Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tickled Pink: Crémant de Bourgogne for the Holidays!

TICKLED PINK: CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE:  Can you keep a secret?  Good!  Because we can't any longer -- you see, for years we at Studio of Style have been serving our guests (the best ones, of course!) this amazing bubbly wine from Burgundy, France (which is why we can't officially call it "champagne"-- but you understand, kids!) and our guests always (and we mean always) ask "What is this fabulous thing we're drinking???"   Well, like we said, we can't keep it a secret any longer because Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé "Perle d'Aurore" from Louis Bouillot is absolutely a stylish bubbly to serve any time of year.  Why, you ask?  With its blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay grapes, this heavenly concoction (did we just say that?) has the most unbelievable salmon-pink-rosé color and exquisitely fine bubbles (to tickle your fancy!) and, most importantly, a taste that can best be described as summer fruits ranging from strawberry to blackberry (my dear friends Jane and Bob are now aficionados of this nectar of the gods!).  After creating amazing Crémant de Bourgogne since 1877, Louis Bouillot has perfected this style and they truly know how to get the most flavor from their grapes from the hallowed grounds of Burgundy.  By the way -- this makes an excellent summer wine to serve!  Don't just wait for New Year's or someone's anniversary or birthday.  For goodness sakes, get lots of luscious Crémant (the price is amazingly wonderful too!) and serve it all the time!  So now you know our secret -- whatcha gonna do about it?  Shout it out loud, we hope!
Hollywood and San Francisco:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Divine Decadence Darling! Have A Cabaret Holiday with Liza Minnelli


"I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing, working at a place like the Kit Kat Club," says Liza Minnelli's character Sally Bowles to Michael York's dashing English character Brian Roberts in Cabaret. To which he replies in his restrained tone of voice, "Well, it is a rather unusual place."  To which Bowles replies, "That's me, darling. Unusual places, unusual love affairs. I am a most strange and extraordinary person."

With that exchange, we're off and running with a most wonderful film musical -- the 1972 award-winning masterpiece that is Cabaret -- for which there are more reasons to watch it than you think!! Of course, it's not the conventional holiday viewing fare you normally think of when you think of mistletoe, fruitcake and The Sound of Music -- but you gotta admit that for those of us who just love a good song and dance film sprinkled with razzle dazzle, love affairs, great ensemble acting, a tinge of horror and sadness of 1930s Berlin and those good-looking guys Michael York and Helmut Griem -- well, how can you not feel festive and wanting to put down the knitting, the book and the broom? Well??

Did you know that Cabaret was selected by the United States National Film Registry in 1995 as being deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" (but we always knew that, didn't we?).  And the American Film Institute ranked it as #5 on its list of best musicals in 2006 -- preceded in 2004 with the song "Cabaret" positioned as #18 on the AFI's list "100 Years...100 Songs."  And later in 2007, the film was voted #63 on AFI's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies!! (Thank goodness for AFI validating what we always believed about this super flick!)  But the main reason to watch it, of course, is for the superb performances all around by a dream cast whose equal in movie musicals has yet to be matched.  Liza Minnelli was originally denied the Broadway stage role (boy, I bet they were sorry!).  Joel Grey reprised his stage role for the film.  Boyishly handsome Michael York was hand-picked by director Bob Fosse. And Marisa Berenson turns in a fab performance too -- as she transforms from department store heiress caught up in the world of social etiquette to a woman who finally finds love on the eve of darkness in anti-Semitic Germany.  And it the rehearsals and filming took place completely in Germany for a true period feel! Though it won eight Academy Awards, it was upstaged for Best Picture of the Year by The Godfather.  Rightfully, it won seven BAFTA Awards (including Best Film -- yes!) and won the title of Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy) at the Golden Globe Awards.  So, blow your horn and start celebrating -- it's time to watch Cabaret!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Music of Beethoven: Bizarre, Wild and Ugly?

THE MUSIC OF BEETHOVEN: BIZARRE, WILD AND UGLY? -- Yes, kids, it's hard imagine that the most beloved classical composer in today's world once had to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged music critics during his lifetime -- but it's all too true! You have to remember that the folks of the civilized world at the time were completely contented with the lovely harmonics generated by Mozart and Hayden and everything seemed to be right with the musical world -- and then along comes this upstart from Bonn, banging upon the pianos in the prim and proper salons of Vienna -- causing the folks in the crowd to plug their ears, denouncing this youngster with vast improvisational skills as just way too modern! Although Beethoven would have a host of notable and prestigious patrons and teachers along the way, the critics (and we know how they are!) weren't so sure that the new musical messiah had arrived and (as critics do) proceeded to rip him a new one in the press.  In the beginning, around 1795, critics first hailed him as a bright new star -- but within years, some began to turn on him, thinking he had veered "off course" (wherever that was!).  His Opus 12 Violin Sonata evoked cries of horror. His Appassionata Piano Sonata was deemed "incomprehensible, abrupt and dark" (yikes!) and much of it "enormously difficult" (oh really??).  Not even the masterful Eroica Symphony escaped those poison pens -- "Too long. Over-written.  The finale is all too bizarre, wild and ugly," wrote a critic in Leipzig in 1805.  Oh and yes, let's not overlook that lovely critic at The Harmonicom in London, who in 1825 wrote that the Eighth Symphony depended "wholely on its last movement for what little applause it receives" -- and that the rest of the work is "eccentric without being amusing."  And later it would say about the Ninth Symphony, "We found Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to be precisely one hour and five minutes long; a fearful period indeed, which puts the muscles and lungs of the band, and the patience of the audience to a severe trial. The symphony we could not make out; and here, as well as in other parts, the want of intelligible design is too apparent." Well, in the end, it all worked out and Beethoven would go on to conquer the musical world with just the first four notes of his immortal Fifth Symphony -- and this leaves us to wonder just how "wild and ugly" eventually becomes magnificent and amazing when left to the great leveler of all things: Time.  You might as well put on some Beethoven and let the world know just how wild you are!
Portrait of The Master by Josef Karl both defiled and enhanced by Greg Firlotte

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making Holiday Nutcracker Magic with Los Angeles Ballet

MAKING HOLIDAY NUTCRACKER MAGIC WITH LOS ANGELES BALLET -- It is certainly the most magical of all ballets -- ever! And it is not surprising that six years ago in December of 2006, Los Angeles Ballet made its debut with Tchaikovsky's immortal The Nutcracker and thus established itself as Los Angeles' critically acclaimed dance company. Two years earlier in 2004, Thordal Christensen and Colleen Neary founded LAB as Artistic Directors and since then it has been recognized as world-class and hailed for authentic stagings of the George Balanchine repertory, including both classical ballets and world premieres of cutting-edge new works. With at least 18 productions encompassing more than 35 works (including 13 commissioned works) under its collective belt, LAB performs regularly throughout Los Angeles County at seven venues and has provided thousands of free tickets to underserved and disadvantaged children and their families -- how wonderful is that? And once again, the beloved The Nutcracker ballet is being presented in several L.A. venues -- including Royce Hall at UCLA, December 15 & 16 -- and then at brand new Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge, December 22 & 23 (what a Christmas present that would be!!) and finally at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, December 29 & 30 (a great way to ring out the old year and ring in the new!). At Studio of Style, we love taking a peak behind the scenes -- so here is a look at LAB rehearsals and on-stage performances of The Nutcracker. Principle dancer Allynne Noelle (top photo) rehearses under the watchful eyes of (from left to right) Michael Andreas, musical director; Christenson; and Neary; while in the mirror's reflection we see members of the ensemble in costume. Mice (middle left) rehearse in their furry garb. David Block and Helena Thordal-Christenson (middle right) in the midst of rehearsal. Company dancer Alexander Castillo lifts Julia Cinquemani (bottom left); and principal dancers Noelle and Kenta Shimizu (bottom right) perform one of the ballet's prominent numbers. Did you know that Artistic Director Thordal Christensen himself was once a dancer at the famed Royal Danish Ballet, the New York City Ballet and then at Pacific Northwest Ballet and has danced the role of the Prince in The Nutcracker among so many other leading roles? And that Colleen Neary was one of George Balanchine's quintessential ballerinas -- and that she has worked with ballet luminaries Rudolf Nureyev (!) and Maurice Béjart (!!) and has performed as Clara in The Nutcracker as well?? With so much ballet excellence found in the staff and dancers of Los Angeles Ballet, there is so much to experience -- not only in the LAB The Nutcracker performances around Los Angeles, but also in their upcoming two-part 2013 Balanchine Festival starting in March. So, don't let time slip away like Clara's Christmas Eve dream....go see Los Angeles Ballet and capture some of the holiday magic for yourself!!

Buy tickets:
Photos by Reed Hutchinson / courtesy Los Angeles Ballet

Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Tiki Madness in Tinseltown! Don Tiki's Holiday Show at Disney Hall

MORE TIKI MADNESS IN TINSELTOWN! DON TIKI'S HOLIDAY SHOW AT DISNEY HALL -- Okay kids, let's mix up some rum drinks 'cos we're gonna celebrate the Yuletide with a Hawaiian twist on December 20 in Los Angeles! We at Studio of Style can never get enough tiki -- and there's no better way to get lei'd (did we say that??) than with the exotic sounds of Don Tiki -- Honolulu's legendary collective of musicians, vocalists and dancers.  There's so much to see and hear in this show coming direct from the Isle of Paradise that you'll swear that the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A. is just one big luau!! Everything will be shaken and definitely not stirred when this ensemble lets loose with their jungle jazzy sounds that pay homage to those Mid-Century masters of exotica music: Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and Les Baxter!! Don Tiki has moved this beloved brand of music into the 21st century -- and even the master himself, Martin Denny, played on the band's 1997 debut album The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki and you can't get better than that! Of course, you'll be seeing dancer Violetta Beretta (that gorgeous living tiki lamp and Santa doll, shown above!) at Disney Hall, plus lots more dancers, guest vocalists, drummers, a comedienne, a bird-call man, and so many, many more performers and surprises -- what more can we say? In fact, Don Tiki co-founder Lloyd "Fluid Floyd" Kandell let us in on the Los Angeles program in an exclusive interview with Studio of Style: "We were requested to include some holiday-style tiki songs," says Kandell, "so our band leader and composer (and co-founder) Kit "Perry Coma" Ebersbach came up with "Jungle Jollyday" -- whose title came from our singer Sherry Shaoling. And another song "Xmas Eve at the Club Bambu" is a seductive updating of the duet standard "Baby It's Cold Outside." Not to mention some tiki-style instrumentals of traditional holiday songs -- plus lyrics from some of our existing songs to fit the holiday theme.  All of these will debut at Disney Hall."

Studio of Style: So how did this imaginative musical ensemble begin in the first place?

Fluid Floyd: First of all, I have fond memories of hearing exotica and tiki music at my parent's backyard luau parties while I was growing up in Southern California.  But the formation of the band was sparked by a sudden friendship with the legendary Martin Denny who invented and popularized this style of music during Hawaii's statehood days. The kindling of the flame was when we realized how interesting the conventions of Mr. Denny's sound stylings were and that those musical possibilities were endless.

Studio of Style: What was your first show like as the band Don Tiki?

Fluid Floyd:  Our first live gig was at the fabled Kahiki supper club in Columbus, Ohio -- thanks to Otto von Stroheim, publisher of Tiki News. Sadly, it was the last night of this insane tiki place and the tiki luminaries from around the world were in attendance -- and we filmed a lovely message from Martin Denny that concluded with him playing "Quiet Village" on his grand piano as our band starting playing along live with him. Those true tiki believers lost their minds and we were off and running with our set of original exotica music!

Studio of Style: What was Martin Denny like?

Fluid Floyd: I met him when he was 80 years old at a Steinway piano recital here in Honolulu and he was very gracious, warm and a great raconteur. He was thrilled that we were interested in reviving this almost-lost genre of music and he agreed to sit in on our first record release "The Forbidden Sounds of Don Tiki." Marty was always very positive and encouraging -- and attended every one of our live performances in Hawaii.

Studio of Style: What was it like to perform in Berlin, Germany?

Fluid Floyd: Berlin was amazing! I guess the further you are from the source, the more exotic it becomes. Fans came in vintage tiki attire and danced and sang along to every song. We felt like rock stars!

Studio of Style: What is it about exotica music and the tiki lifestyle that has endured over the decades and continues to attract people to it?

Fluid Floyd: Sven Kirsten, author of "The Book of Tiki" and "Modern Tiki," said it best in his liner notes for our album "Skinny Dip with Don Tiki" -- In this day and age, we are all aware that paradise on Earth does not exist. Yet the need for it is eternal and can be playfully indulged in. Tiki bars are being erected again in city centers, living room corners and office cubicles, where the sultry rhythms of Exotica resound. Don Tiki is providing the soundtrack for this Technicolor projection of a Polynesian pop paradise."

Don't miss the Los Angeles show!! Get tickets:
Images courtesy Don Tiki / special thanks to Lee Joseph

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Anna Karenina and the Art of Cinematic Seduction

ANNA KARENINA AND THE ART OF CINEMATIC SEDUCTION -- From the moment the first images come onto the screen, you are seduced. And the seduction continues, layer upon layer, scene after scene, until you the viewer are caught up in this dance of love, infidelity, passion, jealousy, betrayal, defiance and human tragedy that is the new film from director Joe Wright that brings a beautiful sadness to the ill-fated romance of Anna Karenina -- a masterpiece of a novel written by Russian Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy in 1877.  Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are brilliantly cast as the star-crossed lovers Anna and Count Vronsky -- but equally sharing the limelight is the production design, art direction and sumptuous lighting as well as the luscious set decoration by Katie Spencer (Sherlock Holmes, Atonement and Pride & Prejudice) which all combine to cast a spell from start to finish.  If some of the scenes have a slightly familiar look to them, that is perhaps due to the sun-dappled, pasteled references to iconic French Impressionist paintings (Degas and Manet) as well as Russian artists of roughly the same period. The musical score as well hints at Tchaikovsky and Satie for its haunting effects. And the clever use of St. Petersburg's famed Mariinsky and Kirov theaters as the setting for a good deal of the film is nothing short of genius on the part of Wright, allowing for a new way of telling this classic love story by injecting a different way of seeing it compared to set notions of previous film adaptations (it's been done 10 times before from 1914 to 2000). And we love seeing Downton Abbey vets Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley) and Thomas Howes (William Mason) in the mix as well! But -- and this is a big one -- the ultimate seduction for Studio of Style is Taylor-Johnson's Count Vronsky, a complex, mysterious character if there ever was one.  Remember, it was he that began the pursuit -- and who wouldn't want to fall for those baby blue eyes, his boyish yet manly features and his character's noble mannerisms?  Taylor-Johnson charms us into this affair and for the sake of love, we want to take the thrilling, forbidden ride. And at first, we're just as smitten as he is with finding this enchanting creature of Anna who has passion in her eyes at all times. But as the film unfolds, Vronsky's moods twist and turn and we are left wondering just who he really is....and how sad we become for Anna and even for Jude Law's astoundingly spot-on role as Count Karenin who must suffer all sorts of embarrassment, indignation and ultimately heartbreak over his wife's infidelity.  And just as we thought we knew Tolstoy's book by memory, Wright and his artistic ensemble redefine how powerful love is and will always be in the scheme of things. From the mesmerizing dance sequences to the candle-lit interiors of a snow-covered dasha in the Russian countryside, to the blue damask wall coverings (which you can't forget) to the costumes, jewelry and those wonderful little alphabet blocks (you'll have to see the movie!), Anna Karenina is one heckuva stylish film. Don't think twice about seeing this film -- just watch it without prejudice, without any comparisions to previous adaptions and you'll want to fall in love all over again. And if a Count Vronsky should come your way.....well, all we can say is that you can't ask why about love!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Something New, Old, Colorful & Bold: The World of Alice Apple!

SOMETHING NEW, OLD, COLORFUL & BOLD: THE WORLD OF ALICE APPLE! -- Not many people have heard of the small town of Totnes, located at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon in the southwest of England. But back in the Medieval times, this picturesque town was a bustling market center and it was here that further back in time to Ancient Rome that the mythical founder of Britain -- Brutus of Troy (a descendant of Trojan heroes) -- first came ashore and thus a new island kingdom was born! And in keeping with the tradition of merchants flourishing in Totnes over the centuries, one can find artist/designer Alice Burrows at the helm of her own business Alice Apple which offers a tasty array of colorfully-designed textiles and items made from these textiles (toys, cross stitch patterns and fabric decorations). Using vintage surface patterns from the 1960s and 1970s as a starting point for inspiration, Burrows creates bold textile designs that we at Studio of Style just love for their fun scale and timeless appeal. What a wonderful way to add color to napkins, placemats, table cloths, runners, throw pillows, curtains and drapery! And we also love the combinations of pink, orange, blue, purples, green and magenta that remind us of the flowers of spring and summer (think Cosmos, Ranuculus, Gerber Daisies, Tulips). With the longest days of winter looming ahead, why not think spring and start some interior design projects with Alice Apple fabrics? They're easily available in the U.S. through Spoonflower -- and they're offered in various cotton qualities, including poplin, voile, silk, canvas, knit, twill, sateen and crepe de chine -- and you can get test swatches and fat quarters in addition to the 42"-wide lengths -- how wonderful is that? Plus, you can tell all your friends that Alice Apple from Totnes designed them -- and they will all be impressed at your ability of finding the most fabulous fabrics! But then, we already knew that about you, didn't we?
Images courtesy Alice Apple