Saturday, August 28, 2010

Horrible Hairdos from my Youth

Last Thursday in The New York Times Style section a page of photographs showed the six steps to achieving a retro ‘60’s beehive hairdo. According to a hairstylist at Bumble and Bumble “The key to make this look modern and not too retro is haphazardness.” He had prepared the models at Vera Wang’s fall show with “slightly messy” beehives with tousled locks at the nape of the neck. According to The Times, “Amy Winehouse offsets hers with tattooed arms.”

Ever since “Mad Men” ushered in a widespread nostalgia for the naughty 1960’s I have been bemused as young people who were not born then celebrate that era of sin, pointed bras and three-martini business lunches.

One of the few skill sets I have down pat is how to make a beehive hairdo. The sight of the “retro beehive” whisked me down Memory Lane, recalling the sight of myself and half a dozen freshman girls lined up at the mirrored wall in the dorm bathroom, carefully teasing our long hair until it stood straight up. Lots of hair spray was involved. My daughters think that I was solely responsible for the hole in the ozone layer due to my lavish use of hair spray.

No tousled retro ironic beehives for us. Ours were as smooth and as stiff as a football helmet—hence all the urban legends about girls who never took down their beehives and ultimately learned that mice or something worse had nested within.

After teasing the hair into a state suggesting the Bride of Frankenstein, I would carefully fold it into a high French twist, securing it with a handful of hairpins and then, after using an afro pick to achieve maximum bouffant-ness, spray some more.

In my youth, a hairdo would come into fashion and we all would immediately have to have it, whether it was flattering or not. The first one I remember was the duck tail (also called D.A. for “Duck’s Ass”), the signature of “greasers” and their leather- jacketed girlfriends in the 1950’s. It took a long time for me to talk my parents into letting me have one—I was about 13 at the time—and even longer to convince them to let me add the peroxide streak that was de rigueur to go with it. I’m just sorry I don’t have a photo to show you how truly awful it looked.

Even more unforgiving was the pixie cut which I am told is now enjoying a renaissance on celebrities like Victoria Beckham. Less glamorous people, like me, ended up looking like someone who was just past chemo, or like those French women who fraternized with the Germans and were punished by having their hair cut off. I vaguely remember Jean Seberg as bringing the pixie cut into fashion. The unfortunate photo of me here in my pixie cut dates from 1958 when I was a junior in high school.

Then I went to college in Wisconsin and mastered the non-ironic beehive. Two years later, in 1961 I transferred to U Cal Berkeley where I first encountered full-out ethnic Afros and white men with Jesus hair and beards. In graduate school in Manhattan, I remember other girls (not me) ironing their long blonde hair on an ironing board to straighten it and also setting it at night on empty orange-juice-concentrate cans.

After getting a Master’s from Columbia in 1964, I got a job in New York women’s magazines and hung around with editorial assistants who were dating those Mad Men types and drank martinis at lunch. I usually ate lunch at my desk.

Soon the Beatles came to the U.S. and Vidal Sassoon cut Twiggie’s hair into an asymmetrical bob and we all had to have some version of it. You can see my would-be Sassoon cut below. I wish I still had that mini-dress and that brooch. The photo is dated Feb. 1967.

Several haircuts have become all the rage since then—think Farrah Faucett’s feather cut and Jennifer Anniston’s whatever it was. And Kate Gosselin revisiting Sassoon. But I got married and had children and never had time any more to become a haircut fashion victim.

Now my hair has become so thin that I couldn’t possibly tease it into a beehive, ironic or not. Twice a week, first thing in the morning, I go to my hairdresser Roy of London Lass, because I am incapable of doing anything with my own hair. He trained under Vidal Sassoon.

Did you know that Joan Collins always wears a wig because her hair is so thin? I’m told she has 200 wigs. So does Lady Gaga, I think. Maybe wigs will become the next Big Thing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Saga of Turtle Boy

Once upon a time,(in 1905 to be exact), in the city of Worcester, MA, there was a wealthy woman named Harriett P.F. Burnside who worried about the poor horses who pulled carriages and carts all over town. And she wanted to do something to honor the memory of her late father, a prominent Worcester attorney. So she gave $5,000 to the city of Worcester to create a fountain in Central Square that would provide four drinking basins for the thirsty horses (and a lower trough for the city’s dogs.)

The artist chosen to design the sculpture that would be the fountain was Daniel Chester French, famous for the seated statue of Old Abe at the Lincoln Memorial, but he was so busy that he gave the job to his protégé Charles Harvey, who designed and sculpted it. When Harvey died, (slashed his own throat in Bronx Park because of “phantom voices of unseen persons who bade him take his life” as the New York Times described it in Jan.,1912) another sculptor called Sherry Fry finished it and it was unveiled to Worcester in 1912. By then automobiles were beginning to crowd out the city’s horses.

What the schizophrenic Harvey created was a statue of a naked boy riding on the back of a hawksbill sea turtle, who seems to be in mid-flight. Originally water gushed from the turtle’s mouth, but like many things in Worcester, the fountain outlived its usefulness, and in 1969 the sculpture was moved across the street to a spot behind City Hall.

The statue, universally called “Turtle Boy” by Worcester natives, has had a colorful career. In April of 1970, according to Albert Southwick of the Worcester Telegram, vandals struck and the extremely large and heavy statue vanished. Several months later it reappeared just as mysteriously. According to Southwick “It was said that the Worcester police had agreed not to prosecute whoever was responsible.”

Southwick also revealed that “many years ago” Margaret Getchell, daughter of a noted Worcester physician, wrote a children’s book “The Cloud Bird” of eight chapters—each chapter about a Worcester landmark. Chapter eight, “The Adventurer in Armor” tells about a girl named Dorothy Ann who approaches Turtle Boy and sees that he is struggling to hold the Turtle in place. The boy tells her the turtle is “a great adventurer. See he is girding up his armor now.”

Dorothy Ann learns that the boy is a faun who persuades the girl to climb on the back of the turtle with him. It immediately runs down the street “all four legs going so fast you could barely see them.” They reach the ocean, the turtle leaps off a high rock cliff and sinks down into the green waters below. The peculiar trio spend a day sporting in the water until the Turtle truckles back to Salem Square.

According to Wikipedia, “Turtle Boy has become a mascot for Worcester in a way analogous to the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.”

But if you study my Turtle Boy photo above, you will see that, unlike the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, our city’s mascot, like so many other things in Worcester, is a little weird. A hundred years ago no one smirked at the statue and made smutty remarks about the relationship of Boy to Turtle, but nowadays, when WAAF personality Hill Man declared Turtle Boy to be one of the 25 great places in Massachusetts and interviewed passers-by on camera as to what exactly they thought was happening between the boy and the turtle, most of them blushed and waffled about an answer.

The boy’s infamous love affair with the Turtle has made him a huge favorite. “Turtle Boy is the reason I decided to stay in Worcester” declared Scott Dezrah Blinn on the website “”

Yes, Turtle Boy has his own website. He also has a fan club on Facebook and often stars in the Worcester Magazine cartoon Zanzo Moxie by Veronica Hebard. A yearly Turtle Boy Music Award caps a series of third Thursdays when local musicians vie for the honor.

If you want more, I suggest that you check into the Turtle Boy website, created by Claudia Snell, and click on the video of the Roadkill Orchestra, Dr. Gonzo’s house band, performing their song “Turtle Boy” at Dr. Gonzo’s Xtreme Freaky Tiki Grilling Championship on 6/3/10.

Turtle Boy’s popularity is boundless among his Wormtown followers, which is why I included his photo in the Worcester icons featured in the “Welcome to Worcester” art show now on view at the Futon Company on Highland Street throughout September. (Dr. Gonzo’s store, which features “Uncommon Condiments” along with musical performances, is also one of the landmarks celebrated in my digitally enhanced photos and Doug Chapel’s illustrations.)

The reception for the “Welcome to Worcester” show, at the Futon Company store, 129 Highland Street, opposite the Sole Proprietor Restaurant, will be held on Thursday Sept. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. offering goodies from another Worcester icon—Coney Island Hot Dogs.

College students new to Worcester are especially welcome to drop by and learn more lore about the city its inhabitants lovingly call “The Paris of the Eighties”.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

(Champagne) Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Last weekend I went to New York to attend some of the pre-wedding events celebrating our daughter Eleni’s engagement to Emilio which will culminate in their wedding in Corfu, Greece on 10-10-10 (as mentioned in previous posts on this blog.)

It was a weekend full of unforgettable parties. On Saturday night, 20 friends took over the back room of the restaurant “Jadis” on Rivington Street for an engagement party, and on Sunday Eleni’s former apartment-mate, Katherine, hosted a shower in her Brooklyn home.

But one of the most delightful--because unexpected—events happened on Saturday morning when Emilio and Eleni invited us to come along to watch them pick out their wedding bands at Tiffany’s.

Exactly forty years earlier I walked into Tiffany’s with my soon-to-be husband Nick to pick out our gold wedding bands. As I recall, we did our shopping on Tiffany’s ground floor and the very thin gold band I selected cost about $40. His was larger and cost more.

This time, the wedding bands were being sold on the second floor, but first I marched everyone over to the left (uptown) wall of Tiffany’s ground floor to admire the huge Tiffany Yellow Diamond displayed in a small window in the wall, set in its “Bird on the Rock” Brooch, which was designed by the famous jeweler Jean Schlumberger. At 128.54 carats, it’s one of the largest diamonds in the world. It was discovered around 1877 in South Africa, and, after experts in Paris studied it for a year, it was carved into a cushion cut in 1878. Tiffany’s Paris head officer bought it for $18,000 and it was imported into the U.S. in 1879.

In 1983 the Tiffany Yellow Diamond was valued at $12,000,000. Seen by millions in almost seventy years of continuous display in Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store, it has been worn by only two women—Audrey Hepburn, doing publicity for the 1961 film ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and socialite Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse at the Tiffany Ball in 1957. Luckily, it does not have the reputation of being cursed (like the Hope Diamond).

Tiffany’s was crowded with tourists last Saturday. Taking the elevator to the second floor, we gave Eleni and Emilio some room and time to choose the wedding bands they liked best. They finally settled on matching bands with gold edges and a platinum band in the center.

The salesman went away to write up the sale, then he seated the couple at a lower section of the counter and produced two flutes of champagne to toast their purchase, accompanied by two delectable petit-four pastries frosted to look like tiny Tiffany boxes.

I loved the unexpected celebration—and so did they! It lifted the choice of their wedding bands from a simple jewelry purchase to a ritual celebrating the beginning of their new life together.

As we left the store, I could be heard muttering that forty years ago, when purchasing our simple gold bands, Nick and I saw no signs of champagne or petits fours…but if I remember correctly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Audrey Hepburn doesn’t get champagne or any sort of breakfast at Tiffany’s—she has to bring her own to eat while gazing wistfully through the store's windows at the treasures within.

But last weekend I got to enjoy my daughter’s champagne breakfast at Tiffany’s vicariously. It was a gratifying and unexpected milestone in the celebrations leading up to the wedding itself in Corfu on 10-10-10.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Vegetarian Gourmet in Paris

A newlywed friend of ours just went to Paris for the first time with her husband. She asked for advice on where to eat and where to go. And she’s a vegetarian.

My daughter Marina responded with the letter below. She lived there for two years after college, while getting her master’s degree in French and working, and she loves the city, going back whenever she can.

When I read it, I realized that this is the kind of insider’s advice that a travel magazine would pay big money for, but Marina agreed to let me put it on “A Rolling Crone” for free. It made me all nostalgic, remembering the first time I saw Paris when I was 18. This is a feast of Parisian travel and eating tips for anyone, vegetarian or not. Thanks Mar!

You can get great falafel in the Marais (4th arr., right bank) and in the Latin Quarter (5th, and 6th arr., left bank). Most take-away places have caprese paninis with delicious mozzarella, basil, and tomato pressed and toasted to order. You'll find those everywhere.

There are also a lot of really good Vietnamese take-away places that have a number of vegetarian options. If you like Italian there is a place called La Bottega di Pastavino that has the most amazing fresh Italian food. It is on Rue de Buci in the 6th which is a really cute street. Unfortunately it is also take -away but, if it's not too hot out, I would get some gnocchi (it's not like the gnocchi you're used to, it's large circular discs of deliciousness) and whatever else you want (it's all good and don't forget the wine and opener), have them heat it up, and walk it over to the Seine or the Luxembourg gardens (they are equi-distant from this place) and have a picnic.

For financial reasons and because I like being outdoors, I like to get take-away food for lunch and find a beautiful place outside to eat it. Now that they enforce the pick-up-your-dog’s-poop laws (thanks Sarkozy) it's even more pleasant. Most cafes have lovely "Chevre Chaud" salads. They seem to be a staple and are pretty much always awesome. Also, if you eat eggs, you can get an omelette any time of day at any cafe.

You ABSOLUTELY MUST have Berthillon ice cream while you are there. It is on the Ile St Louis on Rue St Louis-en-l'ile. It is so good that they close for the months of July and August (mental!). The vanilla is soooo good I have trouble getting anything else but the wild strawberry (as opposed to the regular strawberry) is delicious. So is the cantelope. The chocolate tastes like actual chocolate. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is. You'll find that cafes and restaurants advertise that they sell it but it is not the same as getting it at the source.

Another great vegetarian option are the crepes. Both savory and sweet, both portable and sit-down, crepes are delicious and you can find them everywhere. Try one with emental cheese, mushrooms and egg, or Nutella and bananas. I am literally tearing up thinking about my corner creperie. It was like Cheers, they knew my name and would let me pay them the next day if I forgot cash. They even recognized me when I went back years later with all my hair chopped off. They closed down a couple of years ago, otherwise I would send you there. If you find yourself in the 2nd arrondissement, although I don't know why you would, you should go to La Ferme on Rue St Roch.

Breakfast is one of the things that I remember most fondly about Paris. I'm not sure where you're staying, if it has nice windows and a nice view, and if you’d have a hot plate or a way to make coffee, but I'll tell you what I did. Every morning that I could, I would wake up, put the water on to boil, throw my coat on over whatever I wore to bed, run down the stairs and across the courtyard to the patisserie directly across the street and buy the most amazing croissant ever. Then I would go next door to the cremerie and get the most delicious yogurt of all time, the kind that just got dropped off by the farmer and is contained in those wonderful glass or ceramic pots with the foil on top. Any flavor was good. Then I would run back upstairs, pour the hot water in to the single-serve filter that rests on top of your mug, throw in a couple of those brown sugar cubes that look like eroding blocks from ancient ruins and a little cream. I would turn on some good music, open the giant windows that looked out over the courtyard, sit at the table right next to it and eat my breakfast so slowly and appreciatively that it would take hours. Don't forget to dip your croissant into your coffee. It sounds and looks gross but damn does it taste good.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that the most amazing thing about Paris is your surroundings so find a cute park, sit by the Seine or the Canal St. Martin (I highly recommend walking along this less touristy canal) and get some delicious, inexpensive chow, and enjoy!

As for dinner, the Costes brothers have made an empire of restaurants that are really interesting. The food is pretty good and the ambiance is quite unique. The best ones would be Bon in the 16th (there is absolutely nothing else around there so it might not be worth the effort of getting there) or Georges at the top of the Centre Pompidou. The latter is amazing for views.

Make a reservation, ask to sit outside on the terrace. I always get the langoustine risotto and the Sancerre, but their menu is pretty modern and would definitely have vegetarian options. If you like Ethiopian food Godjo in the 5th is awesome (make sure you sit downstairs, it's a totally different experience). From there you can take a lovely walk down Rue Mouffetad or go by the Pantheon and head towards the Crocodile. The Crocodile is kind of like a modern-day speak-easy. It barely has a sign so you have to know the address 6 Rue Royer-Collard. It is a tiny bar with a bar list that has a million drinks on it. It is right by the Luxembourg gardens. When you get there, there will be a door with no handle. Knock on the door. A guy who looks like he's been locked in a smoke-filled closet for 30 years will open the door, ask how many people you are and probably close it again, only to open it when there is enough room for you to come in. It is owned by a 90 year-old woman (if she's still alive) and there is a huge dog (mastif I think) that has free reign of the place. The tables and chairs are like old school desks. It used to be super smokey but now with the new laws it probably isn't. It's open from 10PM to 5AM I think and not open on Mondays or something like that. There are very few places open after 2 in Paris.

One of my favorite places is Place du Tertre in Monmartre (the 18th). This is a big hill at the base of which is the super seedy Pigalle area for strippers etc. BUT if you take the metro to Abbesse (SP? - take the elevator, you'll have plenty of more stairs to climb) and walk up the stairs to Place du Tertre there is a great Salvador Dali museum immediately on your left. Many artists live here and will try to draw, paint, sketch you for money but there is also some great, affordable art here too. At the end of the square Sacre Coeur is on your right. You should totally hit that BUT first, if you're not too tired, take a left down Rue Norvins, weeding through the tourists. Then take your first right on Rue des Saules. You should escape the tourists here. Walking down the hill you'll see the historic Maison Rose on your right, then you'll pass what I think is the last (tiny) vineyard in Paris, and then there's the Lapin Agile which is also a historic place. I've never eaten at either but the Lapin Agile is very old and has a great history so they could be good for dinner (I'm not sure if they are open for lunch).

Eleni told you about the Mosquee de Paris. It has spa days that alternate based on gender (it is totally nakedness everywhere in the spa so not good if you’re shy but it's really cheap... at least it used to be). Nobody is allowed in the Mosquee unless you're Muslim but in the back you'll find the spa, store, restaurant and the tea room (mint and rose teas are passed around and you can get pastries and sit at a table in their broken glass garden while looking across at the Jardin des Plantes and the Natural History Museum).

It gets packed on weekends so try to go on a weekday. Also, the side street that it is on has a bunch of little shops with inexpensive Morrocan/North African wares that are usually cheaper than what they sell at the store in the Mosquee. You could go from there and walk through the Jardin des Plantes (veering to the left). You'll pass a couple of museums and botanical gardens. Lastly, exit by the petting zoo and walk over to the Institut du Monde Arabe. It's a super cool building that is made of hundreds of glass squares that have camera shutter-type things in the windows so they can control the amount of natural light that enters the building. Paris has a law that there cannot be buildings built over a certain height. This is one of the exceptions. I've never gotten to do this but I've heard that it has great views from the roof and that you can get drinks there and watch the sunset but I'm not sure.

The Rodin Museum is cool in the 7th arr. because it is in what used to be his home and many of the works are in the gardens so if you’re over by the Eiffel tower you should check it out. Actually, you should go there first, get a snack of baguette, cheese, and wine, sit on the grass by the Eiffel Tower and watch the sunset. Then go up to the top. I think it may be cheaper after dark.

Be careful of pick pockets in the subways. If the subways are smelly in the summer (I've heard that is a problem) the busses are pretty good but there are also these new bike stations everywhere. I'm not too sure how it works but they're coin automated so you just put coins in to unlock it, ride it where you need to go, and lock it up at another station (or something like that).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tales Of Worcester's Famous Diners and Other Icons

(Please click on these photos to make them bigger--wish I knew why they appear so small here!)

On Friday I took to the Futon Company the photos I had framed for the “Welcome to Worcester” art exhibit which opens today and lasts until Sept. 30. The owner of the Futon Company, Elizabeth Hughes, came up with the idea of putting together a show celebrating certain Worcester landmarks as portrayed by two artists in different media: Doug Chapel’s illustrations and my digitally enhanced photographs.

On Sunday, Aug. 8, the show will move across Highland Street to the parking lot of the Sole Proprietor Restaurant, as part of “Art in the Parking Lot” . And on Sept. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. there will be a reception at the Futon Company, 129 Highland Street, which will include hot dogs from Coney Island, whose famous sign is featured on the postcard for the show.

Here is a sneak preview of the photos I took. (Don’t know how many of them will be hung on the walls, but smaller, inexpensive prints of all these and more will be for sale at “Art in the Parking Lot” on Aug. 8.)

The Owl Shop, on Main Street, was opened in 1946 by George Photakis, offering tobaccos, cigars, pipe tobaccos, even hookahs. George’s son John Photakis took it over in the seventies but died in a fatal car accident in 2002 at age 51. His son Zack now runs the store.The Owl Shop, with its green-eyed neon owl, has been attracting photographers for over 60 years. I printed a day photo and a night one, but I think my favorite is a shot of just the sign with the Italianate tower of City Hall looming behind it.

The Boulevard Diner is even more a magnet to photographers. (Madonna ate spaghetti here one night after her show at the Centrum. ) It’s the most beautiful of Worcester’s famous diners. (I hope you know that just about all the diners in the Northeast were produced in Worcester at the Worcester Lunch Car Company.) The “Bully” was #730, produced in 1936 and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. It’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week except for Sunday nights. I tried both day and night shots of this iconic diner, which frequently has a host of motorcycles parked outside. My favorite is the photo in the center with the word “Diner” against the sky. It has a lonely Edward Hopper atmosphere even though the people are hanging out together—yet they seem isolated in the glare of the neon.

The Aurora on Main Street was originally an elegant hotel built in 1897, but it deteriorated drastically along with the neighborhood. It was rehabilitated to be inexpensive apartments, especially for artists. Arts Worcester has its gallery and headquarters in the building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. I shot the building at an angle to capture the feeling of the neighborhood. Then I noticed the reflection of the Aurora in a window of what I think is an empty store—perhaps it’s public art, judging from the mannequins. I thought the reflection provided an interesting perspective on the venerable Victorian tenement.

The Corner Lunch and Miss Worcester are two more of the famous Worcester Diners. Corner Lunch on Lamartine Street, no longer in its prime, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Everyone raves about its breakfasts. According to one fan, it was originally in Babylon, NY only to make it to Worcester in 1968.

A block away, at 302 Southbridge Street, is the Miss Worcester Diner. According to Wikipedia: “ Worcester Lunch Car # 812 was built in 1948 by Worcester Lunch Car Company and is located across the street from the company's (now defunct) Worcester factory. While independently owned and operated, it was used by the Lunch Car Company as a "showroom" diner, and a test bed for new features.” It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The other Worcester Icons I photographed for “Welcome to Worcester” include Dr. Gonzo’s—as you can see it’s a store for “Uncommon Condiments”. It also has its own house band--- The Roadkill Orchestra. A few days ago, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette published a column by Dianne Williamson titled “Dr. Gonzo is Wooville’s Biggest Fan.” She wrote, “He’s a merchant, musician, unofficial city ambassador, unpaid local organizer and proud purveyor of all natural spices and sauces with names such as Wicked Wiener Wonder Relish, One Hump Dry Rub No. 2 and another rub whose name could test the tolerance of my editor”. She quoted Dr. Gonzo, who was born J Stuart Esty, as saying,“This town is going through a transformation, and it has an amazing collection of human beings. I’ve traveled around the country and lived in Europe and you can’t replicate Worcester anywhere in the world.”

My last photo shows Turtle Boy on Worcester Common. He is the city’s mascot and has his own facebook page and web site. But he has such a lurid and tumultuous story that I’ll have to save it for my next blog post.