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Hey Babe, Take a Walk on the Wild Side

My daughter and I try not to be apart for Christmas, but some years it just happens. The airfares are high, our lives are busy and the timing simply doesn’t work. And so it was this year that we are celebrating apart from one another. When the news came in that an exhibition of her work in conjunction with a book launch/signing of “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen” was to take place mid January, it was an opportunity to rectify the situation and get my ‘buns’ to see her…and the show.

The “vernissage” (opening) takes place 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Thursday, January 14th at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery (98 Orchard St, New York 10002). I invite and hope to see all of you there! The “nue” work from the book will be on exhibit at the gallery through February 24th if you can’t make the opening, but still want to see the work. And if you can’t see them in person, then you can still get the limited edition signed and kissed version between now and Christmas ASAP! (You have three days left!?)

For those of you who wonder what’s it like for a mother to see her child “nue” plastered on walls and books in such public places as Times Square or the New York Subway, I can tell you that it’s pride. It must be the ‘wild child’ in me that appreciates such freedom of expression.

Fortunately, January is a great time of year to take advantage of low airfares and perhaps they’ll be even lower ‘thanks’ to the November 13th attacks here in Paris that resulted in a massive reduction of tourism to the City of Light. Airlines, hotels, apartments and tourism-related services are scrambling to make up the losses. Still, it seemed incredulous to have found a fare under $600 round trip to New York’s JFK Airport on Ireland’s Aer Lingus with one stop in Dublin.

What was so special about this flight — as other flights were even less expensive — is that there are now U.S. pre-clearance facilities at both Dublin and Shannon airports. “This means that if you’re flying to the U.S., you can clear not only U.S. immigration, but also full U.S. customs and agriculture controls.” The benefit of this is that you can land as a local! You simply collect your baggage at your U.S. arrival airport and get on with your day. So not a second of your trip is wasted!” See if you don’t believe me!

If you had a trip to Paris over the holidays and cancelled because of the November 13th incidents (like so many tourists did, sadly), then set aside time in January to let the wild child in you come out while the air fares are so low. Remember that the annual winter “soldes” begin January 6th and run through February 16th…so not only can you get a bargain on air fares, but on your next wardrobe, too!

You will not see one difference in the city of Paris pre-attacks, with the exception of the memorials set at the sites of the attacks and at Place de la République. The memorial there has been greatly ‘manicured’ and is only a whisper of its former self, but still there for all to experience. Meanwhile, residents are out on the streets and “en terrasse” in the droves. The weather is unseasonably warm with temperatures in the high 50sºF — barely cold enough for a hat or gloves adding to the crowds…but not so warm as to be “nue!”

Shoppers Saturday at Le Bon Marché were so plentiful that “sensory overload” kicked in and I couldn’t run for the door fast enough. It was a shame, too, as the store is its even more than usual beautiful self and there was a choir of carolers serenading the shoppers. The same was true for the Christmas Market along the Champs Elysées — wall-to-wall with shoppers out for an afternoon or evening stroll to take in the artisan goods sold at the Christmas stalls, have a glass of “vin chaud,” down some street food (the greasy kind you shouldn’t be eating!) or other entertainment (mostly for the kids).

The lights along the Champs are lovely — not as exciting as in some years past, but tasteful and elegant as one would expect. Christmas lights in France are mostly white, while America tends to use more color when decorating for the holidays. I often wonder what is it about ‘color’ that the French think is gaudy as they seem much more comfortable in their smoky tones while Americans run wild with color.

Elegance is the key word — something that we discovered at its finest at the Musée Palais Galliera exhibition “La Mode Retrouvée: Les Robes Trésors de la Comtesse Greffulhe,” on until March 20th. Named “Marie Joséphine Anatole Louise Élisabeth de Riquet de Caraman-Chimay, Comtesse Henry Greffulhe,” but immortalized as the Comtesse Greffulhe, the society ‘dame’ was born in 1860 in the 7th arrondissement of Paris and was considered the most well-dressed and elegant women of her time.

She was photographed extensively by Nadar and became a main inspiration for the character of the duchesse de Guermantes in Marcel Proust’s “À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.” He said of her that “the real mystery of her beauty lies in the enigmatic sparkle in her eyes,” among other things, that made an “incredible impression” on him…as her wardrobe, drawings and photographs did us. Never have I seen such a magnificent array of garments — we were awestruck by the detail and hand workmanship invested in each garment.

I left there jealous of her beauty, her tiny waist (corseted of course), the long nape of her neck and undeniable charm. I wanted to bring her back alive so as to have an opportunity to just be in her presence. (Plus, I wanted to borrow her black velour button-up boots to wear with the black velour high-collared dress that had my name written all over it!) As we left the museum, two ladies of style, dressed in the mode of La Comtesse, posed for photos. They were just having fun in costume emanating the goddess.

Across the street from the Musée Palais Galliera, an under-appreciated and beautiful building more formally known as the Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris, a museum sponsored by the Duchess de Galliera and completed in the late 1800s…is the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The city museum is in the eastern wing of the Palais de Tokyo, having been constructed for the International Exhibition of Arts and Technology of 1937. Architecturally it doesn’t compare to the Galliera, but for the contemporary work it exhibits, its large open spaces are perfect.

In complete juxtaposition to Comtesse Greffulhe, at the museum on display now till February 7th is “Warhol Unlimited” — the first European showing of “Shadows” (1978-79) in their entirety, and another more than 200 works. Andy Warhol is the antithesis to elegance, but the king of pop art and outrageous behavior. In the 1960s, he was surrounded by wild child disciples known as “Superstars,” including Edie Sedgwick, Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn who participated in his films.

It all brought back memories of life in Los Angeles recalling our personal friendship with Holly Woodlawn, who was one of the last surviving superstars and one of the subjects of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.” Holly was never seen as the man she was under her feminine-cut suits and bouffant hair and for that reason I could never think of her as anything but a woman. Even her Wikipedia bio describes her as a woman, although she never underwent any sex reconstruction surgery. One gift she made to me long ago was a signed and kissed copy of her memoire, “A Low Life in High Heels.” She sadly died just two weeks ago in Los Angeles at the age of 69.

Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
    Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
    Plucked her eyebrows on the way
    Shaved her legs and then he was a she
    She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
    Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

Lou Reed

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

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