Thursday, February 26, 2009


Cousin Tracey just alerted me to this ad for Rejuvenique, a futuristic "beautifying" plastic mask used to steal people's thoughts and then electrocute them in the bathtub.  If you enjoy this beauty-horror movie, you might also like Beauty Hospital.

Going Completely Fishwife

This is the photo that accompanies a feature in my March, 1952 issue of Cosmopolitan. The 1950s is one of my pet decades for time travel. In addition to playing dress-up on my trip, I look forward to luxuriating in ignorance.

I will take up smoking and pills, drive a gas-guzzling, minty convertible everywhere, bake myself tan in the sun, and meet my decade-appropriate man at the door with a martini. He'll grill steaks; I'll concoct dessert from nothing more than petroleum by-products and artificial coloring. I'll be blissfully unaware of any ramifications and it will be grand.
I really feel that I have typed these exact words before. Here or elsewhere? Possibly the deja-vu is just a side effect of frequent time-machine use. Just indulge my repetitive story-telling as you would that of a beloved grandparent, please.

Anyway, Don't Stop Smoking-- Please! is exactly the sort of artifact that inspires such fantasies. Agnes Lynn Marshall writes that when her husband quit smoking:

"He snapped. He carped. He criticized with a virulence that had nothing to do with the fact that the eggs were too soft or the grass needed cutting. I wept regularly. I considered every form of suicide I had ever heard of."

Bewildered, Agnes went off to confide in her family physician. At his office, she took out her (mother-of-pearl, I presume) cigarette case and lit up, as one does. The doctor had the gall to demand she put it out. Turns out, he was quitting too!

"'How is your wife taking this?'
'Fine, fine,' he barked. And then, after a hesitation. 'She's in Canada.'"

Oh you know how quitters can be:

"So pleased with his self-denial that he lives under the illusion that he is a model of serenity. No woman with her first baby or her first mink coat was ever so irritatingly complacent."

Obviously if quitting makes people so intolerable, then quitting is a bad thing, right? Right. Ms. Marshall does allow that in a few special cases, quitting might be an okay thing to consider. Such as rare conditions of the gastric secretions. But otherwise people needn't:

"...subject themselves to the horrors of giving up smoking because of something they've heard. They have an idea it causes high blood pressure; it doesn't. They think it causes heart trouble; there is no foundation for this fear."

Agnes wants readers to know that she's not just being hard on the fellows. It is every American's responsibility to smoke for social lubrication:

"Women suffer personality changes during this experience just as men do. One gentle Boston woman, of a family whose name is known to every schoolchild, went completely fishwife. For instance, when, one day, she went to park her car on a lot attended by a friendly lad, and the boy said, 'I'm so sorry, ma'am, but the place is full,' she shot her car up the drive and shouted, 'You go to hell!'. 'And you know,' she told her daughter later, 'I could feel it coming out, and I couldn't stop it.'

Now, that behavior really won't do. So be a good girl and light up. And stay on that path to health and serenity by keeping your caramel color, caffeine and sugar syrup intake at adequate levels. Trust the nurse; it's good for you!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Step Away From The Dream Kitchen

Fat Barbie is part of a campaign for Active Life Movement, an organization fighting childhood obesity.  I've long heard wailing that Barbie represents an impossible body type, but is this what you wanted?  A Barbie who truly reflects the proportions of an average woman?  Actually, I would love to own a fat Barbie.

[ via Adweek. ]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Before Helen Gurley Brown

This March 1952 issue of Cosmopolitan was a birthday gift from my mother and it is just as delicious as it looks.
Our cover girl is Mary Sinclair, the "first star of television." She acted in many early TV movies and a Sherlock Holmes series before retiring to Europe in the 1960s to paint.
I'm enjoying her matte red lip, halter top, and the way the white powder puff sets off the black pouf of her hairdo.
This issue came out over a decade before Helen Gurley Brown became editor in chief. Once inside, I was struck right away by just how different things were BHGB (before Helen). For example, you can see on the cover that this issue includes a serious article on Russian politics.

And here is the photo that accompanies a feature on the importance of reading and discussing Bible stories with your children.
Good thing Helen turned it all around. How else would that well-groomed young mom ever have learned the important alternate uses for ice cubes and hair schrunchies.

Before we delve into other features, let's take a look at some excellent old ads.

Here is a precious ad for two soon to be released films, Singin' In The Rain, and Skirts Ahoy!, starring Esther Williams.

Just like in today's magazines, product tie-ins ran rampant. Here's Esther on the page opposite, starring in an ad for Jergen's lotion. All those hours spent swimming dry out her skin! Click to enlarge and read Esther's testimonial.

As I mentioned, we have my mother to thank for this blog fodder. Oh but some mothers. Some mothers are to blame. The sad story in one ad starts like this:
"Poor child, she had no means of knowing why her first real party had been such a failure, why one boy after another coolly ignored her and whispered behind her back. The very night she wanted to be at her best, she was at her worst."

How did this mother fail in the upbringing of her teenage daughter? Click to enlarge the ad. I'll give you one hint. It's an ad for Listerine.

I've written twice about another ad in this series. For a while, Kotex produced ads that were supposed to read like a teen magazine, full of tips on parties and posture. The final tip is not quite as odd as the one I featured last time, but is probably an even worse idea. It addresses what I can only suppose was a common dilemma for the fifties gal: the limp veil. And what to do?

"Slide the tired veil quickly back and forth on a lighted lamp bulb. Slick, last-minute way to crisp that glamour wisp! "

I cannot tell you how many cocktail parties have ended in humiliation for me when my glamour wisps have wilted. But really, this tip seems like it would singe a scarf. And lightbulbs tend to be dusty, don't they? But maybe they weren't dusty in the fifties.

The Musical Genius of Brigitte Bardot

I know what I said, but there is another faux-Bonnie who deserves our attention:  Brigitte Bardot.  I've listened to Ms. Bardot purr along with Serge Gainsbourg on the song Bonnie and Clyde a thousand times.  But somehow, until tonight, I had never watched the essential music video.  How could this have happened?  I didn't know that Brigitte dressed up as Bonnie Parker (as played by Faye) and lolled around, lifting her skirt and fondling her garters. 
Her beret is not beige, but it looks fantastic.  And can I get my new haircut to do that upwards-pointing curlicue thing?  
Go watch the video, then come back and we'll lull ourselves to sleep by ogling a selection of Mr. Bardot's album covers, presented in no particular order.

This cover showcases an embarrassment of riches.  Brigitte came equipped with every single feature now popular for purchase.  I'm surprised god didn't just stop making girls after this one.

This cover reminds me of blaxpotation films.  So much pure-seventies style to love:  the foggy, flame-colored atmosphere, the floppy felt hat, the hooker boots, the upskirt angle, and of course, the font.

Purple jeans.  Tons of bleachy hair.  Really all you need.

You should click to enlarge this one, so as to view the makeup job up close. Either they painted it on with magic marker after the photo was taken,  or possibly, this depicts Brigitte during that terrible year when the zombies came.  No one avoided becoming undead; not even French bombshells.  Also of note: the brief appearance of her natural hair color.

Here is Brigitte in a rueful mood, pouting under an ultra-thick headband and early occurrence of winged liner.

This next one isn't an album cover, but shows our Ms. Bardot casually practicing her guitar to expand her musical repertoire.  I first mistook her for Kate Moss.  The non-skeletal thigh is what decided it.

Now for the grand finale: Brigitte Bardot on piano.  If you can tear your eyes away from the world's bustiest ballerina, please glance down and note that the accompanist is wearing a monocle. 

As if giving us moments like these was not enough, Brigitte now dedicates her life to saving adorable animals.  That's all.  Good night. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Only Bonnie You Need

Family lore has it that I was named for Faye Dunaway's character in Bonnie and Clyde.  Because of this I feel a special affinity for Ms. Dunaway.  Also, I dream of a life of crime.  A life spent lounging in seedy hotels, wearing demure pink outfits, my gun slung casually on the headboard.  As of this morning, I'm one step closer to this fantasy.  My hair now closely resembles that of the Bonnie in the photo; six inches shorter and about 4 shades lighter than it was yesterday.
Recently there's been some unpleasantness over casting a remake of the film.  I avoided the iconic shot that is all over the place right now, but suffice to say, no one wears a beige beret like Ms. Dunaway.  
Actually no one wears the entire palette of beige better.  Say what you will about the odd cultural prescience, and intense performances of the classic, Network, but I maintain that the best part is Faye's utter beigeness.  Every outfit!  Every piece of her office and home decor.  Diana Christensen is the queen of the Modern Career Gals.  She's a Seventies Adult with a stylish but sensible Wardrobe that Works for Work.  
And god, her cheekbones.  Faye was a perfect beauty as Bonnie, but in my opinion, that excellent bone structure doesn't peak until after forty, when the face gets a touch more hollow, and drama is heightened by a bit of etching. 
I just noticed that my hair before the change was pretty much the color and style at left.  Well, if I'm going to limit myself to only one reference, I could do a lot worse.

Here is early Faye, in beige again.  This seems like it's from a film, but which one?  The fake lashes and weird bangs look great.  The outfit is perfect.  I got really into white jeans last year and plan to get right back into them when it's warm again, much to the dismay of some friends who remain staunchly anti-white denim.  I said Jackie O.  They said Miami.  I said, but I like Florida.  This year, I have a better retort: Faye.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hard Plastic Bikini

I just discovered Carrie Fisher's blog and especially enjoyed the post about her infamous gold bikini:

"The biggest problem with the metal bikini, was that it wasn’t metal. ——Not that metal would’ve been an improvement over what it was actually made of, which was kind of a hard plastic. Whatever it was, it didn’t adhere to one’s skin. MY skin. My young, soon to be popular, unlucky skin. SO, when I was relaxing leisurely against Jabba the Hutt’s gigantic, albiet grotesque stomach, my hard, plastic bikini bottom……….well, it had the tendency to make my now not so private privates quite public."

Brace yourselves: I have never seen any of the Star Wars movies.* But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate Ms. Fisher. In the best-movie-ever, Shampoo she was an Izod-clad teen who seduced Warren Beatty. Let's watch.

A reader recommended the recent memoir, Wishful Drinking, saying it includes some little beauty stories about Carrie's mom, Debbie Reynolds.

Ms. Reynolds has popped up here before, in a diet tip by her rival. Here she is at left, in a golden one-piece swimsuit. No word on whether it's real metal, or plastic.

*Okay, but once a friend played a scene for me, over and over and over, from one of the new Star Wars prequels (too lazy to look up the title). It was a terribly cheesy love scene, maybe in a pink, blossumy meadow. And then an elephant-dinosaur-muppet thing galloped through and made an odd sound. We absolutely were not high.


  • Lee Redmond has lost her record-holding fingernails in a car crash .  In related news, I did a random hand-modeling job.  I'm still wearing acrylic nails and they're driving me nuts.
  • Melanie Berliet went undercover for a piece on plastic surgery, in Vanity Fair.
  • And!  Turns out the internet is magic.  If you post about a longed-for item, somebody somewhere will read that post, and purchase the rare antique, and save it for months, only to surprise you with it during a belated birthday celebration.  That person will inevitably be my dad.  I have been warned not to test this system.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Secret Crash Diets, By Special Request

Reader Miss Matilda recently wrote that she recalled a "chicken, boiled egg, and wine diet," from a Vogue beauty book. The book in question happened to be in my collection. Let's take a look at the chapter, "Slimming," from this encyclopedic 1977 book by Brownwen Meredith (such a glamorous name!). When deciding on a goal weight to aim for with your crash diet, keep this in mind:

"Big or small bones don't make as much difference as we would like to think. Bones weigh roughly one-sixth of your weight. They can give you an alibi for about 7 pounds at the most."

I present, the HONEY AND EGGS diet, on which most meals look like this:

Breakfast: Honey and egg cup: 2 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon honey and a dash of ground black pepper; beat until thoroughly blended
Black coffee or lemon tea

I don't doubt that would lead to weight loss; the special drink sounds like a powerful emetic.

Next up, the WINE AND EGGS diet:

1 egg, hardboiled
1 glass white wine (dry, preferably Chablis)
Black coffee

2 eggs, hardboiled
2 glasses white wine
Black coffee

For dinner on this one you're permitted steak and whatever remains in the wine bottle but I'd be long asleep by then. There's also the classic DRINKER'S DIET, which allows for hard liquor if Chablis doesn't make enough of a dent in your appetite.

These are followed up with a section on the HCG DIET PLAN. That's Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a compound obtained from pregnant women's urine. I've been meaning to mention this to you as it's featured in many of my old books written between say 1945 and 1980. Diet clinics specialized in injections of the substance, paired with a strict 500 calorie per day diet, all bound up in complicated science.

You know that guy Kevin who writes books about the health and weight loss secrets They don't want you to know? The one who claims that various entities frequently threaten his life for dispersing such secrets by book and infomercial? The HCG thing is his weight loss secret. And his book has caused a mild resurgence in clinics that offer this treatment. And now They are after me. I do it all for you.

I have read the science behind it in books written over the past 60 years, and it never makes sense to me. There is no group of humans better known for weight gain then the pregnant, baring perhaps college freshman, but I've digressed.

Back to Miss Matilda's request. We all know that for best results one must combine a sensible diet, such as the extremely sensible choices above, with equally sensible, and vigorous exercise. So I went ahead and put together a custom plan for Miss Matilda, from the moves offered up in Bronwyn's book. Click to enlarge.

Oh all right, I admit it. These exercises were not chosen based on Miss M's problem areas, but as most everything is chosen here: based on what makes me giggle. Miss M has a flawless figure!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lipstick, Heels, and a China Cup

For the ladies at The Bank of England, office advice from Helen Gurley Brown:

"You may work in an office where consumption of an alcoholic beverage is strictly forbidden, at least on premises. (No telling how many Manhattans and Gibsons are brought into the office in people containers after lunch.) Rather than make any shock waves by pouring wine from your thermos into a long-stemmed Baccarat glass, pour it instead into a china cup. This can serve as your coffee mug during the rest of the day.
Should any of your co-workers discover your fine, boozy secret and giggle it up, smile sweetly and say, "I like a glass of wine with my lunch. It is a very civilized custom."

-- From Sex and the Office, (1964)

More from Helen here.