31 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

Clara Bow

Happy Halloween! I love this holiday. You can dress as crazy as you want and eat loads of chocolate without anyone batting an eye. I'm working today but plan on heading over to the Village afterwards to see the annual parade goers. My Agent Dana Scully costume went over well at the party I attended this weekend but today called for something different so I am wearing my tiara as I type this (I will jump at any reason to bring the tiara out). Have fun everyone.

For more cute photos of Clara Bow, check out the Clara Bow Archive here.

30 October 2011

Dogs on Parade

Last weekend I headed over to Tompkins Square Park for a special event—the 21st annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade. With 500 dogs and thousands of spectators, the area around the park's dog run was packed and filled with dogs of all breeds. Although I was unable to make my way up to the judging stand I had no problem seeing many of the dogs in attendance.

There were devils and angels, sailors and dinosaurs, and many, many more costumes to be seen.

Lady Gaga was there and Elvis too. Little Red Riding Hood made an appearance as did Cruella Deville (one of the few people in costume). 

It was a great day and definitely one of the most fun parades I've attended. After all, is there anything more amusing than a dog in costume?

Photos by

29 October 2011

October Snow

Pumpkins and cemeteries in October make sense. But snow? Last week the air conditioning was on in my office. Today, the streets are a slushy mess and the radiator is blazing away. It is way too early for snow. Please, bring back fall.

This photo was taken last winter but you get the point. Photo by Michele.

28 October 2011

The Truth Is Out There

I'm going to a Halloween party this weekend and instead of a vintage look (my usual choice), I've decided to go as one of my favourite television heroines—Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files. I recently re-watched old episodes of the show (which I love) so Scully was on my mind when I was thinking about a costume. It also doesn't hurt that I already have the same outfit as she's wearing in the photo; I just had to pick up a wig and FBI badge. Easy Peasy. Are any of you dear readers dressing up?

26 October 2011

Law & Order, Part II

My days as a potential juror have come to a close. In the end, I was dismissed and cannot be called up again for six years. The whole experience was interesting but after two days of sitting in a courtroom, I think I’ve gotten my Law and Order fix. (The New York County Courthouse where I was will look familiar to fans of the show— countless scenes were filmed on its steps.)

On my last day, I stopped to take in the jewel of the building—a grand rotunda with stained glass windows, Tiffany chandeliers, and a WPA sponsored mural, “Law Through the Ages.” It was striking to look at. I just wish I had had more than my phone on hand to capture its beauty.

Photo by

25 October 2011


Myrna Loy in Evelyn Prentice.

While working my way through endless stacks of magazines and papers I managed to get some novels in along the way. Here's the latest.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah E. Harkness 
Dr. Diana Bishop is an American scholar studying at Oxford who just happens to be a witch with roots back to Salem, Massachusetts. One day in the Bodleian Library she orders up an alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, which draws the attention of every witch, vampire, and daemon in the area, including a 1,500-year old vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Bishop, who has always been reluctant to use her powers, is drawn to the charismatic Clairmont and the two are soon working together to discover the secrets of the manuscript. The book starts off strong; I loved the scenes set in the library and around Oxford as well as the initial dance between Bishop and Clairmont. Yet I felt the romance became too rushed and at 592 pages, certain sections could have been edited down.

13 rue Thérèse: A Novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro
American scholar Trevor Stratton, (yes, I read two books in a row involving American scholars) working at a Paris university, discovers a box filled with objects once owned by Louise Brunet, a woman whose story is pieced together by Trevor from the contents and his own imagination. Spanning both World Wars, Brunet’s tale includes a cousin she loved who was lost in the first war, her marriage to a good but boring man, and her fixation with a neighbor. Filled with photographs of the objects in the box, the book is both lovely and moving. The author states that she inherited the box and its contents from the real Brunet. I don’t know how much of this tale is true but in the end it doesn’t really matter. Shapiro vividly brings Paris and Brunet to life and that’s what’s important.

 When ten-year old Patrick becomes an orphan he is sent to live with his eccentric Auntie Mame in New York. There he receives a most unconventional upbringing, from the notepad he is given to record all the words he overhears and doesn’t understand at her cocktail parties to the bohemian school in the Village he attends where the students study in the nude. When Patrick grows up and threatens to turn into a stiff like his father Auntie Mame intervenes, including a hilarious visit to his school, and shows how strong her love is for her ward. I had seen the film with Rosalind Russell (which is fabulous) but this was my first time reading the book and it’s by far one of the funniest I’ve read in years. Hilarious yet poignant in sections, it’s a must read for everyone.

Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford
 Sally and Walter are newly weds and as part of the group dubbed the Bright Young Things find things like budgets and living within ones means a foreign idea. When they are asked to go up to Scotland and host a shooting party at Dalloch Castle they accept, inviting their friends Albert, a painter recently returned from Paris, and Jane, who is always falling in love. The other guests, all older and highly respectable, soon clash with the younger set in a series of hilarious situations. I have to confess that Nancy Mitford is one of my favourite writers and love all of her work. Highland Fling may not be her best novel but it is highly entertaining and had me laughing throughout.

24 October 2011

Law & Order

Instead of going to work today I sat in the building above doing my civic duty. That's right. I got called to jury duty. Cue the Law & Order music. The key word here is sat. For hours. I wasn't picked for a jury and have to go back tomorrow but hope that will be it. All that sitting has made me exhausted (it sounds like a lame excuse but it's true) and so I will try and post a more interesting story tomorrow.

Photo by Michele.

20 October 2011

Happy Birthday Ollie!

Happy Birthday to Olive Thomas. Born today in 1894, she would rise out of poverty to become a star of the stage and screen. She remains, without a doubt, my favourite silent film actress, and I never get tired of seeing her flit across the screen. Last year, I wrote a tribute of sorts to Olive. This year, I will celebrate by having a glass (or two) of bubbly in her memory. Happy Birthday Ollie. May your star shine bright always.

19 October 2011

Those Dancing Days Are Gone

Carla Bruni, the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has given birth to a baby girl. The news reminds me of how much I like Carla as a singer. I have two of her albums—Quelqu'un m'a dit and No Promises. Her breathy voice and jangly guitar playing work well to create some very good pop tunes. No Promises features poems by English-speaking poets set to music. Although two of Mrs. Parker's poems appear on the album my favourite is W.B. Yeats' "Those Dancing Days are Gone." It's both catchy and lovely. If you've never heard it, you should download it now. And how great is that album cover?

So congratulations Carla. I'm going to go listen to you now to celebrate.

17 October 2011

Silver Screen Stars

Garbo. Harlow. Dietrich. Gable. These are just a few of the stars featured in an exhibit at the Grolier Club—“Silver Screen/Silver Prints: Hollywood Portrait Photographs from the Robert Dance Collection.” The exhibit examines the genre of portraiture during Hollywood’s Golden Age and the great photographers who created the glamour portraits of Hollywood's legendary stars.

Starting with the leading photographers of the silent era—James Abbe, Albert Witzel, and Alfred Cheney Johnston (famous for his Ziegfeld Follies portraits)—the exhibit is broken up into ten sections, each dedicated to a single photographer, star, or theme. Even if you've seen some of these images before in books, nothing compares to looking at these lovely silver prints with all of their nuanced details in person.

One of my favourite photographers in the exhibit was Ruth Harriet Louise. The first woman to work as a portrait photographer in Hollywood, she was the head of MGM’s portrait studio when she was just 22. A striking example of her work is a photograph of Myrna Loy portrayed as a sophisticate, a type she played on screen as Nora Charles in the Thin Man series. This was probably one of the loveliest portraits in the exhibit.

The section on Ramon Navarro illustrates through a mix of portraits and film stills how he perfectly embodied the role of romantic lead on screen. A portrait by Carl Van Vechten, better known for his photographs of members of the Harlem Renaissance, is especially modern looking; it wouldn’t look out of place in a magazine today.

Other great photographers in the exhibit include Clarence Sinclair Bull, who captured Jean Harlow shortly before her death on the set of her last film Saratoga, and George Hurrell, whose portraits of stars like Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer probably helped to define the Hollywood glamour portrait more than any other photographer in the 1930s and 40s.

The last photo in the exhibit is the famous portrait of Louise Brooks with her pearls taken by Eugene Robert Richee in 1928. This image perfectly symbolizes what Hollywood portraiture is all about—the melding of art with a star’s beauty, resulting in an iconic image.

Seeing exhibits at the Grolier Club is always enjoyable. Founded in 1884, the Grolier Club is the oldest society of bibliophiles in the country and is housed in a lovely townhouse. Best of all, their exhibits are free.

Silver Screen/Silver Prints is on through November 12, 2011.

14 October 2011

The Girl With the Curls

Mary Pickford was famous for her curls. Long, heavy ringlets that appeared golden on screen, they were the envy of women everywhere. They gave her an angelic appearance and helped her to play young girls well into her 30s.

When Mary first started out in pictures with the Biograph Company, working under the direction of D.W. Griffith, none of the company’s actors received screen credits. As Mary’s popularity grew, audiences began to demand more movies with the “Girl with the Curls.”

So it's not surprising that when Mary bobbed her hair on June 21, 1928 (she waited until her mother had died before making the drastic decision) the move made the front page of the New York Times. Shocked fans wrote letters expressing their anger at the loss of her curls, and her husband at the time, Douglas Fairbanks, reportedly wept.

Which is why I find this image of Mary so interesting. No curls in sight or the golden sheen associated with the most famous woman in the world. Instead there's just a young woman looking pensively at the camera, waiting to do the most common of things—wash her hair.

12 October 2011

The Blue Hat

Included in the exhibit on Man Ray and Lee Miller that I saw this weekend was a Vogue cover from March 1927 that Lee posed for. When I was a teen, I bought a poster of this cover and hung it above my bed where it remained throughout high school. I had no idea at the time who the model was; I just knew that I liked her face and the blue and the hat. One day I found an old blue cloche that reminded me of this hat at the local St. Vincent de Paul's. Much to my surprise, I discovered a label sewn inside with my first name (talk about coincidences). Later I would learn about Lee Miller and discover the connection between her and my poster. 

I'm not much of a pack rat. In fact, I'm quite fond of tossing stuff out (moving around a lot will do that to a person). Yet I still have the poster and the hat. The poster is rolled up, stored away in a closet but the blue hat is hanging on my coat rack, a reminder of the woman in blue who I first admired all those years ago.

11 October 2011

Man and Lee

As I mentioned yesterday, I made a trip to Salem, Massachusetts to see an exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum. "Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism" examines the tumultuous relationship between the two artists and shows how they influenced and inspired each other's work.

Photo by Michele.

Lee Miller is a favourite photographer of mine whose work is usually overshadowed (unfairly) by Man Ray's yet it is difficult to discuss her work without mentioning his so having a shared exhibit on the two makes sense. 

In 1929 Lee, an American model bored with just posing for the camera, arrived in Paris ready to embark on a new chapter in her life. The story goes that she tracked down the well-known Man in a bar and announced "
My name is Lee Miller, and I’m your new student." Man told her that he didn't have students and besides he was leaving for Biarritz the next day. Lee boldly announced "So am I." Lee became his student and soon took on the roles of muse and lover as well.

Theirs was not an easy relationship; during their three years together they
fought often over love and work (there is at least one image in the exhibit that both c
laimed as theirs) and when Lee left him, a devastated Man continued to include her image in his art for years. Yet their partnership resulted in an amazing body of work that exemplified Surrealism.

"Portrait of Lee Miller" Man Ray (1929)

"Lee Miller" Man Ray (1930)

Many of Man's best works feature Lee as the subject matter and for a good reason. She was simply stunning (Lee was considered by many to be the most beautiful woman in Paris). Lee's influence on Man's work went beyond just portraits of her. In one of his most famous paintings, "Observatory Time: The Lovers," a giant pair of Lee's red lips are seen floating in the sky. And "Indestructible Object" is a metronome featuring a photograph of Lee's eye whose instructions state it should be destroyed with a hammer (the one on display at the exhibit is a replica; art students took Man Ray for his word and destroyed the original in 1957).

"Rat Tails" Lee Miller (1930)

"Untitled" (Exploding Hand)" Lee Miller (1930)

I do like Man's work but if anything, this exhibit justified for me why I prefer Lee's. Whereas Man worked in the studio, Lee went out and found her subject matter in the street. She was able to look at common things like a shop door or a group of rats and give them a surrealist touch. Her photographs seem more real to me, which is probably why Lee made such a great photojournalist later during the war.

Man Ray and Lee Miller later in life.

Although I loved all of the photographs, perhaps my favourite piece in the exhibit was a letter Man wrote to Lee right before his death. It ends, "I am pinned down in my little retreat— can not walk and my doctor seems to try out all the pills on the market to which I am completely allergic. But not to my loves— like you. I mean I love you.” 

The exhibit is at the Peabody Essex Museum through December 4, 2011.

10 October 2011

Witch City

This past weekend I headed up to Massachusetts to hang out with some friends in Salem. The main purpose of the trip was to see an exhibit of a favourite photographer at the Peabody Essex Museum (a review of which will be tomorrow's post) but one cannot visit the witch capitol in October and not get caught up in the Halloween festivities. 

The crowded streets were filled with all sorts of creatures including Frankenstein and bloody monsters. There were the expected witches but zombies seemed to dominate the landscape. I even witnessed a zombie flash mob at one point.

There were also loads of handsome dogs although the ones in costume didn't always seem too thrilled with the choice.

The city made infamous for its witch trials of 1692 has embraced its notorious past with open arms. From the police badges that include the image of a witch to the multiple shops selling charms and other wiccan paraphernalia, witches are everywhere in Salem. They even have a statue of TV's favourite witch, Samantha Stevens from Bewitched.

But Salem isn't just about magic. Once an important seaport with a huge role in the China trade, Salem's waterfront is dotted with grand old homes and buildings, many of which were built by the cities numerous sea captains and wealthy merchants.

One of Salem's favourite sons is Nathaniel Hawthorne whose hometown was the setting for many of his stories, including The House of Seven Gables, which you can visit today.

My only regret was that the weekend was quite warm (visiting the city when it's colder and less sunny seems to give it even more atmosphere) but it was still a lovely time. 

Photos by Michele.

06 October 2011

Jane's Carousel

The other day was spent in Brooklyn Bridge Park checking out Jane’s Carousel. A restored carousel from 1922, it is a beautiful addition to the park.

I admired the woodwork, scenery panels, and all the details that went into the construction of the carousel. But I was most impressed with the horses. 

What’s not to love? With their varying colours and expressive faces the horses illustrate how a carousel can be a piece of art.

In addition to the carousel, Brooklyn Bridge Park offers wonderful views of the city, which I was lucky enough to enjoy before the skies opened up and drenched us on our way home.

To read more about Jane's Carousel, visit their site.

Photos by Michele.


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