February 28, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Looking at this year’s Best Picture nominees, I realized that while I had liked three, nine out of nine had made me tear up—including The Wolf of Wall Street. Fellow movie criers will understand. Especially for those of us who might hesitate to cry in the light of day, there is a singular pleasure to letting tears flow, even—or maybe especially—when what’s happening on screen is really stupid. I come by this honestly. My father refuses to see any movie in which a child dies.
This outpouring of emotion is not limited to the cinema; after watching Audra McDonald and Norm Douglas perform “Bess You Is My Woman Now” in the recent revival of Porgy and Bess, my mom and I were so overcome that we had to skip the second act and go get a drink across the street. And the list of songs I can’t listen to dry-eyed is so long that I’ve had to quarantine them in their own Spotify playlist. But movies are the biggest culprit.
The first movie that made me inconsolable was Dumbo—“Baby Mine,” of course, after he’s been taken from his mother—and the second, I believe, was Chipmunk Adventure, after the baby penguin is taken from his mother. My brother and I both sobbed so loudly in Land Before Time (after the baby dinosaur is taken from his mother) that we had to leave the theatre. Thank God we were never exposed to Bambi. (My mother, traumatized to realize that she was “Man,” resolved at age five to spare her own kids the same shock.) Read More »
February 27, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Saturday is a special day for buying and doing beautiful things. A whole day stretching ahead. It’s a new lifestyle. A man. A woman. Art exhibits. Antiquing. Movies. Cocktails. Shopping. … together. You’re searching for a special gown. You want something different. You find it at Regalia, a fully-lined chiffon and velvet gown with matching hot pants. You know fashion. You’re a member of Saturday’s Generation. —Schenectady Gazette ad for Regalia Boutique, 1971
Recently, Gothamist featured a 1976 60 Minutes story on said “Saturday’s Generation”—a short-lived term for the young people who “walk and glide, trip and mince, and stride” through a Bloomingdale’s of a Saturday, doing and buying beautiful things and picking each other up.
In the segment, Blair Sabol (of the Village Voice) describes Saturday’s Generation in terms that, today, may as well be a foreign language, but that seem to spell out proto-yuppie. “I think of a couple, and they live on the Upper East Side, and they have chrome and glass furniture, and they’ve got the brie cheese, and they’re wearing the Famous Amos T-shirt, and they’ve got the right patch jeans … that’s a very heavy identity.” Read More »
February 26, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
“I didn’t even know you could still get that!” exclaimed a rather fabulous looking tiny woman in a turban and plaid coat. I had ordered a date-nut bread sandwich with cream cheese. We were on line at the Chock Full o’ Nuts kiosk located in my neighborhood Gristede’s.
This supermarket is notable partly for its mysterious principles of organization: spices, for instance, can be found in three different aisles in the store. When I need something that defies obvious shelving classification—liquid smoke, say, or rice noodles—I come here, just to challenge myself. (In those two cases, I failed and ended up having to ask for help. The items were in, respectively, the salad dressing and “International Foods” sections.)
Anyway, I had gone to the Chock Full o’ Nuts to get my usual: the “Chock Classic” sandwich, a bargain at $2.99, so rich and filling that it extends to at least three small meals. (For the uninitiated, the business did start as a nut stand in the twenties. A few years ago, Chock had to add the slogan “NO NUTS! 100% Coffee” to its packaging.) The sandwich was an economical standby on the menus of the restaurant chain, which used to be all over New York, and now serves as a reminder of Chock’s glory days. It was this that caught my neighbor’s eye. Read More »
February 25, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
The MTA has an initiative called Poetry in Motion, which brings verse to riders of the New York City subway. The last time I was groped on the subway, I was reading one such poem: “To the Reader: Twilight,” by Chase Twichell. It is an enjoyable, accessible poem—they tend to be—but it felt strangely apt.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any woman who rides any public transport for any length of time will, at some point, come into close contact with a covert masturbator. I should amend that, actually: it is universally acknowledged among women; men are always surprised to learn that this is a quotidian reality of distaff urban existence.
“Was it a very crowded train?” asked my mother, the first time it happened to me. I nodded tearfully. “Was it a businessman in a suit? It always is,” she said grimly. I was fourteen at the time, looked twelve, and found the experience exceedingly disturbing. We did not yet have poetry in the subway.
“Next time it happens,” said my mom, “shout ‘PERVERT! PERVERT!’ and everyone will turn on him.” Read More »
February 24, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
As John Updike wrote in a 2008 New Yorker piece, Max Factor was “the inventor of modern makeup.” Not only did this former beautician to the czars concoct the first movie makeup (it held up under hot lights) and bring commercial cosmetics to the average American drugstore, he also invented lipstick, mascara, lip gloss, false eyelashes, and foundation. Most original of all, in its way, was his invention of “Color Harmony”—i.e., the concept that your makeup should match your hair and complexion. In the early days of one-size-fits-all beauty, this was a paradigm shift, and it is memorialized in his office building at 1660 North Highland, now the Hollywood Museum, where you can still visit his original four rooms: for blondes (blue-hued; the ribbon was cut by Jean Harlow), redheads (green, Ginger Rogers), brunettes (pink, Claudette Colbert), and brownettes (peach, Rochelle Hudson).
For this was the idea: when a starlet walked into one of these rooms, she could look in the mirror and tell immediately whether she was meant to go blonde (as both Harlow and Marilyn did, in the blue room), or perhaps red, like Lucy. “For Redheads Only,” reads the sign on the door of the room off the museum lobby, and while I had always privately fancied that I might look ravishing with russet locks, it cannot be denied that the green-hued walls gave me a distinctly bilious cast. Color Harmony confirmed that, as nature intended, I was an unglamorous brownette. Read More »
February 21, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
The Hammer Museum, in LA, is currently showing an exhibition titled “Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880 to 1914.” The juxtaposition of the two substances is deliberate; the show aims to present what the curators call “a multidimensional portrait of the Parisian woman at the turn of the century, spanning from the frilly collars of the upper class to the dirty syringes of the desperately poor.” All of this is represented by some of the great artists of the day in a series of arresting engravings, paintings, and lithographs. (Occasional bits of ephemera—and books like Les morphinées—round out the show.)
By definition, the portrayals run the gamut from civilized—George Bottini’s graceful fin de siècle women shopping or walking down Parisian boulevards—to depraved. But even the most abject addict is glossed with romance. The renderings, whether they be stylized art nouveau commercial work or a Bonnard etching, are so achingly beautiful as to provide a sense of continuity. All these women, whatever they were drinking, were muses.
And the show is at pains, via notes and curation, to make it clear that one substance was not synonymous with only one group of subjects; monied women frequently resorted to morphine in the nineteenth century, to the point where their widespread drug use became a problem. Meanwhile, even when yielding acid, or injecting morphine, the demimondaine is rendered with the same beauty and care, avenging goddesses and righteous furies. (Which is all very well, if you were a Parisian prostitute.) As Proust—no stranger to morphine himself—would have it, “The paradoxes of today are the prejudices of tomorrow, since the most benighted and the most deplorable prejudices have had their moment of novelty when fashion lent them its fragile grace.” That women numbing themselves was so pervasive a theme is both scary and illuminating.
But here is the thing. Shortly after studying the images in this exhibition, I took a walk and saw this: Read More »