Friday, January 27, 2012

Joan Crawford Entertains (Photoplay, 1936)


Having some people over for dinner tonight, and what should to my wondering eyes appear in the course of my morning's Photoplay perusal than an article called "Joan Crawford Entertains"? My Joanie? Entertaining?! Like me...?!!?!

Where I think this article had more to do with drumming up publicity for her forthcoming MGM picture, No More Ladies with frequent co-star Robert Montgomery and real-life husband Franchot Tone, it's fun to see our Joan hovering over a beautifully set table in anticipation of her glittering guests. See her cockeyed oversized bow tie AND carnation corsage? I like the look of it.

And what did she (purportedly) serve, you may ask?
  • Fruit appetizer-- "served in a tall stemmed glass, very cold".
  • Almond soup
  • Roast squab-- " the ideal meat for a nice dinner". I hate to say I was ignorant of what, exactly, "squab" was, besides some type of poultry dish I'd read about Robin Hood sorts in medieval times eating, but it turns out the term refers to domestic pigeon meat. And no wonder I was unaware of its provenance!

[How could you, Joanie? Look at his face. This will come back to haunt you in the movie scene I've excerpted to the know which one I'm talking about.]
  • Wild rice
  • Salad (mixture of endive, watercress, lettuce, French dressing and mandarin oranges)
  • Crepes suzette for dessert.
Not a bad spread, if you ask me! Here are the original pages (click for a larger image) if you're interested in the recipes (or are a pigeon murderer). Note the sidebar appearance of my beloved Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland at the end of the article in gym attire, just before the release of Captain Blood (which catapulted both to stardom).

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Me, I'm sticking with Daisy King's Gracious Entertaining, Southern Style. Working in a library has about a million perks for the bibliophile, one of which is the well nigh constant discovery of books that just happen to cross the desk and catch one's eye. I have the worst time choosing ONE cookbook when the opportunity to entertain presents itself, and I gave up on the Betty Crocker Hostess's Cookbook, in spite of its charming cover and illustrations, when it suggested that I serve a weird, essential pork and beans dish as the main course for last minute guests (really, the nerve of some people! Miss Crocker, where exactly do you get off on this one?). Luckily for me, Miss Daisy's book has a cracked spine and when I opened it to repair it, sure, I was a little tickled by the insanely late 80s/early 90s photo illustrations, but the recipes and menu suggestions are rock solid. I'll have to tell you how the dinner goes after I serve it tonight!

To see more celebrity cookery, and a whopping 28 entries featuring Joan, I recommend Jenny's Silver Screen Suppers, complete with commentary and reviews on many of the culinary outings of our favorite stars.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

She Was a Bird on Facebook

Did you know...My Pretty Baby Cried She Was a Bird has its very own Facebook page? You didn't?! Well, here's a sneak peek, fiends and fans:


I've spent long enough inundating both intimates and acquaintances' newsfeeds with links to estate sale pictures, Craigslist oddities, 1950's hairstyles I'd like to try, vintage toy payphones (see above), Lucite jewelry, and the like. I'm funneling all that charisma and sassafras into this very blog's Facebook presence from now on! It's YOUR turn to benefit from the daily jumble of vintage links I like to scatter across the world's social media network of choice. PLUS, talk about a much more real-time opportunity to trade tips and quips with other like-mind retrophiles... I'm just sayin'... it could be a lot of fun.

The password is...."FUN"....

Get those keyboards a tip-typin' over to the MPBCSB Facebook page (also featured in the banner to the right of this post) and click the "like" button.

Let's be friends!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kool's Willie the Penguin (1936)

While stalking my vintage celebrity prey through several old digitized issues of 1936 Photoplay, combing columns for mention of Joan and Franchot Tone, I noticed a recurring figure in the back page advertisements of the magazine. Again and again, a chainsmoking penguin appeared, in an eye pleasing combination of electric aqua and grey-scale, hawking cigarettes for the benefit of your health. While I no way am trying to convince you to quit or to pick up smoking, and am as neutral as Switzerland on the subject, I ask you to withhold your 21st century wagging finger for a moment to enjoy the madcap adventures of the self same penguin.


Ladies and gentlemen, meet Willie the Penguin.

Introduced by Kool's Cigarettes in 1932, Willie was the brand mascot for that company up until the early 1960's, when he was replaced by "Kool" outdoor scenes like snow mountain tops (where's the fun in that?). His child's toy appearance, coupled with the cigarette butt sticking out of the corner of his mouth and his anthropomorphic predilection towards human recreation, endeared him to the hearts of magazine and billboard readers across the United States and the world. Above, he's a Stage Door Johnny in his top hat and natural-born tails. Willie's full of style! Also notable from the excised advertising copy that accompanied the illustration on the original page, the advertisers exhort the reader to "Have the time of your smoking life!" which is somehow hilarious to me.

More about Willie and cork-tipped mentholated cigarettes of days gone by:


Why a penguin, who regularly sleds belly-first in his native environment, would require a sled to go sledding is beyond me, excepting that fact that without the sled, we wouldn't have the immortal ad line "Smooth sleddin' for your throat". To the right, he smokes even while playing hockey. He's eschewed the use of the traditional faceplate, protesting that he can't properly light up behind it. Do not judge him!

It's cigarette Chriiiistmas... Willie! Take that cigarette out of that poor snowman's mouth! He doesn't even have lungs?! What are you doing? I think proselytizing other non-human creatures to the gospel of Kools is the only way Willie can connect with the outside world. And at left, what better way to trim the tree than with a carton of your best smokes (back when they were like 10 cents a pack, natch)?


Willie takes up a side job from his Kools endorsement deal-- peddling "Smoking Days" newspapers. He believes in his message of menthol THAT much. "Extra what? Extra good for your throat!" is the byline. And even in the shower, the smoking continues: "Ever tried Kools? It's a good time to-- and a good time, too!"


Isn't it funny, from today's perspective, how even a little kid's toy penguin can look vaguely sinister or at least brash with a cigarette sticking out of his mouth? The pictures remind me of a thirties' or fifties' John Goodman character (depending on if you're thinking more Barton Fink or more Matinee, respectively), stogie stuck firmly in side-of-mouth. Sidenote: There's a real movie poster for the fictional movie-within-a-movie, Mant?! That is killer.


I love that his flippers are strong enough to hoist a mallet, and that he wears a belted one piece swimming suit when on the beach. The flippers are attached.


Look at his tiny dog companion! "Many people in North America do not realize that the dachshund is the consummate small hunting dog of Europe", reads this website, and I'm one of them. I thought maybe they just chose that dog because he was cute, but apparently, dachshunds are vicious attack dogs when properly trained. You learn something every day! For example, never trust a penguin not to eat poultry (see above right). Cannibalism! Cannibalism!

Last but not least, Willie indulges in yet another favorite pasttime, photography. Why is that tiny penguin also smoking?! I hope she's a small woman penguin, and not a child smoker. Stunts yer growth, kiddo!


Anyway, hope you got a giggle out of the world's best and only professional smoking penguin. Willie was also popular as an advertising collectible-- he and his mate, Millie, appear in several ads in the 40's and 50's (the ones above are presumably from his single days) and as a pair of ubiquitous to flea-market salt shakers!

Matthew bought me the pair above off etsy. There are more, but these are mine!!

Read more about Willie's history here!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gold Seal Linoleum (1955)

Reading advertisements in old Life magazines from the fifties' reminds me a lot of the back-page Highlights for Children magazine feature called "Hidden Pictures". I love these old Gold Seal Linoleum advertisements from 1955... not just for the gorgeous floors they're meant to sell, but all the little touches that keep me squinting at the fine print. Sure, the curtains, the line of the sofa arms, the wall hangings may seem mundanely modern to fifties' readers, but aren't they just EXTRAORDINARY to us poor millennials? Take a gander at some midcentury magnificence:


One, you had me at the model name: "Sequin". How did you know I would LOVE to have a thousand flecks of color scattered beneath my feet!
Do you spy:
  • The living room set in a pale turquoise-y cornflower for the chairs, and pale red for the couch?
  • Gold tea set?
  • Orange brocade pinch pleat drapes?
  • Freestanding shelf-room divider?
  • Tripod base lamp?
I especially like the color choice in throw pillows. Get it!


Here, the "Jackstraw" kitchen. Do you spy:
  • Eames wire chair esque dining room chairs?
  • Gold and black laquer tea tray with copper wok?
  • Gold dome light fixture?
  • Gold wall hanging sized clock?

Note the prevalence of redheaded models in these illustrations. Would titan hair help my chances at a linoleum dream room?

"Square Dance"... with controlled shading!!
Do you spy:
  • Red hair pin leg table with black stripe seated, practically backless chairs?
  • Built in goldenrod couch?
  • Pale blue TOTALLY MAXED OUT ON PLEATS drapes?
  • Built in make-up table, the mirror of which appears to fold down into a workspace?
  • Blue vinyl top countertops which perfectly match aforementioned drapes?
  • A small blonde child? (I totally missed her the first time!!)
"Fashion Floor"...apt enough!
Do you spy:
  • Mamie pink and grey tile in chevron pattern BE STILL MY HEART.
  • Pink and grey day bed with fish appliques!
  • Built in magazine rack?
  • Black and white paper fish lantern!
  • The fact that this apparently teenage girl is linoleum tiling her own room? I wish I were half this handy. Maybe after the jealousy subsides, I will try and be so handy!

How about this commercial scene? This could be a luncheonette of some kind... I sure wish they still had these downtown. How much classier would I feel spending my lunch hour among other young professionals ALSO having a soup and sandwich in cutesy surroundings? The modern bistro just doesn't cut it for me. Do you spy:
  • Yellow and grey flecks in the grey tile?
  • Mint green bar/ cafeteria set up/luncheon server? (Reminds me of this song title)
  • Yellow formica outdoor set with curlicue ice cream parlor chairs?
  • Green awning with white trim?

The real look of a woven rug with clever linoleum work! Junior, you do not deserve such a put-together work environment, I am pea green. Do you spy:
  • A box record player?
  • The captain's chair at Junior's desk?
  • The director's chair at stage left?
  • Scattered multi-78 albums? (see, told you he didn't deserve such a nice place to do homework! Litter bug!)
  • Tennis racquet?
  • Green plaid curtains?
  • Pinboard illustration of a thoroughbred? (Why not?)
  • White dome light fixture?
OH. MY. GOD. What do I have to do in life to deserve a kitchen this cheery?

Because I'll do it!
Do you spy:
  • The heart shaped backs of the chairs, with red seating?
  • The built-in-the-wall red table, possibly of a folding variety?
  • Strange, round knobs all over the kitchen cabinets and drawers? (What...ARE those? Seriously, my only criticism)
  • Stainless steel built in stove?
  • Green paint inside shelving which matches green fern wallpaper which matches the green fern at the window?
  • THE.BLACK. COUNTERTOP? Zing, ladies and gents! So modern!
  • White tile with black and red stripe trim at the wall?
  • Red cafe curtain over window at sink?

This is the office in which I will be secretary to 1950's Cary Grant. It is here that he might willfully ignore me as his Girl Friday and nothing more until FATE and circumstances causes me to remove my thick framed spectacles, to reveal the true beauty I've been all along! (I thought I looked okay with the spectacles, but you know how 1950's Cary Grants can be)

Do you spy:
  • A bakelite-ish maroon and cream modern clock?
  • A sliding green room divider?
  • Wire-based lamp?
  • Patterned panel drapes to stage left?
  • My heart, pining for the dimpled chin of the former Archibald Leach?


I love that I lost the captions for these photos so I can only conjecture, as in the luncheonette tableau, what's going on. Florist's shop, natch, but wouldn't this also be cute as my overly landscaped back patio? I love the "spotlight" flooring directed on the one object (a flower cart in this, but either a phonograph set up or a bar cart in my imagination's version).
Do you spy:
  • The coolest desk of them all?!
  • The gradiated, geometrical shelving on the back wall?
  • The in-wall flower cabinets?
  • The florist offering Madame a bouquet for her perusal as if it were the ladies' department at Macy's? "Do you approve?"
Ok, kiddos and kidettes, your final challenge:


I've obviously saved the best for last. Can you tell me what all YOU spy in this brimming-to-the-top-with-fascinating-objects and final Hidden Picture? What really catches your eye?

Hope you enjoyed the ocular calisthenics, have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vintage Pacman Birthday Party (Matthew's 30!)

Oh my GOODNESS, bloggers and blogettes, it's been too long since I've posted anything, but I've got a pretty good excuse. Bab turned thirty this past weekend, and the two weeks after-Christmas-but-before-January-7th have been spent in a frenzy of birthday party planning!

The birthday guy, moments before I insisited on Downy Wrinkle Release-ing that shirt.

We were planning on making a maiden voyage to Dave and Buster's (which, actually, might be called Incredible Dave's now, making me wonder what happened to Buster's share of the video games-and-beer restaurant dynasty), but, after careful consideration, realized that our own home would a) fit more people and b) be more economically feasible.

Behold: the home video arcade.


We set up six tv's and series of game consoles along two pushed-together coffee tables. My coworker Jesse says I'm one catastrophic, emotional life event from becoming a featured story on Hoarders...but can I help it if vintage tiny tv's are a particular foible of mine? A number of extension cords/power strips later, we crossed our fingers that the wiring and the fuses would hold. And eureka! They did!


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Then we marked out a dry erase marker board with electrical tape to create the "Pac-Brac", wherein party guests could compete eight-at-a-time in elimination rounds for fabulous prizes!


What fabulous prizes, you may ask? You know how you'll spot random, vintage-inspired items at your local big-box retailer and think "Wow, that's cute... I wonder if I'd get any use out of...naaaaah..." This practice of NOT hoarding new-manufactured vintage items came back to bite me when I was out scouting for prizes for our arcade tournaments. I could've SWORN I'd seen Pacman or Atari shot glasses, beach towels, dorm items, etc, before at Walmart/Target/Walgreens....mais non. We managed to track down some Super Mario Bros themed merchandise, but nothing Namco. So I set about the business of churning out everything under the sun I could do with Pacman paraphenalia.


The smaller Pacmen are made of styrofoam balls with the mouth cut out and painted yellow (Dollar Tree, $1 apiece!), then I hotglued black construction paper for the other pieces. The larger ball is from Hobby Lobby, $4 (she grumbles begrudgingly), and is covered in hot glue gunned flowers ($2 for two bunches, also Dollar Tree). The Sega Genesis system OF YOUR DREAMS ($5.99, Goodwill) is simply covered in hot glue gunned sequins (Hobby Lobby, $2). Not mentioned in price breakdown: MANY HOURS OF PAC LABOR. I kept telling people, when they would ask me what I was up to that week, that I was "still working in the Pac mines". But I do love a challenge!


I also learned how to make a Pacman pinata, who survived Matthew's birthday owing to the fact that it was his "birthday wish that his life be spared!". Cute things slay my cutie. I used the technique outlined in Miss Becky Boo's blog post on HER Pacman pinata (wallpaper paste! It's a paper mache miracle!) and Jordan Fearney's pinata fringe tutorial to make this handsome guy. Notice the OTHER dry erase marker board in the background, itemizing "to-do" lists for the party.

The streamers (pretty self explanatory) and the table in pre-food preparation:


The food (minus the pizza which I cut into strip long slices and placed on the green and yellow platters):


These cookies were SO. EASY. TO MAKE. Check out the instructional from this website. I used a sugar cookie recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (had no luck at ALL with the pre made dough...the cookies blew up to 8 x their size and lost all shape!), but otherwise stuck with the program. They're so cute!!


Ya gotta have really bad for you food at a children's-type party, right? We put out hot cheetos, lemonheads (which bear a striking resemblance to power pellets, n'est-ce pas?), fruit snacks, Jolly Ranchers, and Dum Dums. I was in fourth grade heaven. To the right and below, I made little buttons by tracing a circle on construction paper with a can of mushrooms, then on a piece of cardboard, attaching the two, cutting out the mouth, drawing on the Pac eye (and adding more construction paper, for Ms. Pac), and attaching a safety pin to the back with postal tape. Voila! Pac badge! We issued these to all the party goers.

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We set up the green room as an auxiliary, non-arcade game room, with Apples to Apples, Catchphrase, and the Rockafire Explosion on the the computer (which, yes, is so old one party goer mistook it for a tv, as no one's had a monitor like that since the early 2000's).



Paparazzi shots from throughout the evening (Matthew having an iPhone is kind of like *I* have an iPhone!!):

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I forgot to take more pictures, mainly because I was scrambling around trying to get a word in with everyone! All our friends showed up (I think the guest count at the end of the night was 22? Which is more people than it seems reasonable to stuff into a 50's ranch house? But there they were), and we had a B-L-A-S-T.

Below, Alyx and Brian, married and just as awesomely stripey below as in real life, actually ended up head to head in the last bracket of the Pac tournament, which we've come to refer to as the "divorce bracket". Me: "Well, at least you know the prize is going to the same house!" Brian: "Are you kidding me? We have bragging rights on who can make an EGG better in our house. There's no WAY I'll ever live this down!" Lovely Alyx won the flower covered Pac, and a kitchen timer shaped like a strawberry. AND BRAGGING RIGHTS FOR LIFE! See how close the score was?


My favorite shot of the night (cue an instrumental of "Eye of the Tiger"):


Matthew, playing Castlevania III as Joe looks on, both near death at 1 AM: "I think this is mainly muscle memory at this point..."

I'm so glad I could throw an epic party for my most special little guy on his 30th. Now, to start planning the big three-one.... :)


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