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.