Paris: Backdrops for Photo-ops with Peter and Riley Brack

Riley Brack on the Pont Alexandre III with the Eiffel Tower in view (Photo by Peter Brack)

Riley Brack on the Pont Alexandre III with the Eiffel Tower in view (Photo: Peter Brack)

Peter Brack at the Woodstock Hostel (Photo by Riley Brack)

Peter Brack at the Woodstock Hostel (Photo by Riley Brack)

By Theadora Brack

Celebrating photographer Man Ray’s upcoming August 27th birthday, let’s trip the de-light fantastique in Paris with two of my favorite photographers in the world, Peter and Riley Brack. First, though, let me offer a bit of full disclosure: they’re among my favorites not only because they’re my cousins but also because they’re both great lensmen and adventurers, as you’ll soon see.

During the final leg of their recent month-long European expedition, this dream team documented the rues of Paris without rest, capturing the city with infectious zeal and zest. Their portraits coolly mesh old with new, fully embracing a sacred new Proustian world of dynamic, overlapping, ever-changing juxtapositions.

As Man Ray once wisely put it, “To create is divine.” I couldn’t agree more.

Peter and Riley set the scene. (more…)

Paris: Rendezvous with Lady Liberty



By Theadora Brack

In celebration of the recent July 14th Bastille Day in France, let’s doff our “bachi” to my favorite Franco-American collaboration, the gigantesque statue of Lady Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in the New York Harbor.

This year, I’ve got new images, along with one taken by our own special photographer friend, Maurice Sapiro. While playing the trumpet with the 279th Army Band in Europe in 1956, Maurice documented the streets of France. So without further adieu, let’s play forward with some homage, shall we?

After all these years

Our own 151-foot tall beauty is still looking fierce in her spiky nimbus (that’s right, mythically speaking, it’s not a crown!) and matching floor length chiton in all its copper green tonalities. An exquisite nod to the style of classical Greece, I must say. All the rage in Empire France, too.

As the late, great designer, Christian Dior once put it, “Darling, your toile with the cinched waist is perfect!” (more…)

Paris: Smooth Sailing at the Department Stores

Smooth Sailing: “First fashion show held in the air” Lord & Taylor, 1931 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away! Calling all bargain hunters: It’s that most wonderful time of the year in Paris. “Les Soldes d’Eté” launch today (Wednesday, June 24, 2015). I look forward to the “Sales of Summer” all year long.

In celebration, here are a few new tips for scoring big at the centuries-old grand magasins during this sizzling five-week affair to remember.

You know the thrill, so crank up the printer. (more…)

Rome: Timeless Images of the Eternal City

Fashion show at the Sorrelle Fontana studio, featuring Ava Gardner, Rome, 1954 (Image: T. Brack's archives)

Fashion show at the Sorelle Fontana studio, featuring Ava Gardner, Rome, 1954 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

“Playtime Pants” by the Fontana Sisters, Villa Borghese, Rome, 1955 Photographer: Massimo Ascani (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

Dear friends, Romans, and incurable romantics, lend me your pointy cat ears, kid gloves, and sunglasses. Blame it on the balmy breezes blowing to and fro, but I’ve got a strong hankering for a generous spritz of some misty time travel. That’s how we flow.

As promised, this week we’re making a pilgrimage back to Rome with photographer Maurice Sapiro.

So, get to packing! Don’t forget your coins for the Trevi Fountain. However, leave the party ball gowns and “Playtime Pants” at home, because we’ll also swing by the Sorelle Fontana studio, and nip some stylish garb to call our own.

Fontana Sisters

Helping ignite a worldwide love affair with Italian Haute Couture during the 1950s, Micol, Giovanna, and Zoe Fontana outfitted the curves of the likes of Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Kim Novak, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Jayne Mansfield, and Audrey Hepburn.

In addition to her signature draping and beading, Micol Fontana also strutted her stuff as the fashion house’s ambassador at large, fearlessly trekking all over the globe. Victory laps, most likely, because her promotional campaigns possessed “real legs.” Her legs, in fact.

According to one zippy New York Times headline, the enchanting designer traveled with a personal “international wardrobe,” made up of no fewer than 24 custom-made outfits and 70 prêt-à-porter pieces.

“If I had time to make them, I’d wear a new dress every day. I love to change my clothes—I feel that clothes really change one’s mood,” said Micol. I completely agree. And apparently, so did actor Cary Grant, who gave her a lift home after her very first fashion show in Hollywood. (more…)

Paris Tips: Paradise Found


Pass the new-fangled Ambre Solaire, 1935 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

This week, as a teary adieu to Mad Men, let’s catch some bliss and sunrays. On gossamer wings, follow me to the terrace at the Musée d’Art Moderne, located on the eastern arm of the Palais de Tokyo. Built for the 1937 Exposition Internationale, here is one of my favorite havens in Paris. The wine is affordable, while the view of the Eiffel Tower breaks hearts faster than Don Draper.

On the terrace, you’ll also find voluptuous nymphs chill-axing by the poolside. Wearing nothing but sheer confidence and stylish do’s, don’t hate them because they’re still beautiful. According to master coiffeur Acacio Pezzutti da Silva, our mod squad is sporting the softer 1930s rolled-up version of the bobbed hairdo, originally fashioned by Antoine de Paris in 1909.

Never underestimate the power of a flattering hairdo. Perhaps this explains the strength they exude?

As my grandmother Helen used to say, “If you look like a million bucks, you’ll feel like a million bucks.” I couldn’t agree more.

Trekking to Paris?

Don’t leave the city without indulging in a beverage (or two) on a café terrace. Sure, your drinks may cost a little more than in a grocery store, but the upside is that you’ll have courtside seats for people-watching, and you can stay as long as you like. So don’t forget to pack your sketchbook or selfie stick! (more…)

New York: A Shopping Spree

A Pretzel Break at  Bergdorf Goodman and the Grand Army Plaza (Photographs by Theadora Brack)

A Pretzel Break at Bergdorf Goodman and the Grand Army Plaza (Photographs by Theadora Brack)

An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant (Image: Movieposterdb)

An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant (Image: Movieposterdb)

By Theadora Brack

Start spreading the news! Grab your glad rags and shopping bags. This week, we’re trekking to New York, New York for some springtime faire du lèche-vitrine.

Whilst day tripping, time is precious. However, it’s possible to visit most of my favorite centuries-old department stores in one day. I’ll also throw in a few cinematic tidbits. I’ve been walking Fifth Avenue since the age of eight. I’m still cuckoo for it.

Here’s how Anaïs Nin described New York City to Henry Miller: “I love the proportions, the amplitude, the brilliance, the polish, the solidity. I look up at Radio City insolently and love it. The newness. The vitality. Just bring your own contents, and you create a sparkle at the highest power!”

All aboard? Let’s glow.

Miracle on 34th Street

We’ll kick-off our jaunt outside Macy’s at Herald Square. Commandeer a few chairs, while I trap the still almighty hot-to-the-touch salted pretzels.

After we’ve admired the vitrines and massive pots of tulips, we’ll gaze up at the nearby Empire State Building, the closest thing to heaven in this city. It’s still true. However, before crossing, do look both ways or else you, too, will have a star-crossed Affair to Remember! Besides, Cary Grant left the building years ago. (more…)

Springtime in Paris: Rise and Shine!

Get to Packing! We've got places to go and people to see! (Images: T. Brack's archives)

Get to Packing! We’ve got places to go and people to see! (TWA Press Shot, 1958 Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Full Steam Ahead! (TWA, 1958 mage: T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

Calling all Guys and Dolls: Get ready to step out, and I don’t mean maybe. Start packing! Springtime has arrived, making it easy, breezy to tour, explore, and adore. This season we’ll not only brave New York’s concrete canyons to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s vitrines, but we’ll also waltz back in time to the Eternal City of Rome with one of my favorite photographers.

And that’s not all. In the weeks ahead we’ve also lined up a rendezvous at a centuries-old Parisian fashion house. So there’s no need to pack your ball gown yet. I’ve got you covered, Cendrillon! O, sigh do sew! Pinch yourself. That’s how we roll.

Today, though, let’s rise to the occasion at Le Grenier à Pain in Montmartre. Hook, line, and teeth sinker! Here is where I buy most of my baguettes and jambon-fromage sandwiches. Consistency, attentive service, and a wild house selection of cakes, breads, and tarts are just a few of the Grenier boulangerie’s captivating qualities.

Flour Power

Add award-winning to the mix, too. Back in 2010, Boulanger Djibril Bodian won the 2010 “Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris” which not only earned him a medal and cash but also earned him the honor of baking bread for the Palais de l’Elysées for one year! America’s own White House pales in comparison! (more…)

Paris: A Sentimental Journey

A Lovin’ Spoonful by Chocolatier Daniel Mercier at the Lyric Hotel on rue de Gramont (Photo by Theadora Brack)

By Lieut. Joseph E. Trounstine Published in 1918 by Leo. Feist

By Lieut. Joseph E. Trounstine Published in 1918 by Leo. Feist

By Theadora Brack

Fully embracing World Book Day and the bittersweet “gallop of remembrance,” this week I’m sharing my growing stash of patriotic sheet music. I’ll also include an excerpt from one of my favorite love letters, by poet and founding surrealist Guillaume Apollinaire to Madeleine Pagès, written in 1915 while he was enlisted with the 38th Regiment of Field Artillery.

Setting the Scene: Living with Gusto

Madeleine Pagès was his muse. A cartridge casing served as his inkwell.

While serving in uniform in Champagne in the Premier Guerre Mondial, Apollinaire showered both his sweethearts and fellow artists with daily dispatches from the front: “Polishing galore, theory more than galore, maneuvers on foot, sabre, musket, revolver, horse management, riding, gymnastics, and a reasoned, practical and thorough study of the 75, which is a beautiful weapon, as beautiful, strong and sweet, I think, as one of my poems.”

Oh, say can you see?

Often by moonlight the prolific poet penned his calligrammes and signature “fireworks in steel.” Way ahead of the Dada hairpin curve, Apollinaire’s sensuous, erotically charged poèmes simultanés are still almighty hot to the touch, just bursting with joyous desire. I am in awe of his composure to compose his burning lines of verse while under actual fire, again and again. (more…)

Paris Valentine: 50 Shades of Sepia

Un baiser c'estcomme un poème! (Image: T. Brack's archives)

Un baiser c’est comme un poème! (French sweetheart postcards below: Theadora Brack’s archives)

C'est lui parler pour un instant (Image: T. Brack's archives)

C’est lui parler pour un instant (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

In celebration of Saint-Valentine’s Day, next week I plan to share my all-time favorite love letter by poet and founding surrealist Guillaume Apollinaire to Madeleine Pagès, written in 1915 while he was enlisted in the French army’s 38th Regiment of Field Artillery during the Great War.

Apollinaire’s prose is pretty darn steamy. You are in for a treat, in fifty shades of glorious sepia.

In the meantime, let’s salute to love with our annual toast. And yes, let’s share another sweet-and-sour Sidecar!

Repeating myself: Invented at the Ritz during the aforementioned Great War by head barman Frank Meier (and author of the “Artistry of Mixing Drinks”—Harry’s New York Bar devotees, look away!), you go and grab the cognac and Cointreau while I squeeze the lemon and crack the ice. You know the thrill!

But especially on this special day of the year, let’s not forget Frank Meier’s neat credo about what makes a great bar truly great. It’s not the drink recipes, and it’s not the décor. It’s the people. So spread the warmth. Straight up! I say, like there’s no tomorrow.

Until next week!

My love I am sending you a butterfly’s wing that I found today.

Butterflies have beautiful names but I don’t know them, beautiful mythological names.

May the autumnal hues of this wing suggest to you the even more delicate shades of love.

—Guillaume Apollinaire to Madeleine, October 1915 (more…)

Paris: Voyages Extraordinaires

La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde will keep on turning until February 15, 2015 (Photographs by Theadora Brack)

La Grande Roue at Place de la Concorde will keep on turning until February 15, 2015 (Photo by T. Brack)

Gloria Swanson was a shopper (Madame Sans-Gêne, Paris, 1924)

Gloria Swanson Shopped Around (Madame Sans-Gêne, Paris, 1924)

By Theadora Brack

Trekking to Paris in February 2015? This post is for you. I’ve got three tips up my zigzag sweater sleeve. So grab a pencil and the Dubonnet, while I crank up the ice machine and Érik Satie. Now, Voyager! It’s high time to sail thou forth, to squeak and shine.

1. Big Winter Sales

Got passion for fashion? Cuckoo for a steal? I hear you, loud and sincere, my moon glow. The “Soldes d’hiver 2015” (big winter sales) launched on Wednesday, January 7, and will continue through Tuesday, February 10.

Repeating myself: Prices start to drop and keep on dropping, so it’s a judgment call whether to pounce early and get the best selection, or wait it out a little and get the best deals. Again, to be perfectly honest, I do both.

Also, avoid the masses at the grand magasins by shopping during the weekday mornings. However, if browsing cheek by jowl with the Longchamp-toting crowd is your scene, well then, go with the flow. Giddy-up, I say!

Tip: Planning to shop at Galeries Lafayette? If so, do ask for one of their “Exceptional 10% Discount” cards. Present your passport at the information desk, located on the ground floor store near the rue Mogador entrance, and then get to bargain tag popping. (Printemps has a new V.I.P program. I’ll keep you posted.) (more…)


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