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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and I’ve been thinking about a decorative-arts museum: the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris. That’s not as strange as it might seem, because that museum has a tragic history that has been on my mind for months.

I visited the museum in 2010. It’s a mansion that was built in the early 1900s by a banker named Moïse de Camondo. He was passionate about furnishings from the 18th century and decorated the house accordingly.  Moïse’s only son, Nissim, died in combat while serving France during World War I. Moïse’s daughter, Béatrice, was more interested in equestrian activities than her father’s collection. As a result, Moïse left the building and all it contained to the country of France, requiring that the museum be named after his son and his collection remain exactly as he left it.  Moïse died in 1935 and the museum was inaugurated in 1936.

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Musee de Nissim de Camondo. From the museum’s website. Click for source.

But the back story of the house really stretches as far back as the Spanish Inquisition and ends with the Holocaust. In 1492 — in the same month that Christopher Columbus got his sailing orders — Spain expelled its entire Jewish community of 200,000 people. (Part of the rationale for this was that these Jews were a bad influence on the tens of thousands of Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity.) All of the expelled Jews were forced to liquidate their possessions at bargain prices and use what money they had to pay for a way out of Spain. In some cases, they paid high prices for travel by ship, only to be thrown overboard while at sea.  Some fortunate ones landed in Turkey, where Sultan Bajazet II (also spelled Bayezid) was delighted to accept exiles who were skilled in business and medicine. He mocked Spain’s King Ferdinand, saying, “You call Ferdinand a wise king, who has made his country poor and enriched ours?” Ultimately, the Camondo family ended up in Turkey. Some online sources say Moïse de Camondo’s ancestors went to Venice in the immediate aftermath of the expulsion, and then moved to Turkey in the late 1700s. Others say the Camondos went to Istanbul first, then Italy.  What’s certain is that the family had ties to both places and became very wealthy in Turkey, founding their own bank there in the early 1800s. Later in the 1800s, Camondo family members moved to Paris where they became known as financiers and philanthropists. (Moïse’s cousin, Isaac, left a magnificent art collection to the Louvre in 1911, including works by Manet, Monet and Cézanne.)

The family apparently lived an assimilated, secular life, but all of its members were identified as Jewish until the late 1890s, when Moïse’s wife, Irène Cahen d’Anvers, converted to Catholicism after falling in love with the Italian manager of the family’s stables.

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When Irene was young, her portrait was painted by Renoir. Click for more information about the painting.

Irène divorced Moïse, giving him full custody of their children, then eloped with the stable man. So maybe it wasn’t just the increasing anti-Semitism before World War II, but also her family history, that later caused Moïse’s daughter Béatrice to divorce her Jewish husband, Léon Reinach, and convert to Catholicismif that’s indeed what she did.  There are sources saying she did convert, which was my understanding after visiting the museum. But other articles don’t mention a conversion. Maybe Béatrice was simply confident that her wealth, status and equestrian friends would protect her throughout the German occupation of France. In a book called A French Affair: The Paris Beat, 1965-1998, Mary Blume wrote:

“During World War II, Béatrice, fatally convinced that she was French, her brother having died for his country and her father and uncle having been among France’s greatest benefactors, continued to ride in fashionable meets, a yellow star fixed to her well-cut jacket.”

In The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, Edmund White wrote that Béatrice often rode with a German officer. In the end, that didn’t help her. A French Affair quotes from a plaque at the Camondo museum:

“Mme Leon Reinach, born Béatrice de Camondo, her children, Fanny and Bertrand, the last descendants of the founder, and M. Leon Reinach, deported by the Germans in 1943-1944, died at Auschwitz.”

The museum itself was saved by Moïse’s generosity to France. As Blume put it, “The museum survived undamaged because it was state, rather than private Jewish, property.”

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Béatrice de Camondo. Click for source.

It is so easy in hindsight — knowing all that we do about the death camps — to think, “Why didn’t these people leave when they had a chance? Go to another country?” As I said at the start of this post, I’ve been thinking about the Camondos for months and the phrase “fatally convinced that she was French” sums it all up. Just as Béatrice was born in France, so was I born in the U.S. — New York, to be precise. I have no link to any other country. When I’m traveling and people ask me where I’m from, I say, “New York.” If someone continues the conversation by saying, “So you’re American?” (after all, citizens of other countries do live here), I sometimes tease him or her and say, “No, I’m a New Yorker. It’s different.” Other times, of course, I just say “Yes.” Even if New York seems like its own little country at times, I’m definitely an American. I’m not French, Mexican, Korean, Bajan, Congolese, Israeli or any other of the nearly 200 nationalities we could name. I hold a U.S. passport and no other. I am convinced that I have certain rights as an American. I happen to be a totally secular American, with no involvement in any organized religion. But my family has always been Jewish, and what I’ve been brooding about recently is the fact that if “they” decided to round up all the Jews here, it wouldn’t matter how I thought of myself. I’d be rounded up just like Béatrice was rounded up in France. How was her deep belief that she was French any different than my conviction that I’m American?

It’s not like it can’t happen here.  To take just one example — and I’m picking this one because it happened right around the time that Béatrice was still holding on to something of her old life — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a February 1942 order that put over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps in the U.S. The fear was that these people would betray America and help Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. However, the majority of the incarcerated were U.S. citizens, born in America. Many had never been to Japan. Some of them had even fought for the U.S. during World War I. Families were split up and, like the Jews of the Spanish Inquisition or the Holocaust, the Japanese victims had to sell their businesses, homes and other assets in a panic, for far below their value. (The neighbors always benefit from these things.) Fortunately, FDR didn’t recommend a Nazi-style “final solution” of total genocide, but the fact that something wasn’t any worse that it was doesn’t make it any good. One might think, “That was 72 years ago. Couldn’t happen now!” But since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been people calling for concerted actions against Muslims and Iraqis living in the U.S. Terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing or the recent massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris give new fuel to those who argue it’s a matter of public safety to treat vast groups of ordinary U.S. citizens as if they were criminals, just in case that helps catch a few actual criminals. After all, “… the successful prosecution of [the] war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities,” or so it said in Executive Order 9066, signed by FDR in 1942.

Even so, it wasn’t Al Qaeda or ISIL that has made me muse upon the Camondo family for so long. It’s been the police shootings of black men all over the country. U.S. citizens killing U.S. citizens in the street, acting as if there’s only one half of the phrase “law and order.” Cops saying their own fear justifies acting as judge, jury and executioner. Plenty of people have argued that hoodies are scary or that the theft of something almost worthless should be expected to turn into a fight to the death. Except the violence isn’t caused solely by common clothing styles, or being a big guy, or committing petty nuisance crimes. You can be a 12-year-old kid or a Yale student leaving a library or someone walking down the stairs because of unreliable elevators.  Last year, ProPublica reported that its analysis of data on fatal police shootings found that “young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater.” So, as black parents have to tell their kids, it doesn’t matter who you think you are or who you actually are when it comes to facing deadly prejudice. Even if you have the exceptional wealth and connections of a Béatrice de Camondo, that won’t matter when a guy is ready to shoot you two seconds after seeing you.

As for the people who respond to the #BlackLivesMatter movement by writing #AllLivesMatter, they remind me of my visit to Auschwitz in 2008. Auschwitz is in Poland, and our Polish tour guide was very diligent about letting us know that many non-Jewish Poles died in Auschwitz. At every significant spot in the camp, she’d say how many Poles came through this gate or went to this room. And it is true that the first people sent to Auschwitz were Polish political prisoners, shipped there in June 1940. According to Yad Vashem, the world’s biggest center for Holocaust research, “By March 1941 there were 10,900 prisoners, still mostly Polish.” But that same month, SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered that a second, larger section of the camp be built 1.9 miles from the original site. The original area was called Auschwitz I, and the new area was called Auschwitz II or Birkenau. Auschwitz now had one main purpose. Yad Vashem’s website says:

“The commander of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rudolf Höss, stated in his autobiography that in 1941 (no exact date is given) he was summoned to Berlin, where Himmler informed him that Hitler had issued an order to solve the ‘Jewish Question’ for good, and that the order was to be implemented by the SS. ‘The existing extermination places in the east are unsuited to a large scale, long-term action. I have designated Auschwitz for this purpose,’ Himmler said.”

To put it in plainer language, top Nazi Himmler said, “I need to kill lots of Jews. I will do it in Auschwitz.” Even my tour guide was forced to admit that 90% of the people who died at Auschwitz were Jews. According to Yad Vashem, more than 1.1 million Jews were killed there, as well as 70,000 Poles, 25,000 Sinti and Roma (Gypsies) and some 15,000 prisoners of war from the Soviet Union and elsewhere. A large percentage of the murdered Jews were from Hungary: In just eight weeks in 1944, about 424,000 Hungarian Jews — around half of Hungary’s Jewish population — were transported to Auschwitz. Approximately 320,000 of those got off the train and went directly to the gas chambers.

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Photo of Hungarian Jews walking to the gas chamber, courtesy of Yad Vashem. Click for source.

All lives do matter, obviously, and the number of Polish inmates murdered at Auschwitz is huge and deplorable, but Auschwitz’s main purpose was killing Jews. A single religion was the No. 1 target for extermination. There was no balance in Auschwitz, no equity.

Thankfully, in the U.S., we are not currently rounding up thousands or millions of people — identified by race, religion, political inclination, gender, sexual preference or any other excuse — physically shoving them into cattle cars without food and water, transporting them far away, and literally gassing them to death. I’m not saying that the discrimination and resulting violence that happens here today is anything like the death machine that the Nazis created. But, to repeat what I said about the U.S. camps for people of Japanese ancestry, the fact that it isn’t worse than it is doesn’t make it good. It shouldn’t stop us from making our society better.

And this train of thought is what I got out of a decorative-arts museum, which is more edifying than the surprise I got during the Auschwitz tour years earlier. On the bus, on the way from Krakow, Poland, to the Auschwitz site, our tour group was given colored stickers so we’d be able to identify each other and stay together. They gave my group square yellow stickers. I nearly passed out.

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For real, I had to wear a yellow sticker to visit Auschwitz. Click for original post.

It will always be too soon for any yellow stickers at Auschwitz!

Related reading: Check out the tale of my grandfather’s cousin Max, who survived a German slave camp and married a hometown girl.




Monday, January 26, 2015

I hope all of you on the East Coast are at home — or on your way home — to take shelter from this crazy winter storm. There are travel warnings in effect so pay attention to those and don’t get stuck out on the road late tonight. Tomorrow, you might be tempted to play in the snow, but stay out of parks because there are killer trees there! I’m not kidding. I know from personal experience that bitchy, oversaturated tree branches will try to take you out! Stay inside and away from wooded areas. Also, if a sly tree knocks on your door and asks for assistance, it’s totally a scam. Call 911 immediately and report a would-be woody murderer.

Whew! Now that I’ve given all my weather warnings, here’s a little retail therapy to help you while away the stormy hours.  I’m having a snow-day sale, with lots of 18K gold jewelry designs that are 50% off the original prices — some of them are now priced at cost. I’ve got Valentine’s Day-worthy heart, flower and rose-gold designs. Also, February’s birthstone is amethyst and my Queen Min ring in amethyst that would make a wonderful birthday gift. You don’t have to wait for someone to buy it for you, of course. I believe in self-gifting on one’s birthday. After all, who knows your own taste better than you?

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Amethyst Queen Min ring with a koi carved into the stone. Set in 18K gold. Click to purchase.

Browse the sale items carefully, because it will be your last chance for some of these designs. I’m working on a big reorganization of my website and, within the next couple of weeks, some designs will no longer be online. They’ll be exclusively available to the private clients who are able to see me in person. If you’re not in the New York area, it is now or never for certain gorgeous pieces, including the one-of-a-kind “basket-weave” wedding band.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP THE SNOW-DAY SALE.

 




Monday, January 26, 2015

The Screen Actors Guild Awards took place last night in Los Angeles, and the only thing that matters is that Joan Collins was there. Obviously, she gets my coveted Best Dressed/Wear What You Want combo award because no one can compete with Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan. I’m surprised that the other celebrities didn’t just give up and slink in a side door, because Joan pwned that red carpet!

Look at her werq that left leg! Angelina Jolie’s right leg needs to go to Joan school before its next outing.

As for second place, Lupita Nyong’o was spectacular as always. I’d wear that Elie Saab gown in a hot second.

Yep, Lupita is perfection, but Joan is … dynastic!




Sunday, January 25, 2015

I haven’t done a week in review post in a month! In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog in the last few weeks.




Saturday, January 24, 2015

In yesterday’s post about this week’s Fleetwood Mac concert at Madison Square Garden, I mentioned that gorgeous Instagrammer Carrie Courogen was soooo front-row that she played Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar. Twice. Because I already posted the guitar picture, here’s a nice shot Carrie got of Stevie Nicks.

The perfect halo of gold hair and lightning.

A photo posted by Carrie Courogen (@carriecourogen) on

Carrie sent me the link to a touching post she did about Stevie’s role as a mother figure to young wimmin like herself. (Carrie’s 23. I could be her mama too! Bwah!) Reflecting on how Stevie never had her own children, Carrie writes, “Just because you don’t have children doesn’t mean you’re not a mother, and we have Stevie Nicks as proof. And shouldn’t we all be thankful for that?” She says:

“Mothers are the best teachers in the subject of life. [Wendy’s personal aside: BarbaraB, do not let this go to your head.] They share their wisdom and knowledge with you, unsolicited, and it’s those nuggets that guide you through life. Stevie has doled out beautiful, motherly guiding words so many times, it’s impossible to pick just one.”

Carrie ends her post with:

“[Stevie] may never see this, she may never know it exists, or even know how much her love is reciprocated. She may never know that words can’t even begin to say thank you for her influence, at least from me, but at least it’s here for the crowd.”

I think Stevie would love Carrie’s post, so if anyone knows Stevie or knows someone who knows her, send along this link.

Stevie Nicks’s Daughters of the Moon.

Speaking of celebrities who don’t know about the intimate relationships we have with them, my almost-husband Paul McCartney is kicking ASS lately! I meant to say something about “Only One,” a Kanye West song featuring Sir Paul on piano, which was released on New Year’s Eve.  But I was too busy tuning out the media frenzy over a couple of tweets — tweets that really seemed to be knowing jokes, IMO — asking about the unknown dude working with Kanye. Well, tonight, Rihanna surprised everyone with a new song called, “FourFiveSeconds,” featuring Kanye West on vocals and Paul McCartney on guitar.

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Handsome Paul McCartney and two unknown artists with promising careers ahead of them. Photo via Rolling Stone. Click for source.

I think it’s inspiring that Paul’s doing these collaborations. I love how much he loves music! Like he told Rolling Stone in 2012, “If you’re enjoying it, why do something else?” For me, it’s a life goal to have a job that’s so fun that I just can’t quit it. Whether it’s my almost-husband, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Stevie Nicks, or a relative youngster like Eminem, I’m a huge fan of people who are aging disgracefully. As Paul said in that 2012 interview: “You get the argument ‘Make way for the young kids … And you think, ‘Fuck that, let them make way for themselves. If they’re better than me, they’ll beat me.'” Damn straight! And I don’t care whether artists are declared “relevant” or not, as long as they’re showing me a good time at their shows, preferably with me in the front row. Of course, I’m a fan of young new artists too (check out my boy Hi-Rez, who is celebrating his 21st birthday) but being a kid doesn’t make you automatically relevant … not for long, anyway. As Stevie Nicks sang in “Landslide“:

“But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too
Oh, I’m getting older too”

Last year, Stevie told the New York Times that when she wrote that song, “I was 27, and I did already feel old in a lot of ways.” Hmmm. Rihanna will be 27 on February 20, and has a new album coming. This could be interesting!




Friday, January 23, 2015

I saw Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden in October. It was a great show, but I wasn’t thrilled with my seats. I was too far away from the stage. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten very passionate about being up close and personal with performers. When I realized Fleetwood Mac was performing at the Garden again last night, I started searching for two floor tickets on StubHub. They were all insanely expensive. Then I had a “Eureka!” moment and looked for a single ticket instead, figuring those were harder for people to get rid of. Sure enough, I found a relative bargain that was technically in row 7, though due to a missing row I was really in the sixth row. Lesson learned! If you have to buy a resold ticket and don’t mind going to a show alone … go alone! It’s cheaper.

When flying solo, you might also have some interesting conversations. Before the show, I was chatting with the man next to me: Had he seen the band before, how old was he when he first developed a crush on Stevie Nicks (because everyone — male and female — has had a crush on Stevie), the usual. He said to me, “You must have liked the band since you were a kid.” I started to answer, “Let’s see, I must have been 13 or 14 when Stevie put out Bella Donna (her platinum-selling debut solo album) …” Because there is a law that, at a concert, there must always be some superfan near me who has every relevant date memorized, the guy in front of us whipped around and said sharply, “Bella Donna was 1981! SO HOW OLD WERE YOU IN 1981?” I informed him that in 1981, I was … 13 going on 14. Nailed it!

I was so excited about getting a floor seat that I didn’t think about which side of the stage it was on. If you go see the Mac, you want to get a stage-right ticket — meaning that when you’re facing the stage, you should be on the left side. That’s where Christine McVie is set up with her keyboards. Stevie Nicks spent a lot of her time center and stage-right too. I was on the very end of the opposite side, which meant I got a lot of Lindsey Buckingham. I was as impressed by Lindsey (and his super-skinny jeans) as I was in October, but I started to feel like his personal photographer after a while. Lindsey, I love you, but let’s be honest. I’m there for the ladies.

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Spent a lot of quality time with Lindsey last night. Click to enlarge.

This is one of my clearest shots of Stevie.

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Love a gal with a top hat! Click to enlarge.

My other decent photos are going in my Flickr album here. My recording of the opening number, “The Chain,” was slightly disrupted by people walking by me to get to their seats. Another thing to keep in mind for Fleetwood Mac shows: they start promptly! Lights went out at 8:18 p.m. for an 8 p.m. show. I’ve gone to 8 p.m. shows that haven’t started until 10:30 p.m., which is why I was late to the October concert.

I’ve also got 15 seconds of Stevie dancing wildly to “Gold Dust Woman” here.

I’d already worn my most Stevie Nicks outfit to the October show. I considered wearing my top hat, but didn’t want to block anyone’s view for the sake of fashion. (I did see quite a few top hats in the audience though.) If I couldn’t do a Stevie from the top, I figured I’d start from the bottom: cool boots and a twirly skirt.

fleetwoodoutfit2resizeWhat Wendy Wore
Top: Giambattista Valli (purchased from Yoox.com in 2008; barely visible here)
Skirt: Atsuro Tayama (bought in Tokyo or Singapore in 2002)
Boots: From Yoox.com in 2008 (seen here)

I love that skirt and I need to wear it more often. You can see it has a few different fabrics in it; it’s also asymmetrical, which the photo doesn’t show. Now that I look at the picture, I don’t like that top with the skirt. I think I need something more nipped in at the waist or a belt.  But I felt good last night, so who cares!

Last week, Rolling Stone — which had Stevie on its cover — posted a 1976 clip of Fleetwood Mac performing “Rhiannon,” along with 17 reasons why that clip is the coolest thing in the universe. My favorite is #11: “Mick Fleetwood has a cowbell, but doesn’t bang it, because when you’re as cool as Mick Fleetwood, all you need is for the cowbell to sit there and listen to you.” The whole band truly is cool though, and Stevie is so stunning and charismatic.

Hopefully, after a certain age, we all grow out of magical thinking like, “If I had as much money as him, I’d be happy all the time. If I were as talented as her, my life would be perfect.” Eventually, you should notice that there are a hell of a lot of rich, talented, famous, beautiful, brilliant people who are fucking miserable and accept the fact that, no, you wouldn’t be some special exception. You take your baggage with you whether you travel by bus or by private jet. But, when Stevie sang directly into the camera in that clip above, I had a relapse of sorts and thought, “If I were her, my life would be heaven.” Then I reminded myself of all the drama that the band went through, plus the fact that Stevie has a hole in her nasal cartilage from cocaine (and possibly aspirin) abuse. And then I thought, “Maybe a broken heart and nose hole would be worth it.” I guess I’ll never know!

While I agree with Rolling Stone about the coolness factor of that clip, a fan on a Fleetwood Mac forum called The Ledge has a good argument for an even cooler, older “Rhiannon” video. As forum user SisterNightroad points out, in this performance, Stevie has yet to develop her signature witchy/gypsy style and is wearing a cropped pink blouse (albeit with flowing butterfly-wing sleeves) and high-waisted bell bottoms.

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Click the screenshot to see the video.

Whatever you do, never tell the diehard Mac experts on that forum that, for years, I thought the “Rhiannon” lyrics were “Dreams and wine, love’s a state of mind,” rather than “Dreams unwind, love’s a state of mind.” (And maybe I still sing it my way in my head because wine is a great thing.) Between the lyrics confusion and my amnesia about dates, I’d probably be barred from future Fleetwood Mac concerts. That would be bad because I really want to see the band at least one more time, so I can get as close as gorgeous Instagrammer Carrie Courogen did last night. She played Lindsey’s guitar — twice!


I played Lindsey Buckingham's guitar. Twice. #dead #fleetwoodmac

A photo posted by Carrie Courogen (@carriecourogen) on

I literally can’t even!




Thursday, January 22, 2015

I wore a houndstooth Versace dress, purchased before 2005, to a wedding in this December.

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Click for original post.

I had previously shown it on the blog in 2010 and 2008, but I just found a photo from 2006 that I’d forgotten about. This isn’t a full-length picture, but it gives you a good look at the mesh cutouts around the armholes. Mesh has been on my mind since seeing lots of it at the Golden Globes this month.

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Me and MrB.

The above photo was taken on a weekend when I wore another Versace dress to a dinner. At that dinner, my little black dress and I were seated between famous actor Michael Douglas and famous architect Richard Meier, resulting in this highlarious photo.

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Wearing my Gloriana necklace.

This picture may give you the impression that both men were engrossed in what I had to say, but I assure you, they were not. Michael Douglas and I exchanged a few polite words, after which he spent most of the evening speaking to Queen Noor, who was sitting on his other side. Can’t say I blamed him. Meanwhile, Richard Meier graciously tolerated a bit more conversation with me. But Douglas and Meier also spoke to each other across me, which was probably what was happening when this photo was taken. Note the look of terror on my face as I tried to come up with something relevant to say.

Over the years, I’ve been at many dinners where men have spoken to each other across me (or addressed only MrB). Most of these fellows didn’t have the excuse of being outrageously famous like Douglas and Meier. As a matter of fact, the worst incident was with two entirely forgettable journalists, who spoke over and around me for a meal that seemed to go on forever. Finally, I said, “Maybe you two want to sit next to each other.” They seemed to realize they were being rude, so declined to move — but kept on talking to each other as though I were an inconveniently placed floral centerpiece. I used to feel awful about such things. Now, I pray it happens again so I can noisily pick up my plate, say “You guys have fun with each other,” and sashay off to a more hospitable location.  You can’t sit with ME, rude boys.

 

 

 




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cabaret is one of my favorite musicals, but somehow I’d never managed to see the live theater version starring Alan Cumming as the Emcee. Not in 1993, when he did it in London, nor in 1998 on Broadway. Well, he’s back in his star-making role — only through March — at Studio 54 and I was NOT missing him again.

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I finally made it!

Emma Stone was an excellent Sally Bowles. I liked the way the title song was arranged so that there was no risk of Emma having to compete with the movie version’s Sally, Liza Minnelli. You know, Liza IS Sally Bowles; it’s best not to even go there.

I decided to dress like one of the garter-wearing cabaret girls by recreating the outfit I wore to Zang Toi’s runway show last February.

cabaret2What Wendy Wore
Jacket: Zang Toi (purchased December 2013)
Top: Camisole from Bare Necessities
Shorts (hidden): JC de Castelbajac (2013)
Tights: Pretty Polly
Shoes: Lagerfeld (1994)
Purse: Prada (2007)

Everyone in the audience was dressed for the theme just like me. I kid, I kid! Everyone was in jeans like they always are at the theater these days. No matter. I felt good even though I wasn’t wearing Sally’s trademark green “Divine Decadence” nail polish. Dang! I just realized I could have worn my Green Envy lipstick from Manic Panic. That would have been an appropriate substitute.

Anyway, if you’re in New York before the show closes, catch it while you can, or you’ll be sorry!

UPDATED TO ADD: Christopher Isherwood — whose book Goodbye to Berlin was adapted and turned first into the play I Am A Camera and then into Cabaret — based the character of Sally Bowles on his real-life acquaintance, Jean Ross. She seems fascinating; now I need to find out everything about her.




Monday, January 19, 2015

Most of the wedding jewelry I create is made to order, with the customer and I working on a one-of-a-kind design together. Here are a few examples:

But I do try to add new designs to the options I have on my website, especially if a good diamond happens to be hanging around. Last year, I realized I had one of those spare stones. My gorgeous mother, BarbaraB, had long ago handed over a necklace that she no longer wore, and I’d sold the gold for her but still hadn’t done anything with the gem. So, for her birthday last October, I decided her diamond could do double-duty by (a) gracing a gift for her and (b) modeling for a new, nontraditional engagement ring design.  Here is the result.

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Click to see on my website.

The blackened 18K yellow gold setting was inspired by the vine-like metal work I’ve used for my Marie Antoinette designs, among other pieces. That’s my mother’s stone in the middle, of course. The accent stones are rubies, which I chose because BarbaraB looks good in red. Mom is wearing it as a right-hand ring.

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But you can see how it would make a good engagement ring too. I happen to love an engagement/wedding ring that doesn’t scream “bridal,” and that, like this ring, could just as easily be worn in another way. I have other rings like that. I wear the sample for this diamond band on my thumb, for instance, and my black-diamond Gravity band has been purchased both as a wedding band and a right-hand ring.

What makes BarbaraB’s ring special is how customizable it is. It’s not the kind of ring that demands nothing but diamonds. You can choose from among so many different gems for the accent stones. Rubies are great, but sapphires come in many colors, as do garnets. You could do emeralds, amethyst, citrine … you name it. The center stone doesn’t have to be a diamond either. Perhaps you’d like to do your birthstone in the center and have diamonds for the accent stones. Or, you can go all diamond — for the center stone and the accent stones — which would make beautiful cocktail ring or equally beautiful engagement ring. Another thing about this design: Although it has a big look, it’s very lightweight. It’s a “have your cake and eat it too” ring.

Obviously, BarbaraB’s ring isn’t for sale but if you’re interested in this style, holla at me at info at wendybrandes dot com so we can discuss your preferences. The price depends on which gems you choose. It starts at around $5,000 for a non-diamond ring. Please note that I can’t easily give any estimates for rings with center diamonds. When doing a custom job, I shop for your diamond personally, coming up with a selection of gems for your review. Each diamond has its own price that depends on its color, cut, clarity and carat weight. Some half-carat diamonds are $950 and some are $3,000. We probably won’t know what your preferences are for quality and price until we take a look around and see what’s out there, but it’s good to have a general budget in mind so I know where to start.

UPDATED TO ADD: Speaking of my black-diamond Gravity band, here’s a picture of it being worn as a right-hand ring by our friend Olga Parkers. Separately, here is a photo of the model we made for this new ring.




Sunday, January 18, 2015

MrB and I watched the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line this weekend. FitzRoy the cat heard the song “Get Rhythm” for the first time and he loved it! First he ran around the living room, then he listened intently, then he ran around some more. I recorded it for FitzRoy’s Instagram account, of course.


But that was far from the most exciting thing on flat-face cat Instagram in recent days. This video of two kittehs named George and Wheezy has everything else beat. I’ve watched it about 20 times.


A video posted by Tina Ferraioli (@tinaf78) on

When grooming turns into … um … salad tossing? You can follow George and Wheezy’s more G-rated adventures here.

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