Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In the Market Report

“Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin”

Ralph Pucci

Last night, I attended a press preview for “Ralph Pucci: The Art of the Mannequin”, at the Museum of Arts and Design. This concise jewel of an exhibition, (organized by MAD’s Chief Curator Lowery Stokes Sims and Barbara Paris Gifford, Curatorial Assistant and project manager), runs through August 30, 2015, and is a must see. It distinguishes itself as the first to explore the work of Pucci, a visionary trailblazer who has created sculpture like mannequins that are not only bona fide works of art (‘think’ Giacometti, Brancusi, and Moore), but reflect the zeitgeist of the times: the past four decades to be exact.

Reproduction of the sculpture studio

The exhibit is mounted in three distinct galleries on the second floor, and includes approximately 30 of Pucci’s most important works; an on-site recreation of his sculpture studio (where the “magic” happens); and a curated selection of jewelry by Isabel and Ruben Toledo from MAD’s permanent collection; they are exhibited on Ruben’s surrealistic jewelry mannequins, and fill the entire Tiffany Jewelry Gallery (which was re imagined as a moonscape).

Jewelry on Ruben Toledo's signature form

During the course of the preview, Ralph made his welcoming remarks and talked with pride, recalling how his parents started the business from scratch in Malverne, Long Island, back in 1956. “In 1976 we began with action mannequins which were perfect for the athletic clothes at the time”. He then walked us through the exhibit and singled out the mannequins that represented his most noteworthy collaborations (or as he put it, “the key moments in time”):

The Olympian Goddess and The Mistress by Andree Putman

“The Olympian Goddess”, 1986: The legendary Andree Putnam (who was responsible for his going into the furniture business), wanted a fresh new look for the Barneys that was opening on west 18th street. What resulted was his very first collaboration: an art deco mannequin that was very tall, androgynous, with broad shoulders.

Ruben Toledo's Birdland

“Birdland”, 1988: For Ruben Toledo, it was all about “the freedom to explore” and “being different”. The collaboration that resulted in 1988, was inspired by Alexander Calder, and was perfect for displaying jewelry.

“Olympic Gold”, 1989: This collaboration with Lowell Nesbitt (which rethought the idea of male beauty), made People Magazine’s first “50 Most Beautiful People” issue in 1990.

Ada, Maira Kalman       

“Ada”, 1994: Maira Kalman created a “whole story of herself” that was fun and whimsical, (“you wanted to smile”) and this was part of her Tango series, which included three male and three female mannequins.

Mannequins by Kenny Scharf and Ruben Toledo

“Swirley”, 2000: Part of Kenny Scharf’s whimsical and fun cast of iconic characters, (some had one eye, some had three, and other had cone heads), it was one of Pucci’s most risk taking collaborations.

Christy Turlington

“Christy Turlington”, 2001:  The supermodel was all about healthy living and doing yoga, so much so that she even launched a complete line of active wear under the name Nuala (Ralph Pucci was the first to design a mannequin doing the yoga pose).

Diane von Furstenberg

“Diane von Furstenberg”, 2013: This was created for the 40th anniversary of her iconic wrap dress (he made 250 of these) and with their ancient Chinese terra cotta warriors’ pose and the designer’s facial features, they have since become DVF’s signature mannequin, used in all her stores.

Maira Kalman's Ada and Patrick Naggar's Nile  

“Nile”, 1995: Patrick Naggar, a French artist, architect, and designer, was inspired by Greek and roman vases, and this recalls works of Giacometti and Moore.

When Ralph Pucci joined the family mannequin business in 1976, all the other mannequins were similarly staid and ladylike. He literally broke the mold by famously spraying theirs in bold, high gloss colors. As he noted, “We went where someone else wasn’t, and that became the design philosophy from there on out”. His work allowed for a broad inclusive idea of physical beauty that had been previously unheard of. He thinks of his mannequins as living things with distinct personalities, and you could really sense that, as you took it all in. Alas, just as I was about to begin a conversation with “Ada" and “Birdie”, I figured it was time to go LOL.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, March 28, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

New York to Sotheby's:"You Want A Piece Of Me?"

New Yorkers: We're a jaded bunch often forgetting, amidst the complexities of life here that we really do live in the world's greatest city. For those who are native to the Big Apple, those who are transplants, or those who dream of NYC as their home, even if you can't afford to own a piece of it, Sotheby's has something for you to gawk at. I toured the New York sale (it was nearly empty save Rosanna Scotto and her cameraman) which is to take place on April 1st at 8 p.m. The exhibit is open for viewing every day until the evening of the sale if you'd like to get up close and personal with the lit up letters that graced the side of the old Yankee Stadium, the Mets Bullpen car from the late '60s, or a bronze Statue of Liberty cast from an exact model of the original and authenticated by the Musees des arts et metiers, just to name a few highlights.

Mets bullpen car used to bring players to and from the field
(Click on images for larger views)

If you're not a sports fan, the New York sale, just like the city, has plenty of other things to offer in the way of architecture, fine art, jewelry, decorative arts, photography, fashion, and of course, history. The Mets bullpen car and the Statue of Liberty (which threw off a large wall shadow) are right there in the lobby. If you take the elevator to the 7th floor you will immediately be struck with the size of the giant Yankee Stadium "N" and "Y" letters; hard to miss at 10 ft. tall. All thirteen letters are estimated at $300,000 to $600,000 and are currently owned by Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. They were in place for 32 years, from the 1976 renovation of Yankee Stadium until its closure in 2008. Also in the vestibule area are a Leroy Neiman screenprint of "Lady Liberty," a small Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Red) encased in a lucite frame, as well as a spectacular painting with colorful and broad brushstrokes by Tom Christopher entitled "UPS Truck."

"Red Canoe" by William Helburn 1956

The exhibit moves on to some important fashion moments: William Helburn's "Red Canoe" photograph which was an advertisement for Supima cotton in the late '50s, Bill Blass sketches (80 of them) from the 1980's-90s, and the piece de resistance, Ormond Gigli's "New York City: Girls in the Windows." "Red Canoe" is a photo of Barbara Mullen, a favorite face of the 1950s, modeling an ‘Atmosheer’ Supima cotton chambray dress designed by John Moore for Talmack. Along with the titular boat, a black Rolls Royce rounds out the frame. Helburn was influenced by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon in the '40s and later came to prominence with a 10-page spread in Harper's Bazaar for Junior Bazaar. He photographed iconic models such as Dovima, Carmen Dell'Orefice and Jean Shrimpton for LIFE, Town & Country, Ladies’ Home Journal, and McCall’s as well as for the Madison Avenue agencies of the "Mad Men" era. The photo was taken outside 19 Gramercy Park South, one of the "greatest private houses in private hands in New York" with 18,000 square feet and a top floor ballroom.

Bill Blass sketches

Bill Blass began his career as a fashion illustrator in his native Indiana eventually saving up enough money to move to New York. He was called into a 'special army unit' of creative professionals where he sketched his fashion drawings all the while and sold his drawings for $2 apiece before eventually opening his own company. This collection of what appear to be working sketches for American sportswear include the word "use" on ones that actually found their way into various spring collections employing lightweight fabrics. Arrows are shown to mark the spots where the clothing should hit the body while various textiles as well as jeweled ornamentation are specified in the drawing portfolio. The sketches go for considerably more than $2 (estimated at $8,000 to $10,000).

"Girls in the Window" by Ormond Gigli

The most iconic fashion photograph ($25,000-$35,000) has to be that of Ormond Gigli who only had one hour to execute his legendary masterpiece. In 1960 he was living in a townhouse on East 58th Street and observed how the neighborhood was changing from the older style brownstones to the newer construction. Although he photographed many legends such as Barbara Streisand for "Funny Girl," Anita Ekberg in the Trevi Fountain, Sophia Loren, Marlene Dietrich, Gina Lollobrigida and more, his most well known work, this photo, was self-assigned. Realizing that the building would face the wrecking ball and be torn down the next day, he somehow assembled 43 women (models, friends, even his wife) to appear in their finest outfits in the windows of the crumbling edifice. He had to enlist the construction manager's help so that he could shoot on the construction crew's lunch hour. The deal was struck after he promised to use the manager's wife in the photo as well. There was an element of danger inherent here as the women bravely (or foolishly) volunteered to perch out on the window sills but luckily Gigli accomplished his goal getting 12-15 shots by standing on his fire escape and using a bullhorn to direct the shoot. The image for sale here is lucky #13 out of 20 and as no stylist was used I'm wondering if the women were free to run to a random spot in a random window or if he assigned them a number by clothing color. The shot is definitely focused towards the middle of the frame as the women towards the two sides are less distinct, including his wife who was on the second floor, far right. He somehow managed to arrange having a Bentley appear in the shot too.

Photo by Berenice Abbott

To represent the architectural aspect of a bygone New York City the sale includes several of Berenice Abbott's quintessential black and white New York landscapes including her "New York At Night" ($7,000-$10,000), Brian Hamill's "Manhattan" (familiar to anyone who saw the Woody Allen movie), and a portrait of John Lennon on his terrace at the Dakota from 1975. There are several interesting scenic paintings of New York in the snow such as Guy Arthur Wiggins' "Mid-Winter at the Metropolitan Museum," and Terence Coyle's "After the Blizzard of '96." If you prefer New York in the sweltering heat there are works such as Alfred Mira's "Summer Morning" and black and white photos by Ruth Orkin's "Couple in Front of Their Candy Store" and "Mother and Baby in Gutter." Quite literally the highs and lows of New York are on view here; look up and there are "Skyscrapers" in a black and white photo By Thurman Rotan; look down and there are the subways as represented by Red Grooms, Henry Chalfant and Richard Estes.

Weegee 'The Critic' 1943

What would a sale of NY be without some of its famed inhabitants represented? Andy Warhol's lease for his first studio at 159 East 87th Street, (an old abandoned firehouse known as the 13th Hook and Ladder) which he paid $150 a month for, is on faded blue paper with his signature. There's also a watch that he designed with different scenes of New York on it ($8,000-$12,000). One of Frank Sinatra's geometric paintings, some Tiffany silver and several pieces of David Webb, Bulgari, Cartier and TIffany jewelry round out the sale.

Marilyn Monroe by Richard Avedon 1957

If you have time, also check out the Photography exhibit on the 10th floor where you'll find works from just about every major photographer of the 20th century to the present including Alfred Steiglitz, Georgia O'Keefe, Diane Arbus, Weegee, Terry O'Neill (including his iconic photo of Faye Dunaway after her Oscar win for "Network"), Henri Cartier Bresson, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz (Angelica Huston 1985 is a must see), Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Peter Beard (great shots of Bianca Jagger and Beverly Johnson) and Julius Shulman (don't miss his famous architectural photos of L.A.'s cliff overhanging, glass Stahl House at night).

Sotheby's is located at 72nd Street and York Avenue. For more info visit their website,

- Laurel Marcus

Friday, March 27, 2015

In the Market Report: Downtown Rising

...Or Should I Say Risen?

Soft Spin Installation in Brookfield Place
Photos: Marilyn Kirschner
(click images for larger views)

When Conde Nast made their move from Times Square all the way down to One World Trade in 2014, it was a major moment and symbolic in terms of the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. And on Thursday, March 25th, there was yet another major milestone. Following a $250 million facelift, Brookfield Place, brookfieldplaceny.com, the former World Financial Center, has finally and formally opened. Considered to be “The Heart of the New Downtown”, it was billed from the outset, as a destination for luxury brands, and approximately 24 stores (including Michael Kors, J. Crew, Bonobos, Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch, Omega, Theory, Paul Smith, Vince, Judith & Charles, Cos Bar and Satya) officially put out their welcome mats.

Brookfield Property Partners celebrates the opening
of  Brookfield Place

While it wasn’t exactly a ribbon cutting, it was a Grand Opening, and Ric Clark, Brookfield Office Properties’ CEO, was on hand to make a few short, to the point, welcoming remarks. He noted how this has put the finishing touches on a major transformation that has turned an area that many considered to be a financial office environment, to a highly sought out destination. And while the financial sector and tourists have long been drawn down here, it has become not only a healthy vibrant neighborhood, but is seen as one of the most sought after places to live in New York City. As Downtown Magazine's CEO and publisher Grace Capobianco noted (she was one of the many who showed up for this occasion), it is now being referred to as the “Gold Coast” of Manhattan. Both Grace and myself are Upper East Side ‘expats’, (coincidentally, we were neighbors, living in the same building), and while we are among those who proudly call this neighborhood home (and love many things about living here), neither one of us would say the initial draw was the shopping LOL.

Quite frankly, if you told me a decade ago that I would be living just a few blocks away from Conde Nast’s headquarters, or from Saks Fifth Avenue, Burberry, Ferragamo, Hermes, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Vince, Theory, Diane Von Furstenberg, Zegna, Gucci, etc., I would ask what you were smoking! But, in fact, this is now a reality (though we will have to wait for the fall for the arrival of some of the aforementioned shops). By the way, yesterday morning’s event was also a perfect time to unveil Art Brookfield’s colorful sculptural and sound installation, “Soft Spin”, by Heather Nicole (it runs through April 24th), as well as Le District in Brookfield Place, which formally opens on Monday. Hudson Eats, a 35,000 square foot of eating space (which is located directly above Le District), opened months ago.

Le District at Brookfield Place

What could be better than great shopping? Great food, of course.  HPH Restaurant Group Peter Poulakakos’s long awaited 30,000 square foot mega French marketplace promises to rival food halls like those in Bon Marche in Paris and KaDeWe in Berlin (many call it the French equivalent of Eataly). It will include a wine bar, a patisserie, a fromagerie, a boulangerie, approximately 6 gourmet food stations (where you will find everything from waffles and crepes made to order, to sushi, steak frites, salads, rotisserie chicken, etc.), and three restaurants (Le Bar, brasserie Beaubourg, and L’Appart, which will have 17,000 square feet of outdoor space with views of the Hudson, and is set to open in May). There is perhaps no better time to be down here than in the spring and summer months, with sailboats, cruise ships, and yachts in full view. Spring forward, indeed.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Monday, March 23, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

Hungry For Spring

"Cake Couture"
International Culinary Center "too pretty to eat"
edible display

As we all know the vernal equinox delivered more snow. Should we blame Mother Nature, Old Man Winter or the Lion that March comes in as for not ceding it to the Lamb? Take it away Lamb already! I am reminded of a commercial for Florida tourism in the '70s called " I need it bad!"  but I'm not suggesting we all go south just that Spring weather would get here (play commercial). If ever there was a year when my yearning for printemps was more intense I don't remember it.

Like just about everyone else, I am ready to burn the skinny jeans and boots. After a steady diet subsisting on clothing of the warm variety, not to mention the non-colors of black and 50 shades of gray that have been on wardrobe repeat these past many months I'm hungry for some amazing hues and fun prints as my sartorial splurge. On recent forays into the retail world for "research purposes" LOL, I can assure you that what I've seen are endless racks of dull, lifeless, boring beiges, pale blues, navy, maybe a dash of coral thrown in for good measure. These bland, monochromatic colors  do nothing to dispel my winter doldrums or quell my appetite for a fashion adventure.

Kimmy Schmidt

Despite T's Fashion Editor Jason Rider saying that florals are "a familiar trope in womenswear. It's something that we see come around every Spring." (See article) I am not seeing many that speak to me. At this point I don't even mind looking like something out of the wardrobe of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" in which the title character dresses in an overabundance of '90s inspired color. IRL, don't even try to find a red pantsuit this spring; it's not out there. Saturated tones are a rare find much like a D&G shopping bag in Elton John's hand...OK, bad example but they are an anomaly.

Balenciaga Bag

Right now I'm loving the bright bursts of color (when I can find them) and if there's a floral motif as well, then all the better. I plan to bypass the pastels of Easter and go right to Memorial Day with the debut of my new Balenciaga vibrant floral bag. This is the kind of bag that makes an entire outfit and is everything! B bags are my kryptonite however my daily driver (a gris poivre City bag) has had nary a day off this winter and definitely needs a restoration. Nothing could have gotten my motor running more than spying its replacement on a shelf at Roundabout Couture.  I like the Madison Avenue and 83rd St. location as it has become my go-to inspirational shrine for new and resale designer clothing and accessories.

Giles Couture

No sooner had I fallen in love with the bag when I turned and saw another new found obsession. I gasped at the sight of a true work of art in dress form. How could you not love something with 3-D floral rubber bathing cap-like appliques? The white flower petals have a hand painted appearance and are done in shades of bright almost neon yellow, orange, and hot pink along with faint splatterings of bright blue and a paler green. Set against a black outline and background, they are showstopping. Somehow the petals remind me of cake icing and, at the risk of getting Proustian, they transport me back to one of my first decade birthdays (I'm an April baby) that had a daisy theme topped off with a large "daisy" cake. I also love the vibe that the dress was giving off with its equal parts Stephen Sprouse neon graffiti look and it's Giambattista Valli workmanship. The label read Giles.

Anna Dello Russo in Giles Swan Hat

Intrigued, I was easily persuaded to try it on by Roundabout honchos Patrick and Kelly whose names go together to form another designer obsession of mine: '80s designer Patrick Kelly, of course. Though he's far from a household name, Giles is Giles Deacon a 1992 graduate of Central Saint Martins who has worked with Jean Charles De Castelbajac in Paris and was a designer at Bottega Veneta and the Gucci Group. He presented his first collection at London Fashion Week in 2004 and was featured in American, British, Japanese, Italian and French Vogue as well as W, and Harper's Bazaar. He was also awarded "Best New Designer" at the British Fashion Awards of that year, won Elle's "Best New Designer" award in February 2005 and "British Designer of the Year" at the British Fashion Awards in November 2006. His Spring/Summer 2012 collection included several swan hats that did Bjork one better. The red one was seen on Anna Dello Russo for Carine Roitfeld's Vampire Ball in May 2011.

Also in London, with the recent opening of the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum, this butterfly headdress, a Philip Treacy created topper from McQueen's SS2008 collection has inspired a plate of elegantly arranged tea biscuits.

Butterfly headress by Philip Treacy

 Going back to the Giles frock, I later discovered that it's from his PreCollection SS15 which I'm guessing is similar to what folks this side of the pond call Resort.  Try as I might to talk myself out of it ("Where would I wear such a thing"," It's meant for someone way cooler than myself") somehow I must have said YTTD and this little gem found its way into my heart and my home. I honestly don't know whether to hide it in my closet or frame it and hang it on the wall but one thing is for sure. Even though it reminds me of cake, I won't eat it.

Speaking of cake and going from wearable art to edible art leads me to my next discovery (see lead photo).  On a recent stroll down Broadway near Grand Street a window featuring several designer handbags made me take notice. This window (happily) did not belong to a boutique, rather it was the vitrine of the International Culinary Center which contained the "too pretty to eat" display. They offer a three-month course in Cake Technique & Design should you want to learn to bake a bag. Last February they pranked some transit riders with a spoof featuring a woman on the subway chowing down on her "Chanel bag." Of greater concern is the fact that that she was sleeveless in mid-winter so even before she started to munch away at her purse I would have been staring (play video),

Laduree Macarons

Sometime around mid-winter I noticed the appearance of yet another intersection of colorful food and retail that had manifested itself on the 2nd floor of Bloomingdales: a little cookie known as a macaron that seems sweet on world domination. A cart suddenly sprung up directly in front of the selling floor near Haute Hippie, Helmut Lang and DVF featuring Laduree Macarons, those irresistible (to many) pastel colored treats that you used to have to travel to Paris or at least Madison Avenue to get before they became the Cara Delevingne of treats. I have no idea what has made  these little cakes so popular these past few months but can't help thinking that perhaps it's got something to do with the fact that they wear the perpetual colors of spring and sing a siren song to the winter weary.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In the Market Report: "Cap" It Off...

Gina Lollobrigida and Chanel house models all wearing iconic cap toe pumps,
 1964, photo courtesy insidechanel.com

Once upon a time, ‘ladies’ were expected to wear pale shoes in the warm weather months. But as everyone knows, pale shoes dirty very quickly, especially if you live in New York. Try getting on a crowded subway with white shoes!

Victoria Beckham anchors her chic look
 with high  heeled cap toe pumps

As the legend goes, while playing golf with her lover, The Duke of Westminster, Coco Chanel noticed that his shoes featured a black toe, which kept the dirt off. (She was always fixated on shoes, having once said, “A woman with good shoes is never ugly”). Hence, in 1957, she was inspired to create the iconic and timeless cap toe sling back pump in beige and black. It was not only practical, supremely chic and good looking, but it had the added plus: the optical illusion of making the leg longer and the foot smaller. And because it went with everything, it was perfect from day into evening (what looks better with a little black dress?). Mademoiselle Chanel hailed it as the only shoe a well-dressed woman would ever need.

Chanel Fall/Winter 2015

While Karl Lagerfeld, who has been creative director for the house since 1983, has re-imagined his own versions of the cap toe pump (sometimes really camping them up as he is known to do), he has never shown it in it’s stripped down, classic version. Until this season that is. His Fall/Winter 2015 ‘French Collection’, may have been filled with a dizzying number of elements that symbolize the "new bourgeois” (tweeds, pearls, quilting, chain strap bags, etc.), but it was accessorized with only one shoe: the beige and black cap toe sling back pump on a low blocked heel -- the designer noted how easily and comfortably the models strode on the low blocked hee).

Chanel cap toe sling back with pearl on heel

THE shoe is guaranteed to set you back at least $850 or more, though you will be able to rationalize the price as they are completely ageless, season less, and timeless, and as Coco Chanel once famously said, “The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.” And while they won’t be available for several months, there are various incarnations that are available right now. They won’t be exactly the same, of course, (though I just found a Chanel sling back cap toe pump with a pearl on the inside of the heel, $625, on ebay.com), but they all have the key elements that make the original so chic and practical (as they are beige in color and feature a black cap toe). If it’s a pump on a blocked heel you’re after, check out Attilo Guisti Leombruni’s cream and black cap toe stretch pump on a 2 ½ inch block heel, $350 at nordstrom.com.

Tabitha Simmons Sebille two tone suede and linen
espadrilles in natural and black   

And what could be more perfect heading into the Spring and Summer, than an espadrille? Three noteworthy choices: Tabatha Simmons’ Sebille ankle strap espadrille, in natural and black two tone suede and linen, $375; Tory Burch’s natural and black two tone canvas espadrilles, $135 (both available at.net-a-porter.com); Loeffler Randall’s perforated leather Mara espadrille, $195, at nordstrom.com.

Lanvin two tone leather ballet flats

Then there are ballet flats which are always a classic. Lanvin’s two tone leather ballet flats in beige and black, $545 are available at net-a-porter.com; Sam Edelman’s Bev cap toe ballet flats, $130, are available at shopbop.com, as are Yosi Samra’s nude and black Samantha ballerina that fold up into its own pouch, $77. And Banana Republic’s Aida ballet flat in ivory blush and black is reduced from $79 to $39.50, at bananarepublic.com.

French Sole classic beige & black patent ballerina flat

Finally, let’s not forget the original French Sole. Founded in 1989 in London, by Jane Winkworth (the “Queen of Ballet Flats”), they are considered to be the “leading purveyor of the most beautiful classic ballet flats and luxurious, fashionable flat footwear”, and naturally, included in their inventory, is the beige leather ballet flat punctuated with a black patent cap toe, 90 GBP ($132.84), at frenchsole.com.

- Marilyn Kirschner

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

 911 Fashion Police: What Would Joan Do?

Listen up E! Fashion Police producers! You too Melissa; or can I call you Missy? I don't like to say "I told you so!" but that's what I was thinking and wrote here an article in September upon hearing of the death of Joan Rivers while I anticipated the demise of the show. Now that "Fashion Police" is imploding with defections it seems that perhaps I was right in assuming that soldiering on without Joan would be like continuing the "Mary Tyler Moore" show without MTM herself. Just because it wasn't called "Joan Rivers Fashion Police" doesn't mean it could survive let alone thrive without her.

Obviously "Fashion Police" was nothing if not a vehicle for Joan Rivers. It seemed crystal clear to me that no one else could get away with her brand of bawdy, crass, at times downright mean jokes and her absolute refusal to apologize to anyone even when called on the "red-carpet" to do so. Joan's comedic style was take no prisoners, suffer no fools; this was the essence of her intent. It probably helped that she would often turn that same critical eye on herself; her hilarious self-deprecation showed that not only could she dish it out, she could take it too. In fact, if Joan mentioned you at all it meant you had "made it" since she only singled out the high and mighty who had gained some level of success and notoriety. Having spent a lifetime of paying her dues to become royalty she was not about to relinquish even an inch of her fiefdom. Love it or hate it, absolutely no one was going to deny her the throne while she was still alive and kicking.

Joan Rivers and Kelly Osbourne

Unfortunately, once she was gone, the infighting, posturing for position/status/title/control/cash could no longer be contained.  Again, as it was ultimately Joan's show, all the other players (the "Joan Rangers") were only her foils although perhaps Kelly and Guiliana began to believe they had been ceded some associative power. Joan was the ultimate kindergarten teacher who kept order in the classroom; once the "substitute teacher" AKA Kathy Griffin tried to fill her shoes, complete and utter chaos ensued. Melissa Rivers as executive producer must have felt conflicted, wanting very much to keep her mother's legacy alive, therefore she made the decision that the show must go on. I'm saddened that she could not see the chalk writing on the blackboard and have known that this chapter should be erased.

Not only would Joan Rivers never have put up with the backstabbing and infighting that recently took place "behind the scenes" and on Twitter these past few weeks, I'm positive that the public would never have heard about any of these infractions had she been around. She would have given co-hosts Giuliana and Kelly as well as the aggrieved and "insulted" Zendaya a look, an eyeroll and an "Ohhh Puhleeze! GROW UP!" and squelched it. Case closed! No room for argument and no apology forthcoming. Meanwhile, poor Kelly is obviously grieving for her mentor and has seriously gone off the rails (assuming she was ever on them), and Giuliana needs to take time off and deal with her serious health issues before she completely wastes away.

Joan Rivers and Cathy Griffin

While Kathy (who supposedly campaigned to host FP before Joan was even off life support), touts herself as a "freedom loving female and a gay rights activist" I wonder if that explains her relentless oral sex jokes at Anderson Cooper's expense on New Year's Eve live television two years running not to mention her repeated ad nauseum stand-up routine on Clay Aiken ("Clay Gay-ken"). She also claims that she's "a feminist and a gurrrrl" who does not want to use her comedy "to contribute to a culture of unattainable perfectionism and intolerance towards difference." This self righteousness along with the fact that she asked for supporting tweets from celebs for her decision to depart "Fashion Police" and got quite a few to sign on is laughable. The only one who called BS on her was Piers Morgan who tweeted: "This is the same Kathy Griffin whose whole career has been predicated on bitching about people and being mean, right? #HypocritePolice" and this:" Kathy Griffin's quit Fashion Police because she doesn't like their mean humour? Ironically, one of the few times she's ever made me laugh."

At least KG went out while promoting her brand. She included a plug in her resignation tweet that tickets are now on sale for her Kennedy Center performance in June. Can you say #VictimBux while laughing all the way to the bank, Kathy? It all just makes me wish Joan was alive to give us a really funny, yet totally politically incorrect zinger.

I feel bad for you E! and of course, Melissa. As you probably now realize, THIS show can't go on without Joan.

- Laurel Marcus

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New York Fashion Cool-Aid™

Frank Sinatra Centennial Exhibitions

"The Chairman of the Board"

Two new exhibits have come to "the city that never sleeps" in celebration of the life and times of Frank Sinatra to commemorate his centennial birth year. I visited both "Sinatra: An American Icon" at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and "The Sinatra Experience" at Morrison Hotel Gallery in Soho. If you want to see just one I strongly recommend the former; a multimedia exhibit on view here until September 4 after which it will travel to the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles. Both exhibits were curated by Sinatra's granddaughter Amanda Erlinger.

Click image for full size view

The Morrison Hotel Gallery is a collection of 25 rare and never seen before black & white photos from the Sinatra Family Archive, the Capitol Records and Warner Bros. Records archives as well as images from legendary British photographer Terry O'Neill who worked closely with "Ol' Blue Eyes" for over 30 years.


It is a nice collection including an early Frank Sinatra "selfie" but it is only photographs whereas the Lincoln Center exhibit is much more comprehensive and compelling. A few of the same photos are on view at both venues including a great shot of FS walking past the pool cabanas with an entourage at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. The Gallery is located at 116 Prince Street and the exhibit runs until March 26 (See website) .

Album covers

When I stepped into the building at 40 Lincoln Center to see the more hyped and larger exhibit , I had somehow forgotten about many of Sinatra's talents besides his famous voice. Obviously he was a great stylistic crooner, as evidenced by the soundtrack playing his various hits which have become classics. Discovered by mentor Bing Crosby, ("Frank Sinatra is a singer who comes along once in a lifetime, but why did he have to come in mine?" is his entrance wall quote) Sinatra soon began appearing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, later recording with Capitol and Warner Bros, and finally culminating with his own label on Reprise Records where he became known as "The Chairman of The Board."

Oscar for "Best Supporting Actor" in the movie
 From Here to Eternity

This exhibit follows his career from the early days at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. where he would sing, tell jokes and emcee; then his big band appearances, and next to concert stages complete with swooning Bobby Soxers (be sure to check out the hand drawn diagram of his stage set-up, as well as a Bobby Soxer "uniform"). His many awards are on display including Grammys for his multi-platinum albums; posters and clips from his appearances in several Hollywood films (his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in "From Here To Eternity" is on display), examples of his humanitarianism (he fought for inclusion for all races and religions and helped to break down some of the prevalent stereotypes of the day such as distrust for foreigners and immigrants).

"Orange is the happiest color" quote is emblazoned above
 display of his artwork

He is also credited as a director and producer and even a respected artist who painted some very interesting abstract geometrics (also on view). Of course Sinatra was not alive to see "Orange is the New Black" but his quote "Orange is the happiest color" is emblazoned on the wall near an appropriately orange colored painting. All of this is not to mention his four marriages, three children, and hobbies of golfing, photography and a love for imbibing Jack Daniels (the company produced a special edition whiskey just for him with an orange label).

Bobby Soxer "uniform"

Along with the movie and concert posters, ticket stubs and other memorabilia, video clips from movies and interviews spanning the years, personal items and clothing of Sinatra's, there are "props" such as a "subway car" which you can stand in (it "moves" a bit) and experience riding through Hoboken of yore, as it can be glimpsed through the windows. Overhead in the subway car there are vintage ads that make reference to various noteworthy people and places in Sinatra's life. Another highlight is a recreated recording booth complete with a vintage mic and stand, something like the ones that Sinatra would spend long hours in.

Video of Frank with Ella Fitzgerald
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Another way to experience the music is with listening stations where you can put on earphones and "remix" some of his classics, or at the very least fantasize on what life was like to be a singer of his caliber in that bygone era. Sinatra had always wanted to make an album with Ella Fitzgerald who was one of his favorite singers, hence there is a video of them performing together. One of her costumes, a green sparkly gown is on display. A tuxedo that he performed in and one of his famous fedoras are in nearby cases.

The exhibit opens with a view of a living room with a huge floor-standing radio console as a focal point, much the way a television later became. Facing it is a chair, an in-progress game of checkers on the floor and a glass of what we can only assume is whiskey on the rocks. On the wall is a photo of then President FDR; all serving to recreate a scene that would likely be familiar to anyone of the WWII generation.

Al Hirschfeld caricature

There is a section of Al Hirschfeld drawings, one representing Sinatra as a youth and two others showing him as more mature however I forgot to look for the "Ninas." Although there is one placard mentioning the Rat Pack named thusly by Lauren Bacall (referring to the group's penchant for carousing and running around) which included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin,Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. I would have liked a bit more about the group but perhaps their antics are better off kept under wraps. The Rat Pack made three movies together, all interestingly enough with a number in the title ("Ocean's 11," "Sergeants 3," and "Robin and the 7 Hoods") Also of note near the middle section of the exhibit is a ukulele that Sinatra used to serenade his wife Nancy and a violin that he never really played but kept all his life.

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The last section features his paintings, golf clubs, an old suitcase, passport, driver's license, pair of pajamas and items of apparel that he gave to his grandchildren are all there rounding out the commonplace with the iconic. I found it to be a historically informative tribute and retrospective to the man and the legend that was Frank Sinatra. You might think the exhibit is geared to AARP qualifiers however even my 19-year-old son enjoyed it. Sinatra's granddaughter definitely did the "My Way" singer proud. The exhibit is free and open every day except Sunday: (See website)

- Laurel Marcus