Monday, January 26, 2009

I Want To Be Maddie Hayes

I just heard an interview with Cybill Shepherd about aging and plastic surgery.  Cybill said, "I enjoy the versatility of having natural knockers.  Right now, I have them up.  But this evening, I may wear them down."

I've been writing recently about some of my childhood beauty idols.  Cybil came along for me in middle school, when my friends and I became obsessed with Moonlighting
I was pretty certain that one day I would own a detective agency, suffer intense chemistry with my smirky partner, and wear lots of drapey pastel satin.  Peach, cream, lavender.

I too would decorate my office in that feminine eighties palette of gray and mauve.  I looked forward to hiding in the bushes to photograph and expose the countless Americans who had faked their own deaths.  Not to mention all the people posing as their own dead twin sisters.  
So I was thrilled when I landed the most coveted position for the eighth grade "shadowing" project.  One day each spring, all eighth graders spent a day with a professional in the community.  Detective was, by far, the most exciting opportunity on the list.  And you know I was owed a plum assignment after this bitter defeat.
Shadowing was done in pairs.  My partner for the day seemed as excited as I was.  David too was a Moonlighting fan, and we had in common another very important television show: the soap opera, Santa Barbara.  The show was new, and conveniently scheduled at 3 pm, right after school.  Some days it was all we talked about in the back of Mrs. Carlson's Social Studies class. 

We were delivered to the Bedford Hills police department and introduced to a rather dorky detective.  I can't remember exactly what he was wearing, but I do remember that his outfit caused us to refer to him behind his back as The Music Man.
He showed us the holding cell and the fingerprinting machine.  Plus, a piece of poster board with glued-on samples of various illicit drugs, used for identification.  Then we sat with him in a small, close room and he told us about various investigation.  Bounced checks at the local supermarket.  Hit and run fender bender.
"What about serial killers?" one of us asked.
"Serial killers?" repeated Detective Music Man.
"Yes, tell us about serial killers." 

You see, there was a serial killer at large in Santa Barbara, and we were eager for any and all information leading to our solving of the case.

"Well.  All right," the detective said cautiously.  "A serial killer is a murderer that goes after a certain type of victim..."
"Like blond girls!" I interjected.  Blond girls like Eden and Kelly Capwell.
"Um, sure, like blind girls, I suppose."
"No, blond girls."
"Or blond girls..."  Music Man trailed off here, visibly disturbed.
"Has there ever been a serial killer in Bedford Hills?"
"I think that would be the day I retire."

I still hold detective as an alternate dream career.  But the internet has sucked away much of the glamour and intrigue.  Now it seems much of private investigator work is about accessing e-mail accounts, not putting on wigs and dark glasses.
A couple of years ago someone brought me DVDs of Moonlighting when I had the flu.  (I am the easiest person to please with gifts; there are entire E-bay categories of items desired only by me).  Sadly I found the show unwatchable, but I was delirious.  Surely it's worth another try.  And look, there's talk of a movie!

The glamour of Maddie Hayes sure stood up.  Perhaps the wide shoulders and satin caftans were a tad matronly, as everything was in that decade, but time cannot touch that hair.  

I saw a screening of The Last Picture Show a few months ago.  Has anyone ever been lovelier?

And still.  Why no, I do not wish to talk about this.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Spoiled Rotten

Readers, I'm feeling maudlin.  No, I'm not drunk, it's just that you guys do such sweet things.
Betsy wrote to say she had linked to me, and I clicked to find that on her gorgeous blog, From Betsy With Love, links come in the form of big collages.  Look left at what she did with recent images from this site.
And!  Johanne wrote to offer me an original copy of this Kotex ad.  Of course, I eagerly accepted.  The package just arrived filled with other gasp-worthy surprises including a True Romance magazine from 1949, and many more vintage beauty ads that you will see here soon.
I'm still scanning images for you from Cousin Tracey's Christmas extravaganza.  Overwhelmed and thrilled with vintage presents, plus lots of new links and subscribers.  Thank you all so very much.

Yes She Can

"Take that $5 bill in your hand, go to the most reputable store in town, walk directly to the hat of your choice and declare your love. Let your instinct tell you what to do. If the hat fulfills your dream, buy it. Be strong be firm, and don't ask anyone's advice. Don't try to make the hat look good on all your children and your friends, don't ask any questions-- just buy. All great things are done impulsively. Sometimes they turn out to be the best choice you have ever made. If you do make a mistake, you learn from your mistake. The only real mistake is to take the problem too seriously. Go trust your subconscious integrity, don't waver, defy all gravity, let the $5 ride wherever it wants to go-- it will be the best experience for $5 you have ever had."

--Mrs. John, The Charming Woman, edited by Helen Fraser (1950)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Several Essential Links

1. This Max Factor creation was recently featured on Modern Mechanix, and reader Joanna just reminded me to post it.  I'm recovering from an odd jaw ailment; actually could have used that thing last week.

  • 2. Chris Rock made a documentary about African American hair culture that looks very intriguing. Good Hair was inspired by Rock's young daughter's question, "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?" 
I previously wrote that he was making a film about hair donations at an Indian Temple.  Turns out that's just one slice; that temple is a source of hair for extensions.  Now that I have context, it all makes more sense.

3.  Most essentially of all:  Donna Lethal is proud to present Princess Luciana Pignatelli's long lost Camay commercial!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Edna

Edna Wallace Hopper is my muse. I could go on and on about her, and will continue to do so. Edna played games with her age right up until the end, but by best accounts, she was born January 17, 1872, exactly 100 years before me.
I'll wish Edna a happy birthday by repeating this 1893 review of one of her performances (Edna was a triple threat and so much more):

"Hands came together all over the house when the little Mrs. Hopper appeared, dressed in lace and yellow and looking just a bit timid and apprehensive. When she sang there was more applause, and when she talked there was more, and when she only stood still and looked pretty there was more, with big bouquets every now and then to punctuate the approbation."

That happens to be very much how I expect my birthday celebration tonight to go for me. Now, click to enlarge and do the photo at left justice. I want you to see the gorgeous beaded details of Edna's dress, her wasp waist, and the sage expression on her face.
Please keep in mind as you read this blog, that I often write it wearing a similar ensemble while perched upon a throne, my pointed satin slippers set just so upon my tiger skin rug.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

We Do Make Delicious Smorgasboard

Gunilla Knutson was a famed Noxema Girl and an outdoorsy sex kitten. I'll allow her to introduce her own cheerful little yellow beauty book:

"Recently, while waiting in a TV studio for the lights to be set up, I played a word-association game with some of the crew. When my turn came I spoke the word 'Scandinavian.' They quickly answered 'Smorgasbord'... 'Snow'...'Ski'...'Sexy.' At that last one somebody laughed and said, 'Gunilla's blushing!' Well. I doubt it, because I've heard the word 'sexy' used to describe Scandinavian girls again and again ever since I came to America.
All those words are true. We do make delicious smorgasbord. We do have lots of snow, which makes for marvelous skiing, and we are very forthright when it comes to sex..."

All that plus, bookish. Here Gunilla approaches reading with bounce and vigor:

"Place two books on the floor about 5 feet apart. Stand in the center between them, hands on hip, feet together.
Jump from one book to the other, keeping knees and feet together. Both feet come in full contact with the floor on each jump. Remember, the books are your outer boundaries-- stay within them."

Gunilla cannot seem to stress enough just how fundamental exercise
is to the Scandinavian (sexy!) way of life.

Next, Gunilla brings equal spunk to the task of drying her hair:

"If at all possible, dry your hair in the fresh air. Squeeze the excess water out with a Turkish towel. Then step outside and swing your hair dry. I try to combine hair-swinging with some torso-swinging so that I can whittle away at my waistline while the fresh air is drying my hair. By the time my hair is dry, I feel refreshed and my hair carries the nicest perfume I can think of-- the scent of fresh air."

The beauty section of the book is pretty standard soap-and-water stuff. I'd rather skip ahead to the remarkable recipes. One reason I so looked forward to receiving this book was that I had heard it included a recipe for Oatmeal Soup. Indeed:

1 cup oatmeal
2 quarts water
2 dozen prunes
prune juice

Boil the oatmeal until it is well cooked. Strain it and keep the liquid. Throw the oatmeal away. Add the prunes, a little prune juice, salt and sugar to taste. Serves immediately. Serves 6.

Here Gunilla looks down at the six full bowls of pruney soup and wonders why on Earth she'd try to serve such a thing to her guests. But the rascal redeems herself with another recipe, this one more curious than repulsive:


1 can unthickened rosehip soup
1 lemon, juiced
2 cups heavy cream

Combine the soup and lemon juice. Whip the cream and fold in the soup. Pour into a mold and freeze. When it has set properly you will be able to slice it.

I'd never heard of such a thing until tonight. But my mother was big on rosehip tea when I was a kid. It's high in vitamin C. We used to make it from a bush in our yard and drink it with honey. I found some photos of instant rosehip soup and chose a nice vintage-y one for you, at left.

Gunilla mentions the natural beauty of her Swedish friend, Britt Eckland, several times in this book. And that reminded me, I have yet to share Ms. Eckland's beauty book with you. It's one of the sexiest in my collection. When I went to get it off the shelf, I realized that I've just scratched the surface. Everything in my book, plus everything I've blogged about, is just a fraction of the material I have. I'll be vintage-beauty blogging until I die, and we know when that will be.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dachshundism Continues

My canine tangent marches on!  Bear with me; next up, as promised: Scandinavian beauty tips from a minor icon.  But today, more delightful little hounds and the glamorous ladies who love them.
First up, Brigitte Bardot.  As you probably know, Ms. Bardot is a friend to animals everywhere.  Her foundation has even set up a sanctuary for bears in Bulgaria.  But no species could be more flattering as bombshell accessory than a dachshund.  

Carole Lombard, the Profane Angel, the Queen of Screwball Comedy was a dachshund lover.  Her hound, named Commissioner, is pictured at left among other assorted pets.  Legend has it that Commissioner ignored Carole's husband, one Clark Gable, until Carole died, at which point the dog became attached to him.
And in weird beauty history, Ms. Lombard underwent facial reconstructive surgery after an accident...  without the use of anaesthesia, which was believed to increase scarring.  Good thing dachshunds can be so comforting.

On a sad note, here is the late Brooke Astor with one of her beloved dachshunds, either Boysie or Girlsie (my best bet is Girlsie.)  Some were concerned with the fate of the pets when Ms. Astor passed away, but not to worry, they were adopted by Ms. Iris Love.

Brooke always loved the breed.  Here she is in younger days with two blonder companions.

Joan Crawford was also susceptible to a dachshund's many charms.  I infer from the look on this pup's face that he has just seen Christina carrying in a wire hanger and senses the gathering storm.  Sorry, easy shot and I took it.

This one probably belonged in yesterday's category of dachshund as art muse.  A tasteful nude, with small hounds, by Man Ray.

Actress and longtime mistress to William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies looks adorable with a bow in her platinum curls and a glossy dog in her arms.

Ginger Rogers is a personal favorite of mine.  I grew up watching her dance in movies with my mother and grandmother, and when I was about twelve, I got to meet her backstage in a local musical production.  She was nearly eighty then and still very sparkly.  At left she graciously accompanies her dachshund to an important interview.

Finally Shirley Temple, with whom I have a complicated relationship.  As a toddler I was told by endless adults that I looked just like her.  I hated this, loathed all reference to my dimples and curls.  And yet.  I spent many hours alone in my room playing her records over and over.  And when her movies came on, I watched rapt, dancing along.  I was confused at the time, but now it makes sense.  I envied her for what she had that I did not: a dachshund friend, with an extra-sharp snout.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Glamour of the Dachshund

I am a dachshund fanatic. As I was clearing photos off my hard drive this week, I noticed how many pictures I have of the tiny, magical hounds in glamorous situations.
The breed's distinct shape makes them ideal for use as punctuation, as in this classic photo by Mary Eleanor Browning. A canine exclamation point, no? Ms. Browning made history by photographing her own hysterectomy. She was a proto-reality star, like Edna.

Dachshunds bring the right balance of cuteness and wit to every situation. At left, a doggie wrinkles his snout in contemplation of why exactly Cannon brand stockings last longer than others, and he out-charms that smarmy guy by a mile.

This one is by Nina Leen, who I recently featured here, and here. The matching plaid skirt and booties are striking on their own, but are clearly enhanced by the presence of a grinning elf. Perhaps this is the very creature who inspired Nina to go on to be a renowned animal photographer?

Dachshunds have long served as muses to artists. A pinup by Gil Elvgren features bubbles, garters, a gorgeous pink dress and a very short dog: perfection.

Here is the original G.I. Jane and her doxie companion, Fritz. Read all about them on my favorite blog, The Long and Short of It. There's just something about the pairing of a beautiful girl and a deeply silly, yet dignified dog.

Modern pinups agree. Dita Von Tesse is thrilled to pose with this squishy-looking guy.

It goes beyond cheesecake; painter Pierre Bonnards also explored the Lady-and-Dachshund theme.

Oh, I could go on and on. And I will! Stay tuned for a collection of some very glamorous, real-life Dachshunds and their Ladies. And if you happen to own dachshunds, please tell me all about them immediately.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Kay Heffernon enjoys a hot dog and a Coke, wearing a nubbly-textured bikini, on Jones beach, in 1948.  Also possibly worth noting:  Kay is standing in a cloud of POISON.  This photo, by George Silk, was taken to demonstrate that insecticide DDT was harmless.  Utterly harmless!  No word on what became of Kay.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Loni Anderson's Dark Past

I've been revisiting my childhood admiration of Loni Anderson. Last week I received my copy of My Life in High Heels and was delighted to read this:

"I've always had a fantasy in which I live alone in a perfect Deco apartment, in a high-rise building (maybe it looks like the Chrysler Building in New York City), where the doorman says, "Good Evening, Miss Anderson," as I come through the doors. Everything in my perfect abode is white, with only occasional accents of black or claret-- some interesting sculpture maybe, or plush throw pillows...
And once a week or so I would go to Paris for lunch. In a gorgeous silk georgette dress that I bought in Paris when I was there for lunch last week."

As I've mentioned, when I was a kid, I too had a vision of my fantasy future. And in it I lived in Hollywood, wore only pink, and looked just like Loni. She was my icon of blonde floofy-ness. So imagine my surprise to find that despite her Nordic parents, she used to look like a member of The Supremes.

"Each night, my dad would read fairy stories to Andrea and me at bedtime, and in every single story, the princess was fair-haired. 'Hair of gold, hair of sunlight.' Like Andrea had, and all my cousins. The only ones with dark hair were the stepsisters or the sorceresses or the wicked stepmothers. One night, halfway through a story session, I started to cry.
That's when Dad found Snow White for me. 'With her hair as black as night,' he would read, 'and skin as white as snow, and lips as red as roses.' He began to bring me Snow White books and toys and knickknacks."

And then he presumably went off to ask Mom some tough questions.

When Sex Appeal suddenly came upon her at age fourteen, Loni was confused by the attention:
"Imagine Saturday Night Live's Church Lady locked up in Sophia Loren's body. My looks belied who I really was."

Those exotic looks typecast Loni in such roles as Indian Princess in grade school productions. When she entered the pageant circuit as a teen, she often ran into prejudiced remarks like, "Black women have their own pageant."

At twenty-six, Loni had a breast reduction. "I had been experiencing terrible backaches and shoulder aches. With a little rib cage and almost no hips and these amazingly disproportionate breasts, I looked like those granny cartoons in playboy, with her boobs to her knees."
She remained enthusiastic about plastic surgery in general, declaring, "I hope I live long enough to have everything lifted."

A dark cloud seemed to descend upon Loni's sunny life when Burt Reynolds came into the picture. She tells quite a few harrowing tales of his addiction, affairs, and violent, jealous rages. Perhaps most disturbing of all is a section in which she tells us that Mr. Sex Symbol was really quite the prude. Burt got angry when Loni walked past a hotel window, wrapped in a big towel. He called her immodest and demanded she always wear a nightgown to bed from then on:
"If you're completely naked," he said, "it's not mysterious, it's not sexy. I don't ever want to see you naked again."

But! She's Loni Anderson! He should be punished for that remark. I don't want to end on a low note, so let's take a look at Loni's views on beauty and style:

"I know some people don't approve of the way I look. There's a theory that if you're a serious woman, then dressing up-- the glamour stuff, the gowns, the sling pumps, the hair and makeup--shouldn't be an important part of your life. But there are so many different parts of being a woman, and they should all be appreciated and celebrated. After all, little girls like to play dress up-- they don't play dress down.
I think the cosmetics industry, the clothing industry, and the whole supermodel craze wouldn't be at such a fever pitch if most women didn't feel exactly the same way. A lot of them apologize for it and that's too bad. Haven't we at last, as women, come to place where we can do and be and wear what suits us, without apology?"

Well said. You should be able to look however you want to look, but I've got to say one thing. Even though you're one of my most admired bottle blondes... Far be it for me to begrudge anyone a bit of hair bleach, but Loni: that dark hair really suited you.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Deflowered By Proxy

Look: Edward Gorey illustrated a faux esoteric advice manual: The Recently Deflowered Girl, The Right Thing To Say On Every Dubious Occasion. I've long considered The Curious Sofa one of literature's finest works, but this? This! The book offers advice on exactly what to say in such scenarios as Deflowered By Chinese Detective, Deflowerment at Seance, and Deflowered By Proxy. The Editor's Note reads as follows:

"For more than half a century Miss Hyacinthe Phypps has been offering guidance on proper behavior. Her simple rules of propriety and common sense have helped a generation of girls over the threshold to womanhood. Recognizing the need that still prevails today, Miss Phypps has been kind enough to put between the covers of her book her words of advice that have been so valuable in so many typical situations. It is the editor's fondest hope that this book will serve the current generation of young ladies as it served their mothers."
-- Mel Juffe

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Cultivation of Beauty: A Duty

Do you and your family do some version of Secret Santa for the holidays? If you do, I highly suggest you arrange for your name to be picked from the hat by your Cousin Tracey. Cheat if necessary.
My own Cousin Tracey chose my name this year and it was like winning the Christmas lottery. She bought me an elegant 1940s travel vanity case with perfectly intact glass jars and bottles and a lovely art-deco hand mirror. And! A vintage beauty book which features some of the most adorable illustrations of hairdos I've ever seen. I will share that with you soon but first, gift number three:
This 23-page pamphlet, published in 1912, is an extended advertisement for various "Beauty Expression Lessons," available by mail for students to complete at home.

"It is absurd to believe that a woman of ordinary common sense cannot treat her own face, neck, hands, feet and hair in her own room, if given a few sensible rules, directions and advice, prescribed especially for her, by one competent to pass upon her physical condition-- one who is able to correct , if need be, the blood conditions affecting the skin, able to advise the kind of treatment and kind of cosmetics suitable for her individual requirements."

The cost was $18.00 (no small sum 96 years ago) for a four-week course that included top secret tips on how to keep the neck white and prevent the ears from sagging. My favorite part of this pamphlet is the angle it takes to convince students to send in those checks. It's a tactic I've mentioned here before, but one I don't run into nowadays:

"Time was when the cultivation of the beauty of the human face and figure was considered vanity,-- an instigation of the evil spirits. Happily, that day has passed.
Every thought, every touch, every influence that inspires the sense of beauty, is just so much added to uplifting and redeeming the world from sordidness and gloom...
Try to realize, each day, how much depends, for yourself and others, upon a pleasing presence, and solemnly promise yourself that you will always be at your best-- as attractive, pleasing and refining in appearance as your natural gifts will admit.
Indeed, the development of attractiveness in yourself is just as elevating and cultivating as the study of beauty anywhere.
The cultivation of beauty vanity? It is a duty each one owes to self, but especially is it the duty of woman, -- the world looks to woman for the refining delicacies of life...
Every woman may be the most artistic expression in her home. She may care for her skin and keep it delicate as coral, she may keep the lines of her figure as beautiful and symmetrical as those of any Venus or Diana.
Your privilege, as a woman, is to educate, to refine, to allure to brighter worlds, and lead the way...
Few men have time to spend in the art galleries, but nearly every man has a keenly artistic sense and appreciates beauty in woman,-- the beauty in figure and feature, the clear skin, the luxuriance and gloss of well kept, well dressed hair, the sparkle of lustrous eyes, the gleam of teeth well cared for, the daintiness and grace of expressive hands. He is cheered, rested and uplifted by such beauty, just as a woman, who has time for the art galleries, is feasted and refreshed by beauty on canvas or in marble."

Got it? It is your responsibility, your duty to be the art. Be the art. Not convinced? Next, the author of this compelling piece (and founder of the beauty course), Susanna Cocroft, is moved to deliver a full-fledged beauty sermon! I almost wrote earlier that pamphlets like these were the pre-television infomercials, but that isn't accurate. In the days of yore, people with goods to sell or cults to cultivate gravitated towards public squares and stood on literal soap boxes and such, giving witness and shouting sales pitches. I like to think the manifesto below was originally delivered in that very manner:

"When I see a human form with too much flesh, which suggest the physical appetite in control (though excess flesh does not always mean physical appetite predominating, it suggests it to the beholder); or see one round-shouldered and stooped, with cramped chest, bony, angular, and sallow of complexion, I am reminded of a gnarled and crooked tree and I feel life crying out:
'Oh, my sister, arise to your birthright of beauty, light and power! Stand upright. Do not despoil God's temple, but lend your share to the beauty and use of the world. Remember that beauty is use-- it is education-- refinement. Life head and chest and heart and soul, and drink in the beauties of life. As you drink your fill-- Arise!
Let your grace of movement express the rhythm and harmony of your inner life;
Let the cleanly body, with hands, hair and skin well groomed, express the cleanness of life;
Let your upright body express the uplift and courage and strength of your soul.'"

That's right, go ahead, drink in the beauties of life, just make sure they are low-cal beauties, so as not to let the physical appetite take control. Exhausted by her exhortation, Susanna Cocroft begins to wind things down. She mentions that she is handing the business off to her nieces (a detail that charms me) and urges us to trust them as we have come to trust her all these years. Before going on to denounce other peddlers of creams and methods, the so-called, "beauty doctors" (I think we know where they work), she leaves us with this inspiring line:

"A face radiating mental poise, a well groomed body, clothed neatly and carried with grace and dignity, is its own aristocracy."