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Syrupy sixties chanteuse France Gall was the quintessential face of Sixties French pop. The Serge Gainsbourg and Michel Berger collaborator released over 65 singles and twenty albums during her singing career. Though many see Gall as a purveyor of fast-food audio fare that met a steep decline, Gall was actually the guileless vehicle for Gainsbourg-written lyrical jokes, resulting in a string of hit singles with hidden meanings that sullied her image. Songs like “Les Sucettes” (about a girl eating lollipops) and Bonsoir John John (written to a deceased JFK and tinged with hints of necrophelia) caught her unawares and hurt the success of subsequent releases.

In my opinion, Galle was a confident style icon, blindly in love with her husband Michel Berger, and all too trusting in a world that traded on her brand of naivete.

My favorite song of hers was the Gainsbourg collaboration, “Laisse Tomber les Filles” (“Forget the girls”)… Read the rest of this entry »

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Florinda Bolkan (né Florinda Soares Bulcao) was born in northeastern Brazil in 1941. Her father, Josè Pedro, was over 60 at the time. Widower and state deputy, his second marriage to Maria Hosana, an 18 year old Indios girl who barely knew how to write, gave him three wonderful children: Alina, Josè Maria and the youngest, Florinda.  After graduation from secondary school, she managed to secure a job as Executive Hostess for Brazil’s national airline, Varig.  Dissatisfied, she moved to Paris at 18, attended the Sorbonne, yet failed to find her place in her new city. After modestly turning down many modeling offers she returned to Brazil to find her way. Read the rest of this entry »

I spent a long weekend in the French countryside with this wonderfully veiled woman in 1992, after the death of my friend Clovis Pennington’s brother, Gary Lee. We slept in the cottage of Gary’s lover’s (Franck’s) parents who graciously hosted Diane, his son’s lover’s brother (Clovis) and myself, an American stranger. It was a bizarre and wonderful and surreal time, but for some reason the memory of Diane stayed with me most of all. Eternally veiled and dressed in black after being widowed by her husband in the eighties, she is an unforgettable presence. Apparently she was Gary’s best friend and his death was a huge, life-changing blow to her.

Recently I discovered her website, A Shaded View of Fashion, and realize she’s still making headlines for her singular and prophetic take on the worlds of art and fashion.

Dome Mention It

10/27/2008

Quite possibly the most beautiful room in new York City, Café Pierre (or the Rotunda) at The Pierre hotel is a perfectly executed exercise in lavishness. The trompe l’oeil murals created by American artist Edward Melcarth play backdrop to the most fabulous afternoon tea this side of the Thames. Have some Earl Gray with a lover under the dome and discuss the 253-room hotel’s luscious history (including tales of founder Charles Pierre and original financiers Otto H. Kahn, Edward F. Hutton, and Walter P. Chrysler,) its infamous bankruptcy in 1932, and eventual purchase by oilman J. Paul Getty for $2.5 million in 1938.

If the top of the building looks familiar its because it was modeled by archtects Schultze and Weaver (The Breakers Palm Springs, The Waldorf-Astoria, The Sherry-Netherland) after Mansart’s Royal Chapel at Versailles. Permanent residents in the few apartments have included Elizabeth Taylor, Viacom entertainment company chairman Sumner Redstone, Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed, and the late designer Yves Saint-Laurent.

In 2005 The Pierre was acquired by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, an India-based global chain of fine luxury hotels and resorts, yet it still retains its forever charm. I spent the night of my birthday there right after the purchase so I can attest to it.

The brilliantly talented Tunisian Italian Claudia Cardinale has to be one of the most physically perfect human beings ever created. She was born Claude Joséphine Rose Cardin in 1938 and had her break into films after winning a Tunisian beauty contest in 1957. Despite her very voluptuously feminine appearance, she had a very deep voice and had her voice dubbed in her early films. Cardinale made her film debut in Goha (1958) and later appeared in over seventy Italian and French films including a slew of Fellini films, most notable of which might be silver screen phenomenon 8 1/2.

Cardinale never made a real attempt to break into the American market since she was not interested in leaving Europe for extended periods of time. Her Hollywood films include Circus World (1964), The Pink Panther (1964) Blindfold (1965) and The Hell With Heroes (1968).

Bob Dylan obviously found her as perfect a creature as I do – her photograph appeared on his album Blonde On Blonde in 1966, but since the photo was used without Cardinale’s permission, it was removed from the cover art in later pressings. Keep Reading!!! Read the rest of this entry »

Backstage Babes

10/24/2008

I am obsessed with the Folies Bergère in Paris, circa 1890-1920. Located on Rue Richer in the 9th Arrondissement it was built as an opera house by the architect Plumeret and was patterned after the Alhambra music hall in London. What was the height of popular entertainemtn at the time and was the original “vegas” revue. The shows featured outrageously elaborate (and revealing) costumes, a good dose of almost-nudity, and played up the “exoticness” of persons and objects from other cultures, obliging the Parisian fascination with the négritude of the 1920s. This obsession led to the overnight sensationalism of Joséphine Baker in 1926 – an African-American expatriate singer, dancer, and entertainer, who made internaitonal headlines with her suggestive “banana dance”, in which she wore a skirt made of bananas and little else.

I’ve been collecting backstage photos of the performers at the Folies. Here are some of my favorites. Read the rest of this entry »

Hempel Worship

10/22/2008

Quite possibly one of the most brilliant placemakers of our time, Anoushka Hempel is my idol. The former British 60’s actress-turned-hotelier and designer has created four absolutely unparalleled hotels (including my favorite hotel ever – Blake’s in South Kensington, London) and a slew of restaurants and retail stores (including Louis Vuitton in Paris and Van Cleef & Arpels in Brazil, Goa, Istanbul, and Las Vegas.) Her style is impeccable and untouchable in my opinion. She has this God-given way of creating the most magical environments that are so lavish and fantastical, intoxicatingly decadent, and yet unbelievably cozy and warm. Everything she touches turns into 24-carat gold. She has even designed clothes for Princess Diana and Princess Margaret. I want to swim in her head.

 

Oh, did I mention she was a Bond girl? Sigh…