Growing up in a rural part of the US South in the early 70s was not always lilacs and buttercups, especially for someone with the mixed blessing of fabulousness, which God, in His wisdom, saw fit to give me, instead of locusts. When 'Saturday Night Fever' came out in 1977, I managed to acquire a copy of the paperback novel and devoured it in stolen moments, away from prying parental eyes, as I was forbidden to read it. I was twelve years old and, though I was disturbed and terrified by the disregard for good sense which the characters all displayed, I nevertheless was consumed with a desire to dress like them and act out their parts.
I wanted to dress like Tony and have his confidence and swagger. I wanted his fearlessness in how he dressed and moved.
Even the Bee Gees, with their girly voices, hinted at an exciting world where I didn't have to pretend to be something I'm not.
An obsession took hold of me to have a Tony moment on a dance floor. Fantasy wasn't enough. I had to DO this!
My parents finally agreed to disco dance lessons. Two nights a week I practiced with girls much older than I was, and there were only two other guys. Older, both of them, and creeps, the pair.
I manipulated a rich uncle into buying me a leisure suit. It was lime green, as they refused to get me the white one I needed, but it would serve.
Faux gold chains were purchased with my own money, and a shark's tooth from a science museum, as a pendant on one of the greenish gold necklaces.
All I needed was the shoes.
There was a spring dance at the county school. I was a city school kid, and a runt at that. To attend a county school dance was to invite a solid beating from the county ruffians, and maybe worse. The county dances weren't chaperoned well and wild stories circulated of kids smoking marijuana and having sex on the dance floor, uninterrupted by the few adults charged with supervising.
My parents had heard these stories, too, so it took weeks of work to convince them that I could be trusted not to get hurt or do anything foolish. You see, the county school had a real lighting system with flashing colored lights at their dances – not the single mirror ball we had at the city school dances. Also, none of the kids at the city school were intimidated or put off by the Bee Gees so the dance floor was packed during 'Night Fever' with no way for me to take the spotlight, whereas I had heard that the dance floor at the county school would empty faster than a cheerleader's panties when a Bee Gees song came on, as they all were terrified of being perceived as effeminate.
It was my destiny to go there and dance.
Everything fell into place two weeks before the dance, with one last To Do item.
It was time to get my mom to buy me a pair of high heels.
Somehow I convinced her to take me shopping for shoes to wear to the dance but when we got to the store and I asked to try these on,
Wouldn't even let me try them on. I explained that dancing lessons were a waste of money and time without the right shoes, that the leisure suit would never get worn without them, that I couldn't go to the dance without them. No son of hers was going to wear girl shoes. Enraged, I asked if she had ever seen John Travolta dancing in penny loafers. And that ended our little shopping excursion.
I refused to dance at the next disco lesson. What was the point?
There were reprisals. We had shouting matches. I was grounded. Dad delivered character-building beatings. My record player was taken away from me. Nothing could snap me out of my grief. I refused to participate in their shallow, meaningless, flat-footed life.
For some perverse reason, they forced me to go to the county school dance, but I wore jeans and a tee shirt and tennis shoes. I had been willing to risk getting beat up by the county kids if it meant a chance to shine for a moment first – to have my Tony moment, proud and alive and thoroughly me, as Tony. But to be herded to the slaughter, broken and shaky, was terrifying.
I found a safe place on the bleachers and hid until it was over. The debauchery was even worse than I'd heard and I was furious at my parents for exposing me to the gropings and drinks and drugs all around me.
And when 'Staying Alive' was played, the dance floor emptied, save for a half dozen older boys in white leisure suits and white patent platform shoes, with gold chains and shirts unbuttoned down to there, who hit the floor and launched into an enthusiastic performance of the worst dancing I've ever seen in my life. Farmer's and lumber men's sons. Chests puffed and arms bowed out aggressively. Going through some of the steps alright but with none of the grace that the moves require. It was sickening.
There were jeers from the crowd and suddenly a brutal fistfight erupted. The dancers had reverted to their true vocation of hurting people, which they did much better, and seemed to enjoy more as well.
Had I succeeded in getting my shoes and trying to have my moment, I would most certainly have been publicly beaten and shamed.
Or maybe I'd have pulled off a Napoleon Dynamite.
I'll never know.
This new video is a spot-on parody of the fashion videos I love so much, but it’s also a great way to show off the really cute clothes in Vena Cava’s new line.
Ella used to frequent a seedy and unsavory online community where many debased degenerates used to gather to revel in their shameless depravity. (Can you tell that I miss them?)
When the other libertines noticed that Ella appreciated black and white photography, they began sharing samples of the work of their favorite photographers. One of the least savory characters, claiming to be a social worker in Moscow with a mysterious connection to the city of Wuppertal, introduced me to the sensational work of Jeanloup Sieff by posting the following three photos, without comment or caption.
These three images were so electrifying to me that I began keeping a list of my favorite photographers as a result. I did not want to forget the name Jeanloup Sieff.
Born in Paris in 1933, Sieff was a famous fashion photographer in the 60s.
He also took some memorable portraits in the era:
Sieff is arguably best known for his black and white nudes, of which I will only post one of my favorites.
His landscapes were similarly superb.
And, as may be noted in the Hitchcock portraits as well as much of his other work, he had a sense of humor.
Thank you, erstwhile Moscow ne’er-do-well for introducing me to the work of this great photographer.
More of Jeanloup Sieff’s work may be seen here.
The 1995 duet “Who the Hell is Sonia Rykiel” with the legendary, late, Malcolm McLaren, is a nice soundtrack for this post.
Born in 1930 in Paris, Sonia was a window dresser as a teen and later married the owner of a dress boutique. When she could not find soft, comfortable sweaters to wear during her second pregnancy, she collaborated with one of her husband’s suppliers to create soft, form-fitting sweaters for herself. They were popular enough that she began selling them in her husband’s boutique. By 1967 her ‘Poor Boy’ sweater was world famous and she was named by the American press, ‘The Queen of Knits’.
High, tight armholes and narrow shoulders are classic Poor Boy sweater features. Horizontal stripes have been, and continue to be, a hallmark of Rykiel’s work.
Her 2010 collection for H&M was a fun revival of the looks which had made her famous, decades before.
But, besides the Poor Boy and the horizontal stripe, Rykiel is best known for her graphic work with knits. It was she who first put seams on the outside of garments, and she who first used words and pictures as part of the knits she designed, an early example of which was a sweater bearing the word ‘SENSUOUS’, released in 1971 to much hullabaloo.
An informative timeline of her life and career may be found here.
A wonderful interview with Rykiel may be found here.
Thumbing through Tank magazine, I just discovered photographer Daido Moriyama.
Thanks to the Vintage Vicar blog for posting!
Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli outdid themselves in my opinion.
This is what Spring looks like!
The entire collection may be viewed here.