Peacock Living

My day job is pretty much all-consuming (you try running a magazine and then finding time to talk about weird shit here). PLus, don’t we all have attention-deficit disorder by now? Didn’t I read that somewhere? Regardless, for style icons and tips on how to live a more organized, cleaner life, contemplate subscribing to my newly created daily newsletter, Peacock Living. But rest assured, things will still be popping up here!

Jagged Sophistication: The Empress of Emotion

tumblr_l0a92aFL0M1qby3a4o1_500_thumb[2]Hollywood, 1955

Everyone you thought dead was there.

Joan Crawford had eloped to Las Vegas with her fourth husband, Alfred Steele, but Billy Haines was having none of it.

“I told her an elopement took all the fun out of it for everyone else,” Billy told me over the phone when he called to invite me to the party he was throwing. “So I’m having everyone over to the house. Just something small. Cocktails around the pool.” He paused. “But black tie.”

He didn’t have to tell me. Any party for the Empress of Emotion required putting on the dog—even if it was allegedly just drinks with a few old friends by the pool. I hadn’t seen Joan in a few years, but she and Billy were still as close as they were in the old days at MGM. He remained undaunted by her increasingly terrifying demeanor, but I had long since lost whatever use I might have once held for her. Nowadays, all the news I got about Crawford was from Hedda, Louella, and Billy, still decorating her houses after all these decades.  Continue reading

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Jenny and the Jaws of Life

10174In case you’ve never read Jincy Willett’s brilliant short story collection Jenny and the Jaws of Life, please do. Here’s one of the best lines ever written by anyone anywhere:

I can’t sleep, and I’m not so much depressed as humiliated, both by slapstick catastrophe and by the minute tragedy of my wasted talents.

And then go out and read her subsequent three novels. And be thankful to have them to read now, because 15 years went by between Jenny and her next book, Winner of the National Book Award: A Novel of Fame, Honor, and Really Bad Weather.

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Dispatches From My Unfinished YA Novel

June pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights from her backpack and opened the window that faced the woods. “Smoke?”

“Don’t mind if I do!” I said. She and I had been sneaking smokes for a few weeks now, inspired by how glamorous people in old movies seemed. She passed me a cigarette and lit it for me, then lit hers. We both inhaled, but only June started coughing.

“I can’t believe you don’t cough,” she said, wiping away tears. “Everybody coughs the first time they smoke!”

“Maybe this is what I’m good at,” I said. “Mrs. Wallis was telling us about resumes. Maybe I should put this under special skills.”

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The Troubles of the Lucky

“I am sick of the troubles of the lucky. I never liked them, really have tried to live without them. They have no true seriousness.” —Lillian Hellman

Inexplicably, autumn makes me think of Lillian Hellman. Perhaps it’s explicable, after all: I first read Scoundrel Time early in the school year my freshman year of high school and I read Peter Feibleman’s memoir Lilly, about his tempestuous relationship with Hellman, in October 2004.

That particular book is a vital read if, like me, you fell in love with Lillian Hellman’s much vaunted honesty (mostly vaunted by herself but no matter) and then fell into disgust when you realized how much she embellished, exaggerated, stole, or just plain fabricated. What Feibleman’s book does better than any biography I’ve ever read of Hellman—even her biographers can’t help but reveal their dislike by the time they’re finished—is present a woman who is difficult, capricious, and captious, but still gallant, kind, and fascinating to be around. We tend to forget that the people worth something are usually not the gentlest souls; I’m not sure why Hellman suffers more from this than the rest, but I will cling to the picture Feibleman paints of her in Lilly and try to reconcile it with the rest of the truth.

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Returning Again and Again to ‘Closer’

I couldn’t possibly begin to tell you how many times I watched the trailer for Closer a decade ago, but please note that I still routinely watch it. The clips! The songs! Those lines! In honor of the film’s 10th anniversary (!), please watch it for yourself and remember where Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen all were a decade ago.

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Just an Old-Fashioned Girl, Like Eartha Kitt

We could just enjoy the lyrics to this song and Eartha Kitt’s way of sending them up. But let’s also talk about the fact that, in mid-20th-century America, some TV show put Eartha Kitt in antebellum, Southern belle costumes.

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