Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jean's Legs, Valerie's Arms

Jean's Legs

Jean says:
One of the most memorable highlights of my life in New York City so far was the honor of having my legs appear on the theater poster designed by Fraver for the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George. For months in 1984, I had the marvelous experience of seeing my gams on posters all over town - on subway platforms, bus stops and billboards -- all thanks to my friend Fraver. The original show starred Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. I even got free tickets to the show! Numerous friends (and strangers) begged me to stand in front of the poster, mimicking my pose, for photographs.

Twenty seven years later, on February 23rd to be exact, history repeated itself. Valerie and I attended the opening of an exhibit and reception at the New York Public Library for the performing Arts celebrating the work of legendary theatrical advertising artist, Frank "Fraver" Verlizzo. The exhibit, DESIGN: FRAVER - Four Decades of Theatre Poster Art at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, highlights some of Broadway's most indelible images. "Fraver" (an amalgam of the first three letters of his first and last names) has created artwork for over 300 shows, including some of theater's most memorable images, for shows like Sweeney Todd, The Lion King, Follies and Ira Levin's Deathtrap. My Sunday in the Park poster graces the cover of the program for the show which runs from February 24 through April 30th. Once again, I was photographed in front of the poster. (I confess I AM such a ham!) (Oh, says Valerie appropos the previous sentence, shades of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham!)

Fraver is one of the first people I met when I moved to New York in November 1974. We sat next to each other at a Blaine Thompson Christmas party at Sardi's, no less, and instantly bonded. Fraver also used to shoot Super 8 silent murder mysteries starring his friends. I was not only lucky enough to star in Beauty Secret, but also won Fraver awards for Best Actress AND Best Costume. I played Spyra Webb, with slicked back jet black hair, chalk white kabuki makeup with a black widow spider glued to my forhead, and a black vintage 1940s film noir wardrobe. How could I miss? Fraver's mom and aunt and their Bronx girlfriends were the official Fraver Awards Committee. Last Wednesday night, Valerie got to meet many of my friends and co-stars from the Fraver films of the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the time, several of Fraver's starlets like Bryn and Peggy, were imported from out of town (Reading, PA). Peggy (in blue) played Eva Peron in Furor and Bryn played Liz Taylor in another of Fraver's epics. (Valerie says: I'm accustomed to Jean instantly attracting attention when she walks into a room, but that night was beyond the beyond. She knew nearly everyone, and nearly everyone knew her. It was astonishing. AND everybody LOVED her. None of those awful people who approach celebrities and blurt out things like "Oh, you look so much older in person!")

Fraver (second from the left) poses with John Reilly (photographer for the Sunday in the Park poster), illustrator Linda Fennimore and Fraver's nephew Thomas (whom I hadn't seen since he was less than 3 feet tall!). Bryn and Peggy and I reminisced about Fraver's obsession with detail when directing his Super 8 extravaganzas -- to the point of tying one of their friends to a railroad track to achieve the right cinematic effect! We truly would do anything he asked us to do. (Valerie wants to know where those movies are today.)

Here I am with Scott Fless, who has not only starred in Fraver films but also appeared in a number of Broadway and off-Broadway shows. I'll always remember the trip Fraver and I took to D.C. to see Scott perform at the Kennedy Center in Pippin. We sent flowers backstage "to the Diva" and all three of us went out afterwards to celebrate, with me at the wheel of my mother's Buick Electra 225 (the "Deuce and a Quarter"). A true New Yorker, Fraver did not learn to drive until he was in his mid-thirties.

Joe Ligammari and Fraver have been partners for thirty years. Last July, they made their union legal and got married in Connecticut. When I opened their wedding announcement, it tickled me to remember the summer in the early 1980's that Fraver and Joe joined me and my friends in a summer share in Madison, CT in a house on Long Island Sound. Joe is an amazing cook and he dazzled us all on numerous occasions with delectable hors d'oeuvres, hearty meals and truly sinful desserts.

Robert W. Richards, another famous illustrator, escorted one of his stylish friends to the opening reception. Fraver and Joe have hosted some swellegant holiday parties over the years, at which Robert and I never failed to connect.

Paul McDonough (pictured on the left with two of Fraver's pals) is most famous in my experience as the creator of shockingly fabulous hand-made customized greeting cards featuring his surprisingly accommodating great dane Spencer in all types of costumes and wigs. For years, all holidays great and small (Chinese New Year, Easter, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween...) have been the occasion for one of Paul's hilariously entertaining cards. One unforgettable President's day card included shots of Spencer appearing as both George AND Martha Washington -- in full wigs and historically accurate 18th century costumes. When Spencer finally passed away last year, I was heartbroken. But never fear! Gus, another rescue mutt, has stepped into the breach, so to speak, and the tradition continues. Photographer William Wegman and his famous Weimeraners have nothing on Paul and his dogs!

Valerie rallied and wore a fabulous polka dot suit enhanced by a zebra print sling for her cast. She's posing here with John Reilly, Ivan Mair and Linda Fennimore. Ivan had been a frequent collaborator on Fraver films before he moved to the West Coast. After years of bi-coastal living, he has recently returned to Manhattan. Hooray! (Valerie says: I rallied all too briefly. More on that below. Suit is vintage Armani, so it can look good and I don't have to. As for bi-coastals, I don't believe in them. I think they're just fooling themselves.)

When Luke McDonough (Paul's other half) confessed to me that Paul never shows him the exotic canine photo-montages he mails to me, I shared with him the most recent fabulous creation that Paul sent (in a gold envelope) to celebrate my appearance in Time Out New York's Style Icon issue. Appearing with Luke are Ramona and Eric, longtime wild and crazy friends of Fraver, and Joe. The first time I met Ramona over a decade ago, she was a scantily clad Santa's helper at one of the Fraver and Joe's holiday parties. (We really, truly do anything that Fraver asks us to.)

Scott, Valerie and John indulge my request for "just one more" photo!

Ta da! Here is Joe Ligammari's latest and greatest culinary incarnation -- as Cookie Jough! He provided the evening's delicious, home-baked dessert - cookies lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Telltale dustings of powdered sugar made it easy to spot the partiers who chose to indulge in cookies rather than the adult beverages. (Valerie and I confess: Guilty as charged!)

Before they headed back to PA, the "Ladies from Reading" graciously posed for that one last photo!

The DESIGN: FRAVER show runs through April 30th, 2011. Check it out. You'll thank us!

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat (from the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show), vintage glasses (Revue OATH from Fabulous Fanny's), vintage twisted aluminum wire and glass marble earrings (vintage clothing show), Kyodan jacket, Ronen Chen skirt (from Rosebud in Soho), Lux de Ville quilted black patent handbag with leopard print lining, and giant silver dice charms (from Enz in the East Village), customized black patent Dansko clogs outfitted with 4" platform saw-tooth soles.

Valerie is wearing a vintage B. Altman black curly lamb hat with faux baroque pearl hat pin from the late great dollar flea market in Chelsea; a vintage Giorgio Armani wool suit from a thrift shop; H&M leggings as a sling, H&M black canvas shibori bag, and unseen black Arche ankle boots.

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Valerie's Arms

Valerie says: This is just to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH to everyone who has expressed sympathy and concern for my broken right wrist. My left arm is fine, if overworked; my right wrist had surgery on February 9, nearly a month after the initial break, setting me back to zero in terms of recovery, and giving me six additional weeks encased in fiberglass. Apparently the fracture was drifting apart again, and I was advised to get a titanium pin. (For those of you with a wicked sense of humor, everyone assures me it will NOT set off airport secrity alarms. Almost everyone assures me I will never feel the pin.) Jean says: Valerie is a trooper. Even after the insertion of the pin, there are times when her wrist continues to ache. She had a new cast put on last Thursday (after removal of some of the stitches) and after a sleepless night, had to have that one replaced on Friday.

The post-surgical body is different from the merely post-fracture body. Four days after my fracture, I foolishly showed up at work, although, not being a professional singer (for example), there wasn't very much I could actually DO with only one hand - and the wrong hand, at that. Post-surgery, on the other - um - hand, far from wanting to show up for a full day of work, I seem to have a very brief daily window of opportunity. They say it takes time for the body to recover from drugs, and energy is diverted to speed recovery, blah, blah, blah. The intellectual side of me understands all this, but the other side (what is that side called?) wants to roll its eyes and ask me what my effing problem is. My foot surgery last year was like Sunday in the Park with George compared to this. This coming Friday I'll get a new cast that frees my right elbow for the first time since the accident. (Kiss your elbows, folks. You have no idea how much they really do for you.) And somewhere around March 21 (omg - isn't that the Ides of March?) I may be free of the whole thing. Till then, I find I'm often tired, and often tired of feeling tired. (This is a web photo of a pinned wrist. I have no idea if mine looks like this.)

Valerie is wearing a black and white Junko Koshino jacket - one of very few that will fit over her cast; a barely visible neclace of gray and white pre-Columbian spindle whorls; a Marilyn Monroe print 'sleeve' over her cast, cut from leggings purchased at Sock Man; her trusty H&M bustier, since she still cannot hook up her bra (but thankfully can pull up a zipper, in a manner worthy of videotaping); unseen black cotton canvas Caravicci pants, the standard washable favorite for one-handed eaters who might spill something; and unseen Arche ankle boots.

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Where We Get Ideas for Outings

Last week we got a comment from Rebecca, who asked how we find out about the places we visit.

Of course, it all depends on what you're looking for, but some favorites we rely on are:

The New York Times, especially the Thursday through Sunday editions. This is where we first found out about our beloved SOFA, opening April 14 at the Park Avenue Armory. Now we get our invitations via e mail, so we never accidentally miss it.

The Wall Street Journal is no longer the dry old codger of our youth. LOTS of great tips on a variety of fun subjects. Really!

Of course, Time Out New York, brilliant enough to publish US, is an excellent source for what's going on around town.

City Arts, which calls itself "New York's review of culture", has taken up where the late lamented SUN had to leave off, and covers a broad spectrum of cultural events, including the avant garde. Hard to find sometimes, but worth looking for. And free.

Gallery Guide, which publishes special editions for several different cities, tells you which artists' works are featured at which galleries. One problem is they don't show pictures of the work at every gallery, so often you have to be willing to go on a kind of blind date with the gallery/galleries you choose. (This can be fun, unless you're holding down a full time job.) You can pick up Gallery Guide for free at most galleries.

We've put American Craft magazine here, which is where we first read about the annual Philadelphia Craft Show, but you could replace that with any specialty magazine - for quilters, painters, train buffs, etc. - to find fairs and other events that focus on your interests. Idiosyncratic Fashionista readers might like Ornament or Selvedge or Hali...

Like museums? Keep track of museum websites. Many cultural institutions have mailing lists - for snail mail and e mail. We get to attend certain limited admissions events because we respond quickly to e mail invitations we receive. Get on the mailing lists of the institutions that interest you most.

WNYC radio is a wonderful source of information, from books and cooks to musical groups and tv shows.

We first found out about the vintage clothing shows in the New York Times, but then we started to get e mail invitations and post cards from vendors we'd patronized. The next Stella Pier Show will start on March 31; the next Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show on April 29. At the show entrances, or at the dealers' booths, you'll often find post cards for other events that might interest you. (photo by

Your friends can be better than the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York and all the museum websites combined. Sometimes your friend has connections you don't have; you have connections your friend doesn't have. Like they say on TV, PRICELESS! Work your connections! (In a nice way, of course.) You invite your friend as your guest to THIS; s/he invites you as his/her plus one to THAT. (Works best if you're both interested in similar things.)

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We now have 100 followers, as of several days ago! Thanks to all of you for your interest. Older ladies rock! And older ladies of the future rock, too!

(And if we get about a million more readers, we will begin to catch up with Style Rookie!)

Still no readers from Greenland...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

At the Outside, Looking In

Jean says: Last Saturday, February 12th, Valerie and I attended Sanford Smith's 19th Annual Outsider Art Fair here in New York City. Since the show is a gathering of artists, enthusiasts, collectors and curators, it is one of the most fun and most interesting ways to spend a chilly winter afternoon. The show features what is variously termed "outsider art", "art brut" and "contemporary folk art". Many of the artists are self-taught, some are long-dead and undiscovered until late in life or posthumously. Many are or were physically disabled, abused, impoverished, homeless, addicted, and/or incarcerated. I love how the character in this painting by Terry Turrell seems to be watching me get my picture taken by Valerie.

Jean says: I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised to encounter fellow "Ari's Girls" at an artistic event. While waiting by the elevators for Valerie's arrival, I met artist and curator, Sue Kreitzman. We recognized each other by sight. When I actually made her acquaintance, mention of her artistic and professional endeavors were a distant second to her description of her major accomplishment: the fact that she'd been featured three times in Advanced Style ( Sue works in NYC ( and in London( She was wearing a unique coat which is a wonderful combination of antique, Asian and South American textiles; a Panamanian mola; and American curtain fabric. She paired it with colorful eyeglasses, jewelry, clogs and tote.

Why was I not surprised to discover Sue Kreitzman not only knows but also collaborates with another of "Ari's Girls", Jean Betancourt? Longtime readers might remember we introduced Jean on the blog last year when we ran into her and designer Carol Horn at the 2010 Outsider Art Fair. Admittedly, with those oversized Mr. Magoo glasses; outsized earrings, rings, bracelets and necklace; purple hair and very colorful kimono jackets, she's most definitely larger than life. That her eyewear dwarfs that of another "Ari Girl", Iris Apfel, is no small feat! Above is a full length shot to give you a better idea of her look.

Both Sue Kreitzman and Jean Betancourt were sporting the super-sized (surprise) necklaces they'd designed and co-produced. Religious iconography on metal rectangles is combined with oversized jewels, gold colored chains and objects.

Jean says: Dealer Marion Harris is one of my favorite characters at the show. Her wardrobe is always fun and her red glasses (on the desk) are one of her trademarks. I was surprised to find out how incredibly shy she is on a personal level. Her Park Avenue gallery, MAR!ON HARR!S, always has some of the most interesting and arresting pieces. This time was no exception. Front and center in her booth were shiny hand-made vehicles about 2 to 3 feet long, constructed of aluminum coated paper, chicken wire, blister-pack, found items and "car parts". The artist, Andrei Palmer, was adopted in 1993 at the age of six from a Romanian orphanage and is recovering from post-institutionalism trauma, an autistic disorder.

Also represented by Marion Harris is Carlos DeMedeiros, who had been a monk for fourteen years in Brazil and Bolivia. In addition to constructing miniature scenes inside Altoid tins, he constructs small confessionals from found objects which contain confessions -- real or imagined -- in sealed envelopes. Here is one of his more arresting pieces which measured about 13" to 15" high.

Jean says: This is an example of the work of one of my favorite artists, Emitte Hych, who lived from 1909 to 2009. His paintings of animals are so wonderfully simple and colorful. I love their expressions, their posture and their nails!

Here I am auditioning my co-star for my return to Broadway in "The Wiz"! This Tin Man sculpture stands guard over the Guest Book in one of the galleries.

Valerie says: As a textile historian, I never get tired of the work of Ray Materson, none of whose works ever exceed three inches in height. Ray is a self-taught embroiderer, who works exclusively in sythetic fibers from unraveled socks. Natural fibers won't do. His stitches are of such high density that you can't see the background fiber at all. Ray started working in this tiny, highly detailed format while serving time in prison. Back then, a lot of his work was psychologically dark. Now his work reflects his much improved lifestyle, but the amazing attention to detail remains. Look how he has sewn tiny pupils into Jeter's eyes. Look how he changes colors - ever so slightly - on Jeter's face to indicate the shadow of his cap over his eyes. Look how the impossibly thin pin stripes follow the contours of Jeter's torso.

Valerie says: I've fallen in love with the work of French outsider Gerard Cambon. His work looks very dark and troubled, but a video of the artist seems to indicate that he's simply an inveterate tinkerer with a big sense of humor. His materials are often repurposed found objects. The odd figures shown here look as though they might be what's left of Elmo and Cookie Monster after a hundred years of exposure to the elements.

Jean and I perenially kick ourselves for not following one or another of our self-imposed rules. Here, I neglected to take down the name and gallery at which I saw this artist's work. There were several in this vein, and I liked them all. With my right hand out of commission, there are only so many things I can juggle at any given time. I can hold my camera or my pen or my notebook, but only one at a time. I never thought of note taking as multitasking, but with only one hand, it is! So I didn't take down the artist's name. (Write us if you know it!)Taking photos demands that I hold the camera in my left hand, and take the picture with my left thumb. (Using my right index finger moves the camera.) So I don't take too many photos these days. We also agreed that we should take at least one picture of the two of us together, but we forgot, so at the top of this posting are two separate photos of us.

I liked the paintings of "saints" by Elizabeth Clemons. They almost seem to hum with the sounds of Gregorian chants in their dark backgrounds. They have serious, contemplative faces. And who can resist their hats!

Jean says: If I had a favorite gallery, it was probably Olof Art Gallery from the Netherlands ( which represents not only Ross Brodar, who painted the unicorn painting that Valerie is posing in front of above, but also Candyce Brokaw, who made the 5-panel work shown below. Brodar, 38, learned as a teen to paint -- in a correctional facility. He made a splash as a true "outsider" in a Wall Street Journal article that covered his unoffical debut at the 2008 Outsider Art Fair in Soho when he hung his paintings inside a rental van parked outside the show's Puck Building entrance. Valerie says: Brodar paints in a style to some extent reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat's. Here's the artist himself, who said he painted the unicorn after a trip to The Cloisters.

Above is the gallery's manager (owner?), Scarlett Haasnoot, wearing a pair of earrings designed by Phil Demise Smith, one of the gallery's artists.

Candyce Brokaw's quint is a 5-panel piece featuring the Golden Goddesses. Brokaw is one of the self-taught artists driven by inner necessity. In 1997, at age 38, the chronically depressed mother of three broke down, retreated to her bedroom and obsessively began to draw. She founded Survivors Art Foundation "to connect others in similar, silent worlds and give them a voice".

Sanford L. Smith and Associates, prime sponsor of the show, strongly promotes artists with disabilities. Fountain Gallery, the premier Nwe York City venue representing artists with mental illness is currently hosting a group exhibition called "Out of This World". Click here for details.

This woman caused quite a stir with her wonderful hair do. She downplayed the whole thing, saying she only had it up like that because she'd just washed it. But what a great idea! She twisted it into a hundred little dreads, then encircled it with a little crown. Fab!

Jean is wearing:
A vintage 1940's Macy's fur felt hat stamped "Made in Italy" on the inside (from the most recent Metropolitan Pavilion Vintage Clothing Show); a Costume National black patterned peplum jacket (purchased 3 years ago at the Howard Street store in Nolita); black rayon harem pants (from the summer outdoor flea market at St. Anthony's Church in Soho); Trippen short, flat leather elf boots (purchased four years ago at A Uno in Tribeca); eyeglass frames (from Fabulous Fanny's); vintage black and white bakelite bracelets and black bakelite cube ring; black resin Made Her Think skull ring; black and white striped globe Aiaka Nishi earrings (from Red).

Valerie is wearing whatever circumstances (like a huge cast) will permit. Great big black and white platic earrings, fresh from their recent triumph at Time Out New York, to help elevate my mood. Black and white jacket by Hiroko Koshino (the sleeve is big enough for the cast). Of course you could have guessed that NO SOONER HAD I PUT IT ON than one of its buttons fell off, and I can't possibly sew it back on without use of my incapacitated right hand. No one notices, but it underscores the many irritating ways this durn thing impacts me. Black H&M bustier, zipped up using a pair of pliers. (Fingers can't grip; pliers can.) Black and white cotton/lycra leggings doing double duty as a sling, from H&M. H&M shibori canvas bag. Black Caravicci pants. Black ankle boots by Arche.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Time Out NY - Our 15 Minutes of Fame

Jean says: Oooh la la! Take it from me, dahlings -- Being in Time Out New York magazine as two of the 32 Most Stylish New Yorkers IS better than chocolate! Now I have an inkling of what it must be like being nominated for an Academy Award and having to wait for Oscar night. On January 13th, exactly one month ago, Valerie and I had our own three hour photo shoot. (Longest month of my life!)

Jean says: Zenith Richards, our photographer, immediately put us at ease. He shot us together and individually in each of three outfits. He gave us minimal stage direction for the action shots - asking us to feign jumping across a puddle and (shades of Richards Nixon and Avedon) to hop straight up in the air. Here I am in the midst of my own take on "White Boys Can't Jump" -- check out the vertical leap on granny! If the Knicks call for a back-up guard, tell them I won't consider it until they get more figure-flattering uniforms. I'm sporting my "A Clockwork Orange" meets "Cabaret" uniform (Malcolm McDowell's little bit of the old Ludwig von and ultraviolence meet Liza Minelli's pre-war Berlin Weimar Republic).

Warning! (Un)trained professionals at work. Do not attempt this at home. Who knew jumping when fully accessorized was so fraught with peril? When I landed after my leap, my fabulous Icey-Dice necklace by Kirsten Hawthorne slapped me right in the teeth!

Jean says: As you will see while you scroll through today's posting, when left to our own devices, Valerie and I vogued shamelessly. In the name of art, we channeled our inner Verushka, Penelope Tree, Twiggy, Lauren Hutton and just about every drag queen on the planet. We put it all out there for the camera! Speaking of drag queens, when we arrived at TONY's offices, we came face to face with three of the most outrageously attired transgender 7 foot tall (not counting the height of the wigs) Glamazons ever. They couldn't have been more wonderful. Greeting each other like birds of a feather, we spent several minutes inspecting and cooing over each other's outfits, complimenting one another's fashion choices. I was SO relieved to learn they weren't our competition and had just finished a shoot for Ru Paul's new show "Drag Race". I could kick myself for not whipping out my camera. For a glimpse of MIMI IMFURST, one of the "ladies" in question, click here (Zenith Richards' website). Valerie says: Jean speaks for herself here. Like a good school child, I stood deferentially by the entrance, awaiting instructions from TONY staffers yet to appear. Jean, on the other hand, ran over to the drag queens in the center of the large room the way a kid runs to the Good Humor Man on a hot day. It took a while for me to vogue shamelessly. I wasn't sure what was expected of us, and I think I really expected someone to say "OK, ladies, we want you to vogue - shamelessly!" Now I think I understand that the photography process works best not so much when you follow instructions as when you just put yourself out there and see what happens.

Valerie says: Picking the three outfits was an interesting exercise in weighing pros and cons. We were told to wear winter clothes ("no tank tops, shorts, flip flops or other obviously summery clothing", we were admonished). So I submitted a photo of the white straw Guggenheim hat to see if it could get special dispensation, and was delighted when it was greenlighted by the TONY editors. I wish there'd been a mirror at the shoot. This hat should be worn a bit lower in front. (This photo, and the identical opening photo, courtesy of Zenith Richards. All other photos in this posting by Valerie and Jean.)

(Jean says: And while we're giving credit where credit is due, here's a shout out to Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style who nominated us along with Tziporah Salamon and Fritz Karch!)

Jean says: Valerie's attention to detail is nothing less than amazing. As you can see from this shot, she looked fabulous coming AND going. (Valerie says: Awww... gawrsh!) Likewise, her approach to fashion is quite different from my own: While I have fashion A-D-D and am distracted by any bright and shiny object, Valerie takes the galactic approach. It would never even occur to me to commission a hat, let alone one in the shape of the Guggenheim Museum! You heard it here first, kids. I'm starting a rumor that Valerie has an Edifice Complex!

Shown here are the originators of the Edifice Complex.

Jean says: Getting into the mood (and perhaps to make up for the fact that I'm not a 7-footer), I tried in my own way to "own" the set. In my head, I became Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. Mr. DeMille, where's my chimp? Where's my William Holden? (My Willem DaFoe? My

Jean continues: Halfway through the shoot, things really began to heat up. As you'll see from the progression of shots, we moved from vertical to horizontal. Although it's hard to tell from the photo, I was wearing my Norma Kamali leopard print peplum jacket and my customized Dansko saw tooth clogs.

Perhaps this is the point where I interrupt this love fest to confess. The photo shoot happened on Thursday evening, January 13. Valerie fell and broke her wrist on Saturday, January 15. While we were in the ER waiting for her x rays, I admit I said something really comforting and supportive like: "Thank goodness you did this after the TONY photo shoot. If this had happened LAST Saturday, I probably would have broken your other wrist." After all, what are friends for? (Valerie weighs in: I also thanked my lucky stars for that - um - break [pun intended]. For the record, Jean did not verbalize the violent half of her above graphic remark. In her place, however, my thoughts would have been equally graphic.)

Organizing all the details for this shoot took days of formal and informal planning. We both made lists. I brought no clothing that would show wrinkles; the two items I ironed were packed first into a rigid clothing bag to maintain their pristine shape, and then a dry cleaning bag to protect against accidental water or other damage.

All jewelry for each outfit went into its own toiletry bag, each pair of shoes into its own plastic bag. Each article of clothing had its own dry cleaning bag. Then all the components of a single outfit went into their own separate shopping bag. Then all three shopping bags went into a single huge Container Store bag. I wanted to be able to do the whole thing on auto-pilot, since we had no idea how much time we'd have, or space, or assistance. The Guggenheim hat had to go into an empty covered cardboard Staples box that had previously held reams of paper. (Jean says: See. I wasn't exaggerating about her attention to detail.)

The day of our shoot was just after one of New York's multiple huge snow storm. We arrived dressed like Eskimos, adding significantly to the bulk of what we had to carry. What a girl has to do for her art! I was hoping TONY would take one look at our winter coats and insist on photographing those, too. (Now, Valerie, don't be greedy! Now, Better Angel, why don't you shut up just once?) And special mention to Jean's husband, whose kind offer to drive us to TONY relieved us of so much angst and logistical planning.

Jean says: Zenith Richards was absolutely wonderful to work with. He moved so silently and gracefully around the set trying to get the most flattering angles that it didn't surprise me to learn he is an ex-dancer. And such a gentleman. At one point, I was carrying one of the white plaster mannequin's hands, using it to hold my small handbag, until he so cheerfully but subtly advised: "Lose the hand"!

Jean blurts: Conscious of the fact that all-black doesn't photograph well, I really made an effort to introduce contast into my outfits with accessories. In this case, I chose a lot of black and white topped off by a vintage hat with pink-red anemone trim and carried a fan. (Doesn't everyone?)

Jean gushes: I love how this picture came out because it really shows what I am wearing, especially my Trippen boots (from A Uno). For more information on what we're wearing, go to TONY's online coverage. Do yourself a favor. Please check it out!

Valerie says: As Jean noted, for each of our outfits, Zenith had us do standing poses, then 'puddle jumping', which gives more fluidity to the garments, then jumping straight up (which probably forces us to let our guard down), then floor poses. I wish some of the floor poses had been published online. They were fun!

Valerie ponders: This must have been a jumping pose. Harder than it seems! I was thinking: Will my hat fall off? Will my hair get in my mouth? Am I facing the camera? Does this angle hide my accessories? Is this a good smile or a ludicrous Cheshire cat grin? How can I puddle jump in a dress with a 20 inch hem? Will I come down on an angle and topple over backward - THE ONE THING ZENITH WARNED US NOT TO DO? (ok to fall forward; not ok to fall backward and put a hole in the seamless backdrop). Jean and I took a number of pictures of one another in motion. All hilarious, but this shoot is all about details, and motion blurs all the details. (Maybe not with a Hasselblad. Anyone care to send us a Hasselblad to test our theory?)

Valerie muses: See? They should have photographed this outfit, too! Took forever to flag down a cab in the dark and cold at 6pm. Jean guarded all the stuff in front of TONY while I staked out a corner to try to raise our odds and lower our waiting time.

Here we are, all packed up, in the cab heading home, more than three hours after we'd arrived at TONY. We were exhausted and starving. We dropped everything at Valerie's and went out to eat and to celebrate at a little French bistro with our usual hot soup and a little bubbly.

We're leaving you with this action shot from the photo shoot. We have a new appreciation for fashion models. It's not all lounging and batting eyelashes. Surprisingly, it takes a lot of nervous energy to change outfits quickly and emote for the camera, especially while hopping and jumping and trying to come up with new poses. Add to that the pressure of schlepping and easily retrieving and matching up the outfits and all of the different accessories for each (three hats, three pairs of shoes/boots, glasses, rings, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pins, fans, hand bags) and of doing your own hair and makeup and styling.



Jean's first outfit (her Clockwork Orange look):
A Comme des Garcons wool zip up jacket; drop crotch wool harm pants by Zara from last season; black patent Doc Marten laceup boots; lucite bracelets from a Metropolitan Pavilion's Antique Show two years ago; icey dice necklace by Kirsten Hawthorne of lucite crystals, oxidized silver and plastic dice; lucite cube ring (twin to my black bakelite cube) lucite cube with black bakelite cameo (from Portobello Road 2000); black Stetson bowler; vintage 1980s Mod Oath prescription eyeglass frames by REVUE (from Fabulous Fanny's); black bakelite dice earrings.

Jean's second outfit (Goth meets Sunset Boulevard):
Vintage Norma Kamali faux leopard peplum jacket ("Another Man's Treasure" Jersey City vendor who shows at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and Antiques Alley at the Stella Pier Show); vintage 1940s felt "Minnie Mouse" hat (Fashion Alley at the Stella Pier Antiques Show); customized black patent Dansko clogs (saw-tooth platform by East Village shoe repair guy who used to make the giant punk rocker platform boots); long sleeved Rick Owen tee shirt (Century 21); harem pants by Brigitte (in the Ansonia on the Upper West Side). Rings include various vintage red bakelite rings collected over the past twenty-five years and red resin skull ring by Made Her Think (Meredith Katz); square carved red vintage bakelite earrings (Metropolitan Pavilion show); vintage red bakelite and white plastic bracelets (collected over decades at flea markets, antique shops); vintage 1960s red wooden gumball necklace (Columbus Ave.flea market; glasses same as above.

Jean's third outfit (East meets West):
Louis Feraud wool blazer with black enamel buttons (thrift shop find/gift from Kirsten Hawthorne); Express "Sexy Crew" black and white striped long sleeved tee shirt; long black with white polka dot skirt (by Israeli designer Kedem Sasson from Rosebud @ 131 Thompson St in Soho); plastic fan with black and white art nouveau design. (Brooklyn Museum Store -- purchased last summer on our field trip to see the Warhol show and to celebrate Valerie's birthday. She got a Warhol Campbell's tomato soup can nylon shopping bag.) Rings include several by Kirsten Hawthorne (brass and gold pinky ring; pink hammered gold ring with apricot diamond chip; yellow gold band; 18k yellow gold September 11 commemorative ring); vintage Bakelite cube ring (flea market twenty years ago); black and white resin skull rings (Meredith Katz for Made Her Think); assorted vintage 1930s and 1940s bakelite and 1950s plastic bangle bracelets; black felt purse with white skull (Habla); vintage 1940s felt hat with reddish-pink sea anemone flower (Fashion Alley at the Stella Pier Antique Show); "The Scimitar" eyeglass frames (East Village designer Moss Lipow); black and white hand painted globe earrings (by Japanese designer Aiaka Nishi from Red in the East Village); adjustable 1950s vintage black and white plastic bead necklace on a metal chain (flea market); German made black leather platform boots (by Trippen from A Uno in Tribeca). I call them my Lady Gaga for grannies boots! They are deceptively comfortable. The rubber soles resemble Japanese geta and have the Chinese symbol for good fortune engraved on the sole of one shoe (and an as yet undeciphered word on the other).

Valerie's wearing:

First outfit:
Hat by Ignatius Hats; sunglasses from a vendor on St. Mark's Place; earrings from flea market; layered felt hair pin by Danielle Gori-Montanelli; necklace by ceramic artist Peter Lane; belt by Issey Miyake, suit by Calvin Klein; checkerboard silver ring from Pastec; black metal cuffs from Matsuya Ginza; shoes by Arche.

Second outfit:
Vintage hat from the Metropolitan Pavilion Antique Show; earrings from Pippin Vintage Jewelry; necklace from a street vendor in Tokyo; jacket by Missoni; shirt by Juansilk; gloves from flea market; polka dot bracelet/chew toy from Furry Paws; red wood bangle from Tokyo; unlabeled red suede harem pants from a consignment shop; ankle boots from Ripe, by Nicole; tabi socks from Sock Man.

Third outfit:
Velvet open topped volcano hat by Eddi, purchased on Ebay; black and yellow wooden earrings purchased in Tokyo; striped dress by Yoshiki Hishinuma, from a sample sale; wood and lacquer bud vase necklace from Sara; knitted yellow bracelet from the Columbus Avenue flea market; multicolored wood bracelet from a thrift shop; red plastic ring from El Museo del Barrio; black boots by Arche.

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Little Valentine's Day Thought

Valerie says:

When I was 13, I awoke on Valentine's Day thinking it would be a nice day for my parents, since I viewed them as sweethearts, but a day like any other for me, since I was too young to have a sweetheart myself. When I got to the table for breakfast, however, I saw, much to my surprise and delight, that my mother had put a little gift by everyone's plate, as we were all her sweethearts. I only remember my own gift - a pair of white fishnet stockings. ALL the girls had them and like all teenagers I wanted to have them too. My mother was very strict about the whole feminine undergarments thing, and at what age they were appropriate. So when I saw the stockings, I had not just gotten fishnets, I had gotten approval to take the next step into adulthood, even if my mother had some misgivings about what I chose to wear in taking that step. They remain my favorite Valentine's Day gift.

Jean says: My brother John's birthday is on St. Valentine's Day. I was born on Thanksgiving. My younger brother was born on the day before Flag Day. (I know that one's a stretch!) My mom always made each of us a fabulous 3-layer chocolate heart-shaped birthday cake with butterscotch icing. We always got to share each other's cake, so I always associate all three holidays with chocolate cake. How's that for symmetry? This post starts and ends with talk about chocolate!