Monday, December 22, 2008

The Height of Chic

So you'd be surprised how you discover things? I was watching the Simpsons a couple of weeks ago and in this episode Lisa had gotten a new IPod and was showing it to her friends a was like "I downloaded The Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis" and she played a short snippet. Well, I was immediately intrigued and made a mental note to check out the album from the library.
I have listened to it night and day for the last week. That album is the musical essence of chic, elegance, Parisian Couture!!! I LONG to have another fashion show just so I can use the tracks from Birth of the Cool for my soundtrack. It's MOOOOOVINGLY glamorous!

So here are the Venus de Milo and Jeru tracks from Birth of the Cool by Miles Davis, accompanied by the vintage footage of Balenciaga, Dior and Chanel Haute Couture from the late 50's and early 60's. Play the Davis videos while you play the fashion videos below them, but mute the fashion videos so you can watch them while listening to Davis. You know what I mean...


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Everyday Life and Observations

This has been one of the most trying years of my life and I have spent a lot of time trying to find answers to very difficult, self-existential questions. Far too many and far too personal to ever attempt to get into here. But, as the year closes and I find myself coming into a deeper sense of peace, if not better understanding, of my life and the substance thereof, I have come to some conclusions...

The most important of these conclusions is that you must see yourself and love yourself as God loves you and as God sees you. Not as people do. Nor in relation to situations, circumstances, or environments. None of these things make you who you are and thus do not impact God's love for you, positively or negatively, or the way He sees you, positively or negatively. The only thing that matters is that you love God and you love yourself and that you show this not so much by the things you do or don't do, but by the way you think, see, and feel about yourself and Him. And in truth, you can't truly love, honor and cherish yourself without loving God, and vice versa.

So when you do or say something that you don't feel great about deep down-not on the surface, because thats where opinions and circumstances abide, but really deep in your heart and soul- thats when God isn't pleased. And in reverse, when you do or say something that makes you feel happy and proud and fulfilled, thats when God is pleased. But most commonly and thus most profoundly, when you live an ordinary day where you may feel a little up in the morning, a little down in the afternoon; when you neither did anything remarkably good or detestably bad; when you just were YOU, with all the confusion, clarity, delusion, lucidity, haplessness, grace, anguish, joy, frailty, might, foolishness, & wisdom that comes with being you, God is alright with you and you are alright with Him.

Once you got that, all the other stuff that doesn't make sense or you can't find order to, seems not so daunting and you realize you will work it out, what you can work out, in time. And the rest is up to God and thus will also find its place in time. Its sounds so easy, but if you loose sight of how God sees you, separate from the situation, it can all seem too overwhelming.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is It Possible? a poem by Charles Brown

Is it possible…
To be completely and totally in love with Someone and want to spend every moment of the day and night with them.
To love the way Someone brightens your day when you are feeling bad and takes you higher when you are already on top of the world.
To love how Someone notices the little things that mean so much to you and how you know that their only desire is for you to be happy and fulfilled.
To love the sincerity with which Someone appreciates everything you do for them and the sincerity and love with which they do everything for you.
To love Someone so much that you find yourself thinking about them throughout the day and try to find any and every reason to be in their presence.
To love the beauty of Someone’s soul and mind, as well as their face and physique, so much so that you stare at them sometimes and can hardly believe this person exists.

Is it possible…
To love Someone like that, and have them not have a clue.
To love Someone like that, and not want them to have a clue but simultaneously wanting nothing more but to tell them.
To love Someone like that, and have them love another the same way.
To love Someone like that, and to genuinely and deeply love the person they are with for the same reasons you love that Someone.
To love what Someone has with the other without jealousy or envy or spite or wishing it were you.
To love Someone like that, and do everything you can to support and empower the bond that person has with another because you know that their love for each other and their combined and individual love for you is so true.
To love Someone like that, and know that the relationship you have with each of them is more important and more real than your own desire to have Someone’s love all to yourself.
To love Someone like that, and to take hope that you will find a love like theirs of you own, without feeling bitter or left out.
To love Someone like that and want to be with them, but still be happy that your not, because they have found their great love and you just love being with them in whatever way you can.
To love Someone with an unrequited love and not feel like your heart is breaking.

It seems impossible, but it is possible.
Maybe its improbable, and its highly inexplicable, but its definitely possible.
And gratefully so.

(Conceived 11:00pm, Sat, Nov.22, 2008)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

More Glamour

More elements and influences of my style...
A montage of clips of the character Sable Colby from Dynasty and its spin-off The Colbys

Semper Chic!


To further illustrate the elements of my stlye AND showcase one of the fondest memories of my youth, here is the Al Jarreau music video to the theme for Moonlighting.
How I love that show! Its was definitely an early influence on my personal and professional aesthetics. Its 80's glamour mellowed, whereas Dynasty was 80's glamour amplified. Not to mention it was one of the wittiest, most intelligent, well-written, well-acted shows ever! Enjoy!

My Fall Style!

Fashion Illustrations from the 70s/80s by the renowned Antonio Lopez

So for those of you who don't know, I L.I.V.E. for fall/winter fashions. The layering, the textures, the luxury, its all too fabulous!!! And this is promising to be my personal BEST season in....forever!

I already have a very specific aesthetic profile I tend to adhere to regardless of trends. It pretty much boils down to this:

Spring/Summer- 60's Mod meets 80's California Chic a la Maddie Hayes (Cybil Sheppard on Moonlighting). So the silhoutte is full, but fitted, light colored, and cropped. Laura Petrie-style capris or highwaters with fitted, printed button-down like early 60's Italian palazzon pajama ensembles in the stlye of Pucci and Galitzine . Or boxy yet fluid linen jackets and coats with a tank, wide belt and bermuda shorts or slacks, with bold jewelry.

Veruschka modeling an extremely wide palazzo pant jumpsuit with two male models sporting silhouettes very similar to my spring look.

Designer Princess Irene Galitzine's palazzo pajamas from the 50's and 60's

Cybil Sheppard as Maddie Hayes in Moonlighting

Fall/Winter- 40's and 80's. Heavy fabrics. Tweed. Tailored. Volume. Strong, Strong Shoulders. Sharply Defined Waist or Obliterated Waist. Boots. Turbans and Berets. JEWELS! FURS! Dynasty
Sometimes when I am feeling more minimalistic, like last fall, I'll forego the abundance and extravagance and go for a more mid-late 70's vibe. The same shapes, but more fluid and relaxed. Mahogany meets Grace Mirabella's Vogue.

Alexis, Blake, and Krystle from Dynasty

Joan Collins as Alexis Colby. Hat, gloves, fur, clutch...So chic!
Vintage Claude Montana coat from the 80's. Perfect for this season

But this season is going to be extra special. The 20s, 40s, 60s, and 80s design influences have melded into one of the most exciting, creative, diverse fashion seasons I have ever seen!! And for me, everything has perfectly aligned to allow me to be at my my sartorial peak, personally and in the eyes of the fashionable world. The looks and trends for fall are perfectly in sync with my wardrobe and vice versa. I have everything I need to look as though I just stepped off the runway, WHILE retaining that all-too-important element: individuality. I don't have to sacrifice a thing about my personal style in order to be in-step with fashion...this time fashion is marching to the beat of MY drum!! And because my wardrobe is made of originals -couture and vintage- I won't ever see myself coming and going. Lastly and thankfully because I am not 40+, I can wear these looks unabashedly and with a freshness that could otherwise come off as dated.

So get ready to see me flying down the street with Tears for Fears and Shalamar blasting, furs blowing in the wind, diamonds sparkling, and shoulder pads high!! I only hope my haute "Ladies Who Lunch" look doesn't suffer due to my humble "Guy Who Takes-Out" lifestyle! :-)

You know I'm gonna be rockin' that Zsbornak steez!

This suit is from the late 20's. I'm ALL OVER these pants!

Joan Collins (not as Alexis). I can definitely do the hat and jacket... and I think I will!

I tried to find some pics of Clair and Denise Huxtable, but couldn't find any that adequately showed off their great style of their characters. :-(

Semper Chic!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I had a marvelous dream last night...

I was being driven home to Columbia and I noticed all the leaves were brown and it was cloudy. When I got home, I stepped out of the back of the Cadillac and the wind was blowing something fierce, and the sky was dusky dark- that kind of orange and grey melange where the grey is dominant , but the orange is putting up a fight- but it wasn't going to rain. The leaves were covering the ground, crackling as I walked, and the trees rustling like taffeta as the wind whipped and the sky filled with snowing leaves. There were even 3 or 4 unknown, but familiar dogs running up to celebrate my homecoming. It was all very Connecticut. I was wearing a big, huge ,oversized black sweater coat and was getting my luggage and eager to head indoors to enjoy the coziness of the weather and home. It was the perfect mixture of the Quiet Storm and Town & Country vibes I love! I am just a autumn guy and I can't wait...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Everyday Life and Observations

Today feel like late October. Its dark and cloudy and theres a chill in the air. I feel like I need to be about very chunky knit sweaters a la Stella McCartney, by way of Dorothy Szbornak-- or what I and Fatimah are referring to as "that Szbornak Steeze".

Its a real "Quiet Storm" day. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, its a musical genre comprised of "slow jams" or smooth, mellow, mid to low tempo R&B songs. Its the black 1st cousin of Adult Contemporary, and maybe 2nd cousin of Singer/Songwriter or Soft Rock. If you are still confused, I have decided to add some videos to clarify as well as to celebrate my "quiet storm" mood...

First up we have Mtume's "You, Me and He", followed by RJs Latest Arrival's "Hold On". And to see what is quite possibly the best example of Quiet Storm music and video, Rene and Angela's "You Don't Have to Cry", click the link:

Friday, June 6, 2008


While doing a Google Image search for Lord Snowdon photographs for the "Everyday Life and Observations" post, I came across this photograph by Snowdon from 1958 of Babe Paley that I have never seen before. Now, knowing how I quasi-worship Babe, the idea that there is a editorial photograph of her that I have never seen or knew existed is like finding a lost book of the bible!!!
This is truly a great day for me!


I LOVE everything on this page!!!!
This goes out to you two specifically, B. and Fatimah :

Everyday Life and Observations

I noticed something so beautiful and inexplicable and effervescent today. Its actually happened several days, but this was the first time I realized my sub-concious expectation of its occurence, and that made it all the more beautiful and surreal...

This morning- as most mornings these days it seems- I realized I needed something I had left in my car the previous evening. So, I put on my sandals and swanned out the front door in my billowing caftan. As I hit the first of a 4 steps down the walkways, a small coterie of butterflies took off, floating up and out toward the bright, warm morning sun. It was absoulutley magical in the Disney sense! Or like a photograph by Lord Anthony Snowdon, so popular in British and American Vogue in the 50s and 60s...full od spontaneity and vivre and glee. And always chic.

I can't wait 'til the morrow!

Semper Chic!

Black Orpheus

Here is the theatrical trailer for Black Orpheus

Everyday Life and Observations

This past Tuesday, I was having lunch with my infinitely chic cousin B. at a little asian mangerie on the campus' border. If you know anything about the area, its very hilly terrain and the restaurant is at the bottom of a steep hill and parking is halfway up the hill. I had left something in the car and had to go back up to retrieve it. The day was was too warm, a dry 90 degrees, and the sun was ablaze and high in the noon sky. I was wearing creme colored pants and a tan button down, with bronze, tan and white embroidered dashed lines acroos the chest, and my ubiquitous oversized sunglasses.
As I was climbing back up the broken, uneven sidewalk, I had one of those frequent and vivid flashes of surrealism that adorn my daily life. I envisioned myself as the character Sebastien Venable in "Suddenly Last Summer". For those of you unfamiliar with the work, it is a brilliant, tragic, and morose play by Tennesse Williams set in last 1930's Louisiana and (in flashbacks) Spainish Riviera. The play was made into a 1959 film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift. In the play and movie, there is a scene at the very end in which the trip to Spain is recounted by the character Catherine, where Sebastian is climbing up a steep hill, in the "white hot" heat of the sun, wearing a white exquisitely tailored linen suit. And as I climbed, I instantaneously thought of him and how in that very moment I was him; ever-chic, in the heat, ascending.
On my return trip back to the restaurant, I thought of yet another aesthetic imprint of a cinematic nature. I recalled another 1959 film of Brazilian origin called "Black Orpheus". The film was an adaptation of Greek tragedy Orpheus, set during Carnival in the favelas (ghettos) of Rio, and starring Breno Mello as Orpheus and Marpessa Dawn as Eurdice. The opening scene of the movie is iconic. Antonio Carlos Jobim is singing/playing the Bossa standard "Felicidade" as women work their way up and down the the infamous hills of Rio carrying their bundles, again in the white hot heat. As anyone who has ever tried to navigate their way down a path of questionable stability, while maintaining any measure of poise and wearing slick soles, knows there is a certain sway of the hips and shifting of weight in their walk that they must affect to make it down safely. Noticing my gait, I thought of Marpessa/Eurydice elegantly swaying downhill with her bundle diadem precipitously mounted upon her regal head. In that moment I was her; ever-chic, in the heat, descending.
Such are the scenes of my life. Snapshots of elegance emblazoned upon my memory, enhanced and insribed the mundanity of life as supreme and utter sophistication.

Semper Chic!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sex and the City- The Movie

I wrote this Sunday afternoon, June 1st...

Ok. So I just saw SATC the movie. It goes without saying it was very entertaining, the plot and dialogue were more than satisfying to any longtime fan , and the fashion was obscenely profuse. I had a lot of thoughts and emotions leaving the theater....

1) It is very difficult to take in so much current fashion at one sitting. With the series, it was 30 mins once a week. Even if you have the dvd and do a 2 hr marathon, its still not as fashion saturated as the movie is. Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of it...the way you love every minute of eating half a flourless chocolate cake. Its great in the moment, but you will become light headed from the rush. It was so visually stimulating. I would liken it to the new Speed Racer movie in the visual stimulation category, but in a far more sophisticated, adult way. The reason I italicized "current" before is because the deluge of fashion in period pieces, whether the setting is the recent past like the original "The Women" or more distant history like "Marie Antoinette", the space of time re-conceptualizes and re-contextualizes the impact of the costume and becomes less inundating, while still intoxicating and thrilling.

From start to finish, SATC label and trend heavy. A live action Vogue magazine ( a long-time dream of mine). 2+ hours of unadulterated, unapologetic fashion. Anything in that amount can become heady, even for the indoctrinated such as myself. I have attended, virtually and in person, breathtaking fashion shows that were almost orgasmic with the escalating beauty and drama of the clothes and their presentation (Chado Ralph Rucci), but even the longest fashion shows last maybe 20 minutes. That's about as much as the mind can process. Its only been 2 hours since I saw the movie as I type this, and I can only remember two handfuls of key looks and pieces. I got the overall feel and look at work, but I think the nuances that make fashion great, the nuances that great costume designers work hard at achieving, the nuances that we know a character to express, were greatly missed by the audience because of the quantity. Or more simply, the breadth overpowered the depth. For example, the bird that Carrie wore in her hair for the wedding. Most people thought they were feathers, but it was a bird. They mentioned it later in the film that it was a bird, but I actually, but just barely, caught that it was indeed a bird during the scene. But the even more hidden nuance was that the bird was blue and represented the bride's something blue. You see what I mean? With the action of the plot and dialogue, plus the barrage of gorgeous, detailed clothes and accessories, little meanings like that are temporarily lost...I know it was not happenstance the bird was blue and prominently seen. Those nuances are definitely there, but it will be upon 2nd, 3rd , and 10th viewing that they will be fully exposed.

It also left no downtime. Even the most fashionable people, real or fictitious, have to have down time...if only to stay on top of it. But when the girls were packing up Carrie's apartment impeccably dressed, it came off unbelievable. They never would have done that in the actual series. There was plenty of downtime in the series. The series had ebb and flow fashionably. Granted the downtime in the show was still fabulous, but a more quirky fabulous than a stunning, statement fabulous. I chock it up to them knowing this was going to be it forever and so they wanted to give it to us, once and for all. So I can live with that. Another discrepancy with the show and movie, is that I don't recall them being SO accessorized. Yes there was always a great shoe or bag, sometimes a great shoe AND bag, or a important brooch, bangle, necklace, or earring, but rarely, if ever, do I recall them doing it all at once on any one character. In the movie, every accessory commanded attention, from head to toe. You didn't know what to look at first. And the accessories sometimes competed with the garment, not complemented, and vice versa. Things that every stylish person knows not to do (although admittedly I have done it and every stylish person has done it when they were really in the groove and needed to be over the top that day!) But again, I forgive it, knowing it was the last time. I also forgive it because I know it will give me lots to look at and reexamine in the future and who doesn't love seeing something new each time they watch something they've seen before? I am not criticizing the film, I am just giving my observations.

2.) I thought, what a perfect and robust time capsule this film will be. It wholly captures this moment in fashion for posterity. It will be the iconic film people will look at in 50, 60, 70 years and remember the first decade of this century. The SATC girls will be looked at as the Gibson Girls of the 21st Century.

3.) My most profound thought was, Can you ever tire of fashion? Or more aptly, Can one ever have done it all fashionably?

That movie ran the gamut so well, its like, what more is there? A movie like SATC makes one think about whether they themselves are fashionable enough. If they are indeed realizing their full potential sartorially. It makes you wanna try harder and be more creative in your dress. So I thought. How could I be more fashionable? How could I take my look(s) to new heights?

The answer was that I couldn't. I have tried everything. I have worn every conceivable silhouette available. I've done minimalism, I've done excess. I've done monochrome, I've done technicolor. I have pushed myself as far as I can go. I have reached self-actualization (the highest peak of Maslow's pyramidic Heirachy of Needs), fashionably speaking. I know what I can do and what works for me. The only thing I could do is wear more expensive clothing, which will be a welcome and much anticipated luxury, but it won't be any different(especially if you are like me and you covet and regard thrift store finds as highly as designer goods). But even if my future diamonds are real, they certainly cannot add any more chic than my paste jewels have for so many years.

At first, this realization upset me. As a true lover of fashion, the idea that there could be nothing truly new for me was...disturbing. Then I understood what it really meant. That I can only perfect my style now. I have spent 25 years figuring it out, discovering and experiencing the wealth of possibilities. Now that I know what I love, I can begin refining my look and taking it to new heights of impeccable style.

This, my chic friends, is the greater part of the journey into style. When one reaches that plateau, one has focus. They are no longer beset or distracted by ALL the world's fabulousness, but can concentrate all one's vision, efforts, and resources on a single path of style righteousness. While you may dabble in a trend here and there, you are no longer tossed and driven by the seas of ever-changing fashion. The pursuit is no longer about the latest, but the greatest. I think I have always known this, but seeing SATC was like looking at a mirror and realizing that there's more. You may start of as Carrie, but you have to grow to Carolina (Herrera, that is)!! That's when the days of daring fashions are traded in for stunning classics, no less adventurous, but infinitely signature and identifiably you.

Comparison: Carrie and Carolina

Timeless Chic:

And the beauty is that dressing becomes so much easier at that stage. The struggle over what to wear when, where, and how? Gone. The despair over the haphazard, incoherent, or periodically undesirable/frustrating state of your wardrobe? (You, Caroline.) No More. The in-store debate of where and how this new purchase will work in your wardrobe? A thing of the past. It all becomes clearer. That doesn't mean it won't be difficult at times because, as I said, it is a journey and you must learn the special kind of discipline necessary to achieve perfection. Its like D.V. said, "Elegance is Refusal". So while at first it may be difficult to not buy it or to figure out what to wear, as you acquire the disciplined eye (the eye already being keen), these trifles of dressing will fade.

Me after my fashion show last August in vlack and white silk tweed duster
I, like the Apostle Paul, may not have yet attained, but I press toward the mark. And with this knowledge and foresight, I look forward to the journey of perfected chic!
I'll keep you posted on my sojourn.

Semper Chic!

Friday, May 30, 2008

D.V. Speaks!

The "high-priestess" of fashion speaks on one of my favorite periods, the Belle Epoque!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Love Wurlitzer!

Nothing else much to really say. I love the Wurlitzer organ used in pop, jazz, and r&b music in the 60s. It has such an intoxicating sound and hearing the whirl(?) of the organ instantly transports me back in time and to glamorous places. A good example is Henry Mancini's scores for Charade, Pink Panther, and Two For The Road which, for me, are inextricably linked with luxurious European resorts and jet set haunts like Megeve, Cortina d'Ammpezzo, and St. Tropez, used for the films respectively.
Its rose' champagne cocktails (in classic, pre-flute, shallow champagne glasses), massive paste diamond parures, 30 yards of gathered silk in a single skirt, mile-high bouffants & dynel falls and up-dos, and sumptuous mink stoles all rolled up and translated into stereophonic sound!!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Now you can officially subscribe to the Charles Chic Chat blog. Just visit the blog's homepage ( and enter your e-mail address in the field to the top left of the page. Thanks!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Maria Callas interview with Barbara Walters

Maria Callas was one of the most beautiful and elegant women in the world!

Dee Dee Sharp "I Really Love You"

This is one of the most glorious songs ever! The Spector "Wall of Sound" is in full effect with sweeping orchestra and Miss Sharp's booming voice. It evokes a aura of high glamour and sophistication...the bouffant and diamonds version of Percy Faith's "A Summer Place".

Dinah Washington "Only A Monemt Ago"

Friday, May 2, 2008

Backcomb'n Beat

An album cover from a compilation of 60's British girl group hits and rarities. I love the title and the pic!

For those of you who know me well, you know how I have an affinity for bouffant hairstyles. I just think they are swell!! I like the bouffants of the 60's, the ones that have lots of height at the crown, back and away from the face and fall elegantly back and to the sides. They frame the face and neck so well. (I don't care for the beehives of the 50's.)
Princess Luciana Pignatelli in Valentino
Some of the best bouffants today are worn by Deeda Blair, a phenomenal halo of salt and pepper she has donned since the 60s, beautiful actresses Lynn Whitfield and Diahann Carroll, and the incomparable Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama

Back in the day, every chic woman would backcomb as a daily ritual, not just for specail occassions. I recall Andre Talley recalling how the women would go to Kenneth (Battelle) in New York to have thier hair combed before traveling. Also there were the profuse usage of switches and falls, also de rigeur for the chic set, made of Dynel (a favorite accessory for the models of Vogue during D.V.'s day) or real hair cut from Italian women - the best of which was coiffed and sold by Carita of Paris. Those who did not go to Carita or Kenneth, went to Alexandre de Paris.

Kenneth Battelle

Some of my favorite bouffant wearers of that time were Babe Paley (of course), Louise Savitt, Diana Ross, Ira von Furstenberg, and Jackie O. (for the most part I did not care for her bubble cut of the White House years, prefering her longer styles of 63-69). I also cared for the 70's versions frequently seen on the cover of Grace Mirabella's Vogue and sported by the likes of Mica Ertegun or Catherine Deneuve.

Diana Ross and the Supremes

Ira von Furstenberg 1968

Jackie in 66 with Caroline

But of them all, I think the best and most consistent chic belonged to Lee Radziwill , Jackie's sister. For the entire decade of the 60s, her bouffant was pitch-perfect; from the shorter days of the early White House years to the longer days of Truman Capote at the end of the decade.

One of my favorite pictures of Lee. (same sitting , two different shots) The bouffant is perfect and I love the sweater dress.

Lee in Paris 1962

Lee (2nd from left) at the State of the Union Address 1963

Lee with Truman at the Emmy's 1968

Whether this style of hairdressing is dated or not is totally in the eye of the beholder, but one cannot deny its greatness!

Semper Chic!

Charmed, I'm sure!

Why does no one say that anymore? It used to be a common pleasantry. One would introduce themselves to you and you would reply "Charmed, I'm sure." There were other time it was used too....but I can't think of them right now. I must watch some more TCM and keep my ears out for other usage of the term. But in any case, you would add your own touch by exchanging the "Charmed" for any number of other words expressing delight, such as Delighted, Enchanted, or the most coquettish of them all, Likewise. Yes..."Likewise, I'm sure"! It can imply earnesty or sarcasm, disdain or affection. I can hear any number of MGM stars saying it right now!!!
(Remind me to post an entry on why the studio system should be reinstated.)

Oh, I just remebered, you can also use it as response to appreciation as in "The pleasure was mine, I'm sure!"
Isn't it a wonderful phrase!

Two very stylish ladies in two films in which, I'm sure, the phrase was used:

Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce in Mildred Pierce

(get a load of that fur!!!!!!!)

Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve

A Private Affair

Whatever happened to the dance? I don't mean the samba or waltz or tootsie roll. I mean the dinner dance, the private ball? No one has them anymore.

Last week I re-read Party of the Century by Deborah Davis, chronicling Truman Capote's famous Black and White Ball of 1966. I was carried away into a sea of invitations, decorations, jewels, and coiffure, the likes of which we rarely ever see today. At least not privately. Sure there's a ton of grand social occasions like the Costume Institute Gala at the MET, and other such institutional and charitable events, but its not the same. It lacks that special quality that only a private affair can have.

Marella Agnelli arriving at the Black and White Ball.

Gloria Guinness, Bill and Babe Paley at the Black and White Ball

Princess Lee and Prince Stas Radziwill at the Black and White Ball

Maybe its the idea of one host and/or hostess who orchestrates the whole thing. That singular vision of a very elegant man or woman and how that vision is made manifest in every detail. The nuance of the guest list, invitations, decorations, menu, music all say something about the host and what kind of world they want to create, if only for an evening. It doesn't even have to be a big to do. It can be very intimate. It doesn't have to be a ball, what about a dinner party for 10 or 12, but executed beautifully. The music doesn't have to be live , but stimulating- encouraging dance and/or conversation. Or having a musically gifted guest regale the party on the piano or with song. Something. Anything. Grand or simple, just as long as its beautiful and special

I know there is no dearth of stylish people people out there, so why are there no great hosts/hostesses anymore like there used to be? Or maybe its not that they don't exist anymore, just that they are not praised and celebrated publicly for their social achievements. More and more our society admires celebrity (i referring to the idea of fame moreso than the famous) and more and more celebrity goes to those (the famous) who are vaguely worthy of it.

I understand that American life has changed drastically in the last 50 or 60 years, but why? We still like to wear beautiful things and go beautiful places and spend time with interesting people, both familiar and new, so why has entertaining- and even larger, entertainment- become so... so ordinary, so mediocre. I say mediocre, because something can be casual and still be spectacularly extraordinary in style. Hanging out with 20 of your dearest friends and family is casual, but it can be beautiful because of the surroundings as well as because of the love.

And to go back to my point about entertainment, theres no place to go for a chic night out. I realize not everyone now or back in the day could afford to entertain in a grand style, but you could always get dressed in your finest and go to a supper club. Where are El Morocco, Cocoanut Grove, the Cotton Club, Tropicana, the Stork Club and all those other places where the decor was outstanding, the food was delicious, the music was sweet, and the crowd was dazzling??!!! You can't go to a restaurant now in black tie and evening gown, without looking sorely out of place. So what is an aesthete to do?

Lee Radziwill and Gianni Agnelli leaving Maxim's, Paris' chicest restaurant where one always dresses!

This could go on and on. I won't even begin to list the countless grand balls one could immulate like the Beistegui Ball, Proust Ball, Oriental Ball of Baron de Rede, the balls of Antonio Lopez-Wilshaw and Antenor Patino and Jacques Fath. Nor will I go on about how the Americans never learned how to entertain (or simply LIVE for that matter) the way the Europeans do and argue that the Europenas do it better than we. It would just take too long and get my blood pressure up (and as a black man, I don't need any more reason for hypertension!). So instead of writing a dissertation on the collapse of grandeur as we know it, I am just putting these thoughts and questions out there for you and the rest of the country to ponder. I just can't imagine living in a world where people's only memory of a formal is prom and maybe their wedding!! We have got to do something about this sad state of affairs and bring back the NORMALITY of elegant social life.

Semper Chic!

Here a picture of Bill and Babe Paley from 1952 going to their in-laws Jock and Betsey Whitney's home Greentree (which was next door to the Paley's Kiluna Farm) for what is obviously a very elegant evening. Can you imagine going to your sister's house for dinner in black-tie today?? That's whats up! And I bet it wasn't even that out of the ordinary for them; just another evening at Greentree. You can't even get people to dress for dinner these days!

C.Z. and Winston Guest on their way to a ball in Palm Beach 1958

Gianni and Marella Agnelli having a glamorous night out.

Patricia, Mrs. Arturo Lopez-Wilshaw, in repose in her chateau in Neuilly, France. Probably thinking about the many glamourous moments she will spend in this couture confection!