EQUAL PARTS RHINOCEROTIDAE & ALPHA-METHYLHENETHYLAMINE



Bright Young Things aiming for that dissipated Brahmin heiress look, make note: Kenny Jay Lane chandelier earrings, khol applied in copious amounts, The Kinks LP skipping on your turntable -- all baby steps! Its way important to ingest a lot of pharmaceutical-grade amphetamine (Benzedrine, Dexedrine, and/or Methedrine) and then arabesque on a leather rhino.


Because, for half a century, WASP matrons have decorated degenerate daughter's and son's starter apartments with these charming footstools, made by a small British company called Omersa. Alas, like so many of the finer things in life, it will cost you. Upwards of "One Large" in street vernacular. And remember, its the Greater Depression. (In other words, Daddy's dividends have dwindled.) So... what to do? Ask Mummy to write a bad cheque to "The Man" for the afore-mentioned pharmies. And go in arrears on the rent!


Then, wrap that Balenciaga chinchilla 'round those narrow shoulders and run, don't walk, up Park Avenue in your opaque-stockinged feet. Directly to Scully & Scully; exclusive U.S. distributors of the extensive range of leather animals, just like Miss Sedgwick's.

DESSERT, BACK IN THE DAY, AT THE BROWN DERBY RESTAURANT


Rudolf Freidrich was head pastry chef at Los Angeles' fabulous Brown Derby, during in the 1940's. My friends Glenn and Robert discovered these pictures at auction, a few years back. 'Nuf said.







CLINGSTONE HOUSE, DUMPLING ISLAND


As a boy, I was in love with... a house. Is it possible to be in love with real estate? I think so. Like so many romantic interests, a home -- whether lived in, or worshiped from afar -- also has the ability to convey complex and contradictory floods of emotions. Think "attractive liability doctrine" of the law of torts.

 

Each summer, our family spent quite a bit of time in Newport, Rhode Island. At a distant cousin's place, the eighteenth century Pagoda House (so-called, because of the quirky shape of its roof). But that's another story. Anyways, as we crossed the Newport Bridge each time, to and fro, to and fro, from my vantage point seated in the back of the car I'd look out across the water to catch just a tantalizing glimpse of a small island, right in the middle of the Narragansett Bay, with a massive house built over it. (Much later, I learned that the house is called Clingstone, built in 1904 by a Philadelphian, Mr. J. S. Lovering Wharton.) Year by year, I grew a little older and Clingstone stayed the same: a three story shingle-style beach cottage with 26 rooms, clinging like a stubborn old tortoise to a small outcropping of rock, the miniscule and delightfully named Dumpling Island. Clingstone looks fragile, and formidable. 


One summer, a friend of my parent's who also lived in Newport and shall remain nameless, committed suicide. He was handsome. Successful. Involved in the Arts. We would see him at the beach. I liked him a lot. And then one morning, at Pagoda House, I stood atop the back stairs and listened as the adults whispered to each-other in the kitchen down below. They said something to the effect of: "Last night So-and-so pulled over and parked his car right in the middle of the Newport Bridge, and then..." Afterwards, he wasn't at the beach anymore. Since that particular summer, twenty-five-or-so years ago, there remain 'No Parking' signs, installed the span of the bridge every hundred yards. He deserved a better epitaph.


An August 1904 society item in The Philadelphia Press reads, “Everyone is of the opinion here that Mr. Wharton will not stay in the house more than one season, and they say one nor’easter will settle it.” Mr. Wharton spent every summer there, on Dumpling Island, until his death just before the devastating hurricane of 1938. Clingstone suffered little damage.



BREUKLYN BOY DAVID IS JULY


David resides at a really chic apartment on the top floor of an 1880's townhouse located in Crown Heights, and is July's Ascent of A PyrAmid Breuklyn Boy. He wears great-grandpa's stovepipe topper. The hat, made of beaver fur, is about 120 years old, and quite obviously a super-deluxe one, at that. Oh, and notice the bas-relief hanging above the bed? That's a portrait of David's great-grandpa.

Yes, Virginia. There isn't a Jean Dixon Museum



Nixon referred to her exclusively as "the soothsayer". Of course Nancy Reagan put her on the ole' White House payroll, too. Alas, Virginia's Jean Dixon Museum and Library has permanently closed doors, and so The Republican Witch's personal effects are to be auctioned July 25th at Mayland's Sloans & Kenyon. In addition to the astrologers, um, two crystal balls, her crucifixes and collection of Chanel chapeaux,  other curiosities remain worthy of mention. 

Here, a tantalizing sample:  numerous portraits of her familiar, a cat called Mike (as well as his extensive wardrobe e.g. denim overalls, evening clothes, and a mink coat). Also, a peculiar portrait by John George Spencer-Churchill (1909 –1992), nephew of Winston. I covet the photograph with astronaut John Glenn, inscribed "...so glad your predictions came true.

Aren't we all?






Crinolines & Curly Fries



Fulton Mall is, unquestionably Brooklyn's Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It is the place in King's County to promenade, on any given afternoon, work your man fur, miles of gold chain, Manchurian fingernails. Now that restaurant Gage & Tollner's has closed  --  after having served seafood  for over 100 years in an 1875 townhouse  -- Fulton Mall needs a better dining establishment. Word on the street: Arby's is taking over Gage & Tollner's old space! Yet, indigenous interwebs sites like brownstoner.com buzz with loathing. 


Why?


Personally, I'm thrilled.


Because, back in the day, neighborhood swells like Mae West and Diamond Jim Brady slurped down oysters and clams at Gage & Tollner's luxurious, gas-lit interior. And its formerly fantastic  fin de siècle dècor will be fabulous once again. 'Cause the Arby's folks are working with the city's landmarks preservation committee.  So there is no need to worry, Sons of Brooklyn. Arby's at Fulton will be a great place to impress your shortee. Be a gentleman, pick up the tab. You'll merely be throwin' down Greater Depression-era kinda change, it won't blow your budget for that fresh pair of Nikes. 'Til then, practice your best summer saunter, with trousers belted at the knee. And peep the menu at arbys.com



THAI SCHTICK


This guy is working a lot of Thai necklaces made of wooden beads and wool pom poms. Evidence that if one can find a good accessory, the rest of the look is secondary. Camouflage really is the new beige, eh?

One's Treasure is Another's Trash, Part I


Miss Havisham and Pip in the dining room at Satis House;
David Lean's interpretation of Great Expectations (1946)

Lately, a lot of fuss is being made over down-about-the-heels interiors. And the disposophobic inhabitants of said, sad places. Folks seemingly entombed in aspic hors d'œuvre made of equal parts atrophied emotion, exquisite antiques, and household garbage. Fabulous, filthy rooms and their creators -- say, in the spirit of Dickens' Miss Havisham at Satis House -- are these days very of-the-moment, for some strange reason. What comes to mind is, of course, the recently retold story of a grotesque shingle-style beach cottage, Grey Gardens, out on Long Island, and its psychologically and socially corrupted residents. Voyeurism of these Baroque interiors has trickled down to the masses with Help! I'm a Hoarder on The Learning Channel. And the -- maybe -- more high falutin' version: Japanese conceptual artist Song Dong's MOMA installation Waste Not, created from his mother's hoarding.


Grey Gardens, 1979

The sun room at Grey Gardens


Brothers Homer and Langley Collyer were the hermit hoarders of Harlem, bachelor brothers barricaded in a townhouse at 2078 Fifth Avenue. For nearly two decades. This is the Greek love version of Grey Gardens' mother-daughter Beales. In 1932, The New York Times printed gossip of the brother's as living in "Orientalist splendor" and of the piles of cash reputedly stashed inside. Rumors fueled by Homer and Langley's snobbish demeanor, as descendants of a family that prided its association with the Godspeed. (A ship arrived on these shores shortly after the Mayflower, and reputedly had a more exclusive passenger list.) Homer and Langley were usually seen at night, carting home street trash in antiquated clothing. Eccentric behaviors, fersure.


(Admittedly, I am also known for working the sidewalk after-hours, wearing, say, a 19th century petit point waistcoat and tight-fitting corduroy knickerbockers, with a trash-scavenged naïve painting or a Windsor chair balanced atop my head.)


Anyways, both men were found dead in 1947, surrounded by over one hundred tons of rubbish, including: countless bundles of newspapers and magazines stacked literally floor-to-ceiling, guns, bowling balls, a horse-drawn carriage, a Model T chassis, plaster busts, rusty bed springs, eight live cats, 25,000 books, tapestries, fourteen pianos, two organs, as well as human organs pickled in jars. Today, these astonishing tabloid photographs of Collyer style deserve to be re-interpreted from an aesthetic point of view.


1947 Spring Cleaning at the Collyer Mansion, 2078 Fifth Avenue, Harlem, New York

New York City firefighters still refer to an emergency call to a junk-jammed apartment as a''Collyer.''

The odor was likened by one reporter as
"...a punch to the face by a chain-mail fist".

"The morning papers seem to be piling up awful high
in the breakfast room", said Homer to Langley.

A typical, high-style New York interior at the turn of the last century, from the vantage point of a fly on the wall.

The deathly quiet music room,
and a portrait of Mr. Collyer, Sr.

"HORRORS! Somebody's removing the books from my room! Where'd this little book come from?" -- E.B.B.


A word of dialog stuck with me, from 2009's version of Grey Gardens. Drew-Barrymore-as-Edith-Bouvier-Beale says "If" to Jeanne-Tripplehorn-as-Jacqueline-Bouvier-Kennedy.


"If" in context of "If Joe Kennedy, Jr hadn't died, then I 'd be First Lady".


Although I'd pay top dollar to see how Little Edie's might have decorated The White House, I'm way more interested in the seemingly-innocuous, two letter word.


Ifs attempt to alter the past, in order to revise the present. Ifs can, quite obviously, be futile wishes, but are hopeful ones, too.


Edith Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens: A Life in Pictures (2008) interprets the priviledge of a young lady; a document of the chain of her life's events until the moment just before she steps to the other side of the looking glass.

Dog Collars at Auction


My dog, "The Bug" is an American Staffordshire Terrier with fantastic taste. She woke up quite late this morning, and reminded me of a dog collar  auction next week, August 2nd, at Bonham's in Los Angeles. bonhams.com


Post-yawn chillaxing. Dreaming of a collar studded with agate cabachons...


A massive leather and brass collar with agate cabachons, 
Estimate: $1,000 - 1,500


A group of three leather and brass collars with brass studs, 
two from Maine Estimate: $300 - 500 

A group of three British silver and leather cased collars, 
Estimate: $2,500 - 3,500 

A Victorian silver and leather adjustable collar, 
Estimate: $2,000 - 3,000

A George III brass collar with jagged edges,
Estimate: $1,500 - 2,000

A German 17th century iron linked collar with spikes, 
Estimate: $3,000 - 5,000

JEEPERS SNEAKERS...


You can't get these creepers made for Disneyland's Haunted Mansion 40th Anniversary. Its a dead issue, 'cause sadly they are no longer available. The canvas design is, of course, a facsimile of the hall wallpaper back at the 'ole manse. Maybe you'll get lucky, and find 'em on ebay.

Ones Treasure is Another's Trash, Part II

My mother's family at 608 North Cañon Drive in 1967, the year I was born. Sunny Scott holds me, at center. Already, I seem transfixed by the camera's powerful presence.


My grandparent's fantastic 1920's pink stucco Mediterranean-style house, at 608 North Cañon Drive in Beverly Hills, was photographed for a Los Angeles Times cover story in the early 1970s. And published under a headline extoling it's longtime residents as the chi chi neighborhood's indigenous hillbillies. A cruel riff, of course, on the popular television program. The reporter scaled an alley wall behind the house to discover a plot of dusty earth bound by herbaceous borders of straggling woodbine and broken liquor bottles, patrolled by a leopard... skin coat, draped over a sagging clothesline. I like to imagine the luxe fur had been let out in the fragrant air to freshen a sour odor that clung to it, say, a heady mixture of Camel cigarettes and Guerlin's Jardins de Bagatelle, after a night out on the town at Chasen's, Coconut Grove, or maybe The Brown Derby. And then it had been forgotten and left there. For a decade. Or two. My mother's '65 Ford Thunderbird convertible -- white, with a mouldy green canvas top, and tethered by a massive fallen tree branch -- lorded over 'the chauffeur's cottage' a derelict and crooked structure that re-created the main house in miniature.


608's high-studded reception rooms opened on to several interior courtyards, with pissed-dry cement fountains and old-growth lemon and avocado trees strangled by creeping fig. From a child's perspective, distorted by memory, the house invokes the labyrinth of the Minoan palace at Knossos on Crete. Granny had altered the floor plan to become a maze of perilously stacked, slippery bundles of magazines, newspapers. Blind alleys did not lead to the Minotaur's lair. Instead, looming and ghastly-looking Chinese antiquities lay in wait, silhouetted forms of vengeful demons and smirking Buddhas, which had passed down along with the so-called CREB "alcoholism" gene from my grandfather's family. The living room's original décor, as preserved in home movies, is barely recognizable to me: rustling, gauzy curtains diffuse that famous California light; a suite of Victorian furniture is upholstered in immaculate, powder blue cotton velvet. Foreshadowing of the wreck it would become: Staffordshire lamps placed around the room, representing doomed characters from the works of Shakespeare.



Staffordshire Romeo & Juliet Figure, c.1855


Into creating theatrics at home? Bishop and Daughter Antiques has a fine collection of Staffordshire Shakespearian actor figures. Procure one for about a thousand bucks, have it mounted as a lamp, and let the drama begin. bishopantiques.com



ONE'S TREASURE IS ANOTHER'S TRASH, AND VICE VERSA, part III D.I.Y


To achieve this uniquely American-Gothic style in your own home, throw away all garbage cans, refuse to pay utility bills, bend the good silver via psychokinesis, and engage in heated conversation with family portraits. Find additional inspiration in works of literature:



Halsey House, 1801
Providence, Rhode Island

The House of the Seven Gables, 1668
(photographed c. 1900)
Salem, Massachusets


After Holbein, (1928) Edith Wharton's momento mori of old crone Mrs. Jasper, once New York's leading hostess. Now hideous in her askew tiara on a purple-black wig, and seated at one end of the long uninhabited dining table in her big house on Fifth Avenue. Sèvres Rose Dubarry centerpieces are arranged with crumpled newspaper to substitute hothouse orchids; mineral water is announced by the footman as Château Lafite, '74 and handed in turn to one after another of the spectral guests.


In H. P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, (1927) -- the titular character lives in "a great Georgian mansion atop the well-nigh precipitous hill that rises just east of the river" inspired by Providence's Halsey House, built in 1801.


Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, (1851) inspired by a late-seventeenth century house in Salem, Massachusetts. Old Hepzibah Pyncheon, dignified in her rusty silks but desperately poor, worry's over "a china tea-set painted over with grotesque figures of man, bird, and beast..." indistinguishable from her own memories. "They were almost the first teacups ever seen in the colony." Hepzibah says "And if one of them were to be broken, my heart would break with it."


These clever author's conceits construct complex works of fiction around historic, tangible places to emphasize the seemingly-ancient trappings of civilization as trivia in relationship to the vaster, more ancient chaos of the universe.


In order to "Keep up with the Jones'es" :

(referring to the comparison of one's neighbour as a benchmark for the accumulation of material goods, its origins in the privileged lifestyle of Edith Wharton, née Edith Newbold Jones, father's family*) take a second morgage out on the 'ole manse and procure a Qianlong Chinese export porcelain tea service for your very own, and similar to Hepzibah's, at Richard Gould's shop in Los Angeles.

richardgouldantiques.com/chinesexport


*Shari Benstock, No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton. (New York: Scribner's, 1994), 26.


More tips for the ardent do-it-yourselfer:

Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, Tolin, Frost, Steketee Oxford University Press (2007)

www.amazon.com