Monday, April 7, 2014

Esquire's 2014 Spring/Summer Big Black Book

It's finally here! Like a child waiting for Christmas morning! I went to B&N several times looking for this, thinking it would be out earlier since it is already April.

I'm most excited about the possible resurgence of the double breasted suit. It was extremely popular the 1940s and 50s (check on these dates), made a comeback in the 1990s and his been dormant for almost 25 years. Joseph Abboud offers a DB model in its custom suit program, which is only available at The Men's Wearhouse I was going to purchase one last month, but I had to wait. I actually want to purchase three, a charcoal gray pinstripe, a navy glen plaid, and a navy houndstooth with a burgundy windowpane. This edition of BBB has 5 different DB models listed.

Some interesting locales to visit are Cap Estel, Cape Town, and Costa Careyes.

If you have a hankering for a watch that costs more than 15.000 USD, BBB suggests models from Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Blancpain, and Breguet. They include other price points ranging from 10.000 - 15.000 USD, 7.500 - 10.000 USD, 3.000 - 7.500 USD, and less than 3.000 USD. The only TAG Heuer model profiled is the Steel Monaco 24 retailing for 13.500 USD.

The One-Day Apprentice is an article by Richard Dorment. He spends a day at the Caesar Attolini headquarters in Naples to see what is involved in creating a sport coat entirely by hand.  Ninety-nine percent of clothing you purchase today is made in a factory by machines. With so much competition it is the most cost effective way to mass produce garments. Then you have the rarified one percent of clothing that is made by hand and the prices reflect this. Oxxford suits that cost 6.000 USD, Ralph Lauren cashmere overcoats 7.500 USD, John Lobb shoes 8.000 USD, and Kiton sport coats 4.500 USD.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Definitive Ralph Lauren Coffee Table Book

Ralph Lauren

Written by Ralph Lauren, Edited by Mary Randolph Carter
  •  October 18, 2011
  •  Hardcover
  •  Design - Fashion
  •  Rizzoli
  •  9 x 11-3/4
  •  $50.00
  •  $55.00
  •  978-0-8478-3743-4

As I was growing up I adopted the preppy style of dressing. It is all about polka dot ties, glen plaid suits, brown brogues, tan linen suits, white french cuff shirts, and pocket squares.

There is only one name in the world of fashion that has made preppy into a four billion dollar juggernaut, Ralph Lauren.

It all started with a tie he designed and named, "Polo".  His tie was a massive hit and Neiman Marcus placed an order for 100 dozen. From there he opened a Polo boutique on Rodeo Drive with the financial backing of Norman Hilton and the rest is history.

Over the years his line has expanded to women, boys, and housewares. Denim, sportswear, and the Rugby concept store round out the choices. RL has several different lines to accommodate all discriminating clients, with Purple Label at the top. Also, RL is a major contributor to several worthy causes.

His astute eye for classic clothes is only surpassed by his discerning eye for classic automobiles. Remember the saying, it is not the quantity, but quality? RL does. The number of automobiles in his collection is small compared to Jay Leno's. However, the 60 automobiles in his collection are the rare of the rarest. Automobiles with production runs of 4, 5, 6, 15 and the coveted 1 of 1. The three standouts are the 1938 Bugatti 57 SC Atlantic, 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK "Count Trossi", and 1996 McLaren F1 LM. In 2005 RL displayed his collection of automobiles at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston which I attended.

I had first seen this book in NYC. I mentioned that I had seen this amazing coffee table book about RL to my wife. She remembered I had an interest in this book and purchased it for my birthday 2 years ago. This is book is massive! It weighs about 5 pounds and runs in excess of 450 pages.
This book is a mere glimpse into the mind of RL. It is divided into four sections, Living, Movies, Heroines, and History. The foreword is penned by the late Audrey Hepburn, extolling his brilliance in designing clothes. It important to note this is a biography of RL in hundreds of pictures and not in words. However, there is some text in the beginning and in History, but not a lot in between.

Check out a free preview of the book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

House of Cards: A twisted tale of politics as usual

Poster for Season 2 House of Cards. Source

Kevin Spacey portrays Congressman Francis J. Underhill,  Robin Wright portrays his wife, Claire, and Kate Mara portrays reporter, Zoe Barnes. House of Cards (HoC) is the BBC version of the same name from 1990. The new series pays homage to the old by mirroring some scenes. One scene from the original is used in the current series and the movie, Horrible Bosses. It is the scene when Kevin Spacey manipulates Jason Bateman into drinking 18 year old Scotch at 8:15 am.

HoC is not a network television show. It was created by Media Rights Capital. They pitched the series to several cable networks and then Netflix, the Internet streaming media provider, ended up securing the show.

HoC represents the future of television shows. Since it is not shown on a network it does not face the same type of scrutiny from Standards & Practices, which results in more artistic freedom to create, there are no commercials, and all the episodes are released as the same time. Since all the episodes of a show are available all at once,  a new phenomena has emerged, binge-watching. This is when someone watches several episodes in one sitting. This is how I raced through season 2. I went through all 13 episodes in less than a week. Had this been a show on a network, it would have taken more than 3 months to watch all the shows.

HoC is an insiders look into how politicians work in D.C. Determination, a fine quality in anyone, is the goal to the end, with no consideration with the consequences of the means. Whomever is in their path will get steamrolled. Coercion and manipulation do not even require a second thought, as it is already a given. Murder, corruption, deception, false imprisonment, and extortion are as benign as a cup of tea in this world. It is fair to say Francis might have consulted, The Prince, from time to time.

There are a few similarities between HoC and Shakespeare's Richard III. Both use soliloquies by the main character to speaker directly to the viewer/audience and both feature the main character's Machiavellian ascent into power.          

An interesting part of HoC, as in the original, is Francis' breaking the fourth wall by speaking directly to the viewer. This serves insight to what Francis is thinking at certain moments. Below is a video of this. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

GQ Style: What to Wear Now Spring & Summer 2014

I was looking for the latest copy of Esquire's Big Black Book at B&N and I stumbled across this. This is the GQ version of The Big Black Book. I don't why they waited 8 years to create their own version.

This issue has a several interesting articles. The two I like are the spread on different stripes of seersucker. Some choices include olive, red, and brown. I own a seersucker suit in blue. This is the only color I would consider as it is the most traditional. The style of the suit, however,  is not traditional. I choose a double vented jacket with a flat front pant. The more traditional is a single vented jacket with pleated pants. Here is a photo of a seersucker suit.

The second article I took note of is, The Badass Banker Suit, article. Most suits off the rack are single breasted. This means the the two sides of the jacket button in the middle whereas in a double breasted suit, the left side overlaps a part of the right and is buttoned there. I am going to purchase a custom Joseph Abboud gray pinstripe double breasted suit this weekend from The Men's Wearhouse. The suit is pre-altered at the factory which is located in New Bedford, MA. My suit will be slightly different from the suit in the picture. It will have a ticket pocket, a small pocket above the pocket on the right side of the jacket and the pants will not be cuffed. They will sport a plain hem which is correct for a flat front pant. 


Other articles of note include a features on David Hockney and Toshiro Mifune. On the style side, appropriate man bags, the commandments of wearing Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts with the pockets on the front of the thigh as opposed to the side, and the alternative to leather, suede.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Los Angeles Doors Tour

I have been a Doors fan since 1991. I got into them purely by accident. I was a record store wasting time and the music playing over the speakers caught my attention. It wasn't even a Doors song, it was Carmina Bruana, a very intense opera. I asked a salesperson what classical music CD we were listening to. It wasn't, it was the Doors soundtrack. I was intrigued with the selection of that piece of music on a classic rock band's movie soundtrack. So I went to see the movie, The Doors.

I would hope that in everyone's life they have an epiphany;  a moment of clarity. That was the way I felt after watching The Doors movie. I can still remember walking down the steps with my mind completely blown away. This was a common reaction to witnesses of a Doors concert. I immediately purchased the soundtrack and listened to it too many times to count. Over the years, I began to amass a collection of Doors media. My bookshelf contains at least a dozen books and my CD collection numbers a dozen plus the second box set, the number of tracks at 220. Some of the gems I count in my collection is a compilation CD released by Starbucks, a "blues" release with Albert King, and my personal favorite, the version of The End from Apocalypse Now. Francis Ford Coppola, who went to film school with Jim, needed a song to open the movie. He choose The End because of the juxtaposition of the title of the song at the beginning of the movie. One could also submit the insanity of Vietnam conflict was the end of our humanity, one of the themes of the movie. I was fortunate to meet John Densmore, the drummer, at a book signing. My wife and I went to see the Doors tribute band, The Soft Parade. They put on a great show! It was the closest I will ever get to attending a Doors concert.

                                                14 Westminster Ave, Venice Beach

This is probably one of the most important landmarks in the history of The Doors. It was June of 1965 and Jim had planned to move to NYC after graduating from UCLA film school, but stayed in LA instead. He was hanging out with his friends getting drunk and high. He was living with friends or girls he was seeing, with no permanent address. One of his friends, Dennis Jakob, was a janitor at an apartment building and suggested that Jim live on the rooftop. It was perfect environment for him. He was alone to concentrate on his writings and it was here James Douglas Morrison wrote the songs for their seminal self-titled first album, The Doors.

By now Jim had been writing poetry for several years. He was drinking moderately and was consistently smoking weed. An ex-girlfriend commented, in her opinion, that his intake was too high. She should have waited 5 years! LSD was still legal and could be purchased over-the-counter. This was the main ingredient in the creation of the album. Jim had no job, so he was not eating. This resulting in a loss of 35 pounds in roughly 6 weeks. What he was doing was writing and writing and coupled with the psychotic visions from the LSD dancing in his head the album was born. In later interviews Jim explains the first songs written were from a concert he heard in his head.

 8447 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This is one of Jim's favorite restaurants. There are several BB locations throughout the city. This is the original location and has been there since 1927. Every star and musician passing through LA has been to BB. It was a rush to be in the same eatery as Jim. It was more of a rush to sit on same barstool as he did.

8513 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was Jim's liquor store of choice. It is located steps from the Alta Cienega Motel and across the street from the recording studio. Best part? He could purchase liquor on account. Jesus, a liquor store that extended credit to a boozehound like Jim Morrison.

 8505 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This used to be a bar/strip joint called The Phone Booth. This is between the motel and the liquor store.

8500 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was once a bar/strip joint called the Extension. It is on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and La Cienega. The next building to the west was the Doors office.

8512 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was the Door's offices from 1968 - 1972. The top level was the offices and the lower level was used to record L.A. Woman. I'm glad the building is still standing and of the plaque in the front.

8572 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

Another one of Jim's favorite bars.

 947 La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood

This building once had Pam's boutique, Themis and the HWY, Jim's documentary, office. The serious looking gentleman in front is my cousin. He was cool enough to meet me in LA to indulge my quest. We ended up eating at Barney's, walked around, and chatted a bit.

962 La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood

Here is where the Doors recorded The Soft Parade and Morrison Hotel.

I was reading Life. Death. Legend, an excellent biography of Jim, and on pages 226 - 227, the author comments on how Jim lived this part of his life in such a small box. Look at the addresses of the landmarks on Santa Monica Blvd., 8447, 8500, 8505, 8512, 8513, and 8572. That's two blocks. On N. La Cienega, 947, 962, and 1005.  That's two blocks as well. The only address "far" away was Pam's apartment on W. Norton Ave and that is only a 10 minute walk. 

 8214 #2 W. Norton Ave., West Hollywood

Jim and Pam lived on the second floor.

The sign says it all. After this residence his new home would be Paris until his death.

9081 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood

This was one of Jim's haunts. It is about 10 blocks from where he lived.

6650 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood

This is the recording studio the Doors used for The Doors and Strange Days. Legend has it, Jim, blitzed out his gourd, returned one night after a recording session and doused the entire studio with foam from a fire extinguisher. When confronted, he claimed to have no memory of the incident. What gave him away? Before dousing the entire studio in foam, he took his boots off and forgot to put them back on before he left.


     6263 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood

This the Army/Navy Surplus store on the corner on Vine and Santa Monica Blvd. This is where Jim would buy his clothes. At this point Jim was interested in clothes that were tough and basic. I read he would go in and buy several sets of clothes to last a few months. The clothes he came in with were thrown away. He said it was akin to a snake molting. 

6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood

Here is the Door's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was dedicated on February 28, 2007. Fittingly it is right in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. Inside there is a mural of Jim and a pair of his trademark brown leather pants.

Sorry about the blurry picture!

Ok,  I have saved the best for last!...

1005 N. La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood

The Alta Cienega Motel. Jim lived in room 32 for three years. His window is on the left of the green sign. 

They actually charged me $10 to open the door so I could look inside. I had to talk the lady behind the window down from $20.

Well, if these walls could talk! The walls and the bathroom look original. I'm guessing the tv, the bed, and furniture are not. The first thing you notice is the graffiti. Almost every square centimeter is covered with some sort of writing or drawing. I saw a picture of the room from 2005 and it does not look too bad. It has evolved exponentially from there. You can still rent the room for $120 a night while the other insignificant rooms rent from about $80.

It was quiet and felt calm inside the room. I have never been in a famous dead person's hotel room. Mick Jagger visited Jim in this room in 1968 before the famous Hollywood Bowl performance.  One can only speculate what shenanigans went on in here. The women, booze, and drugs consumed within these walls are of biblical proportions.  

I went to for the guide to the Doors landmarks in LA. I also consulted Life. Death. Legend by Stephen Davis for additional information. While I discovered the more important landmarks, I did miss a few, The Copper Skillet, The Whisky A Go Go, Gazzari's, The London Fog, the 9000 Building and other places. These landmarks are on the Sunset Strip and I did not get to Laurel Canyon where Jim and Pam lived for a while.