Smoke ‘Em If Ya Got ‘Em

Bette Davis Smoking A CigaretteThe loss of nicotine isn’t what makes me abruptly crave a cigarette. In fact, I had almost no withdrawal symptoms when I quit smoking this time around. I was relatively pleasant; I didn’t grind my teeth; I didn’t have too many moments of, “Oh, fuck it. Does anyone have a light?”

I do feel undone, however.

I’ve been rereading Mary Gaitskill this week, and one of her themes is the importance of props to our notions of who we are. Relationships falter when one’s props are no longer simpatico; frequently, characters assign one another slightly off signifiers, proving the utter implausibility of ever being able to accurately communicate with another human being. And for me, cigarettes were central to who I am. Was?

I feel bereft of my security blanket. Cigarettes buy you time. They’re an excuse, a motivation, a breather, an emotional barometer. They provide a literal smoke screen between the smoker and the rest of the world. That’s what I miss the most. I don’t want a cigarette when I’m upset because it’s soothing; I want a cigarette in the same way knights put on a suit of armor—they are my protection. And now I’m learning how to live without protection and sometimes the feeling is of overwhelming terror because who you were is not who you are becoming.

But then I think about all the money I’m saving, and the whole point is moot.

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Try to Set the Past on Fire

Jim_MorrisonWhen I was 14 years old, I was sitting in a parked 1970s GMC pickup truck in the back of my great-grandparents’ pasture—near the repurposed watering trough that housed goldfish—listening to the oldies station while taking a break from cutting back mesquite. And the DJ introduced “Light My Fire” by saying that the original was absurdly long, and no one thought it was a single until someone at the record company suggested cutting the lengthy instrumental break.

Not quite a decade later, I worked for the man who suggested that cut, presumably helping him write his memoirs but more accurately serving as an escort and drinking companion.

I don’t know what that story means, but I think about it a lot. What an odd factoid to have carried around for all those years. What a startling juxtaposition. There must be a meaning in there somewhere, but it’s buried too deep for me to excavate.

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April’s Icon: Joe Willie Namath

dogTRASH1-master675This coming month, why don’t we all turn our attention to Joe Namath, football star, style icon, and shiller par extraordinaire? Here he is shortly after leading the New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III over the Colts—an unheard of event that Namath had predicted like Cassandra at the gates.

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Goldie and Liza Together Again

I kept a VCR for far longer than I should have because I owned a bootleg of  Goldie and Liza Together, the legendary (and mostly forgotten) TV special featuring Goldie Hawn and Liza Minnelli essaying some of the popular hits of the day. Or, the then-recent yesterday. But one of the joys of YouTube is that I now have a place to watch all my precious memories, rather than storing clunky VHS bricks in my home.

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Day Drinking Memories

The summer after I graduated college, I had a good time. My roommate basically lived at her boyfriend’s; I was single, 20, and in love with New York City. And most importantly, I didn’t have a serious job. Well, actually, most importantly I had friends without important jobs who were available to start happy hour early.

The only reason we were able to while away the extended summer hours of daylight was because a bartender at our bar loved having us there. That meant we’d buy our first drink, and all the rest for the night were free. (I did my best to even the score by getting older men to buy some for me, as well.) And we’re not talking about beer; my friend and I were drinking his special Cosmo recipe. Serious stuff. Knock-you-down-the-stairs-but-you-don’t-bruise stuff.

He was always happy to see us, even when my age and drinking took on a darker hue. At 20, I was a fun, boisterous drunk. At 23, I was getting surly and my bad choices were hot on my heels. By 25, I didn’t go to the bar anymore. But for that first summer, I had a place where I could hang out every night and meet new people or bring in dates and then walk them to the subway and make a beeline back to the bar to dish them. Hell, when I went to visit family for a week I got a call from the bartender asking if I was OK.

He died this week, apparently. This isn’t one of those stories where I bemoan losing touch with him and talk about how short life is; life can be long, and life is filled with people who drift away after meaning something important. So I’m sad, but I don’t regret our abrupt, abbreviated conversation last spring, the last time I saw him. I’m a different person than I was at 20. But I can still recognize the importance of the people and things that were important to me then.

Seagram’s Wine Coolers: Where the “Party” Starts

This is something that aired on the television sets of America at least once: Bruce Willis dancing down a neon-lit alleyway with several women because, even though the fancy bar he was at sells his favorite beverage, the Seagrams Wine Cooler, he just wants to take his Miami Vice jacket off and sing in a dive bar (while also still sipping a Seagrams Wine Cooler).

I had no idea these commercials existed, but there are a lot of them. Here are three more! Worth watching just for the sass that Sharon Stone (!) throws at Bruce in the final one.

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I’ve Been Busy Sowing Wildflower Seeds

Guys, I’m sorry I’ve been MIA. I’ve been working out what is a priority and what isn’t, and in general recovering from a busy fall. And even though you only love me for my big sunglasses and Dodge Dart Classic, I don’t mind. My sunglasses are half of my personality anyway!

That being said, did you catch Miranda Lambert’s cranked-up-to-12 performance of “Little Red Wagon” on the Grammys? That girl killed it, and served a pretty accurate representation of me at karaoke.

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Far From the (George) Nader

RockHudsonandGeorgeNaderThis week, keep in mind the friendship between (and thighs of) closeted beefcakes Rock Hudson and George Nader, one of whom became a major film star and the other who found personal fulfillment.

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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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