Thursday, August 27, 2015

Craiglist Forever (Wheelin' and Dealin' at She Was a Bird)

Good morning!!

Man oh man, it's opposites day here at She Was a Bird...instead of telling you all about the vintage stuff I've been BUYING (and there's still been a steady stream of that, we'll get to some new finds next week), how about a story about selling? That's right, I should never say never, because I have spent years saying it was too much trouble to clear out my attic/utility room/closet/every available square space of my house to make room for new collections-- well, let me tell you, I've been cleaning out and rehoming some stuff, and it feels GRAND.

Wanna hear all about it?

Don't worry, I'm still buying things, as you can see from this photo, taken in the wild from last weekend. :)

A couple weeks ago, I went up into the attic to look for a box of Hawaiian dresses in preparation for a tiki-appropriate dress code for a social event (like you do). On top of a pile of boxes was a bar cart I'd picked up at a yard sale and had been meaning to do something to that a trunk that I was going to clean up...across from a man sized ziplock bag (not sure why they make them in this size, it's so enabling for us clothes hoarders) of vintage coats and dresses. "How did all this accumulate?" I asked myself, before doing another spot check of my person for spiders and switching off the naked bulb that illuminated the space. Over the entire den in my house is a wooden floorboard attic, and every square inch of it was full of S-T-U-F-F stuff. I definitely couldn't tell what was in a lot of it by my seemingly purposefully cryptic labels in magic marker ("DRESSES S/M/L ALL TO KEEP VINTAGE" is less helpful than you'd think it would be when there are fourteen identical boxes labelled the same), and seeing as it is hotter than the hubs of Hades up there at any point the sun is out, I've taken to planning my attic assault by taking a box or two down, going through it, and sorting it in the good old fashioned way: keep, toss, donate, sell. That last category is where things have gotten interesting in the last few weeks.

Can you spot the children's piano, crate of Life magazines, 1960's endtable, picnic basket, 1950's suitcase, and bright orange traincase in this photo? I can but I wish I couldn't!
Much like my steadfast conviction, five or six years ago, that there was nothing at the flea market except as-seen-on-tv junk and homemade soaps and other non-antiques (how mistaken could I be!), I was equally prejudiced and equally wrongheaded about selling things on Craigslist. I don't know where this preconception came from, but before starting to sell things, I was positive that there was zero market for the kinds of non-furniture vintage smalls I've been sitting on for weeks, months, years and I might as well give the stuff to Goodwill instead of trying to hawk it on the internet. Doesn't everyone on Craigslist buy like used cars, outboard motors, big pieces of contemporary furniture, or surplus renovation materials? I know I've found a piece of vintage furniture or two on the site, but when it came to a lot of the kind of stuff I like (small, less than 100 years old, cheap), I can remember seeing the same two lamps or the same 1950's piggy bank sit on the site for what seems like years without finding a happy home.

When I mentioned downsizing, lots of my friends suggested eBay or Etsy, but I've heard my share of horror stories with regard to buyers not reading the condition info, turning up their noses at non-mint-condition items, saying they never got an item, etc, etc. With working full time, I don't exactly have a lot of time, energy, or patience to make online selling a successful habit, so I thought, heck, I'll put some stuff up on Craigslist and see what happens.

To get straight to the point, what happened was, I made A BOATLOAD of money.

Take exhibit A:

Shown in the ad with and without window dressing, haha...I just borrowed things from my in-use bar cart to feather out the image a little.
This, the aforementioned bar cart from the attic, was slung over a stack of boxes. I was using one of the glass plates to protect my Silvertone radio console/nightstand in my bedroom from getting scratched up, the other plate was behind said radio, and this frame was hanging out in the attic. It was really the impetus behind this whole selling thing, because what a CLASSY piece of merchandise to be being treated like an old shoe. I found a piece of plexiglass at an estate sale for a dollar to replace in service of the Silvertone, windexed the heck out of the thing, and put it on Craigslist with an asking price of $100. This seemed steep to me, as I'd paid only $10 for it at a yard sale on my street, but as other carts were selling for as much if not more on the Nashville site, I added the necessary "hollywood regency", "mad men", "vintage retro" word tags to my listing and crossed my fingers. Keep in mind the only work I'd put into it whatever was the windex treatment-- no spray paint, no refurbishing, nada.

Within an hour, I had three emails asking about the cart-- not even to check it out or give it a looksee, but offering cash money in hand for it at my soonest convenience! You could have knocked me over with a feather. Telephone arrangements were made, we met at a public place in Inglewood, and I was $90 richer. Who would have thought?! Anybody but me, I'm sure.

Since then, I've been listing things left and right as I can from the attic and the second bedroom/office in my house. As I've been telling people who've been buying the stuff, it's all GREAT stuff, I just don't have room for it anymore-- and that's the God's truth. The goal, ultimately, is to get that room completely cleaned out in the next year to house our future progeny (though I did point out to Matthew that technically any room a baby lives in is "the baby's room"...even if that room is full of 1960's house decorating manuals and stacks of new wave singles on 45s). In order to keep the things I like, I think 90% of the stuff in the attic has got to gooooo. And especially areas of collecting where I have WAY. TOO. MANY. of a certain thing.

Case in point? Hats. Oh, Lord, the number of hats I have bought in my lifetime.

"But Lisa, you love hats!" And as I'm sure I've mentioned a dozen times or so on this blog and hundreds of times in the real world-- I love hats, hats don't love me! My rule for the last ten years or so as been if it's less than $10 and it's stylin', buy now ask questions later. This left me with, oh, right around 60 some odd hats floating around, forty plus of which do not fit my oversized head. I went all Kon Mari and piled them in a chair in the living room, and started taking pictures at the kitchen table (with the help of this wig mannequin I bought at a Michael Taylor sale a while back...I knew it would come in handy eventually!). I put them up on Craigslist and waited...and waited...and waited. Nothing. My initial success with the bar cart had left me primed for disappointment, I guess.

But then....

About two weeks into the post, I got an email from a  super nice girl representing a group in a small town in west Tennessee. They're doing a WWII themed homecoming this year, and needed clothes and hats and sundries to wear and to decorate store windows in the town square as if it were 1945. Would you believe, they drove all the way up to Nashville to buy almost all the hats I'd displayed and a bag of purses, to boot! I couldn't believe it. En plus, the woman who bought the hats forwarded my supplementary flickr folder of items for sale to another person in the group who bought two boxes of further stuff I hadn't even listed on CL yet. SUCCESSSS......

Other things I've sold so far:

  • Mid century pole lamp (bought at 75% off sale from the last post with the china, got home, realized I had nowhere to put it, sold it at great profit to someone who loves it = win/win)
  • 25 vintage dresses, one 1970's yellow tuxedo jacket [miss you til I join was too big for Matthew :'( ]
  • Two vintage radios (don't worry, I still have like 10 more to make a keep/sell decision on)
  • Two barcarts (the second is on the right here...the barware and jackelope decanter stay with me, though!!)
  • A Butterprint Pyrex dish (which I only sold in order to keep myself from trying to collect more...I need another collection like I need another hole in my head...)
  • 40 something hats
It doesn't sound like a lot, but oh my gosh, it feels like a lot. So here's a fond adieu to some of the stuff I've already sold, and boy, am I looking forward to the stuff I'm going to sell/donate in the future. It's been great actually seeing some of the things I'd had squirreled away for years and years UNDER all these things I'm ready to get rid of, so there's a silver lining to it other than the monetary reward or re-selling! I feel way less like the people on Hoarders when I can, with great discernment and personal dignity, tell Matthew that I AM keeping the Mexican embroidered tourist jacket in that plastic bag, but that he may take these three seventies' maxidresses "that never fit quite right but I was going to do something with them" to Goodwill (after I've noted them down on a piece of paper for our itemized tax deduction...props to Goodwill for updating their site so you can keep track of these things online after you donate!). With the caveat of "quick, quick, put them in the car before I change my mind!" following swiftly on the heels of that statement, but hey...progress is progress. :)

How about you? Been on any massive clean-out binges lately? Have you ever sold or bought things on Craigslist? How did the experience treat you? Any tips for beginners? Let's talk!

That's all for today but I'll be back next week with some things I bought (you didn't think I'd done a COMPLETE 180 from collecting...never!). Until then, happy hunting! Talk to you next time.

PS: Not long after posting this, I was going through estate sale listings for this weekend and saw this-- it's the same cart! $200! #nowidontfeelsobad #mustabeenapopularbrand.  -Lisa

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Peter Terris Shenango China (1950's)

Good morning!!

Did you think I'd up and quit on you? No chance, no chance. Not while there's still breath in my body and tons of vintage stuff to discuss...and today, there's both! :) I was telling my friend Eartha Kitsch the other day that in spite of not having blogged for a few months, I still constantly get a pang of, "Hey! That would make a great blog idea!", and isn't it just about time that I heed the tugging of my vintage writing heartstrings and tell you the good news about Peter Terris Shenango china. 

Hold your hats, kids, there's some INSANE deal-getting going down in this post. And not a little midcentury marvelousness! Let's talk brass tacks.

Proof of life...I should be holding up a newspaper with today's date on it...

For anyone just tuning in, my parents and I have gotten into the swing of hitting estate sales pretty much every...single....weekend in the last couple of years. Hey, everybody's gotta have a hobby! And truth be told, I'm happy to have accomplices in crime-- we usually have a good time even if we don't find anything. Of a regular week, Matthew works Saturday morning into the early afternoon, so this girl reporter is free to roam the 615 in search of vintage paydirt and get home with just enough time to clean everything up and present it to the man of the house. ("Look, bebe, I got this...and this...and this was only freakin' $5...and I probably shouldn't have bought this for $15 but I wanted it..." [Matthew, examining the umpteenth vintage swing coat to join my closet] "Well, that looks EXTREMELY Babbish..." #hesanenabler #maisjelaimecommeça). So two weekends ago was no different than any other, my mom and dad and I were tooling around West Meade in search of the third phase, third day sale that was going on at the piquantly named "Gun Club Road". The house, when found, was gorgeous....the house, when found, was also still P-A-C-K-E-D to the rafters. Score! The race was on.

Marking on a Peter Terris Shenango set
Saturday, as opposed to Thursday or Friday, is an interesting day to make a "day" of sales, because whereas you might have missed the McCoy planter or Eames knockoff that got snatched up on the first day, what you will FIND are items that were too high on the first and second day of the sales, and are now on the chopping block for criminally low prices. Best case scenario, you can find something that was fairly priced on the first day, a pretty good bargain on the second day, and a no brainer on the third and final day of the sale. I was a victim of "75% off everything panic" upon entering the house, which is how, in spite of a new age of austerity in vintage buying, I ended up with a pole lamp, a framed fan photo of Gregory Peck, two 1940's frames, four 60's peignoir sets, a bunch of various and sundry smalls, and an extensive set of Peter Terris china for about $40, "But I thought you said you were done buying china," a close reader of She Was a Bird might remind its authoress. Guess I was wrong! Couldn't pass it up. $7 was the total cost expended cost on the two boxes of paper packed china . Remind me to tell you about the rest of it later, but for now, here's a picture of the service altogether, and the best part is-- that's only HALF. I have a mint condition setting for eight! Eight plates, saucers, tea cups, bread and butter plates, and a gravy boat.  I don't even know if my table, leaf added , will seat that many people-- but if it does, I'm prepared!

The whole megillah...weirdly enough, the gravy boat is just a bowl permanently affixed to a saucer in one piece. I scared Matthew by turning it upside down the other day without explaining it was a single piece of china, haha. Poor bub.

This pattern is called "Calico Leaves". How do I know that? I popped "Peter Terris Shenango", "Peter Terris Shenango midcentury", and "Peter Terris Shenango leaves" into an Etsy and Ebay search and scrolled through the for sale and sold results until I could find items that matched, trawling for any history or additional info I could. It never ceases to amaze me how 99% of post 1920's things I've bought are somewhere posted on the internet somehow, no matter how weird-- this was an easy one, but I've found bi-zarre things I would have thought were rare as hen's teeth or at least a little unusual being sold thither and yon on the world wide web...usually for a higher price than I paid for it, comfortingly, but the fact that it's out there is crazy! Mass production in the midcentury means most things we drool over at the flea market and estate sales were produced in numbers you couldn't imagine back in the day... which is good news when one passes up a crazy cool thing. Odds are, you'll find it again (though not always at the price you wanted to pay for it, haha).

I's the plate in detail:

I love the colors.

While the pattern is pretty enough, what drew me to these plates more than other midcentury sets I've passed on (other than the price), was how heavy these plates are. The thin, fine (and oh-so-breakable) 1930's and 40's china I'd been collecting at thrift stores and estate sales are about a fourth the weight of the Shenango plates. I decided then and there to go out of the shabby chic china business and embrace the "dare you to drop it" (but seriously, please don't try to drop it) thickness of the new plates. Side note: if you're looking for some bargain shabby chic china in Nashville, GIRL, I have got you covered on Craigslist (see link here). I kept one set of gorgeous handpainted plates/cups/etc, but listed all my others to make room for four of everything for everyday use, and four of everything for replacement/dinner parties. We're moving up in the world, cabinets!!

Teacup and saucer design
And why are the dishes so heavy duty? Because turns out, the Shenango china company happens to specialize in restaurant ware!  Ah HA. The Peter Terris line was their attempt in the mid 50's to capitalize on suburban consumer culture...what if you made dishes as cute as they were contemporary, and as HARDY as commercial grade cafeteria plates? You can see some of the ads for the line from 1956 issues of Life below. Nota bene: while $12.95 sounds like a deal, that actually works out to $113 and some change in modern money. Historical inflation data, as always, bowls me over. Actually, mine probably consists of two 16 piece sets (as said, I have 8 of everything and a gravy boat)...that's $226! Which is $219 more than I paid for it. YES.

I saw a few sites mention 1957 as the year Peter Terris was discontinued, and that makes sense, as these 1956 ads were the only thing to pop up on the usually generously populated midcentury Google books archive. And why, I wonder! Information is scant outside of listings for sale and this master's thesis (!!) on Shenango in general from a student at Kent State University. Thank goodness for the latter! Page 104 brings up the info we want-- Peter Terris was a less expensive option than Shenango's expensive Epicure line (the author describes the Terris line as "thinner"...can you imagine!) and, as said above, was marketed at housewives for its sturdiness and practicality. I will gladly have this marketed at me in spite of being employed and it being the year 2015. By the time Shenango changed ownership in the early sixties', the Epicure and Terris lines had both been abandoned in favor of a focus on the commercial restaurant ware that made the company's name in the industry.

I couldn't find many other "atomic" or "midcentury" looking Shenango patterns online except this one, the "Charpinx" pattern, which is for sale for $48 on Ebay as we speak! Not bad, and honestly a little cuter than mine (sssshhh, don't tell my plates I said that). Here's the link and a picture:


Anyway, I have to get back to work, but I missed you guys! What in heck have you been up to? Have you seen any of these pieces in the wild, or do you have a dish or a set at home from the Peter Terris line? What kind of vintage china do you favor, if you do? I will once again make fervent promises to get back here before too long-- especially to tell you about my exploits on Craigslist as a seller rather than a buyer for the first time! But again, we'll get to it, soon. :)

Take care!! Talk to you later!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio Program Celebrities, 1950s-1980s)

Hello out there!

Sorry for the extended radio silence! As was foretold in my initial job swap post a couple months ago, I knew that in my new boulot I would have less and less time for putting together a daily blog, but good GOSH I had no idea how little. At my present job, I'm in charge of the French Canadian materials (working with titles entirely in French), and while I knew the language wouldn't be an impediment, I didn't knnnnoooowww about the cataloging. Lord above, I did not know about the cataloging. I've been committing Library of Congress numbers to memory like I was actually in an MLS program. Except without a teacher. Or a textbook. I appreciate you, Internet, like I never thought I would before (shout out to my best friend, Class Web). While I'm excited to be using library skills and slinging books and stackin' bills, I have miiiiiiissed talking to you all. So I thought I would try to pop in on a more usual basis with more of the vintage ephemera and ephemeron (apparently, like candelabra and candelabrum, I've been using that wrong lo these many years), because ain't I just bustin' with things to tell you.

Liiiiiike....Desert Island Discs.

Like this, only with more excitement. J/k: exactly this exciting.

A lot of the work is assessing titles for readership or trying to decide what goes where and to whom in terms of academic libraries, but when you get into a particular run of a series or of a type of book, you can kind of put your mind on autopilot as you methodically enter the same numbers and information for consistency across titles. This means lots of time for things that are aurally but not visually stimulating. I listened to scads of old scary radio drama and audiobooks and TV5 French radio streaming before I found that the BBC offers mp3 downloads or even streaming of their programmes. I'm not a huge anglophile, but the BBC has been doing radio longer and better than we have (excluding a golden age in America's 1930's and 40's) pretty much since its inception. Programs on history, well produced and researched, abound.

While I was nosing around looking for something slightly more my speed than the royals, I ran headlong into a programme called Desert Island Discs, created in 1942 and subsequently helmed for decades by broadcaster Roy Plomley. As everyone o'erseas probably already knows, it visits the familiar concept of "what you would take with you on a desert island" by confining a celebrity interviewee to eight records, one book besides the Bible and Shakespeare, and one comfort item. In between, the interviewer chats with the subject about their career and life, sometimes unearthing pretty candid and interesting facts. I made a master list of ones to which I'd like to listen (and with 500 + to choose from, it's a good starter list if you ask me) which I'll post at the end of this blog, but why not walk with me through some of the celebrities I took time to listen to this week? 99% guaranteed you'll like it (or your money back)! Click through the hyperlinks to listen along as I point out some highlights.


Where else could I start but with one of the most famous names I recognized on the list, America's boy next door Jimmy Stewart. What's so interesting about listening to James Stewart in interviews is that he sounds exactly the Frank like you thought he would sound-- warm, boyish, slightly reserved, folksy, endearing, His musical tastes run almost exactly to what you'd think they would, too, littered with big band favorites and WWII themes. 

About the 20 minute mark, you get a doozy of a song selection, "Rollin' On", a tie-in single from the western Cheyenne Social Club. Costar, fellow movie great, and lifelong best friend Henry Fonda takes the duet and recreates some of his screen dialogue...and though, even between the two of them, they are painfully bad singers, you can't help but think it's sweet he would include such a GODAWFUL record in the seven platters he gets to take onshore with him so he could remember how much fun he had making a movie with his friend.

Seven, you say? I thought they got to take eight discs, you might be thinking to yourself. I'll clear that up now by explaining Stewart chose a single song as number 4 AND 5 ...two of his eight "Don't Cry Joe (Let Her Go, Let Her Go, Let Her Go)" by the Gordon Jenkins Orchestra. Bless his Irish heart, I want to make sure I have a maudlin break up song to listen to not once but twice in the eight song canon I'm able to take with me. "I just love the tune, and I find myself hummin' it every once in awhile."

Do you forget sometimes James Stewart made four Hitchcock pictures? Count 'em, Rope, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Rear Window, tying Cary Grant (also four) for the most male leads in Hitch's suspense plays. Stewart clears up the interviewers assertion that Hitchcock once said, "All actors are cattle" with the correction, "No, he said 'All actors should be treated as cattle.' " Better? Ehhh, not really. But next time I get to be an auteur, I'll question auteur theory, right? Right.

J-stew ends the interview by saying that he a) could probably rig up shelter, b) wouldn't mind fishing, and c) would wait to be rescued. Bravo, Jimmy! I wish we had another broadcast to spend together.

Book: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (resourceful!)
Luxury: Family photo album (awwwwww)
Single disc: "Dream" by the Pied Pipers. (he left behind two copies of "Don't Cry Joe"! Wonders never cease).

Act like you didn't know Louis Armstrong, the old Satchelmouth himself, wouldn't be one of the most interesting interview subjects on the show. Raised in New Orleans' famous redlight district, Storyville, the celebratory shooting of his father's pistol on  New Year's Eve landed him in reform school, where he found his true love, the trumpet, in the waifs' school band. And it just got more and more colorful from there, as far as I can tell-- listening to Buddy Bolden's band down at Funky Butt Hall (could I make this up? No) and rising to prominence in orchestras for King Olivier and Fletcher Henderson before striking out on his own with his "Hot Five". AND SO HOT did they play folks...if you want real New Orleans jazz, the mainline drug is 1930's era Louis Armstrong.

Primed to listen to a great interview, I wondered how the people in England in 1968 could even understand what he was saying throughout most of the experience. Between his word choice, the gravelly tone of his voice, and Louisiana elisions, it would definitely prove a challenge to a non-American ear. To me, he sounds 110% like my grandaddy on my mother's side, a Nashville native with vocabulary bank that held more words-for-things-you-would-have-to-figure-out-was-a-word-for-a-thing than anyone I have probably ever met. And charm, Lord. I kept sitting up with genuine delight to the way Louis, like my grandaddy, would turn a phrase so strangely yet so descriptively, you couldn't help but wish everyone talked like that. Best line, in describing co-star Barbra Streisand's performance on the soundtrack to "Hello Dolly":
Here's Madame Streisand here...she singin' up a brilliant...look like she tryin' to outsing everybody this year...just left a big sequence in her movie..Hello Dolly, where she and I walk arm and arm singin' Helllooooo's gonna hang you when you hear it. But right now, she don't have that record, so let's put "People" on, she sing it too
You're gonna like it so much you're gonna die, sure, but go ahead and conjure up this tarot card next time you listen to "Hello Dolly", hahaha.

Actual best part of the interview-- most of the records he's going to take with him are his own. HIS OWN, PEOPLE. And for a book, about my own book? "It's good to pat yourself on the shoulder ever' once an' a while." We should pretty much all be like Satch.

Book: His own autobiography
Luxury: Trumpet
Single disc: Blueberry Hill by Louis Armstrong and his All Stars

(everybody else's answers go home, Louis just won)

Confession: I am c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y obsessed with James Mason right now. So, so irritatingly -to-others interested in his movies and his life, after happening across a collection of interviews he did in the seventies' on Youtube. My poor friends and family have been hearing nothing but individual critiques of his entire film career for the last three weeks, with no end in sight (at 154 screen credits, I'd wager I've seen 30 of those in the aforementioned time period). When I get on a tear, I get on a tear. But imagine my surprise when I was going through the list and saw Mason sat in Plomley's chair three years before his death in 1984...still sharp as a tack and eloquent as the day is long. It's interesting to hear someone actually erudite use language like a fine-tuned instrument. In my adult life, there's nothing that gets under my skin worse than someone using vocabulary poorly in an attempt to look more intelligent and failing parlously by dint of that misuse. Betting that whoever they're speaking with doesn't have even as rudimentary of a grasp on the word "phantasmagoric" or "chiaroscuro", as they do, they blunder on, writing out "agnostic" when they meant "ambivalent", "gesticulate" when they meant "gestured". If you're even a little unsure of how to use that word in a sentence, ask someone who does, GOOGLE IT, or please, PLEASE STRIKE IT FROM USE. There's an egghead somewhere who will thank you. [end public service announcement]

To that end, I can't lie, I've been jotting down turns-of-phrase by Mason that are curious but correct. See if you can spot the hidden gems in this extract:
Yes, well you mentioned brung up the subject of bag pipes [chuckles] ...which bewitch me. I might just remind you that this was played with tremendous effect at Winston Churchill's funeral, do you remember? And they came out of St. Paul's and into the march again and piped up "My Home" and it was just...shattering. This is the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
Answer: "which bewitch me" and "to tremendous effect" said with perfect ease, in that GORgeous voice. Daffy about this actor right now. I've been writing down things all week to tell you about, so I'll be back with that another time, but for now, his choices-- boring, boring, more boring. Except that Billie Holiday and Nabokov, I can't say I'd agree with any of these, but... stillcallmeJamesMasonIdidntmeanwhatIsaid. :)

Book: Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
Luxury: Guitar
Single disc: My Man by Billie Holiday

As for me? If I had half a chance to go on this show I'd take it, though I'm not sure what I'd talk about career wise ("I had a CRAZY book about Mesopotamian medicine the other boil a lizard and then grind it up with a papyrus describing your sickness, and its spirit runs down to cure you!"
--> true), but I have my discs lined up (or at least a working list). Note: lots of these songs do not appear on the record in my pictogram. Also note: don't care.

  • "When You Rock and Roll with Me" David Bowie
  • "Heart and Soul" Huey Lewis and the News
  • "Jezebel" Charles Aznavour
  • "The Man That Got Away" Judy Garland
  • "One for My Baby and One More for the Road" Frank Sinatra 
  • "Sisters of the Moon" Fleetwood Mac
  • "Loving Cup" Rolling Stones
  • "It's Been a Good Year for the Roses" George Jones
Book: A Pictorial History of the Talkies by Daniel Blum. You're allowed Shakespeare and the Bible, so I can read those, and look at/remember my movies.
Luxury Item: Typewriter and paper. Not to be pretentious, but because I would need it work without electricity.
Single disc: Uuuuughhh....probably "The Man That Got Away". But I am already dissatisfied with only eight songs.

And here's your list, if you can make out my handwriting-- had every intention of typing it; not going to type it.

Well! I gotta get, but let me know what you think about these star choices and my own. What would yours be? Which of the celebrities are you the most excited to check out? Have you heard any audio-only, spoken word type things I need to know about lately? Let's taaaaalk.

Hope to see you again much sooner than the last time! Take care! 'Til then.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Suzanne Lipschutz and Secondhand Rose: Vintage Wallpaper Collector Extraordinaire

Good morning!

How are you? Man, am I pumped to get out to the flea market this weekend-- I've been through a relative dry spell lately with estate sales and the like, and come Saturday, am I ready to get down and dirty with a box full of clothes someone pulled out of a barn or basement or attic in search of hidden treasures! Bring onnnn the 1940's dresses. :) As I countdown the hours until tomorrow morning, however, how about you and I both take a leisurely look at the life's work of my new favorite person, Suzanne Lipschutz? Have you heard the good word? If not, I hope you'll be glad you did by the end of this post!!

Lipschutz in her soon to be former apartment . The lamp at left  is actually taking a year off my life.
I was skimming through the (always extraordinary) New York Times Home and Life section when I was struck by the headline "A Vintage Life in the Chelsea Hotel". The Chelsea Hotel has been a subject of fascination for me since being a Factory-obsessed Warholite in high school (one of my personal style icons, Edie Sedgwick, once managed to fall asleep smoking and start a fire in her apartment that evacuated the building and gutted the unit; the Nico theme song and movie of the same title, Chelsea Girls, refers to the same), so between that and the arresting image of the woman above (who is seventy one, somehow, by the way) in her rococo apartment, I had to read on! Suzanne Lipschutz is in the process of moving from this apartment in the Chelsea as the post-Stanley Bard era of the building (see this documentary for a good background on what the hotel's history is like and the situation with the changing of the old guard), and while she's sad to pull up stakes, she's looking forward to improvements in her new apartment and a fresh canvas to decorate in her own impeccable eccentric taste. Take a look at this room and tell me it doesn't leave you just a little breathless:

Note to self: pink ceiling and chartreuse drapes, please, thanks.

How do you get a room like this? You stay at something you're already good at for OVER FIFTY YEARS. At twenty one, Lipschutz and her partner Jeff Joerger opened the first incarnation of her world-famous Secondhand Rose store, which later specialized as a rare source of period wallpaper, with, as the NYT article says, "a busted Tiffany magnolia lamp she found in a junkie’s apartment and 19th-century furniture harvested from the street". My little heart skipped a beat somewhere in between reading about celebrity clients like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and learning that her wallpaper is in movies like The Untouchables (here's Sean Connery getting massac'red in front of it) and Silence of the Lambs. Oh, and her apartment looks like something out of an Edward Gorey fever dream I had.....?! I now have hearts for eyes and all I can see are these beautiful textures and patterns and pieces and scraps. This is the closest to actually being a Victorian crazy quilt a room can get.

Nick Sweeney did a segment on Suzanne Lipschutz for NOWNESS in 2012....and if it was an au courant moment in that year, I can't say it's any less fascinating to look at in 2015. Can you imagine Woody Allen walking into your kooky antiques store in the 1970's and ordering an apartment's worth of 1930's wallpaper? Understand Lipschutz owns this space with just hundreds upon hundreds UPON HUNDREDS of rolls of antique and vintage wallpaper-- all gleaned simply by being in the right place at the right time with that keen, keen eye for fabulousness-- wouldn't you have loved to be a pretty, smart blonde on the Left Bank in the seventies' who'd just found a cache of Wiener werkstatte style wallpaper rolls in an old vendors's dusty flea market offerings? Again, I wish I were her.

How my heart just sings out for this grape wallpaper:

SL describes the wallpaper below  as being throughout Woody Allen's apartment. I tried like all hell to find a photo of his apartment before he moved in the early 2000's, but need to take a trip down to the library to dig up the Archictectural Digest he did in the seventies' and sate my curiosity. Note: the colors and geometric patterns of these florals are enough to knock you eye out. Gorgeous.

Look at her perfect gel nailpolish while describing this wallpaper embedded with actual predeceased butterflies...wwwwwoooowwww....

But the fun only starts with these little tips and tidbits from the internet. The grand motherlode comes from the Cooper-Hewitt design museum's archive. Cooper-Hewitt is pretty amazing in and of itself, housed in a Victorian mansion built by and lived in by rail magnate and historic philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the museum just went through a several million dollar renovation to put it on the cutting age of 21st century curation (see this New Yorker article for more information). Lipschutz donated a substantial number of sample swatches from her wallpaper archive in 1991...and OH. MY. GOODNESS. Get ready to flip your honest to God wig.

What kind of wallpaper theme do you favor? How travel?

"Artie, get some footage of this! Seriously! You're not gonna wanna miss this!"
Planet earth is blue, and there's nothing I can do....


Weird, abstract sports collage! I can't say I don't like it!

Yerrrrrrr OUT!

Off to the races...

How art deco! I vote all you pupsters as best in show.

Landscape (underwater and otherwise) ?

"My bones denounce the buckboard bounce/And the cactus hurts my toes..."

This one is actually my favorite out of all of them. While it would look best in a bathroom with tons of mirrors, I'd prefer to put this on every available surface in any current or future home.



Isn't it interesting how NARRATIVE this particular panel is? Check out the mesa in the background.

Being a teenager in 1947 was way cooler than being a teenage in 1997, let me tell YOU.

A dance under the stars (les estrellas)!

(classic cowboy instrumental here)
These just look like houses I could live in!



This last swatch interested me the most....seeing as....wait a MINUTE, I HAVE something in this pattern!

Bonjour, Paris!!!!

Nick and Nora apparently took a heavy dose of "inspiration" from this wallpaper panel and used them in their pajamas. I'm not home to take a snap of the ones in my bureau, but here's the link on ebay and some photos of the same model:

I guess that's within their legal rights, but honestly I was scandalized!!!! At least I know my "it looks retro" pattern radar was fully calibrated and ready to detect such duplications!

I have to scoot, but what do you think? Are a magpie collector, or a wallpaper enthusiast? What's the best surreally super swatch you've seen out on your travels? Have you heard of Suzanne Lipschutz? Could she BE cooler? What's your latest stylespiration? Let's discuss! Make sure you check out Secondhand Rose on Facebook, Pinterest, and the world wide web, you'll be glad you did!

Got to get back to work, but have a FABULOUS weekend, keep your fingers crossed for me at the flea, and hopefully I'll have a boatful of goodies to share with you next week! Til then. :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Franchot Tone and Barbara Payton and Tom Neal (Hollywood Scandal, 1951)

Good morning!

How's every little thing? I was telling my friend Eartha the other day that I had two or three blog entries I'd started and not even attempted to finish due to a debilitating bout of inertia, but didn't just saying it outloud shame me into taking action on these poor, neglected posts? So, I thought I'd take a minute or two off from catching up on my Turner Classic Movies watchlist and handwringing over various housework projects that need attention (both of which can wait), and share with you a scintillatingly scandalous bit of salaciousness I was researching the other day. Or at least I found it so! I hope you do, too.

People, Barbara Payton and Franchot Tone-- Franchot Tone and Barbara Payton, my people.

Points gained for the hat, points lost for the inebriated 500 yard stare each are giving the photographer.
I was working on a little side project I've been toying with lately about vintage Hollywood scandals when a brief cotton wisp of a thought about Franchot Tone blew by while I was brainstorming incidents in the lives of ye olde classic Hollywood celebrities. Wasn't there something in his biography about a brawl over a young starlet when he was well into his middle age that put him in the hospital? Sketchy with my recollection on that (so many Hollywood Babylon type stories under the bridge), I turned to Wikipedia as an aide-memoire, which obligingly offered up the following:
In 1951, Tone's relationship with actress Barbara Payton made headlines when he suffered numerous facial injuries and fell into a coma for 18 hours following a fistfight with actor Tom Neal, a rival for Payton's attention.
Yeeeeah, that was about the long and short of it! As I tried to find Google results, I leaned on my new favorite source for contemporary accounts of historical events, which is Google Newspapers. Yea bo, can you dig up some old school dirt with the help of that search engine. But let's start at the beginning. How should you know who Franchot Tone is? Here's a little background on the fellow at the center of this 1951 media storm:
  • Stanislaus Pascal Franchot Tone (you can't make this up) was born in 1905 in New York state. His father, Frank Tone, was a wealthy industrialist/inventor who headed up the Carborundum Company in Niagara Falls.
  • Tone enjoyed some success on Broadway and in New York theater circles before heading west to work in the movies, first with Paramount and then MGM.
  • After signing with MGM, he was slated to appear in the WWI movie Today We Live with Gary Cooper. William Faulkner (yes, that William Faulkner) was working on a screenplay adaptation of his short story, "Turnabout", for the film when Louis B. Mayer requested that they put Joan Crawford on the picture in order to use her in an already-in-progress project. Only problem? There were no female parts in the original short story. "Well, put her in as a nurse or something," LB not-so-subtly suggested, and so the men-at-war movie became a men-at-war-trying-to-get-the-same-girl movie.
  • Donald Spoto (celebrity biographer and one of the very best), opens the section of the book discussing this movie in his excellent Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford, like so:
    • "Today We Live must be ranked not only as the low point in the career of Joan Crawford but also as one of those most dreadful movies ever made."
  • Um, and that's, we're to assume, not only Trog and Berserk, in Joan's own filmography, but all other movies in the history of movies. Harsh but not exactly inaccurate?
  • So,the movie was terrible, Joan Crawford should not be required to do an English accent for any amount of time... but in good news, Tone and Crawford hit it off at once, begin dating, and marry in 1935.
Love that face, love those accessories.
For you vintage cinephiles and fellow Hollywood gossip mongerers out there, Franchot Tone is actually at the center of Joan/Bette feud theory. If you remember your camp canon correctly, you'll know that there may have or may not have been a long going for real/not for real/possibly for publicity/but possibly not for publicity tension between two of the greatest 1930's/1940's film stars, immortalized in the first and best entry in either's mid career foray into horror, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Tensions during that filming ran high, but were even worse when the film was successful and a semi-sequel, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte went into production. Joan dropped out a few weeks in due to "fatigue" and was replaced by Davis bosom buddy Olivia de Havilland, starting a media frenzy as to whether or not the two towering personalities had clashed as much on the set as they did on camera. However, according to The Divine Feud and a host of other separate biographies, the Crawford/Davis rancor actually dates back to 1935, when Bette Davis won an Academy Award, but not her co-star's off screen affections, in Dangerous

Better luck next time, Bette.
Joan and Franchot divorced in 1939 but remained lifelong friends...Bette never did get her chance with her co star crush. Tone continued appearing in movies through the thirties' and forties', but as the vogue for Manhattanite roués waned, so did his star power. He's best known for, other than the Crawford and Davis movies, Mutiny On The Bounty, as third billed under the theatrical powerhouse, Charles Laughton, and MGM megastar (and former Joan paramour) Clark Gable. He married a striking blonde actress named Jean Wallace in 1941, but they divorced in 1950, leaving the still-extremely-wealth Tone single and looking-- which is when he fell for the much younger Barbara Payton.

In the movies, Franchot Tone seems to inhabit the same sort of urbane, debonair, wry and slightly patrician man-about-town character from film to film-- someone who would take you to a Park Avenue party and a rally for theater workers unions on the same night in the same tuxedo, before some inelegant mix up involving a runaway heiress or an errant Broadway producer. From the Crawford biographies, you get the sense that he was much the same person in real life...which is why hearing about him being involved in some lurid love triangle that landed him in the hospital is kind of surprising! But don't take my word for it-- I've clipped some news articles from the time and present them here in semi-chronological order so you can see just how wild both the situation and the news reporting that followed got over the course of a few months in 1951.

Exhibit A: 

I love....and I mean I much like a present day news article on DailyMail or People magazine this sounds. Before TMZ or even Entertainment Tonight, you could flip to the celebrity section of your local newspaper (this one, for example, is a syndicated column appearing in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune) and read as much D-I-R-T dirt as you would in our modern age. Hollywood reporters kept on this story for weeks! As you can see in the article, what appears to have happened: Tone takes a swing at Tom Neal, Neal swings back but HARD, and Tone ends up in the hospital.

Barbara Payton was a new name to me-- she was model turned actress discovered in 1950 by William Cagney and chosen to appear in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye alongside his lookalike brother, movie legend James Cagney. That role lead to other good-to-middling parts at Warner Brothers in the next year, including the love interest in the okay-ish western Only The Valiant (1951), with my boyfriend Gregory Peck:

Hi ya, Handsome!
Payton got involved with Tom Neal, an ex-boxer and B movie tough most famous for Detour (1945), around the same time as she met Franchot Tone. So what do you do, drop Mr. Great Body for Mr. Sophisticated Financial Security? Why would you, when you could just juggle either back and forth? Newspaper clipping-wise, Payton first shows up in Franchot's public life grâce à his divorce proceedings from his second wife. Please read the second column closely. Outloud, if you've got friends or coworkers around, and TELL ME the fifties' weren't about as gossip-hungry a public as we are today:

"Corky". As Gordon Ramsay would say, "Wow, wowowowowow." For Payton's part, the blonde authored an almost incomprehensible memoir in 1963, piquantly titled I Am Not Ashamed, which described the dichotomy between her two lovers like so:

It's... pretty much as badly written as that throughout, so I'll skip ahead a little and explain that it was, according to Payton, Tone's idea to get everyone together to "talk this over in a civilized fashion", which quickly devolved into boozy quarrel, with Neal questioning the age gap between Tone and Payton, and Tone referring to Neal as an "out of work body builder". Fightin' words, son. And yet, it was Tone who threw the first punch...and probably lived to regret it I would say. 

More contemporary newspaper clippings:

The end of the first column should say after a champagne reception something about them going to Duluth.
You get the idea.
I love how Tom Neal throughout is like, "Ok. So?" when asked for comment from the media. Also, as opposed to the bland "off the wire" type sound of a lot of present day celebrity gossip reports, I think it's great how first-person a lot of these accounts sound. Like there's some newspaper man in a slouch hat running down the hallway at the hospital to use the phone. "Here, just take this down as I say it,...'Dateline, Hollywood...' " You can see in the fifties' how the iron-fist control of the studios with regard to publicity begins to break down...Warners had already spent an exorbitant amount of money on building up a celebrity profile for Barbara Payton, so it really is surprising that something like this was splashed across newspapers countrywide. If this happened in the thirties', when Tone's star was on the ascendant at MGM, guaran-TEE he would have gone "out of the country" to "rest" after this while some Swiss plastic surgeon worked his miracles on the man's mangled mug. Also, can you imagine getting in a fight with your girlfriend's boyfriend that is bad enough you end up in the hospital? Maybe I naturally spurn trouble whenever possible, but I think after my nose was broken in four places by my significant other's OTHER significant other, I would be moving on to greener, calmer pastures in the romance department. But I digress.

I think a lot of alcohol was probably also factoring into this equation, because how else can you account for headlines like this?

I'm pretty sure they teach you in Northeastern blue blood charm schools that spitting in a lady's face is ne-e-e-e-ver acceptable. Did you catch that she was a witness in a murder trial as well in that second column? Again, wouldn't this make a crazy movie??

By November, things between the movie actor and the starlet had soured, and the barrage of bad press continues on into the spring of 1952, when the brief marriage began to fizzle but seriously. Read it for yourself! Sooooo much drama.

Throughout the rest of the decade, Franchot nursed his broken heart and face, working onstage and in television as he could, but never recapturing any of his clout in Hollywood. Payton and Neal continued to insist they were getting married, touring in a stage production of The Postman Always Rings Twice to capitalize on their notorious press presence, but broke up for good in 1954. Did either of them go softly into that dark night, though? An emphatic no. Once a troubled star, always a troubled star. Here's an article about Tom Neal from 1965...he was eventually convicted of manslaughter in the case of his wife's death, and served six years in prison before being released and dying of a heart attack in 1971. 

For Barbara's part, she descended into heavy alcoholism, arrested in California for passing bad checks and prostitution. She died in 1968, as, Wikipedia puts it, still holding to:
a childlike belief in her Hollywood stardom, which in her mind had never faded. She was unable to acknowledge that her once-promising career had crashed and burned, never to be resurrected.
I mean, how is this not at least an episode of Mysteries and Scandals? Right click this image for a larger version of this final clipping on Payton:

Well, I have to get going, but tell me what you think if you get a chance. Can you even BELIEVE the drama in these newspaper articles? Are you surprised at seeing early 1950's gossip described so frankly in a newspaper anyone could pick up and read? While I knew people were doing things like this in the fifties', it's pretty wild to be reading about it in contemporary accounts! Have you seen any Franchot Tone movies? Are you not shocked that he would be involved in all this? Let's discuss!!

More vintage stuff around the corner, cross my heart! I hope we get to talk again soon. Take care, til then!


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