London Pepper (Perfume Thoughts: Apuldre, Molton Brown)

26132557-5353London has been on my mind lately. I just bought my plane tickets for my yearly big vacation, and it looks like I will be passing by London again this year, in July.  So today I wore Apuldre, by Molton Brown.  This brand makes Black Pepper shower gel, and it is my favorite shower gel of all time.  Years ago, I was in London and the brand was launching a line of fragrances, called ‘Navigations Through Scents,’ which is a series of perfumes that represent different parts of the world. One of them spoke to me instantly: Apuldre.  And big surprise why it did – first of all, it is the one that represented London, and secondly, this is the scent that most resembled the black pepper shower gel (In fact, they layer marvelously together)

Apuldre is peppery vetiver.  Meant to evoke the British countryside, the notes say juniper berrys, dried leaves, and gin and tonic, among other things. But all you need to know is that it is the smell of green leaves with pepper. I know that on paper it does not sound like the most appealing fragrance on earth, but I swear once you sniff it, you will be hooked. If you like pepper on your fragrances, you will be hooked at first sniff. It was a hot day at the desert today, and even though you would think this is the last fragrance to put on, I found its warmness a perfect antidote to indoor air conditioning. My only complaint is that the scent does not last, but overspray and you will be fine.

I remember buying this in London at the Molton Brown store near Oxford Street, and I am suddenly excited about what scent will represent my 2017 trip.

Susanna Sixties (Music Thoughts: The Look Of Love, Susanna Bartilla)

album_image_largeSusanna Bartilla is a singer based in Berlin and has released a new disc titled ‘The Look Of Love,’ which is a collection of songs from the sixties. Her disc’s blurb caught my attention: “Bluesy torch songs, swinging pop and latin grooves – the vibe of the Sixties, when Dusty meets Dionne with a touch of Mama Cass.” I also read that her biggest influence is Peggy Lee so that also was a plus for me (She previously released a tribute disc to Peggy) The disc is a little bit different, selections wise, and I give her props for this: ‘Sunny Afternoon,’ ‘Our Day Will Come,’ ‘Sealed With A Kiss.’ I do hear the Peggy influence, but they are from latter day Peggy, and I don’t know if it is good or bad, but it is kind of interesting – it’s light and airy, and does give an impression of carefree swing, which matches these songs perfectly. I had to listen a couple of times to some of the tracks because Bartilla sings ‘under the notes,’ and I could swear some of them are way under, making her sound like she is singing out of tune. This is the kind of recording that probably sounds better with each listening – it is very intimate and she caresses the notes so it’s perfect for headphone listening.

Pretty Ponzied (Television Thoughts: The Wizard Of Lies, HBO)

large_Wizard-of-lies-posterBecause I spent a good chunk of time working in the finance  operations, I am very much fascinated by the Bernie Madoff story.  For the life of me, I cannot see how he was able to operate his ponzi scheme for almost thirty years. I have been meaning to read the book by Diana Henrique about this case, and as it turns out, the screenplay of this is based on her book, and she even plays herself as the reporter granted an interview by Madoff inside prison.

Robert De Niro is brilliant as Madoff – he captures the calm insanity of a man who was able to dupe hundreds of people by having them invest money through his fund. I consider De Niro one of the three greatest living actors of this day, along with Mery Streep and Nora Aunor, but he does occasionally get lazy, as evidenced by some recent performances. But I bet this character inspired him, because he is on fire here. I especially like him in the later scenes, where you can see the almost relief that Madoff felt when he finally turned himself in.  Michelle Pfeiffer is great, too, as a woman who had to choose between her children versus her husband. When Ruth loses everything she has towards the latter part of the film, the scream she utters is haunting.

I wish it had a little more detail about the case (I heard the ABC miniseries starring Richard Dreyfuss had more) but this film, directed by Barry Levinson, focuses more on how the family disintegrated after Madoff’s confession. I read that by now, most people with less than two million invested have gotten their money back, and the rest will get payout sixty five cents to their dollars. This movie shows some of the horror these people felt, but not enough.

The Bette Parade Passes By (Stage Thoughts: Hello Dolly! – Shubert Theatre)

bwetMy biggest fear, before seeing the new revival of ‘Hello Dolly,’ now playing at The Shubert Theatre, is that Bette Midler would be playing Bette Midler, not Dolly Levi.  Midler has a big personality that she could easily usurp the character.  (Or worse, I thought she would do a Sophie Tucker Dolly)  But I need not worry, because the role of Dolly Levi is in good hands. Fifty years after she last appeared on Broadway, Midler comes back swinging, and hits a home run. Her Dolly is full of brass, sass, and charm. This is a most likable Dolly, and Midler knows when to give, and when to hold back. The best things he does here is to add restraint – she doesn’t mug, she doesn’t overcook her performance. She doesn’t need to – the book and music is near perfect, and her cast shines just as bright, so she just needs to let every piece fall in its place. But make no mistake – her Dolly is unforgettable, and when (not if) she gets the Antoinette Perry next month, it will be well deserved.  I would have to admit that her singing the score is more Midler than Broadway – and yes, if I have to be honest, some parts were a pitchy. If I were more of a purist, I would complain, But Midler will already have everyone at the palm of her hands minutes in, so nothing else would matter.

I guess I should mention everything else about the show.  The production values are first rate : Santo Loquasto’s sets are bright and cheery,  like we stepped into the She Loves Me parfumerie,  and seeing Warren Carlyle’s romantic choreography made my heart flutter.  Michael Stewart’s book show no creaks, and is there a more classic Jerry Herman score, with every song a veritable show tune (Talk about humming the scenery!) And the rest of the cast is near perfection, as evidenced by all their nominations. Kate Baldwin and Gavin Creel both have moments, and that’s sweet sweet cherry on top of this sundae. I know I’ll have both their solos on infinite loop as I listen to the cast recording.

Most of all, though, watching the show made me smile. Once Midler comes out with her  red gown with matching head piece. I had this emotion come over me that was pure giddiness. I can’t remember the last time a scene from any show from a recent production had that effect on me. A lot of today’s musicals tackle deep issues that it was nice to see just a simple, feel-good, and most importantly, tuneful show.  Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but for me that’s what makes a grand night at the theatre.


Jasmine Sport (Perfume Thoughts: Indian Night Jasmine, The Body Shop)

Indian_edtI am a jasmine-oholic.  Whenever I chance upon a jasmine scent, i always at least sample it. A while back, I got The Body Shop’s Indian Night Jasmine Eau de Toilette when they had it on a clearance rack, and I quickly filed it, never used it, never even sniffed it. And yesterday, while looking through my bottles, saw it, and spritzed it for the day.  According to their website blurb, this fragrance was “inspired by a moonlit night in a Mughal garden,” and how exotic does that sound, right?  Since this is, in reality, a ‘cheapie,’ I wasn’t expecting much. But shouldn’t I? I mean, Diane Von Furstenberg’s ‘Tatiana’ is a wonderful drug store scent, although I really I have not sniffed the current reformulation of it.

But this one, though – it’s just bad. The initial burst is jasmine-ish, but more on the chemical cheap kind. It very quickly dissolves into the base – and what is it – a generic sandalwood base musk, not unlike a men’s departments store ‘sport’ cologne. I have seen a lot of people complain about the longevity of this, but let me tell you, it’s been hours and I still smell this generic base. You would never have thought this was a floral scent. So, essentially, FAIL!

Bum Snatch (Movie Thoughts: Snatched)

f740cd5ffd0eb66e9b483518e89cb5c8I really did not like ‘Snatched,’ and I am a little bummed about it. I was really rooting for it, since I like both Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn (By the way, what’s up with Goldie getting second billing?)  They are even perfectly cast as mother and daughter. I really like the early scenes where their relationship was established. However, the screenplay by Katie Dippold went nowhere – even in Equador – that the film just lay lifeless after. Both Schumer and Hawn are game, and you feel like they are trying their best to resuscitate the dead film. It’s such a shame because both women deserve better material.

The Rain May Never Fall (Television Thoughts: The Kennedys After Camelot, Reelz)

073132I was looking for something to binge watching and decided to do the Reelz mini-series ‘The Kennedys: After Camelot,’ which I realize after is a continuation of a Kennedy early-years series the network had – which I never saw. This is just bad, and not even a hate-watch camp kind. Writer Stephen Kronish has made a dull story of all these characters, focusing mostly on the scandal and tragedies. Surely this family did more and meant more than the sensational stories? He doesn’t seem to like any of these characters he is writing about. Katie Holmes is fine enough as Jackie, but I can sometimes see the boredom in her eyes, alternating with ‘I can’t believe I am reciting these lines.’  Matthew Perry must have thought this was a prime role for him for he executive produced this as well, but he is an unconvincing Ted Kennedy, with his accent weaving in and out on the same scenes. The series, based on a book by J Randy Tarborelli is skewed more to the celebrity angle – a historic bill introduced by Ted Kennedy on Healthcare is treated almost as an afterthought, and the later scenes involving John F Kennedy Jr seemed to have been taken out of National Enquirer. I had a lot of laundry to fold and this show kept me company through most of it – that’s as close to a compliment I will give this show.