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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Here’s some disco for Throwback Thursday: KC & the Sunshine Band’s 1975 performance of “That’s the Way I Like It.”

I watched this video recently and became obsessed with the dancing horn players. More bands need dancing horn players!

However, in 1984, I was much more interested in Dead or Alive’s cover of the song. As I’ve said before, I was madly in love with lead singer Pete Burns …

… and Pete’s wife, Lynne Corlett, whose mane of hair matched Pete’s.


Pete and Lynne.

That was truly living the dream back in the ’80s. We all wanted an androgynous dude with whom we could share our hairspray, eyeliner and earrings! Lucky bitch!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I am sad to see that John Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, died today of cancer at age 75. In the 1980s, I read her book, A Twist of Lennon, again and again. I was always most interested in the Beatles’ early Liverpool and Hamburg days, and Cynthia had that covered.


Click to purchase.

I wish I could find my original copy of Cynthia’s book, but it’s been AWOL for years. I have lots of other Beatles books though, including Remember, a book of photos taken by Paul McCartney’s younger brother Michael. It has this photo of John, Paul and Cynthia in the dressing room of Liverpool’s Cavern Club with the club’s manager, Ray McFall.


Photo by Mike McCartney. Click to see all of Mike’s books on Amazon.

I was glad to see Yoko Ono paid tribute to Cynthia.


Click to see on Yoko’s website.

May Pang, who was John’s girlfriend during his 1973 separation from Yoko, tweeted about Cynthia. The two women became friends thanks to May’s efforts to get John to spend more time with Julian, his son with Cynthia.


Click for source.

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr sent their condolences via website and Twitter, respectively. Of course, the loveliest tribute came from Cynthia’s son Julian Lennon, in the form of a song.

Cynthia was married three times after her divorce from John, in addition to having a 17-year partnership with a chauffeur from Liverpool. Her last marriage, in 2002, was to nightclub owner Noel Charles, who died of cancer in 2013. Julian had introduced his mother and Noel, and when Noel died, Julian had some beautiful words for him, including:

“He was the greatest of men on so many levels & brought much love & laughter, to those all around & within his company. We raise a glass to the Joy & happiness you brought us all.”

Unfortunately, neither Julian nor his mother got a lot of emotional (or financial) support from John Lennon. I like to think that, late in life, they both got the treatment they deserved from Noel.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Designer Karl Lagerfeld always gives good interview and this Q&A with Amy Larocca for The Cut is no exception.  I like his response to “What are you reading?”:

“I will not talk about that. I like to read biographies, history, philosophical things like this. But it’s for my private use, and not for making people say, Oh, how clever this stupid man is. I don’t make intellectual conversation. I’m very superficial. I’m just a fashion designer. Fashion designers look at fashion magazines, right?”

Speaking of his mother, he says:

“She was very tough, and very nasty. My father was very sweet and her victim. My father found exactly the wife that was not for him. He could never relax.”

Karl is more like Mom, of course:

“She used to say, You look like me but not as good. And this is just the kind of line I use.”

He’s still madly in love with his cat Choupette who, he says, did two jobs last year and earned three million euros. I’m surprised she worked that hard, but I suppose she’s got to pay those two personal maids of hers. Of Choupette’s personality and intelligence, Karl says: “She is like a human being, but the good thing is that she’s silent.” But isn’t that exactly what we all love about our pets?


Oh, sorry, FitzRoy! I didn’t realize you were reading this over my shoulder!

Karl and Choupette were in New York City for 48 hours to present Chanel’s Paris-Salzburg collection, which was originally shown in Austria in December.  Apparently my invitation was lost in the mail, but I’m sure FitzRoy is meeting up with Choupette for the afterparty!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Surely I need this vintage, pink, tulle, mullet skirt for something, right?


$1,450 via 1stdibs.com. Click to purchase.

Maybe it’s time for me to fulfill my ambitions of recreating Pat Benatar’s 1983 “Love Is a Battlefield” video. The skirt would fit right in.

This video has so much hilarity in it, but my favorite bit is at the beginning when Pat is running away from home. After a confrontation with her angry father (“If you leave this house now, you can just forget about coming back!”) and anxious mother, Pat looks up to see her beloved younger brother gazing at her through the window. Pat is playing a teenager, but she looks to be about 30 — which she was when this was shot — so I like to think she’s saying goodbye to her son. Wait! Maybe he’s her brother AND her son! It’s Chinatown in a music video! No wonder that dad is so bent out of shape.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

In case you missed it, here’s what was on the blog this week.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Here’s a Throwback Thursday photos from my younger days. My MUCH younger days.


Do you think the tongue-out emoji face was based on me?


I demand royalties!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FitzRoy the cat is closing in on 10,000 Instagram followers, so it shouldn’t surprise you that he and his younger brother, Purrkoy, have fans who are interested in meet-and-greets!

Actually, cat-loving Kelli and Aaron have visited before. They were in New York again this weekend and came bearing gifts, including one of the weirdest cat toys I’ve ever seen.


Scary long-fingered glove with mice attached to the fingertips.

Aaron helped FitzRoy achieve a Cheshire cat smile …


… while Kelli communed with Purrkoy until he decided to disappear under a credenza. Before the vanishing act, I took an amazing photo of Kelli and PK together. The angle makes 9-lb. Purrkoy look enormous!


I’m sure if I tried to do that, I wouldn’t have been able to. Doesn’t this remind you of the giant bunny photos that go viral every so often?  Maybe we’ll see PK turn up in a tabloid, described as a record-setting kitteh.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Actress Angelina Jolie Pitt wrote an essay that was published on the New York Times op-ed page today about her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.


This comes two years after an essay in which she described her preventative double mastectomy. Jolie Pitt is not removing body parts on a whim. Not only does she have the BRCA1 gene, which greatly increases a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, but her mother, grandmother and aunt all died of cancer. That kind of family history is taken very seriously for a range of diseases. For instance, I’ve known men on beyond-strict, enjoyment-free diets because their father, grandfather and uncle all died of heart disease by age 50. If they could remove something besides all pleasurable food and drink from their bodies, I’m sure they would.

Ovarian cancer is much harder to detect than breast cancer, so this was probably the more important surgery for Jolie Pitt. There are no reliable screening tests for ovarian cancer, unlike breast cancer (mammograms/ultrasound) and cervical cancer (Pap test). The American Cancer Society website says:

“Early cancers of the ovaries often cause no symptoms. When ovarian cancer causes symptoms, they tend to be symptoms that are more commonly caused by other things. … By the time ovarian cancer is considered as a possible cause of these symptoms, it usually has already spread beyond the ovaries.”

I’ve been rolling my eyes at some of the online criticism Jolie Pitt is getting both for her choice and for going public with it. She is not saying that all women with the gene need to follow her lead. She is perfectly clear about that:

“I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this. A positive BRCA test does not mean a leap to surgery.”

She goes on to list several other options for women facing increased cancer risk, emphasizing that you should “choose what is right for you personally.”

Nor does she naively think that she is death-proof now, writing:

“It is not possible to remove all risk, and the fact is I remain prone to cancer.”

I’ve seen a lot of people resentfully point out that other women have faced the same risks and made the same decisions without getting to write about it in the New York Times. Sure, but that doesn’t mean Jolie Pitt shouldn’t take advantage of public interest in her to speak out. In fact, Jolie Pitt’s openness on the topic gives other women an easier way to talk about their health and say, “That happened to me too,” the same way former First Lady Betty Ford’s openness about her breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy changed attitudes towards the disease in the 1970s. I’m old enough to remember when folks were reluctant to even say the word “cancer.” They called it the “c-word” or dropped their voices to a whisper on the word “cancer.” It’s pretty difficult to raise money to research a disease, or, on a more personal level, even speak to your doctor about your health when something is so scary that you tiptoe around the name like it’s “Voldemort.”  (Betty Ford went on to similarly raise awareness of substance abuse, establishing the Betty Ford Center in 1982.)

Speaking of going public, I like the way Jolie Pitt states, “I am now in menopause” following the removal of her ovaries and that she describes what hormone-replacement options she’s chosen (an estrogen patch and a progesterone IUD). Menopause is usually treated as a big shameful secret, the same way cancer used to be, but every woman is going to experience menopause eventually, whether due to age or illness. It’s helpful to see premature menopause calmly acknowledged, especially by someone in an industry that so values youth.

A final, frequent criticism of Jolie Pitt is that she’s too privileged and has health-care options that other women do not, so it is wrong of her to share her personal journey. Hiding the possibilities is what keeps them reserved for the few. Shining a light on all the options allows people to demand equal access. If someone dies because she can’t afford Jolie Pitt’s treatment, is that Jolie Pitt’s fault for being too wealthy? Is it the patient’s fault for not being Jolie Pitt? Or is it the fault of a system that could be fixed? I think it’s a crime — literally, a crime — that the U.S. doesn’t have the kind of free health care available in so many other industrialized nations. The Affordable Care Act doesn’t go far enough: In a developed country like ours, access to health care should be a right, not a privilege. I know a lot of people in the U.S. fear that the immediate next step after socialized medicine is communism, even though England, France, Canada, Sweden and numerous other countries are not, in fact, communist. I know the other health-care systems aren’t perfect. But I also know people who hadn’t gone to the doctor for five years due to a lack of insurance until the (still high-priced) Affordable Care Act finally covered them.

I know someone whose son, a French citizen, was treated in Paris for a life-threatening illness requiring months of hospitalization. The total out-of-pocket cost was $2,000, and the father expected to be eventually reimbursed even for that amount. The U.S. cost would have gone as high as $2 million. Interestingly, the father was later traveling in the U.S. when he developed a non-life-threatening but excruciating hernia.  If I recall correctly, the cost of the emergency surgery was about $40,000, and hospital staff was pestering him for a credit card as soon as he arrived at the emergency room in agonizing pain. He got to see the difference in systems up close and personal.

If you want to learn about what really goes on at hospitals, check out journalist Steven Brill’s award-winning Time magazine cover story called “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” The lengthy piece, from 2013, is worth the subscription price. Nonprofit hospitals, as it turns out, make a lot of money. But you might want to skip the article and go straight to Brill’s follow-up book, America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System, which came out this January. I have to buy it. It’s about, as NPR described it, “the political fights and the medical and pharmaceutical industry lobbying that made it difficult to pass any health care overhaul — and led to the compromises of the Affordable Care Act. The law enables millions more people to afford health insurance, he writes, but it also adds new layers of bureaucracy — and many confusing new regulations.” In between the article and the book, Brill underwent heart surgery for his own life-threatening condition, so like my French friend, he got to peruse hospital bills more than he would have liked. In Brill’s NPR interview, he described one of his bills this way:

“‘Amount billed: zero. Amount insurance company paid: zero.’ And the third column said, ‘Amount you owe: $154.’ So it makes no sense.”

It just so happened that, for his book, he had scheduled an interview with the CEO of United Healthcare, the largest health insurance company in the U.S. and his own insurer. At the end of the interview he asked about his own bill.

“‘How can I owe $154 if nothing was billed?’ He looks at it … and looks up at me and says, ‘I could sit here all day and I couldn’t explain that to you. I have no idea why they sent this to you.'”

It would be funny if it weren’t terrifying!

An older article (which can be read for free) is a September 2009 Atlantic article by David Goldhill, called “How American Health Care Killed My Father.” He argues against being resigned to the difficult, exclusionary system we’re used to and comes out in favor of a “consumer-driven” health-care system. He offers detail on one proposal that would provide everyone with equal coverage for catastrophic events/illnesses and a new form of health savings account for everything else. It’s interesting. I’m open to any ideas that would enable everyone to get Jolie Pitt-worthy care. Don’t be angry at her; be inspired!

UPDATED TO ADD: Turns out Angelina’s family is more affected by cancer than previously known.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Marc Jacobs today confirmed that his lower-priced Marc by Marc Jacobs line would be absorbed into the main Marc Jacobs brand. The move was first reported by WWD last week.

My main interest in this stems from a Glamour story on the best looks of the Marc by Marc Jacobs line over the years. It includes this shot of the “must-have wellies” from fall 2004.


Click for source.

I was excited to see this because I knew I got my Marc boots before 2005, but I never looked up the exact season. It’s interesting to know!


My boots from 2004.

These are so filthy! Soap and water don’t help. But I don’t care that much, because if it’s raining hard enough to wear these, no one is stopping on the street to stare at my feet. It has to be raining really, really hard to justify wearing these boots out because they are easy to get on but very difficult to get off.  I swear, I once fought them for 20 minutes! I save them for occasions when I need to be out in a deluge for hours at a time, like the Madonna concert at Yankee Stadium I went to in 2012.


Click for original post.

I believe these boots are the only Marc by Marc Jacobs design I own, but I’ve certainly gotten good use out of them!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Thanks to gorgeous Tina Huynh of W Magazine for including my gold peace-sign earring in “Too Cute for Words,” a slideshow of emoji jewelry.


$225 for a single earring in 18K yellow gold. Click to purchase.

Don’t forget that my latest emoji-inspired stud earrings are the Westside and Eastside signs. They will be on my website soon, but until then you can pre-order the silver versions ($35 for a single) by emailing info at wendybrandes dot com.

Thanks also to gorgeous Becky Cole, who blogs at Diamonds in the Library, for writing about my award-winning Pink Elephant and Tipsy Writer Maneater ring for Book Riot. As I’ve said before, that ring was inspired by Jack London, who is credited with first writing about pink elephants as an alcoholic hallucination, so that’s how I ended up on a book blog!

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