masked motorcyclists and key witnesses to disappearances," was a good summation of my feelings of ruefulness at not being more involved in inexplicable events.

Hi-ya, handsome!
Sidenote: I had no idea in first watching the series that Robert Stack was any more famous than Wink Martindale, Mark Summers, or the other various early nineties' television hosts I could name off the top of my fourth grade head. Much later, I would get to know Stack for his performance in one of my favorite fifties' auteur-work-posing-as-soap-opera-melodrama, the lurid and lovely to look at Written on the Wind. In his youth, Robert Stack had the same distinguished speaking voice but a clean-cut , tanned, youthful handsomeness and smoldering blue eyed gaze that was really something special. He plays in that movie a paranoiac alcoholic playboy, heir to an oil fortune, who spends most of the movie being egged on to further debauchery by his nymphomaniac sister (Dorothy Malone) and mistreating Lauren Bacall, the latter of which is a problem for my-boyfriend-Rock-Hudson as his childhood best friend who's in love with Bacall. Sounds very Redbook, but in the hands of director Douglas Sirk, take my word for it, it's like a painting come to life. But anyway. Isn't it interesting to think he did that, and then The Untouchables, and then kind of kicked around Hollywood for twenty years or so until a career-reviving stint on everybody's favorite true crime/occult/reunion show in prime time?

"What the..." (I'd tell you what my favorite re-enactment was but they're all my favorite)
Speaking of, I always prefer the missing people stories and ghost stories to the UFO and miracle stories, though the latter categories can be a hoot and a half. One category that had completely slipped my mind in the twenty plus years since I was originally watching the show was the "Lost Loves". It's easy to forget in the age of Facebook stalking and Spokeo that at one time, if you lost contact with someone for enough years, they could be very difficult to reconnect with in the present day. Some examples I remember off the top of my head: a guy who served in Vietnam with another guy and lost touch with him after they both returned home, an English girl in a German boarding school in the sixties who wanted to reconnect with a girl who was kind to her in her grade, a girl who wanted to find the two children who her father had fostered for a year in the 1930's before their father was able to take them back and moved away, and ALL THE TEENAGE MOTHERS who were somehow swindled/coerced into giving up their babies for adoption. I spend like a good 80% of these segments just openly weeping-- I can't help it if seeing a tough old guy tearing up over wanting to contact the daughter his estranged girlfriend ran away with in the forties' is like emotional quicksand for me. The updates where they find the people across decades and across the country KILL me... the one about the thirties' semi-orphans had the daughter of the foster father and the girl they fostered meeting as now-sixty-year-olds, and the one lady exclaims, "You still look like yourself!" Cue me just bawling. The idea of getting to see someone who meant so much to you that you took on a national search for them is so touching, and then the idea of someone before that reunion sitting at home, just minding their business, and then watching the episode and going "That's me! I'm the one they're looking for!"-- it's really something. "It meant so much that somebody out there was looking for me after all these years," is an oft repeated refrain from the reunited and the reunitees... it's so quaint to think that now, in five minutes in the Facebook searchbox, you can do what it took volunteer private detectives and a viewing audience of however million to accomplish thirty years ago.

"And so I told 'em...wait, the check didn't clear? There must be some kind of mistake!" --> flim flam man's oldest line in the book.
One neat aspect of the series coming back into syndication is that the producers have inserted updates where available-- so when the story ends and you go, "MAN, did they ever find the missing girl/murder suspect/lost friend/etc?", a lot of the time there's resolution in the form of a paragraph that includes information on developments in the ensuing decades since the show aired. This becomes kind of a problem for the inveterate bingewatcher like myself, though, in that I became dependent on the updates-- when you get to the end of a particularly gruesome murder or disappearance and there ISN'T an update, you feel like "What?! What do you mean they never found out who did it?!" I got so worked up I had to google the case of Angela Marie Hammond, who they still haven't found. I was sitting there with my socks up on the coffeetable like "THE BOYFRIEND DID IT, RIGHT? WAS IT THE BOYFRIEND?" And was very surprised when there were no answers to the many questions raised by the circumstances of her disappearance. One gets the impression from shows like Dateline and 20/20 that, ethical and moral beliefs aside and from a purely rational point of view, you should NEVER try and murder someone because 100% of the time you get caught. Except...those shows only use cases where people WERE caught, thus creating a beginning, middle, and end of the dramatic arc. The whole point of the crime portions of Unsolved Mysteries are that, uh, they were unsolved at the time...leaving some loose ends that continue on into the present day. The worst one I've seen so far was where a woman was looking for her husband, who had a concussion and disappeared a year earlier-- a stranger was interviewed who had seen the guy seeming disoriented on a bus and the trail went cold, but the wife never stopped posting flyers and looking for him. The update said they FOUND the guy two years later-- he had become an amnesiac after I think being mugged and hit over the head again in his concussed state...but when they reunited the couple, the guy didn't remember anything about their relationship and just went back to his normal life afterwards...can you imagine?! He was like, "Nah, you know, that was nice of you to look for me and all...but I'm kind of just happy like I am." This was all conveyed through two screens of text...if it were me, I would have done an entire new episode about this. But again! An embarrassment of riches here in terms of human interest stories.

Some of the updates are more straightforward than others.

Last but not least, I'm obsessed with the fashion/hair on a lot of the eyewitness interviewees-- as the late eighties and early nineties are the LAST VINTAGE TIME PERIODS I wasn't old enough to wear with any sort of agency as it happened, I'm weirdly savoring the 1990's-does-1940s Adrian shoulder pad, the art teacher style vest/collared shirt combos, and ALL THE EARRINGS. Think about how each of these people would have gone"Oooh, I'm gonna be on tv...what is my BEST outfit? How do I want my hair done? What will my makeup look like?" It's a great example of everyday Sunday-best fashion of the time on people that weren't celebrities.

This was a particularly good one for re-enactments and the story was NUTS. I wish I could figure out how to look it up. That guy was a con artist/psycho ex who had his former girlfriend shot when she was about to testify against him.

Sage advice AND my favorite review on the front page of Amason's customer reviews on the show
So! Talk to me, people-- what have you been watching lately? Do you have any non-guilty TV pleasures from a bygone age of channel surfing that have come back in recent years thanks to streaming services?

And don't forget to check out ALLLLLL the Unsolved Mysteries if you have Amazon Prime.

If you need me, I'll be watching the skies for unidentifiable light sources and unmarked helicopters. Have a great rest of your week! Talk again soon.

PS: Shout out to blog reader Jodi who I met at an estate sale this weekend-- thanks for saying hi! :)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Flashback Friday: My High School Bedroom, circa 2002

Good morning!!

How's tricks? I'm back super fast to show you some little mementos from the life of yours truly, thanks to a recent scouring of the attic for things to list on Craigslist (note: it looks like a freakin' bric-a-brac store up there, but I'm working on it!). Stuck in a retro-unto-itself Kodak development folder in a shoebox in the attic, I found these snaps from my high school bedroom circa 2002. Having enjoyed recently stumbling across this tumblr account called Me at 13-ish for the pure, unadulterated nostalgia of what the world was like twenty five ish years ago, I thought it might be fun to bask in the warm glow of what my one-room-sanctuary looked like shortly after the millenium.

Check it out:

1) Over/next to my bed:

We moved from the house I lived in as a child (and currently live in now) to a house about six miles away in 1998, and somehow, I ended up with this corner bedroom. Maybe my folks had figured I had the most stuff out of the four of us (probably still true). As you can see, I took to decorating it with a precocious vigor for wall-coverage that remains with me to this day.

Things of note in picture one:

Do you remember how INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT your high school stereo was? This was a Sony I received for Christmas one year. I remember being psyched about the digital display, remote control, cd player, and dual cassette deck, but bummed it only played a single cd at a time-- the bigger wheels in my high school social circles had three (or, imagine, FIVE) disc changers.

My dad built the payphone-display for this apricot colored rotary dial phone-- why was the particularly important in my high school bedroom? This was the ACTUAL PHONE I used for daily calls. My folks didn't switch from pulse to touch tone because it was something like a dollar more a phone bill, and we had pulse (the old clickclickclickclick, click, clickclickclick sounding tones) until they literally no longer offered pulse. So, following the same rationale, why would we need punch button phones? Occasionally we had phones with buttons (including the memorable birthday I received THIS bad boy), but mostly I had a series of rotary dial phones in my room growing up, including an office model like this one that had heavy buttons for me to switch to lines the unit wasn't connected to, haha. One of my favorite numbers to dial in high school was my friend Xingxia's, one, because she's hilarious and we were always making plans to do something fun when I called her, and two, because her number, if I recall, was 400-0009....the zero is the furthest number on the dial, and the nine the next furthest, so you would dial four, and it would wind, and then the five zeros and the nine would wiiiiiind and wiiiind and wiiiiind.

The records were four of my favorites at the time-- Next Years Model by Elvis Costello, Walls and Bridges by John Lennon, Heroes by Bowie, and Hard Rain by Bob Dylan. My folks got the record frames at Restoration Hardware out in Green Hills back when the store and the concept was new-- I think they cost something ridiculous like $20 apiece or I would have lobbied for an entire wall of them. They had little metal fasteners to keep the backing in place that would *ping!* violently out of place if you put them in the wrong corners-- I was continually accidentally placing them in the wrong corners.

The pictures along the top are X-acto knifed pages from a book I found at a library book sale called The Album Cover Art of Soundtracks -- I need to buy another copy of it.

The two posters were from Tennessee Antique Mall on Wedgewood-- I'd won a drawing for a $50 gift certificate and bought like a TRUNK full of things, including these reprints from two very good classic movies. "More CHEESE, Mr Christian?" and "I'm ALIVE! Maggie the cat is ALIVE!" I wonder if these are still somewhere in my attic today.

2) Near the door/across from the bed:

Things of note in picture two:

My granddad on my dad's side made this barrister bookshelf I think for my dad, with a glass door insert, from a schematic drawn up by my great uncle, based on a sketch he made of a piece he saw in a book. Talented folks! I had these books arranged by subject matter-- the left is all literature, and the right is all movie/music biographies. Pretty much still the only two categories of books I have in the house, still-- I'd like to point out that the right category informed the left category, as a lot of these were purchased because I liked the movie version of the book or because I read that David Bowie or Jim Morrison was inspired by/had read these books. Rock n roll and movies, in my case, were gateway drugs to great literature. Almost all of these came from Book Attic in Rivergate and Great Escape in Madison (long before McKays became part of my life!). A list of the books I remember/can make out by the covers:
Literature: John Rechy City of Night, Samuel Beckett Waiting for Godot, Anthony Burgess Clockwork Orange, Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains of the Day, William S Burroughs Last Words and Interzone, Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon, Shirley Jackson Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Robert Heinlein Stranger in a Strange Land, Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Henry Fielding Tom Jones, Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird, W Somerset Maugham The Moon and Sixpence, The Razor's Edge, William Goldman The Princess Bride, Beau Sia A Night in Shining Armor II: The Revenge, Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five, Richard Matheson Somewhere in Time, Bertolt Brecht Three Plays, Isak Dinesen Seven Gothic Tales, J.M. Barrie Peter Pan, Walter Tevis The Man Who Fell to Earth, Ray Bradbury I Sing The Body Electric, October Country, Martian Chronicles, Thomas Mann Death in Venice, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton, Thomas Hardy The Return of the Native, Jude the Obscure, Far From the Madding Crowd, Daphne du Maurier Rebecca, Isaac Asimov I, Robot Cholderos de Laclos Les Liasions Dangereuses, Tom Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities, Diary of Anne Frank, Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina, Thomas Harris Silence of the Lambs
 Biography: Albert Goldman The Lives of John Lennon, Philip Norman Sympathy for the Devil, Jerry Hopkins No One Here Gets Out Alive, Joan Baez poems, Anne Edwards Vivien Leigh, Lauren Bacall By Myself, Lana Turner Lana, John Lennon Remembers, The Playboy Interviews: John and Yoko, Pamela Kennealy Morrison Strange Days, Peter Brown The Love You Make:An Insider's Story of the Beatles, Frank Zappa The Real Frank Zappa Book, Jerry Hopkins Stardust: The David Bowie Story, Angela Bowie Backstage Passes: My Life With David Bowie, Gloria Swanson Swanson on Swanson, Pamela Bosworth Montgomery Clift, Philip Norman Shout! The Beatles in Their Time, John Green Dakota Days, John Kobler Damned in Paradise: The Life of John Barrymore, John Barrymore Confessions of an Actor, John Lennon Skywriting by Word of Mouth, Lou Reed Between Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics, Victor Bokris Warhol, Bette Davis The Lonely Life and This and That, Henry Fonda Fonda: My Life, Gene Tierney Self Portrait, Mary Pickford Sunshine and Shadow,  Gable, Valentino, Lillian Hellman An Unfinished Woman,
Note the Maxell 90 min mix tapes in front of the books-- I had SO MANY MIX CASSETTES in this late period of tapes.

Above that, a set of 1930s cannisters I bought at an antique store on the square in Lebanon in like probably 8th grade (I still don't know why I wanted them so much, but I remember they were $35 and it seemed like a FORTUNE to me at the time). The picture of Bette Davis in a standing frame has a mirror on the opposite side and came from the Goodletsville Antique Mall circa 2000. My sister made the ceramic face and the Aquarian Tarot were a gift from my parents from the Tennessee Antique Mall...I remember they were $20 and I was STUNNED that my folks had remembered i wanted them during a previous visit and gone back to get them-- they were great with presents but not so great with encouraging my interests in "old stuff". Note the square of records below (they skewed mostly Bowie/Beatles/Lou Reed at the time, but most were $4-$6 at the Madison Great Escape or Phonoluxe out on Nolensville Pk). Note the VHS of Backbeat (which I'd love to see again, but that cassette is long gone) and the large collage that took up an entire wall back behind the furniture. I spy with my little eye Tom Petty (RIP, I was ridiculously all the way into him after seeing him in concer in 2001 with Kelsey at Starwood [also RIP]), the Fleetwood Mac Rumours foldout from the album sleeve, Tom Waits, and Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

3) Across from my bed and the door, one corner of the room:

My dresser, completely crammed with tshirts, seventies' polyester dress shirts in the best garish patterns you could imagine, and Mudd flare jeans. On the dresser (my mom's, I think it's probably from the fifties' but she bought it when she and my dad set up housekeeping back in the 80s): a box with coasters in it that is currently on my coffeetable today, year of our Lord 2017...a figure of a Chinese boy holding a water jug that I think was a planter...a toy German Luger that was my dad's as a kid...a volume of the Time Life Old West book set, a bust of Beethoven, an early plastic baby doll from the 30's that was my grandma's and then my dad's, a wooden bird in a wooden bird cage, a container of blowing bubbles I think my first HS bf James Smith have me, a party decoration of a penguin with an Indian headdress added for flair, a terracotta frog from Old Time Pottery, an enamel milk jug with a pretty French seeming design on it, and a lamp shaped like a movie camera from back when there was a FANTASTIC thrift store across the street from Phonoluxe in the 00's (il n'existe plus). Note: I once dropped one of those dresser drawers on a copy of Scary Monsters on vinyl that I had opened, somehow not destroying the portable classroom record player my dad had scored for me from the school surplus warehouse, but creating a dent in it that rendered it unplayable on one side. :( I am the reason we can't have nice things. See the Man Who Fell to Earth promotional poster that came with a copy of the album I have-- I used to find so many amazing inserts and flyers and postcards and stickers in my albums. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly poster was NINETY NINE CENTS on clearance at Media Play, and I passed up a similar reprint of a Planet of the Apes poster to my eternal chagrin... I had seen every movie Clint Eastwood made up until this point due to an Eastwood kick and the oddly complete collection of his movies at Nashville Public Library on VHS. The "Someone Talked!" poster is a WWII poster I got on vacation to the Smithsonian in 1998. I still love the accusatory tone and the stark image. The John Lennon Imagine poster came with the record-- I wish I knew what I'd done with it. If you didn't notice the preponderance of Beatles/Lennon books on the bookshelf list, know that I had AN ABIDING PASSION for John Lennon circa 1996-1998-- to this day, I still could probably write a serviceable paper on his life and work from the dozens of books I read about my favorite Beatle at that time.

4) Closet, to the left of the dresser

Things of note in picture four:
Paul McCartney and Wings promotional poster from a record, David Bowie Space Oddity  poster from a record (I had like six copies of this album because they came with posters and back in the early 00's no one was collecting records and I think they were maybe four dollars apiece in great condition), Picasso Don Quixote sketch, and a Lemonheads poster. Confession: I never had the Lemonheads record, I just was obsessed with this photo of two gun toting kids walking down the road and eating a sandwich. This looks like an enormous closet but it was actually only normal sized-- the entire left hand side was taken up by part of the air conditioning unit. My dad built shelves around it and while there were another one billion paperbacks in this hidden storage, the only books I specifically remember being here were my collection of Stephen King paperbacks-- I'd read everything he'd written except The Dark Tower and Eyes of the Dragon by 8th grade (I still don't do fantasy). I ended up giving an entire paper grocery bag of these books to a girl named Emily Douglas in high school because she mentioned she was getting into Stephen King and I was trying to make room in my room for more books-- weirdly, I kind of miss having that complete a collection of books even though I hardly ever re-read things. I remember I kept all the short story collections (really my favorites of his, especially Skeleton Crew), Salem's Lot, and The Shining. Just in case. The clock above the closet is a replica of a Russian submarine clock my dad gave me for my birthday from Restoration Hardware. I feel like the 90s and 00s were better for realistic reproductions of vintage things people like us would like to collect. There's definitely a dearth of that out there now.

So ends this brief glimpse into my room! Here are two pictures of the girl who lived in it from around the same time period:

Two things I thought about looking at these photos-- one, isn't it weird that places you've lived in your life don't exist anymore? I mean, my parents still live in that house and the room itself exists, but that particular environment, which was SO important to me twenty years ago, just doesn't exist in its past form. I feel like I could easily draw an exact schematic of where I kept what and how everything was even WITHOUT the photos, so it seems strange that somewhere in the world that place has ceased to be a real place, and is only a memory. I think that must be how older people feel about the 1950's farm they grew up on or how downtown looked when you went shopping in 1970 or what their office job looked like in 1985. Not that it's a new feeling, it's just weird to get to an age where you're aware of that BEING A THING at all. Two, I wonder how different memories like that will be for Remy, as they'll probably have three dimensional graphic renderings of photographs or something similarly futuristic by the time he's old enough to be a teenager who wants to document the sacred sanctuary of his bedroom. He probably won't need a memory of his past because he'll be able to mindfeed back to the memory in artificial reality or something. It's interesting to think about!

Well, I have to get going, but let's talk! Do you have photos or vivid memories of your teenage bedroom? Have photos taken you back to a specific period in your life anytime lately? I'd love to hear from you.

Have a great weekend, be back soon! Til then.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...