Paris: Calling All Instagram Buffs

L'acteur grec by Baron Charles-Arthur Bourgeois, 1868, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Photo by Theadora Brack)

L’acteur grec by Baron Charles-Arthur Bourgeois, 1868, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Allo! C'est Moi! (Elle Magazine, 1955, T. Brack's archives)

Allo! C’est Moi! (Elle Magazine, 1955, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

Juggling social media platforms like a smooth operator (if I squint), I’ve recently added Instagram to my grapevine repertoire.

That’s right. During the month of November, I created a short stack of photographs of Paris—a baker’s dozen, to be exact! Pirouetting straight to the point: I am hooked. So stay tuned for more images.

In the meantime, if you are a fellow Instagram fan or fanatic, please leave a link to your Instagram portfolio below.

Always keeping my peepers peeled for inspiration, I’d love to pay a visit.

As Henry Miller once penned, “The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

I completely agree.

In advance, thanks for sharing your own indescribably magnificent world, too—through your art!

So carpe the diem, folks! Keep on snapping! (more…)

Paris: A Saintly Tour de Force

A Saintly Tour de Force: Let’s go rustle up some spirits in another dimension (Image: T. Brack's archives)

A Saintly Tour de Force: Let’s go rustle up some spirits in another dimension (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

(Elle Magazine, 1952, T. Brack's collection)

(Elle Magazine, 1952, T. Brack’s collection)

By Theadora Brack

Paging all saints and old souls: Snuggle tight because it is time to crack open my pleather-bound volume of spirited adventures in Paris for another retelling. ’Tis the season! For tricks, I’ve added new photographs and one divine tale, too. I’ve also got the wine and a tongue-twisting tarte aux pommes—all à la Julia Child ode.

Now, let’s go raise some spirits.

1. Saint Vincent de Paul

Whenever my mood needs a boost, I make a beeline to the Chapel of the Lazarists, tucked behind the Bon Marché department store on rue de Sèvres. It does the trick each and every time. Never looking more beautiful, here Saint Vincent de Paul hovers over the altar. Sprightly, lightly tiptoe up the tight flight of stairs in the back of the sanctuary for a closer view of the reposed gent and patron saint of horses.

Keeping it real

Ordained as a priest in 1600, Saint Vincent not only championed the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy, but he also encouraged them to work together on charity missions financed by public subscriptions (much like today’s Kickstarter funding schemes). Fully embracing crowdsourcing on the streets, the ahead-of-the-curve saint fundraised for prisons, orphanages, and hospitals. Nobody got left behind. (more…)

Paris Beauty Tips: The Fresh Air Edition

Never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned Air Bath, Aristide Maillol's l’Air, Tuileries (Photograph by T. Brack)

Never underestimate the power of an Air Bath, Aristide Maillol’s l’Air, Tuileries (Photograph by T. Brack)

I’m not the only believer in the benefits of a bain d'air (Elle, 1951, T. Brack's archives)

I’m not the only believer in the benefits of a bain d’air (Elle, 1951, T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Never, ever underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned “air bath”— whether it’s in the middle of the day or all alone in the moonlight.

As my fit-as-a-fiddle grandmother Emmae used to sing, “After an air bath, this little Brack birdie is back on track. Hear me soar!”

I couldn’t agree more. And I’m not the only big time believer in the benefits of a bain d’air.

Because bathers are gonna bathe

Apparently, francophile Benjamin Franklin also possessed a mad penchant for launching each day all au natural. Nestled naked in a chair by an open window sat the bigwig polymath—winter, spring, summer, and fall.

“You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here as a tonic; but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me, generally speaking, as too violent: and I have found it much more agreeable to my constitution, to bathe in another element, I mean cold air,” Franklin wrote to a Parisian friend in 1768.

“With this view I rise early almost every morning, and sit in my chamber, without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to the season, either reading or writing. This practice is not in the least painful, but on the contrary, agreeable!”

A royal treatment

Royal S. Copeland, M.D. would have certainly put his stamp of approval on Franklin’s daily pet ritual. In fact, he did.

In 1933, the Commissioner of Health of New York City shared a few D.I.Y. tips in his column: “Include air baths in the health campaign! Keep it up year ’round! Air baths improve the texture and tone of the skin . . . The baths should be taken in a moderately cool, well-ventilated room. For the first bath, only half the body should be exposed. As the body becomes accustomed to the cool air, more clothes can be discarded!” (more…)

Paris: Hobnobbing with Lady Liberty

The Statue of Liberty (a.k.a., “Bartholdi’s Big Daughter”), New York, New York Image: T. Brack’s archives, 1950s

The Statue of Liberty (a.k.a., “Bartholdi’s Big Daughter”), New York, New York Image: T. Brack’s archives, 1950s

Dorothy Mackaill, Motion Picture Classic, 1929

Dorothy Mackaill, Motion Picture Classic, 1929

By Theadora Brack

In celebration of Bastille Day 2016 in France, let’s once again doff our “bachi” to my favorite Franco-American collaboration, the gigantesque statue of Lady Liberty on Bedloe’s Island in the New York Harbor.

I’ve got new retro-rocking images, along with one tale of spunky heroism. So without further ballyhoo, let’s play forward with some homage to friendship, shall we? Grab a seat and a Perfect Manhattan in a coupe cocktail glass. Here’s the squeal.

The year is 1913.

Setting the scene: Witness if you will, two young women hustling up the spiral staircase to the Statue of Liberty’s crown. Nothing is going to break their stride. Not even their hip hugging hobble skirts! In fact, Margaret Donovan and Gladys Revere not only beat their fellow steamer passengers to the crown, but also commandeer the best vitrine in the room. Balancing on tipsy toes, they gaze out at the Big Apple, transfixed! The view from the grande dame’s starburst tiara is like nothing they’ve ever seen.

Suddenly, Margaret gets a wild hair, and attempts to wiggle through the teensy window and clamber down to the itsy-bitsy ledge just above Lady Liberty’s hairline. Then the unthinkable happened.

Sea legs, don’t fail me now (more…)

Paris: A Pompom Romp Through Old Parigi

It was a cloudy day, and the clocks were striking thirteen, Rue des Saints-Pères (Photo by T. Brack)

It was a cloudy day, and the clocks were striking thirteen (Rue des Saints-Pères, Photo by T. Brack)

Marie France magazine, July 1951 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

Marie France magazine, July 1951 (Image: T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

Snapping to le point, I’ve been on the hunt for the fantastical, slip sliding all the way, up and down the wet rues of Paris. Suited with waterproof shoes, a parapluie, and sponge-like senses, I’ve been striving to capture the heady, surreal sensation of experiencing the rustling, bustling Parisian cityscape as if for the very first time.

I focused. I opened my eyes more. Seeking what Jean Cocteau called, “true realism,” I squinted and daydreamed, too. With cat-like whiskers and reflexes, I followed the poet’s recipe to a T—adding more than a heaping dash of transcendence in order to discover “surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.”

I walked new rues, rode unfamiliar bus routes, often to the end of the line, while peering through my sea foam-tinted pince-nez spectacles.

I baked 33 batches of les Chouquettes from scratch. I rescued a toy cat from a fountain. I stepped, stepped to a dope Renaissance beat. I biked. I boxed. I saw tigers and clouds in my coffee-flavored “Dieu du Ciel Pénombre” beer, after bumping into Henri Rousseau’s spirit deep in the Jardin des Plantes at the end of a rain shower.

But still, still inside me, swirling deep, was a single burning question: Is it really possible to attach too many pompoms to one’s handbag? Always one to revel in the revival of a century-old craze, I think not. And let me tell you, the proof is in the puffing. I’ve spied the little darlings everywhere in the city—dangling from everything from scarves and necklaces to Gladiator sandals.

So yes! I’ve got much to share. Stay tuned for more limonade-flavored summertime Paris stories.

Clipping from Henry Miller yet again: “One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”

I completely agree. Now, let’s roll the tape! (more…)

Paris Treats: The Ooey Gooey Edition


Queen For A Day is my mantra while on holiday (Image: T. Brack's archives, Marie France, 1950)

“Queen For A Day” is my mantra while on holiday (Image: T. Brack’s archives, Marie France, June 1950)

By Theadora Brack

This week, let’s talk turkey! Grocery store chains may be your best bets for cutting costs while living in Paris, and they’re perfectly fine and dandy for long-term stays. But what if you’re visiting for just a week or two? Well then, I say, live it up like there’s no tomorrow. “Queen For A Day!” has always been my mantra while holiday.

When visiting one of the finest food capitals of the world—a place chock-full of bountiful “Bon Produits” (specialty shops), all managed by certified experts who are more than willing to share their vast wealth of knowledge—it is absolutely not the time to stoop to shopping at chain grocery stores just to save a few centimes. If you’re in Paris long-term, sure, but if it’s just for a week or two, then take in all those wonderful boulangeries, pâtisseries, chocolatiers, confiseries, glaciers, éspiceries, fromageries, charcuteries, poissonneries, caves, and cafés with a clear conscience. That’s what you’re here for.

And don’t be shy. Ask for recommendations, and in the process you’ll take home more than the receipt. Make every meal an experience! After all, it was Julia Child’s very first lunch in France that changed her life, and set her cookbook project in motion. Years later she wrote, “I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite!”

I completely agree. Here are a few of my favorite little pleasures not to miss while you’re in Paris. Grab a fork, and let’s dig in! Bon Appétit! (more…)

Paris: Tête-à-Tête with Venus and Photographer Maurice Sapiro

Venus of the Sea! Esther Williams as Annette Kellerman, Million Dollar Mermaid, 1952 (Image: MovieStillsDB)

Venus of the Sea! Esther Williams as Annette Kellerman, Million Dollar Mermaid, 1952 (Image: MovieStillsDB)

Meet Neptune’s Daughter! Annette Kellerman

By Theadora Brack

Gather around, my fellow aquatic history bugs. I’ve got a tale to tell.

After measuring 10,000 women, one Dr. Dudley Sargent announced in 1908 that he had discovered the “perfect specimen of womanhood.” To a T, swimming champ Annette Kellerman possessed the proportions of the Venus de Milo.

“Her measurements almost surpass belief!” he exclaimed, while parading “Neptune’s daughter” past an all-male audience at Harvard. Go figure!

Soon women all over the world began sending their measurements and sepia-toned portraits to local newspapers and competitions, claiming to have proportions even closer to the classical ideal than Kellerman’s.

Because haters are going hate

At least one woman tried put the global rivalry to rest. ‘Though I have very nearly the measurements of Venus de Milo,” she wrote, “I am not at all glad of this. We are living in the 20th century and not the times of Praxiteles. The features of Venus de Milo are not at all those of the perfect beauty. Beauty changes with the centuries.” Ouch.

But she was undoubtedly right. Venus stands 6’7’ and weighs more than a ton! (more…)

Paris: Bouncing down the Boulevards

View of the Eiffel Tower and L’église de la Madeleine at Galeries Lafayette (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Gussie-up all Sarah Bernhardt-style

By Theadora Brack

Hold me close and hold me fast, my fellow hobnobbing dandies of the Paris grand boulevards. Got a mad penchant for some old time shop hopping? I’m with you, step by step. So throw your slender, opera-length gloved hands up in the air! Swoon, I will catch you.

Celebrating photographer Eugène Atget’s recent birthday, let’s break out the pointy black boots and swiftly kick the wintertime blues with a breezy promenade through a few of my favorite 19th century passages couverts.

In preparation, we’ll gussie-up all Sarah Bernhardt-style with violet-tinted powder and flaming rouged earlobes. Famous stage tricks these, guaranteed to make your eyes sparkle! “Quand même!” as the great tragedienne herself liked to say. I completely agree.

Now, let’s get to prancing!

Café with brew and a view

At high noon, meet me on the terrace of the Café Palais Royal at 202 rue Saint-Honoré, and then we’ll make our way directly to the nearby Galerie Véro-Dodat. You’ll treat this time? Well, just as you like. “Deux bocks, s’il vous plaît!” as the old-school boulevardiers put it! While we clank glasses and re-rouge our ears, I’ll give you the scoop on the passages. But first, Santé! (more…)

San Francisco: A French Connection

Getting all Tippi with the birds at the bustling Union Square, San Francisco (Image: T. Brack’s archives, Slide, 1957)

Just grab your faux furs and mittens, and meet me under the old clock at the Hotel Saint Francis! (Image: T. Brack’s archives, Marie France, 1948)

By Theadora Brack

Bonjour! C’est moi! I’ve been in California, dreaming, with birds and flowers in my hair. Like a hard-boiled history detective, I’ve been combing the streets of San Francisco for traces of Paris. “Pourquoi?” you ask. Flashing back to the California Gold Rush, the French were probably the largest population in the city. That’s why!

Attracted by the gold, and escaping another revolution, thousands of “Argonauts,” braved the six-month voyage around Cape Horn from France to San Francisco. Faster than a toison d’or, soon the “Paris of the Pacific” boasted three French department stores: Roos Brothers, the Verdier family’s the City of Paris, and Raphael Weill’s White House—named after the Grande Maison De Blanc back in France. (Banana Republic is there now, but the White House still rocks a Parisian vibe, while Neiman Marcus sports the late, great City of Paris’s original stained glass dome.)

So in celebration of the New Year, rebirth, and reinvention, let’s recharge our batteries with a sentimental journey around Union Square. Here is where I left my heart, along with a few dollars, too. After all, it was wintertime, and love and a massive Snoopy the dog inflatable cold-air balloon were in the air, spurring me on to dizzying heights.

Just grab your faux furs and mittens, and meet me under the old clock at the Hotel Saint Francis. After we powder our noses in the celebrity photograph-laden ladies room, we’ll sashay forth to the Romper Room Tavern on Maiden Lane to watch the twilight sky fall.

As Sarah Bernhardt wrote in 1891, with gloved hands all a-flutter, “I mean to have lots of fun in this city before I leave. This is a jolly place to enjoy life in!” Or as Frankie Sinatra once crooned, “Now there’s a grown-up swinging town!” I couldn’t agree more. (more…)

To Paris With Love

Ile-de-France by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Ile-de-France by Aristide Bonaventure Maillol at the Jardin des Tuileries (Photo: Theadora Brack)

By Theadora Brack

Paris will survive. The City of Light has been through thousands of years of barbarian invasions, plagues, religious wars, sieges, and Nazi occupations, and always comes through. In fact, the city’s heraldic symbol is a boat on waves surrounded by a motto that says something to the effect that no matter how rough it gets, she keeps on floating, “Fluctuat nec mergitur!” A 14th century mantra: “Tossed by the waves but never sunk!”

And Paris will keep on floating and cha-changing with the times.

My musician friends have already started spreading the word about their upcoming gigs in concerts halls, big and small, and parks, bars and cafés, too.

“The beat must go on,” my bass player friend Jeff wrote. (more…)

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