Friday, February 01, 2008

Ken Russell’s 1973 film Lisztomania has many things to recommend it. Roger Daltrey as Liszt playing Chopsticks on mirrored pianos surrounded by screaming teenage fans in prim bonnets. Ringo Starr in a cameo as the Pope. A Busby Berkeley musical number with a gigantic penis puppet. An extended homage to Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. And Wagner resurrected as a FrankenHitler.

But my favorite moment is a quiet one. When Liszt and Princess Carolyn of Russia decide to part ways. She tells him that she intends to write an exposé of the malfeasance of the Catholic Church. It will be in several volumes. It will take the rest of her life. And now, having the rest of her life planned out, she asks him what he intends to do with his life. (Hilariously, he decides to become a priest).

And so I find myself faced with some plans to make. I’m already in semi-retirement from the stage. My ambition has dried up. My interest in the outside world is at an all-time low. And I’m not doing anything in particular for the rest of my life.

Plan A: Get more Interests.
Kendo, archery, extreme ironing, ikebana, accordion, appraising Egyptian Revival jewelry, turn my living room into a Venetian palazzo. Hmmm. All these Interests are similar to ones I’ve already got.

Plan B: Become a patroness of the arts
In addition to the usual hand-outs and vegetarian dinners I provide for my starving artist friends, as well as the buck that every busker gets from me, I could support all the local arts organizations that I love. Become a member at Film Forum, Anthology Film Archives, WNYC, Gotham Chamber Opera. That already exceeds my budget. I guess I should pick one.

Plan C: Get an actual job
One that utilizes my skill set. Whatever that is. One where I am challenged. Or something. One where I make actual money. Or at least find someone to eat lunch with.

I don’t like this one at all.

Plan D: Become a philistine
Shall I devote myself to collecting vintage paint-by-numbers paintings of Clowns to adorn my hall? (I could call it Clown Hall!) Get a corgi. (Because they have those cute little legs.) Buy a new bed? Save $10 everyday and stick it in my mattress. Get a permit for a handgun. Become a Free Mason (oh, surprise, surprise, they don’t accept women), so I guess I’ll just wear a Shriner’s Fez.

Hey, that doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I’m a philistine already.

Plan D: Become a recluse.
Reduce my dependence on the exterior world to nil.

Plan E: Write one of those How to Be Fashionable for People With No Time (or Taste) books.
My therapist seems devoted to the idea of me writing a book. Any book.
I have perused these style manuals. Lynne Yaeger writes about them in her column this week. It is true, as she says, that these books are mostly common sense. Though I’ve found them quite outdated. All seem to advocate owning various “crisp white blouses” with different collars. Who wears those? I work in a fairly conservative office and I’ve never once seen a woman wearing a white blouse. She’d look like she was about to sing, or walk around with a silver tray handing out hors d’oeuvres.
And trench coats? Please. New York is a shot gun shack. It’s got two seasons: winter and summer. You’re either in a down coat, gloves and a hat, or you’re shvitzing on the subway platform in a cotton dress. You’d be able to wear that trench coat for exactly one day in May.

If only I could be so lucky, my style manual would be like Diana Vreeland’s much maligned: Why Don’t You…? Columns.

All of these plans have something to them. Perhaps I should do a little of each of them.

And so, goslings, to this silk blouse. I love the line drawings, the use of cream, tan, chocolate and orange. These lost princesses, castles and floating crowns. Mysterious row boats and escutcheons. Something about destiny and tarot cards. And I love how the blocks of color hover over this scene.

See Lisztomania or any Ken Russell film this weekend, goslings. The Boyfriend, in particular, is just the thing for the winter blahs.


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