Choose to be Happy


The title of post was inspired by a number I heard in the musical Grey Gardens, which I saw Saturday night at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.

The first act is engaging only as generic musical theater, as if book writer Doug Wright and director Michael Wilson were anxious to dispense with the preliminaries and get to the more meaty second act.

But I liked the first act since the younger Edie played by Sarah Hunt is living in grandeur.  She is pretty and vivacious with none of the idiosyncrasies intimating her later, fractured self. Her most affecting song, “Daddy’s Girl,” is a desperate plea to convince her fiance, Joe Kennedy of her fidelity.

As moving as it is, the first act actually belongs to Rachel York as the elder Edith, a mother from hell who demands the center spotlight. She is even more impressive after intermission when she switches from Big Edith to Little Edie, taking over the role from Hunt as the now 56-year-old former debutante, holed up with her mother, played by Betty Buckley.

Gone are the Kennedys, the bright colors, beautiful people and sparkling champagne — replaced now with filth and decay.

In act two,  we see the character’s charm and eccentricity as she models a bizarre ensemble with stockings over shorts and an apron that doubles as a cape — as if to say to hell to a “mean nasty Republican town.”

Thoughts like “It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. Do you know what I mean? It’s awfully difficult,” sound like something Tennessee Williams might have written but were actually lifted from the documentary.

Grey Gardens is a portrait of being without men in a man’s world, at a time where wealthy women were powerless, victims of chauvinism and self-delusion.

Big Edith only wanted her independence, a virtual impossibility for a woman with nothing more to offer than a vibrant falsetto. And her daughter Edie is someone who, due to poor parenting and a hint of mental illness, found all avenues of escape cut off.

Like most of us one time or another, they are trapped by an uncaring world and by their own shortcomings. The point is brought home in Edie’s heartbreaking lament that ends the show, “Another Winter in a Summer Town,” sung by a woman who will always be on the outside looking in. It’s a condition familiar to anyone who has ever felt defeated and estranged — rich, poor, loved and unloved, and it’s what gives Grey Gardens its emotional resonance.

Los Angeles Music Center
Los Angeles Music Center

Does a Dress a day keep the Madness Away


Women love new clothes, right? The answer these days is: not so much. Today I read that in England women are buying less clothes. According to Steve Rowe, the new chief executive of Britain’s Marks & Spencer, 60 percent of women are buying fewer clothes than they were 10 years ago. There was even a chart showing with age how women spend less. I know many men who would welcome that statistic. Meanwhile, there are few must-have fashion trends to send women scrambling for new styles. And there will always be those who see shopping as therapy, when it actuality it zaps energy levels. And that energy could be spent in creating something.

And where women are spending on clothes, they’re looking for value, that’s always been my m.o., but spending less? Actually I agree but not because of age but because of priorities. Such as spending being diverted to other areas, such as cosmetics, hair, holidays and meals out.

All this makes life difficult for clothing retailers, particularly in the mid-market that’s caught between the cheap-chic stores favored by younger shoppers and more upscale locations.

I tend to agree because lifestyles have gotten more casual. And that’s a pity in my book. I believe as women age they become smarter shoppers. Personally, I know what styles and colors suit me and what doesn’t and I’m not swayed by trends.

I buy less pieces that are higher ticket items. My history has been to reach for quality. Because less is more. I prefer owning two cashmere sweaters in rich colors over five scratchy cheap wool sweaters. I favor the classics with a slight twist. If I had unlimited clothing budget I’d favor dresses by Christian Dior like Charlene of Monaco, and separates by Giambattista Valli like Amal Clooney.

What about you? Do you buy less or more than in the past? Has your lifestyle reflected the current wave of less shopping? If you had an enormous clothing allowance what would you purchase?

A Day Late

I read today that only 4% of all women in the world consider themselves beautiful. The statistic stung staying with me. The remaining 96% do not like their nose, their ears, their thighs, or their legs. 86% feel fat, and more than a third are on a constant diet. A quarter will develop an eating disorder, 20% will die of it.

The world is full of girls and women that it does not see. Starving, binging, purging, exercising, sucking in stomachs, covering scars, nibbling on salads, digging into ice cream tubs, counting calories, fearful of numbers on scales. Avoiding mirrors, crying in front of them. Painting nails, cheeks, and smiles on any given night only to wipe them off the following morning.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had one of the most tempestuous romances in the history of the art world, loving each other ferociously through a twenty-year age difference and multiple affairs. It transpired through their photographs, letters, and art, but perhaps most in the portrait she sketched of him. “I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors, because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love. Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes,” she said.

Rivera was a balding, overweight, old man, and the world saw him as such. He was not even remotely beautiful. But Kahlo saw beauty in him and said, “in all of you is a space full of sounds — in the shade and in the light”. She called him auxochrome: the one who captures color. Isn’t that beautiful, to think of your beloved in hues of color.

I wish I could tell the 96% of women who doubt their looks, that they are not insignificant; for centuries women have inspired paintings and poems and stories and songs. They have been the subject of masterpieces. Art is beauty, and therefore they as women are beautiful.


Lyling, Karin, Alma, Vivian, Diane, Linda, Tanya
Lyling, Karin, Alma, Vivian, Diane, Linda, Tanya

It seems only appropriate that the holiday season should be infused with a bit of shine, even if it is in the plastic form of sequins. The word sequin, in fact, was taken up in France to designate what it means today from the Italian word zecchino, a gold coin… Which makes sense since, in earlier centuries (dating back to 2500BC), they were made of shiny metals. Ah, isn’t history fun!

But, as we’ve come to know it, a sequin signifies that time of year when you are suddenly attending festive holiday parties and nothing seems more fitting than wearing a sequin-covered top or dress unless you find out as I did some years ago that your bum and the back of your legs will be nipped at and in excruciating pain. Am I getting older that I no longer will put myself through agony?


This year I have compromised and decided that my bag and jewelry can sparkle and I’ll leave the pinching for the likes of Italian men!

Herman/Berman we're both on his lap!
we’re both on his lap!

Have a merry Christmas!

Reluctant Blogger

Please read my interview by Marie Therese Norris of The French Touch:

Marie is an Image Consultant and Personal Style Coach who has a flair for living la belle vie on the east coast.  We connected through the Internet and made a quick harmonious alliance.

In part one, I talk about my life as a writer, travel, producing a film, being a columnist, teaching creative writing and living in Berlin.

Do you think I’m a reluctant blogger? Are you a reluctant blogger too?

With this ring

I’ve made friends on the Internet. There is one gal whose blog I read, who happens to be French and grew up in Corsica,  She resides in New York, writes in English and her audience is American. To me, she has the natural beauty of Audrey Hepburn. A gal who loves a good laugh and can laugh at herself. And she is also about to be married.

With her upcoming nupitals, one of the things that confused me about her audience is that there seems to be an overload of those who subscribe to the phenomenon of the big fat American wedding.

Since I can remember I’ve been entertained watching others flip through wedding magazines. Maybe it’s because I myself am not a fan of the over the top, puff parade. Now I read about how the American audience of my friend’s blog love the dresses that are as full as a crème puff, the entourage of bridesmaids, the coiffed updos, and love the look, like les meringues. lesmeringues

It makes me wonder and question how, exactly, how one wedding can trump the other on a sartorial level. After all, a wedding is a wedding! It’s the most idyllic day of one’s life, an unspoken ban on all things excessively edgy or vulgar, a celebration of joy and happiness amongst even the most brooding of souls. Considering that most people attend at least one each summer, it would most certainly be helpful if the French have, indeed, coined a more laissez-faire approach to the occasion.

To start, I believe French weddings have a slightly less contrived format: rather than viewing their big day as a complex production to rival Cirque du Soleil, the French simply see it as a day of celebration of love amongst family and friends. They may skip the city chaos and venture into the countryside which weans out unnecessary attendees and allows them to create a more laid-back weekend in a picturesque setting like Provence.

After a daytime ceremony at the local church or mairie (town hall), guests may head to a countryside home or villa for the reception. The decor is rustic and understated, there are no extensive photo ops or bridal parties, with the exception of a few trusted temoins—witnesses—who are given the freedom to wear whatever their hearts desire.

From what I have seen, French brides, seem to prefer a simple dress such as ethereal, or Empire-waist lace gowns that look like something Jane Birkin would have called her own. Makeup is minimal, hair is swept back in a chignon, braid, or left loose and adorned with a flower crown. Not big proponents of heels in general, it’s common for a French bride to do a simple strappy-sandal or a ballet flat, so that she can continue into the night once the dance party is in full swing.


For the occasional city wedding, or civil ceremony, which may be  set in a classic event space, and the bride may go for a simple classic dress or wear an ensemble inspired by her love story. Kind of like Carrie Bradshaw choosing the Manolo Blahnik something blue satin pumps the second time, marrying Mr. Big. Vastly different than her first hullabaloo fanfare.

If you had it to do all over again would you replicate your wedding as it was, or would you do it differently and why?