TEXAS’ OWN “GONE WITH THE WIND” | GEORGE STEVENS’ 1956 EPIC– “GIANT”

Icons James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson sharing the silver screen– ‘nuff said? Not quite. While I love the glamour, legend, and lore behind the making of “Giant” (and trust me, we’ll get to that), it rings the social bell– truly ahead of its time, during the largely superficial values of the 1950s.

George Stevens’ 1956 masterpiece “Giant” has been described as– Texas’ own “Gone with the Wind.” Star-studded, sweeping and epic– that bravely chronicles the evolution of the Mexican people from a subservient status to a people worthy of equal rights, respect and dignity through their hard-fought, slow-earned absorption and acceptance in America.  It’s a story about social change and ethnic growing pains that was told on the big screen– before the issue was thrust front-and-center in American living rooms during the civil rights movement.

America has a history of making the path to assimilation and acceptance (in this fine country of ours that I love) a downright bloody one.  Hatred comes from fear–and fear is born of ignorance.  I’ve been down that road myself– most of us have at some point.  Like it or not.  Maybe the melting pot analogy is fitting here– throw it all in, boil out the bones, cook under high heat until palatable, and serve up warm.

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“In the beginning of “Giant,” the rancher Bick Benedict is always correcting his Eastern-bred wife for treatingthe Mexican servants as deserving of respect. By the film’s end, however, Benedict, played by a young Rock Hudson, comes to blows with a cafe owner attempting to remove a Spanish-speaking patron from his restaurant. Above all its themes, “Giant” is about social change. Hollywood for the first time addressed anti-Hispanic racism.‘Giant’ broke ground in the way it celebrated the fusion of Anglo and Hispanic culture in Texas– and anticipated the social gains that Mexican-Americans would make over the next generation. The movie is as much about race as it is about Texas.”

Benjamin Johnson (Author and Historian)

The Reata Ranch House (seen above in the background) in “Giant” is based on a actual Texas mansion– the Victorian era “Waggoner Mansion” that still stands today in Decatur, northwest of Fort Worth, Texas. George Stevens rejected the hacienda architecture of the traditional Texas ranch house (which is how the Benedict place is described in the Ferber novel). Stevens worried that a Spanish-looking house would be alien to non-Texan viewers. via The huge façade (of the Reata Ranch house) was built in Hollywood and shipped to Marfa on flatcars. It was erected in a corner of the Worth Evans ranch, one of the more imposing holdings of the region. And it was a strange sight, its towers visible for many miles, in the middle of the plains. As it was about a half enclosure rather well constructed, Stevens left it to serve the hospitable Mr. Evans as a hay barn. via

1955– Elizabeth Taylor & James Dean in George Stevens’ “Giant.” –Image © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

“We were working on’Giant’, and we’re out in the middle of Texas. It was a scene that takes place just before Dean discovers oil on his land, where Elizabeth Taylor comes by and he makes tea for her. It’s the first time Dean has ever acted with her. But even though we’re out in the desert in Marfa, there are a thousand people watching us film behind a rope. It’s a scene where Dean has a rifle on his back. He brings her in and makes her tea, and then, suddenly, he stops. And he walks a couple hundred feet away to where these people are watching us, and in front of all of them, he pisses– facing them, with his back to the set. Then he comes back in and does the scene. So, later, we’re driving back to Marfa, and I said, ‘Jimmy, I’ve seen you do a lot of strange things, man, but you really did it today. What was that all about?’ He said, ‘It was Elizabeth Taylor. I can’t get over my farm-boy upbringing. I was so nervous that I couldn’t speak. I had to pee, and I was trying to use that, but it wasn’t working. So I thought that if I could go pee in front of all those people, I would be able to work with her.'”  –costar Dennis Hopper via

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LEVI’S PHOTO WORKSHOP | CELEBRATE NYC – THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S MUSE

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EMBRACING AND CELEBRATING THE MODERN-DAY PIONEER SPIRIT OF AMERICA, LEVI’S FOLLOWED-UP THEIR SAN FRANCISICO PRINT SHOP WITH THE NYC PHOTO WORKSHOP @ 18 WOOSTER STREET IN SOHO AS PART OF THEIR “READY TO WORK” GO FORTH™ CAMPAIGN.  LOCAL ARTISTS, COMMUNITY GROUPS & NON-PROFITS WILL HAVE ACCESS TO THE STAFFED, PROFESSIONAL GRADE PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO, COMPUTERS, AND PRINTING RESOURCES (PROVIDED BY ZAZZLE) TO CREATE WORKS THAT CAN BE EXHIBITED AND SOLD AT THE WORKSHOP THAT RUNS THROUGH DECEMBER 18TH, 2010.

IN SPEAKING WITH JOSH KATZ, HEAD OF COLLABORATIONS AT LEVI’S, IT’S CLEAR THAT THIS IS AN EARNEST AND ADMIRABLE EFFORT STEMMING FROM LEVI’S CORE BELIEF THAT BRANDS HAVE A CERTAIN OBLIGATION TO THE PEOPLE THAT WEAR THEM , TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS THROUGH PRODUCTS, AND TO BE RESPONSIBLE MEMBERS OF THEIR COMMUNITY.  CUDOS, AGREED.

DEFINITELY CHECK IT OUT.  LEVI’S HELD NOTHING BACK, DOING AN AMAZING JOB.

MORE INFO AND A FULL CALENDAR OF EVENTS IS POSTED HERE

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HISTORY OF DENIM THROUGH THE AGES | WESTERN WEAR GOES HOLLYWOOD

I was in 5th or 6th grade, 10 years old, when I started making my own money. I’d go with my Mom on the weekends to the restaurant where she was working at the time out at little ol’ Litchfield Airport in Arizona. The place was called Barnstorm Charlies. I’d bus tables there, re-stock, clean-up, help out in the kitchen– whatever they needed. It made me feel independent, and like I had something to offer the world. I worked hard and didn’t complain– I was proud to have a job, and wanted to be the best employee I could be.

With my hard-earned little fistful of cash, the first thing I remember buying was a pair of Levi’s 501s. I still recall heading to the local Smitty’s, going through the stacks of shrink-to-fits looking for my size, doing the shrinkage calculations printed on the Levi’s tag in my head, holding that dark, rigid denim in my hands– and feeling a wonderful inner glow that’s hard to explain. It was the birth of an intense Levi’s ritual that is still a part of my life.

The preamble is meant only to let you know that denim, Levi’s in particular, probably means more to me than it does to most people.  It may sound strange, but denim represents all that I consider to be good and of value in the world. It’s  pure, honest, unpretentious, reliable, hard-working, American tradition that gets better with age. It doesn’t get any better than that in my book. The story of denim is forever entwined with the story of America. It’s part of our heritage, and a genuine American Icon.

Jack Benny, Dick Powell, Ken Murray, Bing Crosby on drums, Shirley Ross.

Jack Benny, Dick Powell, Ken Murray, Bing Crosby (in head-to-toe denim) on drums, Shirley Ross. Tommy Dorsey is just out of sight on the right on the trombone. Amateur swing contest, ca. 1939.

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AUTO UNDERDOG AMC | WALLY BOOTH’S GROWLIN’ GREMLIN STREET CRED

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Wally Booth Press

AMC Pro Stock press for Wally Booth & his Gremlin X

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That’s right, it’s a Gremlin– without a doubt one, of the ugliest, least respected, aerodynamically-challenged cars ever produced on American soil.  Wisconsin-based AMC had never been known for beautiful design or muscle, and so their entry into the muscle car market in the 1970s was seen as a classic tale of– a day late & a  dollar short.  When AMC signed Wally Booth to head the AMC Pro Stock effort, despite that there were virtually no aftermarket components for AMG engines, he and engine-building partner Dick Arons transformed the brand’s staid grocery-getter reputation from the ground up into that of a genuine performance powerhouse– all from scratch.  Needless to say, everyone on the racing scene quickly took notice, as the red-headed stepchild to America’s “Big Three” automakers worked tirelessly with the little they had, and started to kick some serious tail.

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Wally Booth's Gremlin X

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LEVI’S 501 DAY | CUTTING FROM A GREENER DENIM CLOTH

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If you had to pick just one article of clothing to represent pure American style– what would it be?  For me it would without a doubt be the Levi’s 501 jean without a doubt.  It embodies so much of this great country’s heritage– from tough prospecting roots, to a symbol of 1950’s teenage rebellion and everything in between– it’s a staple of everyday life, and at the same time a firmly established fashion icon that still inspires designers here and abroad.

Buying a new pair of 501’s has long been a ritual of love for me.  Going through the stack, looking for little signs that will lead me to the perfect pair– side belt loops stitched directly to the back-yoke seam, side seam spread wide to provide great wear ‘tracks’ down the road, maybe even a little hint of leg twist already apparent…

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The iconic Levi's shrink-to-fit 501 jean

 

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To celebrate this year’s 501 Day (on May 1st of every year) Levi’s is launching an organic update of the classic 1947 501 jean.  It’s a reflection of their ongoing commitment to move towards more humane and environmental practices for their workers and the planet.

From the San francisco Business Times–

For the world’s oldest and most iconic jeans maker, going green is about more than doing what’s right.

“In one way, it’s a matter of survival as a company,” said Michael Kobori, vice president of supply chain, social and environmental sustainability at Levi.

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THE “REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE” CURSE | A CURIOUS CAST OF CHARACTERS

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James Dean in 1955’s “Rebel Without a Cause”

The 1950s were a very cool time, I only wish I could have experienced them for myself. It is a time in American pop culture that is highly idealized for it’s music, fashion, style and culture. Everyone looked incredible, and seemed so squeaky clean– but you just knew there had to be much more going on behind the scenes. Rebel Without a Cause is one of the most iconic films from that era, and the stories behind the making of the James Dean classic are as incredible as the movie itself. And truth be told, Dean was not the only rebel on the set. Nicholas Ray, Dennis Hopper, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood definitely held there own.

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Got Rips?

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It’s become pretty obvious through the search queue, that there are many among us looking for a way to repair our favorite jeans.  I know that I definitely have a couple pairs of vintage Levi 501s in need of some serious mending.   I have a few others that I can’t even wear for fear that with my next squat I may unleash a bountiful Sunday turkey dinner with all the fixins’.

Now, it goes without saying that not all of us are as skilled a craftsmen as Carl Chiara here, and it’s also possible that we want our rips repaired in a more discreet manner.  That being said– we need the assistance of a reputable and professional denim repair service. 

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Great Depressionista

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Recesionista is one of those buzzwords of 2008 that’s getting a little overplayed.  In my small world, it’s feeling more like Great Depressionista— in regard to fashion and the economy.  Looking at these pictures from the 40’s, they look like what you see in a lot of Soho shops & vintage Americana brands these days like– RRL, LVC, Warehouse, etc.  There are great, rugged pieces, and little, honest details not to be missed– like our friend’s chambray workshirt (above) that’s been mended time and again over the years– out of necessity, not for fashion.  That looks like a great old pair of Levi 501s.  I like how the front belt-loops are placed nice and snug to the fly.

 

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