Chanel No. Classic!

The year was 1920 and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was sampling the possible scents for her new perfume. She decided on the fifth vial from all the samples put before her by chemist Earnest Beaux. Her affinity for the number 5 was not a secret considering that she presented her dress collections on May 5th each year (fifth day of the fifth month). She also felt that, since the number 5 had brought her such good luck in business and in life so far, the scent should keep its number as its name. So was the birth of the famous women’s perfume, Chanel No. 5.

The aesthetic inspiration and affinity for the perfume by the developers was a combination of Chanel’s childhood affiliation w/ the number 5 from when she lived @ Aubazine and was inspired by the pattern of 5 in art and the religious upbringing she received there and Beaux’s memories of the icy crisp winter smell of the air when he was fighting in WWI. It was also inspired by the Russian royal court as it was a premiere place for fashionable perfumes and scents.

The original design for the bottle was small with rounded edges, clear, and looked much like a chic whiskey decanter with a small glass plug stopper. The design went through a series of modifications over the years between the sharp edges that replaced the rounded ones and the size of the stopper before becoming the one we know today. The bottle itself was so recognizable and iconic that Andy Warhol used it in his art which became a famous ad for the perfume. (Fun Fact: Marilyn Monroe once said, “What do I wear to bed? Why Chanel No. 5, of course.”)

In 1934 a pocket design was introduced to reach out to a wider consumer base and towards the end of WWII it was released for purchase in military post exchanges and became the hottest gift from a GI to his girl back home. This was a publicity campaign aimed at countering the bad press Chanel was receiving from her past business dealing with the Wertheimer brothers. In Europe during WWII, Jewish business owners were losing their businesses left and right. Chanel and the Wertheimers were in the midst of contract struggles during this time. This is not to suggest that Coco Chanel was a Nazi; she was in fact a business woman looking to protect her product. Still it made for some raised eyebrows, so when the time came she took a risk and put her perfume in the posts and it turned into a win/win for both her and the consumers. The Wertheimers and Chanel ultimately settled their contractual issues and moved forward.

Marketing wise, Chanel No. 5 was not overly publicized in the beginning. It was meant to be exclusive and unique and it’s popularity spread mainly from word of mouth, particularly in the States (New York City). In the late 30s marketing picked up. When the 40s rolled around the trend was to up the amount of ads but Chanel did the opposite, feeling perhaps that the extra costs weren’t needed, and in reality, this was true. Word of mouth and appropriate placement of the perfume in stores had it selling so well with very little effort. To this day, Chanel No. 5 practically sells itself. There have been times when it was in jeopardy of becoming passe or even less exclusive, but these were solved by more careful selection of where to sell the perfume.

So in the spirit of Chanel No. 5’s legacy, I did a brief poll amongst my friends and family and here is what I found out: My generation seems to really love Chanel No. 5. It’s either their particular favorite or they save it for special occasions. My one friend, Kodi, uses it when she feels in an Elizabeth Taylor sort of mood. Some of my older friends are less fans because it smells like an “old lady perfume.” Go figure… I feel like that happens a lot, fashions skips generations sometimes.

Logo photo by Justine Impressions

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I am an Igniter! I Imagine Greater!

This is the story of my close encounter of the Syfy Premiere kind. I arrived early. I was the only one covering this particular event and I’ll admit, I did feel a bit like a secret agent, taking notes, dressed up, sipping a cocktail; all i needed was a side kick or a cool get away car if the mission went south. I got my name tag and checked my coat. There wasn’t much to do yet since there was hardly anyone there to mingle with, so I decided to walk about, take some notes, and scope the space.

The cocktail hour was to take place in theAmerican Museum of Natural History’s foyer and African animal exhibit. The space was lit by a subtle bath of purple light, very in keeping with the whole Syfy theme. The life size elephants in the center of the room in the purple glow looked almost mythical, like science fiction creatures themselves. All along the walls there were huge posters with pictures of different Syfy fans. Each had the word “Igniter” next to it and a quote indicating why each is an igniter. This theme of being an igniter was a major point throughout the entire evening.

I went back out into the foyer and saw that the crowds had finally started to arrive. I looked to my right and noticed there was a gaggle of reporters by a Syfy screen backdrop that I have only ever seen in the background of photos of celebrates… at premiere events… much like this one! Needless to say, I got myself a cabernet sauvignon and hung out there for the next little while.

Well, who should then arrive? None other than the casts of Being Human (the United States version), Warehouse 13, the host of Face Off, and the new showDefiance! I saw a woman filming an interview on her ipad. Not sure whether it was because it was bulky and the flap kept getting in the way or just because it was an ipad, but I found it a pretty amusing sight. After the publicity and mingling, we were directed into the main event, down the halls, up a few floors, and into a beautiful auditorium. I sat down in the orchestra seating, third row, and right in front of the casts (pretty good seats). The presentation was lead by the president of Syfy, David Howe, and he took us on a virtual tour of the 2012-2013 seasons for Syfy and what it meant to be an Igniter.

The Igniters are the fans of Syfy, viewers and employees alike from what I gathered, those minds with imaginations that keep on dreaming up new and exciting things. They constantly imagine greater (see what I did there?) and Syfy positively celebrates this! They are curious, open minded, creative, and optimistic. So in the spirit of the Igniters they have a ton of great stuff coming up.

But the new seasons of already existing shows, though exciting, wasn’t the coolest bit, the really exciting stuff was all new. My favorite new thing that Syfy will be doing is calledDefiance. It is a TV show and MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game). They run in tandem and one affects the other. So that means when something significant happens in the show it will become part of the game, and that also means when something significant or major happens in the game they will put it in the show! The players write the show! Now I think that’s awesome! As well as a few more spoilers (Viral Video Showdown! Check it out!) they gave away a trip around the world to one of the guests, and for a finale, the band Young the Giant played (awesome!) Pretty cool presentation.

Then came the party afterwards held in the ocean exhibit, the one with the life size humpback whale hanging from the ceiling! DJ Spooky presided over the proceedings. It was an open bar with amazingly catered food by world renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. The walls were lined with scrims lit by different shades of purple jelled lights that switched and strobed to the bass beat of the music.

This party was brilliant! Ran into a former high school classmate, met a few new people, mingled, even got the chance to shake the hand of one of my favorite actors (Sam Huntington, plays the werewolf on Being Human, talked with him about the penne, told him one of my favorite movies is Fan Boys, and said thank you for his work. He was so gracious and cool). Also got the chance to say thank you to the Young the Giant! I had a great time.


So what is the throwback here? Well I guess I’m not so much throwing back as I am tossing forward. Let’s just pretend that I have a TARDIS (time and relative dimension in space) and I’m sending you this from the future so it is a throwback to now! Welcome to the future Igniters!

Logo photo by Justine Impressions

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WoopWoopWoop!! It’s The Three Stooges!

Ok I know I said we’d talk about the Avengers, but let’s hold off on that till next week. There’s a lot going on this week! Aside from the first games of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is also a movie that has just come out throwing back to some of the biggest comedic stars of the silver screen; The Three Stooges. This week let us pause to explore the story behind these three characters. It may surprise you…

 The original troop was a vaudeville slapstick act in 1925 made up of Moe Howard, Shemp Howard, and Larry Fine. They were lead by Ted Healy. The name they performed under varied between Ted Healy and His Stooges, Ted Healy and His Southern Gentlemen, and Ted Healy and His Racketeers. They first appeared in a movie, Soup and Nuts, in 1930 made by Fox Film Corporation. The movie itself was only marginally successful but the Stooges received a very positive reaction. Fox offered the group a contract without Healy (who was extremely difficult to work with) but Healy wouldn’t have it.

 They split from Healy briefly till 1932. Shemp couldn’t take working with him and left the group. He was replaced by his and Moe’s younger brother Curly Howard. In 1933 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) signed them for a year and the next year they not only left MGM but also Healy once and for all. Apparently he was not only difficult to work with, he was also an alcoholic. So then later that year, 1934, they signed with Columbia and stayed with them for 23 years. It was the beginning of the Moe, Larry, and Curly years.

 TheColumbiayears were their most memorable but also very hard and in some ways sad. They worked for 40 weeks and then were off for 12, pretty standard, and they spent that free time with their families or promoting their live shows. During their years withColumbiathey made 190 comedic shorts and five feature film all well received. Nevertheless, they were constantly being told that they would soon be dropped from their contracts until the very last moment. In the 23 years they worked at Columbia, they never received a pay raise. It wasn’t until much later that they discovered the underhanded dealings they had been given. The boys were rather insecure people and unfortunately that made them easy to manipulate.

 Their work though was extremely popular to the WWII era audiences and was a huge money maker for the studio. They were kept completely in the dark about their popularity however. (Fun Fact: like I said, The Three Stooges did comedic shorts. The shorts were made to be shown in movie theatres just before the main even movie which was usually a drama. Their shorts were so popular that people would go to the movies just to see the shorts! Bit of a blow for the drama, but I mean, it was the WWII/post depression era; who wants a drama when you can get that at home?)

 The Stooges suffered a tragic blow when Curly had a severe stroke in 1946. Shemp came back to fill in till Curly’s health returned but he never returned full time. Curly passed away January 18, 1952. Shemp stayed with the group for 76 shorts but passed away three years after Curly in November of 1955 from a heart attack. After that in 1956, Joe Besser, a well established comic seen on the Abbot and Costello Show, joined the Stooges for 16 shorts. They were not great successes and in 1957 their contract with Columbia finally expired.

 Joe DeRita then joined the boys after Joe Besser left. He shaved his head and beard, playing to his uncanny resemblance to Curly, and so as to be distinguishable from the former Joe they called him Curly Joe. From 1959-1965 they made a bunch of movies geared towards kids and also tried their hands at television. They filmed pilots for two TV shows that never got off the ground but during the 60s The Three Stooges were the highest paid and most popular live acts in the USA. But tragedy struck again in 1970 when Larry suffered a paralyzing stroke. He suffered several more in 1974 and then in January, 1975 he passed away at the age of 72. Moe hung in there, convinced that the act should live on but passed away himself shortly after in May of ’75 after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

 For some of the funniest and well loved people of comedy in our culture’s tradition, The Three Stooges have one of the saddest stories. They are honored now though by a new movie staring Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly. Our very own Joe Hummel says it is a well written and well acted tribute to the boys which makes me happy. As a performer, I can appreciate not only the difficulty of comedy but also the level of dedication slapstick in particular requires. The physical demand of the art form and the amount of self that the artist puts into the work is something to be admired and respected. The Stooges may have had the admiration but in their time they did not get the respect. The legacy they left though is one of laughter, joy, fun, and fearless performance, contrasting significantly to their lives behind the scenes. It is an amazing testament to the spirit of the artist and raises the age old question; when does the artist become the art? And which is more real?

Logo photo by Justine Impressions

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Prepare Ye the Way of the Revival! Godspell!

Now with Easter finally approaching, I feel compelled to write about another Broadway revival, Godspell, now running. First opening in NYC’s famed Off-Broadway at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club on May 17th, 1971, Godspell was originally a master’s thesis. The aspiring master was John-Michael Tebelak. He had procrastinated on the project till Easter break, during which time he found himself at a church on Easter Sunday with a positive anticipation for some sort of spiritual experience. What he found instead was a dull minister with a bored congregation. Yet from such an unsatisfying experience, he drew this piece of wisdom; the gospel had lost its joy and should have the opportunity to get it back. Though not a particularly religious person himself, Tebelak still saw the lack of joy that should be felt by such a story as that of Jesus Christ and so he put pen to paper and began his journey.

 It was clear to those who saw it that Godspell had much to offer and had a great deal of potential for success professionally. Stephen Schwartz, famed composure of Butterflies Are Free, and later Pippin, Children of Eden, and Wicked, was brought in to compose for the show. Tebelak based his story on the gospel according to Mark primarily and also took from the gospels of John and Luke. He chose the title, “godspell” because it is the original form of the word “gospel.”

  The show opens with the “TowerofBabble” number in which the stage is filled with different philosophers from history such as Socrates, St. Thomas Aquinas, Leonardo de Vinci, Martin Luther, and Nietzsche. Over time, others have been added, including L. Ron Hubbard. They sing of their various schools of thought. John the Baptist then calls order by blowing a horn three times before singing “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” John then sets to baptizing those present and soon Jesus arrives, seeking to be baptized. When John says that Jesus should be baptizing him, Jesus replies that he did not come to baptize, but to save, and they sing “Save the People.”

 Now they get into the parables; Jesus says he did not come to abolish the law, but rather to complete it. He tells the parable of a widow seeking justice and a judge who neither cares for his people nor fears God. He gives justice to the nagging widow, if only to make her shut up. How much more then, Jesus said, will God give justice to his people whom he loves and protects? Simply put, fear not, God does it better.

 Next they tell the parable of the Pharisees and the tax collector praying in the temple. The Pharisees pray loudly for all to hear but the tax collector goes to his room and shuts the door, turning his eyes toward Heaven for he feels unworthy of God’s ear. He also tells them that if they come to the alter to make a sacrifice to God and suddenly remember they have had a disagreement with someone, they should set the sacrifice aside and go reconcile with that person, then come back to make the sacrifice. Then he tells the parable of the servant who owed his master a debt, but the master gives him some slack. The servant then turns around to three other servants who owe him money and he demands they pay at once. Upon hearing this, the master puts his servant in prison. The company then sings “Day By Day.”

 Next, they play a game of charades, sometimes bringing up members of the audience. They then tell the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus says God rewards good deeds done in secret (“Shhh, it’s a secret.”). The next parable Jesus tells is the one about the rich man living it up and the poor man starving. When they die, the poor man feasts in Heaven and the rich man suffers in Hell. This is not to say that the rich are going to Hell, but rather that it is more important to focus on the state of the soul rather than the things of this world. To illustrate this, they sing “Learn Your Lessons Well.” Expounding on the subject of wealth, Jesus tells a parable of a man who worked so hard all his life to acquire much wealth, but ended up dying before he could enjoy any of it. Stop and smell the roses for goodness sake! Then they sing “Bless the Lord My Soul.”

 And now for the Beatitudes! Jesus basically says blessed are those whose lives suck because it can only go up from there, for in thekingdomofHeaventhey will be blessed. Just look at the lyrics to the next song, a vaudeville/soft shoe, “All for the Best”…

“When you feel sad
or under a curse,
your life is bad,
your prospects are worse,
your wife is crying,
and your olive tree is dying,
temples are graying, and teeth are decaying, and creditors weighing your purse,
your mood and your robe,
are both a deep blue,
you bet that Job,
had nothing on you,
oh don’t forget that when you go to Heaven you’ll be blessed.
Yes, it’s all for the best.”

This first verse is sung be Jesus and the next verse is sung by Judas, talking about those who have it easy, who are living the good life, and it seems the world was made for them. The point of the story is that when times are at their absolute worst, rather than giving up and getting bogged down in the dumps, focus on the promises of God and His power to get you through.

 The song that follows is “All Good Gifts”, which accompanies the parable of the sower. This parable tells the story of a man who sows seeds of mustard grass in different places. On rocks they dry up, in weeds and thorns they get chocked and die, but on good soil they take root and grow. Then they tell the parable of the Prodigal Son and sing “Light of the World” (“… but even the tallest candle stick ain’t much good without a wick. You’ve gotta stay bright to be the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men, let your light so shine…”). With this happy celebration song that just makes you want to clap along, they closeActI.(Fun Fact: When the show first opened, they referred to the intermission as the “party” in between acts. The cast would join the audience in the lobby for wine and bread.)

 Act II is called to order with a reprise of “Learn Your Lessons Well.” Then one of the girls sings “Turn Back Oh Man”, imploring mankind to relent with temporal pursuits and turn instead to God. This song is one of my favorites. It’s a sassy bluesy number with tons of opportunity for direct audience interaction and improv comedy. Next, the Pharisees challenge Jesus, asking him what the most important commandment is. He says to love God with all your heart and soul and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus sings “Alas For You” to the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites and blind fools.

 They bring in a woman you has been condemned as an adulterer and sentenced to be stoned to death. Jesus says that the one among them who is without fault may throw the first stone. Of course, no one there is without fault, so they all leave. As Jesus walks away from her, she sings “By My Side”, asking Jesus where he is going and if she can go too. This song is my favorite in the show. It’s so beautiful, a lullaby, a love song, a pure and vulnerable sound, like a little child reaching up to take their daddy’s hand. It is during this song that Judas is given the 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus to the authorities.

 Thankfully, the next song is much more upbeat, though not particularly happy. Jesus says that as a shepherd separates his sheep from his goats, one day He will separate his sheep/followers from the goats/those who did not follow. He separates the cast into the sheep and goats. The goats are sent to eternal punishment. They sing “We Beseech Thee”, calling for mercy. For such a dismal situation, the song is very fun and lively, further illustrating Godspell’s purpose of making the gospel a joyful journey. The point of Jesus’ story is not the damnation, but rather the chance to be saved from damnation.

 It is now time for The Last Supper and theGardenofGethsemane. The cast sings “On the Willows.” Jesus takes this time to say goodbye to the other people in the cast before His crucifixion. During the Crucifixion, Jesus sings “Oh God, I’m dying,” and the cast responds, “Oh God, You’re dying.” When He dies he sings, “Oh God, I’m dead.” Then the cast takes Him down and carries Him out through the audience in a funeral procession. As they carry Him out they sing the finale number, “Long Live God/Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord reprise.” Though there is no resurrection scene, most people just allow the finale to lead into the curtain call, becoming a resurrection moment when Jesus comes back out for His bow. Some productions even add the song “BeautifulCity” from the movie in at certain points in the show and reprise it at the end.

 My mom introduced this show to me. We used to listen to the original cast recording in the car when I was growing up and mom always sang “Turn Back Oh Man” with a fun gravely style that I thought was so cool! I’ve done lots of musicals but I haven’t gotten the chance to do this one yet… Thankfully there is a revival on Braodway… again. (lol)

In loving memory of Patricia Faherty whose smile was a light of the world.
“Then I’ll take your hand, finally glad, that You are here by my side.”

Logo photo by Justine Impressions

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E=mc Hammer… I mean Squared.

The other day on NPR I heard that the personal papers of Albert Einstein were released this week on the internet by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. We’ve always known him as a science guy with messy hair but apparently he wrote about everything from politics to music. He was a dedicated letter writer to his second wife and step daughter and also to his mother. He was even a bit of a playboy as it turns out. Hey, chicks dig physics.

Besides his famous E = mc2, what was always availably known about Einstein? Well he was born in Ulm in the Kingdom of Wurttemburg in the German Empire on March 14, 1879. When he was little he built little machines for fun and showed early on his inclination and talent for mathematics. In his early teens he was given Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Euclid’s Elements. He completed his secondary schooling inSwitzerland at theAargauCantonalSchool and at the age of 17 he enrolled in the Zurich Polytechnic four year mathematics and teaching program where he met is first wife Mileva Marić.

 Mileva and Einstein had a child, a daughter, a year before their marriage named Lieserl. Lieserl was born probably in January of 1902. She is briefly mentioned in their correspondences but vanishes after September 1903 after she seems to have suffered from scarlet fever. It is a queer mystery in Einstein’s life but most speculate that the poor child probably died from her bout with scarlet fever. In fact she was utterly unknown to the world until some letters were unearthed by Einstein’s granddaughter Evelyn in 1986!

 In January 1903 Mileva and Einstein were married and the following year in May their first son Hans was born. In July 1910 their second son Eduard was born. The couple spent much of their time apart and ended up getting a divorce in on February 14, 1919 (Valentine’s Day. Nice.). Einstein married his second wife Elsa that June after having been in a relationship with her since 1912. In 1933 they moved to theUnited Statesto escape the oppression of the rising Nazi party. Elsa passed away in December 1936 from heart and kidney problems.

Our modern science owes much of its foundations for physics to Einstein for his decades of scientific and mathematical discovery and theory. He was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Century and received the Nobel Prize in Physics. (Fun Fact: The most popularly known of Einstein’s scientific and mathematic contributions is his theory of relativity E = mc2 where E is energy, m is mass and c is the speed of light.) Among the collection of personal papers from Einstein is a postcard he sent his mother telling her about his Nobel Prize. He mentions it in passing and then spends the rest of the note talking about her health. Guess it meant a lot to him. So what was this great mind like behind the scenes? Was he just all science, math, and crazy hair?

 3,500 plus personal papers later, I think we can safely assume he was much more. He wrote daily to his family, he loved music (he played the violin) and had an opinion on everything going on in the world. It makes sense though; you can’t be one of the greatest minds in recorded history and simply be a head of wild hair. He also had a few lovers and women who fancied him and spoke of them openly with his wife and step daughter. He even helped one of his former lovers immigrate to theUnited Stateslater in her life. All the ingredients required for a good movie by anyHollywoodstandard so keep your eyes peeled for that!

The documents will gradually all be released on line for browsing but not for download over the next few months.

Logo photo by Justine Impressions

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