Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where Have I Been?

It's been nearly a year since I posted here, though I've continued to tweet, and to write. In fact, I'm writing full-time again now, and, after five published books, hundreds of magazine and web articles, dozens of poems and a handful of short stories, am well into my first novel. Blogging was a great way to write every day-ish, but building characters, their world and their stories is even better, and the themes - memory, loss, New York City, women's lives, music - have been discussed here often.

I spend most of my time in San Francisco these days, which is conducive to writing about other places. I am happily in love with someone I've known for a long time, which is helpful when writing about not being happy or in love. And Facebook feels like a more effective way to share clips and quips and stay in touch with far-flung friends, if I manage my time there carefully.

You'll still find me here occasionally. And when that novel is ready for readers, you'll be the first to know.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Most Beautiful Woman In The World

I have written about the late Elizabeth Taylor before, as perceived celebrity look-alike and personal style icon (though her blonde phase was unforgivable, and the slideshow here reminds me that caftans are really a bad idea).

I have not previously mentioned that she also influenced my career choices, as I owned a battered tag-sale copy of her first memoir, Nibbles and Me, written in 1946 at age 14, after she first achieved fame in National Velvet. It had a sprightly tone (in hindsight, I suspect some ghostwriting assistance), her own illustrations, and sweet stories about her pet chipmunk Nibbles.

So much has been said about the legendary star in the past few days that adds to my admiration of her. I had forgotten that she was Jewish (she converted to marry Eddie Fisher), and scorned those who disparaged those of us of the Hebraic persuasion. She was also buried, in the Jewish tradition, within 48 hours.

Her support of people with AIDS was awe-inspiring, including her stint as founding chairman of amFAR and later her own foundation. To the end of her life, she stayed true to her friends, her beliefs, and her large family (10 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren).

That's what really made her the most beautiful woman in the world. And, whether as herself or as Cleopatra - the campy four-hour movie that made her the first star to earn a million dollars for a role and nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox - she sure knew how to make an entrance.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

She's Got Legs

I'm 5'6" on a tall day, but I have the legs of a 5'8" woman (and she probably wants them back). They are slender, with curves and muscles in what I'm told are the right places; they can walk and run for many miles, and I count them among my physical blessings.

I was in a Pilates class the other day that incorporated elements of ballet, and all the barre work I've done over time came back as if Mme. Poliakoff, who taught me when I was eight, was still yelling at me: the positions, the turnout, and the way I felt: tall and pulled up and as graceful as the Sugar Plum Fairy. (Which, I assure you, is not what you'd have thought if you saw me stumbling through the New York snow this morning.)

But back when I imagined myself as a ballerina, I didn't think of the biggest benefit of having long, strong legs: being able to wear five-inch heels and have them look like this:

(Post title from the ZZ Top video, in which a bevy of long-stemmed, '80s-attired beauties come to the rescue of a downtrodden sister.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cupid, Draw Back Your Bow

I have written before about matters of the heart - whether the organ in question is making wishes, getting married, or just feeling crushy. Valentine's Day is on the horizon, and, on San Francisco's Embarcadero, so is this sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, echoing the shape of the Bay Bridge in the distance.

This arrow, of course, has already hit its mark: all those hearts left in San Francisco. Cupid is drawing back his bow again, and this time he's listening to Sam Cooke:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

San 'Fro-cisco

I'm in San Francisco this week, enjoying its wonderful sights and tastes and smells and friends as I often do. This city is aesthetically one of the most pleasing anywhere, but it does have one significant drawback for the glamour-obsessed, besides the inability to wear very high heels unless you are certain you will be in a very flat part of town (of which, of course, there are few) or driven to your door in both directions.

The City by the Bay is, of course, known for its fog, as a chorus of harmonically aligned fog horns makes clear on many days and most nights. The thick mist is beautiful and romantic, but, as a very long walk Sunday through the Presidio, out to the Pacific Ocean and along the dock of the bay reminded me, it is not especially kind to a carefully managed hairdo.

My chin-length brunette tresses, which at their best resemble Elizabeth Taylor's hairstyle circa 1957, became what some might call ringlets. Lovely on Andie MacDowell in Greystoke. More like a Jewfro on me.

I'm not a self-hating curlyhead; I've never ironed my hair, nor have I had it straightened. I'd just like my hair to do what I want it to. Of course, I am not alone in this, which is why hair care is a multibillion-dollar industry. And the reason celebrities' curly hair looks perfect on screen, in magazines, and on the red carpet is that a stylist is standing just off camera with hair spray, a comb and a curling iron to reshape those curls.

So my hair wasn't perfect. But the walk was.

The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Putting On My Top Hat

I once knew a man who said he hated women in hats. "They have an attitude," he said. He was right. The whole point of wearing a hat that is that it accentuates your face, and whatever attitude is there, shows. (I think he also wanted to be the one with the attitude, but that's another story.)

I've loved hats ever since I first read Caps For Sale, which was more about salesmanship than fashion. But the only childhood hat I remember was the the cotton sunhat I had to wear at the beach, along with copious amounts of Coppertone sunscreen.

My first non-utilitarian topper was a vintage pillbox I used to wear to clubs in my teens. It had a tiny veil, went well with my stiletto heels and red lipstick, and helped me convey a glamorous attitude, even when I didn't feel that way.

I've since accumulated many wonderful pieces of headgear, including a leopard-skin pillbox, a deep-brimmed black velvet confection covered with crepe roses suitable for a Victorian mourner, a snappy porkpie and a beaver cloche with an elaborate feather spray that I bought at a shop in New Orleans that could have provided a wardrobe for any number of Tennessee Williams characters. My wardrobe would also not be complete without my witch hat and my Yankee cap, both useful for casting spells.

The importance of hats was recently brought home to me when the doormen in my building were provided with new uniforms, including the classic peaked cap, which they'd never had before. Apparently, the brokers showing apartments here felt that the upscale address deserved an upscale look. Yes, it's all about attitude - but I have to say that the poor guys look miserable.

They could learn something from Fred Astaire.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Taking It From The Top

As longtime readers know, this blog has for some time been the repository of notes towards a memoir. But a memoir, like a life, should have some structure, even if, like a life, that structure only becomes apparent once one is well into it. And narratives that have worked for others didn't feel right to me.

I have written five books to date, four of them non-fiction works that were essentially very long articles, and one a book of poems. And while I'd like to novelize some day, stories are my only fiction so far. The short form is clearly my métier.

So why not write a string of essays that tells my story from head to toe, like where my ears have led me and what's been on my feet as I turn new corners? The naughty bits will get their due, too.

You won't be reading full-fledged essays here, but I'll be working out bits a few times a week for your amusement and my own. My first post along these lines will be about hats, and I'll work my way down.

So join me, won't you? If you don't want to miss a single aperçu, follow me. And if you're already an @glamourbrain follower, get to know me in prose.

It's going to be a fantastic voyage.