Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dinner with Five Fascinating Folks

Right before Christmas I went to a dinner party. I've read of students having dinner or going to parties at professor's homes in novels, but in real life this rarely happens. Not once has a teacher or professor ever invited me over for a meal prior to my evening with UCLA guest journalism Professor Grobel and his wife. He's just one of those atypical teachers that is willing to open up his personal life to his students.

Larry spent a few years teaching three seminars in the English department: Journalism as Literature, Art of the Interview,and Creating a Memoir. I took all of these courses, and discovered my passion for writing under his inspiration and encouragement. Before he temporarily taught at my alma mater, however, Grobel was a successful interviewer and author of several books. With a skill to entice others to open up, he got such stars as Ava Gardner telling him the details of a violent argument she had with Howard Hughs and Anthony Hopkins admitting that walking away from his daughter left him with no guilt because he doesn't have a conscience. He spent ten days on Marlon Brando's personal island interviewing the legendary and famously elusive actor (the only interview Brando had ever accepted before this was with Truman Capote.0 He interviewed John Huston for over six months for his biography The Hustons, and was even present when the famed director passed away. Listening to the countless stories of Grobel's remarkable life as an interviewer of iconic writers, actors and musicians always slides to the side of being absolutely captivating.

During my senior year of college, Grobel would tell us all how his wife was an amazing cook. Having the chance to eat her delicious asian cuisine and apple pie was of course a delicious treat, but the company and conversation was an intellectually intriguing treat. Grobel told stories of seeing scandalous performance art back in the 1970's; a law student shared with us his recent adventures motorcycling across Asia; a former student spoke of her elite Samoan father's royal funeral who she had only met a couple of times; an intern chatted about his experience as a Jeopardy contestant; a Filpino movie star shared about her plans to move back to the Phillipines the following week and use all her connections in the film industry to start up a production company. All interesting people and all fascinating in their own right. As we were leaving, Grobel gave us a tour of his home and the environment in which he wrote. Book shelf after book shelf took over his home. Stacks of magazines lead up the stairway. A wall devoted to photos of himself with all the famous faces he had interviewed. Notes and research material spread across his office. Ordered chaos in a beautiful yet cozy house of homemade furniture and mesmerizing artwork. This was the home of a writer and it looked like one.

In a city where no one seems to make time for anyone that can't help to further their career, it was heartwarming to see a writer, interviewer,and friend of celebrities open his home and his life up to a few of his past students. The next evening he was going to be having Diane Keaton over for dinner, but for that evening he made us each feel like our lives were just as important and our ears just as deserving of absorbing his stories as someone as accomplished as she. I suppose it is that quality that makes him such a talented interviewer and an appreciated mentor.
A multi-colored dress I picked up at a boutique in Paris; black 1960's patent leather handbag; white 1960's pumps.

Close-up on earrings...these gold and onyx dangly pieces remind me of Edie Sedgwick.

UCLA lecturer and his kind wife.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vintage Tip Tuesday XXV

Once all the sparkle and excitement of the holidays ends, winter can start to feel drab. Wearing a bright PLAID wool or knit coat can bring both warmth and a delightful patterned flair to your wardrobe though. Although one stare worthy patterned coat is sufficient...collecting them can become addicting. Just make sure your vintage find fits you beautifully because altering a coat can get expensive and the deal you thought you got is no no longer a deal. Dry cleaning is crucial, however, to having a clean and moth free smelling coat. Have a Happy New Year looking cozy and chic...or spiffy and striking for you men!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Inspirational Icon Monday: Audrey Hepburn

There’s a reason Audrey Hepburn was and continues to be so beloved. So talked about amongst fashion gurus. Her style still constantly emulated. The girl crush of the female population. Very little of this undying praise for Miss Hepburn has to do with her profession as an actress, however. Yes, who doesn’t love the Cinderella type fantasy Sabrina offers with two handsome men vying for her love or as the adventurous princess in Roman Holiday? Then there’s her turn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s where she is the loveable commitment phobe country girl turned posh city escort. No matter what character Hepburn took on, her graceful elegance, genuine loveliness and kind spirit sparkled through. She was the unconventional beauty that men could safely bring home to mothers and women wanted to be friends with.

Born in Begium and mostly raised in London, Hepburn dreamt of becoming a ballerina. The combination of fleeing her British home for the Netherlands during World War II, and then the trauma of having the Germans occupy her town and cut off food supply caused dance to take a back seat. When she did return to her ballet studies, her trusted teacher assessed that due to her taller frame and malnutrition during the war, Hepburn would be an excellent ballerina but never a prima ballerina. Needing more money to help support her and her mother, she decided to pursue gigs as a chorus girl in the London theatre and extra parts in the movies which eventually escalated into minor film roles. When she landed the title role in the broadway production of Gigi (despite her telling producers she wasn't qualified), her lively performance was seen by the right eyes and received the chance to screen test for Roman Holiday which she was cast in once Elizabeth Taylor had to decline. This part won Hepburn the 1954 Golden Globe, Academy Award, BAFTA and a world-wide fan base.

Although she was signed for a seven picture contract, Hepburn required she have a year between each film so that she could continue performing in theatrical productions since her true passion was dance. Along with her slew of other awards in 1954, she also went on to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in the play Ondine. Her leading man, Mel Ferrer became her husband in 1955 for the next 14 years. They had a son in 1960, and by 1967 she made the decision to walk away from her acting career and focus on motherhood.

This dream of being a mother had been so strong that she had walked away in 1954 from her affair with William Holden once he revealed he had had a vasectomy. She wasn’t willing to have her son be on the sidelines of her life--he was going to be her focus. She said, "One thing I would have dreaded would be to look back on my life and only have movies. It would be terribly sad, wouldn't it, to look back on your life in films and not know your children? For me there's nothing more pleasant or exciting or lovely or rewarding than seeing my children grow up...and they only grow up once, remember." After being divorced for less than a year, Hepburn married psychiatrist Andrea Dotti who fathered her second son. The marriage lasted 13 years but ended after Hepburn had had enough of Dotti’s infidelity.

The remainder of her life was devoted to her most treasured role as a Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Her own experiences during the war caused her to spend much of her time in third world countries showing compassion toward starving children and doing all she could to bring them assistance. This heart for others, her humble evaluation of her acting talent, her non-judgmental attitude, elfin beauty, smart humor, and the wisdom she gained from her self-admitted mistakes and trials in love, and her overall joyful outlook are just some of the reasons she is still considered a role model for the female gender. When a journalist asked how she has kept such a positive attitude, Hepburn replied, "I've accomplished far more than I ever hoped to, and most of the time it happened without my seeking it. I didn't expect anything much and because of that I'm the least bitter woman I know."

Audrey and I spying in our vintage scarfs and trench coats.