Thursday, February 14, 2019

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue ...

In honor of the day - Valentine's Day - or St. Valentine's Day - or Sweetheart's Day, as it's sometimes referred, I'm going to bring you some of the dark, mysterious and often times startling Victorian traditions - the Vinegar Valentine. Because, there's really nothing quite like getting surprise hate mail from a would-be lover on February 14!

During the 1840's, hopeful American and British lovers sent lacy Valentines with cursive flourishes and lofty poems by the thoussands. But, what to do if you didn't love the person who had their eyes on you? 

In the Victorian era, there was no better way to let someone know they were unwanted than with the ultimate insult: the vinegar Valentine. Also called comic Valentines, these unwelcome notes were sometimes crass and always a bit emotionally damaging in the anti-spirit of Valentine's Day.
Vinegar Valentines were commercially bought postcards that were less beautiful than their love-filled counterparts, and contained an insulting poem and illustration. There were sent anonymously, so the received had to guess who hated him or her; as if this weren't bruising enough, the recipeient paid the postage on delivery!

In Civil War Humor, Cameron C. Nickels wronte that vinegar Valentines were "tasteless, even vulgar," and were sent to "drunks, shrews, bachelors, old maids, dandies, flirts, and penny pinchers and the like." He added that in 1847, sales between love-minded Valentines and these sour notes were split at a major New York Valentine publisher!
Some vinegar Valentines were playful or sarcastic, and sold as comic Valentines to soldiers - but many could really sting. "Lady Shoppers" and salesmen were sent or handed vinegar Valentines admonishing their values; some vinegar Valentines called physicians names like "Doctor Sure-Death" (a character who ran up expensive bills), and others chided the 'stupid postman' who was sending the note. One vinegar Valentine titled "Old Maid" and reprinted by Orange Coast Magazine in 1984, is more than a little harsh:
“’Tis all in vain your simpering looks,
You never can incline,
With all your bustles, stays and curls,
To find a Valentine.”

The women's suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th century brought another class of vinegar Valentines, targeting women who fought for the right to vote. While only a small percentage of mean-spirited cards were devoted to suffragists, Kenneth Florey argues in American Woman Suffrage Postcards that "it is clear from their context that an interest in women's rights was an inherent part ofone's distorted personality." These cards depicted such women as ugly abusers. It isn't known whether these were sent directly to troll women's rights activists or if they were sent to like-minded friends who disagreed with the movement.
Suffragists did have their own pro-women's rights Valentines to pass around on February 14. Florey wrote that one threw shade on anti-suffragists with the phrase 'No Vote, No Kiss." But, in light of the supposed unattractiveness of suffragists (according to men), many 19th century women enticed their would-be lovers by sending cards that denied support of the women's rights cause. One of these cards, quoted by Florey, depicted a pretty woman surrounded by hearts, with a plain appeal: "In these wild days of suffragette drays, I'm sure you'd ne'er overlook a girl who can't be militant but merely loves to cook."

Many vinegar Valentines from the late 19th century were drawn by Charles Howard, who put ridiculous caricatures of the sorry recipient in full color. Ann issue of Kindergarten Primary Magazine from 1985 worried about the moral implication of these cards for children; a teacher from Iowa wrote that she staved off the "desire to send vulgar Valentines" by telling students stories from St. Valentine's treacherous life. The magazine said that teachers must do what could do help "make it a day for kind remembrance than a day for wrecking revenge."
Valentines and vinegar valentines alike were once a booming business; in 1905 San Francisco, 25,000 valentines were delayed because of overworked clerks. The more surly cards weren’t always welcomed by postmasters, however—another 25,000 valentines were held in a Chicago post office for being unfit to send, due to the many rude and vinegar valentines in the haul.

As valentines declined in lieu of expensive dinners or gifts, the vinegar valentine became less popular, though in some locations in the 1970s, they were still selling well. While some might mourn the romantic February 14 of the past with its long poems and declarations of love, it’s also much less likely we’ll get a nasty note in the mail as a Valentine’s surprise.

Now ... go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan
I'll leave you with a photo of this year's Valentine Tree
and a few of my favorite ornaments!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

one of my favorite holiday events ...

No, it's not opening gifts or drinking eggnog or singing Christmas songs or decorating the trees or watching our annual classic holiday movie marathon or even leaving diets far behind and indulging in far too many cookies and treats. Well, those are favorite holiday events - but yet another one is the window shopping tour of the elegant Manhattan department store Christmas window displays! There are so so so many beautiful things to see - and there are simply way too many stores and windows to post them all. So, here is my favorite of 2018 ... the candied, iced and lavish display of "Bergdorf Goodies!"
 "Cotton Candy"
 "Rich Chocolate"
 "Fluorescent Desserts"
 "Frozen Automat"
"Licorice Fantasy"

"This year our artistic team strived to become faux pastry chefs, dishing up a wall-to-wall profusion of sculpted confections." says David Hoey, senior director of visual presentation at Bergdorf Goodman.

I thought they did a superb job!

There were so many other gorgeous windows ... but I'll leave you with one of my favorite 'runner up' stores ... the magnificent Tiffany & Co. Their theme this year was "The Holidays Made by Tiffany." Indeed! Such a witty - and sparkling! - holiday they created!
and a little close up of the glittering merchandise on display!
 I can't wait to see what magical wonders Christmas 2019 will bring!, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan
 Saks Fifth Avenue "Theatre of Dreams" 2018 Theme

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

Best wishes for a rewarding, enriching and nourishing 2019! go make something beautiful! 
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan

Sunday, December 16, 2018

the countdown is beginning ...

... and the world is beginning to sparkle and shimmer!

Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan

Friday, September 28, 2018

Evidence that Architects and Engineers Should Never Smoke Crack ...

Okay. I know this is completely a diversion from my usual posts. But. Well. I saw these photos and I just couldn't believe them. So, I'm sharing them. I don't even have to write anything. The title of the post and the photos say it all!
Hope you enjoyed my little sampling of architectural and engineering blunders and disasters!
Be sure to check out the offerings of the other participants at Beverly's Pink Saturday blog hop!

Now, go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan

Friday, September 21, 2018

♪♫♬ Now Heaven Knows ... Anything Goes! ♪♫♬

Before James Dean moved into the Chateau Marmont and made it a Hollywood landmark and go-to spot for stars to get up to no good, there was the far more notorious, but now long-forgotten Garden of Allah. The hotel’s ambrosial name certainly had no reflection on its reputation as the never-ending house party on Sunset Boulevard. F Scott Fitzgerald was among the many famous tenants of the Garden, where he embarked on a love affair while Zelda was tucked away in a sanitarium. Resident Marlene Dietrich liked to swim nude in what was then Hollywood’s largest pool, and even the would-be President Ronald Reagan stayed at the hotel, where he bedded so many women that he once told a friend ‘I woke up one morning and I couldn’t remember the name of the gal that I was in bed with.’
As you might have guessed, the Garden of Allah had no ties with the religion of Islam, but rather to one of Hollywood’s first movie stars, Russian silent film actress, Alla Nazimova. She acquired the 2.5 acre property in West Hollywood in 1919 as her private residence, but as the popularity of silent films began to wane with the introduction of talking pictures, she was advised to convert the property into a residential hotel and spared no expense in adding 25 Spanish style villas around the original house and a swimming pool in the shape of the Black Sea. She jokingly called her new venture “The Garden of Alla”, (the ‘h’ would come later) in reference to the best-selling 1905 novel, which inspired three Hollywood movies of the same name, one of which even starred hotel resident, Marlene Dietrich.
Alla Nazimova
But Nazimova didn’t cut it as a hotel manager and within a year of running the place, found herself in financial crisis and her career in tatters. She sold off her interest in the property to new owners, who normalized the spelling in the hotel’s name to “Garden of Allah”, and after a brief hiatus from Hollywood and a failed stint on Broadway, she became a tenant in her own hotel, renting Villa 24, where she lived until her death in 1945.
While the hotel originally sold itself as a quaint village-like setting for the famous away from tourists and autograph-seekers, Alla Nazimova’s own lifestyle set the libertine tone of the establishment. The bohemian actress was open about her sexual relationships with women long before it was socially acceptable, and has been credited with originating the phrase “sewing circle”– a discreet code for female orgies. Her parties were legendary, even during the Prohibition years when liquor flowed freely within the garden’s gates. The property had several entrances, making it easy for Hollywood stars to sneak in their lovers. Sex parties, drunken rages and hedonist indulgence was a common occurrence at The Garden of Allah thanks to its roster of unconventional patrons.
This was before the days of the Beverly Hills mansions and luxurious neighbourhoods that Hollywood stars would later call home. Many actors tended only to come into town during production of the films they were working on, and The Garden of Allah provided that short or long-term escape from reality for those whose job it was to provide that escape for everyone else.

Some stayed in between films, some stayed in between marriages– like Humphrey Bogart, who was once attacked with a kitchen knife in his Garden villa by his estranged wife, who had found him living there with Lauren Bacall. Fellow residents gathered around the house to watch the scene as Bacall escaped out the back door.
 There was never a dull moment at the Garden. “It Girl” Clara Bow was notorious for pushing hotel butlers off the diving boards and management looked the other way while the original Tarzan actor was said to have satisfied his numerous “Janes” in the hotel pool. One famous Broadway actress answered her bungalow door naked while her pet monkey collected telegrams from startled delivery boys. An inebriated American comedian and writer, Robert Benchley, would often have himself moved in a wheelbarrow between the villas’ endless parties.
The Garden of Allah being the last place you would deem suitable for a writer to stay sober and create a disciplined life, also became one of the final homesteads of F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1937. His friend Thomas Wolfe wrote to him, “I’ll be damned if I’ll believe anyone lives in a place called the Garden of Allah”. While carrying on a relationship with his biographer and lover Sheilah Graham (who would also write a book about the hotel, The Garden of Allah), Scott did actually manage to accomplish some of his last literary achievements there.

 It’s also believed to be the last place Scott ever met Ernest Hemingway, another resident of the Garden during his little-known stint in Los Angeles trying to promote his documentary on the Spanish Civil War. Of their last meetings, Fitzgerald said: “I talk with the authority of failure–Ernest with the authority of success. We could never sit across the table again.”

Walking from villa to villa, you might hear the clack of Fitzgerald’s typewriter before moving on to the sound of jazz king Benny Goodman or singer Eartha Kitt practising for their next gigs. Frank Sinatra met his future wife Ava Gardner there and stayed in adjoining bungalows.

Despite the debauchery and the scandal, the Garden was also an unlikely creative haven, confirmed by the long list of iconic names who chose to stay there. Orson Welles, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Greta Garbo, Ginger Rogers and Laurence Olivier– it’s easier to say who didn’t check in at the Garden rather than who did.
In later years, drugs became the poison of choice at the Garden of Allah, and not long after Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield could be found on the sunken dancefloor in a haze of cannabis smoke, the hotel had become a rather seedy scene. Prostitutes were regular visitors to the bar, villas were more frequently burgled and even the mob was rumoured to be sending in their molls to seduce, trap and blackmail celebrities.
Newer stars in Hollywood like James Dean and Montgomery Clift were choosing to stay at the nearby Chateau Marmont instead. As the City of Los Angeles was expanding, soon enough, the real estate the Garden was built on became more valuable as commercial property than the hotel itself.
In 1959, finance man Bart Lytton, president of Lytton Savings and Loan, announced that he had purchased the Garden of Allah Hotel and intended to raze it to make way for a new main branch for his bank. He offered to throw one last party to bid farewell to The Garden of Allah and attendees came costumed as old-time stars in a nod to its early history.
 Alla Nazimova’s experimental 1923 silent film Salomé was shown on a large poolside screen, and from the looks of photographs taken on the night, guests certainly made sure the hotel lived up to its rather messy reputation. Before the bulldozer came in, an on-site auction emptied the hotel of all its furnishings, fixtures and oddities for souvenir hunters. And just like that, Hollywood’s most notorious hotel house party was gone without a trace.
Today, the site boasts a strip mall, and a bank branch. For a few years, Lytton kept a model of the hotel on display outside the bank, which eventually disappeared for about 40 years. It then resurfaced in 2010 when a local hairstylist, David Meyers, who was looking to lease a shop space in the remodeled Lytton centre, found it covered in dust.
Tourist postcard of Alla Nazimova's mansion 
which would become the notorious Garden of Alla

Be sure to see the other offerings of the participants in Beverly's Pink Saturday blog hop!

Now go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan
Click on the above image to read a roster of 
the Hollywood royalty and elite who were
guests and residents at The Garden of Allah
Such fun!
Aerial photo showing The Garden of Allah main mansion and
various surrounding 'villas' and bungalows
One of the courtyards at The Garden of Allah
The notorious swimming pool at The Garden of Allah - 

known not only for the lascivious behavior there, 
but for being the largest swimming pool in Hollywood at the time.