Friday, June 29, 2012

The Queen of the Nile in L.A. -- Cleopatra at the California Science Center

THE QUEEN OF THE NILE IN L.A. -- CLEOPATRA AT THE CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTER:  It's hard for us to imagine -- in this celebrity-driven world of ours where wealth and beauty is flaunted 24/7 -- just how powerful, rich, feared and revered the kingdom of Egypt was in ancient times.  For millenia, this arid part of North Africa with the world's longest river flowing through it has provided not only riches in terms of food, gold and a whole host of luxury goods -- but it has provided just as much food for the fertile imagination as well, inspiring generations of explorers and romantics who have sought to peer into Egypt's veiled past in search of treasure and adventure.  Other than the great Ramesses II (the amazing pharaoh of the 19th dynasty) and in more recent times, the young King Tutankhamun with his golden goodies, the only female in Egyptian history -- or ancient times for that matter -- that has lived on in uber-legend is Cleopatra VII (yes, there were six others before her).  Worshipped in her day as the goddess Isis, she embodied almost every trait both good and bad found in a powerful ruler -- but so much about the real Cleopatra in terms of how she lived and what she looked like remained the actual mystery.  Luckily for us, the beautifully and dramatically presented Cleopatra: The Exhibition at the California Science Center in downtown Los Angeles (running till the end of this year) will delight and titillate your mind.  You'll be amazed (as we were) at the objects, statuary, underwater films, coins, jewelry and more that tries to sum up the glory that symbolized the reign of Egypt's last pharaoh (technically though, she shared the throne with her son Ptolemy XV, son of Julius Caesar).  After Cleopatra's death by suicide, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, ruled over by Octavian.  The exhibit at the California Science Center is so popular that they had to extend their weekend hours!  We also took in the IMAX-sized film that accompanies the exhibit: Mysteries of Egypt narrated by Omar Sharif.  This may be the only time you'll get to experience what it was like to be a pharaoh and see some of the items that Cleopatra herself saw, touched and experienced during her mind-boggling reign over the ancient world.  In other words, lots of fabulous historic style made for a queen!
Photos by Greg Firlotte

The Queen of the Nile in L.A.: Trying to Unravel the Mysteries of Cleopatra

NOTE: This post is an updated reprise of the February 17 item we did to celebrate the arrival of Cleopatra in Los Angeles.

The real Cleopatra VII has been so used and abused by the cinema (we thought we'dnever 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. Here 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 current 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.  To add to our knowledge on the queen of the Nile, 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, June 26, 2012

Dwell on Design Report #2: Getting Connected with Connect:Homes

DWELL ON DESIGN REPORT #2: GETTING CONNECTED WITH CONNECT:HOMES -- All we can say is that it was the biggest surprise we'd ever seen in 640 square feet!  If fact, we wanted to move into the new Connect:2 prototype home from Connect:Homes immediately -- and so did a lot of other attendees at the Dwell on Design show (sponsored by Dwell magazine) at the Los Angeles Convention Center this past weekend where "green" was everywhere -- but no one made us feel more completely at home as the folks from Connect:Homes.  There is so much to talk about with this prototype that made its debut at the Dwell show: first of all, it's one bedroom and one bath and it's ideal for a second home, a vacation cabin or as a backyard guesthouse or studio. Secondly, this new Connect:2 prototype has a base price of $105,000 -- and you can design both the exterior and interior main features yourself on the company's website.  Thirdly, there are so many green features in these homes (see link below) that you'll ask yourself why someone hasn't offered all of these in the same manner that Connect:Homes' founders Jared Levy and Gordon Stott have.  Fourthly (and we could go on and on) we love the style that this snug and savvy prototype offers: so clean, airy, light-filled and completely comfortable.  One of the most interesting things that appealed to us at Studio of Style is that these modular homes are designed to fit within standard-sized shipping containers, which means that they can shipped anywhere in the world at a fraction of the cost of many other modular homes -- and the company does not use repurposed or retrofitted shipping containers because those already contain lots of toxic materials from their previous usages and aren't suitable for shipping green houses -- or green anything. Thus, Levy and Stott (both of whom are architects with many years of experience in designing and building modern prefab homes) have thought out the green aspects of constructing and shipping their homes from every angle -- and these homes are not a kit of parts or panels -- they're fully realized homes that are assembled by a local contractor of your choice and voila! you've got the green home of your dreams.  So now all you need to do is pick your site (be it desert, seaside or countryside), then pick your home plan -- and lastly, pick out a good bottle of champagne to celebrate owning this very stylish home for a new, green millennium!
green features:
Images courtesy Connect:Homes

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dwell on Design Report #1: Lladró's Brave New World - "The Guest"

DWELL ON DESIGN REPORT #1: LLADRO'S BRAVE NEW WORLD - "THE GUEST" -- When we visited the fabulous Dwell on Design show (sponsored by Dwell magazine) this past weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center, we were surprised at every turn!  The three-day design celebration brought together more than 350 exhibitors from around the globe, showcasing all aspects of the modern lifestyle through exhibits and live talks and demonstrations -- and it was a chance to see a whole host of new businesses, products, services, plus works by artists and craftspeople working in an array of styles, with many utilizing green technology.  So here is the first Studio of Style report (with more to follow over the coming weeks).  No sooner had we stepped onto the exhibition hall floor, we were greeted by these fabulous porcelain figures by world-renowned Lladró of Spain. Called "The Guest," these figures grabbed our imagination immediately and we were in love! The company has been making their unique style of porcelain items since its founding in 1953 by brothers Juan, José and Vicente Lladró in Valencia -- and at the Dwell on Design show they introduced L.A. to these lovable characters by local and international artists Tim Biskup of Los Angeles; Jaime Hayon of Barcelona; and the Japanese art collective known as Devilrobots.  The large figures (measuring 20.5" tall) are done in a limited edition of 250 (yes! so grab them now!) -- and the smaller figures measure 12" high.  The Biskup figure (shown above with the skull shirt) has to be our favorite -- and the lower right-photo shows it being handpainted (as are all Lladró pieces).  The lovely Cristina Egido who worked the company's booth at the Dwell on Design show gave us a complete tour of not only these pieces, but the other collections offered as well (The Parrot Party; The Estratos Collection; and The Naturofantastic Collection).  And the Lladró  booth was certainly a hit with fairgoers, sitting at the entrance to the exhibition hall, setting the artistic tone for the rest of the show.  These colorful guest figures from Valencia can be our guests in L.A. any time!
Images courtesy Lladró

Friday, June 22, 2012

Studio of Style Exclusive! Disco Inferno: Producer Allan Carr's Egyptian Disco Den

STUDIO OF STYLE EXCLUSIVE! DISCO INFERNO: PRODUCER ALLAN CARR'S EGYPTIAN DISCO DEN -- It was the evening of Wednesday, May 31, 1978 and just about "100 or so" friends of outrageously flamboyant film and stage director Allan Carr were all primping and preening to look their Hollywood best for the "grand opening" of Carr's own private disco in his oh-so-chic Beverly Hills manse (now owned by producer Brett Ratner, yes!) on that oh-so-tony Benedict Canyon Drive that snakes its way through the heart of Beverly Hills and up into the canyon onward to Mulholland Drive.  You see, Carr and his pal Jim Randall had just returned from a trip to Egypt (see postcard in posting below) because they were both so overwhelmed by the Egyptian-themed disco that designer-to-the-stars Phyllis Morris had created in Carr's basement -- a fun, little retreat that Carr had installed prior to the opening of his most successful movie Grease -- and now it was time to show it off to his glamorous pals.  The guest list that night included such notables  as playwright Neil Simon; actresses Polly Bergen and Marsha Mason; the be-speckled super agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar; supermodel Cheryl Tiegs; Marilyn Hilton (wife of hotel mogul Barron Hilton); Tina Sinatra (Ol' Blue Eyes' daughter!); and international film star Florinda Bolkan and Italian countess Marina Cicogna; and members of the Grease cast -- and many of them were decked out in caftans (Carr's favorite at-home attire -- and so "sheikh chic" for the theme of his discotheque!).  But the real star of the evening was the disco itself. Phyllis Morris was never outdone by her clientele, for sure, and Carr's disco outshone any disco setting that Hollywood had to offer.  Gleaming copper floors and copper palm trees sparkled in the light of the mirrored disco ball, while guests reclined on copper-colored fabric cushions and pillows only to admire themselves in the mirrored ceilings.  At one end, a copper and malachite-encrusted bar served unending drinks.  Life-sized Nubian servant statues stood watch over the beautiful bacchanalia.  The DJ Dan Blanton peered through a porthole window in the back -- making sure everyone was enjoying the hottest disco tunes blaring at full tilt.  The powder room interior replicated a striped tent with ostrich leather walls.  Special building permits were pulled to create this Nile wonderland and when all was said and done, Morris' copper-clad spectacle cost more than $100,000 -- mere chump change when you consider that Grease would rack up millions at the box office when it opened just two days after this disco party at the Carr residence!  Keep reading below for even more.....
Photos and press clippings courtesy Phyllis Morris Originals

Studio of Style Exclusive! Disco Inferno: Producer Allan Carr's Egyptian Disco Den

STUDIO OF STYLE EXCLUSIVE! DISCO INFERNO: PRODUCER ALLAN CARR'S EGYPTIAN DISCO DEN -- We at Studio of Style had access to designer-to-the-stars Phyllis Morris' personal scrapbooks (thanks to daughter Jamie Adler!) and we uncovered this fabulous postcard written by Carr himself while in Egypt.  It reads: "Dear Phyllis and Nate (Morris' husband Nathan Goller), Well after you did my disco I had to come to see the real thing.  I am touring Egypt -- Cairo, Aswan + Luxor. Jim Randall took a look at these tombs and said he liked my basement better. Its really an incredible trip boating down the Nile. Best Allan Carr."  So there you have it kids!  You can count on us for the real Hollywood insider stuff, eh? And in the newspaper photo (shown above right) taken at the May 31st, 1978 discotheque opening at Carr's, you can see Carr with Marilyn Hilton -- wife of hotel mogul Barron Hilton and grandmother to Paris and Nicky!  The current owner of this Beverly Hills manse -- producer Brett Ratner -- also inherited the remnants and the many illustrious stories of this famed hedonistic disco (Ingrid Bergman and Kim Novak also lived in this house -- but pre-disco of course!).  No other home in Hollywood has since had the flash, the cash and the style that was embodied in Carr's den of dance -- but then, there has never been an outrageously flamboyant producer such as Carr or outrageously lavish and over the top designer as the late Phyllis Morris since!  PS: did you know that Time magazine gave Ms. Phyllis Morris the moniker "la dame du flash"??  (Sounds about right to us!)  So, boogie on and shake your booty!
Photos and press clippings courtesy Phyllis Morris Originals

Saturday, June 16, 2012

And God Created Monica: From Rome with Love with Monica Vitti

AND GOD CREATED MONICA: FROM ROME WITH LOVE WITH MONICA VITTI -- Yes, we know that we borrowed the title of this piece from a famed French film -- but guess what'll change your mind (and forgive us) when you consider that amazing best-kept secret of Italian cinema: Monica Vitti.  When asked to name a beautiful, sensual Italian actress, of course most people will instantly say "Sophia."  But those in the know will say Monica Vitti.  We just adore Ms. Loren!  But in a way, her beauty is so legendary that it is almost like being the most perfect statue on a marble pedestal -- and rightfully so.  But, kids, there has always been a creature so beautiful and so vulnerable in Vitti that she has been the object of desire for men and women alike for many decades in Europe.  Over the course of 55 films (yes!) Vitti has enchanted audiences with her down-to-earth womanness (is that even a word?!) and her ability to appeal with just plain, raw emotion like no other Italian actress of her generation.  It is no wonder that by the end of her film career (which spanned from 1954 to 1989 -- and with a television miniseries in 1991) that she garnered seven (yes, seven!) Golden Globes for Best Actress; the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award; and five David di Donatello awards for Best Actress (not to mention so many other awards and nominations!). Of course, we at Studio of Style gladly give her an award for being absolutely fabulous (but you knew we'd do that, didn't you?).  What brought Vitti to international attention was the amazing award-winning 1960 film L'Avventura by renowned superstar director Michelangelo Antonioni (the landmark Blowup and Zabriski Point, for example) -- in which Vitti portrays a women who disappears during a Mediterranean boating trip and by the time the film ends, Vittia emerges a true star that would herald the beginning of a remarkable collaboration with Antonioni that would transform Italian cinema, including the films La Notte (Night -- 1961), L'Eclisse (Eclipse -- 1962) and Red Desert (1964) to name but a few. Out of her stunning body work came only two English-language films -- the campy 1966 Mod spoof of James Bond spy flicks Modesty Blaise with Dirk Bogarde and Terrance Stamp; and 1979's An Almost Perfect Affair with co-star Keith Carradine. Her 1974 film with Spanish-born Mexican director Luis Buñel -- La Fantôme de la liberte -- is considered to be her best in her later career.  Today, the 81-year-young Vitti lives in Italy with writer/director Roberto Russo.  For her role in the history of modern, experimental and surreal Italian cinema, a postage stamp honoring Vitti was eventually issued commemorating her L'Avventura role.  We salute the eternally sensuous Monica Vitti with a rousing brava!!!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ahhhhh....Beverly Hills, Champagne and Spago!

AHHHHH....BEVERLY HILLS, CHAMPAGNE AND SPAGO!  Here's probably the best tip we at Studio of Style can give: you never need a special reason to go to Spago in Beverly Hills -- just go, for heavens sake! The restaurant is a landmark and must-go-to pilgrimage for foodies, with the food being award-winning in every way. Regulars have their favorite seat waiting for them.... and major domo Laurent Stenou makes you feel like an old and designer of the restaurant Barbara Lazaroff oversees the room with her meticulous eye and passion for hospitality....Wolfgang Puck comes out of the kitchen to meet guests....super pastry chef Sherry Yard whips up some amazing treats....and you never know what superstar from film, sports, entertainment or the arts will be setting next to you!  We at Studio of Style can vouch for many a dinner with celebs on every side of us -- overhearing some X-rated comedy from the late, great Milton Berle, or listening to Fran Drescher's trademark laughter in the next booth, or watching top attorney Gloria Allred (yes, dressed in red!) hold court in the famed booth #51 directly opposite our table (what a conversation that was!) -- and those are just some of the hundreds of stories that Lazaroff can share with you about the eatery's fabled clientele over the years that she's been at the helm of not only the Beverly Hills location, but all the other restaurants in the Wolfgang Puck Worldwide empire of which she is an equal shareholder and co-owner of its affiliate companies.  Amazing!  So today -- just before the Friday lunch crowd made its way to the Beverly Hills spot at 176 North Canon Drive, we at Studio of Style slipped in and proceeded to have a fabulous glass of champagne -- of which you can choose from six varieties -- all of which are guaranteed to quench your thirst on a sunny California day.  Keep in mind that the restaurant will be closed for eight weeks for renovation starting in early July -- so get on over to Canon Drive before then and make your way to the bar for a glass (or two, or three!) of cold champagne...and savor this true culinary spot like the regulars do, okay?
Photo by Greg Firlotte

Sweets in the City: BabyCakes Bakery is for You!

SWEETS IN THE CITY: BABYCAKES BAKERY IS FOR YOU!  At Studio of Style, we love our sweets -- and who doesn't?? In a city such as L.A. filled with beefcake, eye candy and temptations of every kind at every turn, it's a joy to know that you can satisfy that urban sweet tooth of yours in a smarter way, i.e. you can have your cupcake and eat it too without a lick of guilt (and licking your fingers afterwards is perfectly acceptable!).  We're not talking about your average cupcake, either. We're talking about cupcakes and baked goodies of all types that are refined sugar-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, casein-free, egg-free -- and vegan and kosher on top of everything else!!  Wow, you gotta love that!  And so do thousands of people (celebrities and just plain folk alike) in L.A. and New York City who find themselves smitten with BabyCakes -- a bakery originally founded in NYC by Erin McKenna whose desire it was to offer all-natural, organic and alternatively-sweetened (agave nectar mostly) baked goods for people with "persnickety diets who don't want to feel left out" -- as McKenna puts it. So, this morning, Studio of Style paid a visit to the very quaint, cozy and aromatic BabyCakes shop in the Larchmont Village neighborhood in L.A. where staff member Catherine Furio greeted us with a very big smile. In fact, Furio pointed out that she loves the "BabyCakes community" because just about everyone who comes in the shop has a smile on their face -- and now we know why!  As you can see by the photos here (vanilla cupcakes with lemon icing shown at top -- and a bulletin board just crammed with "love notes" from customers shown at bottom right) there is a big fan base for these specialty sweets minus the refined sugar, flour and butter cream.  And here is one of best things from this morning's visit: Ms. Furio actually frosted all the cupcakes shown here -- so we thought of her with every delicious guilt-free bite! If you can't make it to L.A. or New York, there are two BabyCakes cookbooks that can transform your diet at home and -- since we've tasted the goods for you -- we know that you can amaze your friends with these gluten, wheat, soy, casein and egg-free items that you can bake yourself.  When Studio of Style visited the L.A. shop this morning, we got to see a wide range of customers come and go with bags and boxes filled with cupcakes, donuts, brownies and more. They know...and now you do too!  So baby, get those BabyCakes!!
All photos by Greg Firlotte