book reviews, fashion

Reviewing The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, by Andre Leon Talley…

As I recently mentioned in my review of model Paulina Porizkova’s memoir, I don’t really follow fashion much. I decided to download the late Andre Leon Talley’s book, The Chiffon Trenches, because I like true stories. Talley published his book in May 2020, just a couple of months after the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. Amazon tells me I downloaded it in February 2021, probably after I read several sad articles about how Andre Leon Talley’s life was in a downward spiral as former friends were trying to evict him from his home in White Plains, New York. He had fallen on hard times after a long and storied career as a flamboyant fashion editor for Vogue, where for decades, he regularly rubbed elbows with famous friends like Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, Yves St. Laurent, and Oscar de la Renta.

An item about Talley’s book and the legal dispute regarding his eviction from his home.

But, again, I don’t follow fashion much. I only knew about Andre Leon Talley from watching America’s Next Top Model, a reality TV show by supermodel Tyra Banks. I watched ANTM, not because I care about fashion, but because I enjoyed the ridiculous antics of young women stuck in a house together. Andre Leon Talley had temporarily brought some “legitimacy” to ANTM, when he served as a judge in cycles 14 through 17. He charmed me with his warmth and intelligence, although I had no idea that the man was considered a huge fashion icon. Sadly, by the time he died on January 18, 2022, he literally was huge, as he had battled an eating disorder for years. On January 18, 2022, Mr. Talley was a victim of a heart attack and COVID-19, which took his life at age 73.

He was much beloved by his fashion friends, in spite of his comments to the contrary.

Though it took me almost two years to get around to reading The Chiffon Trenches, I’m glad I finally did it. Having read his book, I understand why Talley was such a highly regarded editor for Vogue. I only knew him from television, which was not where he was in his element. As a judge on a show with Tyra Banks, it’s not like he would have had a chance to share much. Tyra Banks is not one for sharing the limelight. I suspect he took the job with ANTM because he badly needed the money. And yet, he still managed to handle the job with grace.

So who was Andre Leon Talley?

Andre Leon Talley was born October 16, 1948 in Washington, DC to his parents, Alma Ruth Davis and William C. Talley. His maternal grandmother, Binnie Francis Davis, raised him in racially segregated Durham, North Carolina. She worked at Duke University as a cleaning lady, and raised Andre with good, southern food and lots of church. Talley rarely saw his parents; they would divorce when he was eleven years old. France and the French language, fascinated Andre Leon Talley. He went to North Carolina Central University and majored in French literature, graduating in 1970. Because he excelled in his undergraduate studies, Talley won a scholarship to Brown University. There he earned a Master of Arts in French literature in 1972. Talley initially had plans to earn a doctoral degree and teach French for a living.

While he was at Brown, Talley befriended some students from nearby Rhode Island School of Design. Eventually, through his friends from that school, Talley met and impressed French-American fashion columnist Diana Vreeland. By 1974, he had abandoned his plans for a doctorate and was apprenticing for her, unpaid, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eventually, through Vreeland, Talley worked for famed American artist Andy Warhol. Working for Warhol led to stints at Women’s Wear Daily and W magazines, where he met and wrote about fashion designers and models. He further sharpened his skills at Ebony and The New York Times. Finally, he reached the pinnacle of his career when he worked for Vogue. He made history in 1988, when he became the first black male creative director for Vogue.

Andre Leon Talley co-authored the book, MegaStar, with Richard Bernstein in 1984. In 2003, he penned his first autobiography, A.L.T.: A Memoir. In 2005, he published ALT 365+, an artistic photographic look at 365 days of Talley’s life. Out magazine ranked Talley 45th in its 2007 list of the “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America”. However, in 2018, when asked about his sexual orientation on The Wendy Williams Show, Talley claimed to be “gender fluid”. According to The Chiffon Trenches, Talley was never one for having a lot of sex or using drugs, anyway. Talley was very devoted to his work, which he claimed “saved his life”. He watched many of his more promiscuous friends and former colleagues die of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s.

In later years, he did extensive work with Savannah College of Art and Design. There is even an annual award named after him at the school. My nephew is currently a student there.

My thoughts on The Chiffon Trenches

After reading Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, Things I Should Have Said, Andre Leon Talley’s book is like a cool drink. He really was an excellent writer– witty, engaging, and intelligent, and sometimes very funny. I was fascinated by the foreign world Talley wrote of, involving creative, eccentric, and fabulously wealthy and stylish people. There were people Talley wrote of I didn’t know; his descriptions of them were so interesting that I took the time to research them on Google. He also wrote about people everybody knows, like Elton John, Princess Diana, and Mariah Carey. Talley enjoyed a long friendship with the late Lee Bouvier Radziwell, to whom he dedicated his book.

NBC’s tribute to Talley.

One person I never saw mentioned even once is Tyra Banks, nor does he mention ANTM. However, Talley does write some lovely comments about Naomi Campbell, who is famously regarded as one of Tyra’s nemeses. I noticed that Tyra Banks posted a tribute to Talley after his death last year. I don’t know why he didn’t comment about Banks, but it probably had to do with legal considerations. Paulina Porizkova didn’t mention her in her book, either.

The Chiffon Trenches is an easy and entertaining read. I got the sense that I’d probably enjoy Talley’s company. We could bond over our mutual love of southern food. He genuinely seemed like a kind, warm, decent person, shaped by his formative years in the South. Andre Leon Talley grew up during the Jim Crow era, but he literally towered over his humble beginnings and became “somebody”. Even a non fashion follower, as I am, has heard his name. That’s really something special.

However, although I enjoyed Talley’s book, I noticed that he was pretty bitter about some things. Talley repeatedly writes about his long friendships with Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, and how they both cruelly “cast him out”. If I were to go only on his stories, I might be left with the idea that everyone in the fashion world is racist, superficial, and unkind. And yet, even as he complains about being ditched by his friends, he writes about how Anna Wintour staged an intervention for him and got Vogue to pay for his weight loss treatment three times!

Talley writes that his problems with binge eating intensified after his beloved grandmother died. He overate to drown the sorrows of bereavement, as well as to dull the pain of abuses he suffered as a child. Talley went from being tall and rail thin to a mountain of a man, forced to wear bespoke caftans. He could no longer dress like a fashion icon. Anna Wintour legitimately tried to help him. That sounds like something a good friend does. But she must have also realized that Talley was an addict, and the best way to help an addict is not to enable the damaging behaviors. I’m sure it was very painful for Wintour to separate herself from Talley’s drama. It would have been one thing if Anna Wintour had dumped him when he first gained weight, but she didn’t do that.

Talley might have more of a case against Karl Lagerfeld, whom he describes as extremely generous, yet very eccentric. When Talley met Lagerfeld in the 70s, the fashion icon gifted him with silk tunics. Talley said that if you were in Lagerfeld’s life, he dressed you. And he writes of how his old friend would routinely fly his friends in private jets to his sumptuous homes. He’d give them rare and expensive antiques, only to ask for them back again. Still, as strange as that behavior sounds to me, I couldn’t help but wonder what Lagerfeld would say about Talley.

I also noticed that Talley complained a lot about racism, but he was in an industry that embraces people who are different. Andre Leon Talley worked in a creative field populated by eccentric people, many of whom are not heterosexual. He worked with women of all shades and orientations. Yes, racism is a huge issue, and of course it needs to be addressed, but Talley worked in a career where being Black was no doubt less of a problem for him. He had an enviable life that most people can only fantasize about, regardless of their race or gender. His complaints about the lack of diversity in the fashion world are probably more on point. He does make some damning comments about Wintour not pushing diversity as much as she could have.

Although I can understand why Talley mentions racism, I wouldn’t say that he was a person who suffered extensively from it in his career. From what I can tell, he was highly revered and respected. In fact, I’ll bet in the fashion world, he was mistreated more for being a very fat man. But even his weight was accommodated by his friends. He writes about his fashion designer friends designing caftans for him. Naomi Campbell even managed to get him to Nigeria, where he helped promote Black fashion designers. Talley hadn’t wanted to go at first, due to his physical condition and enormous size. Naomi made it happen, and he was able to visit Africa, something he claims that even Black person wishes to do. Personally, I wouldn’t assume that every Black person wants to go to Africa, but Talley would certainly know about that more than I would. Below is what he wrote:

It is the wish and desire of every black human being to see Africa at some point before they die. But at seventy, highly overweight, and in poor health, it seemed a tall order for me. If only one person on God’s green earth could pull it off, it would be Naomi Campbell. I said yes and she said she would be in touch soon to sort out the details.

Talley, André Leon. The Chiffon Trenches (p. 239). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

It was obvious to me that Talley was not expecting to die so soon after publishing his book. Throughout the manuscript, he writes about the funerals of friends. Sometimes he was surprised to be invited to the more exclusive memorial services. More than once, he writes about how he envisioned his own death. But it’s clear that he thought he would live beyond 73 years of age. Frankly, given how obese he was, I’m surprised he lived that long.

Overall

I heartily recommend The Chiffon Trenches to anyone interested in reading about fashion, or just those who enjoy books about real people. Andre Leon Talley lived through the “golden age” of fashion. He refers to himself and some of his former colleagues as “dinosaurs”. But they worked in fashion in a bygone era. Talley seems sad about how the glory days of fashion are seemingly gone. People no longer have huge expense accounts and stay at The Ritz. The whole medium as changed, as fewer people buy print magazines. It’s all online now, and a famous YouTuber might be doing what skilled writers and editors like Talley used to do.

In spite of his occasional bitterness, Andre Leon Talley was a true giant in the fashion world. He was larger than life on many levels. Writing and editing were truly Talley’s vocations. It’s sad to me that his life ended with so much controversy and rancor among his friends. He deserved better. At least Anna Wintour went to his funeral.

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, by Paulina Porizkova…

Those of you who read this blog regularly, probably know that I grew up in the 1980s. As a child of that era, there are certain cultural phenomenons that are etched in my personal history. Personally, I think the 70s and 80s were great decades for coming of age. Most of us were too young to remember Richard Nixon. We got to be kids at a time before everybody was so plugged in to their electronic devices. We had a lot of freedom to come and go– I can remember running all over my neighborhoods— even when I was very young— and exploring to my heart’s content. And there was some really great– non auto-tuned— music in that era, to include an iconic band called The Cars, fronted by the late Ric Ocasek.

Ric Ocasek was 80s model Paulina Porizkova’s long time husband. When Ocasek died in September 2019, they were in the beginning stages of getting a divorce. Although they were splitting up when he died, Ric and Paulina still shared the house they purchased together when they first got married in August 1989. Paulina had envisioned them staying close and being “best friends”, maybe living in apartments near each other. But it was not to be. As Ric recovered from surgery for “stage 0 cancer”, he suddenly and unexpectedly died in the bedroom he and his third wife used to share. He’d also been suffering from heart disease and emphysema.

It was Paulina who discovered him, as she carried a cup of coffee to his sickbed at about 11:00 AM. It was made just the way he liked it, with three quarters of a teaspoon of sugar and just enough milk in it to turn it a very specific shade of beige. This part of the story resonated with me. My husband, Bill, knows how I like my “beige” coffee, too, although I prefer half and half over milk.

My sisters read fashion magazines regularly, but as an adolescent, I spent most of my time in a barn, tending to my horse. I’ve never had the figure, the bank account, or the desire to wear high fashion. I will admit that I used to like to watch America’s Next Top Model, and I did learn about models and fashion in the process of watching that show. But I really watched ANTM more for the drama, not because I care about haute couture. When Paulina Porizkova became a Top Model judge during Cycle 10, she quickly became one of my favorite people on the show. I liked that she was down-to-earth, intelligent, and basically kind… or as kind as she was allowed to be, anyway. As a music fan, I admired The Cars, and thought it was cool that Paulina was married to one of the co-founders of that band. I was pissed off when Paulina was fired from ANTM after Cycle 12. I thought it was a huge mistake. In my opinion, the show went downhill after she left. Paulina was also very briefly on Dancing With the Stars, but she was voted off very early. I didn’t watch her on that show.

I don’t know why she was voted off… This was a great performance, in my opinion.
Paulina Porizkova talks about being a new judge on ANTM in 2009.

As someone who grew up at a time when a lot of us were terrified of being invaded by the Soviet Union, I also find Paulina Porizkova’s personal history very interesting. Paulina was born on April 9, 1965 in Prostějov, Czechia, which was at that time, Czechoslovakia. In 1968, when she was three years old, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied her country. Her parents, Anna and Jiri, did not like the idea of censorship, being forced to work menial jobs for little pay, or standing in line for hours for a loaf of bread. So they left the country on a motorcycle and settled in Sweden, leaving Paulina behind in Czechoslovakia with her grandmother.

Life was difficult in Paulina’s homeland. The Soviets decided the house her grandfather had inherited was too large for one family. They divided it into three apartments and moved in a single lady and another family. There was one toilet for the whole house, and it was on the veranda. Meanwhile, Paulina’s parents were making a lot of noise about their daughter, who was separated from them. The sympathetic Swedish press wrote a lot of stories about Paulina, causing her to become famous. Still, Paulina didn’t mind, because she didn’t know what she was missing. She loved her grandmother, and wanted to be a good communist, as she was being taught in school. She even had aspirations of visiting Lenin in his tomb, and becoming a “Young Pioneer”, complete with a red kerchief. Below is an anecdote of something she and her cousin did in an attempt to win one of those red kerchiefs…

There are quite a few funny anecdotes like this in Paulina’s book.

When Paulina was seven, her pregnant mother, Anna, came back to Czechoslovakia in disguise. She wore a wig and glasses. The police found out who she was, and she was jailed. But she was seven months pregnant, and the Swedish press continued to put pressure on the Czech government. Anna was then given house arrest with her family. The police moved into an apartment across the street, so they could watch her and make sure no one visited. Anna told everyone in the family about the good life in Sweden, which was diametrically opposed to everything the Soviets reported. Anna spoke of how clean, beautiful, and safe the country was, and how she could eat a banana or an orange anytime she wanted one. Paulina wasn’t sure if she should believe her, but she soon found out firsthand, as the Czech government deported Anna, Paulina, and her baby brother from the country. She was told she could never return to her homeland, and was forced to leave her beloved grandmother behind. Then, when she got to Sweden, her father decided to leave the family and marry his girlfriend.

Life in Sweden was also challenging for Paulina. She was bullied in school because she was different. Unlike the blonde girls whose families had plenty of money, Paulina was tall with dark hair. She wore outdated clothes from thrift stores. Some of her classmates called her a “dirty Communist”. One Swedish girl, in particular, was especially mean to fourteen year old Paulina, who one day dared to wear new clothes she’d bought with her own money after working hard all summer. I wonder how that Swedish girl felt the following year, when fifteen year old Paulina was invited to Paris by model scout, John Casablancas, and launched her career as a bonafide top model. I hope she felt like the dumbass she obviously was.

Modeling was a lucrative career for Paulina, but she didn’t particularly enjoy the job. Sexual harassment toward the models was rampant among the photographers and clients. She had to wear hot clothes when it was hot outside, or strip down to nothing when the weather was freezing. She saw a lot of beautiful young girls wash out of the business before they even got started, many times owing a lot of money to the agencies who had paid for them to get their teeth fixed or skin issues treated by dermatologists. Paulina was fortunate, as she was successful and made a lot of money. And, in 1984, when she was 19 years old, actor Timothy Hutton, who was directing The Cars’ music video for their hit song, “Drive”, cast her as the love interest. That was how she met Ric Ocasek, who was married to his second wife, Suzanne, at the time.

My God, she was gorgeous! No wonder Ric was taken with her.

Paulina was struck by Ric’s turquoise eyes, which she describes in great detail, as he often wore dark shades that hid them from public view. She writes reverently about his naturally slender body and extreme height, and his shocking mop of black dyed hair against his pale skin. She immediately noticed his Czech surname, even translating it for readers. It was more poetic than her own surname, which she also sort of translates, as much as possible, anyway. She agreed to date him, even though he was married and had two young sons at the time… as well as two older sons with his first wife. She was still in her prime when they married in 1989, but she decided to mostly give up her career to be Ric’s wife and the mother of their two sons, Jonathan Raven and Oliver. She would occasionally model and take approved acting gigs, always approved by Ric, and never interfering with his schedule. Even though she made a lot of money when she was a model, she let him be the breadwinner… and they did not sign prenuptial agreements, even though their financial advisors strongly recommended it. That decision came back to bite Paulina firmly in the ass when Ric suddenly died, having disinherited her for “abandoning him”, as well as his two eldest sons. She had to go to court to get what was hers and, for a time, was left quite destitute and dependent on friends as she rebounded, now as a woman of 54.

My thoughts

I found No Filter to be a very quick and engaging read. I managed to finish this book in less than two days, and yet I came away with a lot of fresh thoughts and new perspectives. Paulina’s story has given me a lot to think about for many reasons. I could relate to much of her story, simply because of the time I’ve spent in Europe and the former Soviet Union, and because, like her, I’m now a woman of a certain age. 😉 I realized in reading Paulina’s book that we really aren’t that different, even if no one wants to take pictures of me in the nude. 😀 Also, she displays a fine sense of humor, and provides some comic relief in the form of wry anecdotes that are very disarming and show her humility. I do not get the sense that Paulina is vapid or arrogant, at all. In fact, she seems to be quite the opposite!

Paulina Porizkova has an evocative writing style, and she uses a lot of vivid and vibrant language to bring her story to life. In fact, even though I don’t typically read a lot of novels anymore (with the recent exception of A Stopover in Venice, by James Taylor’s second ex wife, Kathryn Walker), I decided to download Paulina’s novel about modeling, A Model Summer. I actually think she might be even better at writing novels. She uses a lot of colorful imagery and descriptive devices such as similes and metaphors to figuratively “paint” a picture in readers’ minds. I suspect A Model Summer might also be revelatory, because I have a feeling it’s based on her story, just as A Stopover in Venice is obviously based on Kathryn Walker’s marriage to James Taylor.

I remember on Cycle 12 of America’s Next Top Model, a very successful contestant named Marjorie Conrad commiserated with Paulina, as Marjorie is originally from France. Other contestants would rag on Marjorie, and fellow European contestant, Elina (from Ukraine), for being too “negative”. Paulina understood why they were like that, as she’s Czech, with dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship. And, having lived in Europe/the former Soviet Union for about fifteen years of my life, I kind of understand it, too. Europeans have a different mindset than a lot of Americans do. They aren’t as “toxically positive” about everything, and take a more realistic, and often pessimistic, view of most things. I mention this, because I noticed that Paulina is often quite negative in this story about her life, in spite of all of the money, fame, and success she’s had.

Again, life was legitimately hard for Paulina as a poor little girl in Czechoslovakia. It was hard for her as a transplant in Sweden, where she stood out for being too tall, too dark haired, too poor, and coming from a “commie” country. It was hard for her as a model, who was quite successful, but didn’t really enjoy the industry that much for a lot of reasons. It was always “just a job” for her, and not a very interesting one, at that. She caught a lot of shit for frankly stating that, too. I’m sure Americans, in particular, think she should appreciate having been a model, even though she was expected to tolerate egregious and outrageous sexual harassment and very personal and often negative comments about her body. Below is a quote from early in the book:

How sick is this?

Life was also hard for Paulina as Ric’s wife, as it turns out that he had some rather controlling behaviors that young Paulina had misconstrued as love. She was very young and inexperienced with men when they met. She’d had a tumultuous and difficult childhood that was fraught with abandonment, poverty, and abuse. She probably would have been better off going to college and finding work in which she could use her formidable brain. Instead, she fell into work that exploited the genetic jackpot she inherited by sheer chance. At one point in the book, Paulina writes about how people will usually encourage children who are smart and/or talented to develop and use their gifts. A smart child will often be encouraged to study hard and earn higher degrees, for instance. A musical or artistic child will be encouraged to improve their techniques so that their arts can be shared with the world. Beautiful women, though, are often judged harshly for using what they have, especially when they are “older”. Below is a quote Paulina got from a follower on her Instagram:

Easy for you to complain about the system now that you aren’t an “it” girl—but you had no problem making millions of dollars, enjoying your celebrity, and making millions of young girls feel ugly and unworthy for decades. NOW you are aware of how fragile self-image is???? You played a big role in creating the machine that makes people feel worthless if they aren’t “magazine beautiful,” and now you are crying because the system is making you feel like you made everyone else feel. The hypocrisy is incredible.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In her chapter, “The Responsibility of Beauty”, she writes:

People seem to understand that being beautiful is neither an accomplishment nor a fault. It is a gift. Generally, if you are given a gift or something of great value, your responsibility is to make use of it. When a person is born with an athletic or artistic ability and becomes a celebrated athlete or artist, we don’t shame them for using their gift. If a child is intelligent, we encourage them to get an education, to study hard, to develop their gift of intelligence as much as possible, and then use that gift out in the world. Developing their gift is seen as their responsibility. Wasted talent is a waste of potential. But when your gift is beauty, developing it is considered vain and narcissistic. Trying to maintain it is likewise shameful, whereas in athletics it’s practically heroic. An older athlete who strives to maintain their athleticism and compete with younger athletes is regarded as brave. An older model who strives to maintain their beauty and compete with younger models is often regarded as unnatural, embarrassing.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think the above commentary is very astute. It’s true that Paulina Porizkova was part of an industry that causes a lot of girls and young women heartbreak and misery. When she was in that industry, Paulina was, herself, young and arrogant, and unaware of her “responsibility” as a model. She writes about a reporter who asked her what she thought her “responsibility” should be. Would she model fur, for instance? Or “blood diamonds”, just for the money? At the time the question was asked, young Paulina didn’t know how to answer. Over thirty years later, the question still haunts her, but in spite of being a “dumb” model (which she obviously never was), she manages to write some very intelligent commentary about the subject. I found it very intriguing, so I’m including a few samples below:

I had become a model at fifteen and made a great deal of money because people thought I was beautiful. I was also an arrogant asshole. Give a teenager loads of money, no rules, and lavish praise for her ability to look stunning and fit into sample-size clothing, and moral responsibility probably isn’t what she spends most of her days thinking about.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 98). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And…

…somewhere along the way, we pick up the message that we can’t be beautiful and intelligent. That if we want to be taken seriously for our intelligence, we have to downplay our beauty. Right before I moved to Paris, I thought of myself as ugly and smart. Once I started working as a model, I was suddenly beautiful and stupid. When I called my dad to tell him I was staying in Paris to model full-time, he said, “Oh, now you’re going to be a dumbass.” When I arrived in Paris I got a reading list from a university and decided to read all the books listed in the English literature syllabus, not because I necessarily liked them or would choose them on my own, but because I wanted to make sure people knew I was intelligent.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

She continues…

I struggled with shame across my forty-plus-year career as a model. While a woman seeing a photo of me in an ad might have felt shame for not looking like me, I had been shamed for not having the body of Elle Macpherson. And the boobs of Cindy Crawford. And the teeth of Christie Brinkley. When the standard you are being held to is physical perfection, none of us can compete. I just quietly envied those other models and decided I surely had other, more important attributes. I was smarter, I could play the piano and draw, and I was certain I read way more books. I cut other women down in my mind so I could feel, if not superior, at least equal. I turned around and shamed those women after feeling shamed myself.

In my experience, no one shames a woman as often and as effectively as other women. We are all in the same boat, wanting to go the same way, yet instead of working together to get there, we knock one another off the boat. Do we not understand that the fewer of us there are to paddle, the slower we advance?

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yeah… this is not a dumb woman, at all! I can see why Paulina is sometimes negative about her life. She’s being honest, but a lot of Americans can’t respect honesty. They’d prefer bullshit. I also loved what she wrote about fame, and how people want to project themselves onto famous people. She explains that famous people are very well known, and yet very few people actually know them at all. Reading her comments reminded of how, when I was at James Taylor’s concert last month, some guy yelled out that his father “loved” him, and James reminded the guy that his father didn’t even know him. I got the sense that, like Paulina, James might be uncomfortable with people calling him by name and acting as if they’re somehow friends. If you think about it, it really is pretty weird, because we only know about the “famous” parts of these well-known people. We don’t actually have a personal knowledge of them at all, other than how what they do makes us feel. Paulina also reminds us that people in the press often make up or embellish things to sell their wares. I was also reminded of actress Justine Bateman’s book about her experiences with fame and how strange it must actually be for famous people… at least the ones who aren’t complete narcissistic assholes. Below are a few more quotes from the book to highlight what I mean…

On the other hand, Paulina Porizkova is also a believer in palm readings, tarot cards, and psychics, and she writes a bit about her experiences with her beliefs in her book. I don’t judge her negatively for that, especially since, in her experiences, they’ve actually been correct. Or, at least that’s what she claims. I know some people will probably think that’s kind of dumb or sacrilegious, though… or too much “woo”. And I know some will also judge her for being “the other woman”, and for the fact that she dated another man while she was still technically married. But, in fairness, Ric was also seeking the company of other women.

To sum things up…

I’m sure you can tell that I really enjoyed Paulina Porizkova’s book, No Filter. I am probably a bigger Paulina fan now, than I was when she was on ANTM. I hope this book helps her make some money, since she was left in quite a legal pickle when Ric Ocasek suddenly died. I still admire him as a musician and love his music, but now I think he was a bit of a narcissistic jerk. It’s too bad Paulina didn’t use her formidable common sense to protect herself from the situation he left her in when he died in 2019, but she trusted him and, sadly, he got to her when she was very naive and inexperienced.

There’s a lot more to this book that I didn’t cover, in spite of the long length of this article. So, if I have piqued your interest, I would highly recommend reading about Paulina Porizkova’s life. She’s led a very interesting one, so far… And I do hope that she will, one day, find that true love and acceptance she thought she’d had with Ric Ocasek. There are still some very good men out there. I know, because I managed to marry one myself, even though I am definitely no model. Like Paulina knew how Ric loved his coffee, my Bill knows how I love mine. I bet he’s not the only guy out there who’s like that… I think Paulina deserves someone who will fix her some coffee the way she likes it, and appreciate her very fine mind over her still gorgeous body.

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dogs, music, YouTube

Shirley Horn and Paulina Porizkova are both inspiring me today…

Today’s featured photo is of the new Toilight I got for Bill as a stocking stuffer. It lights the toilet at night, which we both find very handy… it also makes the water look really cool as it gets flushed. We gotta have our fun wherever we can find it.

Yesterday’s post was surprisingly popular, for my blog, anyway. I think sometimes people love a good rant, even if it’s petty and kind of stupid. I actually had fun writing that post. It gave me a lot to think about. I ended up doing a few edits after the initial posting, because I spotted some things that needed clarification, along with the usual typos. But anyway… I do love it when someone gives me a topic for my blog by way of inspiration.

This morning, I’m somewhat less inspired. Yes, I could write about how Donald Trump’s legal woes are getting worse by the day, and he’s being exposed as the crook that he is. But I don’t feel like writing about that today. The end of the year is looming, and that means it’ll soon be 2023. I realize I’m getting older and certain things just don’t matter the way they used to.

I just started reading Paulina Porizkova’s latest book. So far, it’s kind of a page turner. I liked her when she was on America’s Next Top Model and was annoyed when Tyra Banks fired her from the show. That was about when it became unwatchable for me. I think I hung in there for a couple more “cycles”, but soon gave up on it. I though Paulina was awesome on that show. In fact, I think she should have her own show. She’s very intelligent, and I like how plain spoken she is… but not in an obnoxious, narcissistic way, like Tyra is. Tyra Banks, I’m afraid, went from being a relatively pleasant host to an over-the-top nightmare.

I woke up at about 3:00 AM, thanks to Arran’s need for a potty break and demands for food. Bill took care of that, while I took a bathroom break myself. By the time I got back in the bed, I was wide awake. My stomach was annoying me, too. So, since I wasn’t going back to sleep for at least another hour or so, I opened Paulina’s book and started reading. I predict (but can’t promise) I’ll finish it quickly, and will be ready to review it by the end of the week.

I also got an alert from my favorite backing tracks Web site that Shirley Horn’s luminous version of “Here’s to Life” was available for download. I love that song, and to date, have recorded it three times. I don’t expect people to know it, but I fell in love with it in 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina. The Jordan Family did a very poignant version of the song for a fundraiser. At the time of their performance, they were still missing their father from the storm. I would actually love to record their version of the song– with the same key and arrangement. Shirley Horn’s comes closer to that than either Barbra Streisand’s and Bob Stewart’s versions do. So that’s why I decided to do the song one more time, but in a different manner. I prefer the jazzier style to the more Broadway interpretations I did before.

I couldn’t think of a pressing topic for this morning, So I spent about two hours recording Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life” in two different keys. I tried her original key, then went a step up. I think the higher key is better for me, so that’s the one I put on YouTube. I think both turned out pretty well, although it’s kind of a challenge to get the video right. I’m struggling with coughing, a runny nose, and an itch, too… not from a viral illness, but probably more from allergies or my lack of attention to dusting.

I’m glad I don’t look like I’m climaxing in this still.

When I last sang “Here’s to Life”, I wrote a post about it on this blog. I wrote a bit about who composed the song, as well as some personal philosophies and other assorted stuff. It’s not a super exciting post, because I also wrote about a Facebook argument I had some time back with a cop friend of mine, and Amy Duggar King, who had just given birth at the time. And I wrote about sweet Zane, who had, at that writing, been gone from our lives for a matter of weeks. I was missing him a lot then. I still miss him, especially when I see old pictures and videos that remind me of what a sweet soul he was. I truly do hope the Rainbow Bridge is a real thing, and I can see him again someday after I’ve departed the mortal coil myself. I noticed that I wrote that post on October 10, 2019, which also happened to be the 16th anniversary of the loss of our first rescue beagle mix, CuCullain, who had bright blue eyes. He was a special soul, too. Sometimes, he seems to visit us through Noyzi.

Our very first beagle rescue, CuCullain (C.C.)… He was a really cool dog.

I don’t even have those things to write about today. My dogs are impatiently waiting for me to finish up and take them for a walk. They’ve learned that when I quit doing music, it’s walk time. Usually, I play guitar before we walk, but today it was singing… which I tend to do much better. I did learn to play the rhythm version of “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart yesterday. It was surprisingly easy, with open chords that are fairly easy to tease out, even with fingers as unpracticed as mine are.

I suppose I could write about the cop videos I watched yesterday, which were surprisingly outrageous. I never understand people who get loud and belligerent with cops and expect them to cut them a break. I’ve also noticed that American cops aren’t as professional as German cops appear to be. Here, you can get a huge fine if you cuss at the cops. In the United States, people say whatever… even threaten cops and their families. The lady in yesterday’s video told one cop she hoped his wife got raped. Horrible! And then she moaned and cried because she was in handcuffs and about to be charged with a felony.

Um… you shouldn’t involve yourself in things that are none of your business…

The other video involved a very bellicose drunk driver who cussed non-stop. He actually made ME blush… and I cuss like a sailor! I feel sorry for the people in this man’s life. He’s a mess. He’s got a very foul mouth, too… and if I’m saying that, it means something.

“What are you talking about, dude?” Enjoy your Christmas in the jug, guy.

But really, I think I just want to walk the dogs before they have a fit… and then maybe go back to reading my latest book. I wish I felt more inspired to write something compelling, but I think recording a song kind of took it out of me. Maybe I’ll be back later… but I probably won’t. So have a happy hump day.

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celebrities, fashion, royals, YouTube

Wallis Simpson versus Meghan Markle… cut from the same cloth!

Once again, I am teetering between wanting to write about the explosive current events happening right now, and something a little more “fun”, “funny”, or “harmless.” Since I’m in a fairly benign mood today, I think I’ll go for funny… and write about a YouTube video I saw yesterday, posted by River.

There are some uncanny similarities between Wallis Simpson and Meghan Markle…

For those who don’t know, River is a hilarious, androgynous, British YouTube personality who wears a crown and offers commentary on the British Royal Family. Yesterday, I happened to catch a video in which River talks about the uncanny similarities between two American women who famously married British Royals. Twice, River shows viewers outfits that Wallis Simpson and Meghan Markle wore. And given that Wallis Simpson was around many years ago, obviously Meghan’s style is copying hers.

My question is, does Meghan know that her now famous white dress and glove ensemble, so heavily photographed during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, is very similar to an outfit that Wallis wore decades ago? I mean… right down to the gloves, belt, and the collar! Meghan’s dress looks like it was made of different fabric, and the skirt is more A line. And Meghan wore a hat, while Wallis didn’t. Still… very similar!

And River also pointed out how similar Meghan’s “birdshit dress” is to another dress Wallis wore. I had to chuckle at the term “birdshit dress”– they were actually lotuses, but River says it looks like a bunch of birds flew over Meghan in a black dress getting bombed by their shit! I didn’t notice it when I first saw her in the dress, but now I can’t unsee it. River’s right. It does look kind of like birdshit.

A screenshot from River’s video. They do look awfully similar.

I also read that on her wedding day in May 2018, Meghan rode in the very same Rolls-Royce that carried Wallis Simpson to her husband, the Duke of Windsor’s, funeral in 1972. The link I just provided comes from a Fox News article, published May 29, 2018, not even two weeks after Meghan and Harry married on May 19th of that year. The reporter who wrote the story, Brittany Vonow of The Sun, noted:

Ms Simpson will forever be known as the woman who rocked the Royals and who plunged the monarchy into crisis.

Her marriage to King Edward III in 1937 meant that he became the first ever monarch to abdicate, changing the path of history – and eventually leading to Queen Elizabeth II ascending to the throne.

Edward had abdicated in December 1936 after being told he could not both be king and marry Wallis.

He made a BBC broadcast saying he could not do the job of the king “without the help and support of the woman I love”.

Hmmm… this sounds familiar, too, as Meghan and Harry have famously “stepped back” from royal duties, and are now living in California. While I don’t know how the British Royals actually feel about what has transpired, I can only guess that Harry’s defection from life as a public royal has “rocked” the family in a similar fashion. Granted, Harry has no realistic chance of ever being the King of England, so in that way, the situations aren’t comparable. King Edward III’s decision to marry an American divorcee had greater ramifications than Harry’s decision to marry an American divorcee has. But still, it’s like history is repeating itself in a very obvious way.

I didn’t go looking for the photos comparing Wallis and Meghan, and apparently neither did River; someone sent them to the channel, with the comment that the outfits are extremely similar. I would love to know whose idea it was for Meghan to wear that white outfit to the Platinum Jubilee, though. Even before I hadn’t seen Wallis Simpson’s incredibly similar version, I had mixed feelings about Meghan’s white dress. It does look like it fits her perfectly, for once, and the style is very classic. However, I couldn’t help but think of old fashioned nurses when I first saw it. Watching Meghan walk, a slight switch in her ass and a snooty smile on her face, reminded me of watching Whitney Thompson on America’s Next Top Model Cycle 10. Whitney had a similar walk and smug expression on her face.

Quite right, I’m afraid. That is a hat that inspired some hate.

River points out that Wallis Simpson was very fashionable. He seems to think Meghan is less so. But did she mean to channel Wallis Simpson with that dress? Because I don’t think there’s a doubt that sometimes, they look like they were almost cut from the same cloth. On the other hand, I’m not sure Wallis would have worn the poop emoji hat that Meghan famously wore… I look at it and can see why people are reminded of poop when they look at it. On the other hand, it also reminds me of chocolate, especially with the little “shaving” on the side. That’s probably a kinder way to look at it, anyway.

I highly recommend River’s channel, especially if you’re interested in the British Royal Family and don’t mind snark on Meghan Markle. I find it very entertaining, especially during my boring afternoons during the summer that feels like it will never end. River always dresses in style and loves little trinkets. Sometimes some stunning zingers come forth, too, making me laugh a lot! But then, I am famously easy to entertain. 😉

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advertising, business, fashion, music, nostalgia

I used to think Victoria’s Secret was “luxury”…

This morning, I woke up to an article in The New York Times about Victoria’s Secret, that famous underwear purveyor that once beguiled me in every mall I ever visited. The article, which I’ve linked and unlocked, was about how Victoria’s Secret is trying to “rebrand” due to rapidly declining sales and a diminished reputation. A new documentary called Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons has come out on Hulu. I haven’t seen it, because I’m not currently subscribed to Hulu, and would have to use a VPN to see it, anyway. The documentary consists of three parts, and is all about how Leslie Wexner took a brand that was originally a small chain in California and turned it into a huge business run by men objectifying women.

I haven’t shopped at Victoria’s Secret in over twenty years. There are a few reasons for that. For one thing, I’m too old and fat to wear their lingerie. For another, it’s been many years since I last thought of anything at Victoria’s Secret as worth buying. Back in the early 90s, it was kind of a cool place to shop, with dark, mysterious boudoir inspired interiors. Everything was in drawers, as if I was going to my own dresser. They sold lovely perfumes and soaps, silk and satin underwear, terry cloth robes, and really comfortable sleep shirts with cool patterns and in bright colors. I used to LOVE their sleep shirts, which were long sleeved, with a breast pocket, and satin edging around the collar. I never bought a Victoria’s Secret bra, because they all had underwires, and I hate underwires. Plus, my boobs were just too big.

Jax is awesome!

Then, as the 90s progressed, the store’s interiors brightened up, and the merchandise became crap. A lot of what they sold was not only poorly constructed and overpriced; it was also really ugly. And then I got way too old for their demographic, which seemed to target younger and younger girls. Like a lot of people, I was both amazed and horrified last month when the Tik Tok singer-songwriter, Jax, put out a song she made for a pre-teen girl she babysits named Chelsea. Chelsea had gone to Victoria’s Secret to buy a bathing suit for a pool party, and a “friend” told her the suit made her look too “fat and flat”. So Jax made a song called “Victoria’s Secret”, which went viral.

Wow.

I have to say, I think Jax is a super talented songwriter. I don’t really care for the autotuned sound, or super plugged instruments, but there’s no doubt she has major writing chops. I just listened to another song she did last year, and it actually made me really emotional, even though it’s very modern pop and I usually hate that style. What can I say? I’m old, and I like to hear real voices. But I just listened to the below song, and it legitimately made me cry. My husband is just like the man she’s singing about; we actually have that relationship. I think Jax is going to have a big career. And yes, now I see that she was on American Idol, but I’ve never watched that show in my life, and couldn’t now, even if I wanted to. Sheesh, now I feel like I’ve been hopelessly out of touch with current events.

This is so sweet. I bet it becomes a wedding staple.

I think another reason I was turned off of Victoria’s Secret years ago was because Tyra Banks made a name for herself with that brand. I used to watch Tyra on America’s Next Top Model, a show with which I had a love/hate relationship, much like I did for 7th Heaven. Tyra used to talk about how her voluptuous figure was welcomed by Victoria’s Secret, and yet I read many comments on The New York Times article about how limited the sizing has been since I quit shopping there in the 90s. I guess it got really bad. I have never been particularly thin, but when I was a young woman, I could easily buy stuff at Victoria’s Secret. They must have sort of quietly phased the more inclusive sizes out, only to bring them back now in a bid to save their brand. Although I watched Tyra’s antics on ANTM, it wasn’t because I liked or admired her. I just found her to be a narcissistic trainwreck. I liked ANTM for Paulina Porizkova, Andre Leon Talley, Jay Manuel, and most of all, Miss Jay (J. Alexander). And I enjoyed watching the contestants, some of whom had very compelling stories. Renee Alway, anyone?

Tyra, back in the day.
Hoochie? The music reminds me of porn.

Did normal, regular people actually wear the stuff Tyra was modeling? I don’t know. I remember when I was in my late teens and early 20s, they had polyester string underwear with bright colors and juicy patterns, but they also had plain silk bikinis that I really liked and wore all the time. I see the above video, especially toward the end, Tyra wasn’t super skinny. But it sounds like the brand eventually became less size inclusive, to the point at which anyone who wasn’t super small couldn’t wear their stuff. And even those who could wear it, didn’t get to wear it for long, because it would fall apart. Then Jeffrey Epstein was in the news, and it turned out that Leslie Wexner was buddies with Epstein. He ended up stepping down from his post as chairman and chief executive of Victoria’s Secret, probably because not only is he ancient, but because the brand was liable to be canceled… On the other hand, Donald Trump also hung out with Epstein, and he hasn’t been canceled yet. So I don’t know.

I used to have a Victoria’s Secret sleep shirt that looked just like this. They had lots of stuff in bright colors, with seemingly luxurious fabrics. (eBay listing)

I remember even before I shopped at Victoria’s Secret, they had a mail order catalog that had really beautiful stuff in it. There were velvet “pyjamas” (spelled with a y, Brit style), lovely lace nightgowns, even fashionable sportswear separates that were classy, elegant, and tasteful. A former friend of mine’s middle aged mother (at the time) used to get the catalog and I would look at it, amazed by what they were selling. It really did give off the appearance of being a British company with a posh London address, but the truth is, Victoria’s Secret has always been all American. It was originally founded in Palo Alto, California, by Roy and Gaye Raymond, who expanded the brand to five stores before they sold it to Leslie Wexner in 1982. Wexner moved the company’s headquarters to Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where it remains today. So much for London, eh?

Ah well… like anything else, Victoria’s Secret was based on a mythical image that never existed and was pushed by men looking to make money and objectify women. And a lot of people bought into it. I know I did, when I was a lot younger, but in those days, it was not as trashy as it is now. I’m obviously not the only one who thinks so, either— this link goes to another blog post that actually shows the kinds of stuff they sold, back in the day. It was much nicer and classier; some of it would be great to wear even today!

An ad that currently appears on Victoria’s Secret’s Web site. Hmm…

It’s been years since I last went to an American mall, but I remember even when I did that regularly, being totally turned off by how Victoria’s Secret had changed. Gone was the mystery and elegance of the early 90s, and it was replaced by gaudy, sleazy, poorly made junk. And now, it appears that it’s being marketed more to young girls who don’t yet have boobs, if I am to go by Jax’s video. It sounds like the bean counters have finally wised up– maybe a little too late– and realized that bigger women have a lot more money than most prepubescent girls have, and there are a lot more of us looking to buy lingerie than there are skinny modelesque women. Those women probably wouldn’t want to shop at Victoria’s Secret anyway. So now they’re more size inclusive, but a lot of what I’ve seen isn’t appealing at all.

I’m happy with my cotton Jockey underwear, that I usually order from Amazon. My husband doesn’t mind, because he’s not a shallow fuck like this guy who commented on The New York Times’ article.

the whole reason. We men buy lingerie for our partner; the marketing is to look good for the man.. and definitely those fatties are not our standard of beauty (I’ll bet this guy is a pro-birther, too)

I’m gonna get cooch stains on the underwear, anyway, right? Might as well get some that are practical.

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