Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Color of the Year? How about Color of the Mid-Century!

COLOR THE YEAR? HOW ABOUT COLOR OF THE MID-CENTURY! -- We at Studio of Style were as pleased as punch (we really were!) when Pantone announced that "Tangerine Tango" was the color of 2012 -- but, in all honesty, we weren't surprised! Pantone's Color Institute executive director Leatrice Eiseman (a fabulous lady, by the way!) describes this color as "dramatic and seductive at the same time" (two things that we always love together, don't we, kids??). (And we've always had tangerine in our Studio of Style logo from day one!)  "Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy," Eiseman goes on to say. Wow -- them is powerful words! So powerful, in fact, is this vivacious orange that it is one of the key colors in a palette that has come to represent the Mid-Century Modern style of architecture and interior design that flourished from roughly 1933 to 1965 -- a style that changed the way Americans lived.  Though it had its roots in Europe and Scandinavia, it was in the 1950s America that this style really transformed everything -- and we mean everything! Gone was auntie's cabbage roses upholstery fabrics -- gone was grandma's doilies and Queen Ann chairs -- gone was grandpa's deer heads over the mantle -- gone was mother's lilac motif wallpaper. The World War was over and America was anxious to start everything over -- including home interior designs.  Streamlined, paired down, sleek, shiny, functional, smart -- that was what everyone wanted --not yesterday's hand-me-down decor.  And color -- big, fat, juicy color -- came to the visual rescue, especially orange. So did vivid blues and greens and bright sunny yellows. In fact, we're ready to move into the vintage room right now shown above (provided to us courtesy of the super-cool Sport Suburban and his faboo Flickr gallery of all things 1950s). Those green beams, the orange chairs and sofa, the orange and yellow flowers -- and that crazy Picasso-esque painting on the wall! What's not to love about this divine decor? (By the way, scroll down on this blog to see the real deal from the '50s that you can purchase today: the Valentine Sofa from William Haines Designs.)  So, thank you Pantone for reminding us that tangerine, orange, red -- whatever color in this sassy color family turns you on -- is and always has been the color of the year!
Sport Suburban:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Never Compromise Yourself: Janis Joplin

NEVER COMPROMISE YOURSELF: JANIS JOPLIN -- "Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got," singer Janis Joplin once said. And if anything can be said about this most original of style originals, this would be it.  We're gonna skip all the cliches, the stuff about the drugs, the booze, the ups and downs -- it's all been said and you pretty much know the drill anyway, kids.  Joplin always referred to herself as a "beatnik from Texas" -- you have to know your history, okay, so keep in mind that she came from the beatnik era of the 1950s and early 1960s that was actually the era of the Beat Generation (a phrase introduced by writer Jack Kerouac in 1948 that symbolized the anti-conformist youth movement centered in New York -- and Joplin was a beatnik poet and folk singer in the early 1960s). From the get-go, while in college at the University of Texas in Austin, the campus newspaper in 1962 wrote an article on her "She Dares to be Different" in which they say: "She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi's to class because they're more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin." And that was before she hit the streets of San Francisco in 1963 just as another youth movement was gathering steam that would later be termed "hippies" (this word was first used in print in 1965 by writer Michael Fallon who described "a new generation of beatniks" who had moved into the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco -- i.e. hipsters (a 1940s word) who were now "hippies"). The hippies never called themselves that, nor did they call themselves "flower children" or any such stuff -- it was all from the media at first. So you see, Joplin was already a free spirit when she landed in San Francisco -- there was no such thing as the "Janis Joplin look" before she arrived -- she was it already. All one needs do is to study the photos of Joplin and just marvel and scrutinize all the layers upon layers of colors, textures, materials, shapes, ornaments, jewelry, various hair adornments and hats, feathers, beads, frills of all kinds, ethnic everything in excess -- and that was just the exterior! Inside her, there was something even more freer that we can ever imagine -- especially for the time in which she lived. And she lived the motto of the hippie movement -- in that love was free and meant to be shared with everyone; that everyone was equal and free to express themselves however they wanted as long as no one was put down, suppressed or belittled for wanting to be different (as the popular culture would put it, for the hippies saw themselves as normal in their beliefs and the rest of the American culture to them was abnormal for not wanting to embrace the higher ideal of love and fellowship with all peoples and beliefs -- especially Eastern religions and philosophies).  For Joplin, she was the way she wore: colorful, all encompassing, all inclusive.  Yes, her voice was the medium by which she reached the masses, but it was ultimately the way she presented her visual self that informed those masses that it was okay to dress in clothes other than what came from a Sears mail-order catalog (at the time, Sears was probably the most-ordered-from source of clothing in America -- and later on, even they would adopt hippie-inspired clothing as the youth movement garnered a greater acceptance nationwide and everyone from clothing manufacturers to Hollywood studios was anxious to cash in).  So there you have it, kids! Style is what you make it -- and Janis Joplin was a true style maker -- never equaled, nor duplicated since.
Photos from various sources from the internet. /  Jill, Jeannie and Sabine -- this one's for you!
Fashion designer Diane Gilman is also acknowledged for dressing the great '60s stars including Joplin, Hendrix and the Doors and Jefferson Airplane.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Man of Gold, Man of Silver: George Chakiris

MAN OF GOLD, MAN OF SILVER: GEORGE CHAKIRIS -- Academy Award winner George Chakiris is among the select group of people from the world of film who knows how it feels to hold the most coveted gold item in entertainment: the Oscar statuette. Measuring 13 and a half inches in height and weighing in at 8 and a half pounds, filmdom's greatest honor was so rightfully bestowed upon Chakiris for his amazing performance as "Bernardo" in the 1961 classic song and dance movie West Side Story.  The tall, handsome Chakiris sang and danced his way into the hearts of millions as the leader of the Sharks street gang (last November, Chakiris and two of his film costars Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn celebrated the 50th anniversary of West Side Story by putting their signatures, handprints and footprints in cement in front of the famed Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard where the film made its premiere!). Holding that sleek, sensuous Oscar statuette at the Academy Award ceremony left an indelible impression upon Chakiris -- and we'll explain how! For decades since, Chakiris has traveled the globe, greeting his many fans, performing in plays and musicals, doing Las Vegas shows, appearing in films (with such costars as Catherine Deneuve, Lana Turner and Charlton Heston), appearing on television ("Dallas," "Murder She Wrote," "Hawaii Five-O" just to name a few) -- oh, and did we mention he recorded several albums of Broadway and popular songs along the way? In other words, kids, he has been one busy man -- which is how making jewelry entered into his life! It was about a decade ago that Chakiris acquired a new dog Sammy -- and rather than be on the road for eight to ten months doing shows, he decided to spend time with his canine companion and that left time for the actor to work on a hobby to occupy his now-free days.  Always one who loves doing things hands-on, Chakiris enrolled in a jewelry-making class at Barnsdall Art Park in the Hollywood Hills and slowly over the course of the years fell in love with making jewelry. "I was hooked at that point," Chakiris tells Studio of Style during an interview last week, "and eventually -- and quite unintentionally -- I had created an entire collection of items.  A friend of mine introduced me to a Japanese man who was curious about my jewelry -- and he became my representative in Japan and my pieces have been displayed at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Tokyo ever since." No one, not even Chakiris himself, could have predicted what started out as a hobby at first would become a passion that would find a completely new direction for Chakiris -- or shall we say, another feather in his multi-talented hat!  His jewelry -- not surprisingly -- has turned up on the red carpet, and on "The Today Show" and CNN being worn by an array of stars such as Morgan Fairchild, Rita Moreno, Tippi Hedren, Loni Anderson, Carol Channing, Donna Mills, Romi Dames, Phyllis Diller, Alison Arngrim, Mary McDonough and Michael Learned to name a few. The beautiful gleam of sterling silver is Chakiris' metal of choice and what a beautiful choice it has become for him. "Being able to realize a piece in my head, then making it with my hands and then seeing it being worn brings a rewarding gratification to me," says Chakiris. Among his many inspirations for his pieces is the Egyptian scarab, but Chakiris was intent on streamlining its shape, making it more sleek and modern -- and he has certainly done so with his "Scarab Collection" -- just one of four unique collections that also include "The Lucky 7," "Take 5" and his trademark "GC Logo" which incorporates the letters "G" and "C" into a clever Greek key motif (after all, he is of Greek heritage!). And the entire range of jewelry is offered, from necklaces, cuff bracelets, rings, earrings, pendants, cuff links, money clips -- and the amazing "Artifact Belt" (pictured above) which demonstrates Chakiris' ability to create the most imaginative of items. "The inspiration for this belt," says Chakiris, "comes from the dream of finding a sunken Spanish galleon loaded with treasure.  The buckle is sculpted on both sides to resemble what might have been a coin or neckpiece."  The 36-inch length of the chains is adjustable so that it can be worn around the waist or the hips.  Studio of Style's interview with the equally-amazing George Chakiris showed us what a truly talented man he is -- no wonder he is still beloved by fans worldwide. Check out his website and let us know what your favorite pieces are, okay?  Naturally, we'll let the Academy Award winner have the final words here: "The parallel between acting and making jewelry is quite similar," Chakiris notes. "There is discipline, patience, persistence and dedication in making both successful."  Well said, Mr. Chakiris!
Portrait of George Chakiris and select jewelry by Greg Firlotte

Friday, February 24, 2012

Changing the Musical Landscape: The Marian Anderson String Quartet

CHANGING THE MUSICAL LANDSCAPE: THE MARIAN ANDERSON STRING QUARTET -- They're coming to town -- and we want to give you plenty of time to clear your schedule, get out of your musical rut and be part of an experience that may very well change your outlook on classical music -- and musical stereotypes in general, okay? Performing chamber works by American, Latin American, and European composers on Friday, March 2nd in the intimate setting of Herrick Chapel at Occidental College in Greater Los Angeles, the Marian Anderson String Quartet (MASQ) is one of those rare musical ensembles that is more than just about the music.  Named for one of the greatest and most underrated American contraltos of all time -- the late Marian Anderson -- the quartet, founded in 1989, has performed in hundreds of churches, libraries, museums, soup kitchens and prisons -- not to mention New York's Alice Tully Hall and Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, to name but a few prestigious venues.  In the photo shown above, they are (from left to right): Prudence McDaniel; Diedre Lawrence; Maryanne Henry; and Nicole Cherry -- four ladies who have backgrounds in diverse musical genres and have individually performed in venues spanning the globe. The March 2nd program in Los Angeles consists of works by Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla; a string quartet by an 18-year-old Felix Mendelssohn and pieces by African-American composers William Grant Still and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.  Collectively, they are driven by their belief in the power of education and have performed for children all across America under the auspices of various organizations and grants. Though the MASQ may not as well known or supported as other quartets in the classical realm (the Emerson String Quartet, the Guarnari Quartet or Kronos Quartet, for example) this does not take away from the heart and soul that these four ladies pour into every performance to make their music -- and their message -- heard.
March 2nd Concert in Los Angeles:
Shostakovich String Quartet in C minor:

The Best Dressed are at FIDM!

THE BEST DRESSED ARE AT FIDM:  This weekend --here in Hollywood -- you can't go anywhere without hearing those magical words: The Artist, Hugo, W.E., Jane Eyre, The Help, Immortals, My Week with Marilyn -- motion pictures awaiting to hear their fate this coming Sunday at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.  And costumes from these films mentioned above -- as well as many others -- are all part of the 20th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in Downtown Los Angeles that runs until April 28, 2012 (and it's free and open to the public!). Don't miss this fabulous opportunity to see up close and personal (we love that phrase) those magnificent works of clothing which are up for "Best Costume Design" as this year's Academy Awards!  Now you can see the colors of The Artist's clothes (designed by Mark Bridges) which you could only imagine in the black and white film presentation! And you get to see the choice of fabrics, the embroidery, the buttons, the hand-stitching, the shoes, and the petite sizes of the actresses who donned these outfits for hours on end under the bright studio lights -- which means that you've got to go to this exhibit because it's a close as many of us will ever be to a real movie set -- all thanks to FIDM!!
Costume display photo by Alex J. Berliner/ABImages / courtesy FIDM

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fresh Faces: Joseph Almani Hits Hollywood

FRESH FACES: JOSEPH ALMANI HITS HOLLYWOOD -- When Studio of Style met Joseph Almani for the first time last week, we were amazed -- and it wasn't necessarily over his exceptional good looks, but for something else (so you'll have to keep reading, kids, to find out!).  You see, Almani had just signed with the hot, hot modeling agency Nous Model Management in L.A. (with David Todd heading the men's division) and he was sitting in the chair of hair stylist extraordinaire Robert DiCecco at Blades West Hollywood (DiCecco has transformed many a Nous male model -- so if you want that hot model look, you gotta go to Robert!). The ink had barely dried on Almani's Nous contract and DiCecco was getting Almani ready for upcoming test shots -- so Studio of Style had some time to talk with him and what we learned about this young man inspired us to bring him to you (our stylish and always-in-the-know reader!). More than just a handsome face, Almani is an accomplished stuntman, a pilot, plays golf, tennis, basketball and baseball, loves rock climbing, archery, gymnastics (whew! we're not done yet!) -- has medical training credentials, practices martial arts and physical comedy -- is a marksman and knows his way around indoor and outdoor construction -- and that's still not why we were amazed with Almani. You see, in talking with him, we found an honest and gentle spirit that came to the fore -- and that is something that never fails to gain our respect in this town, for sure. "Modeling is a high-pressure environment," says Almani, "but in the end you are the one in control, no one can take your choice from you. I had always thought of pressure as an external force, but it actually comes from within."  Wise words from this young, but worldly man. Over the past seven years, Almani has spent his time "collecting" various skills (mastering ethnic accents and fight choreography, for example) and knowledge to prepare him for maneuvering the world of modeling and acting (he's already appeared in numerous commercial and industrial films -- and looks forward to working in action films). Earlier in his career, he had turned down an opportunity to model for one of the top East Coast agencies (because of the goals he had set for himself at the time, he decided not to pursue it -- something that we also admire in anyone: the ability to recognize what is or isn't right for you) -- and now he is invigorated about being in L.A. and is ready to take on the world with his vast arrays of talents and, of course, his dashing good looks (how could we forget that??).  "What makes me happy is seeing others happy," Almani admits to Studio of Style, "and if I had something to do with that happiness, that is even better." Happiness -- to Studio of Style -- is watching Almani achieving his professional and personal goals -- on the printed page, on the screen and on the road of Life!
Blades Salon (310) 659-6693
Photos by Dominic Grey, Eddie Mills and Ron Reagan / courtesy of Joseph Almani

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sparkle & Shine: J. Robert Scott Textiles

SPARKLE & SHINE: J. ROBERT SCOTT TEXTILES -- Though home furnishings manufacturer J. Robert Scott first opened it doors on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood in 1972, it should come as no surprise to anyone that its founder Sally Sirkin Lewis came to the interior design industry by way of her love for haute couture, contemporary art and classical music (especially opera and its eternally reigning diva Maria Callas) for decades prior to the showroom's appearance on the L.A. design scene. For Lewis, it seems that all the arts are inseparable: inspiration from one aspect of the arts often inspires another -- and collections in both furniture and textiles are often born in manners least expected (for example, Lewis was inspired by the construction of a train trestle while traveling through the Japanese countryside which later was translated into the company's Exxus Side Table; and Asian calligraphy served to inspire the Altar Console).  The newest textile introductions shown here -- Silk Burlap, Silk Burlap Shimmer, Araby Metallics and Shimmer Faille -- offer a gentle sensation of all things glimmering with their touches of sparkle and shine in these silk/cotton/poly and Lurex blends in both subtle and rich earthen tones. Silk Burlap (two visually opposing words which can only come together in Lewis' unique vocabulary) is an open, loose weave with an almost gossamer quality to it -- showcasing her deft way of mixing materials and techniques.  With more than 150 U.S. design patents to her credit, Lewis has always operated with the philosophy of  "if it can be drawn, it can be made" -- and with the introduction of this new textile collection, one could easily say of Lewis that if it can be imagined, it can be woven.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Palm Springs: The Other Side of the Riviera

PALM SPRINGS: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVIERA -- Studio of Style spent this weekend in Palm Springs in search of art, art & more art (in celebration of the Palm Springs Modernism Week events) -- but as you can see by these photos taken yesterday, there was more than art on our mind!!  Hitting one gallery after another, plus design shops and clothing boutiques (we even ran into our longtime friend, the stylish Michael McDonald who can be found at Trina Turk!) -- we needed some excitement and relaxation under the desert sun (how's that one, huh?) so there was only one obvious choice: the Riviera Palm Springs Resort (a tip from another longtime friend Jamie Adler!). With Seattle guests John and Marilyn in the entourage, we were given a choice table poolside at the hotel's fabulous Circa 59 restaurant.  Ever since the Riviera first opened in 1959, it was popular with all the "Rat Pack" gang,  not to mention Elvis, Desi Arnaz and Sonny and Cher to name but a few!  The new Riviera was unveiled in 2008 and it has recaptured all the glitz and glamour that one would expect of a true Palm Springs classic hotel -- the interiors are oh-so-wonderful that you are bedazzled at every turn.  But wait, kids -- there's even more -- and that's where Studio of Style comes in!  The place to be at the Riviera is poolside -- day or night -- trust us on this one!!  With a great DJ spinning live for us (we loved his mix of new and old dance classics!), private cabanas with vintage Palm Springs photos and a chic dining setup as the Circa 59 restaurant extends from indoors to poolside -- you will be in another world as you have great food and cocktails while watching a great mix of people of all types and ages who also know that being poolside at the Riviera is where it's happening (but you would never know it by seeing the unassuming white brick walls on the streetside that there was a fabulous scene going on just over the wall!!).  Our stir-fry flatbread pizza and beef stroganoff open-face sandwich and those unbelievable fries (shown here) were washed down with beer and iced tea -- making for the perfect way to enjoy all the vintage goodies presented during Modernism Week.  When's the last time you had a Palm Springs weekend?  Try it!
Photos by Greg Firlotte/Marilyn Firlotte
Special Thanks to John & Marilyn Firlotte

Friday, February 17, 2012

She's Got Cleopatra Eyes: Elizabeth Taylor

SHE'S GOT CLEOPATRA EYES: ELIZABETH TAYLOR -- “I really don’t remember much about Cleopatra. There were a lot of other things going on," Elizabeth Taylor would later say about the history-making 1963 film Cleopatra -- and was she ever right about that one!  The "other things" that were going on were her notorious love affair with co-star Richard Burton and a viral illness while shooting the film that practically ground production to a halt -- almost bankrupting 20th Century Fox studio along the way, but still going on to win four Academy Awards for cinematography, costumes, art direction and visual effects.  But never mind all that, kids!  All we really took away from the film was that fabulous eye makeup that has never been duplicated on a film star since!  Yes, the real Cleopatra (see story below) wore lots of makeup in her day (both men and women wore lots of heavy applications of lead-based black and green powder around their eyes that was believed to have a magical role in protecting its wearer from illnesses, thanks to the gods Horus and Ra -- who knew??).  But our Ms. Taylor made the ultimate statement with her eye makeup thanks to makeup artist genius Alberto de Rossi (not to mention hair stylist Vivienne Zavitz and costume designer Renie who whipped up Taylor's psuedo Egyptian/cocktail hostess outfits that bore little-to-no resemblance to ancient reality -- but, hey, who noticed?).  As long as Taylor was on the screen, it seemed that no one could take their eyes off her eyes.  So if you want that much attention (and who doesn't?), here is a link to a tutorial on how to apply all that colorful makeup (minus the lead!) and there's also a video showing Taylor herself applying makeup in the 1974 film The Driver's Seat -- and she does it so fast and so effortlessly too.
How to get the look:
Watch Liz apply her makeup: 
Alberto de Rossi:

Queen of the Nile in L.A. -- Up Close & Personal

QUEEN OF THE NILE IN L.A. -- UP CLOSE & PERSONAL:  She's coming to town on May 23rd -- and she won't be on a giant sphinx pulled by slaves either (did you catch Madonna's nod to Liz Taylor's Cleopatra at the Superbowl, making her entrance into the Lucas Oil Stadium swathed in gold and being pulled by a legion of costumed men, eh?).  Well, the real Cleopatra (which is what we're trying to get at here, kids!) has been so used and abused by the cinema (we thought we'd never have to say that) that there has actually been an alternative urban legend about her that has been hard to shake off in the mind of the general populace (i.e. regular folks like you and me -- but not as stylish as us!).  It's hard for us to imagine today that at one time in Western history that there was a woman who was so powerful and influential that she held the fates of many nations and cultures in her hands -- and was revered, worshipped, feared, distrusted, loved and rejected during her reign (the downside was that she married her brothers and then killed them--along with her sister and a whole host of family members--so you can see why Hollywood wanted to "glamorize" her instead of showing the sordid side of being a ruler in the not-so-good-old days!).  But all that aside, another Cleopatra is slated for the big screen -- this time with Angelina Jolie trying her hand at portraying the historical temptress under the direction of David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) who promises to give us something closer to the real deal (we'll see, won't we, kids?).  At least with the May 2012 exhibition in Los Angeles at the California Science Center, what they promise is to show us some amazing artifacts weighing 30 tons in total (!) -- including two 16-foot granite statues from the 4th to 3rd centuries B.C. The exhibition is organized by National Geographic and Arts & Exhibitions International, a division of AEG Live, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (we just adore Dr. Zahi Hawass)  and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.  And you can bet that Studio of Style will be among the first in line to see the more-than-150 artifacts up close and in-person (you will join us, won't you?).  In the meanwhile, we're reading Cleopatra: A Life by award-winning author Stacy Schiff -- and all we can say is that this is probably the most in-depth account of what it was like to be living back in those sword-and-sandal times -- and while the book starts out somewhat a bit on the facts and figures side, the more you get into the book, the more Schiff unfolds exactly how powerful and influential Cleopatra was (and you can read about all the unfortunates who were disposed of along the way -- but, hey, it wasn't easy staying in power of the richest nation in the ancient world). So there it is, you have your choice -- films, books or exhibitions. But whatever is said about her, the fascination with Cleopatra will continue as it has throughout the centuries.
Photo collage by Greg Firlotte

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Leather, Denim, Bikers & Brando

LEATHER, DENIM, BIKERS & BRANDO -- "If you want something from an audience, you give blood to their fantasies -- it's the ultimate hustle," said Marlon Brando.  With his beefcake hustler's body, his manly square-jawed face and his ability to move and posture his body in just the right way, Brando fueled millions of fantasies for both men and women that has lasted for several generations -- not just his own-- when he hit the silver screen in 1953 as the motorcycle gang leader Johnny Strabler in The Wild One.  Though he had already wowed moviegoers and film critics alike as the t-shirted hunk Stanley Kowalski in 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire, it was Brando's hot bod clad in tight jeans, biker's boots, black gloves, a biker's hat and that now-famous black leather jacket (Schott Perfecto #613) that pushed his sexual powers to the limits. (The film was so potent when it was released that it was banned in the U.K. for 14 years (!) because the government thought it would turn its teens into rebels looking to overrun their own quaint English cities and towns with bikers and brawls!) And Brando's character was the perfect outlaw antihero that captivated a growing international teen population looking for their own heroes in the era that included Elvis, rock 'n roll, drive-in movie theaters, James Dean, and anything youth-driven that Hollywood and just about any business could capitalize upon.  Brando was certainly one of those hot commodities that teen boys and girls wanted to emulate (it wasn't all just pink poodle skirts, proms and permed hair!) -- tight  white t-shirts, rolled-up jeans, slicked hair and crewcuts for the boys and ponytails for the girls, sneakers and boots, white socks and -- most importantly -- that cool, outsider stance as embodied by Brando.  His film characters were tough, sensitive, independent and his acting style represented a new style that would also be emulated by others who followed. He was naturally a rebel -- he was expelled from high school for riding a motorcycle through the corridors -- he was put on probation for being insubordinate at a military academy -- and digging ditches during summer jobs for his father gave him plenty of time to build his muscular body and also plant lots of ideas in his very fertile mind of what he really wanted to do with his life.  But the silver screen being the visual medium that it is -- it's all about the look -- and Brando delivered it in spades with his biker persona.  And, kids, if you fancy yourself another "Johnny" and want to cultivate your own following, below are resources on how to recreate the Brando biker look (you'll have to provide your own hot body, of course).  "The only thing an actor owes his public is not to bore them," remarked Brando.  With his yet-to-be-imitated brand of raw male sexuality mixed with stellar talent, boredom is never on our minds when it comes to those heady, youthful days of Marlon Brando.
Button Up Jeans:
Motorcycle gloves:

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Nearest Far-Away Place: Manhattan Beach

THE NEAREST FAR-AWAY PLACE: MANHATTAN BEACH -- Shhhhhhh....can you keep a secret?  We know you can! Many of you know that L.A. is flanked to the west, north and south by dozens of beach communities -- each with their own special flavor.  For more than 10 years (when Studio of Style has wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood) we have headed just minutes south of LAX airport to the town that time has sorta forgotten about: Manhattan Beach. Thankfully, it's not as star-studded or exclusive as Malibu to the far north, nor is it as zany as the bohemian-character-filled Venice Beach, nor is it super-touristy as Redondo Beach to the immediate south.  Manhattan Beach is that idyllic California beach town so perfect in scale and vibe, that you might pinch yourself as you stroll the small cluster of streets or walk the famed Strand (both a walkway and a bike path that goes for miles up and down the beach communities with some of the most incredible houses, beaches and sea views you can imagine -- all for free!).  The picturesque pier is an historic California landmark (!) and is the oldest-standing concrete pier on the entire West Coast! Plus there are lots of small restaurants, old and new, that you can try -- from haute cuisine to fish tacos and beer -- heightened by the smell of the briny ocean air wafting through the town (the part that we love best!).  Be sure to catch the hundreds of surfers swarming in for the International Surf Festival from July 31st to August 5th this year!! We at Studio of Style have dined at Mama D's Italian Kitchen for a long, long time -- going often with our dear friends Jill and Peter -- and today we went with another longtime friend Nik. As you can see by the photos above, we couldn't wait for the food styling shots -- we just simply dove into the Italian fare immediately -- and it's as garlicky as it comes -- yum!! The place is owned by former New Yorkers who use their grandmother's recipes (true!) -- and on popular nights of the week, there are lines up and down the sidewalk of patrons waiting to get in -- surfers, locals and tourists alike! There are numerous boutique hotels and inns which make for a relaxing weekend getaway from Tinseltown (only 13 miles as the crow--or seagull-- flies!).  So remember, this is our secret, okay? And you might even spot us there -- we're the ones wearing baggies, sunglasses and flip flops!
Manhattan Beach Pier photo by Child of Midnight
Restaurant photos by Greg Firlotte

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Think Globally -- Knit Locally: Laduma Ngxokolo

THINK GLOBALLY -- KNIT LOCALLY: LADUMA NGXOKOLO -- At Studio of Style, we love someone who dreams big and acts upon those dreams! Somehow, we hope that our story on the promising talent of Laduma Ngxokolo of the Eastern Cape Xhosa community in South Africa will touch someone out there and perhaps find more outlets for his fabulously stylish knitwear!  The company he started -- MaXhosa Knitwear -- offers both cardigans and pullovers made of 80% marino wool which is hand-spun and dyed in South Africa.  Ngxokolo learned to knit as a teenager (taught proudly by his mother) and the creation of his sweaters came about as the result of the Xhosa tradition of boys between ages 18 and 23 attending circumcision schools where they are put through a manhood initiation ritual -- after the initiation, all their clothes must be given away as a sign of the end of their boyhood -- and the parents must buy the boys new clothes, part of which includes knitwear.  However, Ngxokolo felt no connection to his tribal Xhosa traditions by the clothes he wore during his initiation in 2007 -- and it wasn't until he saw an art exhibition "The Beauty of Beadwork" at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape in 2010 that he found inspiration in their intricate designs and began figuring out how to incorporate those beadwork designs into knitwear! Talk about a technical challenge! Outdated software and sewing machinery presented the first of many challenges. But his determination paid off in 2010 when he learned that he was the winner of the Society of Dyers and Colourists award in London -- he found it hard to believe that his sweaters would be seen in England! And later, his knitwear was part of the "Talking Textiles" exhibition at Milan Design Week -- an exhibition that presents innovative uses in textiles.  The video link below shows Ngxokolo presenting his designs at an event called Design Indaba.  Though his website is a bit sparse on information, you can keep track of him in real time (and ask him questions) on his Facebook page.  We at Studio of Style are wishing for lots and lots of good things to come his way and for him to make his distinctive mark in that tough but rewarding global fashion world!  May 2012 be a great year for this truly talented man.
Top photo by Mike Holmes for Weekend Post

Monday, February 6, 2012

Amanda Freitag Tells Studio of Style....

AMANDA FREITAG TELLS STUDIO OF STYLE -- Without a doubt, superstar chef Amanda Freitag has always been one of our favorites here at Studio of Style -- in fact, we almost go into shock if she's not one of the judges on the weekly hit Food Network show Chopped where we get to see her sample, pick at, savor or reject food served up by four chefs competing for a cash prize. And, naturally, we were cheering her on during The Next Iron Chef competition and, naturally, were heartbroken when she was eliminated....oh well...the life of a superstar chef! So you can imagine, kids, that we were truly curious about what this New Yorker's taste buds had to say about the L.A. restaurant scene -- and we asked her to tell us her favorite spot in L.A.  Well, being the diplomatic lady that she is, Ms. Freitag told us that one of her favorite eateries is Gjelina on that oh-so-trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice (shown above) -- and we can certainly understand why. With more than one thousand reviews on Yelp (!!), you know that something is definitely going on there!  Let's put it this way, the restaurant has its fans and its detractors as well as those still sitting on the culinary fence (on one occasion, Gordon Ramsay was shocked and fuming when his then-pregnant dining partner Victoria Beckham (!) was refused the request to have the dressing for a smoked salmon salad served on the side! No changes and no substitutions -- so don't even ask, kids!!).  So many stories -- so little time to eat everything!  But that hasn't stopped the steady stream of mostly reservation-only diners from seeking their own experience at this wood-decor-heavy, California beach vibe eatery -- mostly for the sake of being able to say that they ate there! You're in luck if you don't have reservations and are contented to bring the food home or to the beach located a block away -- Gjelina Take Away is right next door to the restaurant and you can sample a number of sandwiches, salads and pizzas -- all with some very unusual (translate foodie trendy) ingredients that also have both fans and detractors!  Let's put it this way, kids: you can't like everything and you can't have it all.  So, do what we do here at Studio of Style -- we enjoy everything for what it is and we have a good time while we're doing it!  And we love eating our take-away Gjelina food while sitting in front of the TV watching Amanda (and her cohorts) crowning the next lucky Chopped champion!!!
Amanda Freitag photo courtesy of the chef!
Restaurant exterior photo by Greg Firlotte

Be My Valentine: William Haines Sofa

BE MY VALENTINE: WILLIAM HAINES SOFA -- Sleek.  Smart.  Modern.  Words that sum up the style of the true Hollywood decorator and furniture designer William Haines, who in 1922, made his name as a handsome young actor who would go on to appear in more than 20 feature films starring with such legends as Joan Crawford and Marion Davies. In 1930, while working at MGM, Haines opened an antique shop -- and it wasn't long before his fellow costars began asking him to update and refresh their own home interiors. Five years later, he opened his first decorating shop on Sunset Boulevard (now the site of the famed Le Dome restaurant in West Hollywood) and by 1939 he began designing his own furniture -- when 1949 rolled around Haines was headquartered in Beverly Hills and the style had turned from neoclassical to modernism -- and Haines was now in full bloom as a designer with his own distinct point of view.  The Valentine Sofa introduced in 1950 (shown above) with its low profile (a Haines trademark), leather-wrapped arms and biscuit-tufted upholstery is one of those quintessential mid-century California pieces that is part of a collection of faithfully-reproduced Haines-designed furniture which includes tables, sofas, chairs and lighting -- all done under the expertise of Peter Schifando and J. Jonathan Joseph.  At Studio of Style, we can't think of a better sofa on which to woo your sweetheart on Valentine's Day -- or any day for that matter!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Drill Team at Fabien Castanier Gallery

DRILL TEAM AT FABIEN CASTANIER GALLERY -- Upon entering the Fabien Castanier Gallery last night at its opening for new works by L.A.-based Michael Kalish and Paris-based Eric Liot, one was almost tempted to do a double take -- for what was seen at first was not what it appeared to be -- and that was the intrigue that set the tone for the evening and for the exhibit titled "Drill Baby Drill" (which runs through March 4th).  Owner Fabien Castanier (shown in lower right photo in black) is a longtime veteran of the art world in Los Angeles, Paris and Corsica -- as well as having a background in the TV and film world in his native Paris.  The opening of his namesake gallery in Studio City (just over the hill from Hollywood) has provided an opportunity to showcase both established and emerging artists from around the world -- often with a thought-provoking twist -- and this exhibit is a prime example of that.  One half of the gallery is filled with what appears to be key works by such blue chip artists as Warhol, Lichtenstein, Van Gogh and many others.  Upon closer examination, one finds that these "homages" by Michael Kalish (top photo) are actually constructed from license plates from various states -- an item which has obsessed him for years, spurring an immense range of artworks created solely from license plates (his "American Presidents" in the windows of Barneys New York in 2000 featured 42 presidents rendered from license plates from each president's state!).  Kalish told Studio of Style at the opening at Castanier that the Ode to Lichtenstein 3 piece (shown above) was the first in the new series created for this show and that he even had a conversation with Dorothy Lichtenstein, the late artist's wife, who was very enthusiastic about Kalish's concepts. We immediately fell in love his work and spent a great deal of the evening enjoying the construction and whimsy comprising his pieces.  Of course, the theme "Drill Baby Drill" refers to the fact that both Kalish and Liot use power tools to cut, rivet and screw together their works.  Eric Liot (bottom left photo) created every piece in the show (with one exception of the famed Bibendum, i.e. the Michelin Man shown here) in California and his pieces certainly reflect the colorful, sun-filled setting all around us.  Using mixed media, vivid colors and drawing upon lots of pop cultural icons, Liot builds layer upon layer and fastens them together with screws for a thoroughly dimensional effect.  With two rooms at the Castanier gallery filled with Liot's work, there is something for everyone -- we loved Guerre et Paix #4 which shows the beloved Minnie Mouse looking quite happy and oblivious to her being surrounded by menacing weapons on all sides -- can you figure out the message? We certainly did! And we'll certainly be back to take in the layers of pop cultural fun and color from the imaginative minds of Kalish and Liot -- you will join us, won't you?
Photos by Greg Firlotte

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Disco Daze Part II: Queens, Camp & Cover Songs

DISCO DAZE PART II: QUEENS, CAMP & COVER SONGS -- By popular demand, kids, we've dug deep into our dusty vaults and uncovered a mixed bag of disco delights (and then again, maybe not!) for your aural pleasure (you like that, don't you??). As with any musical genre, hits and misses abounded in the disco world -- so let's begin with an item that qualifies as probably the single biggest misstep heard on any dance floor, anywhere (but we're gonna be easy on the gal, okay?).  The queen of Broadway song-belters -- Ethel Merman -- will always be immortalized by such trademark songs as "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "There's No Business Like Show Business" -- but, unfortunately, no one had any business producing (much less releasing) Merman's disco album.  Her heart was certainly in the right place -- seeing as how everyone was jumping on the disco bandwagon back then and Merman was so adored by the gay club-goers that it seemed as if the concept would be a slam dunk.  However, the tacky (and we've never used that word here!) arrangements simply sunk every tune to the depths of the Hudson River.  In fact, the songs actually cleared the dance floors almost every time they were played (and that's a feat in and of itself in any gay club!) -- but Gold bless her, Ms. Merman sang her heart out and we'll let you be the judge when you hear that Broadway chestnut "Everything's Coming Up Roses" a-thumpin' and a-bumpin', okay? Speaking of musical chestnuts -- Abbe Lane (that glamorous 1950s singer/actress who was voted "too sexy" to appear on TV and was "forced" to cover up parts of her voluptuous body!) took a crack at that timeless tearjerker "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and transformed it into a dance floor hit in 1980 on her "Rainbows" album that had other disco hits as well as remakes of some of her familiar tunes.  Cher -- oh dear -- where do we begin?  Naturally she, too, climbed upon the mirrored ball and came up with the hit "Take Me Home" -- but what would Cher be without those costumes that defy description (we'll try, okay?).  The peekaboo Flash Gordon-meets-Viking Valhalla outfit is probably what really sold this LP, because it really didn't fare too well for the all-disco-driven Casablanca record label and it appeared Cher was "gently persuaded" to go disco (a phase which didn't last long for the highly independent Cher) as she was ready just to rock out instead!  The LP cover is constantly on the "worst" list of many a record cover aficionado.  We can't recall any folk song that made it to the disco dance floor -- but Gordon Lightfoot's classic tune "If You Could Read My Mind" sounded so natural with a disco beat that even grandma loved it!  And the version served up by Viola Wills (who passed away in 2009) is so classy -- just like the lady herself!  Many of the disco kids were too young to remember Gordon singing it, so Wills' version was taken by many as a product of the disco era without any problem!  And now, kids, the moment you've been waiting for! The winner is.......Donna Summer the all-time queen of disco (and our hearts!) with her over-the-top, going-for-the-gold 1978 version of "MacArthur Park"!! First released in 1968 by actor/singer Richard Harris (best known for playing King Arthur in the 1967 film "Camelot"), this former hit on the pop charts became a dance floor mega-hit -- sung ever so brilliantly by Summer at what some would say was the perfect peak of her amazing voice (and it still is!). It went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- and rightfully so!  Perhaps no other disco song has ever been so lushly produced, reaching one musical climax after another and sending club-goers into a kind of heavenly ecstasy during its 18-minute musical medley which included two other songs in the center of it all.  So there you have it, kids!  In our next installment, it will be the guys turn-- and, oh boy, we'll have some fun with that one, okay?  Until then, keep dancing!
Ethel Merman, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" --
Abbe Lane, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" --
Viola Wills, "If You Could Read My Mind" --
Donna Summer, "MacArthur Park":
Studio --
Live 1978 --

Girl of the Golden West: Gail "Annie Oakley" Davis

GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST: GAIL "ANNIE OAKLEY" DAVIS -- The romance and rough-and-tumble lifestyle of the Old West was never more fully realized than in the countless television shows of the 1950s and 1960s that made an entire generation of baby boomer boys want to be cowboys, triggering millions of dollars of sales in costumes, toy guns, lunch boxes and tons of other merchandising.  Such shows as The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza -- and later The Wild Wild West, The Big Valley and even the otherwise-wholesome Little House on the Prairie -- kept alive the myths of what we wanted "the West" to be: populated with strong people who fought the odds and always came out on top.  From 1954 to 1957, however, there was a new type of Western hero -- or more correctly heroine -- that appeared on the small screen, and her name was Annie Oakley -- a fictionalized portrayal of the real-life Oakley played by actress Gail Davis. And Davis's character came at just the right time in post-war America.  Finally, girls had a role model who was tough, honest, straight-shooting and fought for everything that was good -- all without sacrificing her femininity or her role in society as a leader in her community (albeit the fictional sleepy TV town of Diablo, Arizona).  Her trademark blonde pigtails and her always fabulous be-fringed outfits (made exclusively by her sister!) as well as her horse-riding and gun-shooting talents (Davis used to go hunting with her father as a child and learned rifle skills firsthand!) made her an instant hit with television viewers. "Back then I knew the show was having a positive impact, especially on little girls. It wasn't until years later that I realized just how much.  Little girls had turned into influential women, thanking my portrayal of Annie for showing them the way," Davis would later say. Prior to her role as Oakley, Gail Davis had already appeared in 25 "B" westerns and just as many television shows from 1949 to 1953 (she did 14 features with Gene Autry, no less!).  Autry came up with the idea of a TV western featuring a woman and a national contest was launched looking for someone who could shoot, ride and act.  "I felt it was me," Davis would later recall. "I went to talk to the producer and he said, ‘No.’  So, I went home and put on my bluejeans, a gingham shirt -- put freckles on my nose and put my hair in pigtails -- and I walked back into the producer's office and said, ‘I think I should play the part.’  He said, ‘You got enough courage to do this -- let’s give you a test.’  We did the test -- and I guess I passed," she said laughing.  "I’ve been Annie ever since."  Such was the determination of Davis -- just like those folks of the real West who never gave up on what they wanted to achieve.  Though she passed away in 1997, her star still burns brightly at 6385 Hollywood Boulevard where her Walk of Fame star can be found.  "It broke my heart to give the show up (in 1957)," said Davis.  But luckily for us, kids, we can view all those still-fun, action-packed episodes of the Annie Oakley show on DVD and watch the always-lovely Gail Davis on her golden Palomino horse Target ride off into the western horizon -- knowing that she always did her best to make the West a better place for everyone!