Sunday, 27 March 2011

Hooray for Hollywood.......

With the death of the divine Liz Taylor hot on the heels of Jane Russell, it really is the end of an era. Beautiful though Angelina, Julia, Kate and the rest maybe, they don't come close to Hollywood glamour in it's heyday; the impossible perfection of so many stars sparkling on the red carpet at galas, parties and premiers or heads up, hands down in the cement on Hollywood Boulevard. The diamonds and pearls, ribbons and bows....and that's just the pets...... defined the period of out-of-this-world-extravagance, no hair out of place, no nail un-painted, no-lip un-slicked with red. These people were not like us and that's why we loved them.

Being a devotee of the movies, the best bit about living in LA 17 years ago, for me, was the set. I'd seen this back-lot so many times in so many films: Mulholland Drive, Sunset Strip, Hollywood Boulevard, and now it was me behind the wheel, cruising along PCH, heading for Malibu. I was living my dream. And it looked the same....but different. The white washed villas, the palm trees and bougainvillea, the blue skies and 24 hour diners, still staffed by waitresses with white aprons: Sherry, Cherry and Annie-May from Idaho, pens poised.....
"How d'you like your eggs?"
They tap-danced through the menu.
"Whole, wheat or rye toast?"
Still waiting for Cecil-be-the-man-from-the-movies to sit at their table and make their day. Now, hitting 60 will it ever happen?

The movie, 'Swingers', depicted my life in La-La land perfectly. Once at a party in the hills I watched a band called Zebra-Crossing, infamous Brit boys lead by the too-beautiful Charlie, an early Russell Brandian chap, dressed in a tu-tu, hugging the mic. He sang, we danced and then a total stranger started kissing me. For hours. Up against the rail of the deck, the lights of LA sparkling behind his head. He was 24. I was not. His name was Peter. He was South African.
"What man?" he said, when I pulled the err-South-Africa-face, "It's cool, Mandela is free."
"Ecstacy", he murmered in my ear.......It took awhile for me to realise it was something he was on rather than how I made him feel.... The party was in a house Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall used to live in. In all the parties in all the houses in all the Hollywood Hills, it was always Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall's house. They sure did move around some.......

Top tip:Instant glamour: head-scarf, sunglasses and's the way forward.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Touching the void........

I had my Christmas facial this week. I had been given vouchers for Fresh, as a Christmas present, an excellent gift because:
a) I like Aveda stuff
b) I can stagger there from home, make-up free, within minutes
I'd been saving this up for a February I have previously mentioned, February is my worst month.......but I forgot. Probably due to brain freeze from this excessive winter. Fortunately, March is proving to be equally horrid so it was equally rewarding. Being somewhat credit crunched last year it's been ages since I dipped my pedicure-free toes into the glorious, cocooned world-of-pamper. And I'd forgotten just how glorious it is. I was smoothed, exfoliated, massaged, steamed, wrapped and anointed with deliciously scented unguents. Utter bliss. Honestly, I really didn't want to come out and feel the harsh bite of bitter reality back on the soggy, gray high street.

The last time I went for a bit of pampering it was quite a different story. I was on holiday in Essaouira, Morocco, with a girlfriend who'd stepped in at the last minute because the boyfriend........well that's a whole other story.......anyway, both of us had been to Morocco before but neither of us had been to a had to be done. Now, we had seen all sorts of gorgeous hamams advertised around the city in various hotels but for some reason lost in the menopause of time, we chose to go to a local hamam............Why? We were sort of man-handled into a cold room and told, with the aid of pictures and hand gestures, to strip to our bikini bottoms by mean women who spoke no English, or French, and very little Moroccan. Then we went through into a wet, cold room with an overflowing trough of running water where we huddled on bench seats while some Italian women, who seemed to know the ropes, were chatting happily. The mean women seemed to know the Italian women and smilled at them. We felt a little better and waited our turn. Eventually, two women waring swimming costumes gestured to my friend and I. They pored buckets of water over us, grabbing at our bikini bottoms to ensure nothing within remained dry, then slathered us in something called 'gommage' and then told to lay on our backs on a narrow, marble slab. We did and they left the room. My skin began to burn and itch. Fearing I was having some horrid reaction to the 'gommage', I asked my friend how she felt.
'Burning and itchy,' she replied, 'it smells like Jiff.'
It did. Just when it truly felt unbearable the women returned to our hot, sweaty chamber ........their costumes now pulled down to their waists........and began throwing buckets of cold water over us while we clung on, like freshly landed halibut, to the slippery slabs......I swear I nearly hit the deck..... but oh such relief. Then we were given rough towels to dry ourselves and taken into another room where we were told to lay down again on our fronts. Then they gave us a massage with the famed Moroccan Argan oil......oil extracted from the shit of the olive-eating-tree-climbing goats, produced by women's collectives......who else is going to go out collecting goat shit? And to be honest, the gnarled, saggy-breasted women of the hamam were not much of an advert for the stuff. For all I knew they could be in their 30s.......But, the massage was start with. Then it began to get quite........ intimate. Perhaps this was local custom, I wondered? Common place in the hamam, I thought?

As we wandered through the dusty souk, dazed, dehydrated and desperate for some mint tea, I asked my friend how her massage had been, just exactly how much had she got massaged?
'Not that much,' she said, 'I think you've been assaulted.'

Top tip.......for slatterns: want the joy of clean sheets but just can't get it together to make a whole bed? Just change the pillow cases.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Hair raising adventures.......

Wednesday night found me prostrate on the sofa, flicking through the channels. I'd slept super-badly the night before despite a jolly night up The Royal Court......saw The Heretic, not brilliant but very enjoyable.....and perhaps that was why I railed into the son for one of his numerous, although usually minor, misdemeanours; or perhaps it was the discovery of many, many tiny dead flies floating in the red-wine-vinegar-without-a-top-bottle and then accidentally splashing it all over the cluttered work top, bringing home the true nature of my slatternly ways. Either way the shouting and the squalor had left me spent and wretched, unable to focus on anything until I found...... The Model Agency on Channel 4. I hadn't watched this show before but was quickly drawn in, such is the power of car-wreck-telly. It was hilarious, the life-and-death-drama going code red as tensions grew and tempers flared while a petulant booker had a hissy fit during fashion week and wanted to ...... leave the table......

Once in another life time, I dabbled on the fringes of this world when as a young naive I wanted to be a make-up artist. I just wanted to paint faces and make fabulous pictures like the ones in Italian Vogue. Needless to say, Italian Vogue forever alluded me...... although I did once 'groom' Paul Smith for Mexican Vogue...... I soon learnt that the glossy end of editorial is along way from the catalogues and advertising that fills the 'jobbing' make-up artist's day and that in order to get booked, one needs to 'do' hair too. Now I am, some might say, blessed with thick, dark, hint-of-a-kink, glossy hair and apart from randomly changing it's colour from white-blond to puce through my heady youth, I know nothing about haircare: wash-and-go means just that, a blow-dry is flinging my head upside down for a quick blast. And I'm a stranger to the subtle variations of gel, wax, frizzese, mud, mould, fine-hold, firm-hold, hair products. So I watched and learnt...... a couple of easy styles and the right words to say..... I assembled a kit of brushes, tongs, and heated rollers I'd seen the 'others' use, to get away with what I would call, 'doing basic hair'. But to be honest if filled me full of dread especially after getting a brush stuck in a model's hair, wrapped tightly and glued to her scalp, a law suit waiting to happen, but that's a whole other story......I kid you not, the thought of it still brings me out in a cold sweat. Imagine my surprise then when, while living in LA, I rocked up to a three-day commercial shoot to discover another make-up artist already installed in the trailer and was presented with a large box of hair products........ And then I discovered that I'd been booked as the hair stylist on a hair commercial for a big American brand....I am not at liberty to say which as they could probably still sue..... I laid out my motley collection of brushes, plugged in the tongs and lined up the bottles and sprays and tubs (honestly, they didn't stint on supplies, I was using the contents of that box as gifts for a year.....) and then I felt sick. Logically it was their fault, or my agent's, not mine. And logically I could have made my excuses and left. No one was actually going to die if I did (see The Model Agency....) But fear sort of propelled me on in the lie. I stuffed my many pocketed-oversized-dungarees....... please it was a long time ago and in LA......with every brush, comb and curler I had and kept referring to the super-sized-hairspray I wielded as 'product' .......just like the professionals do. Mercifully, the stylist, a really lovely girl, was getting it in the neck from the director who'd suddenly had a flash of inspiration on route to the shoot and wanted an entirely different wardrobe, so the spotlight was off me. I didn't sleep much that night for fear that scrutiny of the footage would reveal the truth, but next morning it was all coffee and bagels and smiles. I'd been booked as the hair-stylist therefore I was. Actually, I was just lucky, the three models had been cast for the hair they actually had: a curly red-head, a wavy blond and a gleaming brunette bob, who turned up on set looking curly, wavy and bobbed..... job done and the ad ran on telly for years.....

Top tip: Cold-pressed Rapeseed oil in place of extra-virgin olive..... drizzled on everything it's full of omega three and 'local'....

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A drop of the heart stuff.......


"Coffee?" he said, "Or maybe a drink?"

He tucked a wodge of unreconstructed blonde hair behind his ear and rocked back on the heels of his cowboy boots: Robert Plant meets Aiden from Sex & The City. Her first husband had worn cowboy boots and she still didn't like them. He smiled a broad, thin-lipped smile.

"That depends," she said, "on your cocaine consumption."
"Cocaine consumption?"
"And whether you think three pints in an hour and a half is: a lot, a little, who's counting?"

He flattened his hands on the counter that separated him from her and drumbed his fingers. She wondered what his favourite film was. She wondered what it would be like to walk along the sand with him, pinked-palm trees aching out across the beach, the golden splash of dipping sun lapping at their toes; cold-beers, crispy-fish spiked with lime and chili, sticky nights under a mosquito net, love and lust drowning out the braking waves and barking dogs......

He arched a brow.
"Well," he said, "maybe the odd line."
He had trouble written right through him like a stick of rock.

This week I knitted myself a hot water bottle cover. This is my life.

Top tip: fine cotton, polka dot M & S pyjamas £15 ........ oh sweet dreams....