Happy Birthday Coco Chanel

Today is the 131st birthday of Coco Chanel.  I admire a person that creates their life how they wish it to be.  Determination, focus, drive, and perseverance.

NAME: Coco Chanel
BIRTH DATE: August 19, 1883
DEATH DATE: January 10, 1971
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saumur, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: With her trademark suits and little black dresses, fashion designer Coco Chanel created timeless designs that are still popular today.

Famed fashion designer Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France. With her trademark suits and little black dresses, Coco Chanel created timeless designs that are still popular today. She herself became a much revered style icon known for her simple yet sophisticated outfits paired with great accessories, such as several strands of pearls. As Chanel once said,“luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”

Her early years, however, were anything but glamorous. After her mother’s death, Chanel was put in an orphanage by her father who worked as a peddler. She was raised by nuns who taught her how to sew—a skill that would lead to her life’s work. Her nickname came from another occupation entirely. During her brief career as a singer, Chanel performed in clubs in Vichy and Moulins where she was called “Coco.” Some say that the name comes from one of the songs she used to sing, and Chanel herself said that it was a “shortened version of cocotte, the French word for ‘kept woman,” according to an article in The Atlantic.

Around the age of 20, Chanel became involved with Etienne Balsan who offered to help her start a millinery business in Paris. She soon left him for one of his even wealthier friends, Arthur “Boy” Capel. Both men were instrumental in Chanel’s first fashion venture.

Opening her first shop on Paris’s Rue Cambon in 1910, Chanel started out selling hats. She later added stores in Deauville and Biarritz and began making clothes. Her first taste of clothing success came from a dress she fashioned out of an old jersey on a chilly day. In response to the many people who asked about where she got the dress, she offered to make one for them. “My fortune is built on that old jersey that I’d put on because it was cold in Deauville,” she once told author Paul Morand.

In the 1920s, Chanel took her thriving business to new heights. She launched her first perfume, Chanel No. 5, which was the first to feature a designer’s name. Perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . . . that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure,” Chanel once explained.

In 1925, she introduced the now legendary Chanel suit with collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt. Her designs were revolutionary for the time—borrowing elements of men’s wear and emphasizing comfort over the constraints of then-popular fashions. She helped women say good-bye to the days of corsets and other confining garments.

Another 1920s revolutionary design was Chanel’s little black dress. She took a color once associated with mourning and showed just how chic it could be for eveningwear. In addition to fashion, Chanel was a popular figure in the Paris literary and artistic worlds. She designed costumes for the Ballets Russes and for Jean Cocteau’s play Orphée, and counted Cocteau and artist Pablo Picasso among her friends. For a time, Chanel had a relationship with composer Igor Stravinsky.

Another important romance for Chanel began in the 1920s. She met the wealthy duke of Westminster aboard his yacht around 1923, and the two started a decades-long relationship. In response to his marriage proposal, she reportedly said “There have been several Duchesses of Westminster—but there is only one Chanel!”

The international economic depression of the 1930s had a negative impact on her company, but it was the outbreak of World War II that led Chanel to close her business. She fired her workers and shut down her shops. During the German occupation of France, Chanel got involved with a German military officer, Hans Gunther von Dincklage. She got special permission to stay in her apartment at the Hotel Ritz. After the war ended, Chanel was interrogated by her relationship with von Dincklage, but she was not charged as a collaborator. Some have wondered whether friend Winston Churchill worked behind the scenes on Chanel’s behalf.

While not officially charged, Chanel suffered in the court of public opinion. Some still viewed her relationship with a Nazi officer as a betrayal of her country. Chanel left Paris, spending some years in Switzerland in a sort of exile. She also lived at her country house in Roquebrune for a time.

At the age of 70, Chanel made a triumphant return to the fashion world. She first received scathing reviews from critics, but her feminine and easy-fitting designs soon won over shoppers around the world.

In 1969, Chanel’s fascinating life story became the basis for the Broadway musical Coco starring Katharine Hepburn as the legendary designer. Alan Jay Lerner wrote the book and lyrics for the show’s song while Andre Prévin composed the music. Cecil Beaton handled the set and costume design for the production. The show received seven Tony Award nominations, and Beaton won for Best Costume Design and René Auberjonois for Best Featured Actor.

Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz. She never married, having once said “I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.” Hundreds crowded together at the Church of the Madeleine to bid farewell to the fashion icon. In tribute, many of the mourners wore Chanel suits.

A little more than a decade after her death, designer Karl Lagerfeld took the reins at her company to continue the Chanel legacy. Today her namesake company continues to thrive and is believed to generate hundreds of millions in sales each year.

In addition to the longevity of her designs, Chanel’s life story continues to captivate people’s attention. There have been several biographies of the fashion revolutionary, including Chanel and Her World (2005) written by her friend Edmonde Charles-Roux.

In the recent television biopic, Coco Chanel (2008), Shirley MacLaine starred as the famous designer around the time of her 1954 career resurrection. The actress told WWD that she had long been interested in playing Chanel. “What’s wonderful about her is she’s not a straightforward, easy woman to understand.”

Happy Birthday Julia Child

Today is the 102nd birthday of Julia Child.

NAME: Julia Child
OCCUPATION: Chef, Television Personality, Journalist
BIRTH DATE: August 15, 1912
DEATH DATE: August 13, 2004
EDUCATION: Katherine Branson School for Girls, Smith College, Cordon Bleu
PLACE OF BIRTH: Pasadena, California
PLACE OF DEATH: Montecito, California
MAIDEN NAME: Julia Carolyn McWilliams

BEST KNOWN FOR: TV chef and author Julia Child adapted complex French cooking for everyday Americans, with her groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Popular TV chef and author. Julia Child was born Julia McWilliams, on August 15, 1912, in Pasadena, California. The eldest of three children, Julia was known by several pet names as a little girl, including “Juke”, “Juju” and “Jukies.” Her father John McWilliams, Jr., was a Princeton graduate and early investor in California real estate. His wife, Julia Carolyn Weston, was a paper-company heiress whose father served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

The family accumulated significant wealth and, as a result, Child lived a privileged childhood. She was educated at San Francisco’s elite Katherine Branson School for Girls, where—at a towering height of 6 feet, 2 inches—she was the tallest student in her class. She was a lively prankster who, as one friend recalled, could be “really, really wild.” She was also adventurous and athletic, with particular talent in golf, tennis and small-game hunting.

In 1930, she enrolled at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, with the intention of becoming a writer. “There were some famous women novelists in those days,” she said, “and I intended to be one.” Although she enjoyed writing short plays and regularly submitted unsolicited manuscripts to the New Yorker, none of her writing was published. Upon graduation she moved to New York, where she worked in the advertising department of the prestigious home furnishings company W&J Sloane. After transferring to the store’s Los Angeles branch, however, Child was fired for “gross insubordination.”

In 1941, at the onset of World War II, Julia moved to Washington, D.C., where she volunteered as a research assistant for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a newly formed government intelligence agency. In her position, Julia played a key role in the communication of top-secret documents between U.S. government officials and their intelligence officers. She and her colleagues were sent on assignments around the world, holding posts in Washington, D.C., Kumming, China; and Colombo, Sri Lanka. In 1945, while in Sri Lanka, Child began a relationship with fellow OSS employee Paul Child. In September of 1946, following the end of World War II, Julia and Paul returned to America and were married.

In 1948, when Paul was reassigned to the U.S. Information Service at the American Embassy in Paris, the Childs moved to France. While there, Julia developed a penchant for French cuisine and attended the world-famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. Following her six-month training—which included private lessons with master chef Max Bugnard—Julia banded with fellow Cordon Bleu students Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle to form the cooking school L’Ecole de Trois Gourmandes (The School of the Three Gourmands).

With a goal of adapting sophisticated French cuisine for mainstream Americans, the trio collaborated on a two-volume cookbook. The women earned a $750 advance for the work, which they received in three payments. The original publisher rejected the manuscript, however, due to its 734-page length. Another publisher eventually accepted the 3-lb. cookbook, releasing it in September 1961 under the title Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The book was considered groundbreaking, and remained the bestselling cookbook for five straight years after its publication. It has since become a standard guide for the culinary community.

Julia promoted her book on the Boston public television station near her Cambridge, Massachusetts, home. Displaying her trademark forthright manner and hearty humor, she prepared an omelet on air. The public’s response was enthusiastic, generating 27 letters and countless phone calls—”a remarkable response,” a station executive remembered, “given that station management occasionally wondered if 27 viewers were tuned in.” She was then invited back to tape her own series on cooking for the network, initially earning $50 a show (it was later raised to $200, plus expenses).

Premiering on WGBH in 1962, The French Chef TV series, like Mastering the Art of French Cooking, succeeded in changing the way Americans related to food, while also establishing Julia as a local celebrity. Shortly thereafter, The French Chef was syndicated to 96 stations throughout America. For her efforts, Julia received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 1964 followed by an Emmy Award in 1966. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Julia made regular appearances on the ABC morning show Good Morning, America.

Child’s other endeavors included the television programs Julia Child and Company (1978), Julia Child and More Company (1980), and Dinner at Julia’s (1983), as well as a slew of bestselling cookbooks that covered every aspect of culinary knowledge. Her most recent cookbooks included In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs (1995), Baking with Julia (1996), Julia’s Delicious Little Dinners (1998), and Julia’s Casual Dinners (1999), which were all accompanied by highly rated television specials.

Not everyone was a fan, however. She was frequently criticized by letter-writing viewers for her failure to wash her hands, as well as what they believed was her poor kitchen demeanor. “You are quite a revolting chef, the way you snap bones and play with raw meats,” one letter read. “I can’t stand those over-sanitary people,” Child said in response. Others were concerned about the high levels of fat in French cooking. Julia’s advice was to eat in moderation. “I would rather eat one tablespoon of chocolate russe cake than three bowls of Jell-O,” she said.

Despite her critics, Julia remained a go-to reference for cooking advice. In 1993, she was rewarded for her work when she became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame. In November 2000, following a 40-year career that has made her name synonymous with fine food, Julia received France’s highest honor: the Legion d’Honneur. And in August 2002, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History unveiled an exhibit featuring the kitchen where she filmed three of her popular cooking shows.

Child died in August 2004 of kidney failure at her assisted-living home in Montecito, two days before her 92nd birthday. Child had no intentions of slowing down, even in her final days. “In this line of work…you keep right on till you’re through,” she said. “Retired people are boring.”After her death Child’s last book, the autobiographyMy Life in France, was published with the help of Child’s great nephew, Alex Prud’homme. The book, which centered on how Child discovered her true calling, became a best seller.

Julia’s memory continues to live on, through her various cookbooks and her syndicated cooking show. In 2009, a film directed by Nora Ephron entitled Julie & Julia hit theaters. The movie, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, chronicled several aspects of Child’s life, as well as her influence on aspiring cook Julie Powell. For her performance, Streep won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and received an Academy Award nomination.

 

Happy Birthday Mata Hari

mata hari

NAME: Mata Hari
OCCUPATION: Spy, Dancer
BIRTH DATE: August 7, 1876
DEATH DATE: October 15, 1917
EDUCATION: Teachers’ College in Leiden
PLACE OF BIRTH: Leeuwarden, Netherlands
PLACE OF DEATH: Vincennes, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: Mata Hari was a professional dancer and mistress who became a spy for France during World War I. Suspected of being a double agent, she was executed in 1917.

Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, on August 7, 1876, to father Adam Zelle, a hat merchant who went bankrupt due to bad investments, and mother Antje Zelle, who fell ill and died when Mata Hari was 15 years old. Following her mother’s death, Mata Hari and her three brothers were split up and sent to live with various relatives.

At an early age, Mata Hari decided that sexuality was her ticket in life. In the mid-1890s, she boldly answered a newspaper ad seeking a bride for Rudolf MacLeod, a bald, mustachioed military captain based in the Dutch East Indies. She sent a striking photo of herself, raven-haired and olive-skinned, to entice him. Despite a 21-year age difference, they wed on July 11, 1895, when Mata Hari was just shy of 19. During their rocky, nine-year marriage—marred by MacLeod’s heavy drinking and frequent rages over the attention his wife garnered from other officers—Mata Hari gave birth to two children, a daughter and a son. (The couple’s son died in 1899 after a household worker in the Indies poisoned him for reasons that remain a mystery.)

By the early 1900s, Mata Hari’s marriage had deteriorated. Her husband fled with their daughter, and Mata Hari moved to Paris. There, she became the mistress of a French diplomat who helped her hatch the idea of supporting herself as a dancer.

All things “Oriental” were the fad in the Paris of 1905. The time seemed ripe for Mata Hari’s exotic looks and the “temple dance” she created by drawing on cultural and religious symbolism and that she had picked up in the Indies. With characteristic confidence, she siezed the moment. She billed herself as a Hindu artist, draped in veils—which she artfully dropped from her body. In one memorable garden performance, Mata Hari appeared nearly naked on a white horse. Although she daringly bared her buttocks—then considered the most tittilating part of the anatomy—she was modest about her breasts, generally keeping them covered with brassiere-styled beads. Completing her dramatic transformation from military wife to siren of the East, she coined her stage name, “Mata Hari,” which means “eye of the day” in Indonesian dialect.

Mata Hari took the Paris saloons by storm, then moved on to the bright lights of other cities. Along the way, she helped turn the striptease into an art form and captivated critics. A reporter in Vienna described Mata Hari as “slender and tall with the flexible grace of a wild animal, and with blue-black hair.” Her face, he wrote, “makes a strange foreign impression.” Another enthralled newspaper writer called her “so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms.”

Within a few years, however, Mata Hari’s cachet had faded. As younger dancers took the stage, her bookings became sporadic. She supplemented her income by seducing government and military men; sex became strictly a financial practicality for her. Despite the growing tension in Europe in the years leading up to World War I, Mata Hari foolishly knew no borders with her lovers, who included German officers. As war swept the continent, she had some freedom of movement as a citizen of neutral Holland and took full advantage of it, country-hopping with trunks of clothing in tow. Before long, however, Mata Hari’s cavalier travels and liaisons attracted attention from British and French intelligence, who put her under surveillance.

Now nearing 40, plumpish and with her dancing days clearly behind her, Mata Hari fell in love with a 21-year-old Russian captain, Vladimir de Masloff, in 1916. During their courtship, Masloff was sent to the Front, where an injury left him blind in one eye. Determined to earn money to support him, Mata Hari accepted a lucrative assignment to spy for France from Georges Ladoux, an army captain who assumed her courtesan contacts would be of use to French intelligence.

Mata Hari later insisted that she planned to use her connections to seduce her way into the German high command, get secrets and hand them over to the French—but she never got that far. She met a German attaché and began tossing him bits of gossip, hoping to get some valuable information in return. Instead, she got named as a German spy in communiqués he sent to Berlin—which were promptly intercepted by the French. Some historians believe that the Germans suspected Mata Hari was a French spy and subsequently set her up, deliberately sending a message falsely labeling her as a German spy—which they knew would be easily decoded by the French. Others, of course, believe that she was in fact a German double agent. In any case, the French authorities arrested Mata Hari for espionage in Paris on February 13, 1917. They threw her in a rat-infested cell at the Prison Saint-Lazare, where she was allowed to see only her elderly lawyer—who happened to be a former lover.

During lengthy interrogations by Captain Pierre Bouchardon, a military prosecutor, Mata Hari—who had long lived a fabricated life, embellishing both rearing and resume—bungled and facts about her whereabouts and activities. Eventually, she dropped a bombshell confession: A German diplomat had once paid her 20,000 francs to gather intelligence on her frequent trips to Paris. But she swore to investigators that she never actually fulfilled the bargain and always remained faithful to France. She told them she simply viewed the money as compensation for furs and luggage that had once disappeared on a departing train while German border guards hassled her. “A courtesan, I admit it. A spy, never!” she defiantly told her interrogators. “I have always lived for love and pleasure.”

Mata Hari’s trial came at a time when the Allies were failing to beat back German advances. Real or imagined spies were convenient scapegoats for explaining military losses, and Mata Hari’s arrest was one of many. Her chief foil, Captain Georges Ladoux, made sure the evidence against her was constructed in the most damning way—by some accounts even tampering with it to implicate her more deeply.

So when Mata Hari admitted that a German officer paid her for sexual favors, prosecutors depicted it as espionage money. Additionally, currency she claimed was a regular stipend from a Dutch baron was portrayed in court as coming from German spymasters. That amorous Dutch baron, who could have shed light on the truth, was never called to testify. Nor was Mata Hari’s maid, who acted as an intermediary for the baron’s payments. Mata Hari’s morals conspired against her, as well. “Without scruples, accustomed to make use of men, she is the type of woman who is born to be a spy,” concluded Bouchardon, whose relentless interviews were the blueprint for the prosecution.

The military tribunal deliberated for less than 45 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. “It’s impossible, it’s impossible,” Mata Hari exclaimed, upon hearing the decision.

Mata Hari was executed by firing squad on October 15, 1917. Dressed in a blue coat accented by a tri-corner hat, she had arrived at the Paris execution site with a minister and two nuns and, after bidding them farewell, walked briskly to the designated spot. She then turned to face the firing squad, waved away her blindfold and blew the soldiers a kiss. She was killed in an instant when their multiple gunshots exploded as one.

It was an improbable end for the exotic dancer and courtesan, whose name became a metaphor for the siren spy who coaxes secrets from her paramours. Her execution merited a scant four paragraphs inside The New York Times, which called her “a woman of great attractiveness and with a romantic history.”

Mystery continues to surround Mata Hari’s life and alleged double agency, and her story has become a legend that still piques curiosity. Her life has spawned numerous biographies and cinematic portrayals, including, most famously, the 1931 film Mata Hari, starring Greta Garbo as the courtesan-dancer and Ramon Novarro as Lieutenant Alexis Rosanoff.

Happy Birthday Jean-Paul Belmondo

NAME: Jean-Paul Belmondo
OCCUPATION: Film Actor, Theater Actor, Television Actor
BIRTH DATE: April 09, 1933 (Age: 79)
PLACE OF BIRTH: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

Best Known For:  Jean-Paul Belmondo is a French film star, unconventionally handsome, he became the antihero of the French New Wave cinema movement.

Jean-Paul Belmondo earned international fame in Godard’s 1960 film Breathless. By 1965, he had acted in 25 films. He continued with portrayals in Pierrot le Fou, Mississippi Mermaid and Les Miserables (1995). Suffering a stroke in 2001, he did not return to the screen until 2008.

What You Need To Know

  •     Making your look appear effortless actually takes a little bit of effort.
  •     He often wore a half-undone collared shirt and worn-in driving moccasins.
  •     Roll your shirt sleeves, undo a couple of its buttons, and skip the iron for the Belmondo look.

Why He’s A Style Icon

The 1960 film Breathless was acclaimed as much for its mastery of popular new-wave cinema as it was for Jean-Paul Belmondo’s breakthrough role and sense of style. Belmondo’s irreverence as a thug running from the law created a new type of leading man on screen. Everything he wore was critical to developing a brazen character who appropriately modeled himself after Humphrey Bogart, who himself was such a trendsetter that a variation on the fedora bears his name. However, Belmondo’s look is no copycat. It belongs in a class all its own.

Clad in trim trousers, a blazer and a fedora while dangling a never-ending cigarette from his mouth, he epitomized French street style in every possible way. It’s a look that, when worn today, is completely carefree while still being fashion conscious. At its heart is a feeling of adventure that comes from looking like you didn’t try too hard. Belmondo, in a way, has come to represent a style that is perfectly imperfect.

Still, Belmondo’s real status as a style icon comes from an unwavering confidence that’s just shy of cocky. He could have been draped in a burlap sack, but his swagger made anything he wore look cool. Most people believe that a suit is the only thing that truly makes a man look handsome, but Belmondo was equally as dashing in the simplest of clothes. He often wore a half-undone collared shirt and worn-in driving moccasins. It was the perfect combination for kick-starting a Vespa and driving off into a Provencal sunset.

Dress The Belmondo Way

Ironically, the trouble with making your look appear effortless is that it actually takes a little bit of effort. This is not about looking like you just rolled out of bed to grab the first thing in your closet or, for that matter, off your floor. Your goal should be to put a cohesive look together that doesn’t look overworked.

A few key additions to your wardrobe will help do the trick. The truly fashion-forward can go against the mainstream and dive directly into a double-breasted blazer. It’s a risky move, but a well-tailored one sans shoulder pads and paired with dark denim updates a classic without looking like you were plucked from 1985. If the blazer is too much for you to handle, try a double-breasted trench coat, like the Burberry Trench Style Raincoat. Just be aware that this is not the bulky, calf-length variety. It should be deconstructed, lightweight and cropped at the thigh or just above the knee. You can throw it over anything — even that T-shirt that was in fact laying on your floor — and look pulled together without exerting too much effort.

For a more relaxed slice of Belmondo styling, you could opt for a simple white button-down shirt. Just make sure to keep it comfortable. Roll the sleeves, undo a couple of buttons, and skip the iron. Anything too labor-intensive just isn’t Belmondo.

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Happy Birthday Marcel Marceau

Marcel Marceau

NAME: Marcel Marceau
OCCUPATION: Actor, Artist
BIRTH DATE: March 22, 1923
DEATH DATE: September 22, 2007
EDUCATION: Ecole des Beaux-Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Strasbourg, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Cahors, France
ORIGINALLY: Marcel Mangel

BEST KNOWN FOR: Marcel Marceau was best known for his work as a mime artist in France.

Mime artist. Marcel Mangel was born March 22, 1923, in Strasbourg, NE France. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and with Etienne Decroux. In 1948 he founded the Compagnie de Mime Marcel Marceau, developing the art of mime, becoming himself the leading exponent. His white-faced character, Bip, based on the 19th-c French Pierrot, a melancholy vagabond, is famous from his appearances on stage and television throughout the world.

Among the many original performances he has devised are the mime-drama Don Juan (1964), and the ballet Candide (1971). He has also created about 100 pantomimes, such as The Creation of the World. In 1978 he became head of the Ecole de Mimodrame Marcel Marceau.

Marcel Marceau died on September 22, 2007 in Cahors, France.

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Happy Birthday Diana Vreeland

Today is the 90th birthday of Diana Vreeland.  She was and continues to be the arbiter of style, even after her death 20+ years ago. Do yourself a favor and read “D.V.”:  her autobiography/manual of style/name-drop-a-thon book masquerading as a roller coaster ride through the early parts of the 20th century. It will seriously change your life. Watch “The Eye Has To Travel,” her documentary.  You will start to look at style as something you own, not something you follow and conform to.  She will teach you that the sexiest most attractive thing one can have and wear is confidence.   I absolutely adore her for the permission she gives people to be fashionable, be original, beautiful, without being ordinary or expected.  Wear some pearls today, wear your shirt back to front, do something original today.  Do it for yourself with a wink to Ms. Vreeland.

 

NAME: Diane Dalziel Vreeland
OCCUPATION: Journalist
BIRTH DATE: March 01, 1924
DEATH DATE: August 22, 1989
PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: As a fashion journaist, Diana Vreeland was an influential figure in American fashion during the 20th century.

Diana Vreeland began her career at Harper’s Bazaar in 1936. Her column “Why Don’t You…?” was famous for offering outlandish fashion and lifestyle tips for the times. Vreeland later became the magazine’s fashion editor and established herself as one of the country’s leading arbiters of style. In 1962, Vreeland joined the staff of Vogue and continued to be a powerful force in the fashion world.

Fashion journalist. Born Diana Dalziel on March 1, 1924, in Paris, France. Diana Vreeland was an influential figure in American fashion during the twentieth century. The daughter of wealthy parents, she spent her early years in France before moving to New York as a teenager.

Diana Vreeland began her career as a columnist for Harper’s Bazaar in 1936. Her column “Why Don’t You . . . ?” was famous for offering outlandish fashion and lifestyle tips for the times. Few could afford in the Depression follow her advice. Moving up the editorial ladder, Vreeland became the magazine’s fashion editor, a post she held until the early 1960s. At Harper’s Bazaar, she established herself as one of the country’s leading arbiters of style.

In 1962, Diana Vreeland joined the staff of Vogue, another influential fashion magazine, as editor in chief. At Vogue, she continued to be a powerful force in the fashion world, often able to identify the coming trends, such as the popularity of the bikini. Vreeland also worked with many well-known photographers, such as Richard Avedon, in making the magazine.

While she left Vogue in 1971, Diana Vreeland did not leave the fashion world. She worked as a consultant for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, putting together fashion exhibitions. Vreeland died on August 22, 1989. Married to T. Reed Vreeland since 1924, she had two sons, Thomas R., Jr., and Frederick.

Personal Quotes:

“People who eat white bread have no dreams.”

“Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola.”

“Elegance is innate. It has nothing to do with being well dressed. Elegance is refusal.”

“I always wear my sweater back-to-front; it is so much more flattering.”

“I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.”

“Pink is the navy blue of India.”

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Happ Birthday Eugène Atget

Yesterday was the 156th birthday of the French photographer Eugène Atget who took photographs of people and things at a time when most photography being taken was portraiture.  His photos of paris a the turn of the century are hauntingly beautiful.

 

NAME: Eugène Atget
OCCUPATION: Actor, Photographer
BIRTH DATE: February 12, 1857
DEATH DATE: August 04, 1927
PLACE OF BIRTH: Libourne, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France

Best Known For:  French photographer Eugène Atget recorded everything he considered picturesque or artistic in and around Paris, with an eye for strange and unsettling images.

At around age 30, Eugène Atget settled in Paris and became a photographer. The rest of his life was spent recording everything he could that he considered picturesque or artistic in and around Paris, with an eye for strange and unsettling images. His main clients were museums and historical societies. After World War I he received a commission to document the brothels of Paris.

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Rear View Mirror – My Week in Review

It started snowing last night and by the time my coworkers and I left the restaurant, there was enough stuck to the city streets to watch people do ridiculously reckless things with their cars on Madison street.  On the way to the train station, I witnessed a car slide into another car, both drivers get out, inquired as to each other’s physical condition, apologized, and told each other good luck and be careful.  So Seattle.  I took a few photos of the snow, but it was dark and it was still snowing, so they just came out blurry.  Plus, everyone has seen snow (that is a gentle reminder to a few facebook friends).  I will see if I can get a few today, if they seem interesting and different.  We have to go retrieve a car from a hotel parking garage and do the Sunday shopping.  My look for the day will be called “He Finally Has A Legit Reason To Wear Those Rubber Boots.” 

Today is my grandfather’s birthday, he would have been 94.  A lot of people live to be 94 now, but he died at a far-too-young 68.  Seems unfair.

 

Name:  Ivan Selmer Parker
Birth: Feb. 9, 1920
Death: May 18, 1988 (68)
 Burial: Miller-Woodlawn Memorial Park Bremerton Washington, USA

Social Security Number:  537-03-8042

I remember that he had this strange way of floating on his back in the lake, his feet sticking out of the water, his hands slowly moving back and forth. It was sort of like treading water, sort of like floating on his back, but very casual. I try to recreate that floating when I am in the lake each summer, but I don’t have it exactly right because his head was sort of sticking up out of the water and he could hold conversations. I remember once, when my sister and I were very young, he was tucking us into our sleeping bags out at the lake house and my sister wanted to sleep in her socks. He told her that if she wore her socks to bed that her toes would rot off, jokingly. We laughed and laughed. I wish I could write down every single thing I remember about him, I probably will over time. I want to write it all down so I remember it all, forever.

I will keep looking for more information and adding it when I find it, but he has very little internet presence, no obituary or anything like that.  I guess if I joined that family tree website, I could find things…

This week on Waldina, I celebrated the birthdays of James Dean, Jack Lemmon, Ramon Novarro and Elaine Stritch. I also added Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times to the “Required Viewing” film list and openly confessed my obsession with the 1970s detective TV show Columbo.

The Stats:

Views This Week: 318
Total Views: 101,540
Total Subscribers: 247
Most Popular Post: Happy Birthday Jack Lemmon

This week on Wasp & Pear on tumblr, I covered the topics that are de riguer: classic Hollywood photographs, vintage Seattle photographs, photographs of abandoned places and the art of Warhol, Lichtenstein and Klee.  I also celebrated the birthdays of James Michener and Norman Rockwell as well as celebrated the reopening of Bauhaus Books & Coffee.

The Stats:

Posts This Week: 49
Total Posts: 1,675
Total Subscribers: 153
New Subscribers: 1
Most Popular Post: West Side Story: Original Broadway Cast Album (still, I know)

This week over on RRCD, the Tumblr blog I manage for all of Rick’s paintings, I posted three new paintings and added a link to his ETSY page for sales. I will be posting all new photographs taken with a considerably better quality camera. You should check out The Art of Ricardo Romero Cortez Duque and follow him if you are a tumblr type.

This week on @TheRealSPA on twitter, I apparently appreciated my @UBER ride more than I remember and declared my love for it on Friday. #HomeSafe I tweeted an Instagram photo of the crowds at Westlake Station after the @Seahawks parade (it was crazy). #12thMan #700000thMan I (tried) to remind everyone that @Oprah told us YERS AGO to stop using our phones while driving. #HandsFree I tweeted a lot of photos of Rick’s paintings.

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 here is where i’m @:

I chronicle what inspires me at Waldina.com
I faceplace at facebook.com/parkeranderson
I store my selfies at instagram.com/therealspa#
I tumblr at waspandpear.tumblr.com/
I tweet at twitter.com/TheRealSPA
I ADN at alpha.app.net/spa

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Happy Birthday Edith Piaf

Today is the 98th birthday of Edith Piaf.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of her death, sadly, which is three years longer than her total years alive.  There is a quite attributed to her where she says she wants to make people cry without understanding the words she is singing.  She achieved that.  Maybe it’s a French thing, they seem to have perfected ennui (they are the only language with a word for it), but I absolutely adore it, that sadness, that missing, that loss.  It is a much more tricky emotion to convey when compared to the loud explosive happiness and the crash of anger and hatred.  It is subtle, quiet, a bit lost.


edith piaf 2

NAME: Edith Piaf
OCCUPATION: Singer
BIRTH DATE: December 19, 1915
DEATH DATE: October 10, 1963
PLACE OF BIRTH: Paris, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Alpes-Maritimes, France
ORIGINALLY: Edith Giovanna Gassion
NICKNAME: The Little Sparrow
NICKNAME: La Mome Piaf

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Édith Piaf, also known as “The Little Sparrow,” was a French singer who became an icon of France during World War II.

“All I’ve done all my life is disobey.” – Edith Piaf

Édith Piaf was born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Belleville, Paris. She was named after the World War I British nurse Edith Cavell, executed for helping French soldiers escape from German captivity. Her mother, Annetta Giovanna Maillard, was an Italian cafe singer, who performed under the name “Line Marsa.” Édith’s father, Louis-Alphonse Gassion, was a street acrobat.

Édith ‘s parents soon abandoned her, and she may have lived for a short time with her maternal grandmother, who ran a brothel. In 1929, at the age of 14, she joined her father in his street performances all over France.

Édith soon separated from her father, setting out on her own as a street singer in and around Paris. At 17, she had a daughter named Marcelle, who died of meningitis two years later.

In 1935, Piaf was discovered by Louis Leplée, who owned the successful club Le Gerny off the Champs-Élysées. Her nervous energy and small stature inspired the nickname that would stay with her for the rest of her life: La Môme Piaf (“The Little Sparrow”). Leplée ran a major publicity campaign promoting Piaf’s opening night. She was popular enough to record two albums that same year.

Louis Leplée was murdered the following spring. After authorities investigated her as an accomplice to the crime, Piaf took charge of her image. She adopted her stage name—Édith Piaf—permanently, and commissioned songs that romanticized her life on the streets, emphasizing her passion and inner strength.

Piaf was one of the most popular performers in France during World War II. Her concerts for German servicemen were controversial, although she later stated that she had been working for the French Resistance. While the veracity of this claim is unclear, she was instrumental in helping a number of individuals escape Nazi persecution.

edith piaf 1

After the war, her fame spread quickly. She toured Europe, South America and the United States. Although American audiences were initially put off by her dour demeanor and dark clothes, Piaf garnered glowing reviews and ultimately achieved enough of an audience to warrant two televised performances on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The personal life of Édith Piaf was characteristically dramatic. She was involved in three serious car crashes after 1951, leading to morphine and alcohol addictions.

Piaf had high-profile romances with many of her male associates and some of the biggest celebrities in France.

“I want to make people cry even when they don’t understand my words.” – Edith Piaf

She married twice. Her first marriage, to singer Jacques Pills, lasted for four years. Her 1962 marriage to Théo Sarapo, a Greek hairdresser and performer 20 years her junior, lasted until her death in 1963.

Piaf remained professionally active until the final years of her life, performing frequently in Paris between 1955 and 1962. In April 1963, she recorded her last song.

Édith Piaf died of cancer at her French Riviera villa on October 10, 1963. She was 47. The Archbishop of Paris denied requests for a funeral Mass, citing Piaf’s irreligious lifestyle. She is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris next to her daughter Marcelle.

The 5 Smallest Countries in the World – Not So Secret Obsession

There’s this thing I do from time to time to relax at home or at work (on lunch breaks, obviously) that I call My Virtual Vacation.  Time, distance and money are not obstacles in these daydreams.  I create a vacation.  I have been lucky enough to take actual vacations to places like the Galapagos Islands and Tahiti in the past, those trips were amazing and have fueled the foundation of these daydreams.  I pick a place, look up hotels, look up apartments for short term rent, look up sightseeing, and just travel there for a bit.  I have long been obsessed with traveling to the smallest countries in the world and they are frequently on my virtual vacation itinerary.  Here is a list:

1. Vatican City

Size: 0.17 sq. mi. (0.44 km²)
Population: 783 (2005 census)
Location: Rome, Italy

vatican

The size of a golf course, the Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. It’s basically a walled enclave inside of Rome, Italy. It’s so small that the entire country does not have a single street address.

The Vatican City may be small, but it is very powerful. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See, or the seat of the Catholic Church (basically its central government), which has over 1 billion people (about 1 in 6 people on the planet) as constituents.

The Vatican City was created in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty (which was signed by one of history’s most repressive dictators, Benito Mussolini) and is ruled by the Pope, basically a non-hereditary, elected monarch who rules with absolute authority (he’s the legislative, executive and judiciary all rolled into one) – indeed, the Pope is the only absolute monarch in Europe.

Another unique thing about the smallest country in the world is that it has no permanent citizens. Citizenship of the Vatican City is conferred upon those who work at the Vatican (as well as their spouses and children) and is revoked when they stop working there.

The Vatican City is guarded by the smallest and oldest regular army in the world, the Swiss Guard [wiki]. It was originally made up of Swiss mercenaries in 1506, now the army (also personal bodyguards of the Pope) number 100, all of which are Catholic unmarried male Swiss citizens. The Swiss Guard’s Renaissance-style uniform was commonly attributed as to have been designed by Michelangelo – this was actually incorrect: the large “skirt” pants were a common style during the Renaissance. Only their uniforms seem antiquated: most of the Swiss Guards carry pistols and submachine-guns.

The official languages of the Vatican City are Latin and Italian. In fact, its ATMs are the only ones in the world that offer services in Latin! And here you thought that Latin is a dead language…

For a country that has no street address, the Vatican City has a very efficient post office: an international mail dropped in the Vatican will get there faster than one dropped in Italy just a few hundred yard away – in fact, there is more mail sent annually per inhabitant from this country (7,200 mails per person) than anywhere else in the world.

The Vatican City has a country code top level domain of .va – currently there are only 9 publicly known .va domains [wiki]. It also has a radio broadcasting service, called Vatican Radio [wiki], which was set up by Guglielmo Marconi (the Father of Radio) himself!

The country’s economy is unique: it is the only non-commercial economy in the world. Instead, the Vatican City is supported financially by contributions of Catholics worldwide (called Peter’s Pence – hey, even the Pope accepts credit cards!), the sale of postage stamps and publications, and tourism.

Lastly, as an ecclesiastical paradise, the Vatican City has no taxes.

2. Monaco

Size: 0.8 sq. mi. (1.96 km²)
Population: 35,657 (2006 estimate)
Location: French Riviera on the Mediterranean

monaco

Monaco is the second smallest country on Earth (it’s roughly the size of New York’s Central Park), yet it’s the most densely populated (23,660 people per km²). Actually, Monaco used to be much smaller than it is now – about 100 acres were reclaimed from the sea and added to its land size. At the narrowest, Monaco is only 382 yards wide!

The Principality of Monaco, its formal name, means that the territory is ruled by a prince. For the last seven centuries, Monaco was ruled by princes of the Grimaldi family from Genoa. (The whole thing started one night in 1297 when François Grimaldi disguised himself as a monk and led a small army to conquer the fortress guarding the Rock of Monaco. The coat of arms of the Grimaldi bears the image of monks with swords!) Now, the Prince shares legislative authority with a National Council.

In 1861, Monaco relinquished half of its territory to France in exchange for cash and independence. When the reigning prince realized that most of Monaco’s natural resources were on the land that got bartered away, he decided to bet the whole economy on … what else, gambling (see, casinos aren’t only for American Indians, it’s a time-tested, universal solution!)

And so began Monte Carlo [wiki], a region of Monaco well known for its glamorous casinos (a setting for Ian Fleming’s first James Bond Novel Casino Royale) and its Formula One Grand Prix.

In 1918, Monaco entered a treaty with France for military protection – the treaty, however, also stipulated that Monaco would lose its independence (and become French) should the reigning Grimaldi prince died without leaving a male heir! When Prince Rainier III took over, he was a bachelor and most Monegasques (that means people of Monaco) were gloomy about the country’s future. However, he ended up marrying Hollywood actress Grace Kelly [wiki] – the marriage not only produced a male heir, it also helped burnish Monaco’s image as a glamorous place to be for the wealthy. (Monaco can rest easy now, a new treaty with France stated that the Principality will remain independent even without a male heir).

For a long time, Monaco had no income taxes and was a tax haven for wealthy foreigners and international corporations. This caused a unique thing about Monaco’s population: most of its residents are not native – in fact, only about 1 in 5 people are native Monegasques. After a long dispute with France, Monaco started to impose income taxes on all of its residents who are not born there. Its natural citizens are forbidden from entering casinos, but to make up for it, they do not have to pay any income taxes.

3. Nauru

Size: 8 sq. mi (21 km²)
Population: 13,005 (2005 estimate)
Location: Western Pacific Ocean

nauru

Nauru is the world’s smallest island nation, the smallest independent republic, and the only republic in the world without an official capital.

Nauru only has one significant source of income: phosphates from thousands of years’ worth of guano or bird droppings. This proved to be both a boon and a bane for Nauruans – for a long time, its residents enjoyed a relatively high level of income as the country exported its phosphate like there’s no tomorrow.

The government employed 95% of Nauruans, and lavished free medical care and schooling for its citizens. Most didn’t take advantage of this offer: only one-third of children went on to secondary school. The adults didn’t really work, either – office hours were flexible and the most popular pastime was drinking beer and driving the 20-minute circuit around the island. For a while, Nauru was a paradise – for a brief moment in 1970s, Nauruans were even amongst the richest people on the planet.

Nothing lasts forever and sure enough, Nauru’s phosphate reserves soon dried up and left 90% of the island as a barren, jagged mining wasteland. Wasteful investments (like buying hotels only to leave them to rot) and gross incompetence by the government (former presidents used to commandeer Air Nauru’s planes for holidays, leaving paying customers stranded on the tarmac!) didn’t help either.

As if that’s not bad enough, Nauru is also beset by obesity problem. Decades of leisurely lifestyle and high consumption of alcohol and fatty foods have left as many as 9 out of 10 people overweight! Nauru also has the world’s highest level of type 2 diabetes – over 40% of its population is affected.

So now, Nauruans are poverty-stricken and fat – but they are trying to turn things around. With no natural resource left, in the 1990s, Nauru decided to become a tax haven and offered passports to foreign nationals for a fee. This attracted the wrong kind of money (but a lot of it): the Russian mafia funneled over $70 billion to the tiny island nation. Things got so bad that most big banks refused to handle transactions involving Nauru because of money laundering problems.

This led Nauru to another extraordinary money-making scheme: it became a detention camp for people applying for asylum to Australia!

4. Tuvalu

Size: 9 sq. mi. (26 km²)
Population: 10,441 (2005 estimate)
Location: South Pacific

tuvalu

Tuvalu is basically a chain of low-lying coral islands, with its highest elevation being 16 feet or 5 meters above seal level. With total land area of just 9 square miles, Tuvalu is not only a teeny tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, it may not even exist in the next 50 years if sea level continue to rise (a controversial claim, nonetheless there were evacuation plans to New Zealand and other Pacific Islands). Even if the sea level does not rise, other problems such as population growth and coastal erosion still make Tuvalu a very vulnerable country.

During World War II, thousands of American troops were stationed on the islands of Tuvalu and the island became an Allied base. Airfields were quickly constructed and after the war, abandoned. In fact, today rusting wrecks can be found on the islands, a constant reminder of its role in the War.

Today, Tuvalu also derives income from renting out its Internet country code top-level domain .tv, as it is the abbreviation of the word ‘television’. This scheme got off to a rocky start (the original company who tried to do it failed to raise the necessary funds), but finally proved to be the largest source of income for the country.

5. San Marino

Size: 24 sq. mi. (61 km²)
Population: 28,117 (2005 estimate)
Location: North-central Italy near the Adriatic coast.

San-Marino

With the formal name of The Most Serene Republic of San Marino, it’s not surprising that San Marino has got lots of charms. Founded in AD 301 by a Christian stonecutter named (what else) Marino (or Marinus, depending on who you ask), who along with a small group of Christians, was seeking escape from religious persecution, San Marino is the world’s oldest republic.

Its history belies its simple motto: “Liberty.” Indeed, San Marino was such a good neighbor that it was hardly ever conquered by larger enemies (it was briefly conquered in the 1500s and the 1700s, for like a month each). Even when Napoleon gobbled most of Europe, he left San Marino alone, saying it was a model republic!

San Marino takes its government seriously: for such a tiny country, San Marino has a very complex government structure, based on a constitution written in 1600. The country is ruled by an elected Council of 60, who appoints 2 captain regents (from opposing political parties, no less) to administer governmental affairs for six-month term. Talk about preserving liberties through division of authority!

Before World War II, San Marino was amongst the poorest countries in Europe. Today, with more than 3 million tourists visiting every year (half of San Marino’s income is derived from tourism), the people of San Marino are amongst the world’s richest people.