Through this Sunday, October 5, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is exhibiting studio portraits and movie stills from the John Kobal Collection of classic Hollywood photos. In the '60s and '70s, when Golden Age glamour was out of fashion and studios were dumping their archives, Kobal bought and preserved prints and negatives, befriended aging stars and photographers, and documented their stories. Most of the classic images you see reproduced today come from his archives, now licensed by Getty Images. (The George Hurrell photos occasionally featured on DG are exceptions. They're courtesy of our friends at the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive.)
The photos all present idealized versions of the stars--but what a range of ideals they represent, from the refined elegance of Grace Kelly to the sultry seductiveness of Rita Hayworth's Gilda, from Vivian Leigh in hyperfeminine white ruffles to Marlene Dietrich tough and dominant in a crisp blouse and slacks. And those are just (a few of) the women.
Joan Kron epitomizes substance with style--a combination she has turned into a remarkable career in journalism. Over the years, she has brought style to The Wall Street Journal (originating the fashion beat), The New York Times (helping to create the Home section), and Clay Felker's New York magazine (covering design). Since 1991, she's been the contributing editor-at-large for Allure, where she covers plastic surgery, the subject of her 1998 book Lift: Wanting, Fearing, and Having a Facelift, a must for anyone contemplating a cosmetic procedure. Her work displays a keen intellect, a great knowledge of both art and social science, and an unusual ability to talk shop with surgeons. We're honored that she agreed to share her thoughts with DG.
DG: In the 1980s. you wrote about interiors and the meanings people attach to their homes. What's changed since then? Have people become more house-obsessed, or do we just have more cable makeover shows?
JK: People still care deeply about their homes—as a refuge, a status symbol, and identity device. But the rash of less-pretentious home magazines and home-design cable shows has made the younger generations more self-assured about their taste. I see much less “fear of furnishing,” a condition I identified in Home-Psych, my 1983 book. The pendulum has swung in the other direction, toward taste self-confidence, encouraged by some dreadful design solutions (sorry if that sounds judgmental) on home makeover shows: If you have a jigsaw machine from Home Depot, what better use for it than making empty picture frames for wall décor? Home Depot, shade warehouses, paint stores with designers on staff, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Pottery Barn, Design Within Reach, etc, are all enablers. Taste arbiters are out and DIY (with patterns we can copy) is in.
I also see a decline in traditional gender roles in home decoration. Husbands are often taking charge. I have young neighbors who are renovating, and the husband, a financier who never heard of Mario Buatta or Dorothy Draper, is making almost all the design decisions. Needless to say, media rooms and large TVs play a bigger role when men are in charge. Aside from Williams-Sonoma Home catalogue, one of the biggest design inspirations today is hotel design. Instead of What Happens in Vegas T-shirts, vacationers are bringing back decorating ideas. Forget stealing towels. Now, if they sleep well out of town, they’re buying the beds from their hotels.
DG: Celebrities with bad plastic surgery are so well known that it sometimes seems as if plastic surgery never makes people look better. Can you give us some famous examples of good plastic surgery?
JK: Ironically, good plastic surgery is invisible…there’s lots of it, but naming names would be an invasion of privacy. Take it from me, however: Almost everyone in Hollywood, TV, and politics (except possibly Madeleine Albright) has had some cosmetic enhancement—and they do it quietly and frequently.
DG: Is acknowledging that you've had plastic surgery antithetical to glamour?
JK: Absolutely—that’s an admission that one’s beauty is neither natural nor effortless.
DG: In January, you had a very public 80th birthday party, and you've been equally public about having had three facelifts. How do you respond to people who say they believe in "aging gracefully"?
JK: How one ages is a choice. It’s no different from deciding how often to have a manicure or a haircut. As someone who covers plastic surgery, I feel a responsibility to be truthful, since most people lie. I joke that I prefer to “age dis-gracefully.” I don’t see getting rid of my double chin as a moral issue. Some people say they’ve earned their wrinkles, but frankly I don’t care to wear my emotional resume on my face. There is no such thing as natural. I cut and dye my hair, I wear lipstick. I shape my eyebrows. I have no illusions about becoming a beauty object. But why should I give up and look like Yoda, or Jane Wyatt when she left the sanctuary in Lost Horizon (rent the movie) if I don’t have to? The technology is available. I don’t want to look bizarre, so I don’t ask for extreme procedures. And I draw the line--for myself--at lip-filling injections. They look so phony on someone my age. I hope I don’t look “done” but if someone thinks I do, I find it preferable to looking “undone.” Now could you all stop staring at my face.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour?
Glamour is enchanting superiority. It appears effortless (even though it’s not) and beyond the reach of mortals.
It’s a necessity—like a fairy tale or a myth that inspires and distracts from the mundane.
4) Favorite glamorous movie?
I was knocked out by Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast when I first saw it in 1946. It seems dated when I see it now—but at the time it was magical. I copied Beauty’s pearl crown when I got married, the first time. Also, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire "dancing cheek to cheek."
5) What was your most glamorous moment?
Landing in a private helicopter on a host’s 350-foot yacht in the Greek Islands and being greeted by butlers with trays of champagne in flutes. Spending two days in L.A. interviewing Sophia Loren.
I love my Treo but it’s not glamorous. It’s a necessity. No one needs sterling silver flatware, stainless steel would do, but I find silver incredibly glamorous. People say to me, “But you have to polish it.” And I do, with pleasure. It’s no different from washing your precious convertible by hand.
7) Most glamorous place?
I can’t choose one. The lobby of New York’s Hampshire House by Dorothy Draper, the Chrysler Building, French designer Andrée Putman’s loft in Paris with the bed in the open behind sheer curtains, the Versailles Hall of Mirrors, the gardens in Last Year at Marienbad, the Parthenon, Manhattan on a summer night seen from the water. For years I was enchanted by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water in Pittsburgh until I visited it and found the rooms so cramped—but as a dream house, viewed from a distance, it still qualifies.
8) Most glamorous job?
Astronaut, architect, magazine editor.
"Some people say they’ve earned their wrinkles, but frankly I don’t care to wear my emotional resume on my face."
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't.
I enjoy “red carpet” parades but they’re more glitz than glamour.
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized.
11) Can glamour survive?
There will always be mysterious superior beings or entities, but the forms as we know them, will evolve.
A vivid canary diamond, weighing 102.56 carats, is expected to bring around $10 million in a Hong Kong auction. Sotheby's says it's the largest fancy colored stone they've ever sold. Set with white diamonds, the pendent can be also worn as a brooch, which makes it practical, as well as slightly ostentatious. It's not exactly a triumph of the jeweler's art.
David Thompson, writing in the Guardian, argues that the late Paul Newman was best in those roles that expressed his own ambivalence about the movies. Playing Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler, Newman got an Oscar nomination
The film was done with grit and no glamour, as well as a lot of hard-learned pool, and Felson was a knife to scrape away Newman's jammy smile.
But Thompson tries too hard to convince us that Newman was immune to glamour and its trappings, writing:
He was absurdly popular as a young man, and then waited or endured until that had worn off, and he could face all the abiding tests of honesty without glamour or celebrity to divert him.
Newman was never more honest than when driving Indy cars, and open wheel racing is about a glamorous as it gets. He was 70 when he won at Daytona. Lime Rock Park owner Skip Barber said of him:
He liked to win. He thought of himself as an uncoordinated guy, a stumbler a little bit, but in a car he was really graceful. 'Graceful' is not a word that a lot of people associate with car racing, but there sure are guys that are more fluid and smoother than others, and he was good.
(photo from Michael Manning)
Posted by KateC on September 29, 2008 in
Browsing through Zazzle, the site we use to create and sell DG merchandise, is an interesting way to get a look at grassroots political enthusiasms, pro and con. OCTOBER 2 UPDATE: Zazzle is running a VP debate-day sale, $1 off on political stuff, enter promocode DEBATEDEALS2.
Who gets the lipstick vote?
Obama: Savior or Antichrist?
Browse more here:
Posted by Virginia Postrel on September 28, 2008 in
When we last saw Groomzilla, the California Supreme Court had sent him flashing back to his mother's wedding memories and pondering how he, too, might now plan a Big Day worthy of being memorialized in oil paint. But will his oh-so-practical fiancé cooperate?
Groomzillas are allergic to reason, at least insofar as it comes to a budget for their wedding day.
My beloved fiancé is cheap. Extremely cheap. Clothes are worn until they have holes, cars are driven until the doors fall off (literally), and weddings are opportunities for demonstrating one's command of thriftiness. Going into our wedding, then, I steeled my nerves and braced for battle.
The first debate came when we discussed (what else?) what we planned to wear. My fiancé announced that both of us have ample wardrobe options in our closets, and it simply made no sense to buy something new. A few hours later, after the EMT delivered a few hundred volts through the paddles on my chest, I began my not-so-secret campaign to inspire him to new sartorial heights.
Phase One: the strategically-placed men's fashion magazines. This came to a crashing halt during a conversation through the closed door of a bathroom as we got ready for work.
Fiancé: "Honey, why did you put a Post-It flag on this ridiculous picture of the Etro man in the orange jacket?"
Groomzilla: "It is caramel, not orange, and it's not ridiculous, and I think I want to wear it to the wedding."
Fiancé "Velvet? Seriously? Don't you already own a suit?"
Groomzilla: "I refuse to look like a peasant at my own wedding!"
Fiancé "Sorry, Ma Joad, but no Etro."
Note that in the Groomzilla universe, there are no shades of grey: we move quickly from glamazon to peasant, and the crazy train does not stop anywhere along the way (say, at Banana Republic).
Phase Two: the rational negotiation. Two glasses of vino into a low-key evening, I agreed to sit with my fiancé as he raided our closets to assemble some wardrobe options that he felt were tasteful, fashionable and appropriate for our nuptials. I sat cross-legged on the floor and opined like a fashion swami flown in from India to enlighten the masses. My pithy responses were as follows:
"I hate that."
"What about that says 'Fall wedding' to you?"
"That makes me look fat."
"That makes you look fat."
"That won't photograph well."
"That looks old." (Note that this responses applies, generally, to all clothing that does not still have the price tag on it.)
And thus Phase Two ended in a stalemate. Defeated, my fiance agreed one Saturday morning to make an appearance at the Barneys Hangar Sale at Barker Airport (the worst-kept and most wonderful secret to staying fashionable in Los Angeles on a "budget," as upwardly mobile yuppies define "budget" in respect of $900 Dolce shoes marked down to the fire sale price of $300).
Phase Three: cave in.
Within minutes of scanning the racks at Barneys, I began a long-term love affair with an 80%-off Dolce and Gabbana tuxedo. The moment of my triumph was sudden and intense. (I imagine that this is what Rapture would feel like if I believed in such things, with 30,000 damned souls left standing outside Ross Dress for Less as God's chosen ascended to heaven in perfectly-polished Prada shoes.) Hanging before me was a Groomzilla's perfect suit - Autumnal yet ripe for year-round repurposing, fashion-forward yet elegant, and blissfully inexpensive to the Groomzilla who hours before had contemplated kidnapping Vera Wang and forcing her to rethink menswear immediately.
Perhaps it was the look of glee in my eyes that made my adorable cheap fiancé agree to a $600 suit splurge, or maybe it was the sheer exhaustion of dealing with my endless whining about the whole affair. Regardless, I emerged with my perfect new outfit...and shoes....and a tie....and a Band of Outsiders suit for my fiancé....with shoes....and a tie...and a pair of Zegna linen pants for a hypothetical garden party that will likely never happen.
As we loaded the spoils of war into my trunk, my fiance turned to me and said, "Happy, baby?" I gave him a peck on the cheek and said, "Yes, I am."
"But we still need to decide about those invitiations..."
In her new novel, This Year's Model ’80s supermodel Carol Alt tells the story of a nice Jersey girl named Melody Ann who is waiting tables and planning for college one day and modeling for magazine spreads the next. It's a story not unlike Alt’s own, but updated to the era--and for the audience--of America’s Next Top Model. Alt will be signing books tomorrow evening, Thursday, September 25, at 7:00 at the Westwood Borders and will be appearing at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Sunday. DG caught up with her by phone Wednesday morning, as she started a busy day in L.A.
Q: Writing a novel is a big change from writing about raw foods [the subject of Alt's previous books]. How did this come about?
A: Two things happened more or less simultaneously. My agent Laura Dail came to me and said, “Whenever I sit with you, whenever we talk, you tell the funniest stories, you have me rolling in the aisles. You should really write a book.”
Then I was sitting with an agent friend of mine and he said, “Carol, you can’t believe what’s happening in the industry. The girls come in, they maybe last one seasons. They’ll do some shows, they’ll make a little money, and then they’re gone.”
I said, “What has changed so drastically? My career has lasted 30 years. What could happen to cut a career down from the possibility of 30 years to one season?”
He said, “They don’t have any history, they don’t have any connection to the business, they don’t know of any girls who came before. They have no role models. They have no business models. They come in and they think if they sleep around, if they do a lot of drugs, if they party a lot, if they’re out and people see them, they’ll get jobs faster than the agents they’re signed to. They burn out really quickly, they look bad fast, and they’re used up.”
These girls are reading magazine articles that make it look like all the girls who made it to the top are huge partiers, did a lot of drugs. All these mothers, all these girls, they stop me on the street. I can’t tell you how many people give me their resumes: "Can you please give this to your agent? Can you help us?" They have no clue how to go about this business. I thought, It’s time for a book that’s speaking to these girls. It’s not my finger wagging at them. It’s in a voice that’s young and hip. I wrote about what I knew about the modeling industry from my career and updated it to today, made it more relevant.
Q: You’re running a cover-girl contest for your second novel. What is the second book about?
A: The second book is still the same character. We’re following her. You see this character moving on and becoming a force in the business.
A career has stages. When I was starting out, I’d go to a photographer who wasn’t well known, or I’d get a catalog job. Then all of a sudden you’re working for a bigger name. Or with catalogs, you go from Spiegels or Butterick to Lord & Taylor or Bloomingdale’s. As this is happening, your agent is going, “Oh my God, you got a job with Bloomingdale’s!”
I remember this girl I worked with at some low-end catalog place said, “We’re friends and we hang out, but ultimately you’ll move on. Your agents won’t let us work together by next year.” I said, “No, I’ll make them let us work together.” I was naïve enough to think I’m making a client. The agency had other plans, which were to move me on to other jobs to build my popularity and desirability in the market. The agent is telling you that: “Oh my God, you got Versace! Vogue just booked you!” It’s not Mademoiselle--for me it was Mademoiselle, today it would be it’s not Glamour, it’s not teen books, it’s Vogue. You as a character are moving forward. Then comes a point where you’re no longer a new face.
The one thing in this business that I can’t stress enough is that you never really feel successful. You are every day needing to get a job. It’s not like you get this fabulous job and it’s going to carry you through for the next ten years. That job lasts three days, and you still need to get your next job. Because if you don’t have your next job, you’re forgotten about almost immediately--back then, and now. There’s this constant need to always work.
Q: You have a passage where your protagonist “officially retires” Melody Ann Croft and says, “I am Mac, even after hours.” Is a model ever off stage?
A: No. And that’s exactly what happened to me. I used to say I’m Carol with the big C when I’m out on the stage and I’m carol with the little c in my life. I would walk around in sweatpants on my way to the studio, with hats and glasses on, and then I’d get to the studio and all of a sudden you have this makeup and hair and the fans blowing and the photographers and the music going and you’re a whole ’nother person.
"If you’ve got a giant pimple on your face, you can’t go out, because if people see you and you do not look good, that’s all they say: ‘Oh, I saw her. She does not look good.’ Two days later you look fabulous again. But they just remember you did not look good."
When you’re out, a photographer might see you. So you need to look good. If you’ve got a giant pimple on your face, you can’t go out, because if people see you and you do not look good, that’s all they say: ‘Oh, I saw her. She does not look good.’ It can’t be that you had a bad night’s sleep or you had the flu that day and a hangover and a broken toe and your hairdresser messed up. Two days later you look fabulous again. But they just remember you did not look good.
Q: How do you create a safe haven for yourself, where you don’t feel like you’re on stage?
A: When I was modeling, I didn’t have that. It was just airplanes and studios. When I started doing movies it was a little easier, because you’d go away on location. You’d go from the hotel to the car, and the car to the set, and you had security and body guards, and nobody could get near you. But as a model, you’re really just out there. They can find you anywhere. We’re in airports, we’re in drug stores, we’re in Whole Foods. And photographers are very opportunistic.
I was walking on the street last week going to a photographer’s studio to look at some photos that were shot for a layout that’s coming out in December, and these guys from TMZ caught me. They were stalking the photographer’s studio to see what famous people were coming in and out. They were following me with their cameras down the streets, and I was in sweatpants. I said to my girlfriend, “Do me a favor and stand in front of me.”
It’s not that I was trying to be rude, but you spend millions of dollars in the course of a career on publicity and imagery and stylists and hair and makeup and clothing and shoes--all the right things at all the right times. But after a while, it was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to block these guys. I was out in my sweatpants being photographed. And they were shouting to me, “Carol, you did great on The Apprentice! You look fabulous!” In my sweatpants. Come on, guys, have a heart.
Over at her blog, readers are voting on her author photo, but we went with the classic.
DG: As a writer, you've seen
both sides of glamour--the seedy and the soaring. How does that proximity
affect your perception of glamour or the glamorous?
NR: As a writer, I am always trying to look past what’s presented to the
intent, and I think glamour is all about intent. The most glamorous
person I recall from my childhood in New York City in the late 60s/early
70s – besides my mother, who wore Emilio Pucci and paper dresses and
skintight silver pantsuits with Pop-Art sunglasses, her long black hair
professionally wrap-set each week on West 57
th Street –
was a mad woman who used to wander the streets of Brooklyn Heights at
night, but who, in her absolutely impeccable 1940s gowns and platinum
up-do was for all the world as haunting and gorgeous and glamorous as
Vivian Leigh. And the woman was mad! Seriously mad. But she had dressed
with deliberation, and as she passed would stare into my eyes as though
she were bequeathing me “the” secret. Clearly, if I am recalling
her 30 years later, she was.
DG: And as a woman, you're pretty glamorous yourself? Or has domestic
life in Portland given you a different perspective? What about having
a daughter--can you advise her on glamour?
NR: When I arrived in Portland,
I quickly met another LA-transplant, a TV writer named Jill Cargaman,
with whom I made a pact: each time we saw each other, we’d be showing
cleavage and/or nipple; wearing mascara, and, preferably, drinking cocktails,
a pledge that inspired her to write the following ode:
No matter who wears Birkenstocks Or fleece-y garb
and limp dull locks
I'm clinging fast
to my state of bliss
What Portland calls
My make-up thick,
my hair a'blown
My cleavage bared,
my "rise" too low
I'm proud to front
my style and class
(Although I'm freezing off my ass!)
Was I bereft when she hightailed
it back to LA? Oh yeah. But aside from occasionally putting on my husband’s
fleece jacket in the house when it’s cold, I don’t dress like a
typical Portland gal. Not that I don’t appreciate what can be done
with a sturdy build, a no-fuss haircut, and a bicycle, but it’s not
for me. I like to dress – even if it’s in jeans and a t-shirt, which
it often is – as though when I step outside, I might run into, say,
William Langewiesche or Javier Bardem; I want to be ready. I want to
look good. As long as my boobs have bounce, they will occasionally be
the featured player in the ensemble. I want my husband to slip his hand
around my waist because the waist, you see, is asking to be embraced.
For me, glamour is about the frisson of being connected to that spot,
that moment; to paving the way for that moment to come.
I once wrote: “About a decade after a woman gives
birth to a girl, she begins to know exponentially and unequivocally
less about fashion than her daughter.” When my daughter was 12, she
rolled her eyes as my '80s Lurex blouse with the ruche sleeves; now,
at 18, she wears it. I will freely admit she’s so easy in her skin,
so curious and inventive, that she can make anything look good. Because
budding designer she pays a lot of attention to clothes,
and so I find myself looking to her for ideas, whether it’s what pair
of jeans to buy (“Oh, mom, god, not
those”) or which dress
to wear to a party, and she’s pretty much never wrong.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour?
Glamour takes deliberation,
taking what fascinates you today – be it a building, a book, blue
eyeliner – and investigating it and reworking it and trying it out
yourself. I do think the work of doing is what makes glamour work.
If you’re interested in exploring
the worlds of art and ideas and fashion and beauty and politics and
sports and and and… then clearly, it’s a necessity.
4) Favorite glamorous movie?
5) What was your most glamorous moment?
Singing karaoke at the Grand
Star restaurant in Los Angeles’s Chinatown, during the 1995 Super
Vixens Christmas/book release party, while wearing a shantung silk gown
in a pink/navy/purple print with gold sequin straps and a matching bolero
6) Favorite glamorous object?
I have an YSL black fox fur-trimmed
cape that I bought at a Beverly Hills estate sale for $50. The moment
I saw it, I thought,
I will someday wrap my sleeping grandson in
7) Most glamorous place?
I do like the Pool Room at
the Four Seasons in New York, but have not been in a long time, in case
anyone reading this would like to take me to lunch.
8) Most glamorous job?
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't?
The red carpet
10) Something or someone that
you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized?
I’m going to go with Anthony
11) Can glamour survive?
Of course! Just look at any
three-year-old girl in her tutu. We strive toward glamour even before
we know what it is.
12) Is glamour something you're
No, I don’t think so. I think we’re born with, as above, an innate
fascination with it. But glamour is something that takes intent; it’s
a decision. Thank goodness. Much more interesting that way.
1) Angelina Jolie or Cate Blanchett?
The right woman in me longs
to say Blanchett, but damn if
Jolie doesn’t fascinate me. And she
can fly a plane?
2) Paris or Venice?
Paris for a visit; Venice long
enough to write a book.
3) New York or Los Angeles?
4) Princess Diana or Princess Grace?
Princess Grace. So flawless,
so knit together, and she had so many fascinating lovers!
5) Tokyo or Kyoto?
I never before noticed they’re
anagrammatic, but anyway,
6) Boots or stilettos?
Stilettos. I can’t really
wear them but I appreciate when others do.
7) Art Deco or Art Nouveau?
8) Jaguar or Aston Martin?
9) Armani or Versace?
Not even close: Versace
10) Diana Vreeland or Anna
11) Champagne or single malt?
12) 1960s or 1980s?
13) Diamonds or pearls?
Diamonds. And speaking of:
yesterday I saw both Moissanite and cubic zirconia; the first are twice
as refractive as the real thing, and the second made my pretty spanking
nice, real diamond engagement ring look drab.
As is well known, the emotional and monetary value
of diamonds is completely manufactured by de Beers. Buy fake, I say!
14) Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell?
15) Sean Connery or Daniel
Daniel Craig, and I know this
to be empirically true because when last night my husband said, “I
want to see the new James Bond movie,” both my daughter and I, with
the same little longing in our voices, each said, “Me, too.”