Schulenberg’s Page: The Fashion of the Time

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1976: Early in the year there had been a very violent military coup d’état of the government of Isabel Peron in Argentina ending in a notorious “dirty war.” Years later in an NSA document it was found that then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, upon learning of the violent murderous coup’s desire to involve the U.S., stated that it would be financially “in our interest”!

Domestically, Stephen Wozniak, Ronald Wayne and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer. Wayne sold his share for $800 and later accepted $1,500 to forfeit any claims against Apple!

In May, California red and white wines won a tasting contest in Paris beating several French classics! And in early July North and South Vietnam were finally reunified.

As for me, I was involved promoting my fabric jewelry “invention” and was finding a lot of enthusiasm from the press and even store buyers!

I was experiencing a virtual crash course in shopping for supplies and fabric that was affordable!  I became acquainted with shops downtown in the garment district, in the 20s and 30s, shops that I didn’t even know existed!  It was fascinating with some shops specializing in ribbons with some dating from the 18th century!  Other shops specialized in buttons, others in antique fabrics. Just because it was so beautiful I bought a quarter of a yard of antique metallic silk fabric that was so fine and sheer that it could have been mistaken at first glance for the thinnest plastic sheet — except it was made of silver threads!  I used it in photographs!

Actress/singer S.J. Mendelson using every inch of the gorgeous sheer antique metallic-silver silk fabric! Behind her is simple clear plastic sheeting — glamorously out of focus!

I could only imagine how a 1920’s evening dress would look and move if it were made of fabric as spectacular as this! To use it for a dress in 1976 would have cost a small fortune whereas today it would cost a prohibitive large fortune! Possibly a down payment on a house!

Mary Milton and I were invited for dinner at Richard Falcon’s beautiful apartment. Mary had been fascinated by the work of the avant-garde theater director, Richard Foreman. He had founded The Ontological-Hysteric Theater.

There was so much experimental theater happening. Charles Ludlam was receiving a lot of attention with his group, The Ridiculous Theatrical Company, but in the beginning he worked with John Vaccaro’s Theater of the Ridiculous until they had a falling out. Ludlam initially wrote plays for Vaccaro and the work of both groups was similar dealing with satires of Gothic novels or pastiches of old movies or theatrical classics.

Sometimes they were all mixed into one play.

The term, high camp is certainly appropriate!

Richard Foreman’s work was much more subtle and Foreman admitted to being influenced by Gertrude Stein! It was much more of a serious head trip! Mary was telling us as best she could about Foreman’s play, Pandering to the Masses, something Foreman could never be accused of doing!

The next day I was having an appointment at Harper’s Bazaar to pick up some fabric they wanted me to use for jewelry in a photo shoot!

Paul Bartel told me that a movie we both loved, the 1931 French film, À nous la liberté, directed by René Clair, his third sound film, was being shown at The Carnegie Hall Cinema.

There was a bit of a scandal with this film. The distribution company tried to sue Charlie Chaplin for supposedly copying assembly line sequences for his 1936 film, Modern Times! Clair was terribly embarrassed as he was a big admirer of Chaplin and the case wasn’t settled until after WWII!

There are many times I could kick myself for my ignorance. I always loved the music in this film and Georges Auric also did the music for Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête, (Beauty and the Beast) one of my absolute favorite films!

The ignorance part is that while I was living in Paris one of the first assignments I got from Condé Nast’s men’s magazine, ADAM, was to spend an afternoon with Monsieur and Madame Auric in their apartment and draw their portraits! I was so busy thinking about his being one of Les Six composers along with Francis Poulenc et al. that I didn’t connect him with Liberté or Cocteau!

Something else that surprised me was meeting Guy de Lesseps, who was living with them. As it turned out he was the uncle and namesake of my good friend in Manhattan, Mike (Guy Michel) de Lesseps! I was distracted and self conscious that I didn’t yet speak much french! Even though Madame Auric spoke a little english it wouldn’t probably have been convenient to talk about the Clair or Cocteau films anyway.

Still …

If you keep your ears open (discreetly) you can overhear the most interesting conversations. The only problem is that they often invite more questions that aren’t able to be asked because you’re eavesdropping (see above)!

I met with Rick Mendez downtown at The Empire Diner and we went down to the Lower East Side to check the fabric stores on Orchard Street.

I was wondering, even as I was scouring fabric stores, if I would have benefited by taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. But then I thought that I was at least gaining practical knowledge — and not just theories.

With all the running around I’d almost forgotten that I still had illustration deadlines waiting for me to work on as soon as I got home!

The weekend arrived and I’d finished everything and was grateful that David Columbia had invited me to come to Connecticut!

His friend Cindy Bodge was there.

The weekend was over too soon and Monday I was back at work.

To brighten the day, Vogue wanted me to do some bracelets for a shoot and they had fabrics they wanted me to use! Vogue was great news because that meant that my merchandise would be placed in a store.

Vogue would be doing the selling for me! At least the advertising!

That’s three quarters of the battle!

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