29 June 2012
28 June 2012
27 June 2012
I first came across Gentry Magazine in a Philadelphia used book store on 18th Street 11 years ago. The store, long closed, had a dusty back room where a couple issues were leaning against each other on an empty shelf. I brought them to the register. The owner frowned and asked where I found them. I turned and pointed to the rear of the store, "In that back room." "You're not supposed to be in there." "Sorry," I said.
A price of .50 was handwritten on one magazine. The owner sighed, "Well, I'll sell them, but they sure as hell ain't fifty cents." Published by William Segal, Gentry was a pricy ($2.00 in 1951) book but amazingly original. Like Segal's sister publication, American Fabric Magazine, Gentry was stuffed with hand glued fabric samples. Unlike American Fabric, Gentry included packets of spices and fishing flies, copies of blueprints and art prints suitable, and easily removed, for framing.
A best of Gentry collection, "The Gentry Man" was released last month ($19.99 by Harper Design) I spoke to editor and author, Hal Rubenstein about the book and how it informed and helped men back in the '50s, and how it can do the same today. Sadly, there are no articles on how maintain a three day beard or comb your hair in a Tintin hair flip with pomade.
Gentry Publisher & Editor, William Segal (1904-2000): Everybody uses that word Renaissance Man to describe anyone who can do more than two things in a life time. This is somebody who really embraced life and considered every stop another challenge along the way. There was nothing he didn't want to learn.
William Segal (documentary here) was founder and managing director of Reporter Publications in New York City, as well as writer, editor, publisher and art director of, Men's Reporter, American Fabrics and Gentry.
Gentry's Influence: When GQ's Jim Nelson first saw the book, what hit him, and he'd never seen Gentry before, was that GQ was born in 1957, (Gentry: 1951 - 1957) and he told me Gentry reads like a template for GQ. He told me that it was like, for the first couple of years of GQ, they were just riffing on this magazine."
One of the ways I got interested in magazines as a kid was my uncle always had two magazines on his nightstand. One was Esquire and one was Playboy. Playboy was a very well written magazine. It really was. And Esquire, not only did it have great writers, it was also visually the most sophisticated magazine out there as well. And I think a lot of that is owed to Gentry.
The Gentry Reader: Most people were thinking, all these guys are home from the war and they just wanna get back to Americana. Segal was thinking, these guys left home for the first time and they saw the rest of the world and they came back and culturally you had to be changed. Whether you were stationed in Germany or France or Okinawa or Northern Africa, you had to be changed because you saw parts of the world you would never have seen...that your parents didn't see, that your relatives didn't see.
The media you grew up with in the '20s and '30s, and the only part of that visually was in the movies, was some heightened version of reality. Some American's idea of what it was like to be in the Casbah. It's a lot different to encounter people from around the world who have completely different habits than you do, and interests than you do, and eating and dressing than you do.
Everybody talks about how their father's didn't want to talk about the war. Well, they may not have wanted to talk about the of war but they came home, not just changed by the experience of war, but culturally changed by the exposure.
We now come from an era where presidents are proud of the fact they never left the United States before they were elected. That's scary. But here is the case where you have an entire nation of young men, who were forcibly thrown out into the world, and came back exposed to different things that no one before them had been exposed to in that way.
Selection: There were several factors we used to pick what went into the book. One, I wanted a sense of relevance. When you could look at stuff and still relate to it. Two, a sense of humor. Three, a sense of discovery and surprise. Things that you didn't think people in the '50s would be interested in and what wasn't confined to just one decade.
Men's magazines today: I think they were, for a period, devoted to fashion, and I think because of that they limited themselves because everybody got excited about fashion and they copied women's magazines too literally. Men are never going to be emotionally connected to clothes in the way that women are. We're not programmed that way. Not brought up that way. We don't consider shopping a sport but only as a function or a task.
Women go crazy over handbags. There's no sartorial equivalent for a man. It just doesn't happen. So, the only way to integrate clothing in a men's magazine is you have to connect it to the rest of his life. You have to relate it to a purpose. And I think some magazines do. Especially GQ. Jim Nelson is doing a really fine job in the way he integrated both clothes and fashion into modern life.
It's also about helping people develop a higher way of looking at life. The fact is, you don't wear clothes in a vacuum. If you're gonna buy new clothes, you have to ask, "Where am I going?" Give people places to go to. Give people places to travel to, and experiences you can have where you can wear different types of clothing, and then they'll have a reason to go shop.
Today's Culture: If Gentry were a magazine just about men's clothes, I never would have approached it. I could've cared less. What I liked about it was, it was teaching men how to cook, teaching men how to behave. One of my huge problems these days is that we have generations of men and women who have very poor social skills. They're great at texting but they're horrible face to face. They don't know what they're doing. Socially, they're inept. They don't know how to speak. They don't know how to function.
They move out of their parent's house and they don't know how to decorate their own house or cook a meal. Or entertain. Or hold a dinner conversation. They're lousy at traveling. Frankly, that's part of the fun and excitement of life. These are skills in the same way that knowing how to play basketball is a skill. You have to practice it and know the rules before you get better at it.
The Gentry Man Today: A lotta young people are very ambitious now. They reach a level of success and say, "Okay, I have some money now. What am I gonna do with it?" They need the skills to know where they're gonna put their money. They buy a big car. Okay, now what are you going to do? The book speaks to that. Know how to travel. Know how to really enjoy traveling. Take a cooking course. You're married, know how to put together a house. Don't just listen to what the little woman says. You mean to tell me you don't care? Of course you care.
Phone Interview Recorded at 2:07 PM on 25 May 2012
My review of 'The Gentry Man: A Guide for the Civilized Male' will post tomorrow.
26 June 2012
Kubrick also gave the scenes plenty of time. Film has become this world of quick cuts and edits to entertain the 18 - 24 year old attention span. Watch a recent film on TV, turn down the sound and read a book and the TV turns into a disco strobe light.
Lyndon is like a couple 'ludes in a disco. Everything slows down...And it's amazing to watch. Nothing looks out of place. Not even Ryan O'Neil. I've written about Barry Lyndon before here. And there are those of you who will think I write of nothing but sad movies. Aye, and that may be true, but there's beauty in the dark.
Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th Street bet. Broadway & Amsterdam
25 June 2012
22 June 2012
21 June 2012
20 June 2012
" I knew a whore once in Wilmington. She had a glass eye... used to take it out and wink people off for a dollar. "
Be sure to check out Randy Quaid @ 4:24
The Last Detail (1973) was as important a film to me as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Electra Glide in Blue (1974). "Bunch" and "Blue" are the book ends of off beat films whose sole contrarian purpose in Hollywood seemed to be, "Fuck the money - Lets make the picture we wanna make." Stephen Spielberg would end that in 1975 with the new concept of "Blockbuster" via Jaws.
I was a 15 year old high school student who was geek enough to join Naval Junior ROTC. And like so many things in life -- I did it for the cool clothes: Naval Academy uniforms consisting of khakis, which required military press -- dress blues -- An anchor cap with khaki and white covers and my favorite, an almost black, navy CPO shirt with matching tie. Worn with the ultra-cool 'tie tuck.'
My best friend's father worked with Dad at Continental Army Command at Ft Monroe. Ed and I traveled the old post slapping 'Sailors Have More Fun' bumper stickers on anything they'd stick to. Prior to the Army - Navy game, a foiled attempt was made to spray paint, "Go Navy" on the Ft. Monroe water tower. Never wear all black against a grey background.
I saw The Last Detail at the post movie theater. It would be my first 'R' rated movie and it would contribute a cornucopia of vulgar expressions to my already impressive 'Army Brat' archive. Robert Towne wrote the screenplay from a novel by Darryl Ponicsan. Hal Ashby directed, even though he was busted for marijuana possession in Canada while scouting locations and Jack Nicholson considered it his best role. Of course...no one has ever seen it.
Hal Ashby (1929-1988), Otis Young (1932-2001) and Jack Nicholson
I watch it today and can easily see what attracted me. Two petty officers are assigned Shore Patrol detail to escort an 18 yr old seaman to prison in Portsmouth. What begins as a scheme to collect per diem, turns into a road trip of Schlitz, whores, a Penn Station bathroom fight with Marines and a picnic in the middle of a New Hampshire Winter.
"You forgot the mustard?"
Sewn into the humor is bleak darkness we don't see in film anymore. Hell, even Towne and Ashby changed the ending from the book where 'Last Detail' predicts the outcome for the take-no-shit Buddusky played by Nicholson. Ultimately, life is a shit sandwich and few of us get any bread. How you live it and what you make out of it will not only define you...but you'll have to wear it as well.
Mulhal: You ever been married? Buddusky: Not so you'd notice.
17 June 2012
He didn't have much use for my madras sport coat. But, he started me on the road to a flank steak marinade that always reminds me of his grilling aesthetic. Mostly soy sauce. A cup or two. A glug of bourbon or two. Pour over a scored flank steak for at least six hours. Overnight is even better. In the years that have gone by, I've added a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and a teaspoon of powdered wasabi. But the soy and bourbon are the guts. Madras will come and go but his grill is eternal.
15 June 2012
The Old Man's in the Angora V-neck. Korea, circa 1970. Information Officer for the 2nd Infantry Division. Shortly after my father died, I was contacted by the man on the right.
Part of our job in Korea was to print the division newspaper. It was type set and printed by a Korean firm, the type setters understood NO English so a p,d,q,b all looked the same to them. As a result we spend a great deal of time proof reading. These pictures were taken at a picnic held by the Korean printing firm. The young lady was the only member of their staff that spoke any English. I’m the kid in the straw hat.
I remember when your Dad got the Topcon RE Super. I remember thinking how huge it was. He was proud of that camera and took some good pictures. As I said before I enjoyed knowing and working with Major T, he did a great job of keeping everything in perspective.
It's strange to see him in photographs I've never seen before. It's even stranger to see him so relaxed. I think I saw him smile three times -- and that wasn't so much a smile as a grimaced smirk. My first reaction was not hard to understand. He was relaxed and happy because he was away from his family. Thousands of miles away.
And it hurts to think that. So, I came up with another theory. He was tired of the bullshit in Special Forces. He was frustrated with the strategy in Vietnam. But he loved to write and he loved photography. He was finally doing what he loved to do, publishing a newspaper and a magazine. Far, far from home.
14 June 2012
1901 tailor bill with unpaid purchases dating back to 1985
September 12, 1908: Churchill on wedding day with best man, Lord Hugh Cecil. From, Tailor & Cutter Magazine: "Neither fish, flesh, nor fowl. One of the great failures as a wedding garment we have ever seen, giving the wearer a sort of glorified coachman appearance."
'Churchill Style' is the kind of book that pulls you in with easy to read snippets of booze, cigars, cars, books, food, country homes and writing. As you dip into short attention span blurbs,
Churchill's favorite whiskey was Johnnie Walker Red Label or Black Label, with Hine his favorite cognac. Christopher Soames maintained that Churchill, in fact, cared little about the caliber of cognac he drank. At Chartwell, Soames decanted the excellent vintages his father-in-law was regularly sent by a Cuban admirer named Antonio Giraudier and replaced them with lesser-quality brandy. Churchill never objected.
Churchill's expensive taste in cigars had always run to Cubanos, with Romeo y Julieta and Camacho his preferred brands. While in New York, however, he came across a cheaper alternative. "...I bought some cigars at the cigar stall in the Equitable Building which I like very much as they are both mild and cheap. They are in a box marked 'Royal Derby' and are called 'Longfellows.'
...Churchill's tastes were fairly well established. In soup: only clear broths ("it must be limpid") or petite marmite. In seafood: oysters and caviar, lobster and dressed crab, scampi, Dover sole and trout. Meats: roast beef, shoulder of lamb, and foie gras. Pudding: Yorkshire. Cheese: Gruyere. Dessert: chocolate eclairs.
Churchill's desktop at Chartwell
Barry Singer crams the book with beautiful ephemera of the early 20th century. Receipts for cigars, champagne, pigs and books are fun to read as well as being art objects of their own. Lavish and ornate letter head stamped and marked and noted. Many pages have evidence of Churchill's one hole paper punch in the upper left hand corner for a brass brad. Odd. I thought only I did that.
I told Mr Singer my only problem with the book was the size. It needed to be big. Coffee table big. But I also spent last weekend with the book in New Hampshire and was grateful for the easy to handle size. Perhaps the publisher can issue a larger volume? Something in a slip case - special and unique like Churchill --and with style.
13 June 2012
55 East 52nd Street - In the lobby
Writer, Churchill-expert and owner of Chartwell Booksellers (see above), Barry Singer has a new book out. 'Churchill Style' is a primer of Churchill's food, wine, cigars, women, books and good country houses. Churchill is what John Fairchild would call, "A Civilized Man." I admit to never reading Churchill but I have read a couple biographies.
Somewhere in those books... or was it a London pub? -- I heard my favorite Churchill quote: "The definition of a Greek -- is a Turk -- trying to be an Italian." Singer made my day, hell, he made my year, by confirming that attribution. But - he saddles the famous Lady Astor/ Churchill rebuff, "I may be drunk, madam, but in the morning I'll be sober and you'll still be ugly" to Sir Frederick (F.E.) Smith, a close friend of Churchill but not of his wife, Clementine, "who believed him to be a bad influence on her husband as a drinker and as a gambler. He was, however, in every sense, Winston's equal."
In appropriating a style - you could do a helluva lot worse - Joe Stalin and Mao Tse Tung come to mind. Those Commie world visions have clearly soared off course as their descendants grab capitalism like a gibbet around a neck while making JP Morgan look like a girl scout selling do-si-dos outside a grocery store.
But Churchill is still English and the English are still Churchill. Thank God.
I'll review the book tomorrow. It's perfect for Father's Day. Even if Dad has to buy it for himself. Beats the crap out of a tie -- Unless it's a navy polka dot bow tie from Turnbull & Asser. Bloody hard to go wrong with that pairing.