28 June 2011

Dahling Tallulah

Tallulah Bankhead by George Hoyningen-Huene (1929)

I'd rather be strongly wrong than weakly right.—Tallulah Bankhead

Today I ran across a photo of Tallulah Bankhead and was reminded once again of how utterly amazing she was. A woman who didn’t give a damn about what others thought, she spoke her mind and lived her life as she chose.

Born in Huntsville, Alabama on January 31, 1902, Tallulah came from a powerful political family (her grandfather was a senator and her father was the Speaker of the House) and was herself a lifetime Democrat. A precocious child, she started acting in local theatre before moving to New York City at 16 to try and make it on Broadway. But it was across the pond in London where she became a successful West End star and a regular feature in the tabloids.

Tallulah in a scene from The Cheat (1931).

In 1927 she returned to the States to star in a couple of films including The Cheat (1931), a remake of the great silent in which she plays a woman whose reckless gambling gets her indebted to a local businessman who literally brands her when she tries to back out of a deal. But it was on the stage where Tallulah always had her greatest success and after starring in some mediocre productions she won critical acclaim for her performances in Lillian Hellman’s Little Foxes and Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth. 

Tallulah and fellow boatmates in Lifeboat (1944).

It would be more than ten years before she returned to the silver screen and her most famous film role, that of Constance Porter in Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat (1944). Before long though she returned to New York for more stage work, including a long run of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. She would go on to make other screen and television appearances, including a memorable guest spot on I Love Lucy.

Tallulah by Cecil Beaton (1927)

But perhaps Tallulah was most memorable for being Tallulah. She smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, and famously declared "Cocaine isn't habit-forming. I should know—I've been using it for years.” She had affairs with both men and women and was known to cartwheel without knickers on and disrobe at parties. She wasn’t what you would call a great beauty but she was striking looking with sleepy eyes and that wonderful throaty drawl, which would be imitated by many as would her trademark phrase “hello, dahling” (“All my life I've been terrible at remembering people's names. I once introduced a friend of mine as Martini. Her name was actually Olive.”).

She was a woman often quoted and some of her quips have become legend. Just a few include:

"I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education."

"I'll come and make love to you at five o'clock. If I'm late start without me."

(On seeing a former lover for the first time in years). "I thought I told you to wait in the car."

"Only good girls keep diaries. Bad girls don't have time."

Tallulah’s wild living finally caught up to her and she died in New York City on December 12, 1968, an original to the end.

If you've never seen one of Tallulah's films, I highly recommend that you do. Lifeboat is probably the easiest to get ahold of but The Cheat has been released on DVD and is great fun. I promise dahlings.

26 June 2011

La Bergamote

French bakeries are always a plus to have near your flat—they almost always guarantee you fresh croissants in the morning and sweets for when you have people over (or just for yourself when you've had a bad day). La Bergamote Patisserie is one such place that I've come to depend on since moving to Chelsea. It's where I order my Bûche de Noël every Christmas and where I've purchased numerous Napoleons and religieuses for friends and colleagues.


La Bergmote used to be crowded into a tiny space on 8th Avenue but last year they moved across the street to a spacious spot with a dining area. Although the building is new details like the paintings on the back wall and the tin ceilings with exposed lights 
give the place a vintage feel.

What hasn't changed are their lovely choices of cakes and other sweets. They also serve ready-made salads and baguette sandwiches like ham and brie or pate and cornichons, which are perfect to grab for an outdoor lunch on the High Line, which is just a block away.

La Bergmote is also a fine place to sit by one of the windows and people watch while enjoying a cappuccino, which is exactly what I did after a long walk yesterday. With a handful of chocolate-covered almonds thrown in and some air conditioning, it was a perfect place to take a break.

Photos by Michele.

19 June 2011

L'amour Fou

"Marie-Thérèse Walter" Pablo Picasso (1937)

They met outside a Métro Station in Paris in 1927. She was 17 and on her way to buy a shirt with a Peter Pan collar. He was 45 and married. “I’m Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together” was his pick-up line. It worked. A few days later Marie-Thérèse Walter went to visit Pablo Picasso at his studio and they began an affair that would last for the next ten years. The result was a child, Maya, and some of the most sensual and important work of Picasso’s career.

Now more than 80 images of Picasso's great muse are on view in “Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour Fou” at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea. It isn't the greatest Picasso exhibit I've ever seen but it is quite interesting.

Marie-Thérèse was striking looking—tall with natural blonde hair, a Roman nose, and athletic build. In the exhibit, a series of black and white photos, run together like a flip book, show her dressed in black beret, white shirt, black leather jacket, and white gloves—a fashion plate of late 1920s Paris. In others she appears on the beach, bronzed and posed with a ball. No wonder Picasso wanted to paint her.

 "Marie-Thérèse Coiffee d'un Beret" Pablo Picasso (1927)

Even as Picasso's depictions of Marie-Thérèse evolve from straight forward renderings into grotesque distortions—face split in two, body twisted like a sea creature, nose turned into a phallus—there is still a beauty to them, something that is not always found in Picasso’s other portraits of women. 

Picasso once said that Marie-Thérèse saved his life and indeed one cannot deny the importance she had on his work. It was after their affair began that Picasso began to leave Classicism behind and explore Surrealism and other forms, resulting in his great masterpiece “Guernica” (in which Marie-Thérèse shows up three times).

In the end, I think that perhaps one of my favourite pieces was a simple pencil sketch at the beginning of the exhibit which shows Marie-Thérèse wearing her customary black beret (berets and other headpieces pop up repeatedly in the paintings). There is no contorted body, no overt sexual symbolism, just the clear gaze of a young woman whose life was going to be changed forever.

“Picasso and Marie-Thérèse: L’amour Fou” is at the Gagosian Gallery through June 25.

16 June 2011


James Joyce by Bernice Abbott (1928)

Happy Bloomsday everyone! For those of you who are fans of James Joyce you know that June 16th is the day that Leopold Bloom journeys around Dublin in Ulysses. There are monumental readings of the great novel going on around the globe today, fans are tweeting the entire novel (yes, 140 characters at a time), and more than a few pints being hoisted.

If you’ve never read the novel, you really should give it a shot. Yes it’s long, at times confusing, and is filled with references that you might not get but it's also gloriously colourful and funny and overflowing with the most incredible uses of the English language. Indeed, few have ever had such an ear for English as Joyce did. 

I began this blog with the opening line from Ulysses. I hope that you will continue and read the rest.

14 June 2011


Jean Arthur

I am a voracious reader and normally have a pile of books next to my bed waiting to be devoured. I thought from time to time, I’d share with you what I’ve recently read.

Saplings by Noel Streatfeild
Streatfeild is best known for her children’s books yet Saplings is definitely an adult novel. The story opens with a middle-class English family at the seaside on the brink of World War II and charts their disintegration through the war.The detailed portraits of the four children and the effect the war has on them, especially on the two eldest, are particularly striking and gut wrenching. I first became acquainted with Streatfeild when I saw a painting of her at the National Portrait Gallery in London. I am so happy to finally connect the image with her writing. The book is a slow read at first but don’t be put off by that. It picks up speed towards the middle and then rushes destructively along towards the end. 

Where Shadows Dance by C.S. Harris
Everyone has their junk food version of books and mine is the historical mystery. I especially enjoy series that I can follow year after year and Where Shadows Dance is the latest in one of my favourite series. Sebastian St. Cyr is a dashing earl with a troubled family life who is often called upon to track down killers in Georgian England. Here he deals with multiple murders that seem linked to continental politics while arranging his upcoming marriage to his archenemy’s daughter, Hero Jarvis, who's a pretty strong female character. A nice mix of mystery, intrigue, and romance. Loads of fun. 

Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon
Commissario Guido Brunetti is a man with a strong moral sense of right and wrong, which often leaves him at odds with the corruption he finds while solving murders. Luckily, Brunetti has a loving family who help to balance the horror of his cases. This time out in Drawing Conclusions, he investigates the death of an old woman that leads him to explore the treatment of the elderly and the abuse of women. The best thing about this book though and the series is the setting—my beloved Venice. The scenes describing Brunetti's walks through the streets and over the bridges bring the city to life and make me long to return.

For the New York Public Library's centennial anniversary (more on that at a later date), Penguin Books published Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100, which includes more than 100 New Yorkers posing with and writing about their favourite items from the library's collections.This book is so much fun. Gabriel Byrne smiling with a portrait of James Joyce; Fran Lebowitz and Nancy Drew books; Lou Reed holding a manuscript page from Edgar Allan Poe's The Rationale of Verse; Zadie Smith reading a first folio edition of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies. The best thing though? The book was passed out for free around the city. Way to go Penguin and the NYPL. 

Off to read some more.

09 June 2011

Too Darn Hot

Marie Prevost with Teddy the Wonder Dog

It was almost 100 today in New York City, which is just too darn hot. And it's not even technically summer yet! Wish I had a wonder dog of my own to pilot me around so I could enjoy the sea breeze. Hope everyone is staying cool.

07 June 2011

A Big Thank You

It was a year ago today that I began this blog. Since then, I’ve written 99 posts and shared countless images. I still don’t know if there is any rhyme or reason to this blog but as long as people continue to read it, I’ll keep writing. So a big thank you to you dear readers for stopping by. I hope you’ll continue to do so.

06 June 2011

Can't Focus

Perhaps it’s because I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Or maybe it’s the new issues of the New Yorker and New York Magazine staring at me from across the room. But right now I am suppose to be studying the passato remoto in Italian, and I just can't focus. It's taken me an hour to do one exercise as I keep re-reading the same sentence over and over again. I have class tomorrow and am a bit worried that I'll look like darling Clara Bow above when I get there. Think I’ll have a cup of PG Tips and try again.

02 June 2011

Savage Beauty

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, autumn/winter 2002–3

Bloody amazing. Those are the words that come to mind when I think about the new Met exhibit “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.” Passing through each room of the exhibit last weekend, I was blown away by the juxtaposition of raw and polished, opulent and stark, simple and complex. In short, I was surrounded by masterpieces. 

Widows of Culloden, autumn/winter 2006–7

If I had to chose a favourite room it would be a toss up between Romantic Gothic whose antiqued mirrors reflected gowns inspired by the darker side of Victorianism and the Romantic Nationalism room covered in marquetry and filled with works of tartan, an ode to McQueen's heritage. 

VOSS, spring/summer 2001

And oh my God, the feathers. McQueen appears to have been able to take any material from nature and incorporate it into a gown or a headpiece. The dresses like the one above covered in red and black ostrich feathers were beyond beautiful. I also loved how the video installations featuring various McQueen shows, especially the moving hologram of Kate Moss from his Fall/Winter 2006 runway show, were integrated so perfectly among the designs.

Highland Rape, autumn/winter 1995–96

McQueen was brilliant and the fact that he is no longer here makes viewing the exhibit bittersweet (as did seeing items that once belonged to Isabella Blow). "Savage Beauty" is a great opportunity to see the best of McQueen's work in one place but also a reminder of all the pieces we will never get to see with his passing.

The Girl Who Lived in the Tree, autumn/winter 2008–9

The exhibit runs through August 7, 2011. Lines are fierce so if you go, try to get there right when the museum opens.

Photos by Sølve Sundsbø.

01 June 2011

Happy Birthday Marilyn

I used this image for my birthday post but how could I not reuse it?

Marilyn Monroe would have been 85 today. The story of how a little orphan named Norma Jeane Mortensen grew up to become known the world over as Marilyn Monroe, the most famous sex symbol of the 20th century, only to have her life cut tragically short at age 36, is one that I know you dear readers are familiar with. So instead of retelling her story, here are a couple of favourite images of Marilyn and a performance. Rather than dwell on tragedy this day, let's remember the vivacious blonde who was the true definition of a movie star.

Happy Birthday Marilyn.

As a rider of the subway, I like the idea of Marilyn waiting on the platform for a train.

I love photos of people reading. Marilyn obviously surrounded herself with things that were important to her—books, copies of art. As for the radio directly behind her head, I have the same one.

One of her happiest moments was performing for the troops in Korea. How lucky were these two guys?

An amazing beauty. And a pretty damn good actress too.

One of my all time favourite Marilyn performances. Doesn't get much better than this.


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