I’ve been working in retail creative for almost 30 years. Half of those years have been with Ralph Lauren.
The easiest way to explain what I do is that I create the window displays. It’s not a career that I ever dreamed I would have…. or even knew existed…. but it’s the perfect blend of my love of fashion and style, combined with my design and construction skills.
I don’t do any of this alone, I work with an amazingly talented team of people. Together we tell elaborate stories with a few yards of fabric, a carload of barn wood, glue guns, flood lights, garland, spray glitter and always 5 or 6 trips to Home Depot.
We make “retail art”.
Every October through November, for the holidays, the magic is turned up a bit and we really shine.
These are always my favorite windows.
Our inspiration could be Christmas at Colorado cabin, or in an art-deco penthouse, the backstage at the Paris Opera, or even a party for elegantly dressed teddy bears.
I don’t usually show these off.
To me, they’re never finished. There’s something I could always tweak a little more; lighting to adjust, garland to fluff, silver to polish….
But I’m proud of them, and the work that we put into them, and wanted to share some of my favorites from the last couple years….
Hope y’all enjoyed this glimpse….
When you collect vintage Christmas ornaments the way I do…… let’s just say that I cast a rather large net. I search out large, inexpensive, lots…. there are always some surprises; Usually there are a few decent ones, even fewer great ones, and mostly ones I would classify as “ok”.
And sometimes, but not very often, there are some clear ones with paper caps.
American Christmas wasn’t always the way we celebrate it now.
German immigrants at the turn of the last century brought with them their Germanic holiday traditions of Santa Claus, Christmas cookies, and my personal favorite, the Christmas tree.
Christmas trees were already the rage in Victorian England, after Prince Albert presented one to Queen Victoria.
Max Eckardt is considered by many to be the father of American Christmas ornaments. Max was a German immigrant importing German mouth-blown glass Christmas ornaments for the American market. Because he knew that a war would interrupt his imports, it was Max’s idea to convince the Corning Glass Company to slightly alter machines that were currently making light bulbs to produce glass Christmas balls. He then had them silvered and hand-painted by K&L Glassworks in New Jersey.
Because of the anti-German sentiment at the time, Max withdrew the name Max Eckardt & Co and renamed his brand, distributing the new Corning provided ornaments, Shiny Brite.
When World War 2 did hit, Max was right and he captured the American Christmas ornament market, especially since his glass baubles were produced in the United States and sold for just a few pennies each across the country at Woolworth’s Five & Dime stores.
Early American ornament caps sometimes read, “Made in U.S. of A.”.
But the war also had other consequences. Certain items became rationed; meat, gasoline, sugar, butter, rubber and even silver; like the silver nitrate Shiny Brite used to line the inside of their glass ornaments. Max’s solution was to tint the clear glass in bright colors.
Or embellish them with graphic stencils,
Or even to add a piece of tinsel for sparkle.
Shiny Brite wasn’t the only ornament company affected by these rations. Corning was selling the same clear glass ornaments, or blanks, to other companies like, Rauch, Coby, and Franke. Premier Glass, who had developed their own glass ornament shapes, countered the lack of silver nitrate with some pretty bright, vibrant paint colors.
Premier is one of my favorite companies. It’s probably because they had a relatively short run, from about 1940 thru 1955 – when Shiny Brite bought them out to limit the competition, that they are highly sought after by collectors.
When the metal used for caps also became scarce, they were replaced with paper. Sometimes, the entire cap and loop were replicated with brown craft paper.
Or just a hanger was fashioned from thin cardboard in an upside down T-ish shape with a hole punched for a hook or piece of string.
I even have a few with home-crafted twisted wire hangers like this guy.
Unsilvered ornaments and paper caps were only produced for a couple of years, and by 1946 war-time restrictions had lifted and companies were able to use silver nitrate and metal caps again making this brief interlude just a blip in the history of American produced Christmas ornaments.
Making them that much more desirable……
I never intended to collect war-time unsilvered ornaments, they just appeared. I wasn’t interested in clear ornaments, but when I noticed that I had a few paper caps in my hoard. It was on.
When I really focus on something, I burn a hole right through it…
….and it didn’t take long to collect enough to do a small tree.
They remind me of ribbon candy.
The tinsel tree was an At Home find and the colored lights are C6 bulbs – also from the 1940’s. I thought it was only fitting to use punched tin reflectors with them.
Who knows what will tickle me to collect next.
But have no fear that I’ll dive right in,
like Scrooge McDuck.
Young Frankenstein has always been one of my favorite movies.
On rainy summer afternoons I would stay in and watch the Creature Feature on TV. There were only 8 channels in the 1970s. The creatures were usually of the 1950’s sci-fi variety; giant tarantulas, Invaders from Mars, or gelatinous blobs. But sometimes they were of the 1930’s/40’s Universal horror type; Dracula, the Wolfman, or better yet…. the monster Frankenstein.
There’s no doubt that Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks loved those old Frankenstein movies too.
Columbia Pictures wasn’t happy about Brook’s desire to film Gene Wilder’s monster satire in black and white to mimic the look of the old Universal horror films. The studio tried to trick Brooks into filming on color stock, for the Peruvian audiences they said, but would switch the final print to B/W in post production. Brooks stood his ground because he knew Columbia would “screw him” – his words, not mine. When 20th Century Fox eventually bought the rights they were fine with the the director’s choice of a black and white film, 1930’s style opening credits, and scenes that fade to black.
Much of the equipment in the Frankenstein lab was built for James Wale’s Frankenstein movies by Ken Strickfaden. Brooks visited him and was delighted to find most of the pieces were stored in Strickfaden’s garage, and still worked.
Gene Wilder persuaded Brooks to skip his usual cameo, as he thought it would disrupt the tone of the film. Brooks sort of agreed, with minor cameos; he’s the voice of the howling wolves, Fredrick’s grandfather, and the shrieking cat struck by a dart. There’s also a gargoyle on the side of the castle that bears a pretty striking resemblance to the director.
It’s rumored that the scene where Young Dr. Frankenstein and Igor meet at the train station for the first time inspired the Aerosmith song, “Walk the Way”. Rumored anyway. Wilder did write the scene especially for Marty Feldman after watching him on the Dean Martin Show.
Marty routinely moved his fake hump from side to side while filming to see if anyone would notice. Not only did Mel find it hysterical, the joke was added to the movie.
Madeliene Khan was offered the role of Inga, the ditzy lab assistant, but after reading the script she decided on the part of Elizabeth, the fiancé. Brooks though she was crazy; Inga had four times the screen time. But Khan masterfully turns every minute of Elizabeth into comedy gold.
Terry Garr (after she was booted from the part of Elizabeth) modeled her character, Inga – the lab assistant, on Cher’s hairdresser. Or rather, her wig stylist. We all know that Cher hasn’t displayed her real hair since the LBJ administration.
Kenneth Mars was offered the part of Inspector Kemp only if he agreed to wear an eye patch with a monocle over it. Obviously, he didn’t object. This was a step up from his last Brook’s film where his wardrobe was a Nazi Helmut and union suit covered in pigeon shit.
Chloris Leachman’s Frau Bluher – Contrary to popular belief, Bluher does not mean “glue’ in German, she’s just one scary bitch, who’s name alone frightens horses – garnered her a Golden Globe nomination for best actress. Leachman was even offered to reprise her role 40-plus years later in the musical stage version of the movie. Unfortunately, the musical’s run ended before she could accept.
Gene Hackman was originally uncredited, and unpaid. He offered to work for free after reading Wilder’s script, wanting to try a comedy role for a change. His line, “I was gonna make espresso!” was ad-libbed and the scene quickly fades to black to hide the crew’s laughter.
Young Frankenstein’s original run-time was twice as long as the final cut. Brooks and Wilder were tasked with reducing the footage by almost half. For every joke that worked, there were three that fell flat. (Like the record of Frederick’s grandfather’s reading his last will that gets stuck repeating, “Up yours”, over and over) Brooks was uncertain about the Puttin’ on the Ritz number, and fought viciously with Wilder who wanted to keep it in. He changed his mind the minute he heard the preview audience roaring with laughter. The biggest laugh of the movie is quite clearly the Creature’s garbled,
“Puiinin on da reeez!”
Young Frankenstein was an immediate hit, with audiences and critics, grossing $86.2 million on a mere $2.78 million budget.
It’s a rare film that manages to be equal amounts of nostalgia and irreverence.
Sadly this was the last collaboration for the team of Brooks and Wilder. Quite a loss as all three movies the pair worked on together; The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein, have been added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.
Haven’t seen this movie in a while? Or sadly….. never.
Do yourself a favor; pop some popcorn, curl up on the couch…. and revisit/discover this absolute gem.
and Happy Halloween.
How cool are these?
Lately I have been fascinated by the work of artist Richard Wilkinson. And not just because he makes “Star Wars Bugs”.
He does. Really he does.
Take a look at these classic Hollywood monsters rethought as insects.
I used to day-dream about my wedding.
You know, back when I had girlfriends that I could imagine myself marrying. (Not so much consummating the union, but certainly verifying it in front of family and friends.)
My dream wedding was a big 80’s style shin-dig; 8-10 groomsmen and myself garbed in the finest tuxedos that Gengis had to rent that week and my future wife wrapped in a parade float of a Disney princess gown with shoulder poofs like Joan Collins would wear. There would be a 4 tiered punch fountain, a six course sit-down dinner with calligraphed place cards, and display tables overflowing with all the monogrammed sterling we’d been gifted.
But that vision came to a crashing halt when I came to certain terms with myself.
I think y’all know what I mean,
The best I could hope for was some kind of “civil union”.
Didn’t matter anyway, what followed was a string of losers; users and addicts, and guys that really just weren’t that into me and I settled on the fact that I’d better learn to change my own adult diapers because I was probably going to be flying solo.
Our first date was nice, comfortable even. (I had Kylie call me an hour into it just incase I needed an “out”. Which I didn’t). On our second date, sitting on Jamie’s futon, both of us singing “Good Morning” with Gene, and Donald, and Debbie …… I just knew;
This was the guy.
It’s the best twelve years of my life later – and he’s still the guy.
He better be. That’s a quarter of my life I’ve spent with him. (Although, I did get rid of that futon as fast as I could)
We moved in together 9 years ago. And even though we’re partners, best friends, and our lives are completely intertwined at this point, we each had a running joke that,
”I don’t see no ring on this finger.”
But that changed 2 years ago. While standing in Battery Park, looking out at the Statue of Liberty, Jamie produced a small turquoise box and officially asked me to spend the rest of my life with him.
Of course I would.
I never thought that I wouldn’t.
And we were finally able to, legally. On June 26, 2015 the United States Supreme Court recognized that we was the same as every other American. That whomever we choose to love was ok.
We considered just going to Dallas City Hall, or having a simple ring exchange at a boutique hotel. I even toyed with the idea of springing an elopement on him while we were in Key West last year. Why not just work a wedding into an existing vacation? – A half hour diversion from eating conch fritters and lying on the beach.
We didn’t think anyone would want to attend anyway.
But they did.
So last weekend, we loaded a party bus with family and close friends, and dragged them about an hour and a half north of Las Vegas into the Valley of Fire for a small ceremony.
We were married exactly 12 years to the day of our first date.
There were no decorations. No groomsmen. No punch bowls. No stuffiness.
And it was just perfect.
Now, we are more than partners, we’re officially husbands,
And it’s Jamie who is legally bound to decide if I stay on life support. (The correct answer is, “no”) But more importantly, he is first in line to inherit all my crap; thousands of glass Christmas ornaments, 15 pair of velvet slippers – 3 sizes to big for him, every Martha Stewart Living Magazine ever printed, and about 300 mint-condition, carded Star Wars action figures.
Yupp, all his.
Pretty sure this means he is also legally bound to change my adult diapers to,
Lucky, lucky, luck luck.
I’m so looking forward to our continuing adventures together ….. officially as husbands.