THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF WINDSOR | THE HEART HAS ITS REASONS, SHE SAID

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“I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility,

and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do,

without the help and support of the woman I love.”

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–King Edward VIII, from his famous abdication speech of 1936.

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The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (AKA Wallis Simpson)– arguably one of the most controversial, talked about couples of the 20th century.  Their affair started while she was still married to her 2nd husband Ernest Simpson– a wealthy Englishman, through whom she gained access to British high society.  The two were introduced at a London social event, and soon she was a frequent guest at Prince Edward’s country getaway, Fort Belvedere.

In January of 1936, Edward was crowned the British Monarch upon the death of King George V. He, however, had no interest in being king. Edward’s focus was solely on marrying Wallis Simpson– the rags-to-riches American commoner who had somehow seduced the now King of England.  Many wondered aloud, what could he possibly see in her?  Give up the throne for– what? Apparently it wasn’t the sex. She’s credited with icily stating, “No man is allowed to touch me below the Mason-Dixon line.” There were also ugly and persistent rumors challenging her own physical endowments as a lady. Shady, unsubstantiated stories surfaced that Wallis Simpson was born a man, and suffered from Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome– a hormonal irregularity that causes a genetic male’s body to develop as a woman, but without fully developed, err, privates. Just the the kind of story any gal would love to be the subject of.

And then there were the stories of her affairs, Nazi sympathizing, and shopping.

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TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME | ICONIC PHOTOGRAPHER GORDON PARKS

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“I had a great sense of curiosity and a great sense of just wanting to achieve.

I just forgot I was black and walked in and asked for a job

and tried to be prepared for what I was asking for.”

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–Gordon Parks

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Gordon Parks (1912-2006)  – The iconic photographer, artist, director, writer, activist, and musician.

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

During his 93 years, Gordon Parks led an extraordinary life, and bore witness to some of the most amazing events of the 20th century– often chronicling them through the lens of his camera.  Most of us who lived in the 1970s know him as the director of Shaft, the groundbreaking film that featured a black leading man whupping ass, bedding beautiful women– and all without as much as ruffling the collar of his trademark black leather trench coat.

However, Gordon Parks was much more than  Shaft. During his lifetime he was a friend to famous artists, musicians, athletes, politicians, fashion models, actors, and general movers and shakers– he seemed to know everyone who was making history in one way, shape, or form.  Parks also made his mark in photography, literature, film, music, and social activism.  I can also say from experience he was one of the most stylish and charming New Yorkers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

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Gordon Parks filming “The Learning Tree”, Fort Scott, KS, 1968. – Photograph by Norman E. Tanis.

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“FOUR WHEELS MOVE THE BODY — BUT TWO WHEELS MOVE THE SOUL.”

GILDA TEXTER VANISHING POINT HONDA MOTORCYCLE

 

Gilda Texter on a Honda Scrambler in the epic film “Vanishing Point”, 1971.

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Woman riding a motorcycle

That’s a woman on that gnarly chopper!

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1982, Sturgis, South Dakota — Hells Angels at Sturgis — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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June 17th, 1977, Cleveland, Ohio — Plumber Sam Green drives his customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a tree lined street in Cleveland.  Green added hundreds of lights, horns, and chrome balls, as well as a television, canopy, CB radio, and tape deck. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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April 17th, 1974, Daytona Beach — They’ve got all kinds of names for members of the younger generation. At Daytona Beach, at least, it might be termed the relaxed generation. Some youngsters from Ohio rest on their motorcycles after arriving in the area recently. Daytona Beach is one of the few resorts in Florida where vehicles can be used on the beach. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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March 9th, 1968 — Cyclists are Sought in Murder Case.  Cleveland, Ohio:  Their bikes are their most prized possessions, say the Animals.  Shown working on their motorcycles are (from left):  V.C.; Gabby; and Tom (only nicknames given).  In foreground is an unusual three-wheeler.  Local authorities are looking for the motorcycle riders who killed two men in a cafe on February 28th.  Three suspects in the case are former members of the Animals. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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Dec 3rd, 1966, Las Vegas — Hordes of teenagers cruise the Las Vegas Strip on motorcycles and in cars at night. Traffic along the strip is bumper-to-bumper every weekend as youngsters arrive to observe and be observed. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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VERONICA LAKE | THE PEEK-A-BOO PINUP OF HOLLYWOOD’S GOLDEN AGE

The Selvedge Yard did a (very) little piece for DETAILS magazine’s online blog– The Daily Details here.

There was something about those lips, the flirty peek-a-boo eye, and that sexy, sweeping hair that’s seductive beyond words.  Yes, Veronica Lake just had “it.”

Other pinups of her day may have been more racy (Bettie Page), more leggy (Bettie Grable), or more busty (Jane Russell), but in my book none of them can touch her stunning beauty, poise and indelible mystique. Standing a scant 4’ 11’ and weighing only 90lbs., Veronica Lake deftly filled the camera’s lens with more sex appeal in her little left eye than most beauties managed wearing half as much, and trying twice as hard.

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“I will have one of the cleanest obits of any actress. I never did cheesecake like Ann Sheridan or Betty Grable. I just used my hair.”  –Veronica Lake

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Sadly, Her story was a tragic one.  Beset by a troubled childhood, broken marriages, schizophrenia, and drinking woes (most likely in an attempt to self-medicate)—Veronica Lake was washed-up in Hollywood too early, and with little to live on besides her fading looks.

When one-time lover Marlon Brando heard she was working as a barmaid, he promptly had his people deliver her a check for $1,000.  Too proud to cash it, Lake instead chose to have it framed as a memory of days gone by, and a not-so-subtle notice to others that she was once Hollywood’s reigning sex symbol.

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“I wasn`t a sex symbol, I was a sex zombie.”  –Veronica Lake

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“Hollywood gives a young girl the aura of one giant, self-contained orgy farm, its inhabitants dedicated to crawling into every pair of pants they can find.”  –Veronica Lake

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FROM HELLS ANGELS TO HITCHCOCK | IRVING PENN SHOT THEM ALL

Irving Penn – Doug, Hells Angels (San Francisco), 1967.  Appeared in Look magazine, January, 1968.

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THE INCREDIBLES

This Hell’s Angels motorcyclist writes no songs of protest.  His actions, his very appearance, says all he wants to say to us.  Thus, a lifestyle becomes a statement about the world and, in a sense, a work of art.  Irving Penn went to San Francisco to photograph some of the people who outrage and lure us being what they are. Looking past current rages and entertainment, Penn placed these people in a neutral, ageless environment.  His pictures, accompanied only by fragments of conversation are addressed not just to the now but to the days to come.

–Look magazine, January, 1968

 

Irving Penn – Hells Angels (San Francisco), 1967.   Appeared in Look magazine, January of 1968.

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A BOXER’S UNFORGIVABLE BRASHNESS | THE CHAMP WHO DARED TO BE BLACK

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Jack Johnson. The American boxing great still awaiting a pardon, on long ago trumped-up charges, that he’s more than due to receive.  Obama, for some reason, is dragging his heels– causing many to speculate that it’s because his old foe John McCain is the one strongly behind the effort to bring exoneration to the Black champ’s legacy. Democrats or Republicans– it’s always the same circus, just different clowns.

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Arthur John “Jack” Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas on March 31, 1878– the first son in a family of six children born to Henry (a former slave) and Tiny Johnson.  Jack Johnson grew up poor– dropping put of school in the fifth grade so he could work on the Galveston docks to help support the family.  As a teen he began boxing in Negro matches organized to entertain proper white folk.  The winner of the match would collect whatever money was thrown in the ring by the appreciative spectators.

Johnson soon rose to the rank of Negro boxing’s heavyweight champion, and was called the “Galveston Giant.” Johnson wanted a shot a Jim Jeffries, the current White heavyweight champ, who refused to fight a black man. In 1910, they finally squared off, with Jeffries coming out of retirement to challenge Johnson– who had become the “unrecognized” heavyweight champion by knocking out Tommy Burns in 1908. Jeffries was hailed as the “Great White Hope” –a rallying cry started by none other than famed author, Jack London. He, and scores of Whites like him, wanted to see the boastful Black boxer beaten in the ring by a White man, in order to erase that “golden smile” from Jack’s face, and restore White America’s pride and position in what was being billed as– “The Fight of the Century.”

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Jack Johnson

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“If the black man wins, thousands and thousands of his ignorant brothers will misinterpret his victory as justifying claims to much more than mere physical equality with their white neighbours.” –The New York Times

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A LOVE FOR THE OLD WILD WEST | VINTAGE AMERICANA POSTCARDS

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Yes, I have a thing for vintage linen postcards– with old Curt Teich works being at the top of that list.  I also love the lore of the American Wild West (the maverick, pioneer spirit lines-up well with my own modus operandi)– bowlegged, dusty cowboys with tobacco-stained fingers and hooded eyes, and the soulful sages that we call Native Americans with their incredible art, customs and culture.  I could feast on these beautiful little pieces of art for days.

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1917 — American Map Showing Vital Spot to Hit to Kill the American Spirit of Justice. — Image by © Lake County Museum/Corbis

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Circa 1925, Pendleton, Oregon — There are many tribes of Indians in the Northwest and they live on reservations. The Bannocks and the Nezperces of Idaho, the Umatillas of Oregon and the Yakimas of Washington are the chief tribes. Fishing and hunting is part of their livelihood. They have great meetings at the rodeos where they parade in war costumes and perform their tribal dances. — Image by © Lake County Museum/Corbis

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Circa 1943, Elk City, Oklahoma — Texas Kid, Jr., Riding “Joe Louis.” A past time Range Sport of the Pioneer Southwest, being reproduced by a crack rider during Woodword Elks Rodeo. Stock furnished by Beutler Bros., Elk City, Okla. — Image by © Lake County Museum/Corbis

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Circa 1939, San Antonio, Texas — OLD “TEX,” the best known specimen of that hardy race of cattle, the famous TEXAS-LONGHORN, escaped the early day cowboys who herded and drove them to distant railroad shipping points. He roamed the prairies of Southwest Texas to an undetermined age and is now full body mounted as shown and stands as one of outstanding exhibits in the Buckhorn Curio Store Museum, originally the Famous Buckhorn Bar in San Antonio, Texas. — Image by © Lake County Museum/Corbis

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Circa 1933 — NAVAJO INDIANS SPINNING YARN FOR RUGS. Navajo Indian Rugs are famed the world over for their beauty and durability. In infancy children receive the ambition to create designs which express their understanding of life, supply, or surroundings. No two rugs are designed identical. The picture shows one rug just completed, and the never idle fingers are spinning yarn from the raw wool and preparing for another rug of some design which inspired thoughts have conceived. — Image by © Lake County Museum/Corbis

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20TH CENTURY AVANT-GARDE ICON | TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME JEAN COCTEAU

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“An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.”

–Jean Cocteau

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Jean Cocteau.  Quite possibly the most important art icon of the 20th century, who could seemingly do it all, and with great style– painter, poet, playwright, novelist, actor, film-maker, the list goes on and on. But he was first and foremost a poet at heart– and a truly incredible one at that.

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Stunning photo of Jean Cocteau by Irving Penn.  Damn, the man had style.  Borrowing a page out of The Duke of Windsor’s book– perfectly pairing classic menswear patterns with elegance and ease. “Penn made this portrait of Jean Cocteau during a 1948 trip to Paris for Vogue.  Each thread of Cocteau’s tie, vest, and suit is etched in light and shadow; the patterns and the texture pop out in vivid, tactile detail.  The drape of his coat over an extended arm adds drama and balance to the composition. Cocteau is dressed in the sartorial attire of a dandy, which, by all accounts, he was.  There is an air of flamboyance about him, until you look at his face.  His dead-serious expression registers the fierce intelligence of a keen observer, as if he is taking our measure while deigning to allow us to take his.” –Philip Gefter via

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August 1955, France– Picasso with Jean Cocteau at a Bullfight –Image by © Vittoriano Rastelli/Corbis Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau knew one another for nearly fifty years. They met in 1915 following Picasso’s departure from martre, where Cocteau’s friend, the poet Max Jacob, had shared an atelier with the painter– one using the only bed by day, and other by night. Picasso made an immediate and lasting impression on Cocteau, who considered him as one of his three masters. via

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Jean Cocteau sketching model Elizabeth Gibbons in a Chanel dress in his hotel bedroom (Castille in the Rue Cambon), surrounded by posters of his latest theatrical productions, photos of friends, medicine bottles, books, stage sets and pencils, 1937.  –photo by Roger Schall via

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A LOST ART OF DAYS GONE BY | VINTAGE CURT TEICH LINEN POSTCARDS

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I’m crazy for vintage Curt Teich linen postcards. The warm, fuzzy, softness of color, printed (sometimes slightly off register) on the linen-weave stock, of scenes when America had a youthful glow. It makes me yearn for a life and times that I was born too late for, by golly.  I find myself gazing at neighborhoods and cities, trying to chronologically piece them together.  I ask myself– what was it like here 100 yrs ago… which houses came first… which were layered in later, and when?  A lot of the scenes in these incredible windows to the past are places where I’ve lived, or passed through that are in one way or another core to who I am.

Imagine living again in a time with no cell phones, internet, and the other so-called modern conveniences that “save us time.” I could go back in a New York second.  Technology and consumption is moving at a scary pace, folks.  I wonder what we’ll be looking back at with nostalgia-glazed eyes 25 yrs from now… Planet Earth?

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Ford Model T – 1908-1909, the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Michigan

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Statue of Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor, New York City

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Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York City

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THE RUGGED ROAD | AN AMBITIOUS MOTORCYCLE JOURNEY FOR THE AGES

In 1934, two incredible women, Theresa Wallach and Florence Blenkiron, set out on a 600cc single-cylinder Panther equipped with sidecar and trailer and rode from London to Cape Town, South Africa. No modern roads, no back up plan, just a giant set of balls that any man would envy. Both women were already accomplished competitive racers, who were savvy enough to raise corporate sponsorship– which just goes to show how seriously they were taken as motorcyclists. The pair shot straight across the Sahara through equatorial Africa, and South to the Cape, on the long and brutal trek without so much as a compass.  A feat that no man had dared to even attempt.

Here’s the AMA’s account of their story, and the incredible account of Theresa Wallach’s lifetime on two wheels.  No wonder she was inducted into their Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

Warning: If you’re anything like me, reading this may make you feel like an epic under-achiever.

Motorcycling pioneer ~ Theresa Wallach

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Theresa Wallach was a pioneering motorcyclist whose lifelong involvement in the sport included being a racer, motorcycle adventurer, military dispatch rider, engineer, author, motorcycle dealer, mechanic and riding school instructor. Wallach overcame numerous obstacles that confronted women motorcyclists of her era to become an enduring advocate of the sport. Wallach’s willingness to turn from traditional roles led to a lifestyle full of exploration, adventure and a never-ending dedication to motorcycling. Wallach was in the vanguard of redefining the role of women in motorcycling.

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The Panther Redwing Model 100 motorcyle that Wallach & Blenkiron used was fitted with extra heavy-duty Webb forks, heavier gauge wheel spokes, wider mudguards to accommodate Fort Dunlop 3.5 inch car tires, and a Moseley block pillion saddle. The sidecar was a standard Watsonian touring model with long, heavy-duty flat leaf springs at the rear and coil springs at the front. Go read “The Rugged Road”, by Theresa Wallach.

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