The Breath of Eternity

– a review of Opus Oils’ The Divine Collection – Isis

Many, many gods and goddesses have made their indelible impressions on history, imagination and the human mind. Mythology is nothing more nor less than the sum total of every lesson we humans need to learn in order to evolve and move forward, and so those many gods and goddesses are all expressions of basic human truths and a basic human need for the numinous, the sacred, that which is both above and beyond us and connects us with that deep, secret bedrock of our very selves.

Among all those many gods and goddesses of our storied past and present futures, one of the most important of all is the Egyptian goddess Isis. She was the embodiment of the ideal woman, wife of Osiris, mother of Horus, the Queen of Heaven and the giver of eternity in the afterlife. When Osiris was murdered and thoroughly dismembered by his brother Set, Isis walked the earth to find for all his scattered parts, and when she had them, she transformed herself into a kite, flew above him and breathed him back to life.

Even Christian iconography and its many thousands of images of the virgin Mary and baby Jesus traced their origin directly back to Isis and baby Horus. She was worshiped from Egypt to Britain and from Tingis (in modern Morocco) to a remote Essene stronghold near the Dead Sea. The Roman writer Apuleius in the second century quoted her:

I am nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen of the ocean, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are, my nod governs the shining heights of Heavens, the wholesome sea breezes. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names … some know me as Juno, some as Bellona … the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship call me by my true name…Queen Isis.

All these many years later, Isis is also an all-natural perfume in Opus Oils’ Divine Collection, and all these many perfumes later, her arcane magic has been so very hard to resist.

Kedra Hart told me that that Isis contains no less than three different kinds of lotus absolute – pink lotus, white water lily, which is often called lotus but in fact is another species of flower, and the fabled blue lotus which was used everywhere in ancient Egypt.

Blue lotus is an intriguing bloom. Every morning, it emerges from the water and opens up its petals to the sun, only to close them up at noon and retreat back into the water. It was a symbol of immortality, used in many medicines, presented to the Gods – and even to Isis – and its blooms were famous not just for their haunting perfume, but for their effect – they were soaked in wine and drunk as an aphrodisiac. The very scent of blue lotus itself has been shown to have psychoactive properties on the brain, and recently, a study proved the Egyptians were on to something – blue lotus contains phosphodiesters – which make Viagra so effective!

Isis is a hard perfume to pin down. Those three unmistakable lotuses – the blue, the pink and white water lily might make you think that Isis would be aquatic and ethereal, when in fact it is nothing of the kind.

A very long time ago, I once had a boyfriend who made a point of taking me to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen when the blue lotus bloomed to present me with a flower or two. Once you’ve sniffed a lotus, it’s impossible to mistake it for anything else – it is floral and green, earthy and warm, heady and haunting.

Right from the beginning, lotus is apparent – a juicy, jasmine-flecked, deep, complex lotus. The spicier pink lotus peeks out among the jasmine and the more ethereal white water lily too, all of them somehow a sum total of lotus both magical and alluring. As it opens up its fragrant petals on your skin, that exquisite sandalwood note I find in many Opus Oils is detectable in the far distance, but for a very long time, it’s all about those lotuses. Isis is no ordinary Goddess – and these flowers are no quotidian blooms. They entwine themselves around you in a warm, sensuous hug, and after a stressed out day that has you spread thinner than gold plating, suddenly, all your missing pieces come together into one fragrant entity, standing tall, standing proud, as serene as a secret lotus unfolding its petals in the sunrise among the reeds of the Nile.

I may be only frail and human, and I may never be immortal, but even I sometimes need a little centering calm in my own busy life, a reconnection with all I hold sacred, and Isis does just that.

When you are centered at last, secure as any earthly goddess can ever be, that beautiful sandalwood sings with frankincense and myrrh their redolent tales of sacred and profane, of worship and adulation, of all the many secrets Isis knows and shares with every woman who needs that grounding, that centering in an often frantic life, and finally, you can – as I did – imagine yourself as Nefertari, Ramses the Great’s queen, in the wall painting above. She has passed her test and weighed her heart on Anubis’ scales, Osiris has proclaimed his judgment, and the Goddess Isis – protector of all women in life and in the afterlife – steps forward to bestow immortality upon her or even you – that Breath…of Eternity.

Notes: Blue lotus absolute, pink lotus absolute, white water lily absolute, jasmine, sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh

Opus Oils – The Divine Collection – Isis is available as perfume oil, parfum and Eau de parfum, bath and body oil, bath salts, body lotion and body butter directly from the Opus Oils website. It will no eternity at all before I buy up one of everything!

Image: Nefertari and Isis, from Nefertari’s tomb, 19th Dynasty, the Valley of the Queens, Egypt.

Image of “Pink Lotus”, © Cecilia Webber

A Tintannabulation of Skin

 A review of Opus Oils’ Eau Pear Tingle 

So far as our senses and sensory impressions are concerned, all too often we tend to take them entirely for granted. We will always be able to appreciate the visual beauty of a burning crystal clear sunset, our ears and minds will marvel at a perfect F over C, our fingertips vibrate with the anticipatory pleasures of touching silk, skin or velvet, and all the thousands of sensations that together spell out “chocolate” will always be addictive. And for a dedicated hedonist/perfumista, what could be more important than our sense of smell to awaken all our other senses?

Now imagine you’re an anosmic who has lost your sense of smell due to trauma or illness, and in an instant, over one fifth of your entire sensory register is…gone. Suddenly, your sense of taste is vastly diminished since so many complex taste sensations are more smelled than tasted, suddenly flowers are only able to be appreciated for their visual beauty and not their fragrance, and as for perfume, well, really…what’s the point? Or what about being born congenitally anosmic, that is to say without any sense of smell at all?

We’ve all experienced bad colds that killed our sense of smell and taste. For epic colds, my sister swears by Naga chilis so thermonuclear, not even native Kerala Indians will go near them. And as it happens, she’s on to something.

Such are the workings of the human brain, that even with anosmics, they don’t lose what’s called the trigeminal response – that is to say, the nerve that registers things like the heat (or pain!) of chilis, the prickly bubbles of carbonation, the cooling sensation of mint and many other responses that are tied to your nose more than you think.

A few months ago, the writer Michelle Krell Kydd of Glass Petal Smoke issued a perfume brief via the social media of Twitter and Facebook. The challenge was to make a pefume that would both register with anosmics as well as appeal to non-anosmics, since is there any reason why anosmics too shouldn’t experience the pleasures of wearing a truly good perfume for themselves as well as their surroundings? After all, the rest of us may wear perfume to please ourselves first and foremost, but no small part of the thrill – at least for me – is to make an impression, too.

One perfumer took up that challenge – Kedra Hart of Opus Oils, whose mother was diagnosed as an anosmic after a skating accident when Kedra was a teenager. So Eau Pear Tingle was created, and now that I’ve tried it too, I can tell you this – this is not your usual ‘perfume’.

In order for such a perfume to succeed, it had to appeal in a different way, to work for anosmics and also to satisfy the rest of us as a true perfume does – with complexity and evolution, and by triggering that precise trigeminal response that tells an anosmic—yes! There’s something new on my skin!

So there is…because right away, Eau Pear Tingle announces its presence with the tingling sensation you might know from Vick’s Vapo-Rub or Tiger Balm…nothing nearly so obvious but emphatically present – soft, sensuous and simultaneously warm and cool at once – and even more surprising is that sensation on your skin stays with you for as long as the scent itself, and really, how great is that?

Wait! It gets better! But first, let me hear you scream…

Eau Pear Tingle as a perfume is best classified as a fruity-floral-oriental, which tends to make perfume bloggers break out in verbal hives, if not howls of derision for their sheer, unavoidable ubiquity in the mainstream perfume market. So before I’m pelted with rotting bottles of Giorgio Beverly Hills, may I say that this is Kedra Hart, darlings, and with two notable exceptions, no one does fruit+floral better. Combined with the uniqueness of being able to feel it, it takes the concept of wearing perfume to a multi-sensory experience you won’t find anywhere else.

It starts green and minty, effervescent and slightly astringent to the nose – the spearmint that gives it that effect on skin – and in seconds, what smells like a tropically flavored cocktail of pear, pineapple and coconut starts dancing away, even though neither pineapple nor coconut are listed in the notes. Lime/linden blossom and jasmine must give my nose that impression, and they are thick, heady and truly luscious to behold – and not indolic in the slightest. What next happens as the flowers and fruit fade to sensuous green embers is a woody, elegant, vintage feel of the musk, pine and a glorious sandalwood – an accord I’ve begun to recognize in many of Opus Oils’ perfumes as a definite signature.

This sandalwood is not the sandalwood we’ve had to settle for these days, this smells like the very best of very vintage Mysore with all its many facets of magnificent, moody, sensual wood…a journey in time and on skin back to the bad old days when opulence wasn’t an advertising byword or overused PR ploy but a fragrant reality you trailed in your wake, precisely the kind of trail that gets you noticed for all the very best of reasons!

If I had to put another name to Eau Pear Tingle, it would be…wearable champagne. Think about it – half the thrill of champagne – apart from its taste and effect – is… all those thousands of bubbles dancing their cancan in your mouth and up your nose – stimulating the very same trigeminal nerve this perfume does.

I love the unusual – in life as well as perfume – and Eau Pear Tingle is unusual both in its creation and its effect, and as unique as Kedra’s perfumes always are. It happily satisfies all my perfumoholic urges for exploring new territory – a multi-sensory time trip from the future through providing a sensation – the present in its sparkling fruity-floral richness, and the glowing, vintage depths of its long-lasting drydown, a wave and a knowing wink to the wonders that were that so many of us still revere and love. Most of all, however, there is that wonder and shock of unique …like strumming a pear guitar, or like the tintannabulation of skin to make a music all its own that everyone should be able to sense.

Notes: Spearmint, lime blossom, pear, jasmine, white musk, pine, sandalwood

Disclosure: A sample of Eau Pear Tingle was provided for review by Opus Oils.

Don’t miss Michelle Krell Kydd’s excellent article on anosmia and the development of Eau Pear Tingle, as well as Kedra’s own words, too!

Images: Pear Guitar, vir41, Eau Pear Tingle atomizer bottle by permission of Opus Oils.

Mount Rushmore in twill on a beach

– a review of Tiger Powers’ ‘Starfucker’

Once upon a time, it took merit to become famous. To become famous, you needed either the merit of a happy genetic accident, the merit of talent and accomplishment, or else just the undeniable merits of a perfectly matched pair of 34DDs.

These days of course, it takes nothing at all. These days really is the infamous age Andy Warhol (pretty celebrity-obsessed himself) foretold, of fifteen famous minutes for everyone for absolutely nothing at all, although it usually helps to be good-looking, whether or not you’re able to back that up with some other…talent.

Don’t believe me? Two words: reality and TV. Feel free to insert your own horror stories here. I rest my case.

And yet. And then. And then again, there’s Tiger Powers, Hollywood fetish model, musician and face of Opus Oils, and who is one of only two exemplars of the masculine gender whose mere image is enough to completely distract me from whatever it is I happen to be doing at the time, despite being neither short, balding, over the hill or from New Jersey.

I first encountered the chameleon charms of Tiger during a fit of serious indigestion indecision of a kind unique to fumeheads and perfume bloggers – when I browsed Opus Oils’ website looking for samples to order. Mind you, this was well before I even sniffed Kedra Hart’s marvelous creations, and as if indigestion indecision weren’t enough, suddenly I had to open my windows, because either my geriatric PowerBook was overheating or I was.

Certainly I was by the time I reviewed ‘Dirty Sexy Wilde’ and as if the perfume weren’t quite indecent incandescent enough, Tiger channeling a devilishly delicious version of Oscar Wilde was no help. At all.

So I next really put my laptop in it when I concocted the idea of a perfume story for the lovelies known as ‘Les Bohemes’ and made Tiger the star attraction and instigator of a time-travelling night and Hollywood party to remember. In not one, but two installments!

Some time later, I received a garish envelope from Tiger containing his new, signature release…and lo and behold, it’s named…Starfucker. Not only does this new scent have about the coolest name ever (because I’m that kind of post-punk arrested development imp), it brings with it absolutely no associations of any kind of night that starts with free champagne, access with a VIP and a limo ride and ends with a brutal early morning reality check in the far reaches of condo hell in Marina Del Rey.

Tiger Powers, let’s not forget, is so much classier than that and would surely never do such a thing. Call me a dreamer, but I know I’m right!

This little sample vial is instead Essence de Tiger, down to and including – so the press release states – samples of Tiger’s DNA…blood, sweat and tears. Fancy that – a Tiger you can clone!

So how is it? Is it rock’n’roll and sin and perdition? Deviously devastating? Is it outrageously good-looking, packed with illegal quantities of feline charm and urban jungle camouflage stripes under the Klieg lights? A weapon of mass seduction?

The short version: no, yes, yes and absoeffinglutely! Arrange them as you please!

The long version is a long, drawn-out sigh of…oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! If you have fond memories of the former glories of such immortal classics as Dior’s Eau Sauvage, which was a summer staple for me (too) long ago, or Acqua di Parma, which my late beloved stepfather wore and I will forever associate with class, wit, and all arts manly, then Starfucker is so easy to love, it’s ridiculous, precisely for not being what you might expect from an icon like Tiger Powers.

Instead, it sashays out of the bottle on a California sunbeam of effervescent fragrant fireworks, the kind that smiles a mile wide and shines down upon you as you bask in that summery glow…well hello how are you, it seems to say, and suddenly, your heart skips a beat and you really, truly do believe – in spite of all your lifelong cynicism has taught you otherwise –that anything at all can happen, and whatever happens, it will always, but always be good, even if you have other ideas.

Should you have other ideas, they’re not too far behind, either, when that swellegant lavender, jasmine and sandalwood make their star appearance and turn in the spotlight, and by the time some long hours later when life’s a beach and that’s all you need, that’s precisely where you’ll be, dipping your toes in the sunset Pacific wrapped in the beachiest, sexiest kind of happy drydown. You, yes, you too can devastate the diehards and slay the unsuspecting with Starfucker and they’ll never have a chance to do anything at all but surrender to your charm.

C’mon Tiger, ‘fess up. You did that on purpose, right? 😉

Meanwhile, as I frantically reassemble my neurons into something resembling a brain and a readable review, I’m, well, sold. Sold on the idea of wearing this with a vengeance, like so many other of Kedra Hart’s fragrant fabulosities, sold on the teenaged thrill of telling people what I’m wearing since I haven’t evolved that much past the age of tongue-in-cheek, and utterly sold on the vicarious thrill – truth? Fiction? – of wearing someone else’s DNA…so long as it’s DNA worth wearing. I won’t do that for just any ol’ Joe Schmo…

So long as I try not to think of that PR photo that makes me think…

Mount Rushmore in twill on a California beach.

I can dream. Oh, can I…

Notes for ‘Starfucker’: Lime, green mandarin, lemon essence, Italian bergamot, orange flower water absolute, Seville lavender, jasmine, sandalwood, Iso-E Super, Amber, Vetiver, Black agarwood and oakmoss.

Tiger Powers’ ‘Starfucker’ is available as Eau de cologne, bath and body oil, body lotion, body butter and bath salts from the Tiger Powers website. At mind-blowing reasonable prices for something so good!

Image courtesy of Tiger Powers, used with permission.

Did We Evuh!

– Part Two of the story of Opus Oils’ ‘Les Bohemes’ collection – and a swell party…

Behind me stood a dark-haired man wearing a tux and a large, lupine grin on his face. Not tall, not young but nothing old, he had the look of someone who lived carefully but well. Italian ancestry was in the mix somewhere, if his nose were anything to judge by. A pair of flirting brown eyes seemed to be saying “Dessert. Definitely. Something with…chocolate.

“My dance card is empty, I’m afraid.” What made me say that?

“I don’t take no for an answer.” Before I could blink, he swept me out on the floor, among the dancers and into a corte, holding me tight in the Argentine style, and I followed in perfect time and perfect step, no small achievement for someone who back in the twenty-first century had five left feet with one inch left over.

“Countess Giulietta Moovonova, was it?”

“Let me guess,” I flirted right back as he steered a self-assured course among the crowd on the dance floor, one hand on my back. “You must be Romeo.”

“I’m your host.” We turned, dipped, swirled back among the dancers. “Why is your dance card empty?”

“Well, usually, I prefer to simply sway in a dark corner.”

“ My favorite kind of corner. I prefer to do other things there, though,” he laughed back.

“Such as dally with dubious countesses?” Goodness, where did this come from, and how could I have learned to tango so perfectly from riding in a Duesenberg?

One black eyebrow lifted. Whether it was my conversation or the fact that I had just hooked him with a gancho, we both stopped on a dime. “Only when duchesses aren’t available. I have standards.” That lupine grin again, that warm hand on my back, burning through the silk.

A couple across the floor, the woman in a sunset-orange dress, gave us a look. Hers was quite approving. I took that as a good omen.

“’Quel dommage,” I sighed. “So do I.” He was so close. Two glasses of champagne made me feel more than a little reckless. “I’m sorry I’m not a duchess.”

Smooth as silk, we began to float over the tiles again, melody and harmony in motion and a music all our own, and as we turned and dipped and rose, he said after a while, “I’m not.”

Only in Hollywood could moments be so magical and tangos so perfect. I never wanted this one to end.

A long while, more champagne, many tangos and a whoopee-making dark corner later, I located a powder room where those glorious gals from the Packard breezer congregated in front of the mirrors, fixing bobs, reapplying makeup, adjusting stockings. None of them paid me any mind as I walked in.

“So who is that Sheba dancing with our host? The, ya know, Countess something?” asked the yellow dressed blonde as she spat into her mascara. “He must think she’s the cat’s pajamas. Those Europeans. Us American Janes can’t compete with all that. And she’s wearing a Vionnet, the minx. Saw it in Vogue last month.”

“Jealous, Gold Digger?” laughed the redhead. She ran her fingers through her hair. “Shouldn’t think he’d be your type.”

“He’s not.” Gold Digger replied, leaving narcissus and likely a lot of havoc in her wake, dug for a lipstick in her bag. It bore the name ‘Tangee’ in bold red lettering on the side of the tube. “Too demanding, I hear. And twisted with it, too. I like my sugar daddies grateful, ya know? A gal’s gotta look after herself, after all. Right, Jazz?” She turned to the girl in green who had hauled Tiger off to the garden. She emanated jasmine and a lot of promises she might or might not keep.

Jazz removed a bit of lipstick from her teeth. “Oh, I dunno…that fella, Count Vlad, he’s been looking after me all night in high style. I want to know where he found that champagne. That stuff is something else.”

“The bee’s knees,” agreed the beautiful brunette in white and tuberose and a suggestion of coconut. She sat down on a settee, unearthed a cigarette from a case in her purse, arranged it in a tortoiseshell holder, lit up and exhaled in a long, grateful sigh. “What a dancer sheik he is!”

“Li’l Nico, you would say that.” The violet-scented stunner in the beaded dress twirled up errant strands of black hair and readjusted the jeweled combs. “You jump on any swain you find!”

“She should talk, and you shouldn’t neither, Dapper…I saw you on the dance floor, all right.” The brunette in purple velvet had a distinct Southern drawl. “I don’t know what was in that bottle Bootleg found in that drawing room, but it was…” she swayed ever so slightly on her feet… “somethin’ else…”

“Speakeasy…” The orange blossom blonde sighed. “Have you been at the hooch again? Look at her! She’s absolutely spifflicated!”

“Heck, yes!” The redhead in the gold dress smoothed out an eyebrow and turned around. “She’s been at Bootleg too, can’t you tell?”

“Baloney! You should talk, Sugar, you carrying on that Charleston on the pool with High Hat.” Jazz bent down and straightened her stocking seams.

Orange Blossom pulled at the neckline of her dress. It seemed to have slipped a little lower since her arrival.

“Put a lid on it, ladies. Don’t be such bluenoses, would ya? Just because this is the swankiest party we’ve been to this week is nothing to get goofy about.” As she turned away from the mirror and toward the door, I walked all the way into the room and over to the mirror. The conversation came to a screaming halt.

Orange Blossom – already, I’d determined she was the leader of the pack – sashayed over and gave me her hand. “Hi!” she said brightly. “I’m Giggle Water, and this is…” her arm swept out to the other girls, “is Dapper, Sugar, Li’l Nico, Jazz and Gold Digger. That sauced brunette over there is Speakeasy. Obviously, she’s been doing a bit more than speakin’ easy with Bootleg all night!”

“Hello. I’m …Giulietta.” I turned toward the mirror. My lipstick was all gone, and no wonder. Those dark corners were dangerous. So were short, Italianate Big Cheeses.

“Is it true you’re from Europe?” asked Li’l Nico. “You and that swell Vlad fella?”

“Yes…” I repinned my hair, straightened my stockings.

“Ladies…” I heard a voice I knew at the door. It was Tiger. He sounded like he had intimate knowledge of quite a few bubbles in that enameled bottle. “Are you going to be in there all night?”

Eight women turned in perfect synchronicity to the mirrors and checked themselves one last time. Stocking seams straight? Necklines adjusted? Lipstick, mascara? Hair?

I pinned a rose in my chignon just a little tighter. One slightly spifflicated Sheba. Golly, that was a whole Breathalyzer in itself, I thought. The perfect time to misbehave!

In the foyer, Tiger pulled me away from the gals with a big smile and a slightly breathless “Later, girls!” In no time, I was parked on a sofa in one of the drawing rooms and there was champagne instead of air in my glass. Outside, the jazz band had kicked it up a notch. I could hear whoops and what sounded like Jazz and Speakeasy showing off their Charleston skills to the party crowd. “Where have you been, woman?”

“Misbehaving in a dark corner with the host,” I said and downed a bit more champagne. There wasn’t a lot left in the bottle by now. Soon, I gathered, our Duesenberg would turn into a Dodge. “I hear you made quite the impression on those gals outside, Count Vlad.”

He laughed. “I still have no idea why I picked those names.”

“Don’t tell me. It was the champagne.”

“That’s it! How could you guess?”

“Experience, darling. It’s such a witch.”

Meanwhile, Speakeasy had located eighteen feet of gleaming mahogany in the dining room next door, French doors open to the night outside. Faster than we could blink, Bootleg jumped up on the table and Speakeasy with him, and in no time, another crowd poured into the room like so much free hooch to admire their Charleston skills, up and down the length of the dining table like galvanized, jazzified tarantulas, all flashy silk and flashing eyes, while their audience clapped in time to the syncopated jazz beat. Right as Bootleg slid on his knees from one end to the other to stop adoring by Speakeasy’s feet, we heard a woman scream.

The entire party came to a halt in a heartbeat. Somehow, Tiger and I followed the direction that scream into the library, where a roaring poker game had been happening all night with a very full pot, and in a sofa at the other end of the room was the explanation for the scream. “But I did nothin’!” protested Gold Digger as the unflappable butler hauled an older, florid gentleman off her. “I’m on the level here, right guys?” She threw that statement at the poker players in the corner. “We were just kanoodlin’ on the sofa, see, and suddenly, he just goes all limp on me, see, and I didn’t know what else to do, so I…”

I never knew who it came from. It had to be one of the poker players. “Well, high time that bastard dropped dead. He owed me forty grand!”

It soon transpired that not only was the gentleman a rather important movie producer in big trouble, he was also utterly dead.

The way the butler acted, he was no stranger to dead bodies. He laid out the deceased on the Chesterfield and went in search of his master.
“Sic transit…” mumbled Tiger and poured more champagne. There wasn’t more than a glass total left in the bottle.

While we stood around wondering how to kickstart the party back, the host materialized out of nowhere.

“I’m so sorry, but we’ll have to continue some other time. The ambulance and the police are on their way now.”

In an instant, the poker pot, the chips and all the players evaporated from the room. Soon, a river of partygoers, those dazzling girls included poured out of the front doors and on to their waiting cars. Speakeasy and Bootleg staggered out to the Packard.

“Of course I’ll drive!” I heard Dapper say. “I’m the only one of you sauced bozos who can!”

Looking through the open front door, I was amazed to see the pink clouds of sunrise. Time did fly when you had fun!

“Count Vlad…” Romeo shook his hand. “Thank you for coming tonight. Some other time. Without fatalities, I hope.”

“Of course.” Tiger glanced down the hill, where the Packard disappeared in a cloud of dust and a roar of engine. Who knew what trouble those girls could get themselves into?

“Countess.” Romeo snapped me out of my reverie. It was past five AM, after all. “It’s been a pleasure.”

“It has,” I concurred. I tried not to think too hard about those brown eyes broadcasting right into my own. “Chocolate. Lots. Of. Chocolate.”

“Until the next time!” he reached out and kissed the palm of my hand. Before I could blush as pink as the dawn, Tiger hauled me off to our waiting Duesenberg, and before I could protest, we were heading down the hills toward Hollywood Boulevard and the Jitterbug Perfume Parlor.

“What a night!” Tiger split the last champagne between us. “Did we have fun? Did your wish come true?”

“Did we evuh!” I sighed happily. They would never believe me back home. Who cared? This was Hollywood. Where anything could happen, and last night just did.

A thick blanket of fog rolled down over the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific as we ate up the boulevard, so thick, the driver had to slow down as he went. All too soon, the Duesenberg came to a halt outside a building we could recognize, but the sign over the door said ‘Madame Movonova. Fortunes told, card readings. Satisfaction guaranteed.’

It was so strange. One moment, we stepped outside on the street in all our party finery, the next, I woke up on that chaise to Kedra peering down on me. A very empty bottle of Belle Epoque stood on the table. “You two…” she sighed.

Tiger stirred next to me. “Did we have fun last night?” he mumbled and sat up, looking slightly the worse for wear.

“Did we evuh!” I sang to my own surprise. My head throbbed in agreement.

We gave each other a look, a look Kedra couldn’t quite figure out. The instant before we both sang out in unison:

“What a swell party that was!”

The soliflore collection of Les Bohemes is available at Opus Oils, in Dapper (violet), Heavy Sugar (amber), Giggle Water (orange blossom), Li’l Nico (tuberose), High Hat (green tea), Speakeasy (wisteria), Jazz (jasmine), Gold Digger (narcissus) and Bootleg (vetiver). Guaranteed to kickstart any party. Take my word for that!

With thanks to all the inspirations…Kedra Hart, Tiger Powers, a Cole Porter song, a Duesenberg and a Madeleine Vionnet dress.

Image: From the 1928 MGM movie ‘Our Dancing Daughters’ starring Joan Crawford and Anita Page, taken from mothgirlwings.

A Swell Party

– Part One of a story of Opus Oils’ ‘Les Bohemes’, starring Tiger Powers and a certain bottle of champagne..

It was late at the Jitterbug Perfume Parlor on Hollywood Boulevard after yet another roaring launch, and the only ones left at this hour were Tiger Powers and yours truly, parked upon a chaise with our feet up on the table.

“We should do something,” said Tiger. “You’ll be going home soon, and we do want to make sure you don’t forget us in a hurry.”

“I could never do that,” I answered. “Haven’t had such a blast in years.” True story. Whatever occurred could never be too bad. I was in Hollywood. Where anything could happen and all too often did.

“Fun! How could I forget?” he exclaimed. “It so happens I have just the thing…” He walked off toward the back and returned a few minutes later brandishing a very distinctive champagne bottle by the neck as jauntily as any Stratocaster.

“Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque!” I was floored he remembered. “My favorite champagne! How sweet.”

“Not at all!” His grin was as wide as Sunset Boulevard. “This was sold to me by a gypsy on Sunset who claimed it was magic and should be saved for something really special. Or someone. You. Let’s open it, I say.”

“Such a flatterer you are,” I sighed happily. Did I tell you the man was devastating?

He was certainly devastating the foil on that champagne bottle. “Flattery gets you everywhere in this town, sweet!” The cork popped off with a small, expensive sigh. Out of nowhere, two champagne flutes materialized. He poured. “Now.” He pulled me to my feet and turned me around to face the mirror. I saw the Parlor with its velvet, fringe and flocked wallpaper, and right in front of me, the reflections of our Friday night Hollywood selves. “Before you drink, I want you to make a wish. Think of what you would like to happen – anything at all.”

“Should I click my heels together three times first?”

“Wrong movie, sweetheart. You’re not in Kansas any more.” He bent down and whispered in my ear. “Close your eyes. Make a wish.”

“Bottoms up?” I winked at his reflection in the mirror.

“Absoeffinglutely!” He laughed back at me.

I could think of a lot of things to wish for, but finally, I made a wish, drank down that glass of delicious bubbles and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, I was utterly amazed to see that Tiger was now wearing a tux, and I was wearing a 20s dress of rose devoré silk with a tulle neckline and sleeves, cut on the bias so I felt about eight inches taller and at least sixteen times more fabulous than before. My hair, usually loose over my shoulders, was now elegantly twisted into a marcelled, loose chignon accented with roses at the nape in the same sunrise shade as the dress. Even my makeup had that same 1920s look, with a shade of dark red lipstick I hadn’t worn since my Gothadelic glory days.

“Fess up, Tiger. What did you put in that champagne?” He winked at me in the mirror. That man could wear anything and make it his own.

“Bubbles, sweetheart! Nothing but bubbles and all my most dishonorable intentions!”

“My kind of guy!” I breathed into the mirror. A shimmer of light near the floor made me look down, and I saw the distinctive flash of sunrise pink Mary Janes and, ohmygawd, silk stockings! This could not be happening, but it was. Roll with it, I thought, just for one night. Roll with it!

Perfume! How could I forget! I had been wearing Absinthia all night. I reached for another spray with the words “Et in Absinthia ego.”

“Et in absentia ego,” he quipped back. “Come on, Cinderella. Your pumpkin awaits outside!” And he whirled me around and away, through the room and out the door.

On the street, nothing was the same. It wasn’t even night any longer, but a long, slow burn of a sunset over the Pacific in the distance. I saw orange groves towards Santa Monica, and I saw…a dark green Duesenberg parked right outside, a uniformed driver standing to attention by the back door. A Duesenberg. I turned to Tiger, but he was already whispering something in the driver’s ear.

“Whatever you do,” he murmured as I slid across a few acres of glove soft leather in the backseat, “just remember a few things. One, so long as there’s still champagne in this bottle, tonight will never end. Two…you’re not in Kansas any more.” He refilled my glass. “We’ve fallen down a rabbit hole! And three…” he lowered his voice and looked me right in the eyes as the Duesenberg slithered in all its awesome glory up Hollywood Boulevard toward the Hollywood Hills to the east, “whatever else you do, don’t call me dude! Got that?”

“And champagne, even!” I lifted my glass. “So where are we going?” So long as I had champagne, everything could happen. And perfume. Et in Absinthia ego. I drank those bubbles down.

“A party of course. Invitation only. You’ll see.” He winked again, and as I sat back and wondered. What kind of night would it be? What misadventures could happen? With Tiger, who the hell knew?

Twenty minutes later, the Duesenberg rolled though the gates of a long driveway on a steep, wooded street and finally came to a stop just as a valet jumped forward and opened the door. Tiger jumped out first, and took great care not a drop of champagne was spilt in his glass or his bottle, and I hastily grabbed a velvet wrap and beaded evening bag I found on the seat beside me. He kissed my hand and winked again as I got out. “Leave the introductions to me,” he whispered.

What had I got myself into? “Whyever not?” I took a deep, deep breath, a breath full of all my hopes and dreams and all the fun I had yet to have. Might as well start it here.

“Who may I announce has arrived?” asked a very grand, very chilly British butler at the top of the steps of an opulent Mediterranean-style house at least the size of my ambitions.

Tiger rose to his full and very imposing height and stated grandly, “Count Vlad Izmir and Countess Giulietta Moovonova.”

After two glasses of champagne and that build up, it was all I could do to keep a straight face. I glared at the butler. Haughtily, I could hope.

At that precise moment, a Packard convertible roadster came roaring up the graveled driveway and to a screeching halt a few inches behind our Duesenberg. Seven lovelies and two dashing youngbloods with slicked-back hair in white tie and tails poured out of the car like nine sparkling champagne bubbles.

“Darlings!” exclaimed a vivacious, saucy blonde all in white with an orange blossom corsage. “Have you missed us, since the last time?” She ran up the stairs as if she had done it a thousand times before. “Well, come on you slowpokes! The party won’t start without us!” She giggled, an infectious, musical laugh that made everyone laugh with her, even me.

In they went, these bright young things all in a laughing conga line, a dark, devastating beauty in a beaded violet dress, a sultry redhead in gold, another brunette all in white, an exotic beauty in purple velvet, a glorious girl all in green, a blonde in yellow who seemed to redefine the very word, and the two young men, one a prototype California blond who cleaned up very well, the other a dead ringer for Valentino, with those same smoldering eyes.

Inside was a grand, tiled foyer full of potted palms and party people in party clothes, draped over the stairs in conversations, milling in and out of the rooms opening off the foyer with glasses in their hands. There must have been quite a crowd at this party. Off on our left was a ballroom with a dance floor and a tango orchestra, up ahead was another room, and beyond, a glimpse of a garden with a boarded over area and yet another orchestra playing jazz tunes. Already, couples were jitterbugging in the twilight outside, glimpses of silk and satin flashing under the lights strung up in the trees around it. On my right was a library, where a roaring game of poker must have been in progress, because I heard a voice that could only come from Brooklyn exclaiming “Whaddaya mean, the pot has a limit of five hundred dollars? That’s pocket money where I come from!”

“So, mister,” Tiger turned around and saw the girl in green beside him, a breath of jasmine in her wake, “did you bring your big sister with you or what?”

“Certainly not!” I heard myself saying. “He’s with me to ensure I get into the maximum amount of trouble…”

“With the minimum amount of fuss…” Tiger continued. “So I heard you were a count…” She grabbed his arm and hauled him off in a cloud of heady tuberose toward the dance floor in the garden to show off his jitterbug skills. “So what are you counting?” They walked off and away.

“Where’s Flapper?” I heard a voice say behind me as the giggly blonde took her own glass of champagne from a passing waiter. She drank it down, reached for another, and gave a contagious giggle. “Can you believe it?” she exclaimed, “Flapper had a date tonight at the Roosevelt, some producer fella who said she should be in movies…Wonder if he’ll survive the night?”

The admiring throng that surrounded this orange blossom special roared their approval and carried her away.

I walked into the ballroom, where a whole florists’ bouquet of couples were tangoing across the tiles. The room was so large and so beautifully appointed, it had the feel of a movie set, with a crowd of dress extras showing off how well they could dance the night away to the latest Buenos Aires Pugliese tunes. There was that devastating girl in violet with a sultry swing in her hips as she followed a beau around the other dancers, I caught glimpses of the redhead and the California blond on the floor, and on my right the blonde in yellow chatted up an older man who seemed quite taken with her charms. Right when I was about to move through the crush to look for Tiger and that third glass of Belle Epoque that would really get me in trouble, I heard a voice behind me.

“Care to dance?” it said.

(To be continued…)

Image: We Know What You Did Last Night

With profound thanks to Kedra Hart and a certain Twitter conversation that planted the seed of this idea…