30 November 2011


Today in 1886 the Folies Bergères opened its first revue. Based around beautiful women, extravagant costumes, and elaborate sets, the revues at the Folies would launch the careers of many French performers and one very important American.

Josephine Baker made her Folies debut in 1926 in La Folie du JourClad solely in a skirt made from fake bananas she danced the “Danse Sauvage” and brought the house down. She would become an immensely popular performer in Paris, staring in other stage shows and a series of films; on stage she would sometimes be joined by her pet Cheetah, Chiquita, who could often be seen accompanying Josephine through the streets of Paris.

Looking at these photos, it's not hard to understand why Josephine was  the toast of the town. 

A film clip of her performing the dance she made famous at the Folies Begere can be seen here.

29 November 2011

Two Broadway Legends

Seeing a Broadway show is something I don’t get to do often enough so when I get the chance I cross my fingers that it’s going to be great. Recently I caught An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin and if it wasn’t the greatest show the two performers certainly were.

On a stage decorated with a series of ghost lights, the two Broadway legends run through an eclectic series of songs from the musical canon including selections from South Pacific, Merrily We Roll Along, and Carousel. Some of the choices are perfect—LuPone’s spot on rendition of “Getting Married Today” from Company and Patinkin’s hilarious delivery of “In Buddy’s Eyes” from Follies while some others, like the multiple songs from Carousel performed at the end of the show, seem like an odd choice. But I’m not complaining. I’d probably sit and listen to these two sing from the phone book.

There is little talking in the show; the audience is left to figure out for themselves whatever tenuous connections exist between the songs. Yet there is one story that Patinkin does stop to share with the audience—how he and LuPone first came to work together in that show. With the audience collectively leaning forward in anticipation, each star takes turns singing a song from Evita. Patinkin shows he can still channel Che's r

age in "Oh What a Circus" and hearing LuPone sing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” acts as a reminder that there is only one Evita.

The show is at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre through January 13. To find out more, visit the show’s site here.

Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

27 November 2011

Feeling Better

Earlier this week I thought I was coming down with the flu. Those symptoms quickly evolved into a hacking cough that could wake the dead. After spending Friday afternoon at the hospital I learned that I have asthmatic bronchitis. Now my nightstand is covered with a variety of medications (alas, no VanBeil's Rye and Rock), which already have me feeling much better and breathing easier. Hopefully my days of imitating Garbo in Camille will be over soon.

Image from the Library of Congress.

26 November 2011

California Dreaming Part 2

During my visit to California, my parents and I made a trip out to Niles, a small historic district in the town of Fremont located in the East Bay. Niles has a quaint main street with a series of antique shops and a charming old train depot.

The reason for our visit was the area’s history. For a few years during the early days of filmmaking, the streets of Niles were filled with movie cowboys and one very famous tramp. Niles was home to the Essanay Studios, the West Coast branch of the Chicago based-company, whose employees included Broncho Billy and Charlie Chaplin. Among the films Chaplin made in Niles was The Tramp in 1915, which included the iconic closing image of the tramp walking away down a dusty road (that would be a dusty Niles road).

Although the original studio is gone, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum chronicles the history of Essanay and exhibits original movie posters, cameras, and documents from the silent era. The Museum is housed in the Edison Theatre, built in 1913, and a tour includes a stop in the theatre's tin-lined projection booth, which is still functional. Every Saturday silent movies are screened with live piano accompaniment. They even have a cool gift shop (I picked up a Valentino magnet and a couple of new flip books).

Chaplin greets visitors in front of the ticket booth in the museum.

Although Chaplin spent less than a year in Niles, he's its most famous resident. Chaplin's image can be found everywhere and every June the area hosts "Chaplin Days," a weekend-long celebration of the man. The connection to Niles is such that when Google made a video doodle tribute to Chaplin earlier this year, it was done in collaboration with the Museum (and filmed on the streets of Niles too).

If silent film doesn’t interest you, there is a recently restored train depot across the street. The Niles Depot, built in 1901, contains a small museum that details its rail history. The depot was an important junction of two major lines at the turn of the century. Its bright colours look nice against the nearby hills and on Sundays a train runs between Niles and neighboring Sunol.

To learn more about the Essanay Studios, visit the Museum's website here. If you find yourself in the area and want to visit, go on a weekend as many places, including the Museum, are closed during the week.

Photos by Michele.

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Jean Arthur and Lillian Roth 

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't you love these "pilgrims" hunting in the snow? I'm still feeling horrid with a hacking cough that I'm sure everyone on the block can hear so no Thanksgiving celebrations for me this year. Just my bed and large doses of DayQuil. Hope the rest of you had a relaxing day with family and friends and enjoyed loads of good food and drink.

23 November 2011


Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage.

I had loads of plans for this week including adding some new posts to the blog. Unfortunately, I have the flu dear readers and currently look like Bette Davis in this photo. I am in bed with big cups of tea and water on the nightstand and a bunch of Miss Marple mysteries on Netflix to watch. As soon as I have more energy, I promise to post some new tales. In the meantime, it's time for some DayQuil and back to St. Mary Mead.

18 November 2011


During my trip to California, I popped into a favourite shop—Bell’occhio. Hidden away on a tiny side street, it’s filled with all sorts of lovely things that you never realized you needed but find you must have (A Napoleon wine stopper? A necessity in every household). Stepping inside Bell'occhio's doors, you feel like you’re in Paris circa some past decade. There are spools of ribbons, glittering jewels, boxes shaped like fruit, jars of ink and creamy stationary, Tricorn hats, checkered linens, Marie Antoinette dolls, and much, much more.

I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside otherwise you’d be looking at a slew of images. Instead, I’ll share with you the items I purchased.

I wanted everything but ended up settling for an Eastbound passage ticket complete with a notice of safety regarding my baggage that makes me feel like it's 1930, a packet of handmade caramels, a wee engraved card of a fox, tricolour wire ribbon, a blackboard mat, German Reform Schule chalk, a 3D postcard of the Eiffel Tower, a Napoleon wine stopper (the label on the package says “Able was I, ere I saw Elba”), and some black stretch velvet ribbon.

The ticket is now on my desk along with the fox card; the Eiffel Tower postcard is on a bookshelf. There are still some caramels left (miraculously) in the kitchen and the blackboard mat is hanging on the side of my refrigerator with the box of chalk nearby so I can jot down things I need to pick up. Napoleon is serving time with the wine glasses and the ribbon is waiting to be turned into something (the black velvet is definitely becoming a choker but I’m not sure yet what will happen with the tricolour). All in all, a nice collection of items to bring home.

If you are going to San Francisco, make sure and visit Bell'occhio. If you’re not, they have a website where many of their items can be purchased here.

Photos by Michele.

16 November 2011

California Dreaming

Last week I was in California for a long overdue visit. I spent the time hanging out with my family (including all of my little nephews; good thing I can speak Star Wars), seeing old friends (including one who I've known since middle school French class; we had a wonderful dinner at À Côté in Oakland), enjoying great local food (Crab Louie salad, sourdough bread, tacos), doing some shopping, and taking in favourite sites.

One day I visited the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio—the former army base where I spent a lot of time during my childhood. The cemetery, which is the final resting place for more than 30,000 military personnel and their families, is a beautiful secluded spot with amazing views of the bay.

A trip to California isn't complete without a visit to the water so I made sure to find the time to go out to Baker Beach and Ocean Beach before I left. I got a thrill watching the waves and seeing the ruins of the Sutro Baths, which I caught right at sunset. Although I've seen those sites countless times, they were a perfect ending to a lovely visit.

Photos by Michele.

14 November 2011

Happy Birthday Lulu!

Today is the birthday of one of my favourite stars—Louise Brooks. Henri Langlois said "There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks," and I couldn't agree more. I've written before about how brilliant she is (see my post here). One of her films, Diary of a Lost Girl, is streaming right now on netflix. You should watch it tonight. I know I am. 

13 November 2011

Back Home

Am back in New York after spending a week in California visiting family and friends. I took the red eye out of San Francisco last night and have spent the day trying to run errands and unpack between naps (I'll be honest—the naps won). I'll post some photos and tales from the trip later but in the meantime have a good week.

04 November 2011


"Iris Palmer and her suitcases" Tim Walker (1997)

Busy packing my bags for some upcoming travel. I won't be blogging this week but promise to get back to you dear readers as soon as I can. In the meantime, enjoy your weekend and the extra hour on Sunday.

03 November 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

I came across this image years ago. I think it was actually in an ad for a bank. I don't know who took it but I think it's brilliant. Even though I know it's staged I like to think that the dog decided to wear the dentures; it makes the story more interesting. Maybe he saw all the toys on the ground—the fake steak, the tennis ball—and thought, I know, I'll wear the dentures. It will be hilarious and make people laugh. And indeed it does, every time I look at it.

02 November 2011

Misery Day

I was watching some footage today at work when suddenly my eyes became itchy and red, and my head started pounding. Hello weird fall allergies. I now feel utterly miserable and would like to join the parade in this print by the amazing Maira Kalman. In the meantime, I'm going to take a big dose of Benadryl and watch some BBC America. Hope tomorrow is a better day.

For more on Maira Kalman, visit her website.

01 November 2011

November is Now

November is here, and I hope that it gives us lots of fun and lovely fall weather (no more surprise snow storms please). I will be on the go a lot this month what with the holidays, some travel, and extra work projects. But I promise to keep posting as often as I can. In the meantime enjoy the month, get some extra sleep (time change this weekend; can't wait), and check back often for more tales.

Image from the Library of Congress.


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