Monday, November 28, 2011

Long Time No See!


I haven't given up on my blog, dear readers, I'm just stretched a little thin with the holidays and work and trying to get Bab moved into our now common living arrangements (our now EXTRAORDINARY living arrangements, in the other sense of the word... do you have any idea how many vintage video games/ video game systems I've inherited by dint of this move? Offhand, I would say, A LOT). So I thought I would catch you guys up with a catch all post about my comings and goings in the last month or so.

1) Brushes with Fame and Celebrity:


Item A: I freakin won this Pan Am bag from the Vanity Fair giveaway? I'd completely forgotten about entering the online drawing, up to and including the afternoon a huge cardboard box was sitting on my back patio. Fuming under the impression that Bab had probably ordered something video game related, rare (expensive) or collectible (expensive) or from Japan (expensive) or all three (VERY EXPENSIVE), I looked at the shipping address and STILL didn't remember I'd entered the giveaway. Inside the box? One large, promotional Pan Am reproduction flight bag, MSRP $89!! How do I know that? I looked at the contest rules. Where I was also apprised of the fact that ONLY TWENTY FIVE WERE GIVEN AWAY. Now, granted, other magazines, tv stations, and newspapers probably had their own contests and gave away hundreds more, but of the VF entrants, only twenty four other people won! Bab snapped this raccoon eyed photo of my (obviously candid, totally not staged) reaction.


Item B: I met Raja from Rupaul's Drag Race at a Vanderbilt University Lamda Association drag show? For free? And almost actually died from being so star struck? My hair deflated at some point in the evening but it might have been out of sheer joy. Also, Raja's performance, using Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' "Oooh La La" DID have me humming it for days. To the girls who made me realize walking in heels is an art to be embraced even IF you're already a six footer in your stocking'd feet... I salute you. My ankles hate you, but my shoe sense has improved immeasurably.

Item C: Songs taken on this month in karaoke, in addition to the regular "Total Eclipse"/"Oh What a Night"/"Don't You Forget About Me" standing repertoire:
  • "Cryin'" Aerosmith (decided mid song that Steven Tyler doesn't pathologically worry about sounding like Steven Tyler while singing, he just does...and nails it. I did likewise. )
  • "Bad" Michael Jackson (who knew?! Who knew I could sing this?! Plus any/all Michael Jackson selections bring a bar to a palpable group sentiment of "Hey! We like Michael Jackson!" that does 60% of the work for you)
  • "I Found Someone" Cher (with all the lips-licking passion I could muster for a weekday, in a gay bar, with only five other people present... totally fun)
  • "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" The Gap Band (why does the end of this song ["I,I,I...I won't forget it!"] go on for like forty minutes? Why Do I love it so?)
  • "Dance the Night Away" Van Halen (my new theme song [don't tell anyone. Or tell everyone]).

Photographic evidence: One flattering, with friends... two unflattering, and solo, but definitely putting across my complete willingness to throw myself into the business of singing. Also, who shoots from below?! I guess just about anyone would have to use a step ladder to shoot me from above , but if that's what it takes to get a good shot of me doing what I like to do best, I might be willing to provide one! Note our best friend Joe at corner right, and the lovely engaged Frankie and Eddie standing center. Wonderful people.



2) Things I made

Item A:
Practically carb free pizza sounds like a myth, but I assure you, ladies and gents, it is REAL:


It was ridiculously easy to make, and.... great! The cauliflower crust, when combined with the cheese, sauce, and Canadian Bacon/Turkey Pepperoni/sliced olives toppings, was totally tasty. Makes no sense. To be reunited with pizza-like dishes, without the guilt of carbfest 2011... Try it!

Item B:

Scarlett O'Hara cocktails... off the charts, son! My new take on "how to make whiskey not taste like whiskey even when you're out of diet Coke". This guy is basically 2 parts whiskey (preferably Southern Comfort, but any really) to 3 parts lemon juice, splash of grenadine for color and kick, and fill with diet Tonic water. The cherries garnish and cute glasses just made me happy for the presentation portion of the drink (very important!) There are more complicated, probably better tasting cocktail recipes out there sharing the same name, but this one, swiped from an old bartending flyer I've since misplaced somewhere on flickr, did the trick. Plus, could I love the name more?


Well, I was going to continue on into things I bought and things I wore, but I think I'll save it for a part two post. In the near future, I promise! :)

Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. See ya next time!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rita, Rita, Rita (1946)


Have I told you, lately, how much I love Rita Hayworth?

This issue boasts one of my favorite covers-- wartime Miss H sipping a malted, wearing what appears to be a dirndl, hair perfectly permanented, lips pursed just so... what is not to pine after in this picture? Isn't she just within spitting distance of perfection?


This article, from the week of January 18, 1943, follows the burgeoning Columbia starlet through a studio-mandated day of modeling and photographer's set-hopping in preparation for her role in Cover Girl (my favorite iteration of the popular title, though this is my second favorite). Six years into her onscreen career, and still three away from the iconic title role in Gilda, Rita's introduced in the first lines of the accompanying copy as being an inch wider in the hips than most real photographer's models. I googled her stats just to check: 36.5-C-24-36. I think the idea in drawing attention to her dimensions is more to get people to scrutinize that pretty-near-flawless property than an attempt to denigrate self-same. So let's.


Look. At. The BATWING. BOWS. On those slingbacks. LORD, LORD. Call the fashion ambulance, my heart can't take these palpitations of egregious envy. I kept looking at the photos in this spread as a "Where's Waldo" for these knock out pumps.

Here, Rita sits in with other models from the Conover Agency, each "chosen by a national magazine to play its cover girl in The Cover Girl." (if you've seen the musical, there's a scene in which each girl appears lifesize on a magazine cover next to her own walking, real-life counterpart... if you haven't, isn't the internet grand?) I'm particularly attached to the model name "Helen Outlaw". Sounds so Thunder Road to me for some reason. How ordinary the girls look out from under the lights and angles that conjure up print ad alchemy! Makes you feel like an average Jill like you or me could fit right in! Just don't make me sit next to Rita. ((pause)) Nah, I'm kidding, set me next to Rita. I'll glow by proxy!

Though this looks a lot like a un-shirted Frank Capra is manhandling Rita Hayworth for no good reason, the caption is helpful in explaining Not-Actually-Frank-Capra's intent: "A model gets very hot posing in a fur coat so she strips to the waist as far as she decently can." Phew! I thought we were going to have to defend Rita's virtue, there.


I remember season one or two of America's Next Top Model, back when I was looney tunes about America's Next Top Model (ne jugez pas, it's one of the best reality competition shows! [whether or not that's an oxymoron is not up for debate at the moment]), one challenge involved modeling catalog clothes. The lovely, stork legged girls suited up for the photo shoot, and realized none of the clothes were anywhere near the double-goose-egg sizes they were accustomed to wearing. Paulina Porzikova, 80's supermodel and Ric Ocasek spouse (top marks in both, ma'am!), explained that often, catalog clothes provided for shoots aren't made in the teeny tiny sizes a model would need to strike that ocelet-sleek silhouette, so ya gotta improvise. In the photo, baby Rita demonstrates this very modeling principle with a pinned dress to pull in to her tiny figure.

Here, Rita demonstrates how a 40's model would pose for 1940's Harper's Bazaar-- one bare shoulder and swaddled in a satin and diamond affair that would set a gal in those days back $145. I wonder how much $145 is in today's money? "What cost $145 in 1943 would cost $1807.68 in 2010" aaaand....thank you, Inflation Calculator. I hope 2010 is accurate enough for our purposes here.


Below, Rita poses for a pulp magazine, while not-Capra models her probably-dead-magazine-husband's legs and reads a (possibly also pulp) magazine. His torso will eventually be cropped from the photo, the caption assures us. "Models have to be tied up, or gagged, or thrown into closets, or dressed to look as if they have been or are about to be outraged," it continues. She does look the picture of an outraged female, does she not?


At long last, Rita ends her day as a model at the famous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where some of her clotheshorsing cohorts do stretching exercises to keep their figures svelte for the workaday week. "Oh boy, am I worn out!" intones Rita sweetly, as she declines to take part in the activities. Look at the sweet expression on her face! And the continued presence of the shoes still makes me weep tears of small-feet-envy. Do you see how most of the girls still have heels on, in spite of being in mid-exercise? I guess in the days of Ginger Rogers tap-dancing in pumps, anything's possible.

Jonesin' for the Hayworth look? I scouted a little on the internet for a fantasy get-up, and here, when paired with some amazing hat I have yet to find, are the results:

Shoes here, Coat here, pattern poached here. Let's go imitate, girls!! It IS the sincerest form of flattery.

PS: Did you know the black Jean Louis dress Hayworth wears in Gilda has its own Wikipedia page? You do now!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Desperately Seeking Susan Jacket/Blazer (of my dreams) + Halloween


Halloween? You go hard... or you go home. We did not go home. Well, we did go home, after we went hard. You get the idea. It's not a night to be taken lightly!

My usually dizzying level of holiday spirit was dampened somewhat by an overindulgent Friday night of partying, which caused me to spend most of Saturday-day in a state of skin crawling hungovered-ness, thinking that my spirit was possibly leaving my body. That's about as spooky as it gets. I shamefacedly scraped myself together for a party on Saturday, expecting to making excuses and scramble back home after a token effort, but didn't we have the nicest time! I almost felt guilty, as Lord knows, after the night I'd had before, I did not at all deserve to have a good night.

You know how it is when someone you know invites you to someone-you-don't-know's get-together, and you're concerned you might be an unwelcome interloper? Most of the party goers and the host and hostess themselves were friends of friends, but I honestly haven't been to a party with more open group of strangers, oh, ever? Great Halloween-appropriate, to-the-hilt decorations, costumes, homemade chili and hors d'oeurves, and just a great bunch of funny, nice people. It's great to be surprised, you know? Plus there was a photo booth manned by that highly gifted paladin of Polaroid himself, Chad McClarnon (see more of his stuff HERE), who had done a promotional video a few months earlier that used one of Bab's bands' songs in it. Talent meets talent! Can you tell how vain I am by the almost palpable sense of excitement I got over having my photo professionally, Polaroidically taken? See above. Bab's pose is better, but I'm just glad my lipstick was mostly straight. :)

These poorer quality, but figure flattering photos were taken on the aforementioned Friday night, pre-outing. In a fit of DIY mania, and after a lucky score of a Saks 5th Ave 80's blazer that just dared me to try, I decided I would fulfill my decade-long dream of recreating Madonna's blazer from Desperately Seeking Susan. I saved a few pictures from the web, sketched out the design, and numbered off the things I would need from Joann's, specifically:
  1. Many, MANY glue sticks
  2. Gold lame fabric
  3. Red Fabric
  4. Gold Braid
  5. Black ribbon
  6. Black Fabric Pen

A return trip to Goodwill yielded one of the ugliest, fourth-grade-school-teacher-from-the-early-90s XXL blouse. Were there epaulets? There were epaulets. Were the buttons these strange, quarter sized affairs with eagles on them? They were (don't worry, they ARE to be repurposed, sometime, somehow). Gaping shirt pocket? Gaping shirt pocket. In terms of design, this shirt was a dud. But the fabric was ve-e-e-e-ry close to my ideal! And at $2.15 (orange tag, half off), I couldn't help but snag it. I covered the lapels and cuffs in this material, and honestly, before I put the pyramid on the back, it's a jacket I would wear out! (Who am I kidding, WITH the pyramid, I would still wear it out). The 80's corset and lace shirt are from Southern Thrift and Goodwill, respectively ($4.29 and $3.99, but I figure I'll wear them again, right? Like this weekend?). All the necklaces were just ones I would wear anyway from various estate sales, but with an eye toward Madonna-appropriateness. At the last minute, I found a tiny, old brass crucifix in the back of a drawer, from some long ago sale. Perfection!

The case I carried for my purse is meant to mimic the kick drum case Madonna/Susan uses in the movie as a suitcase. Hers was overflowing with neon crinoline kickskirts and tribal jewelry... mine included tamer elements such as my wallet, keys, and a VHS copy of the movie (for the nonbelievers in my dedication to movie-quality detail). I spraypainted an old hat box (usually I don't like repurposing my vintage stuff too hard, but I'd almost given it to Goodwill SEVERAL times, and just decided it might be more useful to me in its second life as a skull case) and freehanded the skull design in silver Sharpie. Initially, this was supposed to be a guide by which to mask-out the sections I wanted black before I spray painted it with a white coat, but it turned out so well, I just went with the silver. See the original bag to the right. Pas mal, hein?

Bab's Elvis costume (of which there is plenty of "in the making" footage, and little-to-no "in the finished costume" pictures, boooooo) was born out of a second fit of manic energy after finishing the Madonna jacket in mid-September. "What mountain can't I climb?!" proclaimed the crafter long dormant in me, and I thought about costumes for my man. Last year, he was Little Nemo (which was essentially him getting to wear his vintage pajamas and bathrobe in lieu of a costume), the year before we were out on a gig in a Tunica casino and uncostumed (don't throw me in the briar patch), and the year before that he was a particularly impressive Beethoven (the hair makes him a natural for this). I started thinking about black-haired celebrities as untapped resources for costume inspiration, and thought.... ELVIS. YES, ELVIS! WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF ELVIS?!

Using the photo at right as a guide, I went out and bought large gold sequins, small gold sequins, red sequins, blue sequins, and even more glue sticks (I still can't sew. I admit it). Then I used the carboard from some empty Big K boxes to eyeball an eagle outline (I wanted to make sure the eagle on the front and the eagle on the back were the same size, and to have a basic guide to lay the sequins) and trace it along the back of woman's white button up jacket ($4, Goodwill, half off yellow tag) with just the right collar. Then I started to glue sequins.

And glue sequins.
And glue sequins.

When I had Bab try on the finished product, I was amazed at how it actually looked like a knock-off Nudie (I didn't know until I just googled the suit's provenance that the actual designer was George Doucette. To you, your due, sir!). What a lot of determination and sequins can do!

Last but not least, on actual Halloween this Monday, the two of us watched at least 75% of Stephen King's It ("We all float down here, Geooorgie" still creeps me out pretty bad, honestly) and ate these delicious double decker skull cookies (recipe from this blog, via Craftzine, my new favorite go-to website). No trick-or-treaters! Not even one! :( Well, more cookies for us. And Pennywise.

Anyway, hope your Halloween was a blast! I've seen some OFF THE CHART do-it-yourself costumes on other people's blogs (Nabby's at This Old Life as Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Amber at I Heart Everything as Jabba the Hut [complete with Princess Leia accessory/date!] particularly come to mind... that's the spirit, girls!!). Did you costume up or down? Spill, spill!

Til next time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Possession Obsession (or...Andy Warhol Collects!)


On a lark the other day, during my desk shift and as part of the relentless pursuit of doldrums-distractions that takes up a third of my day, I looked up words that interested me in the catalog for subject matches. This, along with the "customers who bought this also bought" on Amazon, is one of the ways I nose out overlooked books with which I might just need to fill my silly head. The subject "Zelda Fitzgerald" brought the usual returns, no new material to sift through there. "Vintage" turned up a book or two I put on order, one about Trader Vic's and another about a model turned secondhand clothing store entrepreneur. One of my favorite search terms, "Warhol", however, came up with a book I'd never heard of. How! How after a years-long obsession with the Factory and Warholiana (which is obviously what I'm going to name my first girl child) had I missed Possession Obsession?

The companion print piece to a 2002 Andy Warhol museum exhibition, Possession Obsession wasn't as heavy on catalog and pictures as I might have liked, but as I delved into the text, I was VERY interested in the subject of one of the 20th century's most recognizable artists also being a first-rate pop culture collector. And by collector, I don't mean dilletante-ish dabbler in fine arts and ceramics. While his collection certainly contained top notch examples of very fine items, what's surprising is the scope and varied content of his interests. Before celebrity collectors like Quentin Tarantino were snapping up grindhouse movie posters and tv-tie in board games, Warhol, with comparable zeal, bought Bakelite 30's and 40's bracelets like "penny candy", according to one contemporary article.

Aaaaand cookie jars? One installation at the AWM exhibit boasted more than A HUNDRED 1940's and 50's cookie jars, only the tip of the "Andy's Stuff" iceberg. The dining room of his three story brownstone in New York, pictured in the book as it was shortly after his death, is filled to the gills, Hoarders style, with unopened boxes of vintage chalkware, stacked on French Art Deco tables, chest high. A man after my own heart! Or a cautionary tale of what would happen if anyone ever gave me obscene amounts of money to do with what I liked.

Photobucket Photobucket

Above, I found an early 70's article from New York magazine detailing some of Warhol's collecting habits. A typically piquant quote from the article (click for a full sized image), straight from the horse's mouth, is with regard to a Emile Jacques Ruhlman table and chairs:

This elegant dining set is, according to Warhol, "used furniture. It was stuff we used for a movie we were making in Paris a couple years ago. Now we use it as a conference table and for the lunches we bring in every day [...] We eat here out of paper boxes with people like Bertolucci and Sylvia Miles and big producers like Grimaldi."

This probably has as much to do with Warhol's ever-vigilant eye on his public image as it has any connection with truth. I mean, I'm sure he does have lunch with Bertolucci at that table, but the "it's just an old table to me, I'm not the type to appreciate an object's worth" ruse is not sticking. Later, Warhol proclaims, "I always haggle over prices and never pay promptly," which the profile writer quickly counters with "Actually, he never dickers and he pays up immediately." The gulf between how one wants to be perceived as doing, and how one does, is especially wide with him-- presenting himself as a full trademarked, brand named celebrity in the pre-digital age, capable of self-promotion on a level I don't think the art world has seen before or since, it makes you wonder, what could he have done with a Twitter feed and a Youtube account? Doesn't it?

As you can see from some of the items from the Soethby's catalog (above), Warhol's major collecting habits included:
  • the aforementioned Art Deco period (unpopular amongst fellow scavengers at the time, Warhol loved the geometric design aesthetic of the movement and scooped up many examples for the scrap salvage price)
  • American Empire furniture
  • early American folk art (of the weathervane and hand-carved figure varieties that make auction house appraisers' collective jaws drop on Antiques Roadshow)
  • Native American pottery, rugs, and blankets, and of course
  • Kitsch collectibles (that weren't particularly collectible at the time-- Fiestaware, Hall china, Hull pottery, wind up toys, etc)
As far as numbers? From a 1988 NYT article: "During an obsessive shopping spree that lasted several decades, Warhol acquired 175 cookie jars, 313 watches, 57 Navajo blankets, 210 Bakelite bracelets, 1,659 pieces of Russel Wright pottery and 170 chairs." Top that, killer!

Is it a little crazy that the collector in me goes "Now THAT'S a collection!" not "What would a reasonable person need with 170 chairs"?

A group of art world academics examine the collection in a series of essays, peppered with reminisces of shopping trips by acquaintances, that make up the real heart of the book. One of the key lamentations of my fellow Pop Art eggheads is the dissolution of the collection at auction after Warhol's death in 1987. One likened it to scattering the contents of King Tut's tomb to the four winds-- without the unifying context of being an objected loved, purchased, and displayed by Andy Warhol, many of the items are returned to the commonplace. In another article from the early nineties', one collectibles dealer wailed that after the Warhol auction, the astronomical prices fetched by relatively pedestrian examples of his famous cookie jars (in one case, north of $40,000 for a lot of FOUR items) had driven up the market. The mix of the mundane and the extraordinary is what makes the collection so human-- but in that instance, you KNOW the buyer was looking for "four cookie jars owned by Warhol", not the mass-produced jars themselves.

One essayist, calling Warhol less a collector than an arranger-of-particular-items, quotes Helen Appleton Read on the subject of "the ensemblier": "The ensemblier is not the interior decorator, but an artist or designer who designs a room or interior with materials he commands."

Can I have that done in needlepoint and hung above my couch? I mean, seriously?

The items below weren't owned by Andy Warhol, but represent pieces by designers he collected. Consider it a gallery of "in the style of Andy Warhol collecting".

Your crib sheet for designers (and further research on this GORGEOUS style, if you like):
  • Jean E. Puriforcat
  • Archibald Knox
  • Jean Dunand
  • Pierre Legrain
  • Emile-Jacques Ruhlman
  • Carlo Bugatti
  • Joseph Hoffman
I knew nothing about these designers and now I'm more than a little in love. If only the items were still at bargain basement prices, as when Warhol found them in the 60's!!

Anyway, I was just bedazzled by the idea of someone like Warhol collecting with the same fish-eyed, lovestruck sense of consumer consumption as the rest of us-- the 'if you like it, get two!" school of thought writ large. Check out the book or the articles for more info, or, if you're an aspiring Warhol neophyte, may I suggest Bockris's top notch biography, The Andy Warhol Diaries, Jean Stein's Edie and Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up by Bob Colacello. IN-DISPENSIBLE.

And because I can't help myself:

Have a great Tuesday!!


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