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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Diana Vreeland Companion Post.

Her peers have compared her to "a toucan", "a bird of paradise", "an aztec crow", and called her "super-fresh".  Diana Vreeland said of herself - "I've always had a strong kabuki streak".

I yearned to see Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel - and was willing to travel to see it.  Alas, what a travesty... there wasn't a movie theater within driving distance showing the movie - too bad, the world could use a lot more Diana Vreeland thinking.  So until the movie arrived in the mail, the next best thing was to read D.V.: Diana Vreeland.  And I did - ravenously, which fired my desire to see the movie - so I read the book a second time.  The book inspired numerous little studies, because Vreeland references such a wide variety of... everything you can imagine.

But let's just examine a few:

her passion for the beauty of armor - 
Metropolitan Museum of Art helmet.

Metropolitan Museum of Art helmet... notice the mermaid.

See Josephine Baker and her pet cheetah Chiquita.

Mistinguett - 
the particular shade of red found in the caps of children in Renaissance paintings -
John Singer Sargent's The Mosquito Net - 
D.V. says, "the expression on the woman's face is the most delectable thing..."

"mad" King Ludwig and Swan Country in Bavaria, Germany -

D.V. tells us he dined with the busts of royalty... and floated in a golden seashell boat.
 Bakst - who designed many costumes for Les Ballets Russes - 
The beauty of Maurice Chevalier - 

nineteenth century Hungarian military uniforms - 

 Grace, charm, and manners of the Geisha - 
Kabuki theatre -
Memorial for Danzo Ichikawa IV by Shibakuni Saikotei and Hokushu Shunkosai depicting 1824 Heike Nyogo-ga-shima at Osaka Sumi-za.
John Singer Sargent's Lord Ribblesdale - 
Ida Rubinstein - When Diana Vreeland was a child, she saw Ida... Ida with her Medusa head of curls tamed by black tulle veiling her kohl-rimmed eyes... Ida with her hands hidden in an enormous, black fox muff.

 the demimondaines of Paris - 
La Contessa Castiglione.
And We Cannot Forget All those colors in D.V.'s head - 
Toile La La searches for Diana Vreeland's colors mentioned in D.V.: Diana Vreeland.
Vreeland speaks of dull ochre, cobalt blue, greige, Renaissance child's cap red, Bahia sky blue, Persian pink.  There's jade green, Bakst orange, taxicab yellow, Japanese purple, cafe au lait, violent violet.  Scotland-rose pink, beloved brown, snuff, Molyneux gray, and Incan pink.

She loved the colors in Leningrad... of the onion domes in medieval Russia - Moscow.

Remember the green of England is "a little deeper" than that of France.  

Vreeland was a fan of nineteenth century Regency colors - buff, sand, fawn, snuff.

D.V. tells us the Eskimo does not think of one shade of white, but seventeen!  She tells us color "depends on tonality" and upon light.  Diana was mesmerized by the pink to blue shifting colors of Mont Blanc and felt the constantly transforming Mont Blanc reflected - in a sense - her own temperament - and really, everyone's.

She found Balenciaga's colors at their best in the light of Basque country.  She noticed the sky of Bahia was the same color as that of Hong Kong.  She tells us the Japanese imagine a different purple - one that is currant red with a smidge of violet.  Vreeland loved color - and painted all the doors in one house different colors.

Diana's presence is almost tangible in her words, delivered with the rhythm of an upbeat, worldly, confidante - who just happens to be part of the three-steps-ahead In-crowd.  Dancing, rhythm and movement - she says, allowed her to Dream.

She says she was told she was ugly... by her mother - of all people!  Not So!  Diana is Magnificent.  She patterned herself after the charming kabuki actors, particularly Tamasaburo Bando - a man who knew how to be a very feminine woman.  She took to heart 'the first rule that a Geisha is taught is to be charming to other women'.

Diana believed in glorious artifice, and that one's faults should be turned into assets... "a strong face comes from the inner thinking" when it comes down to the nitty-gritty.  "Don't be boring, be inventive" - she encourages us all.

Diana thought vulgarity had potential... it could be genius - "Vulgarity has vitality!"  She wasn't afraid to be a wee-bit naughty - visiting the off-limits museum in Pompeii, where she was inspired by a thong-sandal.  Or visiting the Tunisian red-light district, which sounds like something from a movie... Klimt perhaps.

Her compliments can be interesting... Vreeland praises Clark Gable's shetland pony eyelashes, but then - too bad, his head was "too big".

As she chats, there in D.V., we learn about her idea to publish a backwards Vogue, hear her praise chutney... and consomme too, and contemplate seeing sixty-five thousand brown eggs.  A larder would be a fine place to dwell:  Diana has a way of setting one's brain-cogs spinning.  So many things... she finds fascinating:  clothing of the '30s, bias-cut, Queen Mary's up-up-up posture, zebras, white peacocks, Elsie Mendl's topiary animals, snoods, jousting, blue jeans, freckles, purifying rain, purifying music, the tango, De Gaulle, science - "the only thing that brings us forward", bushy-haired men in hats, red camellias, rouge.

She tells us about her friend - Christian "Bebe" Berard - their walks to see the wall of animals at a rundown chateau... we can see the animals too, she says, in Jean Cocteau's movie La Belle et La Bete.  Vreeland says Berard's eyes were the clearest in the world.  Eyes that gazed to the heavens.

Clack-clack-clack, Vreeland remembers the sound of post-war Parisian wooden-soled shoes.  She speaks of times past, but also imagines surfing - and in the movie, we learn she has a penchant for skateboards too.

One thinks perhaps she may have presented armadillo-armor outside, but inside - she cared.  Through description alone, we know it was very sad to know the demise of Margaret Case... with her buttoned-up raincoat, handkerchief, and slacks. "Neat as a pin."

She wasn't skimpy with perfume:  "Do you notice any scent on me now?... if you have to sniff like a hound, it's not enough!"

I don't think I've read any autobiography with such interesting and ryhthmic banter... her friend's names, the place names, the way she presents this life of hers is fascinating to hear:

Sidi bou said, sadi-bey, legs diamond, baby face nelson, pretty boy floyd, lulu, fruity, chips channon, leo, mona, villa malcontenta, dodero, morvyth, buzo, dolly, penati, frisco, babs... Andy Warhol's friend Ming Vase. My...dear...sir...said slowly. "Listen! Can a duck swim?"... that's her way of saying - yes. You just have to read about it all yourself - including her cure for the hiccups called "Worshiping the Moon".

One is mesmerized by the descriptions:  An Aubrey Beardsley white palace with white peacocks - on the Mediterranean, with orange and lemon trees and oleander, with birds flitting in and out of stone lace columns, and gardenias floating in a rivulet in the hall, and outside - the moon reflecting in the sea.

Or... the polar bear is white, the ice is blue, and the sky is midnight blue.  Sometimes her conversation is fairytale dreamy.  When you see the movie, watch her eyes... dreamy and imagining, thinking, thinking, contemplating.

After reading D.V.'s book, I too - want a bathtub-desk covered in papers - like that of the Duke of Windsor.

Here are a few of Diana's beauty and health secrets:

  • The French language - a very facially-physical language - is naturally face-lifting.
  • Healthwise - "Never lose sight of your gallbladder!"
  • The secret of the beauty of the great cocottes and demimondaines is "...they took in the morning air."  They were outside by eight-thirty in the morning and in the bed early.
  • A love of music is a great purifier.
  • Stretching, a good massage, alternate-nostril breathing, and tea are recommendations.
  • Establish goals:  People become "stooped... if there is nothing toward which they are walking".
Then, see the movie -  Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel.  You hear the fantastic, dramatic, unique voice.  You see her.  You see her accomplishments, her visions realized.  The soundtrack is perfect.  And if you watch the dvd, it is wonderful to know there are bonus interviews with people closest to Vreeland.  Watching her friends - reveals other facets of Vreeland... they remember her voice, her mannerisms, her quirks, her individuality... a true pleasure.

She had the moon and sixpence, the world was her oyster, she was hunky-dory, a bit of all right, unafraid of the risque or the outre - Diana Vreeland... Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, The Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like my Why Don't You Breathe Like Diana Vreeland Post which explains how to practice alternate-nostril breathing... Vreeland's health secret mentioned on pages 90 and 91 of her autobiography D.V.