Monday, October 6, 2008

All Is Not Dull and Unisex Yet: Jane Seymour's Guide to Romantic Living

Okay, Jane Seymour. Fine with me if you want to bathe your cover photo in such rosy, romantic light that the whites of your eyes indicate you are high as a kite (click to enlarge). Fine with me if you want to ramble on about the particulars of your luxurious lifestyle while suggesting it's all a matter of attitude. Even if you want to writhe around on the grounds of your castle in ludicrous outfits, I say go for it, Jane Seymour. Just don't call it a Kosher cookbook.
And she doesn't-- she calls it a Guide to Romantic Living. Of course this 1986 essential is not really a guide to anything; it is an auto-beauty-ography, a showcase of wealth, a demonstration that Ms. Seymour is Her Own Grandchild, and it is awesome:

"In many ways I seem to live a life out of a romantic novel: handsome husband, two lovely children, marvelous Los Angeles house, magical stately home in England, a good career as an actress. But of course the reality is much of the time anyone's reality, the problems ordinary problems. Sometimes I'm so caught up in planning and juggling and worrying that I lose all sense of how lucky I am. And this is the point: romance doesn't come automatically to someone with long hair or a stately home."

It doesn't? Not even to someone with really long hair?

Before Jane continues, allow me to back her assertions that her home is magical and stately. At left, she poses casually in her back yard.

"Romance is an attitude, a state of mind. Like all best qualities, it comes from within; you just have to look for it and know how to develop it...
It's wearing silky underwear beneath an executive suit. It's swimming at night in a warm pool. It's realizing that life is there to be altered, to be made more interesting, to be lived the way you want and dare to live it.
...Life is not a fairy tale-- even my life is not a fairy tale-- but at times, if I try hard enough, I believe I can turn it into one."

I think the mention of lingerie under the suit is a half-baked attempt to relate to her readers the power -career gals of the 1980s. It is clear that Jane is not in the habit of wearing business attire.

While most pages are taken up by namedrops of her mansion, St. Catherine's, and with outfit descriptions, Jane also dares to share her dark side:

"Flirting isn't just sexual behavior: it's part of a sensual and romantic way of behaving toward other people that flatters and interests them. It's a way of reminding him that all is not dull and standardized and unisex yet. Fluttering your eyelashes isn't good flirting: listening with intelligence and interest is the way that romantic, twentieth-century women flirt.
Of course, flirting has to be handled with care. Inspired by the example of Scarlett O'Hara, I used to test my ability to flirt, and once, on holiday with some friends, I flirted with my best friend's boyfriend. I learned the power I had. She never quite forgave me. To this day I am not proud of that action."

The similarities between this book and Stacy Cohen's book are striking. Perhaps, just like me, Ms, Cohen found a copy of Guide to Romantic Living at a thrift store and thought she was the only one who knew it existed?

Here, Jane lies arched in a mermaid-ish outfit, on a stone staircase. Counterpoint: Stacy Cohen, in lavender, also lounging on stone.

In a section of Jane's book, she pretty much announces, "Now, I'll play dress up for you". A series of photos follows that are not stills from her films, but simply her fantasy outfits. In one shot, quite inexplicably, Jane plays Statue of Liberty. Again, please do not neglect to click and enlarge, or you'll really miss out. And as you look, think about how many people are involved in the production of this book: editors, agent, makeup artist, photographer, stylist, husband even. And all of them nodding grimly as Jane chortles, "Wrap me in ivy and rope, and I'll gesture toward the sky!"
Twenty years later, a likely even larger crowd yesses Stacy as she poses for this crime against nature, "Bring me a wee step ladder! I'll draw attention to my ass with a bunch of grapes! WHO IS LAUGHING? You're fired!"

I know I harp on this but it is photo shoots like these that forces me to call people Their Own Grandchild (tm?). People dress their grandchildren up in adorable outfits and take pictures and distribute the photos to everyone in their path. They find their grandchildren so precious and endlessly fascinating that every pose is charming, every conceivable outfit in need of documentation.

Jane lived with her third husband, David Flynn, in the magic castle, and the book is filled with references to the romance in their relationship. A few things struck me as hints of trouble, like all the stories about romance in the past with other husbands and boyfriends, and this:

"Another major fault of mine is to talk about myself too much. David teases me about this. 'Yes darling,' he says, 'I'd love to know more about your career.'
I try not to behave like this. But it keeps happening."

Oh I know, hard to picture her as self-absorbed, right? I looked her up on Wikipedia to find out if the marriage lasted. Sadly, no. Jane is on to husband number four, James Keach, the director of her show Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. After her third marriage ended, it seems she spent less time at St. Catherine's. At one point she rented it out to Radiohead, and it they recorded OK Computer there. Jane sold the house just a year ago.