Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This year my great minister Donna Schaper said, "Be grateful that you are alive and here right now."
My great yoga teacher Joan Klynn said, "Have gratitude for life and breath and all the riches that we have."
Cheers, and enjoy.
So the plumber came in to work on the shower and the radiators, a stout Asian guy, who lives in Chinatown, he tells me. The cat is sitting in the hall. I say, "This is Bell," and I spell it, "B-e-l-l."
"It isn't B-e-l-l-e?" he says.
The plumber thinks it should be spelled the French way. Don't you love New York?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

White Flowers

are my favorite flowers, and today Ted got some good ones.

Afternoon Shadows

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Fair Lady

My brother Eric gave us a gift of XM Radio, which has now merged with Sirius, and it is just fantastic. Highly recommended. Its numerous channels play specific themed music with no commercials. One of our favorite channels is called On Broadway. Last night I heard "I Could Have Danced All Night" from the My Fair Lady movie.

When I was six, turning seven, we were at my grandparents' house in Haddonfield, New Jersey, for the Thanksgiving holiday and my birthday (yes, my birthday is coming up). For my birthday we -- my mother, my grandmother, my brother Thom -- took the high speed train into Philadelphia to see the My Fair Lady movie, which had just opened. I distinctly remember my aunt Monica didn't come with us, and that puzzled me. I recall thinking, "Why would you not want to see this Beautiful Thing?"

I LOVED the movie. I was apoplectic. Age seven.

It was in a grand old Philadelphia movie theater, and the movie was so long that there was an intermission. Besides the gorgeous music, there was the visual appeal of the production -- the sets and the clothes designed by Cecil Beaton, who won an Oscar.

Professsor Higgins' Edwardian London town house looked very cozy, all dark wood and William Morris wallpaper.

Then comes the spectacular black and white scene at Astor Race Track. Has there ever been a better designed costume scene in the history of movies? I don't think so.

The Professor and the Colonel present Eliza Doolittle at the Embassy Ball. Audrey Hepburn at her most beautiful, no?

When we returned home to New Hartford, I got the soundtrack record and listened to it every afternoon when I came home from school. I'm telling you, I was crazy for that movie. The best birthday a seven year old could have.

And, honestly, my taste hasn't changed much since.

I've read that a remake of My Fair Lady is in the works starring Keira Knightley. I love Keira Knightley -- Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite movies -- but I don't think this is a great idea. Why remake an iconic movie like My Fair Lady? It can't possibly be improved upon, in my opinion. And can Keira Knightly sing? Though that didn't stop Audrey Hepburn; her songs were dubbed by the American soprano Marnie Nixon.

I was looking at Carolina Herrera's Spring 2009 collection, and some of the black and white designs evoked a contemporary Ascot scene. This is a simple black jacket and a white tiered skirt which blooms with fragile black bows.

This white dress is etched with black ribbons which scroll over the body like a line of soft graphite. I love how the ribbon dances artfully on the surface.

Perfect for a modern Eliza Doolittle.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

For the Love of Old

We got this metal box at the antique store. Its black paint is scratched and chipped to reveal silver metal underneath.

It opens up which is nice. We can store books in it.

I love metal furnishings, and for me the more scratched and rusted the better. I like old things; I'm not a suburban Ethan Allen boy. I picture living in a loft with metal furniture and wood country furniture, overlooking the river. Very nineteenth century industrial. The idea of living with rusty, antique things was validated for me by a book called For the Love of Old by my friend Mary Randolph Carter, who was in charge of advertising and is now the editorial and creative director at Polo Ralph Lauren. Gorgeous book, written and photographed by Carter, as she is called. The subtitle of the book is "living with chipped, frayed, tarnished, faded, tattered, worn and weathered things that bring comfort, character and joy to the places we call home."

Carter had the most fantastic office at Ralph Lauren that I have ever been in – a big modern corner office on Madison Avenue but it was layered in rugs and antique textiles, piles of books everywhere. She had a roll-top desk, but we met at a big country wooden table. Going into that office was like taking a trip to an Adirondack Lake. It was very inspirational to me.

This black box will look nice next to the black leather and silver chrome Mies van der Rohe chair.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Below is a video clip of the great fashion magazine editor Diana Vreeland. This is such a treat, and the only video clip I can find of her. "Too brief a treat," Truman Capote would have said.

Vreeland, who was the fashion editor at Harper's Bazaar and then the editor in chief at Vogue for many years, was an artist and her medium was magazines. She had a brilliant way with pictures and words that was inspiring and magical. She pushed the reader to use the imagination and create something new and different, to be original. She herself was not a beauty, but she transformed herself into a legendary figure that shaped the world of fashion. Her own self-discipline had a lot to do with it.

After she was fired, Vreeland went on famously to expand The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute and put it on the map with her blockbuster shows. I interviewed her once on the phone for an article I wrote for Vogue about how costume exhibitions influence fashion designers. After we were done talking, Vreeland said to me, "Thank you for calling me." When Vreeland died in 1989 I was invited to the memorial service at the Met. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a guest, and George Plimpton and Richard Avedon spoke.

A few years ago I profiled the great fashion editor Polly Mellen for the Bergdorf Goodman magazine. Diana Vreeland hired Polly Mellen, first at Harper's Bazaar, and then brought Polly over to Vogue. Polly said to me, "I was in love, no question, with Mrs. Vreeland." Click on the image below to enlarge it and read my article here.

In the clip below, Vreeland is being interviewed by Mike Douglas. I fondly remember Mike Douglas's talk show, but he looks out of his element here, asking questions like, "What is style and who has it?" and "Do you favor tailored clothing or an experimental look?" Vreeland is promoting her upcoming shows at the Met which she describes as "a big potpourri, rather like a souk, rather like a marketplace, rather like an arcade." She gets out some good lines including, "Style takes inspiration and imagination," and "Education has a great deal to do with everything."

She talks fondly about the 1920's -- "The dancing, the music, the arts. The world was alive with everything new. It was the start of the twentieth century." "The Roaring Twenties!" exclaims Mike Douglas. But undoubtedly, Vreeland is not talking about the American Roaring Twenties, she is talking about Paris in the Twenties, and Picasso and the Ballets Russes and Stravinsky and Chanel.

"In Europe, I think there is more snap in the air," Vreeland purrs. "Yes I do."

It was supposed to rain all day but when I was in my yoga class at noon, the sky was sunny so I said to myself, "What would you like to do this afternoon?" And the answer was, "Go to Boerum Hill."

Love Boerum Hill, the neighborhood in Brooklyn between Cobble Hill and Park Slope. I jumped on the A train at 14th Street and thought I knew where I was going but ended up at Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, which is way out there. Oh well. I circled back and made it to Boerum Hill where the sky is open, the trees are big, and the nineteenth century houses that line the streets are low.

Leaves were falling everywhere. We don't get a lot of that in Manhattan.

This is the corner bar in Boerum Hill. Charming, no? It looks to me like Amsterdam.

Boerum Hill runs along Atlantic Avenue where there are many wonderful shops and antique stores. The nineteenth century store fronts remind me of Clinton, New York, upstate.

One of my favorite places on Atlantic Avenue is a men's store called Hollander & Lexer (358 Atlantic). It features well-designed clothes in an antique setting.

The store has wood floors, dark painted walls, metal light fixtures and old, unframed portraits.

The clothes hang on metal racks and accessories are in glass cases.

Designer styles include Steven Alan shirts, Rag & Bone jeans, and Filson bags. Rich hippie, bohemian luxe, whatever you call it, I love that mix of great clothes in an old-fashioned environment -- it's romantic and cool at the same time.

The maestro behind this alchemy is owner Hicham Benmira -- tall, thin, chic, charming, immediately calling you "darling." He grew up in Casablanca, and pushes his glossy locks of jet black hair around his head. "Have you been to Darr?" he inquires in a Moroccan accent. That is the antique store across the street presided over by his partner Brian Cousins (369 Atlantic).

Well, let's have a look.

It's a wonderful mix of furniture, lamps, accessories, animal heads. Brian says they travel a lot and get things from all over, most recently driving a truck to Kansas and filling it up with goods.

That was fun. Like an art trip.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gay Marriages Begin in Connecticut

Love this picture in The New York Times.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Streetcar Named Desire

I stayed up late and watched A Streetcar Named Desire on AMC. I love AMC -- great old movies, and they don't plaster a big network logo on the screen. And what a movie. This version of the Pulitzer-prize winning Tennessee Williams play was filmed in black and white in 1951 by director Eli Kazan. It has Kim Hunter as Stella, Marlon Brando as her husband Stanley, Karl Malden as the gentleman caller Mitch, and the amazing Vivian Leigh as Blanche Dubois, Stella's sister. Kim Hunter, Karl Malden and Vivian Leigh all won Oscars.

You know the story: Blanche Dubois, living in her own grandiose imagination, shows up at the home of her sister and brother-in-law with a questionable past, and no where left to live. In her arrogance, she is treated brutally by Stanley. She has one last chance to marry with Mitch, but it slips away before her very eyes, and you can see her teetering and struggling before she sinks fragiley and irretrievably into despair and madness. She speaks of a grand life and an elegant history, but it doesn't match her reality. "I don't want reality, I want magic," she says. It turns out that she was promiscuous, or a prostitute, in the past. "Yes, I've had my meetings with strangers." At the end of the downward slide when the doctor arrives to take her to a mental institution, she longingly utters the classic line, "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers." She is a character who tries to make herself into something beautiful and refined but in the end she is beaten down by a cruel world. It's a mesmerizing and heartbreaking performance.

The language is gorgeous, it's like music. I could listen to it all night. The black and white photography suits the mood beautifully. What a great, great talent Tennessee Williams was. But it did not end well for him. He suffered from alcohol and drug abuse, and I remember when he died in a hotel room on Lexington Avenue in 1983, choking on a bottle cap. He had a boy living with him who did not wake up to save him.

Vivian Leigh, who was English, launched into stardom when she won the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind which she is spectacular in. She was married to Laurence Olivier -- what a handsome couple that must have been. But Vivian Leigh suffered too, from manic depression and bipolar disorder. She no doubt understood Blanche's frailty. Olivier struggled to help her, but in the end they were divorced. Why do great artists so often have to suffer? It seems like an unfair burden. But Vivien Leigh and Tennessee Williams made beautiful music together in A Streetcar Named Desire, preserved forever on film.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

This is a photo from The New York Times this week and this is the caption:

At Eagle Academy, an all-boys school in Brooklyn, pupils watched a replay of Barack Obama's vistory speech on Wednesday. (James Etrin for The New York Times)

God bless America, my home sweet home.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Party Obama, Part 2

Oh my heavens. What a night. The most exciting election of my lifetime. At 1:00 am we threw open the window to hear people on the street below yelling and rejoicing. I've never seen anything like it.
As you know we have been supporting Obama. On Monday TD went to Pennsylvania to canvas door to door. I have been so hopeful for this change. Obama ran such a classy and brilliant campaign; it feels like a new country already. Tears last night as the family of four took the winning stage. How could you not choke up? They are so young and exciting and dazzling. It's a beautiful thing. I picture him having a fantastically successful eight-year run.

On CNN this morning they had Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. In the Sixties Lewis had a prominent role in the Selma to Montgomery freedom marches to desegregate the South, and was brutally beaten to within an inch of his life. Now he can see Obama elected to the presidency. More tears. It is a miracle, and it is the genius of our American democracy. I am so proud of my country, and I have felt the opposite way for a long time. There is an exhilarating sense of relief that the dark Bush years are over.

This is one of my favorite clips and I post it today as a tribute to Obama. It's two songs by Stephen Sondheim, 'Our Time' sung by the Boys Choir of Harlem and 'Children Will Listen' sung by Betty Buckley. Ted and I once met with Betty Buckley's lawyer when we were trying to get a children's book published which Ted illustrated and I wrote, but that's another story.

"It's our time coming through."

Watch the whole thing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Words to LIve By

"Chic is nothing, but it is the right nothing."
English writer Patrick Kinmouth

The cufflinks above came from the antique store I haunt. My much loved aunt Betty, my father's sister, died in January, and left her many nieces and nephews a little money so I bought these cufflinks which are made out of malachite and Mexican sterling silver. They are stamped on the back and the man in the store said I could look the stamp up online and see who made them. I like a pop of color, a dot of color, on a shirt cuff. They're not meant to match anything. Here, the blue shirt and grey jacket and green cuff link complement each other; I'm not big on matching. When I wear them I think of Betty.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

For the Birds

I got this little wooden painted bird at Anthropologie.

Isn't he cute? I love birds. In our garden on Jane Street we had all kinds of birds -- red cardinals, blue jays, fat grey doves fluttering in at dusk. On 15th Street I didn't see any birds in the back so I got a bird feeder and hung it at the window. My father in Connecticut gave me some glossy black sunflower seeds. I mixed them with other seeds in the bird feeder. It took a while but finally the birds did come. Now they love it. The bird feeder bangs against the living room window as they peck away. I fill up the bird feeder and it's empty in twenty-four hours. I'm looking forward to seeing the birds over the winter time. They add some life to the scene when everything else is dead and grey.

Everybody, Vote!

Fashion designer Zac Posen lived next door on Jane Street. Zac says Vote!

Let's make the future look good, people.