Friday, September 28, 2012

What to Wear to the Mad Men Party?

(Okay, daughter Eleni has issued a challenge and I have accepted it.  If 100 people vote on my facebook page or on this blog post for me to wear the extremely ugly palazzo pajamas shown below to the party tomorrow, I’ll do it, but my husband is threatening that he won’t been seen with me if I do.)

Tomorrow night, Saturday, the Worcester Art Museum is launching an exhibition of photos from the nineteen sixties called “Kennedy to Kent State—Images of a Generation.”  And they’re celebrating the opening with a party.  The invitation says “Go Mad with Motown, martinis and more” and ends with “Mad Men-inspired attire encouraged.”

For a compulsive hoarder like myself, this is a piece of cake. (I guess that would be refrigerator cake if we’re evoking the sixties.)  I went to the back of my “out of season” closet where I keep “souvenir clothes.”  Then I started taking photos and trying on outfits (the ones that I could still zip up)  and quizzing my husband, Nick, on what I should wear.

I was 19 and in college when the sixties began.  By 1963 I was in New York in graduate school and in 1964 started my first job in public relations (next came magazine journalism) in Manhattan.

As I wrote last March in “Remembering Mad Men Days”  there were two dramatically different periods of fashion and lifestyle in the sixties.  Above are photos of me in 1965 (check out the hat and gloves!) and in1968—(what was I thinking?).  Between those two photos came the tsunami that washed away the hats and gloves and washed in mini skirts, Vidal Sassoon bobs, Twiggy, Mary Quant and the Beatles. The TV series Mad Men has been portraying both sides of that watershed as the program moves through the decade, so there’s a lot of leeway in what to wear to tomorrow’s party.

Sadly I no longer have either of those outfits I’m wearing above, but here’s what came out of my closet.

This is the jacket to a matching dress making an outfit that I call my “Bob Hope suit.”  The Ladies Home Journal had sent a woman reporter to Los Angeles to interview Bob Hope for an article and she arrived at his house wearing blue jeans.  The comedian threw her out and informed the magazine that he would not speak to a woman reporter dressed like that.  So the editor told me to go out and buy a “nice Republican suit” and this is what I bought.  Bob Hope seemed to like it, because he gave me a good interview.  But now the dress part of it is in the hands of my daughter Eleni who wore it recently to HER job at a New York magazine.  She also wore an ultra-mini dress of mine that was once worn by Twiggy in a fashion spread.  Neither dress would fit me any more. (Eleni weighs about 100 pounds.)

This sequined jacket and glittery blouse are both more eighties than sixties, as Eleni pointed out.

This orange dress is brand new, but it has the sixties look that’s been brought back by Mad Men fans, including the fabric that turns into paisley at the bottom.

Both this black jacket and dress and the shocking pink one have really big shoulder pads, very short skirts and lots of glitz on the buttons or the gold trim.

This dress has the right sixties look—very small waist and full skirt—but now I can’t begin to close the belt.

This is the dark blue jumpsuit that I wore to the Oscars when Nick was executive producer for Godfather III, which was nominated for best picture.  But that was in 1991 as I wrote in “Famous Oscar Flubs and Moments” and everyone was watching Madonna channeling Marilyn Monroe in all- white and Michael Jackson, sitting next to her, in a drum majorette’s outfit.

Now these incredibly ugly Palazzo Pajamas are perfect for a Sixties party.  And no, I’ve never had the nerve to wear them anywhere.  I bought this outfit at one of the vintage clothing shows that happens in Sturbridge, MA on the Monday before Brimfield opens, three times a year.

The pajamas, coincidently, were designed by Anne Fogarty who happened to be the sister of my first magazine-editor boss, Poppy Cannon, but they’ve both passed on to their rewards long ago.  Daughter Eleni e-mailed me “I really vote hard for the palazzo pants.  You’d be the belle of the ball.”

I know she’s right, but I still can’t muster up the nerve to be seen in public in that monstrosity, authentic as it may be. 

So with the help of my husband, this is the outfit I chose for tomorrow’s party. It may be more “Dallas” than Mary Quant  (I shopped at Biba Boutique the whole two years I lived in London—why didn’t I keep the stuff?) but at least I can still get into it.

And I think I’m going to pair it with these Beverly Feldman shoes.

I suspect there will be a lot of (old) people like myself tomorrow night reliving their salad days. I hear there will be devilled eggs and Jello…how about onion dip and Ritz crackers…and refrigerator cake?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Original Art for $20!

ArtsWorcester has a clever idea for raising funds.  They asked their members to donate original works of art in any medium that are precisely 8 inches by 8 inches square—to be sold for $20 each on Friday, Oct. 12.  And when the art works were dropped off a few weeks ago, we artists were treated to free drinks and food and the chance to mingle.

Now the catalogue of 200 8-inch-square art works is available on line. They are divided into six different colored “lines”. I gather that’s how they will be hung at the exhibit, which is called, appropriately “Art on the Line”.  It’s on Friday, October 12, at ArtsWorcester’s Gallery at 660 Main Street in Worcester, MA.

People who want to pay $35 for the privilege of getting in to buy first (and a glass of free wine) will be welcomed from 6 to 7 p.m.  After that, from 7 to 9, it costs $5 to get in.

An original art work for $20 is a really good deal. And twelve of the area’s leading artists have been asked to create larger works, 12 inches square, which will be sold for $100 each—also a good deal.

ArtsWorcester received a lot more donations than they expected—I think because it’s fun (and not too time-consuming) to work on such small pieces.

Here are the three I brought in – two watercolors of bugs (which is strange, since I’m terrified of beetles and cockroaches and such) and a photograph I took of  the famous Worcester State Hospital Clock Tower, which has been condemned and is being torn down, but will be replicated as a monument, thanks to Preservation Worcester’s efforts.  Built in 1875, it was the nation’s first hospital for the criminally insane. (I’ve been told it’s also the most haunted building in Worcester--but I can't personally vouch for that.)

Butterfly & Beetle are #99 on the Orange line

Ladybug & Dragonfly are #98 on the Green Line

The Clock Tower is #97 on the Brown Line

Thursday, September 20, 2012

StART on the Street and the Urge to Create

 Sellers' tents on Worcester's Park Avenue, seen from Elm Park

Last Sunday, another perfect fall day, I went to take a look at “StART on the Street” along with nearly 50,000 shoppers eager to see the art and handicrafts produced by some 300 artists who were all displaying their wares on Park Avenue in Worcester, MA.  StART on the Street, which began with a handful of local artists and crafts people ten years ago, has grown into the largest Arts festival in Central Massachusetts… and maybe the country?

Looking at the dizzying variety of things for sale, all created by the person who was selling them, started me thinking about the nearly universal drive to create art, which seems to blossom in people once they have  taken care of basic needs like food and shelter.  This creative urge finds outlets in so many ways.  Lots of my women friends, once their kids leave the nest, have re-discovered their longing to paint, or sew, design jewelry, write a book or take piano lessons... things you don’t have time to do when you’re in charge of children and a home and maybe an office job as well.  Men have the same creative urge, but may express it in different ways, like woodcarving or designing fishing flies or a model railroad (and of course painting, music and photography.)

Last week I posted about walking along another Park Avenue—on the east side of Manhattan --and photographing art by world-famous artists, but at StART on the Street on Worcester’s Park Avenue, I was moved by the energy and dedication of these local artists who create in so many different ways, devoting their nights and weekends, because nearly all of them, unless they’re retired, have a “real job” as well.

I saw dozens of artists selling their paintings or photographs or pottery or weaving, but here are some of the non-traditional artists who caught my eye.
This young man makes things out of hemp coffee bags, and also turns out “super ukuleles made from repurposed cigar boxes and broken skateboard decks.” He’s at
 Jen Niles does lovely folk-arty paintings of cat and dogs and will make a personalized memorial painting of your deceased pet..

The busiest booth I saw was KD Wind Spirals, where a couple, originally from New Zealand, had nearly sold out of their creations, which ranged from $35 to $64.  The aluminum- tubing spirals turn in the wind and the glass balls appear to move up and down but never fall off.
 This man creates weather-proof birdfeeders from teacups, saucers and spoons—they attach to a rod to stand in the garden.
 The Gravestone Girls make art by rubbing the Colonial slate gravestones they find in New England cemeteries and selling the rubbings to hang.
 I saw several blacksmiths and people who created art out of iron, and quite a few of them were women.
 I bought these soft baby shoes for my granddaughter from Meghan Bergstrom who makes clothes and shoes “for hip kids.”
 There were hooked rugs and knitted creations galore.
 Painted silk scarves
 Carved wood goblets and bowls
 Vintage clothing
 Participatory wall murals
 And loads of food trucks with every kind of New England culinary delight.

Art isn’t just what you make with your hands.  There were physical arts on display:

And a variety of bands and singers all day long
 Play areas and crafts for children
 And pumpkins to take home.

Worcester, once a bustling metropolis during the height of the industrial revolution, has now been given a number of ironic nicknames like “Wormtown” and “The Paris of the Eighties”,  but every year, when  it comes alive with art and music and the excitement of “StART on the Street” it’s clear that the city is an important center for art and culture that becomes more exciting every year.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bel Kaufman Talks About Her First 100 Years

I got this e-mail yesterday from Laura DeSilva of Open Road Integrated Media and enjoyed watching the video of Bel Kaufman, at 101, discussing her early years and what convinced her to become a teacher. Thought you would find it interesting as well.  She's certainly an inspiration to all of us crones.  I suspect her optimistic outlook, despite early challenges,  was a major factor in her longevity.

 Bel Kaufman sitting on the knee of her grandfather, the famous Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem

Hi Joan,

I'm writing because I loved your "crone of the week" piece on Bel Kaufman in July, and I thought you might be interested in the news that on September 18, 2012, Open Road Integrated Media will launch the first ebook edition of Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase, bringing "the most popular novel about U.S. public schools in history" (Time) to new generations of readers.
One of the very special facets of this debut is our new video interview with Ms. Kaufman. At 101 years old, she exhibits the same warmth and wit that made her such an unforgettable teacher and champion of education - and she offers a bit of inspiration for today's teachers, I think. I'm so pleased to share the video with you, here: If it moves you, I hope you'll consider sharing it with your friends and readers. 
Kaufman is also the author of Love, etc. (1979), a powerful, haunting, and poignant novel rendering life as fiction. Open Road Media will release Love, etc. on September 18, with La Tigresse and This and That! to follow on October 30.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Street Art & Shoes: Celebrating New York in the Fall

 Last Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, was a perfect fall day under a flawless blue sky, and New Yorkers each marked the anniversary of 9/11 in their own way.  I was in the city for a quick visit and decided to walk 30+ blocks down from 80th Street on the Upper East Side to Rockefeller Center and back again, photographing some of the visual delights that make New York my favorite city, with surprises around every corner.

In Central Park, someone had embellished the statue of Alice in Wonderland by stretching a pair of red child’s pants over the ears of the White Rabbit.  No one took it off, and everyone who passed by smiled.

 From a taxi I had glimpsed the series of whimsical sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle on Park Avenue, but this time I walked the street from 60th to 52nd, photographing each one. I originally thought these playful, voluptuous figures were meant to celebrate the pleasures of summertime, but learned that the exhibit was to mark the tenth anniversary of the artist’s death.

A sour review in the New York Times by Ken Johnson called these nine pieces  “woefully outdated, more tacky than visionary”, but I felt they matched perfectly with the New York summer vibe.  

I’ll cast my vote with Kelsey Savage from Auction Central who wrote  “The vibrant women meld perfectly with all the color surrounding them on the iconic avenue—vibrant sundresses, the perfect summer blue sky, men’s rainbow tie.”

This sculpture, called “The Three Graces” (“Les Trois Graces”) was right in front of Lever House, the famous skyscraper where I started my first job in 1964.

Across the street, in the courtyard of the Seagram Building, are some tubular abstract metal sculptures by John Chamberlain resembling giant worms or intestines.  They’re made of crushed sheet metal. 

I loved watching the mad-men in suits coming out of the Seagram building as they reacted to (or ignored) the sculptures. My favorite thing about street art is watching sophisticated New Yorkers interact with or ignore it.  

Many years ago (and also last year), there were super-giant spiders by Louise Bourgeois in the courtyard of Rockefeller Center.  I loved photographing the passers-by and guards casually walking under and leaning against these terrifying-looking monsters.

On my way down Park Avenue I also found art in the shop windows: like this gown made of autumn leaves

And angels in the architecture.

Barney’s windows on Madison Avenue are always worth a detour—inevitably they’re wacky and surprising.  Right now all Barney’s windows celebrate shoes. 

There’s the window with live fish and floating shoes called “Swimming with the Louboutins”. Another window called  “Barney’s 500” has stilettos on tiny cars zipping around a multi-level track. 

My favorite window was stationary—“Count the Shoes.”  The contest, which continues into October, is to guess correctly the number of shoes in this window to win a huge shopping spree.  Naturally I went inside to submit my estimate.

I had lunch in Rockefeller Center on the spot where the skating rink is in the winter, but in summer, it’s the Garden Café.  I got a table very close to the statue of Prometheus that dominates the scene.  I even treated myself to a frozen margarita.

I think half the joy of walking in New York is people-watching, for instance this well-dressed elderly couple.

The next day, Wednesday, I scooted over to the Metropolitan Museum to get a sneak peek (thanks to Members Preview) of the “Regarding Andy Warhol” show,  which opens on Tuesday.  Then I took the elevator to another favorite spot—the roof garden of the Met—where there’s usually intriguing outdoor sculpture and fantastic views of the city. 

Right now there’s “Cloud City” by Tomas Saraceno—an interactive environment that you can climb around in—something like a jungle gym. I passed on that privilege, because it was time to drive back to Massachusetts.  But I’ll be back soon to get another fix of New York in the fall, its most exciting season.