Books on Deck: Beauty, Art, and an Aristocrat

More books on deck of wealthy, stylish people and crazy actresses of Hollywood’s golden age. Are you surprised?

This book coming out is like Christmas and my birthday combined. I had always wished for Karl to have a newsletter, and this is as close as it gets. No photos, sadly, but still has fun quotes. I follow his cat on Twitter… so, clearly I’m biased.


I’m searching for this one to pick up, so far she gets married a lot, is a crappy mom, and the lawsuits are here, there, and everywhere. Only interesting thing so far is her relationship with designer Charles James.


Poor thing, and she’s been on a no carb diet since the day she arrives in Hollywood and is suicidal (I would be if I couldn’t eat carbs anymore). I think she turns out okay in the end.


Miss Barbara Hutton went on a diet at Miss Porter’s School (Gene also attended there) eating nothing but biscuits and coffee. That doesn’t sound half bad! I haven’t cracked this open yet, but this is a random fact I know for some reason.


Excited to read this, a fellow CalArts alum who also paints in a way that isn’t preplanned. Of course, one who is not born a woman will automatically have a better art career than one who is.


British aristocracy? Yes please! Especially after this interview. I’m glad this memoir only goes up to when she’s 24 or there about, as I don’t care about David Hicks very much.


A lot of things I already knew, but so far, a few I didn’t. I quick read as I’m already half-way through it, but you know how I am about anything Joan Crawford. I love that it’s called a “divine feud”.


A Joan Crawford Problem

Most people who know me, they are aware of this problem — addiction really. My husband discovered how bad it could get sometimes, and he’s learned to cope. I have a Joan Crawford problem.

I don’t know when it began or why. I don’t even think I had seen many of her movies, but I do remember being a kid walking in to the infamous wire hanger scene as my mom was watching “Mommie Dearest” one night. I sat down totally dumbstruck, “mom, what are you watching!?” and I wanted to know all I could about this crazy woman as possible. Now I know a lot of people say the whole “Mommie Dearest” thing is the embellishments of a bitter daughter, and a lot of people say Joan was no where near the monster she is portrayed to be in the book and movie (even her own 2 youngest daughters), but if you’ve ever read anything Joan has written, you know that it isn’t that far off the mark. There are lots of crazy and eccentric actresses — why Joan for me? I really don’t know. A mix of fascination with her ambition, the quest for perfection, the sense of duty she had to her profession, a long career, and the fact she could hide her crazy in public situations…well, mostly. Perhaps it is because she is so unlike me that I study her in order to understand and be entertained all at once? I don’t have much of an opinion on her acting ability, and she could look a bit odd at times, but dangit, she’s still my Joanie for one reason or another.

I’ve seen all of her movies, I have just about every book on her (and am eyeballing this one right now), I paid way too much for an out-of-print paperback she wrote, I have a cigarette case with a picture of her on it, and I even got myself a Joan Crawford paper doll book!

It’s a good thing I don’t have a collector mentality paired with lots of disposable income, because it would be a lot worse than it is now. Autographed photos? You bet! A Barbie doll made to look like her? Oh man! Personal possesions auctioned off? Gimmeh! But no it hasn’t gotten that bad; I think I’ve kept it under control all things considered.  There’s only one movie in my collection: “Humoresque”. Which is really good, and it’s the only movie of hers besides “Rain” my husband actually likes! He won’t allow photos or posters of her anywhere in our apartment, though.

Calling myself an authority on all things Joan might be a tad much, but if there were ever a museum dedicated to her, I’d make a pretty awesome docent. I also take into account her cleaning tips, packing tips, and even some beauty tips! I often ask myself, “what would JC do?” and am not referring to the other JC if you know what I mean. Joan says that if you are about to go out on date the least you can do is douche; it’s the decent and courteous thing to do after all! You see? She’s full of gems!

There are several movies Joan did that are pretty close to her own neurotic, controlling and clean-freak personality. “Torch Song”, “Harriet Craig” and even “Queen Bee”. All of them are terrible but in a wonderful soap opera kind of way. Despite these being good vehicles for fabulous over-the-top drama and entertainment, my dream is to one day do a stage production of “Mommie Dearest” since I know every single line (and often apply them to real life situations!). Maybe with a cast of only 4? I think it could work. Who’s with me? Who wants to fund it? I get to be Faye Dunaway FYI.


Some people watch football or garden. I choose to dedicate my free time to reading about or looking at picture books of Joan Crawford. It’s a thing.

The Classics

I’m talking about pictures baby, not dusty old books!

If you’ve known me long enough, then you know I’m an old movie fanatic. I think it started with “Top Hat” initially, and some of the old Carmen Miranda movies that my mom used to watch. Sure there were the Shirley Temple vehicles, but I wanted stuff with fabulous sets and costumes! At age 8, I already wanted an art deco bedroom and fabulous evening gowns. Mostly I also liked how my mom would preface each movie before we watched it, like “Flying Down to Rio” she described as, “Dolores Del Rio is so dark, and the guy is so blonde and the whole thing is about how exotic she is, and how blonde he is — they work it out obviously”.  Of course my favorite movies I used to watch over and over were the Topper movies. I’m more a fan of “Topper Returns”; maybe because it is a murder mystery, but also because his wife Billie Burke is so ridiculous in it. It is also fun for me now because of what I know about Carol Landis, and a character in “Valley of the Dolls” (book version, not the movie version) being based on her.

Like many people into the old Hollywood movie thing, I’ve always been fascinated by the studio system itself. It was great actually living in Hollywood for a while, and working downtown, so I could geek out on stuff just walking around; things and places and events I knew no one else cared about as far as industry history. I’m also really into the pre-code films — and if you ever want The List of what you couldn’t do in film after 1933, I have it. It is truly amazing to watch pre-1933 movies like, “Blood Money”, “Skyscraper Souls” and “Baby Face” be so blatant in a context where, when you think of black and white films, you think of them being glossed over and hardly daring at all. My mom got me The Star Machine as a Christmas gift, and if you are into old Hollywood movie history and the business of it all, then you should get it for sure.  What amazes me is that even the silly little movies talked about throughout the book are things I’ve seen, even the bad Deanna Durbin crap. Maybe one day I’ll meet the author, because I know we’d have so much fun geeking out together.

So, if you are like me, you will love: Tired Old Queen At the Movies. That sums up what I feel like most of the time anyhow. Here’s a question: out of all the episodes, which 2 movies does he feature are the only 2 I haven’t seen? It is a good thing I don’t have a collector mentality, because if I did, I would have a film memorabilia collection much like Steve does. I think so far my only true indulgence was buying the out-of-print paperback of Joan Crawford’s “My Way of Life”. It was totally worth it, as you no doubt could tell.

If It Worked Once, It’ll Work Again

This is just getting ridiculous:

The Neverending Story? Really? And let me guess, they'll cut out the traumatic swamp scene just to keep it PC or some crap like that. My mother took me and a friend to see this movie when I was 4 or 5, and truly, a whole generation was traumatized by that scene — slower and more painful than Bambi's mom getting shot. But, I am a stronger and better person for going through it at such a tender age. Okay maybe not, but still.

Ideas, originality? What are those again? Hollywood, you really are going to so many new lows. The old saying of nobody went broke in Hollywood by underestimating the intelligence of America may be true to an extent, but this is just getting retarded and lazy. Just do an updated All About Eve and get it the hell overwith! That re-make of The Women translated so well to modern times, didn't you think?

This brings me to a question: how would you like it if people started to re-make classic albums? Seriously. I had this discussion a few years ago with Troy Gregory of The Witches/Dirtbombs fame, and he said, "you know what? I'm going to re-make James Brown live at The Apollo". Brilliant! Just to prove a point, what would happen if you rounded up a bunch of musicians to do this? How would you like Kanye West to remake Thriller? How about Coldplay remaking The Velvet Underground Peel Slowly and See? They could get Pink to be Nico for a follow up, amazing. Dark Side of the Moon would be great if Kenny Chesney had a hand in re-making it, don't you think? And the MC5 Kick Out the Jams should be re-made live as it was by The Jonas Brothers as I'm sure they could totally pull it off.

What other ways can we ruin the memories of your youth? Come on, we can think of something!

Read and post comments |
Send to a friend

Art Fartings

I guess I'm on the right track, according to the New York Times at least. Truthfully I think the painting of Selma is awful, and really, before you a get portrait done, you need to realize it won't be like a photo.

I've seen photos from both the "Yum Yum" show and "Forgotten Saints", amazing stuff. If you missed the black carpet opening for the "Forgetting Saints" show you can view it here in the pics section.

Next California exhibit is in April @ The Alternative Cafe & Gallery who have been doing some fab shows as of late (Bansky, Shawn Barber, Chet Zar to name a few). In fact, you should check out the "This Is The End" exhibit my friend Josh is curating on March 6th if you can.

Also in April as you know is my dual solo show w/ Andrea Heimer here in Cleveland. I've leaked 4 or 5 new baby paintings I've been doing, but that's all you are getting. I gotta be good and keep a lid on the rest. You can view some of what to expect here.

Read and post comments |
Send to a friend

Thanks Joan, I Feel Dirty Now

People asked me to write a little review of my totally overpriced paperback: “Joan Crawford, My Way of Life” that I broke down and bought at auction. It has since been reprinted in the wake of FX show “Feud”. I’ll try my best to remember the main lessons I learned.

Was it worth the money I spent, and do I agree with all the 5 star reviews on Amazon? Eh, not quite. Though there are some paragraphs that are pretty funny, and if anything the tone just confirms the “Mommie Dearest” book wasn’t that far from the truth. I like how she talks about how perfect her marriage was to her last husband, minus the black eyes and constant slappings. In fact I think 3 of her 4 husbands slapped her quite often. The structure and lessons taught in this book is very close to former Miss America — and ventriloquist — Vonda Kay VanDyke and her teen advice book in some aspects. And I won’t lie, there are some good points, but some are just unrealistic for average people.


Joan likes to gloss over stuff, like how her children were raised (she still refers to her youngest girls as “the twins” even though they were in fact born a year apart), her marriages, and the beatings she took as a kid. One story she thought was funny: She divorced 2nd husband Franchot Tone, and since she had miles of monogrammed towels and linens, she had one of her maids unpick every fiber from the “T” in everything with tweezers. Can you image how sore your hands would get? She then tells of how the maid was listening to the radio — almost done with this bullshit task — when she hears over the radio, “Joan Crawford has just married actor Phillip Terry in Las Vegas!” Joan thinks it is hilarious that the maid stormed out and said she quit. Yes Joan, hilarious. What’s even better and she fails to mention is that Joan Crawford wasn’t even her real name; it was name chosen as part of a movie fan magazine contest.

Joan also tells us that her German maid is named Mamacita because Joan was impatient about something and yelled to the next room “Mamacita!” because she couldn’t remember the maid’s name. The maid responded, so the name stuck. Look, here’s Joan on one of her many trips to Africa, totally overdressed for the villagers of course…

And I love how a bulk of the photos are dedicated to just how she and her maid pack and put tissue in all her clothes and then wrap them in plastic for all of her oh-so-busy goodwill trips and Pepsi bottling plant openings. 12 pieces of luggage is totally normal for her. I like how really, the lesson goes: Step 1.  Select your outfits Step 2. Get your maid to pack them. See…

Okay, so what lessons do I remember from Joan — besides the fact that she finds a way to tell you how busy she is on every page? Yes, she is that busy, busy enough her own children know to never disturb her without an appointment. Her phone rings off the hook you know, and she plans everything down to the detail.

Let’s see, I totally stock all the food items she lists not to stock: Bread, pasta, avocados, meat, sugar, potatoes, rice, olives, beans, butter, cheese, cream soups….well heck Joan what am I supposed to eat? Oh that’s right: cottage cheese and chicken livers, bacon, eggs benedict, meatballs, and bacon covered in peanut butter ?! Um, okay that seems a little strange.

Surprise parties are always supposed to be a restaurant…always!

Your housework should be done before your husband comes home, he shouldn’t even know what a vacuum cleaner looks like.

You should look nice and be fragrant when your husband comes home, because he probably works with much better looking and younger women than you.

Don’t ever talk about yourself or even so much as speak much when your husband and his friends are around, because nobody cares.

Get a job of some sort, otherwise people will think you are boring.

Sometimes men don’t want their wives to work, because they’re afraid they won’t get as much tang.

Before applying make-up, scrub your face with a washcloth. Really scrub she says. Harder, harder, I said scrub dammit!

Wash your hair in cold water with 6 eggs.

Your foundation make-up should be applied everywhere, neck, boobs, even to the back of the neck!

Everything should be monogrammed. Everything!

Inventory your closet 4 times a year, because you might have dust in the corners.

If you can buy off-the-rack clothing, you are brave, it is so much easier if you design your own clothes and have a dressmaker make them for you. Also, your liner and shoe fabrics should always match.

You probably have a lot of physical flaws. Freak out about them more, have photos taken of you from every angle and get them blown up to 8×10″ glossies. Study them, study how bad your physical appearance is and correct it.

Get a 3-panel mirror, because your ass is probably bigger than you think it is.

Exercise your legs the most, because men are leg watchers.

Scrubbing the floor on your hands and knees is best, because you might miss stuff in the corners.

Thanks Joan I think I’ll manage.

Ancient Movies, Pre-Code Films I Love

I remember when I was 20 or so, a younger guy from my college says, “Have you seen, like, every ancient movie ever made before 1965?”

Well, I haven’t of course. But it is scary that I recognize and know the names of actors from before 1945 all too often. I even know who else they’ve co-starred with, what directors, who they hated, who they slept with and any possible scandals as well.

Maybe I should have been a guide at the Max Factor Hollywood Museum after all? Anyways, here some “Ancient” movies I dig, and maybe you will too.

Female: She runs a car company, yells a lot at board meetings, sleeps with all her hot male employees and has a kick ass pad to boot. This movie is worth it alone for the art deco set design. As for the message that women should act like women and be soft and cuddly and not in any sort of power position that would make her husband feel inferior? Eh.

Employee’s Entrance: Warren William likes to play bad guy workaholics who do business any way they can. In this he plays a very driven Department Store manager; I’ve noticed men who have seen this movie just love his character. It is also very interesting to see how department stores used to operate, and all the jobs that no longer exist. Of course there’s drama and suicide too. At one point Warren even gets Loretta Young drunk on champagne and bangs her while she’s unconscious. Again, worth it for the costumes and sets. Are there any Warren William movies during this period where he didn’t play a ruthless business man gone bad who enjoys getting young girls drunk on champagne and banging them while they are unconscious? Well, I suppose “Imitation of Life”, but that’s gotta be some strong champagne indeed! Anyways, this is a lovely pre-code film with all sorts of drama and suicide very much like “Skyscraper Souls” without the office building part.

The Women: How can you look at this picture and NOT want to see it!? And mind you, Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer really did hate each other that much — they aren’t acting! This movie is “all about men”. There are no men in the movie actually, but you get enough catty one-liners and ridiculous costumes that they would look out of place. Joan Crawford and her bath tub are a hoot, and the movie actually goes into color for one segment: the fashion show. Again though, I’m not too crazy about former playwright/congresswoman/ambassador Clare Boothe Luce and her message in all of this: keep the husband at any cost, even if he is a lying, cheating, deserting son of a bitch.

Skyscraper Souls: Warren William is at it again being a bit of a creep with young naive ladies in the city. This time he is a bigwig bank president property owner at the tallest building in Manhattan. Oh but what debauchery and high stakes can happen when is comes to the sexy world of commercial real estate! The set design (based off the Chrysler building) and costumes again, so worth it!

Wild Boys of the Road:  A Steinbeckian picaresque, the episodic movie that follows the adventures of high-schoolers, who go from comfortably middle class, to dropouts who leave their families behind to ride the train to look for work during the Depression. At one point they settle in a shanty town in Cleveland known as Sewer Pipe City, a kid loses his leg to the train, a prosthetic is stolen, there are clashes with police, attempted rape, and more. I’ve seen this movie at least 8 times and I never get tired of it.