Monday, October 27, 2014

Manners Monday – Oscar de la Renta – Paying Homage to a Man who Epitomized Effortless Elegance

I was deeply saddened to learn the passing of Mr. de la Renta just one week ago today. My first and only encounter with the legendary designer was at the wedding of his step-daughter Eliza Reed to Alexander Bolen in June of 1998.  

Their nuptials took place at the de la Renta estate in Kent, Connecticut. Having never attended a summertime society wedding, I was advised by my father to purchase a hat for the occasion so out I went in search of the perfect accompaniment to compliment my buttercup dress and coat ensemble.  We were shuttled to the property by coach and escorted through the gorgeous gardens to the ceremony grounds.  It was a veritable sea of who’s who figures from the worlds of fashion, media and international society, but what struck me most was the vivid memory of how many dogs were in attendance.  Almost as many as guests!  

The weather was hot and muggy and a last minute torrential downpour made its best attempts to put a damper on the festivities. But not for long.  As if taking a cue from the spirit in the skies, the rain began to subside and out of the mist appeared the dashing Mr. de la Renta steering a golf cart with one hand while simultaneously holding on to the bride-to-be with the other. What very well could have been an afternoon wedding of pomp and circumstance was properly replaced with a warmth and effortless elegance that was welcome by all.  

Oscar de la Renta happened to embody elegance in every sense of the word endearing himself to throngs of fans spanning the globe from first ladies and celebrities to socialites and fashionistas. His elegance did not threaten his masculinity.  On the contrary, it added to it. He was the quintessential gentleman, both dapper and debonair who created a fashion empire that exemplified his zest for life as well as his eye for quality and impeccable taste.  Flawlessly dressed for any occasion, his sophistication and style went unrivaled setting a high bar for future male fashion designers climbing the ranks.  His sun-kissed skin, amiable smile and charming accent disarmed and captivated everyone he met. 

The Dominican-born American icon didn’t skip a beat working tirelessly up to his final days including designing the wedding dress for Amal Alamuddin who stole the heart of longtime bachelor George Clooney.  He will forever be remembered for his refinement and grace. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Manners Monday – Joan Rivers – Brassy Girl from Brooklyn Was Pure Class

A view from outside her condo on East 62nd Street just a few steps from 5th Avenue

We lost a legend last Thursday, comedienne Joan Rivers. That brassy girl from Brooklyn was pure class. A national treasure, a legendary pioneer, she worked tirelessly for over fifty years bringing audiences to their knees with her acerbic and self-deprecating wit.  As one of America’s first female comics, she was a trail blazer paving the way for countless female comics who would come after her from Rosie O’Donnell and Rosanne Barr to Kathy Griffin and Sarah Silverman.  Her jokes could come across as scathing, but they were never meant to be hurtful.  She was the creator of red carpet commentary, launching a whole new genre of entertainment television for awards shows to come. She was a survivor who used humor to get through life’s most difficult moments whether struggling to recover from her husband’s suicide or rebuilding her career after her cancelled talk show. She had grit and she bounced back with a zest and passion for life that was incomparable.

After undergoing routine out-patient surgery on her throat, she stopped breathing, suffered cardiac arrest and was put on life support.  The 81 year old soaked up every second of her fabulous life planning each momentous step of the way.  She even orchestrated her own funeral giving explicit direction, “I want my funeral to be a big showbiz affair with lights, cameras, action.”  And that it was, with luminaries from every industry turning up at Temple Emanu-El on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to pay their respects. And, the New York Police Department’s Emerald Society playing “New York, New York” an homage to the town she loved and called home.

But what will we remember most about Joan Rivers?

Her Presentation and Style. Dressed to the nines with her signature blonde perfectly coiffed hair, she would take to the stage or set in a ladylike outfit and then catch us off guard with her irreverent routine. She was a serial abuser of cosmetic surgery seeking perfection with every nip, tuck and pull perhaps attempting to erase the years that did not seem to match her energy. While she espoused all things style and fashion forward on the red carpet, she was a traditionalist who embodied elegance and grace. It was mentioned that even in her final hours, she had a fresh manicure and pedicure as well as her hair done. She did not want to leave this life unkempt. One would imagine she had on all her jewelry and beautiful silk sleepwear to boot. 

Her Love of Family. Her daughter Melissa and her grandson Cooper were her greatest joy.  Not a day went by without a phone call to Melissa each morning which would set the tone for her entire day. She loved them dearly and they were by her side as much as possible. Working together on E!’s “Fashion Police” for 20 years and then starring in their own reality show, “Joan & Melissa - Joan Knows Best?” solidified an already tight-as-steel bond.

Her Dedication to Perfection.  She did everything first class. An admitted type-A personality, she preferred to take the helm and do it her way rather than leave anything to chance. Whether it was planning her Melissa’s fairy tale wedding at the Plaza or residing as President of her condo association, no detail went unnoticed and everything had to be done tastefully or not at all.  This was her joy, it made her happy. She had an appreciation for the finer things, but she was equally grateful and gracious.

Her Take No Prisoners Attitude.  She may have been blunt and unapologetic, but she was never mean-spirited. She could care less what other people thought of her. If an audience was shocked or offended by her words, she would simply respond and say, “Oh grow up!” She willingly made fun of everything from race and religion to sex and celebrities, her family life and heroes to politicians and religious figures. No one and no topic was taboo. But she kept her material relevant citing contemporary figures and earning herself the adulation of twenty somethings.

Her Red Carpet Commentary.  Whether covering a live award's show or on the set with fellow cohorts, no one called fashion like Joan Rivers. She coined the phrase, "Who are you wearing?" essentially cementing a relationship between fashion designers and celebrities for years to come. She inspired me to write a regular blog on Red Carpet Manners for what I like to call 'going underneath the sheath' espousing on all things manners related on the red carpet.   

Her Heart.  She had a kindness and charm that endeared her to everyone. Her goodness and heart propelled her to stand up for what she believed in whether it was breaking the glass ceiling for female comediennes, fighting bigotry towards the gay community, or defending Israel.  She gave back raising millions of dollars for causes including AIDS, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Cystic Fibrosis. 

Her Work Ethic.  In her documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," she revealed that she wasn’t happy unless her calendar was filled to the brim with appointments. She loved being busy, it made her feel alive. She traveled determinedly back and forth from coast to coast appearing both live and on television up until her last day. She kept a catalog of all her jokes neatly typed and alphabetized by topic in filing cabinets in her New York apartment constantly updating, memorizing and rehearsing her famous one-liners.  

Her Resilience. This tough woman born of Russian immigrants made something of herself.  She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College with a degree in English. She broke through the male-dominated world of comedy to become an international star. She survived the tragic suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg, and rebuilt her relationship with her daughter. She overcame her own show’s cancellation and became a massively successful author, producer and entrepreneur writing 11 books, selling jewelry and fashion on home shopping networks and heralding at the helm of the “Fashion Police” virtually launching the entire red carpet industry. Her humor was her savior; it got her through the most horrific of circumstances. She knew the power of bouncing back with laughter and harnessed it to conquer every adversity.

Can we talk?  On a personal note, Joan Rivers reminded me of my grandmother, Rose Gach√©, who lived in a gorgeous apartment in the Hampshire House facing Central Park South. I remember the silk fabric walls, the mirrored dressing area, and the chocolate pudding served in crystal goblets. She died young when I was still in high school, but instilled in me an appreciation for quality and the finer things whether it was taking pride in the way I dress or setting a beautiful table. She was generous and gracious.  Similar to Joan Rivers, she had tremendous drive, determination, focus, intellect, sharpness, and enthusiasm. Both are sorely missed.  Rest in peace...

Monday, September 1, 2014

Manners Monday - Seeing White - "Why It's Particularly Appealing Now"

After a weeklong of seeing white featured on the red carpet, as well as adorned on the bodices of women and men strutting the streets and beaches of sunny California, you might think the color was experiencing its last hurrah. At the VMA’s, it displayed its daring on musical artists ranging from Jordin Sparks and Jason Derulo to Nicki Minaj and Usher who flaunted various looks. It revealed its versatility at the Emmy’s with a string of actresses including Sofia Vergara, Robin Wright, Kristen Wiig, Anna Chlumsky and Laverne Cox who all jumped on the white bandwagon  looking absolutely fabulous. And when it comes down to a clean fresh look, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that beats a spotless pair of white jeans, a sleek white pump, a crisp white button down or a tailored white tuxedo regardless of the season.  No longer chained by the stringent rules of summertime, this color on the spectrum has finally cut loose and is primed and ready to head full throttle into fall.

Historically, there were a number of reasons behind the notion of no white after Labor Day. For example, in the early 1900’s before the invention of air conditioning, white clothing was cooler and certainly more convenient for the hot summer months.  During the summer, white garments were frequently regarded as a look of leisure.  Once fall arrived, it was time to put away the summer whites and don more traditional formal work clothes. It was also a practical remedy for the approaching rainy season, especially in cities like Chicago and New York.  Years later, the fashion industry embraced the color white with open arms and has draped various shades of white on models and celebrities alike.

But why is the color white so particularly appealing now?  Perhaps in an age of oversharing, overindulgence and overloading, white symbolizes all things simple and pure.  In a complicated world where we are inundated and bombarded with endless information, it reminds us to return to a time of innocence and getting down to the very basics. During a precarious time in our history where war is prevalent, it provides us with a feeling of freedom, of lightness, of striving for perfection amidst all of the chaos.  So don’t let your white frocks slip away with summertime, here’s a few tips on how to rock white well into fall and beyond.

Daily Uniform.  You will always be fashion forward wearing a well-pressed white button down blouse or dress shirt.  Paired with anything from dark denim jeans to an embroidered ball gown skirt (think Carolina Herrera), it is perpetually fresh and stunning.

Wardrobe Staple.  A white blazer or coat is an impeccable addition to any outfit.  It lightens up your mood along with your style and becomes a people magnet as others are drawn to the brightness.

Night on the Town.  Rather than the usual LBD, choose a white sleeveless dress in a winter fabric or a sleek white pant suit that moves as gracefully as you do. These are gorgeous looks that are guaranteed to turn heads.

Don’t Be Afraid to Accessorize.  Captivated by a pair of white leather booties? Have your heart set on a white suede clutch? Going crazy for that white cashmere scarf?  Don’t let the fear of stains stop you.  These may not be everyday pieces, but they are treasures to break out for a night out with adults.

Keep it Spotless.  If you decide to don your white wears, be prepared to combat stains head on. Have a small package of baby wipes handy for accidents. The alcohol in the wipes will take out even the most stubborn of stains whether they be from red ketchup or red wine.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Manners Monday - Tanning Etiquette from UVA to UVB

I grew up in Miami Beach in the seventies where tanning was a competitive sport. Each sunny day, we would put on our teeny string bikinis armed with baby oil and a metallic UV reflector to worship at the feet of the sun god. The poster girl for suntan perfection was the cute little blonde from the Coppertone ad. Her bare bottom exposing the difference between pasty pale and beautifully tanned skin.  A tan body was the ideal to uphold. The vitamin D made you feel healthy, you appeared more slender, and you looked smashing in head-to-toe white.  

For years, I would continue to abuse my skin. I recall an unfortunate trip to Hawaii in my teens in which I burnt myself so badly in overcast weather that I had swollen to an unrecognizable state and had to seek medical help from the hotel doctor. He recommended a dose of Tylenol, slathering on the aloe vera and bathing with black tea bags to help take the sting out of my body. Sadly, I was sentenced to the room for days unable to move from the scorching pain and blisters. 

Now in my forties, I am still learning from past lessons.  I admittedly forget to slather on the sunscreen and then wonder why I'm developing white spots all over my fair skin.  A recent scare from a close friend who had a pre-Melanoma shark bite chunk of flesh removed from her leg by a dermatologist has me finally reaching for the maximum UV protection.  The universe is also sending me signals. This weekend while shopping at J. Crew in Malibu, I came across a flyer for #JCREWSMARTSUN, an Instagram campaign they launched to coincide with July's UV Safety Month raising awareness on skin cancer and Melanoma research. The message - do sun smart by covering up and protecting your skin.  So to help inspire those negligent souls such as myself, as well as those who may need enlightening in a few areas, I have comprised the following top ten list for proper tanning etiquette tips.

1. Know your "UVA's" from your "UVB's".  Ultraviolet A rays are more serious and oftentimes associated with skin cancer as well as skin damage and aging. Ultraviolet B rays are the main cause of burns due to sun exposure. The label Broad Spectrum Protection means the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. 

2. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) guidelines.  Don't bother applying a sunscreen with an SPF lower than 15 as it will not protect against skin cancer.  When making your purchase, choose SPF 50 if possible. Anything higher than SPF 50 has not been proven to be more effective. There is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen, only water-resistant. 

3. Limit time in the sun.  Sunbathe early or later in the day when rays are less damaging.  Typically the sun is strongest between 11:00am and 3:00pm, but stronger at higher altitudes in the mountains as well as lower tropical regions. Beware of water, sand and snow. They amplify the sun's burning rays making them more powerful. 

4. Sunglasses are a must.  Select a pair with built-in UV protection.  CNN news anchor, Anderson Cooper, regrets forgetting to wear his sunglasses while on the water in Portugal years ago.  He became the focus of his own news story after burning his eyeballs and temporarily going blind for 36 hours.  

5. Seek out stylish rash guards.  Great news, you don't have to sacrifice style to protect your skin! Wear hats, shirts, cover-ups and other protective clothing to guard against harmful rays.  I love these zip front 3/4 sleeve shirts by DHUFISH sold at the Beverly Hills Bikini Shop, as well as this sleeveless one from J. Crew

6. Apply sunscreen spray far away.  Unknowing offenders proceed to cover every inch of their body up-wind from their neighbors. Spray sunscreen, similar to substitute sugar packets, easily seeps into the mouth and tastes awful! Let's also mention that it may be inhaled into the lungs which is harmful in itself.  Be mindful of where you are standing and move away from others when applying.  

7. Use lotion sunscreen sparingly.  How many times have we applied white lotion sunscreen only to discover we look like we just finished a face-painting session for clowns? While products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are highly recommended, they tend to leave a milky white film on the skin.  Find a mirror and rub in the areas around your nose, hair line, chin and neck so there is nothing left visible and you can still look fabulous.

8. Sunscreen 101.  Don't go for a dollop.  Apply a liberal amount of sunscreen over all exposed areas.  Re-apply sunscreen every two hours and especially after swimming. Don't let cloudy skies deter you. Up to eighty-percent of the sun's UV rays can pass through clouds.  Use sunscreen rain or shine.

9. Stick to simple suits.  If opting for sunscreen to flaunt that bikini body. Select simply designed suits and avoid fancy/crazy strap lines or shapes in visible places.  As much as they may be appealing in the store, they become a nuisance when attempting to wear that strapless/backless dress to the next fundraiser.

10. On meds?  No sun for you!  If taking antibiotics, stay out of the sun. Certain medications make you more sensitive to rays and heat and may cause dizziness or dehydration.  Others will cause you to sunburn more easily. Grab a good book and stay in the shade.

Please note, I am not a skin care professional. If in need of expert advice on sunscreen or skin care management, please consult a licensed dermatologist or medical doctor. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Manners Monday - Earthquake Etiquette

I was living with a roommate in Brentwood when the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit.  It was about 4am when most everyone was rudely awakened from a deep sleep only to find the earth moving, shaking, rattling and rolling. Televisions came crashing down, items fell off of shelves, glasses and dishes flew off cupboards, power and electricity ceased to work. This was not a simulation ride at Universal Studios, this was the real deal and it was scary.  Although my roommate and I managed through it virtually unscathed, it was an experience we will always remember and hope not to repeat in the near future. However, should the earth decide to quake again soon, I have compiled a list of earthquake readiness tips to help you be your most poised and prepared.

Stash Emergency Clothing Nearby.  For some reason, earthquakes seem to strike in the wee hours of the morning when people are half clothed and scrambling around for a pair of bottoms.  Most everyone I know was in their pajamas or birthday suit when the last big earthquake hit. Take precautionary measures by keeping a pair of sweatpants nearby should you need to quickly cloth yourself in an emergency. 

Properly Affix Objects.  If you pride the precious crystal stemware passed down by your grandmother or value the important art that is hanging on your walls, head to the nearest hardware store or contact your local handyman to retrofit those items to your shelves and walls immediately. There is an array of non-damaging adhesives from earthquake putty to clear quake gel to secure your most valuable pieces.  For decorative art, use screw eyes or proper painting hooks and then anchor those hooks to the wall.  Refrain from hanging objects above beds or on the ceiling.  Avoid placing glass objects on nightstands.

Keep Phones Handy.  Keep an old-fashioned push button phone on hand along with your earthquake preparedness kit should you lose power and need to use a land line.  Most home phones are wireless systems that will fail during a power outage.  Cell phone reception may also be disrupted in the event of an emergency.  It is best to have several modes of communication available to maintain continuous contact. You'll want to be at your most calm and collected when placing calls.

Stockpile Flashlights and Candles.  These are essentials for finding your way in the dark should an earthquake hit in the evening or before dawn.  Test flashlight batteries regularly to ensure they work and keep a box of candles and matches wrapped together for easy accessibility.  Tread carefully using these tools to guide you through any areas that may be covered in debris. 

Invest in Earthquake Preparedness Kits.  One per household member.  You can never have enough supplies at the ready.  These may seem like a pricey investment at first, but you will be grateful should you need to use them.  Plus, you may be called upon to assist a neighbor or other person in need. Review contents annually to make sure dates have not expired.

Reserve Protein Bars and Water.  Protein packed bars are the most convenient and nutritious snacks to consume during an emergency.  They will provide enough sustenance to keep you going for hours on end. Bottled water is essential for hydration. The recommended allotment is one gallon of water per person per day.  Plan for 3-5 days. This will not only keep you nourished and hydrated, it will keep you rational.

Communicate Effectively.  Contact family members both locally and in far regions to make sure they are okay and to inform others that you are safe so they do not go crazy with worry.  Speak clearly and slowly sharing the most pertinent information first in the event that talk time is limited. Arrange a safety system (in advance) with local neighbors to help one another should you or they need assistance with exiting a home or utilizing a car, etc.

Take Care of the Young, Elderly or Infirmed.  Families with infants must store extra formula, diapers, bottles, powdered milk, medications and wipes. Anyone unable to walk, in need of wheelchair or walker assistance should keep those items nearby. Stock batteries, oxygen and other medications that are used on a daily basis.  Make provisions for anything that may require refrigeration.

Show Empathy.  If you happen to reside far away from the epicenter of an earthquake when it hits and didn't feel a thing, congratulations and consider yourself  lucky! Never taunt or tease those who are frightened by earthquakes, and if someone you know has suffered such a catastrophic event, show the utmost empathy and support.  

Sources taken from

Monday, March 3, 2014

Manners Monday - Ellen Delivers the Pizza Alongside a Happy Helping of Oscars

The gloomy skies parted just in time for Oscars’ big night and who better to bring the sunshine than the ever cheerful, Ellen Degeneres. All the months of rehearsing paid off as she achieved her mission to make “Oscar” accessible, warm and friendly just like her Emmy Award winning talk show “Ellen.”  Her brand did not deviate - in a good way - with light-hearted, under-the-radar, self-deprecating humor that garnered genuine laughs rather than the typical forced chuckles from the audience. After a brief introduction that made mention of her hosting gig seven years prior and the familiar faces that once again graced the list of nominees, she launched right into her monologue with an hysterical opening line about the weather, “For those of you watching around the world, it’s been a tough couple of days for us. It has been raining. We’re fine. Thank you for your prayers.” So simple and yet poking massive fun at how unequipped this town is to deal with rain.  

She broke television barriers by bringing the audience in close for an impromptu "Selfie" (which set a Twitter record of 2 million for the most retweets) with some of Hollywood’s biggest names and ordering cheese pizzas for the starving celebrities who squeezed into their respective gowns and tuxes and hadn’t eaten a morsel in days. The bit was hilarious, but then turned tedious when Big Momma's Pizza arrived and viewers were forced to watch while the distribution of the pizza and then the collection of money for the delivery man. I was sure someone was going to touch their greasy fingers on their formal clothes and rue the day this happened. 

She cracked funny jokes, “Lupita Nyong’o is here. She is from Kenya. She is a Kenyan. Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips is here. He is nominated. He is from Somalia. He is a sommelier. So he knows a lot about wine. Who’s the wine captain now?!”

She teased celebrities both young and old. June Squibb, the oldest nominee, was singled out as if she was hard of hearing, "I'm telling everyone you were wonderful in NEBRASKA!" Jennifer Lawrence, still a newbie, was the butt of a long joke referencing her trouble with tripping (she fell ascending the staircase to receive her Best Actress award last year and then fell again getting out of her car on the red carpet before this year’s show) prompting Ellen to say, “If you win tonight, I think we should bring you the Oscar!” Jonah Hill also received a nod for his role in The Wolf of Wall Street garnering one of the bigger laughs of the evening, "You showed us something in that film that I haven't seen in a very long time!"

She had one mean-spirited moment taking a jab at Liza Minnelli referring to her as “Sir” that left viewers scratching their heads, but then redeemed herself in the end with a joke about racism in Hollywood exclaiming, "Anything could happen tonight! So many possibilities. Possibility number one, 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two, you're all racists. And on that note she welcomed “first white presenter, Anne Hathaway.”  

What captured our attention in this year’s red carpet manners Oscar roundup?

Trending on the Red Carpet. Every red carpet has its theme as if designers and stylists engage in a pow wow beforehand to determine the trends. This show was no different. Standout colors were snow white, blush tones and shades of blue. Actresses from Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts to Calista Flockhart and Corinne Foxx (Jamie’s daughter) opted for white with the men getting into the game as well. Ryan Seacrest, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto all wore white tuxedo jackets some with contrasting accessories. Shades of blue were also a hit. The most talked about was Lupita Nyong'o’s Niarobi blue Prada dress which she wore as an homage to her country. Sandra Bullock and Amy Adams also wore blue as did many of the A-list men from DiCaprio to Spacey who decided on a navy tuxedo rather than the typical black formal wear. Ellen single-handedly brought back the female tux appearing first in navy velour, then in all-white ensemble and finally a black smoking jacket. Strapless or backless gowns took precedence along with statement necklaces and Veronica Lake tresses. Jennifer Lawrence was a stand out in Dior red as was a shimmering Kristin Chenoweth in metallic gold Cavalli. Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Angelina Jolie and a slew of others preferred figure hugging embellished blush tones. The biggest misses of the evening came from two Hollywood sweethearts, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway, whose black dresses only served to distract and detracted from their natural beauty. 

Spreading Positive Vibes. Pharrell was a constant topic of conversation wearing a laid back Lanvin tuxedo with knee length shorts and leather lace ups with no socks.  His album GIRL dropped the same night as Oscar continuing the wave of wild success.  As the first musical performer of the evening, his nominated song “Happy” set the tone with childlike dancing and innocent pleasure that brought a welcomed looseness to the room.

Church Moment. Darlene Love was so moved by her win for Best Documentary for "20 Feet from Stardom", that she broke out in song and brought the house to its feet with a spiritual, church choir jam that had everyone silently saying “Amen.”

Mom’s Night Out.  Oscar moms were all the rage as Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto escorted their proud mothers on their arms showering them with love, admiration and gratitude. These strong women clearly raised good, wholesome sons.   

Ovations Worthy of Standing. Backup singer extraordinaire, Darlene Love, received the first standing ovation of the evening kicking off a domino effect of standing ovations for all the musical performances from Pink and U2 to Bette Midler and Idina Menzel.

Executive Decisions. One of the most noticeable allowances came from producing pair Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.  Although there was a set 45 second limit to speeches, it seemed that recipients of the golden statue were able to own the mike for as long as their hearts desired. No matter how long or awkward, every major award winner had their moment and was able to complete their thanks without fear of getting cut off by the exit music.

The Year of Spectacular Speeches. While we're on the subject of speeches, the best by far came from Jared Leto for “Dallas Buyers Club” and Lupita Nyong'o and Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave.” These fine recipients spoke intelligently and eloquently. They were thought-provoking and moving. They remembered to thank their team, both personal and professional. They acknowledged the politics of their subject matter, and above all, they were gracious and grateful. 

Tough Prenounciation.  There were a few very tough names to memorize and rehearse if you were a presenter or part of the press at this year's Oscars.  Lupita Nyong'o, Alfonso Cuaron, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Barkhad Abdi were at the top of the list.  So when a seasoned John Travolta butchered legendary Broadway star, Idina Menzel's name by introducing her instead as "Adele Dazeem," the firestorm of backlash began. The faux pas was so big that it inspired an instant name generator that will Travoltify any name.

Unfortunate Elder Statesmen. While it is an honor to be asked, future older thespians may wish to decline rather than face the scrutiny.  Poor Kim Novak's plastic surgery made it nearly impossible for her to move her mouth while attempting to present her award. Although aided by the beautiful Angelina Jolie, Sidney Poitier's speech was slower than usual and had us hanging on every word to make sure he was still breathing. Veteran actresses, Bette Midler and Sally Field, hit home runs in our book exuding both strength and beauty.

Bonus Thank Yous & Engraving. When the winners walked backstage they were escorted to a bar where they could have their golden statuette immediately engraved and emblazoned with their name. Also backstage, was a brilliant stunt by Good Morning America that allowed winners to write down the names of anyone they inadvertently forgot to thank onstage garnering extra points with those they may have accidentally hurt.

This was one of the first Oscars where I had watched nearly all of the nominated films and I have to admit, I was only sad that "Nebraska" did not receive much recognition.  In my opinion, it was a brilliant, uncomplicated film that deserved more accolades, but I'm not a member of the voting academy.  Oh well.  And there you have it. See you next year!  Alright, alright, alright…

Monday, February 24, 2014

Manners Monday - Medal Worthy Moments & Missteps at the Sochi Winter Olympics

After 17 days, the XXII Sochi Winter Olympics has come to a close.  Seven years in the making and the most expensive Olympic games to date, Russia showcased a newly transformed country worthy of world recognition and finally shed the old imagery that existed prior to the Soviet collapse.  The opening and closing ceremonies portrayed a country rich in culture and proud of their heritage with elaborate productions that highlighted their excellence in classical music, ballet, literature and philosophy. The host country placed number one overall accumulating a total of 33 medals.  Precautionary measures to keep surroundings safe and free of terrorist threats thankfully succeeded and the help of twenty-five thousand happy volunteers helped to smooth over any other ruffled feathers.

Still, Sochi was not without its share of problems.  See meme #sochiproblems. The most noticeable embarrassment suffered was the 5th Olympic ring which failed to light up during the opening ceremony. This was humorously addressed during the closing ceremonies with a self-deprecating sequence that showed a purposefully delayed formation of the 5th ring. Other ongoing storylines surrounded the unusually warm weather with temperatures hovering in the 60’s making the snow slushy and causing the athletes to take more serious tumbles than usual. The Olympic village accommodations caused frustration for a number of athletes and reporters who dealt with spotty electricity, running water and poor internet connections. And, despite Russia’s best attempts to display a welcoming image, controversy loomed over the discrimination of human and gay rights. 

On U.S. soil, viewers had to overcome hampered coverage by sportscaster Bob Costas who suffered an untimely double bout of pink eye until pitch hitters Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera came to the rescue. It was not the easiest of games for Team USA who placed fourth in gold medals and second overall with many of its most prominent Olympians barely placing or garnering only a bronze.  

Each Olympics reminds us of our increasingly globalized society and the opportunity it allows our Olympians to act as mini ambassadors of the U.S. putting forth a message of international peace, tolerance and respect. With that in mind, here is our list of medal worthy manners moments and missteps. Who exemplified Gold medal characteristics and who didn't make it to the podium at all.

Medal Worthy

Perseverance Pays Off.  Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their first Olympic gold in ice dancing after 17 years of practicing together.  They are partners in dance only, have a strong work ethic, share a mutual respect and value the importance of an education.  Both are pursuing a degree at the University of Michigan.   

Bode Miller, Good Guy. Inspirational skier and medal record holder, Bodie had a rough time at Sochi and most likely raced for the last time in his Olympic career.  He said, "It's tough to have my last race here look like that," Miller said. "But I feel really good about where I am. I feel like I did my best. "  When questions arose around an emotional interview he gave to NBC regarding the pain of losing his brother and being the oldest medalist in alpine skiing history, he defended his interviewer on Twitter. 

Tearful, but Proud. After thinking they had the gold in the bag, The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team suffered a brutal loss to Team Canada in the final four minutes of the game. Although devastated they didn’t win the gold, members of the team choked back tears as they picked up their silver medal and professed how proud they were to have represented the U.S. in this year’s Olympics.

Young and Hungry.  Mikaela Shiffrin is a mere 18 years old and won the gold in the women's slalom.  

Puppy Love.  Gus Kenworthy, the silver medal-winning slopestyle American skier, upset by all of the stray dogs wandering Sochi took it upon himself to arrange kennels for the puppies and get them vaccinated in the hopes of taking them home to the states.  

Gracie is Gold.  She may not have won the gold, but she delivered extremely solid performances with grace and style.  Her excitement and enthusiasm were highlighted by her beautiful smile.

Medal Missteps

Loss of Steam.  They were riding high on a winning streak until their final games with Canada and Finland. After suffering the embarrassment of not being able to score a single goal,  rather than continue with drive, perseverance and team spirit, U.S. Men’s Hockey Team became disenchanted and played as if their heads were no longer in the game.

Pressure to Succeed.  Countless medals and a showering of accolades makes repeat performance almost impossible.  Team USA’s most prominent American Olympians, Shawn White and Shani Davis, fell under the pressure to succeed and live up to the expectations suffering losses early in the competition.  Shawn backed out of one event much to the dismay of his fans and then failed to medal in the halfpipe, his signature sport. Shani also gave a disappointing performance.  

Sour Puss.  All eyes were on Ashley Wagner who initially radiated with a hopeful smile after her short form skating performance, but then quickly turned sour when she heard the judge’s low scores.  Clearly upset and unable to control her reaction, she scowled while mouthing a profanity to one of the teammates seated in the ‘kiss and cry’ section launching the first viral meme of the Winter Olympics.

See you in Pyeongchang...