Tuesday, August 19, 2014
In March, when Rihanna and Eminem announced the dates for their joint, three-city Monster Tour, I wasn’t sure what tickets to get. It would be practical to get seated tickets, but in huge venues like New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, which has over 80,000 seats, even the best seats are fairly far away from the stage. I thought maybe I’d want to brave general admission for a spot on the floor, similar to what my sister and I did in 2011 at Lollapalooza. That experience was harrowing, but unforgettable. I was sure I could cope with the early arrival and day-long wait necessary for a great standing spot in GA, but would I be able to recruit a friend to accompany me? Under pressure when tickets went on sale for the August tour dates, I decided to not decide: I got seated tickets for Saturday’s show and GA/standing tickets for Sunday. After all, I had months to figure out a plan and sell the extra tickets.
Time flies, as it does, and even though I couldn’t think of any ardent Eminem or Rihanna fans among my friends and the concert weekend was looming, I couldn’t bear to sell those floor tickets. Between the time the tickets went on sale and the show dates, I purchased tickets for and attended an Eminem solo show at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium in London. I had great seats for that but still felt so far away. I kept looking at the people right in front of the stage and thinking, “I wish I were there.” Finally, with mere days to go, I turned to my gorgeous and generous friend Jen. My birthday is in December, but Jen often treats me to a celebratory concert or play in the spring. That timing is just our tradition. Back in March, I had shyly mentioned that the best gift would be her company at the Monster Tour, but I hadn’t want to force the issue. She definitely didn’t fall into the ardent fan category and it seemed too much to ask. But, last week, I decided to throw myself on her mercy and she cheerfully said yes, because that’s the kind of person she is.
Therefore, on Saturday, I used the seated tickets with MrB. We wound up getting there shortly after doors opened because we weren’t sure how challenging it would be to get on one of the buses running between Port Authority and the stadium. (It wasn’t challenging at all, either getting there or getting back. Great service!)
If you’re ever going to a music event at MetLife, you can’t do much better than seats in the second row of section 142 on the side of the stage. (Well, you could do the first row!) The front of that section is as close as you can get without being on the floor. When we arrived in 142 on Saturday, only the diehard, front-of-the-stage people were in position, so I got to study the set-up. I noticed that it seemed very civilized and I was encouraged.
Here are the first 10 minutes of the show from section 142.
That’s actor Michael Imperioli — Christopher Moltisanti on The Sopranos — in the video clip that kicks off the show. Whenever I see him, I remember the conversation his character had with his girlfriend Adriana (Drea de Matteo) about his dream of leaving the Mafia to become a male model. LOL.
After Saturday night, I would have been kicking myself if I’d gotten rid of the floor tickets, because I couldn’t wait to see it all again, closer up. I had learned some valuable lessons from my Lollapalooza experience, so I was back at the stadium on Sunday at 10 a.m. on the dot, when the line was officially open. That’s when I learned that if you’re really dedicated, you hop the fence at 6 a.m. before security gets there. Dammit!
There still weren’t many people in front of me — maybe 50 — and I made a few friends by inviting people to share a drugstore tablecloth I brought along to sit on. One of those new friends was Jessie, a veteran of general-admission concerts, who got on line shortly before me. I offered her some Goldfish pretzels and, in return, she gave me helpful tips while I was waiting for Jen to arrive. For instance, bringing an umbrella for shade is better than just wearing a hat. I was interested to learn that Jessie usually went to GA shows alone. I found that idea a lot less scary after being there for a little while because the MetLife crowd was much friendlier than the one at Lollapalooza. (Though I guess you can’t predict these things because Jessie told me that the most violent crowd she was ever in was the audience for … emo songstress Lana Del Rey.) In fact, the whole Monster Tour experience was a breeze compared to Lollapalooza, where we had to run to the field in front of the stage and wait standing up, defending our spots constantly, for 9 1/2 hours. It did get ferociously hot on the asphalt in front of MetLife but we had occasional cloud cover and at least most of our waiting was done outside the stadium where we could sit, visit a misting tent and buy cold drinks from vendors. Jen and I shared a giant cherry-flavored Italian ice.
“This is so much worse than I expected,” moaned a gal named Michelle, as she wilted in the heat on a corner of my tablecloth. Meanwhile, I kept saying to Jen, “This is so much easier than I expected!” I decided misting tents and Italian ices were my new favorite things. Despite all the time we had, I never took a full outfit photo, but in the photo above you can see my Prada sunglasses from 2013; the hat I wore to Lollapalooza in 2011; the denim Current/Elliott shorts I got this summer; and the Eminem t-shirt I got at Wembley in July. I also wore the Prada sneakers I wore to Lollapalooza. Those really work well for long days. I kept the jewelry minimal: Skylar Grey double-ax necklace; middle finger and sign of the horns emoji earrings; and letter rings for my left hand.
Jen wore my Eminem-appropriate swear rings.
We were told we would get wristbands at 5 p.m. so shortly before that, everyone went to put their stuff in their cars or kicked things they weren’t keeping to the curb — the latter category included my drugstore tablecloth. (Important piece of advice for anyone who wants to attempt this sort of thing: Make sure you’re bringing nothing in except your money, phone and camera to make going through security as quick as possible. No bag, no nothing!) We got the wristbands and immediately bunched up in order to move a few inches forward, even though the keepers of the line told us, “Don’t bunch up!”
Then security came by with a big rope and pulled it across the line right in back of Jen. They were dividing the crowd into segments in order to keep the entry controlled and we just squeaked into the first group. Woot! We raced through security and ran to the next checkpoint, with me holding Jen’s hand tightly. I wish I took video of what happened next. I saw someone else doing it, so maybe I’ll find it online. A number of security people stretched out a big rope. We all bunched up behind the rope and then security slowly walked backward, keeping everyone behind the rope and trying to prevent the running that can lead to disaster. The security folks had a tough time, stopping frequently to shout at the people in the back — we were only about three or four deep — for “pushing.” But we weren’t! It was the people in the front who were having trouble controlling their urge to run. Finally, the main security guy, who was very red in the face, warned us one more time that anyone who ran would be thrown out, then screamed “DROP THE ROPE!” at his colleagues. Everyone walked a few steps and then ran like hell. Jen and I landed second row, center.
We were so pleased with ourselves.
All day, a bunch of camera guys from Eminem’s Shady Films were filming and interviewing people for a “project about Eminem’s fans,” but I suspect anything that comes out of this is largely going to be about Zolt. He was talking to the camera people for ages while on line and then, during the show, there was a single camera guy focused on him for nearly the entire concert. A producer even handed Zolt a bottle of water like he was the on-camera “talent.” I wonder if this is a strategic move: Make a guy feel like the star he wants to be, and you won’t receive an invitation to join his Catcher in the Rye book club.
Anyway, we were in position by 6 p.m. Despite the open-air stadium, we were now out of the sun. The last couple of hours before the show started shortly after 8 p.m. continued to be heavenly compared to Lollapalooza. Drink vendors were stationed between the stage and the front row selling Gatorade and water. You could also slip out of the crowd, walk over to a beer/wine stand on the side of the floor, and get back to your spot. LUXURY! Jen and I shared a beer and a water and waited for the show to start … and I’ll wait for my next post to write about the concert itself.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Whoa! I haven’t done a “week in review” post in nearly a month! My big posts since then were the ones I did this week about my travels in Europe in July:
- We started off in Liverpool, indulging my love for the Beatles.
- After that, we went to London where, during a whirlwind stay, we saw Eminem at Wembley.
- We ended up in Greece, where friends showed us the time of our lives.
My three favorite Leos celebrated their birthdays this week:
- My gorgeous sister celebrated hers this Thursday.
- MrB celebrated his on Friday.
- Madonna’s birthday was Saturday.
And, as we all know, comedian Robin Williams died this week. I reiterated some of my previous observations about depression:
And here’s what else was on the blog since the last round-up post, from oldest to newest.
- Monday, July 21: A favorite Versace dress, worn in 2008 and 2014.
- Tuesday, July 22: Our 13th wedding anniversary.
- Wednesday, July 23: My seventh blogversary.
- Thursday, July 24: One gold dress worn in three different years.
- Friday, July 25: Rejected emojis.
- Sunday, July 27: Introducing Purrkoy the kitten.
- Monday, July 28: Gold-plated emoji earrings are now available at Nylon.
- Tuesday, July 29: My middle finger emoji single stud earring was featured in the New York Post.
- Wednesday, July 30: Wearing vintage Ossie Clark and lots of gold chains for a jewelry gala.
- Thursday, July 31: Stud and single earrings are big trends.
- Friday, August 1: I forgot to wear a pink wig to the Katy Perry concert.
- Saturday, August 2: People really do buy fine jewelry online.
- Sunday, August 3: This one about Pamela Courson’s mother is for Doors fanatics.
- Monday, August 4: The Jewel of the Month is literally “literally.”
- Tuesday, August 5: Sometimes it’s nice to overdress.
- Wednesday, August 6: Take a seat, Lil’ Kim. Nicki Minaj is copying RuPaul, Faye Dunaway and Joan Crawford.
- Thursday, August 7: A vintage Marie France dress in 2006 and 2014.
- Saturday, August 9: Designer Charles James had some smart things to say about popular taste.
- Sunday, August 10: Because my designs are often inspired by mourning jewelry, I’m excited for the October mourning attire exhibit at the Costume Institute.
Also last month, I was taking pre-orders on Kickstarter to produce more of my sterling-silver Chicken on Nest necklaces. People were disappointed when I sold out of those last December, so, even though I had been planning to discontinue the design, I wanted to see if it was possible to do a few more for customers who had missed out. However, I didn’t get the minimum number of orders I needed, so that design is now retired. A few people asked me if I could have done it closer to the holidays, when gift money would be burning holes in their pockets, but I had to allow eight to 10 weeks for manufacturing, so it is what it is! I have many other great new designs coming up, including whole new collections that are in the works, so you’ll have plenty of fun shopping options in December.
For you big spenders, the limited-edition, 18K-gold Chicken in Egg locket is still available!
Saturday, August 16, 2014
It’s Madonna’s 56th birthday today and in honor of the big event I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time — photograph as many of my Madonna tour t-shirts as I could find. Here is Henry the dog inspecting 14 concert shirts.
The oldest shirt is from 1990, in the top left corner. I’ve seen Madonna on every tour she’s done since 1985, so I’m missing two earlier shirts: 1985 and 1987. I went to the 1985 show at Radio City Music Hall in lieu of my high-school prom, so I’m sure I got a shirt to mark such a momentous occasion. It could have been lost in my move back east after my freshman year at Northwestern University. One of the boxes I shipped home never arrived, and it contained my 80 rubber Maripolitan bangles — bangles just like the ones Madonna wore. I wouldn’t be surprised if my t-shirt was in the same box. In 1987, I went to a special charity show that Madonna did to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research. I have the program from that, but no shirt. Strange. For some other tours, I have two shirts, one for each show I went to.
A more recent acquisition that’s missing from the photo is my Yankee Stadium hoodie from 2012. Where is that thing? I’m going to have to turn the apartment upside down looking for that. It’s got to be here somewhere.
Anyway, this represents nearly all of my wearable Madonna memorabilia, recorded for posterity at last. I guess the time I was “thisclose” to her Madgesty at an Oscar party in 2006, I could have made small talk by saying, “Hey, I have a lot of shirts with your face on them.” Weirdly, I had no desire to talk to her. I didn’t want to ruin our relationship with an awkward conversation. I just want to see the queen on stage. That’s enough for me!
UPDATED TO ADD: Thanks to my friend Peter for letting me know that I originally and incorrectly wrote that Madonna was 55 instead of 56. Oh, the shame! I didn’t mean to deprive the world of one year of Madonna’s life!
Friday, August 15, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published an amusing piece by Tim Kreider called, “A Man and His Cat.” It’s about being a Crazy Cat Guy, which Kreider was, even if, unlike me, he didn’t post photos of his cat online. (He did sing to his though.) While reading the essay, I laughed out loud several times, but this was my favorite part(bold emphasis mine):
“I’ve speculated that people have a certain reservoir of affection that they need to express, and in the absence of any more appropriate object — a child or a lover, a parent or a friend — they will lavish that same devotion on a pug or a Manx or a cockatiel, even on something neurologically incapable of reciprocating that emotion, like a monitor lizard or a day trader or an aloe plant.”
Kreider’s declaration that monitor lizards, day traders and aloe plants are all incapable of love … that’s highlarious to me.
I know another man who loves cats, and that’s MrB. It’s MrB’s birthday today, so, in honor of the big day, I’m reposting one of my favorite photos of him and his BFF, FitzRoy the cat.
MrB’s cat love has recently reached new levels, thanks to Purrkoy the kitten. We’ve never had a baby animal before and MrB is thrilled to see Purrkoy speeding around, pouncing on FitzRoy’s tail and falling into the food bowl. You know it’s love when a dude is constantly yelling to you from another room, “COME HERE AND SEE WHAT THE KITTEN IS DOING!!!!” In fact, MrB was the first one to see FitzRoy giving his new little brother a bath. (I felt like a mom who had missed her kid’s first word!)
FitzRoy has turned out to be a sweet, patient sibling, uncomplainingly putting up with wrestling practice and other kittenish behavior. Behold his calm demeanor as he chillaxes in a bookcase, observing Purrkoy’s urgent attempt to reach him.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
OMG! It’s my gorgeous sister Terri Berry‘s birthday today!
In honor of Terri’s birthday falling on a Throwback Thursday, one of her favorite photos. It’s from July 1987.
Terri took — and still takes! — great pride in the big hair she achieved that day. In the ’80s, we were all about “bigger is better” when it came to hair, and that’s some gold-medal-worthy hair right there. Terri was going to a Sweet 16 party that day. She went to get a manicure and everyone in the salon was awestruck by her ‘do and asked her where she got it done. She was rightly proud to say that she styled it herself. Honestly, this is the pinnacle of ’80s hair. I doubt anyone ever did it any better!
Happy birthday, Terri Berry!
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
While traveling in Europe last month, I did some things that I’d wanted to do for decades. I visited Liverpool, which I first dreamed of doing in 1980.
I’m glad Mark Lewisohn, the author of Tune In, the 2013 book about the Beatles that prompted me to finally take the trip, saw that I credited him with getting me off my ass and on to Penny Lane.
After Liverpool, I went to London and caught an Eminem concert at Wembley Stadium. I had been interested in going to Wembley since 1985.
I capped it off by going to Greece, a place I had thought about for even longer than the other two. When I was around eight or so, I loved to read about the Greek gods and goddesses in the encyclopedia, back when encyclopedias were leather-bound books sold by door-to-door salesmen. (We had the World Book Encyclopedia, not the Encyclopedia Britannica.) I was a voracious reader, so I enjoyed the “never-ending story” aspect of encyclopedia reading. I’d get to the end of one mythology entry and there would be a “SEE ALSO” suggestion with several related topics, and I would just keep going. No wonder I took to the Internet so easily in the 1990s. It’s the same thing. One link leads you to another and, as we all know, you can find yourself clicking away the whole day.
Greece wasn’t originally in our plans. Earlier in the year, MrB’s new Greek friend Petros said, “You and your wife must visit me and my family in Greece!” MrB said, “Sure, thanks!” but we viewed the invitation as one does such invitations in New York: a polite thing to say and nothing else. Petros viewed it differently. As summer approached, he emailed MrB the equivalent of “Well? When are you coming?” MrB and I were astonished: “Wait, he’s serious? Okay! Let’s book our tickets!” The plan was to go to Athens first, where we would tour the city ourselves, and then join Petros and his family at their house on the island of Kefalonia. Shortly before we left, we found out that Petros intended to entertain us in Athens too. We were worried we were imposing but Petros insisted, “We Greeks love to host our friends!” Well, okay!
In Athens, we spent time with Petros, his wife Anastasia, son Pavlos and daughter Selini. We had fantastic lunches and dinners with their friends. (I wore my decade-old Versace dress to one party.) I was pleased that one of their good friends is well-known jewelry designer Ileana Makri. Ileana and I bonded over having our designs knocked off by the same dude. “There are no new ideas,” Ileana noted. “Only interpretations, and I recognize MY interpretation when I see it!” Petros’s sister, a famous history professor, gave us a personal tour of the old area of Athens. We also had special tours of the Museum of Cycladic Art and the New Acropolis Museum. I meant to prepare for the Acropolis while I was in England by going to the British Museum to see the Elgin Marbles, but it was one of the only things I couldn’t squeeze into the few hectic days we had in London. The Elgin Marbles are the sculptures that Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, removed from the Parthenon and other Acropolis buildings during the early 19th century. He had permission from the Ottoman Empire — Turkey — which occupied the Greek territories at that time. A couple of decades later, the Greeks overthrew Turkish rule in the Greek War of Independence. There has been a long-running debate about returning the marbles to Greece. Greeks feel, among other things, that the removal of the work was authorized by what was essentially an occupying force. Did the Turks even have the right to sell off Greece’s heritage? The arguments against returning the marbles include (a) the move would set a precedent that would empty the world’s museums and (b) the patronizing assertion that the Greeks wouldn’t be able to take care of such valuable artifacts due to Greece’s debt crisis. Having seen the stunning Acropolis museum, which has an amazing view of the Acropolis buildings and places in the museum reserved for the marbles, I say, “Send everything back to Greece!” Those works would mean so much more at the original site, in the right context, than they do in London. Besides, England has plenty of its own impressive history to display in museums.
Pavlos (with Petros playing back-seat driver) drove us outside of Athens to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, so we could see the sun set over the Aegean Sea. Despite Pavlos’s Indy 500-worthy driving, we were a few minutes too late for the sunset, but it was beautiful anyway.
Legend says that the Aegean Sea got its name when Aegeus, the king of Athens, leaped to his death from this spot. He was awaiting the return of his son, Theseus, from Crete, where Theseus had faced down the half-man, half-bull Minotaur. Theseus had set sail in a ship with black sails. If he survived, he was supposed to return with white sales. But, you know how it is after you kill a monster. You’re all excited and you’ve got so much on your mind, you just forget to change your sails. Aegeus saw the black sails and, stricken with grief, committed suicide. Theseus inherited his throne. I got extra enjoyment out of this visit because I was reading Mary Renault’s novels about Theseus: The King Must Die and The Bull From the Sea. I like to do themed reading when I travel. Great books are even better when you’re in the places in which they’re set. If you like historical/mythological fiction, definitely check out Mary Renault. The way she characterized the Minotaur was brilliant. I’m reading her Alexander the Great books now.
After Athens, Petros, MrB and I were supposed to take a short flight to Kefalonia — Anastasia had gone ahead of us. We had a fun, unplanned adventure when we got to the airport and found out the travel agent had made a mistake with my ticket and there were no seats left on the flight. Petros exchanged many impassioned phone calls with the sheepish agent and the end result was that we were put on a helicopter instead. Petros was terribly apologetic about the confusion and I was like, “Are you kidding? This is so much better!”
The view was superb.
Our pilot was a former military guy, so we were in good hands.
The house on Kefalonia was at the top of a mountain, with stunning views in all directions.
I bonded with Pavlos’s Jack Russell puppy, Irma, who came to Kefalonia with us while Pavlos returned to England for a teaching job there. She already made an appearance on the blog here, but I have to share another photo.
I wish I got some video of Irma the night she sipped (or so we suspect) from the digestif glass I had set down on the patio next to my chair. She wilded out for a good 15 minutes.
We went swimming at two beaches — the water was so crystal-clear that you could stand still, look down, and count the little fishes.
We took a long and winding drive through the mountains to the village of Fiskardo on the other side of the island. Normally, we would have taken a pretty coastal drive, but that road was badly damaged by an earthquake earlier this year. The rental car apparently hated the twisting, dusty drive and gave up in the ghost in a tiny town.
We called a taxi and continued on our merry way to have dinner at the renowned Tassia Restaurant in Fiskardo.
I fed tiny bits of our sea bream to a stray cat that had settled at my feet until another stray cat found out about it and I nearly got in the middle of a catfight.
After a few days, we all flew back to Athens together — on a plane, not a helicopter. Petros and Anastasia went back to work, and MrB and I got ready for our flight home. When we parted at the airport, I had tears in my eyes because I didn’t want to let Anastasia go.
Before we left Kefalonia, Petros and Anastasia asked if we would come back next summer, and I was like, “Duh! I’m already buying the plane tickets.” (Irma was thinking, “I hope so, I never get any booze when you’re not here.”) My new ambition, after reading the Mary Renault books, is to visit Crete.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
MrB and I love London. We’ve gone there every year since 2008 to visit our many friends who live in the city or close to it. In particular, I like to meet up with gorgeous bloggers and drink Pimm’s. Here are my previous London posts.
- 2013: Pimm’s fest and a strange trench coat.
- 2012: Fish and chips and a wave from the queen.
- 2011: Drinking Pimm’s with gorgeous bloggers and the last News of the World.
- 2010: Pimm’s and bloggers, bloggers and Pimm’s.
- 2009: Interesting ladies’ room art, my friend Al Radley, meeting up with Zang Toi.
- 2008: English rain, Ossie Clark, in Mrs. Sting’s closet, the Wallace Collection, Kenilworth.
This July, we went to Liverpool first, then spent 3 1/2 days in London. It was a whirlwind 84 hours — one of those “I need a vacation after this vacation” experiences. I like that sort of thing, though. I told MrB, “I feel a vacation is successful based on how much I accomplish during it, and this vacation is very successful!”
On my London to-do list was a get-together with my gorgeous blogging friends. There were scheduling problems for a few of the regulars, but Kate of Twisted Skirt and Liz of Get Some Vintage-a-Peel made it to Balthazar for Pimm’s and Champagne. We played with jewelry — Kate had fun with two of my Maneater rings — and gossiped naughtily. I kept catching a woman at a neighboring table shooting me looks and was puzzled by that until I remembered I was wearing one of my blue lipsticks. You can see it in this photo.
In that photo, I’m wearing shoes I got at the Opening Ceremony store in Covent Garden last year, when I was also on my way to meet the bloggers at — wait for it — Balthazar. I’ve been obsessed with these shoes because they have a comfortable rubber sole, but a chunky heel too. There’s an Opening Ceremony in New York, and, for a full year, I’ve meant to go down there to look for summer-appropriate versions of the shoes. I never got around to it, so I thought it would be funny if I returned to the London store to do the shopping I could have easily done in New York. I had only 15 minutes to spare before I had to meet the wimmins this time, but I ran into that store and ran out with two more pairs of their rubber-soled shoes. Hmmm. That sounds like I stole them, and I can assure you that I paid for them. However, they were a steal! Both pairs had been marked down three times.
Bloggers and shoes — check and check on my to-do list! I also spent an afternoon with my friend Al Radley. I can’t go to London without seeing Al, who is the clothing manufacturer who owned the rights to the Ossie Clark name. He’s still very passionate about Ossie. Al celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this summer. I like making him re-tell all his World War II stories. Visit with Al — check!
MrB and I go to a lot of theater in London — much more than we do in New York. I don’t know why we prefer the West End to Broadway. Maybe it’s just the fact that we’re on vacation and have the excuse to do these things. I was absolutely desperate to see the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s theatrical adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.The central character of the books is Thomas Cromwell, advisor to Henry VIII, who helped manage the rise and then the fall of Anne Boleyn. I didn’t know how we’d manage to get the hot tickets to these plays and fit them into our schedule, but we did it. We just had to compromise and see them out of order, with a Saturday matinee of Bring Up the Bodies followed by Wolf Hall on Sunday night.
I kinda liked it the plays in reverse: we started with Anne’s demise and ended with her triumph. It was a more cheerful outcome! And if you know anything about history, it’s not as if you could be lost by starting in the middle of the story. We all know the story; we’re there for the interpretation. Speaking of cheer, the plays were surprisingly funny. Not as subtle as the books, of course, but you have to give up something when you’re turning 600 pages into 2 1/2 hours of stage time. Both productions run until October 4. Catch them if you can, in whatever order you can. As for me, two more checks on my to-do list.
The real triumph of my London visit had nothing to do with Tudor history, but with modern music. We went to see Eminem at Wembley Stadium! Since 2012, when we saw Kanye West and Jay Z’s “Watch the Throne” tour in Paris, I’ve kept an eye out for overseas concert opportunities. When I saw that one of my faves was at Wembley, I was burning to go. Even though the acoustics are never good at stadiums, I’ve wanted to go to a show at Wembley since July 1985, when Queen put on one of the best live performances of all time at the portion of the Live Aid mega-concert held at the stadium. I was watching it on television at home, crying because I wanted to be there so badly. This July, Rolling Stone published a fascinating story on Queen and Freddie Mercury that whipped up that whole feeling in me again. I was so excited when we were getting ready for the show that I couldn’t think straight and said “1986″ instead of “1985″ in this little video I did for Vine.
I could pretend that I meant to say 1986 because Queen did put on another legendary show at Wembley in July of that year. But, to be honest, the show that gave me my decades-long Wembley yearning was the one in 1985.
Despite the expected stadium acoustics, we had an amazing time. It was a thrill to see the massive crowd completely losing its collective mind (especially when special guest Dr. Dre came out). Eminem hadn’t performed in London since 2001 and the fans had all this pent-up enthusiasm. I overheard a lot of people talking about how they’d been waiting more than 10 years for this.
He closed, as he normally does, with his huge hit, “Lose Yourself.”
I experienced some extra, personal excitement related to the show because I was looking forward to seeing the gorgeous Sky Heavens, Eminem’s frequent backup singer, on stage. I had made Sky an all-gold-plated set of my new barbed-wire stacking rings for the two Wembley shows (We went to the second one on Saturday, July 12). However, she had to leave for London the day before the rings were finished. No problem! I took them to Liverpool with me and sent them overnight to her hotel from there. The next day, while still in Liverpool, I emailed her, “How do you like the rings?” Sky said, “They’re not here!” I checked the postal tracking number and it said the package had been delivered. Well! I believed the Royal Mail. How can you not trust a postal service that uses the word “Royal” in its name? I also know from experience that it’s always dicey when you deliver urgent things to a hotel. You have to be LITERALLY up the asses of the front-desk people if you want to get your package. Seeing as Sky was busy with little things like, oh, rehearsing for a giant show, I took it upon myself to make four or five phone calls to a fellow named Sanji, who had the bad luck to answer on behalf of the front desk. He was adamant that the package had never arrived because the mailroom had no record of it. “EVERYTHING goes through the mailroom,” he said. I was even more adamant that the Royal Mail wouldn’t lie to me about something of such importance. MrB, who was eavesdropping, was barely able to contain his laughter when I warned Sanji that I was traveling to London the next day and would come to that damn hotel and look through the mailroom myself. “I’ll do it. I’m not kidding you,” I warned, before resorting to a variation on the “Don’t you know who she is?” line. While I harassed Sanji, I repeatedly refreshed the Royal Mail tracking page, and, finally, it updated to show an image of the signature for the package. It HAD bypassed the mailroom! The package was located, the Royal Mail and I were vindicated, Sanji got to thank his lucky stars that he would never have to hear my voice again, and Sky received her rings AND the Shady-inspired earrings I threw in to surprise her.
Sky has a single of her own out on iTunes called, “Hear Me Cry.” Click here to buy it. I like to listen to it at the gym!
MTV UK posted a short interview with Sky today. I’ve never asked her how she came up with her stage name, but MTV did, and I got a huge kick out of the answer.
So there are the rest of the major checks off my frantic vacation to-do list.
- Concert at Wembley – Check!
- Eminem concert anytime, anywhere – Check!
- Successful delivery of jewelry to up-and-coming musician – Check!
Believe it or not, we also squeezed in two dinners with friends. One of those was with our longtime pal Bruce, who was the guy who scored the Eminem tickets for us with the help of his U.K. billing address. (Ticketmaster in the U.K. won’t let us Americans be great and buy from them!) Thank you, Bruce!
After exhausting ourselves in London, we didn’t go home to recuperate. We went to Greece, yet ANOTHER place that I’ve wanted to go to as long as I can remember. That post is coming up!
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Since learning of comedian Robin Williams’s death yesterday — apparently by suicide — I keep returning to a November 2009 interview that he did with Dave Itzkoff for the New York Times. Williams was nearing the end of his “Weapons of Self Destruction” stand-up tour, which had been interrupted that March by open-heart surgery to replace an aortic valve. That trauma was preceded by his relapse into alcoholism after 20 years of sobriety and his second divorce.
Itzkoff found Williams to be leaning towards the more personal in his stage act; previously, Itzkoff wrote, he kept his audience at arm’s length. Offstage, Williams was in a contemplative mood, saying, “I think, literally, because you have cracked the chest, you are vulnerable, totally, for the first time since birth.”
The article quotes Williams’s son, Zak, who helped push his father into rehab. It also quotes some friends, including Billy Crystal, who said:
“I think he needs the stand-up in a different way than he did before. It’s still a safe place for him to be, but he can talk about things and make himself feel better, not just everybody else.”
The story reveals a man who survived hard times, but was irrevocably changed by his experiences. It reminds me of this summer’s Rolling Stone story on Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, who, at the age of 67, has lost all three of his musical younger brothers. Gibb still has a robust family life: He has been married to his wife, Linda, for 44 years. They have five children and seven grandchildren. Yet, Eells writes, “Now in his twilight years, Gibb is surrounded by ghosts.” Eells first met with Gibb in December 2012, seven months after Gibb’s last brother — also a Robin — died of cancer, but Gibb was too mired in grief to continue the interview. They met again this year as Gibb prepared to launch a short tour, his first without his brothers. He credited two people for jolting him out of his depression. One of them surprised me — well, who he was surprised me. What he said was exactly what I’d expect him to say:
“The first was Linda,” Eells wrote. “‘She kicked me off the couch,’ Gibb says. ‘She said, “You can’t just sit here and die with everybody else. Get on with your life.”‘ The second was Paul McCartney. They were talking backstage at SNL, ‘and I said I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep doing this. And Paul said, “Well, what else are you going to do?” And I just thought, ‘Well, OK, then.’”
My almost-husband has always been “the show must go on” type.
Even though Gibb was off the couch and back on tour, the story conveys an unending sadness. Gibb said, “I don’t have any fear of [death]” and told Eells:
“When people say, ‘Your brothers are looking down on you and smiling’ … I don’t know if that’s true. But maybe, if there’s any truth to that stuff, one day I’ll bump into my brothers again. And they’ll say, ‘What kept you?’”
The way I felt at the end of that story was the way I felt after reading the 2009 Robin Williams story in light of Williams’s death: like Williams’s heart surgery, some experiences leave a lifelong scar.
To make things easier for you, here are the two links again:
Dave Itzkoff also wrote Williams’s obituary for the Times:
If you have trouble getting into the New York Times site because it’s asking for registration, do a keyword search like “dave itzkoff nytimes robin williams” — sometimes it is easier to get access to a few free stories by going in the side door.
Some of what I wrote this March about designer L’Wren Scott, depression and suicide is applicable here:
Finally, I like this story that the Guardian ran called, “Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish.” It was very popular for a while — I think it’s becoming less accepted now — to call suicide a selfish act. I understand the urge to say or think that that because anger can be a part of the grieving process, and I would never dispute a family member’s instinctive reaction to a suicide. But, for a while, it seemed the general public had an idea that repeating the “selfish” accusation at every opportunity would somehow make all depressed people ashamed to act on their urges. However, you can’t shame folks out of depression or bipolar disorder any more than you can shame them out of diabetes or cancer. It’s possible the tactic can worsen sufferer’s mindset: “Oh, great, I’m so selfish that my family would be better off without me.” Because “selfish” doesn’t help anyone who is suffering but does make the speaker/writer feel superior, using that word about the suicide of a total stranger is literally the definition of selfish. Just don’t do it.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning …
– From “O Captain! My Captain” by Walt Whitman
UPDATED TO ADD: Comedian Norm Macdonald told a lovely story about Robin Williams in 20 tweets.
UPDATED AUG. 14, 2014, TO ADD: Williams’s wife revealed that Robin had been in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease when he died.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Back in 1980, I got a fever and the only prescription was John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Since then, I’ve wanted to go to Liverpool, the Fab Four’s hometown. It’s difficult to schedule a trip to Liverpool though. It doesn’t top most non-Beatlemaniac vacation lists, so every year, I’ve told myself, “Maybe next year.” Then I read Tune In, the first of a planned Beatles trilogy by Mark Lewisohn.
I’ve read dozens of Beatles books and this is my favorite by far because it is so well-researched. It follows the Beatles from their childhoods through the end of 1962, just before the band became a worldwide phenomenon. Actually, it starts before the Beatles’ childhoods, with an exploration of the history of the port city of Liverpool, which thrived on the slave trade in the 18th century. (There’s now an International Slavery Museum in Liverpool that tells this history.) In the 19th century, Liverpool attracted hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants who were fleeing famine in their homeland, as well as immigrants from all over Europe. Lewisohn places the Beatles’ families in context in the history of Liverpool, tracing all of them back to the 1800s. I was amazed by how many out-of-wedlock children there were back in the day: George Harrison’s maternal grandmother had seven of them between 1905 and 1924. And Richard Starkey — the future Ringo Starr — would have had the last name Parkin except his great-grandmother took up with a married man named Starkey. To avoid gossip, she changed her name, and that of her son — Ringo’s future grandfather — to “Starkey.”
Speaking of Ringo, I never before understood what harrowing childhood health problems he had. First, his appendix ruptured shortly before he turned 7 in 1947. As he was wheeled into an operating room, Richy, as he was known, asked a nurse for a cup of tea. Lewisohn writes: “‘We’ll give you one when you come round,” she answered — by which time ten weeks had passed.” During that time, his mother was warned on three occasions that he wouldn’t survive the night and, even after he came out of that original coma, he spent as many as 16 weeks in and out of consciousness. He didn’t get back home until the summer of 1948! After a few decent years, in May or June 1954, he came down with pleurisy and then tuberculosis, and didn’t get out of the hospital till the end of 1955. It was during that second hospital stay that he first got his hands on a drum, thanks to the the visits of a music teacher who came with a selection of percussion instruments. Richy had coveted a drum seen in the window of a music shop early in 1954, and refused to participate in the music class unless he got a drum instead of the other options of tambourine, cymbal, triangle or maracas. Good thing the teacher gave in to him, eh?
The book was also very enlightening about John’s family, adding a lot of color to the standard black-and-white story that paints John’s mother, Julia, as a ne’er-do-well hussy who abandoned him when he was five years old to his strict, but noble, Aunt Mimi, and who didn’t see her child again till right before her accidental death. Julia certainly was a rebel, but not much wilder than the Harrison and Starkey ancestors earlier in the century. In 1938, when she was 24, she married John’s merchant-seaman father, Alf, “for a dare, a lark,” writes Lewisohn. John was born in 1940, after which the longest time Julia, Alf and child spent together as a family was probably two months. Alf was gone on voyages for long periods of time — during one 18-month period, Julia stopped receiving letters from him, and didn’t even know that Alf had been imprisoned for stealing cargo. When he finally showed up, he found her pregnant with another man’s baby. (That baby, a girl, was, indeed, voluntarily given up for adoption and her name changed from Victoria Elizabeth Lennon to Ingrid Pedersen. Her identity was made public in 1998. She never met her mother or half-brother John Lennon.) After that, Julia took up with another guy, John Dykins, and moved to a small flat in which there was only one double bed to share with her new man and son. Mimi called social services and John ended up with Aunt Mimi and and her husband, George Smith. One day Alf came to the Smith house to take John out and fled with him to a friends’ place in Blackpool. This wasn’t the first time Alf had absconded with John. Julia, now pregnant with a child by Dykins, fetched John back and turned him over to Mimi. Julia visited at first, but Mimi encouraged distance between them, wanting John to be in a less turbulent environment. Julia never lived more than about two miles away and she and John resumed a close relationship in the summer of 1954, when he was 13. Julia shared John’s sense of humor, bought him cool clothes, taught him to play the banjo, encouraged his interest in new music and bought him his first guitar (Aunt Mimi famously told the teenage Lennon, “The guitar’s all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living at it.”) He would spend weekends and then a week at a time at Julia’s house — enough time that her daughters with Dykins, another Julia and Jacqui, thought John was their full brother. John was at Julia’s house on July 15, 1958, when Julia went to visit Mimi at her house, known as “Mendips.” Walking to the bus stop from Mimi’s, Julia was struck and killed by an off-duty cop who was driving unaccompanied although he only had a learner’s permit. Later, John would say:
“It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. We’d caught up so much, me and Julia, in just a few years. We could communicate. We got on. She was great.”
But even more interesting to me — no, inspiring! — were the details of the Beatles’ challenges, hard work and persistence. Recently, I heard someone say that the Beatles didn’t accomplish anything all that radical musically. That they’re kind of middle of the road. It reminded me of the old story of the ignoramus who sees Hamlet and declares that Shakespeare is full of cliches. No! The originals only sound ordinary now because they were so influential that the entire culture imitated them. They SET the new standards. It’s the same progression that clothing designer Charles James described in the fashion world:
“A great designer does not seek acceptance. He challenges popularity, and by the force of his own convictions renders popular in the end what the public hates at first sight.”
Or as I say, “Never Is the Next New Thing™”!
The Beatles really were special, but they weren’t preordained for fame as it often seems in hindsight. They busted their asses for their success. From the start, they did their research, always open-minded to new music from America — especially music by black performers — and adding rare songs that other groups didn’t perform to their repertoire. (Years later, while inducting the Beatles into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Mick Jagger recalled, “England was a real wasteland. England had nothing really to offer as far as pop music was concerned.”) Early on, as teenagers, John Lennon and Paul McCartney started experimenting with writing their own songs. It was unheard for musicians to do this at that point. There were songwriters and there were performers; never the twain did meet. All the Liverpool groups developing at the same time as the Beatles did entire shows of covers. (Even Elvis, a great early influence on the Beatles as well as on the whole rock genre, only has a few songwriting credits, and then just because his hard-ass manager, Colonel Tom Parker, demanded them, not due to any real contribution.)
The Beatles also put in Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” of hard work. Any serious fan knows about the shows they played in rough bars in Hamburg, Germany, before they became big. (My grandfather Sam once got me the bootleg Hamburg sessions on vinyl that I begged for. I’m hoping I’ll find that in storage somewhere.) Their lunchtime shows at the Cavern Club in Liverpool generated a fierce local fan base. That kind of work leads to “luck” — in this case, the interest of a furniture-and-record-store executive named Brian Epstein, who became the group’s devoted manager, undeterred by discouragement including the record label Decca’s infamous 1962 rejection of the band. The way Lewisohn writes it, that move made as much sense as a large number of corporate decisions I’ve witnessed first-hand:
“Logic … cannot explain why Decca rejected a group who’d won a newspaper popularity poll, had a fan club and were the biggest band in Liverpool and Hamburg, playing 350 bookings a year, sometimes to as many as three thousand people a night, but then signed and issued records by several semi-professional, non-performing nonentities during 1962, one of whom they promoted as a singing decorator. And … Decca spent more money treating Brian Epstein to lunch to tell him they weren’t signing the Beatles than it would have cost to sign them.”
LOLZ. Of course, part of the problem was the snobbery that London-based companies had towards Liverpool, which they considered a hick town, still struggling to rebuild the ruins from heavy bombing during World War II. So what did those fans matter? Then there was Decca’s belief that “guitar groups are on the way out.” Guitar groups were barely getting started, of course — it was the Beatles who would popularize them — but there had been a little blip of interest which the suits believed would be as short-lived as fads for calypso music and the Twist. I could go on, but I’ll just say that if you’re in any creative industry and frustrated by running up against the Establishment’s lack of vision and imagination, this book has a lot of lessons for you.
This is the book that finally got me to Liverpool. Yep! After finishing this, I told MrB: “I’ve always wanted to go to Liverpool ‘someday.’ ‘Someday’ has arrived!” So, last month, we did it. We flew into nearby Manchester Airport — not Liverpool John Lennon Airport, sadly — and within hours were on a ferry on the River Mersey, listening to a recording of Gerry & the Pacemaker’s hit tribute to the area, “Ferry Cross the Mersey.”
The waterfront was beautiful.
But, naturally, the big excitement was following in the footsteps of the Beatles. I enjoyed the Magical Mystery Tour — and it was a bonus that the tour guide was the brother of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Holly Johnson (“I saw your brother at the Ritz in the ’80s!” I told him.)
We saw all the important sights, including St. Peter’s Church, where John and Paul met as teenagers. There was also Penny Lane …
… the Strawberry Field gate (well, it’s a reproduction, but a very nice one!) …
… and all the Beatles’ childhood homes, plus Brian Epstein’s.
We went on a separate tour to go inside John’s and Paul’s houses. Those houses are now owned and operated by the National Trust, which does several tours a day to both houses with just 15 people per tour. Those tours are the only way to get into the houses, so make sure you book early! You’re not allowed to take photos inside, but here is one of me and my real husband lurking outside the door of my almost-husband Paul McCartney’s old house on 20 Forthlin Road.
Sylvia, the woman giving the tour at Paul’s house, has occasional interaction with Paul’s brother Mike, who has visited the house. He passes along all kinds of interesting trivia as he thinks of it. There are also a lot of Mike’s photos in the house, which are a huge asset. You can sit in Paul’s small living room and look at a picture of Paul and John writing a song in that very room. I particularly liked a picture of Paul climbing up the drainpipe, which he would have to do to sneak into the house after staying out too late. We went out in the back, looked at the drainpipe, then came back in and looked at Paul climbing the drainpipe. Now I have this new fantasy about being extra-creepy to my almost-husband should I ever meet him. Like … I want to speak at a normal tone so everyone can hear and say things like, “Great to meet you! Are you enjoying this party?” and then lean really close and whisper so only he can hear, “I’ve been in your bedroom.” Right? It’s like the episode of Will & Grace where Jack is stalking Kevin Bacon and says, “If you need me, I’ll be in your hamper.”
Colin, Sylvia’s husband, did the tour for Mendips, where John lived with Aunt Mimi. There were some old drawings by John and other memorabilia but it would have been nice to have some photos of him in the space like we had at Paul’s house. Still, I had a great moment standing in his tiny bedroom and looking out the window and thinking, “John looked out this window!” Someone else who did that on a tour years ago was Bob Dylan. Yep, Bob did the fan-boy thing and took the National Trust tour, which I found interesting because Bob knew John. In fact, Dylan was the one who introduced the Beatles to pot in 1964. (In 2012, The Atlantic called the Dylan-Lennon relationship weird and one-sided, but maybe it wasn’t as weirdly one-sided as thought.) I also checked out Aunt Mimi’s room, walked out, then ran back in so I could fluff my hair and check my lipstick in Aunt Mimi’s mirror, just so I could say that I primped in Aunt Mimi’s mirror. Clearly Bob Dylan’s not the only weird one here.
Of course, we went to the basement-level Cavern Club, where the Beatles played so many of their Gladwellian 10,000 hours to hometown fans who, long before the band went on to huge success, would stop by Paul’s house to hang with the boys and get served tea by his dad, Jim. The Cavern has been rebuilt and improved after being closed in 1973 and it was still pretty dank, so imagine how it was before there were laws about fire exits and ventilation. I love the fact that people used to cram into this place with sweating walls on their lunch hour, rock out, get all smelly and go back to work/school. I’ve never done anything like that!
I can’t remember if the photo above was taken before or after I threatened MrB with divorce because I discovered he didn’t know who Stu Sutcliffe was. Stu was an artist, John’s dear friend and the original bass player for the Beatles. He died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 21. Any true Beatles fan knows who he is. Meanwhile, MrB saw the Beatles live at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1966 — his first wife won tickets in a radio contest. After I learned that MrB didn’t know who Stu was, I had a bad feeling about the concert issue. “You do know that Candlestick Park was the last official live concert that the Beatles ever did?” I asked. Nope, he did not! OMG! It was just like the time on Family Guy when Lois is pretending to be a big KISS fan to make Peter happy, and when he finds out, he’s bitterly disappointed in her, but then, to quote from the Family Guy wiki …
“Peter stops at a Denny’s on the way home, where KISS happens also to have stopped. Lois recognizes Chaim Witz, who she dated before he changed his name to Gene Simmons; Gene introduces her to the rest of the band, who have heard Gene’s stories of “Loose Lois.” Peter’s faith in Lois is restored, and he proudly shares the news on public access television that his wife did KISS.”
That’s exactly what this was like, except my faith hasn’t been restored by a sexual nickname.
Now the Cavern has live music starting around noon and going all day. Plenty of Beatles tributes, of course. You’ve got the guys specializing in John and the guys specializing in Paul and so on. I always feel kinda sad for the guys who realize they have a Ringo voice, even though Ringo is awesome and the Beatles wouldn’t be the Beatles without him. When it comes to voices, you want to have the John or Paul voice. That’s just how it is. Sorry, Ringo. We stayed at the Cavern for a couple of hours but I could have stayed the whole day.
Plenty of other great bands played at the Cavern, including the Who …
… and Queen. Can you believe this factoid? This is fabulous.
We were only in Liverpool for about 2 1/2 days, and I would definitely go back and do the tours all over again, and then try for more obscure things, like the pub where Ringo used to go and so on. Also, we didn’t get to check out the museums, including a branch of the Tate and the Maritime and Slavery museums because there was a museum strike on the day we allotted for that. We did squeeze in Speke Hall, a beautiful, well-preserved Tudor house.
Our July trip didn’t end with Liverpool. Our next stop was London, but I’ll save that for the next post.
Note to Mark Lewisohn: Thanks for writing the book that got me to visit Liverpool at last, but your work really needs a discography of all the records that inspired the Beatles, from pre-World War II tunes to the Donays. I only realized when I got to the end of the book that I should have been writing those down so I could have a mega-Beatles-related playlist. Have someone organize that on iTunes for us, please! Kthxbai.
Sunday, August 10, 2014
If you missed the great Charles James exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, at least you won’t have to wait till next spring for a new fashion-related show. For the first time in seven years, the Costume Institute will do a fall show: “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire,” will run from October 21 through Feb. 1.
I’m very excited by this theme because my 18K gold jewelry line started with an interest in mourning jewelry, in addition to the more familiar memento mori jewelry. They’re not the same thing. Although “memento mori” is Latin for “remember you will die,” that category of jewelry refers to mortality in general, while mourning jewelry pays tribute to a specific individual.
I’ve always been especially interested in mourning jewelry that incorporates a deceased loved one’s hair, which was popular in both the Georgian and Victorian eras. The “woven” look of the cap of my 2008 acorn locket, for instance, was inspired by acorn designs woven from hair. (Acorns were associated with immortality and the circle of life, as an oak tree grows from an acorn, then lets fall a new acorn from which emerges a new oak.)
The source of my locket design caused me some amusement years later when a large catalog company knocked off my necklace. When I called to confront them, they at first tried to argue that the similarity was coincidence. I asked, “How did you get the idea for the woven look of the acorn cap?” The dude in charge was like, “Um ….” “Have you heard of Victorian hair jewelry?” I asked. The answer was no, of course, and the copy was pulled from the catalog.
There are a few more examples of my mourning-inspired jewelry in this portion of the monthly newsletter I sent to press and retailers last Tuesday. Lockets were a very big thing because you could put hair or an image of the deceased inside.
One ring that didn’t make it into the newsletter was my Victoria buckle ring, which was inspired by a particular antique mourning ring that opened to reveal a name inscribed inside.
I made this ring in 2006 for the original purpose — as symbol of mourning for my late Pekingese, Mr. Chubbs. In the photo above, you can see his name inscribed. This particular ring went on to have some interesting adventures, courtesy of Lindsay Lohan. Click here and scroll down to read that story. And click here for National Jeweler’s brief story about the coming Met exhibit.
If you’re a member of the press or a retailer who would like to receive the monthly newsletter, email your request to info at wendy brandes dot com.