Comic CONsciousness

by Tyler and Christo Wilson

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“The great thing about the comics industry is that it’s driven by passion

…it isn’t driven by money.”

Royden Lepp, graphic novelist, The New York Times, 7/28/14

The New York Times:

Armed Animals Don’t Invent Themselves

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Character Creators Fight for Cash and Credit

“Like millions of moviegoers over the weekend, Bill Mantlo watched “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the Marvel Studios space adventure that sold more than $172 million in tickets worldwide in its first four days of release.”

“The film’s success is particularly meaningful to Mr. Mantlo, 62, [who watched the film from his nursing home room] a comic-book writer who helped create one of the movie’s main characters: the foul-tempered, gun-wielding anthropomorphic Rocket Raccoon.”

 

Groot holding Rocket Raccoon, who was created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Photograph from, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Groot holding Rocket Raccoon, who was created by Bill Mantlo and Keith Giffen, in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Photograph from, Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures

Our very own Boulevardier Brothers have something to say,

and it’s all about comics, Comic-Con, and yes! it’s Comic-Con season again…

TYLER: I’ve been investing in comic books since I was 3 years old. Before I could even read I would join Ma and my older brother Christo on the weekly trips to the comic shop, and buy them just for the trip home which was a visual universe of amazing action packed illustrations. There was always a monthly budget for books and comics in our house, our Ma encouraged all varieties of reading, and she is proud today of her, “voracious reader sons.” I favored mostly Marvel titles, like Spider-Man and Iron Man, as I got older I was drawn toward the darker imprints, particularly Vertigo and the Hellblazer books.

 

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Illustration by Tyler Wilson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by artists like Tim Bradstreet (Hellblazer) and Mike Mignola (Hellboy), many of my pieces explore the blending of humanity, the occult, and technology. Del Toro on Mignola, “Mike’s body of work is firmly anchored in comic-book and literary traditions of Machen, Lovecraft, Toth, and Kirby. Yet what has been emerging from them is a species all on its own.”

 

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The REAL Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.

 

Comic books are actually versatile tools, they can be used to articulate views on political and societal shifts, as well as being colorful escapist fantasies. It is the rare author who can successfully combine both of these into a comic that doesn’t become overbearingly self serious or run off the rails (how many times can a character come back from the dead — really?).

There are of course some seminal works: Watchmen by Alan Moore, Sandman by Neil Gaiman, The Dark Knight Rises by Frank Miller, (soon to be newly released film Sin City: A Dame to Kill For — August 22, 2014 continues his genre) that manage to not only define entirely new worlds and characters, but to a certain extent hold up a gritty and super powered mirror to some of the real world’s problems. Comics have matured over the years, from their Golden Age beginnings like the jingoistic propaganda of early Captain America and Superman, to cynical and dark dystopian tales like Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan or the religiously polarizing and irreverent Preacher by Garth Ennis.

 

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From the Comic-Con website:

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Comic-Con International: San Diego began in 1970 when a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans — including the late Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf banded together to put on the first comic book convention in southern California. Comic-Con started as a one-day “minicon,” called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, on March 21, 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The purpose of this single day, which included two special guests, Forrest J Ackerman and Mike Royer, and drew about 100 attendees was to raise funds and generate interest for a larger convention. The success of the minicon led to the first full-fledged, three-day San Diego Comic-Con (called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con), held August 1–3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, with guests Ray Bradbury, Jack Kirby, and   A. E. van Vogt. Over 300 attendees packed into the hotel’s basement for that groundbreaking event, which featured a dealers’ room, programs and panels, film screenings, and more…essentially, the model for every comic book convention to follow.

From the beginning, the founders of the show set out to include not only the comic books they loved, but also other aspects of the popular arts that they enjoyed and felt deserved wider recognition,  including films and science fiction/fantasy literature. After one more name change (San Diego’s West Coast Comic Convention, in 1972), the show officially became the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) in 1973 with the fourth annual event. In 1995, the non-profit event changed its name to Comic-Con International: San Diego (CCI).

 

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CHRISTO: I’ve always been a comics fan, my Dad inspired me with his 60′s comics collection, and I passed this along to my younger brother Tyler. With 20 years and counting of collecting, I think perhaps the most astounding thing about modern comic books, and the comic industry, is how successful the material has become across the media landscape. To put this is perspective, consider that in 1996, Marvel Comics was bankrupt, and yet today the Disney/Marvel juggernaut is redefining what is possible across movies and television with projects and crossovers of immense scope. But Marvel is hardly the only success story: Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead is a cult phenomenon spanning comics, television, and a critically acclaimed episodic video game series. Similarly, Bill Willingham’s modern classic Fables is also now an award winning video game (The Wolf Among Us), as well as (arguably) the inspiration for television hit Once Upon A Time.

 

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A few Comic-Con facts from mental_floss:

The first Masquerade Ball, a fan-made costume and makeup contest, took place in 1974.

In 1979, $12,000 in receipts was stolen from the Comic-Con International Treasurer’s home. As a result, the organization behind Comic-Con had to ask fans for donations to pay off the debt.

Since 2000, San Diego Comic-Con has hosted an annual film festival called the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, which highlights the best in genre movie-making.

Director Kevin Smith has made guest appearances at San Diego Comic-Con since 1997. In 2007, Comic-Con organizers asked the geek icon to close out Comic-Con Saturday Nights in Hall H with an hour-and-a-half long “Geek State of the Union Address.”

San Diego Comic-Con was featured on various TV shows throughout the last decade, including The O.C., Weeds, and Entourage. The comic book convention was also featured on the reality shows Beauty and the Geek and MTV’s Punk’d and The Real World: San Diego.

 

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CHRISTO: The sheer size, scope, and cross-genre popularity of Comic-Con 2014 is perhaps the strongest evidence that comic books have truly arrived as mainstream culture. You’re equally likely to encounter Joss Whedon surrounded by the Avengers, Firefly browncoats, of Buffy-esque vampires. Guillermo del Toro might be found piloting a 50-story tall Jaeger from Pacific Rim, forestalling the vampire apocalypse in The Strain (itself a trilogy of books, comics, and now a television show), or investigating the paranormal with Hellboy. In short, comic culture is now just culture, and Comic-Con is the epicenter of the new entertainment landscape.
Note: We encourage all readers to take time and explore the visual feast of unbelievable comic art by each illustrator great in this post…hence all the links, do visit their sites and Wikipedia for an eyeball full!

 

 

 

Good Days and Bad Hair Days

by Sally Wilson

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I never knew that April 30th is National Hairstyle Appreciation Day … but that’s another day and a different story. I’ve been thinking about hair, and styles, and reminiscing. The options are numerous, and hysterical, and just plain ridiculous. Some are so bad, they’ve morphed to good, great or even legendary (in their own mind, at least).

 

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“Hair and shoes say it all. Everything in between is forgivable as long as you keep it simple. Trying to talk with your clothes is passive-aggressive.”   Rick Owens

 

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BAD HAIR DAY, From: The Phrase Finder

MEANING: A day on which one’s hair seems unmanageable. Also extended to mean a day when everything seems to go wrong.

ORIGIN: This first came into prominence in the language following its use in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy (Kristy Swanson) to the one-armed vampire Amilyn (Paul Reubens): “I’m fine but you’re obviously having a bad hair day.”.

The phrase was already known by that date but not very widely used. In July 1988 the Press Democrat, a Santa Rosa, California newspaper printed: “Even those who emerge from the sea to casually braid their shiny wet vines into a thick coil with a hibiscus on the end also have bad-hair days.”.

Whether that’s where the term was coined isn’t certain, although it is a strong contender. There are many hearsay reports that it is much earlier, but no hard evidence has emerged to support them.

 

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Speaking of hairstyles, Boulevardier Publisher Kim Steele has a favorite Donald Trump anecdote. “I was assigned by Time magazine to photograph Donald Trump at his newly erected Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. I arrived with my assistant at our prescribed time for the portrait.  Sitting outside his office with cases of equipment, he delayed the session for hours. Finally bursting out of his office informed me that I had 10 minutes to complete the portrait. Sweating, I ran into his office to set up the lights, his then wife Ivana walked through the office informing The Don that ‘No wonder you never like your portraits, its because you’re always so rude to the photographers!’ The photo ran full-page in Time.”

 

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Trump: “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” Or not. The Donald does take the cake, Marie Antoinette and her unusual hairdo pun intended…however the battle has not yet been won, memorable examples abound.

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And my all-time favorite…

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Enough bad hair days? OK then, head to toe…if the shoe fits…how about bad shoes??

I was looking at a slideshow of the “50 Ugliest Shoes” ever designed. OK, I agree on number 1, everybody agrees on number 1…number 2 wins the most dangerous but most multi-taskable award…however number 3, to each her own, seriously, anything pink with roses is fab in my book!

“The stiletto is a feminine weapon that men just don’t have.”  Christian Louboutin

 

Crocs Footwear Open Flagship Store

 

 

 

 

Crocs…brought to us by Mario Batalli and now infamous for being the ugliest shoes in history.

 

 

“They went into my closets looking for skeletons, but thank God, all they found were shoes, beautiful shoes.”  Imelda Marcos

 

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“These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.”                        Charles Barkley

 

 

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, painting by  Alessandro Longhi

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, painting by
Alessandro Longhi

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova: Synonymous with lovemaking charm and persuasion, even since Casanova’s death in 1798, his name evokes and defines the same person to this day. In today’s vernacular, “Womanizing.” Despite his impoverished condition and position at his death in Bohemia, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova’s memoir fetched a stunning figure in 2010 by the Bibliotheque Nationale de France of $9.6million! He was the first to assert that the revelation of his sexual exploits were in the scholar Tom Vitelli’s words, an American Casanovist, “He only presented his love life because it gave a window onto human nature.”

Casanova was a very learned and dimensional figure who acquainted with the likes of Ben Franklin, Voltaire and Catherine the Great. He translated The Iliad into his native Venetian dialect, supported himself as a gambler and bon vivant.

 

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Casanova as a young boy, and later in his life

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was born in Venice in 1725 to actress Zanetta Farussi, wife of actor and dancer Gaetano Giuseppe Casanova. Giacomo was the first of six children, followed by Francesco Giuseppe (1727–1803), Giovanni Battista (1730–1795), Faustina Maddalena (1731–1736), Maria Maddalena Antonia Stella (1732–1800), and Gaetano Alvise (1734–1783). Casanova’s father died while he was a child and his mother sent him to boarding school in Padua.  Casanova met a young woman there, the daughter of his instructor, Bettina she was “pretty, lighthearted, and a great reader of romances. The girl pleased me at once, though I had no idea why. It was she who little by little kindled in my heart with the first sparks of a feeling which later became my ruling passion.”  Here he was ignited with the stuff that drove him.  Casanova graduated from the University of Padua in law at seventeen.  Amassing significant gambling debts there, he scurried back to Venice.

 

Palazzo Malpiero

 

He began his lifelong pattern of finding a patron,  76-year-old Venetian senator Alvise Gasparo Malipiero, the owner of Palazzo Malipiero.  Malipiero was grooming Casanova as a ‘dandy’.  Casanova was tall (disputed heights between 5’9” to 6’), dark and  handsome with long, powdered and elaborately curled hair. Malipiero instructed him on manners, food and wine.

 

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Casanova and the sisters, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

At this time, Casanova experienced his famous first sexual encounter with two sisters, Nanetta and Maria Savorgnan, then fourteen and sixteen. He claimed they instilled his lifelong passion for sex.  Scandals ensued, landing him in prison for the first time for a gambling debt.  In his memoir, blandly titled: Histoire de ma vie, (Story of My Life) he proclaimed that “I have always loved it [sex] and done all that I could to make myself loved by it.”

Failing in his law profession and his attempt to work for the Church as a scribe with the powerful Cardinal Acquaviva in Rome, he elected to buy a post in the military of the Republic of Venice.  In Casanova’s, Story of My Life, he described his effort so:

 

Casanova in Uniform, by

Casanova in Uniform, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I decided to dress as a soldier … I inquire for a good tailor … he brings me everything I need to impersonate a follower of Mars … My uniform was white, with a blue vest, a shoulder knot of silver and gold … I bought a long sword, and with my handsome cane in hand, a trim hat with a black cockade, with my hair cut in side whiskers and a long false pigtail, I set forth to impress the whole city.”

Casanova soon bored with this occupation, and at age twenty-one, he set out to become a professional gambler. Venice still sports some of his haunting grounds, Cantina do Spade, still one of the most atmospheric bars in Venice, is one. Stories here abound with his fervor.  Soon another patron surfaced, Don Matteo Bragadin, who showered him with funds and clothing. His swarthy complexion and prominent nose set off his regalia. He reflects in his memoir, “My currency was unbridled self-esteem.”  Few women could resist it.

 

Scandalous Casanova, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

Scandalous Casanova, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scandals continued to ensue, including an accusation of rape that was dismissed. One of his most famous liaisons took place at this time with MM., a ravishing, noble born nun, whom he spirited away from her convent on Murano Island by gondola to a sumptuous retreat.  Casanova recorded in his memoir that she “was astonished to find herself so receptive to so much pleasure.”  He continued this relationship with MM. (thought to be Marina Morsoni) for many years, including a ménage a trois with her older lover, the French ambassador; then a quatre with another young nun.

 

Casanova's seduction alcove, at Palazzo Merati

Casanova’s seduzione alcova, at Palazzo Malpiero

 

Strangely enough, Pierre Cardin purchased the palazzo in which Casanova lived during his prime.  He even created an annual literary prize titled the Casanova Award, to celebrate literary genius. Parenthetically, Cardin also purchased the chateau of Marquis de Sade’s home in Provence.

 

Casanova's Henriette? Adélaide de Gueidan, painting by Nicolas de Largillière

Casanova’s Henriette? Adélaide de Gueidan, painting by Nicolas de Largillière

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, Casanova fled his scandals in Venice to Parma.  Here he engaged in his most ardent affair, a  Frenchwoman, Henriette.  “No woman so captivated Casanova as Henriette; few women obtained so deep an understanding of him. She penetrated his outward shell early in their relationship, resisting the temptation to unite her destiny with his.”  (Childs, J. Rives, Casanova: A New Perspective. New York: Paragon House, 1988)  He returned to Venice after the smoke had cleared, had a winning gambling streak, and decided it was time for “The Grand Tour”…which was the mainstay for the upper class in 1750.

Casanova’s first stop was Paris. He joined the Freemasons and adhered to a secret cult, Rosicrucianism.  This is a philosophical secret society said to have been founded in late medieval Germany by Christian Rosenkreuz. It holds a doctrine or theology ”built on esoteric truths of the ancient past,” which, “concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe and the spiritual realm.” Rosicrucianism is symbolized by the Rosy Cross. After two years, Casanova moved on in 1752 to Dresden and encountered his mother. He wrote a well-received play, La Moluccheide, now lost. He then visited Prague and Vienna, where the tighter moral atmosphere of the latter city was not to his liking. Casanova finally returned to Venice in 1753. In Venice, he resumed his wicked escapades, picking up many enemies and gaining the greater attention of the Venetian inquisitors. His police record became a lengthening list of reported blasphemies, seductions, fights, and public controversy. Casanova finally hit the wall of convention.

 

The Invisible College of the Rose Cross Fraternity, from Theophilus Schweighardt, 1618

The Invisible College of the Rose Cross Fraternity, from Theophilus Schweighardt, 1618

 

At age thirty, Casanova was arrested again.

 

Casanova Placed Under Arrest

Casanova Placed Under Arrest

 

According to John Masters (who was a regular soldier in the Indian Army of Britain), (Casanova. MASTERS, John. London: Michael Joseph/Arcadia Press, 1970): “The Tribunal, having taken cognizance of the grave faults committed by G. Casanova primarily in public outrages against the holy religion, their Excellencies have caused him to be arrested and imprisoned under the Leads.” “The Leads” (Piombi in Italian) was a prison of seven cells on the top floor of the east wing of the Doge’s palace, reserved for prisoners of higher status and political crimes and named for the lead plates covering the palace roof. Without a trial, Casanova was sentenced to five years in the “inescapable” prison.  The building is the center of Venice today.   Casanova was soon moved to a more convivial cell according to Masters, spending fifteen months there.

 

"The Leads"

“The Leads”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I sat in my armchair like a man in a stupor; motionless as a statue, I saw that I had wasted all the efforts I had made, and I could not repent of them. I felt that I had nothing to hope for, and the only relief left to me was not to think of the future.”

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“The Leads”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casanova made a daring escape with the help of his neighboring cellmate, Rev. Barbi. Employing a knife he fashioned from a piece of marble; he dug out through the roof.  Leaving behind a note that quoted the 117th Psalm (Vulgate): “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

After the convoluted escape through roof, windows and sheet ropes dropping into a 25 foot ceiling room, they convinced a guard they were locked into the prison by mistake after a party in the Palace, they escaped.  That day they made their way to Paris. Much controversy surround  this escape, but there was some physical evidence to corroborate it.  Thirty years later in 1787, Casanova wrote Story of My Flight, which became popular and was reprinted in many languages, describing the escapade.

In Paris, Casanova became a salesman for the lottery, very successfully selling many tickets. His words, “deceiving a fool is an exploit worthy of an intelligent man.” ( Casanova, Story of My Life. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2006).  Casanova climbed the social and political ladders in Paris, even sold state bonds in Amsterdam at a discount during the Seven Years War,  which made him a rich man.  Only to squander the funds and continue his disaffecting liaisons with his ‘harem’ employees, he again fell into destitution. And yet again, Casanova was imprisoned.

 

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An original signature

 

On the lam again, he traveled to Cologne, Stuttgart, and Marseille where he met Voltaire, then to Genoa, Florence, Rome, Naples, Modena and Turin traversing one sexual romp to another. Casanova started styling himself as the Chevalier de Seingalt, a name he would increasingly use for the rest of his life. He endeared himself with Pope Clement XIII, who funded many of Bernini’s masterpieces, and awarded Casanova a regal ribboned-cross for his chest, Papal Oder of Eperon d’or, to add to his pomp.

 

Casanova and a moonlit assignation, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

Casanova and a moonlit assignation, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Off to England, he gained an audience with King George III to sell the lottery scheme. While there, he bedded a great beauty, Mistress Pauline. Due to his dalliances, he contracted venereal diseases and left England broke and ill.

In recovery, he traveled exhaustively on rough roads, in coaches for four thousand miles as far as St. Petersburg. He managed to meet with Catherine the Great in Russia and Fredrick the Great in Prussia, to sell his lottery scheme, which failed. He was expelled from Warsaw after a duel that wounded his hand over a lady. Off across Europe again, hitting the gambling salons, only to expelled from France by none other that Louis XV himself. His reputation now preceded him.   He appealed to Charles III but to no avail and then wandered around Spain where his debauchery was not well known. In Barcelona, he escaped assassination and landed in jail again for six weeks.

 

Casanova kissing the hand of Catherine the Great, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

Casanova kissing the hand of Catherine the Great, by Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

 

Casanova finally managed to return to Venice where even his adversaries wanted explanation for his daring escape from the Doge Palace.   Now a spy again for Venice, paid by piecework, he reported on religion, morals, and commerce, most of it based on gossip and rumor he picked up from social contacts.  After many miles and jails spells, his good looks were fading at age 49, where his nose and smallpox scar now became prominent. The females were now few and  far between.  He then published the translation of The Illiad to little financial reward.  In fact, Casanova got into a published dispute with Voltaire over religion. When he asked, “Suppose that you succeed in destroying superstition. With what will you replace it?” Voltaire shot back, “I like that. When I deliver humanity from a ferocious beast which devours it, can I be asked what I shall put in its place.”

Later that year, the Inquisitors put him on the payroll, after pardoning him, and sent him to investigate commerce between the Papal states and Venice. Back on the road again, he traveled to Paris and met Ben Franklin to understand his balloon flight design.  His welcome in Paris exhausted, he looked for another position. In 1785, his Foscarini died (his current lover and housekeeper who loved him dearly).  A few months later, he became the librarian to Count Joseph Karl von Waldstein, a chamberlain of the emperor, at Duchcov Chateau, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic).

Bored by his surroundings and duties, though well paid, he contemplated suicide but decided to dedicate himself to his memoirs. He managed some travel to Dresden, Vienna and frequently Prague, the center of Bohemia, where he met Mozart and viewed Don Giovani for the first time in 1787.  Word then arrived that the Republic of Venice had ceased to exist and that Napoleon Bonaparte had seized Casanova’s home city. There was no returning home, Casanova died on June 4, 1798, at age 73 at Duchov Chateau (The Castle Dux) where he was buried…his grave is unknown, now marked elsewhere in town by a fading wooden cross.

 

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His memoirs continued a life of their own.  Willed to his nephew, who sold it promptly to a German publisher, Brockhaus which then retained it for 140 years. During a WWII bombing that directly hit their offices housing the manuscript, a family member bicycled it across Leipzig to a bank vault. When the Allied forces captured the city, even Churchill inquired about  the memoirs. The memoirs were saved and returned to the German owners, to be first published in 1960 in French, and 1966 in English. Story of My Life (original title: Histoire de ma vie jusqu’à l’an 1797, (History of my Life until the year 1797)) is regarded by some to be one of the great autobiographies, some fourteen hundred pages long detailing over one hundred twenty liaisons. A man with no home, never married, no children, sometimes violin player, spy and astrologer and no apparent source of income until Duchov Chateau, he was a Boulevardier…a European gambler and a louse.

 

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Giacomo Girolamo Casanova summarizes his life in the memoir in French:

“What pleasure in remembering one’s pleasures! It amuses me because I am inventing nothing.”

 

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova

 

NOTE: With special inspirational THANKS to my great friend, artist Alek Kardas…

 

More about Casanova at Fondazione Giacomo Casanova: HERE

 

Fair Cecily, and other fair-weather friends

by Sally Wilson

 

Rex Whistler; Cecil Beaton; Georgia Sitwell; Sir William Turner Walton; Stephen Tennant; Zita Jungman; Teresa Jungman, photograph by Cecil Beaton

Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, Georgia Sitwell, Sir William Turner Walton, Stephen Tennant, Zita Jungman, Teresa Jungman, photograph by Cecil Beaton

All I want is the best of everything and there’s very little of that left.

Never in the history of fashion has so little material been raised so high to reveal so much that needs to be covered so badly.

What is elegance? Soap and water!

…quotes by Cecil Beaton

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1939

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, photograph by Cecil Beaton, 1939

 

I have an affinity for everything Cecil Beaton, well almost everything (see Beaton’s humiliation & firing from Vogue here). Was there ever a more boulevardiering bad boy Boulevardier, that’s debatable? I envy his eye, and his wit, minus his “acidity”. What a life he lived. Beaton’s first camera was a Kodak 3A folding camera. Over the years Beaton used large format cameras, and smaller Rolleiflex cameras. Not known for his skill as a technical photographer, for Beaton it was all about the gorgeous moment. Truman Capote, “The camera will never be invented that could capture or encompass all that he actually sees.”

Bright Young Things, Costume Balls and Country House Parties: From the Roaring 20s to the Swinging 60s, is an extravaganza of never before exhibited Beaton works, featuring black & white prints from Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Studio Archive. The show is sponsored by Sotheby’s and Wilton House, designed & curated by Jasper Conran. “Providing a fascinating glimpse into a charmed age where Beaton and his posh friends frequently let the good times roll, capturing the spirit of country house parties and costume balls in Britain.”

 

Cecil Beaton

Cecil Beaton

 

 

Cecil Beaton photographing Marilyn Monroe, 1956

Cecil Beaton photographing Marilyn Monroe, 1956

 

“…renowned for his flair for fancy dress and costumery, his Academy and Tony awards for his designs, as well as the lavish, fantastical parties he threw at Ashcombe, his Wiltshire home. As fancy dress became the de rigeur dress code of country house parties, Beaton was able to integrate his high-society personal life with his professional one, persuading his aristocratic friends to pose for him in their exotic costumes, often designed by him, for photographs set against Britain’s grandest country houses…”

 

Edith Olivier, then Mayor of Wilton, as Queen Elizabeth I for a pageant in 1932, photograph by Cecil Beaton

 

Beaton: “For me, coming out of punk and the New Romantics, Ascot was a little like sleeping with the enemy. However much I might balk at conservative society, that was always balanced by the Ascot scene from My Fair Lady which was genius.”

 

Cecil Beaton photographing Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady

Cecil Beaton photographing Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady

 

Beaton, artist, photographer, illustrator, theatrical and film designer, diarist, bon vivant, troublemaker, war documentarian, creative genius, won an Academy Award for Costume Design in 1964 for his work on My Fair Lady.

From The Telegraph:

“In the course of his decades-long career as a photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, photographer to the royal family, and a British war correspondent, Cecil Beaton documented lives famous and quotidian with his trademark theatrical panache.”

 

Cecil Beaton, contact sheet

Cecil Beaton, contact sheet

 

Beaton was born in Hampsted, UK, and said to have been instructed in photography and photo processing by a nanny. He attended Harrow and Cambridge, and was an office clerk in his father’s successful timber business.

The Telegraph: “Beaton – or ‘Fair Cecily’ as editor Diana Vreeland loved to call him – was born with a compulsion to respond to the world around him. Even as his second-floor studio in the former family home in Sussex Gardens teemed with debutantes and intellectuals queuing for their sittings (it was so crowded one could not move about, reported one visitor), he also found time to paint, to caricature, to sketch, to design theatre sets and a line of fabrics, and stuff the pages of his journals with delightfully bitchy comments.”

“By Beaton’s own account, his interest in photography began at the age of three, when he glimpsed a picture postcard of a beautiful Miss Lily Elsie, a popular actress of the time. Smitten, he began to collect all the cards of his heroine that he could find.”

“In 1937, Beaton – now well established at Vogue – was summoned to France by the Duke of Windsor on a PR exercise to counterbalance the unflattering pictures of Wallis Simpson appearing from Fleet Street. His success in softening her angular features led to a commission to photograph their wedding a month later, which became one of the most important series he ever produced.”

Following his dismissal from Vogue, Beaton served as a War Photographer/Correspondent for the Ministry of Information. Beaton became a Knight Bachelor in 1972. Following this, at the age of 68 he had a stroke that paralyzed his right side. Despite attempts at repurposing his left side and his photographic equipment, Beaton never escaped the stroke’s impact. Philip Garner, Sotheby’s legendary photographic curator undertook management and auction, from 1977 through 1980, of Beaton’s archives, minus all portraits of the royal family.

 

Wallis Simpson in Lobster Dress, photograph by Cecil Beaton

Wallis Simpson in Lobster Dress, photograph by Cecil Beaton

 

Dressing up has so many formal forms. Some say the tuxedo was invented by Boulevardier Pierre Lorillard IV. Headline of his obituary, from the New York Times, “PIERRE LORILLARD DEAD; Famous in Society, in Commerce, and in the World of Sport. First American to Win the English Derby — Other Triumphs on the Turf in Both Hemispheres.” Lorillard was step-grandfather to photographer Peter Beard.

At a formal ball, held at the Tuxedo Club in October 1886, Lorillard wore a new style of formal wear for men that he designed himself. He named his tailless black jacket the tuxedo, after Tuxedo Park. The tuxedo caught on and became fashionable as formal wear for men. As for Tuxedo Park, from Wikipedia, “What is now the village and the areas immediately surrounding it were first developed as a private hunting-and-fishing reserve by Pierre Lorillard IV in 1885. At that time it became known as Tuxedo Park. Lorillard IV initially built small cottages, renting or selling them to his friends and family. The project grew so popular that he organized the Tuxedo Club and the Tuxedo Park Association, and surrounded the property with a high game fence. This fence fairly accurately marked the present boundaries of the area restricted to use of the residents of Tuxedo Park. In 1924 the Tuxedo Securities Corporation acquired from the Estate of Peter Lorillard, deceased, all of the stock of the Tuxedo Park Association.”

According to English clothing historian James Laver, the idea of wearing black for evening wear was first introduced by the nineteenth century British writer, Edward Bulwer-Lyttonn who wrote in 1828 that “people must be very distinguished to look well in black.” A resident of Tuxedo Park, James Brown Potter vacationed in England in the summer of 1886. Potter and his wife, Cora were introduced to the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII) at a court ball in London. Potter asked the Prince for advice on formal dress. The Prince sent Potter to his own Saville Row tailor, Henry Poole & Co. Potter was fitted with a short black jacket and black tie that was unlike the formal tails with white tie that was worn in the United States for formal occasions.

The new tailless formal wear was said to have been designed by the Prince of Wales. The Prince and his tailor drew inspiration from the British military uniforms of the time, which used short jackets with black ties.

 

The Tuxedo Club

The Tuxedo Club, Tuxedo Park, NY

 

The Tuxedo Club: “A Google search of Tuxedo will reveal more than sixteen million references. This would be a direct consequence of the dinner jacket, known around the world as a Tuxedo. The short-tailed dinner jacket as we know it today was first introduced to America by a member of The Tuxedo Club. There are differing reports of how this event occurred, but the account by Mr. Grenville Kane, founding member of The Tuxedo Club as told to J. Earle Stevens in 1929 appears to be the most authentic. In the summer of 1886, Tuxedo Club member James Brown Potter and his lovely wife, Cora, while on a visit to England, were invited by the Prince of Wales to join him at Sandringham, his country estate, for the weekend. Prior to going, Mr. Potter asked the Prince what he should wear for dinner. The Prince replied that he had adopted a short jacket in the place of a tailcoat for dinner in the country and that if Mr. Potter went to his tailor in London, he could get a similar jacket made. Mr. Potter did as the Prince suggested. When he returned to America, Mr.Potter’s friends at The Tuxedo Club were not only impressed by the account of his visit to Sandringham but also found the jacket Mr. Potter brought back more appropriate than tails for informal dinners, and so they had it copied by their own tailors. It then became the custom for members of the Club to wear this attire to informal dinners in Tuxedo Park. One evening, a group of members wore their new dinner jackets to a bachelor dinner at Delmonico’s. Their jackets attracted the attention of other diners who, upon enquiry were told “oh, that is what they wear for dinner up at Tuxedo.” And so, from that day forth, the name Tuxedo was forever associated with this style of formal wear.”

 

Edward, Prince of Wales

Edward, Prince of Wales

 

Cecil Beaton, in full regalia

Cecil Beaton, in full regalia, c. 1948

 

An Ephemeral Awareness — Death and the Coming of War

June 21, 2014

BA ephemeral

When we arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, in January, 1966, one of the most unusual thing that we saw were tanks in the streets and soldiers behind sand bags around government buildings.  In the following days we learned that some government officials, senior military leaders and the Sultan of Sokoto had been killed during a coup […]

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Machu Picchu — “The First Tourist”

June 9, 2014

Machu Picchu, prior to excavation

      “The Explorer” by Rudyard Kipling, “Something lost behind the Ranges.  Lost and waiting for you. Go!” The Boulevardiers have been to the mountain, and climbed it. Machu Picchu, the Old Peak…and Huayna Picchu, the New Peak, to be exact. Sources noted below have reviewed its “discovery”. There is no clear and definitive […]

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Black Mountain College ~ America’s Most Creative Art School

May 10, 2014

blind_accordion_player (1)

The New York Times has titled Black Mountain College as one of “six nodes of progressive culture in America.”  Founded in 1933 by John Andrew Rice,  there were innumerable renowned artists that pasted through these hallowed halls for such a  limited period of existence, including Robert Rauschenberg, Ben Shahn, and Joseph Albers — who brought the […]

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Whitney Biennial ~ a meaningful surfeit

April 14, 2014

There was a time when the Whitney Biennial was the much-anticipated barometer of the state of American art…   Whether praised or reviled, everyone could be counted on to have an opinion. This year, as has been the case for some time, the Biennial is just another blur in the bombardment of art as excess […]

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Ironing One’s Shoelaces

April 1, 2014

Coco Chanel gown, 1938

  Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends…. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.  ~Henry David Thoreau Vintage has always been at the top of my list, the visual, touch, feel, quality. I would rather spend hours, weeks, months, years amidst the old wood cases of museum costume […]

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Laces of The Boot — Campania, Italy

February 25, 2014

View from Centola, Campania, Italy, photograph by Kim Steele

    The Cape of Palinuro is a delicious slice of timeless travel, it is a sight to behold along the Cilento coast…we hesitate a bit in saying this, as it is sort of a secret…   According to Virgil´s ancient legend, Aeneas´ unfortunate helmsman Palinuro fell overboard close to the coast, giving his name […]

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