Monday, May 27, 2013

5 Lessons Learned from Checking into Grand Hotel

5 Lessons Learned from Checking into Grand Hotel  
(By Tracey LaMonica and Lara Scott) 

1932’s Grand Hotel is showing this weekend at Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, CA (,), and this Best Picture Oscar winner is the film we can thank for modern-day ensemble movies like What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Grand Hotel featured the very first all-star cast, with superstars like Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, and Wallace Beery, and when MGM realized that there was serious coin to be made from this kind of setup, they quickly followed it up with 1933's Dinner at Eight (also with Beery and the Barrymores). As the lives of the guests intertwine at this fancy hotel, we learn a few life lessons, such as the value of surrounding yourself with Art Deco and carving out some quiet time for yourself. 

1. Don’t hit on your hired stenographer. You hired her to type. Besides, she wants a titled man, like the Baron. If she rejects you, do not drape yourself across her bed, even if she is lounging pensively with her legs in the air. Try to hang onto a shred of your dignity. 

2. If you’re a stenographer and DO want your boss to chase after you, employ “The Smear.” Legendary makeup artist Max Factor came up with the idea of exaggerating Joan Crawford’s natural lip line and painting her mouth dramatically, and it was a look that she kept for the rest of her life. Wallace Beery is not the only one who can’t keep his eyes off her mouth; we are in awe. Btw, here’s what Joan herself said about Grand Hotel (quote from “Little Joan was called upon to match Garbo, Beery, and the Barrymores, and she came off smelling like a rose.” 

3. Don’t bother the fading ballerina, Baron. She is tired and wants to be alone. The line that is famously associated with Greta Garbo (“I vant to be alone.”) was actually uttered by her character, Grusinskaya, in Grand Hotel. Even though your career is on the decline and you need a nap, when the man who steals your jewels admits to his crime, practice forgiveness and invite him to go on a trip with you. 

4. When you can’t find a woman to charm, Baron – there is always your dog. Since Baron has fallen out of love with Flaemmchen (Joan’s character) , and (to be honest) the ballerina seems a little high-maintenance, there is always your very loyal little dog waiting for you. And he DOESN’T vant to be alone. Admit that your dog is the one thing in the world you really love, and kiss him. 

5. Surround yourself with glorious Art Deco, and allow your set to become another superstar co-star. Designed by MGM art director/production designer Cedric Gibbons (who was married to actress Dolores del Rio), it is an Art Deco wonder. The vertigo-inducing circular staircase, the round desk in the lobby, and the black and white checkered floor pattern showcase early 1930s glamour at its finest. Unlike the Hotel California, this is one place we would like to check into and never leave! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

We were literally a fingertip away from Daisy’s dress in The Great Gatsby!

“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

On Sunday early evening (Cinco de Mayo!), Lara and I (Cori) – two Reviewers from Art Deco Divas – attended a small party for a private showing of a collection of real costumes, accessories, and props used in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby (2013) film.

Hosted by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles ( at Century Guild in Culver City, the event delighted artists, designers, and book/movie lovers with authentic Gatsby costume designs and set pieces that personified glamour in the heyday of the Roaring Twenties. 

When we entered the showcase room, Carey Mulligan (who plays Daisy Buchanan in the film) decked out in her Tiffany-diamond-decorated headband half-smiled at us via a beautiful picture still. 

An avid fan of the book, I couldn't help but think she was the perfect actress to play the part, as she simultaneously portrays the delicate between beautiful innocence and whimsical carelessness. Mia Farrow in an early adaptation was also apropos to play Daisy as an endearing hot mess. They both represent that exceptional and rare beauty that would compel a man like Jay Gatsby to want to own and protect.

Displayed on the wall were the original drawings of the artists’ costumes designs. You could see the likeness of the actors/actresses as they wore the elegant suits and dresses that were so reminiscent of the Jazz Age, considered “the most decadent of all the decades.” An interesting note is that the costumes were designed by Baz Luhrmann’s wife, Catherine Martin.

As we excitedly made our way to the actual costumes on display, we stopped to chat with Annamarie von Firley, owner of renowned clothing store reVamp Vintage, which sells their own ready-to-wear vintage-inspired line and also makes custom clothing.

(Check out our interview with her we published a couple of weeks ago at

If you’re ever at an event with Annamarie (or make an appointment to visit her studio), you’ll likely be inspired by her current projects and endeavors—like, serving as the head of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles (ADSLA) Event Committee, planning the annual Art Deco Society ball on Catalina Island, running her successful business, and oh….planning this costume preview event.

Feeling inspired from our chat with Annamarie, we then oohed and aahed at the costumes meticulously positioned in a scene straight out of the 20s, and I resisted the urge to stealthily limbo under the velvet rope and sample one of the exquisite dresses.

We then turned to the portrait of Mulligan/Daisy in the backdrop of two more dresses. (Look for the portrait in the film!)

Only the women were privy to an additional portrait (see below) also used in the film, for it adorned the wall of the Ladies restroom.

What was particularly fun about this event were all the guests, some of whom were decked out in the “latest” 20s fashions—bedazzled headband and all. 

Although it’s almost 100 years later, there is a luxurious – almost intoxicating -- elegance from that time period in terms of fashion that still resonates with people today.

We’re excited to see the film—and view its costumes and accessories—not only because it visualizes one of the great American novels, but maybe because of the nostalgia it inspires of an era defined by prosperity, eccentricity, originality, and creative opportunity.

It's no wonder then that I looked down the hallway at the classic automobile parked in the back and thought of escaping into opulence...even if only for a moment.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Vintage-Inspired Swingin’ Summery Songs Playlist

Summer is in the air...just add music!
This past week in Southern California has been unreal, with brilliant sunshine and temps of 100 degrees! It got me (Lara) wanting to hear uptempo songs that make my heart take flight, and I hope that these tunes make you feel the same way as you look forward to some bright and wonderful days, whether you’re headed to the beach right now with your suntan lotion and a copy of Us Weekly, or still wearing UGG boots and earmuffs in a chilly part of the planet. 

And btw…these songs are timeless (whether they are vintage or simply vintage inspired), so they won’t go out of style, unlike the monokini. Enjoy!

1. “Ain't That A Kick In The Head”—Dean Martin
You may have seen/heard Dino performing this in Ocean’s Eleven (the original with Sinatra, not the Clooney version), and been charmed by his effortless swagger. Not to mention his perfect head of thick, dark hair. “Like a sailor said, quote, Ain’t that a hole in a boat?” After watching this on YouTube, google his Vegas medley and hear one of my favorite Dino moments: After performing for about nine seconds, he says, “How long have I been on?”

2. “The Lady Is A Tramp”—Cast of Glee
Originally introduced in the 1937 Rogers and Hart musical Babes in Arms, the cast of Glee updated it for a new generation and made us fall in love with the song all over again. I love how this version features a guy and girl singing together, and even though the lyrics have never quite made sense to me (“I love the theatre, but never come late”—if you love the theatre, WOULDN’T you arrive on time?!), we swoon all the same when we hear it.

3. “So Nice (Summer Samba)”—Astrud Gilberto
Cool ocean breezes, salty air, lazy afternoons, and balmy nights…those are all right here in Astrud’s sultry vocals, much like in another one of her hits, “The Girl From Ipanema.” The Brazilian Bossa Nova legend’s version of “So Nice” is one of the most well-known, although it’s been covered by something like 180 artists over the years, including Baby Spice (Emma Bunton) of the Spice Girls!

Swinging with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
4. “Go Daddy-O”—Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
They stole our hearts in 1996’s Swingers, and I think they were hugely responsible for all the big bands that have popped up and the general swing revival. Plus, how do you not love a band of 55 men (I might be exaggerating a teensy bit) that play while wearing sharp suits and hats? They were even decked out like this when I saw them rock a huge crowd in the parking lot at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles before a Los Angeles Lakers game on a sweltering afternoon. Plan your life around catching one of their live shows.

5. “Take The A Train”—Nikki Yanofsky
You may have heard Nikki (who is beautiful and looks a bit like Selena Gomez, I think) singing the Canadian National Anthem at the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. If you listen to one of my stations,, you know we have been fans of hers for years now. Nikki is all of 19, but has the voice and soul of someone much older. She absolutely tears up this song, which was the signature tune of the Duke Ellington orchestra.

 6. “Come Fly With Me”—Frank Sinatra
Remember the days when flying was something glamorous that people got really excited about and dressed up for? Me, neither, but I hear that really did used to happen, and in this song (with music by Jimmy Van Heusen and lyrics by Sammy Cahn) Frank makes me want to pack a bag and brave LAX en route to a cuckoo weekend in Acapulco. Or Bombay. Or wherever the jet is headed. Wheels up! 

Brigitte Zarie
7. “I Love Las Vegas”—Brigitte Zarie
Brigitte says she was inspired to do this song after hearing her sister tell tales of her trip to Sin City, and when we listen we are ready to book a room at the Bellagio, stat. Giving shout outs to lights, blackjack tables, glamour, Elvis, the Strip, private jets, and more, it’s a joyous celebration of one of my favorite cities. Although it makes me want to celebrate in the pool, because Vegas in the summer is fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot.

8. “Haven’t Met You Yet”—Michael Buble
 This song is so hopeful (love when the horns start blaring) and happy, and even though in the song Michael is singing about how he has not met that special someone yet…he met his real-life wife, Luisana Lopilato, when she appeared in the video for the song. And this summer, they will welcome a Baby Buble! 

9. “Swing Swing Swing”—Keely Smith
I didn’t know that much about Keely Smith, and then I was invited to a musical at the Geffen Playhouse called Louis & Keely Live At The Sahara, which fabulously detailed the careers and tumultuous relationship of Louis Prima (“Just A Gigolo”) and Keely Smith. Plus, I realized that Keely rocked an amazing Louise Brooks-style bob. To me, this song still sounds so fresh and modern and full of life. When you hear it, you will understand why Louis Armstrong once said, “If you can’t feel swing, you’ll never know it.” I feel it, Louis…everywhere!

 10. “Zoot Suit Riot”—Cherry Poppin’ Daddies
This song was such a huge hit when it came out in 1997 that Top 40 radio started playing it. The station I was working for at the time invited the band to be part of a show that included dance acts and Def Leppard, so you can imaging the audience going, “What is this?” when the Daddies strutted out in their high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers, and long coats with the wide lapels and wide padded shoulders (otherwise knows as “zoot suits.”) However, they won the crowd over pretty much the moment the lead singer started riffing the, “ZaZu Za Zazu” gibberish part of the song. This is a great one to put on when you need to find some energy for a night out!

And a bonus song…

11. “Summer Wind”—Frank Sinatra
This is not an uptempo tune; in fact, Frank is singing about losing his love after a fleeting romance. But Johnny Mercer’s lyrics so beautifully capture the feeling of a seasonal affair that makes the sky look bluer and the world so much brighter that it is required listening as we head into summer. The passion and longing I hear about to burst forth in Frank’s voice is enough to make you want to run hand in hand across the warm sand with someone who makes your head spin, even though you know they will only be a memory by the time the leaves start to fall from the trees in the autumn wind.