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!