It’s not festive cold, it’s mean cold. It’s the hard cold that waits around a corner and slaps you when you turn. I enter the building, and my glasses immediately fog up, and I can’t see anything . . . but then I remember, there’s no one to see.

Except there is: I get stuck behind a guy who is wearing the most amazingly slack flat capacious jeans; they’re held up with old ratty suspenders. He had an entire buttectomy. He has no rear. The pants are like a curtain in front of an empty stage. He is moving quite slowly, and occupies the middle of the hall, so I cannot get around him. There are ten people downtown and I am stuck behind one of them. I think I can juke around him, but no: there’s someone putting up a Christmas tree in the skyway. Not until we turn the corner can I make a break for it.

And that’s the exciting part of the day. No, I take that back. I was at the pet store this morning, doing some research for a story, and heard the following announcement over the PA:

“Corona is available for pickup at grooming. Corona is available for pickup at grooming.”

No. Get out. I wandered over to Grooming, and waited until a woman came out with a rambunctious brown hound.

“Is that Corona?” I asked.

“She is,” she said with great cheer.

“I have to ask. When did you name her?”

“We got her in March.”

“So . . . “

“We named her after the beer, but also, you know.”

I am suspicious. It’s possible the dog was named after the beer, and nothing else, and they weren’t aware of the other implication. Not everyone follows the news. But now the woman is going to be standing at the dog park shouting CORONA, COME HERE. COME, CORONA. BAD CORONA. CORONA STOP.




Not that you asked, but: I think the greatest film is Citizen Kane. I think the greatest movie is Casablanca. The former is an amazing piece of creativity that rewards anew with every viewing: it set out to be Art, and succeeded. The latter set out to be a standard offering from an industrialized entertainment system, but got everything so damned right, so wonderfully 110% perfect, that it made the most American movie possible - even though it never sets foot in the States.

As a student of “Kane” - and doesn’t that sound pretentious - I was keen to see “Mank,” the David Fincher-helmed biopic of Herman J. Mankiewicz. I suspected the movie would elevate Mank as the real genius behind Kane, not that dog-faced pony soldier upstart parvenu wunderkind Orson. Sure enough: our hero is a dissolute alcoholic socialist-adjacent snark machine who drips witticisms and makes fun of Hearst at his parties, so natch, he’s the True Rebel Spirit, the Iconoclast, the real author of the movie.

This is not new.

I mention this for three reasons:

1. If you are a fan of black-and-white movies set in the late 30s, this is a black-and-white movie set in the late 30s. To be specific, the years in which a finely atomized cloud of Cream of Wheat suffused the atmosphere, and gave everything a strange soft white glow.

2. There’s a sic transit gloria mundi moment early on when we’re in the writer’s room at MGM, and someone introduces one of the scribes as “Perelman.” He’s later called Sidney. The reference is probably lost on most of the casual viewers. That’s all S. J. gets. He’s probably lucky to get that much of a shout-out in 2020, despite being one of the most popular humorists of his time, and, considering his effect on Woody Allen, one of the most influential. He was also remarkably unpleasant as a man, it seems. But still, worth more than a casual reference.

From Perelman's wikipedia page:

Perelman's personal life was difficult. In 1929 at the age of 25 he married the 18-year-old sister of his school friend Nathanael West, Laura West (née Lorraine Weinstein). The marriage was strained from the start because of his innumerable affairs (notably with Leila Hadley).

Curious about Hadley, I clicked on her page, and found the most mid-century intro:

Leila Hadley (22 September 1925 – 10 February 2009) was an American travel writer and socialite. Her books include Give Me the World (1958)

Give me the world! How romantic and mad!


Hadley obtained employment in public relations, first working for cartoonist Al Capp and was described in a 1950 article in Look magazine as "the chic, high-level, in-the-know, celebrity-surrounded career girl that millions of young women dream of becoming in New York." She later was publicity director for The Howdy Doody Show.

Get that girl a biopic, stat. At one point her hair made Louise Brooks look like Farrah Fawcett.

Here's the Life layout. Worth the click.

3. The affectations of the director extended to something that made me snort when I saw it, because it’s just there because, well, OLD MOVIE.

This is one of those dividing lines. There are people who recognize this - a mystery of childhood, perhaps never explained - and those who don’t know what I’m talking about.


I suspect you know what I’m talking about.




It’s 1940! Great year! Or not! In any case, the readers of Esquire were having a grand time, if you believe the ads. Never believe the ads. Too much.

Then the other man’s hand awkwardly crosses over until he can grasp the bottle securely, whereafter the giver relaxes his grip

I see this stuff all the time on the bottom shelf; never been tempted. Ever.

Looks like it could be a bad Arno, but it’s not.

Can't decipher the signature, which is buried in the purple sofa squiggles.

"What a break for some lucky chap"


So far, your Christmas gift ideas for men are ties, cigars, and liquor. How easy it was!


For men of action - quiet grooming!

This is more 30s than 40s, of course - the decade didn’t spring fully-formed the moment the calendar changed. The angle, the saturation, the colors, the lighting - all high 30s.


You’re sure to be a Christmas hit with Lastex:


Lastex is a type of elastic yarn that was introduced in the 1930s and was primarily used for swimwear, brassieres, girdles and corselettes. It consists of a rubber core surrounded by wool, rayon, silk or cotton threads. It was invented and distributed by the Adamson Brothers, a company owned by the US Rubber Company. It entered the market in 1931.

I wonder when the -ex suffix was first devised. Surely someone has devised a chronological index of popular product suffixes.


There’s a certain chaos to the ads of this period. At least for products like these. I suppose they want to emphasize the number of options over the brand, but if men thought like women they’d make the brand the thing, because it would add value no matter what he bought.

"The modern tempo of living.” What, I thought they were having a Depression? Or did the war in Europe suddenly make everyone move quicker?

The increased tempo of modern life was a staple in ads since the teens.

Santa recommends a Cigarette House:

Surely these boxes survived, but in all my years of poking around antique stores in towns small and large, I’ve never seen one.

Or I’d have posted it already.


There you go! Enjoy your Tuesday. There are some Websters, and I made an error on a few I'll have to correct later.




blog comments powered by Disqus