Monthly Archives: February 2012

My Week in Style

Cary Grant onstage at the Regal Cinema, Glasgow, July 1958 (c) The Herald and Times Group

Last week was a blur of all of my favourite things – jazz, Hollywood stars (sadly only in photographic form), beauty products, getting glammed up, watching classic movies, hanging out with fascinating characters. (And all that had happened by Wednesday….).

The first part of the week was spent in the company of such glamorous, dead stars as the uber-urbane Cary Grant (pictured) – whose image, along with those of Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, I was hanging in my exhibition at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.  It’s been a labour of love for many years, this project of researching what stars did when they visited Scotland, and I’m delighted to see all the photos up on the walls in the City of Stars exhibition which opened officially on Saturday.

As I mentioned last week, two of the female stars in the collection – Judy Garland and Katharine Hepburn – were wearing Balmain when they were photographed in Glasgow, and it was a real thrill, on Thursday, to be able to talk to someone who had first-hand dealings with Balmain. The already legendary jazz singer Annie Ross was in town to attend the Glasgow Film Festival premiere of No One But Me, a new documentary about her, and to give a couple of concerts. (Click here for my review of the first gig, published in The Herald and on my jazz blog.)

At the second after-show party, she and I resumed a conversation (we began it in 2007) about how she was fitted for a dress by the great Balmain when she was appearing in a revue in Paris. During her fitting, she was tipped off that the couturier was working on a wedding dress … for a certain Rita Hayworth. Annie  “hipped me” – as the jazz guys say -to a biography of Balmain’s right-hand woman, Ginette Spanier, a few years back and I finally managed to track down a copy recently. I’ll report back once I’ve read it..

Annie may be 81 but she looks fantastic, and from observing her post- concert habits, I can only conclude that double Macallans and cigarettes are having the opposite effect on her than they have on the rest of the population. With her dark red hair, false eyelashes and terrific bone structure she is still a striking woman – and her style is fabulous. She wears colourful flowing kimonos and jackets over a simple streamlined black turtle-neck and slim trousers ensemble.

Last time I met her, at the 2010 Norwich Jazz Party, I was suffering from a bug and feeling like death warmed up. I looked washed out and puffy – never moreso than when photographed next to the glamorous and chic Ms Ross. A while after our picture was taken, I went to her room to give her the beautiful, dark shocking pink nail lacquer I’d been planning to wear – it seemed far more appropriate to give it to her than use it myself, given the parlous state of my my health and of my appearance!

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My City of (Stylish) Stars Exhibition

Judy Garland in Balmain, Empire Theatre, Glasgow, 1951 (c) The Herald and Times Group

I’m afraid I’ve been a bit of an absent blogger these last couple of weeks because I’ve been completely immersed in a last-minute commission to put together an exhibition based on a book I was trying to get off the ground – about the stars who passed through Scotland from the 1930s onwards.

Gene Kelly on Gordon St, Glasgow, April 1953 (c) The Herald and Times Group

The idea came up in a conversation with the director of music of the concert halls in Glasgow. We were chatting about the Glasgow Film Festival (currently underway) and the fact that Gene Kelly was to be the subject of its retrospective. I told him that Gene Kelly had come to Glasgow on a flying visit in 1953, to seek inspiration for the forthcoming MGM film version of the Broadway show Brigadoon. And that I had researched his visit – along with those of other great stars.  And, most crucially, that there were beautiful, rarely seen, photographs of the occasion in the photo archive of The Herald and Times.

Back in the 1950s, and earlier, Glasgow was the often the first port of call for big entertainment stars performing in Scotland. Indeed, it was often their only port of call north of the border – and some venues, notably the Empire Theatre, were viewed as the testing ground for acts. If you could survive the Empire, you could make it anywhere – that was the philosophy.

Hollywood stars would come to Glasgow to publicise their films with personal appearances (as Cary Grant did no fewer than three times at the peak of his career), to appear onstage (as Mae West and Marlene Dietrich did) and for social reasons (as Elizabeth Taylor and Danny Kaye did).

One thing that struck me, while sifting through the pictures I’d selected, was that two of the biggest female stars I was featuring were wearing gowns by Balmain when they were photographed in Glasgow – and, of course, Balmain is a fashion house that is very much back in vogue. Here’s Katharine Hepburn looking gorgeous in one of the dresses designed by Monsieur B for her character in The Millionairess. Check this picture – and 22 others – out at the City of Stars exhibition at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall from Saturday, February 25 until September…

Katharine Hepburn, King's Theatre, Glasgow, May 1952 (c) The Herald and Times Group


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Photos Just In

I was just sent a couple of pictures of me – and my Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Teal Topaz (£14) – in action at last Thursday’s party at the Orcadian jewellers, Ortak.

Here I am painting the enamel, in liquid form, on to one of the new range of pendants inspired by the elements.

I thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to get creative – and the French Martinis that were being served only added to my artistic aspirations…

Here’s a close-up of the nail polish – and the pendant I was making …

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