Thursday, May 31, 2007

all agog

I just got back from a party at which Stephen Colbert was a guest. I sidled up next to him to say something inane about how great his show is (I think that the Colbert Report heralds the end of the age of irony, and I could not be happier about it...see, the prepared sentence I never got to use? So sad), but he was busy and I have been brought up to believe that pestering celebrities is very bad behavior so after noting that his beard grows in gray, I left him alone.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to Recognize a Bottle Blonde

I realize the topic of this entry isn't quite up to the tone I've set for my blog so far. Oh well. It was going to happen eventually. Now, moving on.

1. The bottle blonde's hair is of a perfectly even, uniform shade of blonde. Very few people have hair of a perfectly uniform color - blondes less than other people, because the color is so sensitive to sun. Dye, on the other hand, tends to flatten the range of colors. This only really works when the bottle blonde dyes her own hair, or has it dyed cheaply. An expert colorist will try to mimic the color variation of naturally blonde hair.

2. The bottle blonde's hair is too shiny. When I had highlights in my hair, this was what I noticed most - my hair was unnaturally shiny, all the time. Some people must have naturally shiny hair, and some natural blondes may gloss their hair regularly enough to give the same effect - but if you ask me, this is a nearly foolproof indicator of a bottle blonde. Expert colorists will want to enhance, not dampen, this effect for their clients - shiny hair is good, after all - so even if they manage to realistically blend color, the bottle blonde will walk out of the salon with unnaturally shiny hair.

3. The bottle blonde's hair does not change with the seasons. Natural blondes will have noticeably darker hair in the winter, and noticeably lighter hair in summer/fall. I imagine that this, too, is something that an expert colorist would compensate for - but then, it would take a pretty sophisticated client to want it.

4. Beware of assuming that dark roots always mean the bearer's hair is not naturally blonde. Sometimes hair that grows in dishwater blonde will lighten considerably, especially under the influence of sun and saltwater. Roots are only a good indicator if the line between dark and light is crisp and even along a part in the hair. Similarly, don't assume that anyone with dark eyebrows or eyelashes has dark hair - I can't be the only natural blonde on the planet who darkens my eyebrows and eyelashes every day.

5. Basic sloppy salon procedures - i.e., if highlights are too chunky, if they are scattered through the top layer of hair like silly string, if they are placed too evenly, etc., etc.

6. The people who masquerade best as natural blondes are people who are almost, but not quite natural blondes. They have the right complexion, usually, and especially if they have money to burn on a good colorist it's going to be nearly impossible to spot the difference. However, one of the above methods should work.

These tips aren't foolproof, but I venture to say they'll almost always lead you to the correct conclusion.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Barber of Seville

I owe a huge thank you to Melinda and her Aunt Jenny, who invited me to tag along on what has to be one of the more...well, brag-worthy nights of my life. Jenny was a good high school friend of Joyce DiDonato (pictured above), an increasingly famous mezzo-soprano currently playing the lead female role of Rosina in The Barber of Seville at the Metropolitan Opera. Jenny had flown out to New York to see the show, so we all went together - and it was fabulous. This is the third Rossini opera I've seen now (Guillaume Tell at the Paris Opera, and The Marriage of Figaro last year at the Met), and of the three, I have to say I liked The Barber of Seville best - it's so approachable, so immediately appealing, so playful and fun. This production was less visually stunning than The Magic Flute, which was visually the most extraordinary opera I've ever seen, but the music - absolutely divine.

Joyce truly has a phenomenal voice - the kind that sounds effortless, without a hint of strain or cracking or heavy breathing, even when tripping through the score of The Barber of Seville which is fast and full of trills. She has some amazing arias, but I was perhaps most impressed by the scene where her love, disgused as a music teacher, is giving her a singing lesson while her evil guardian slumbers in a nearby armchair. She has to shift rapidly between a very formal, stately, but perfectly executed style of singing (for when she's afraid that the evil guardian is listening, and wants him to see a dedicated student devoted with all due seriousness to her music lesson), and a much more fluid, natural, vibrant style, still perfectly executed (for when she is too thrilled by the proximity of her beloved to suppress her joy and it bursts forth in song). It's all one song, and as far as I can tell what it takes to shift several times between the more formal and the more fluid style of singing, making it absolutely clear to the audience what's going on when, without faltering...well, what it takes is pure virtuosity, pure talent.

Anyhow, after the opera the four of us (Melinda's sister rounded out the party) descended from the worst seats in the house to...the backstage! At the Met! We saw all the extra-special-diva dressing rooms (supplied, bien sur, with divans and pianos and original costume sketches and mock-ups)...the phone was ringing in Figaro's room, but he was already gone, and Jenny kept threatening to answer by saying, "Hi, I'm backstage at the Met and you're not!" - she didn't, but we all understood the sentiment.

Then we went out for an after-show nibble with Joyce, and two of the other lead singers: Lawrence Brownlee, who plays the count, Rosina's love interest, and John Del Carlo, who played Dr. Bartolo, the evil guardian. The opera ended at 11pm and we were all at the restaurant until 3 in the morning, easy. It would have been your everyday average fun and interesting dinner out, except that three of the guests were world-class opera singers. The only thing that all of them had in common, as far as I could tell, was that they were all very socially adept - polite, friendly, diplomatic, positive, at ease with strangers. I'm not sure if that's something you need in order to be successful, or just something that you're forced to learn once success arrives - but they all had the skills. That, and John Del Carlo has the lowest, most melodic, booming laughter I have ever heard.

I might add - Joyce DiDonato's mother had died the day before. It was hard to know what to say; I was thinking a great deal about having spent so much of the latter part of 2006 with my family as my grandmother was dying. I mostly sat on my end of the table, wishing her well and letting her spend time with the friends who could offer her real comfort, instead of the strangers whose sympathy wouldn't mean quite as much. It was pretty brave of her to get up and perform, and impressive to have done such a great job of it, under those circumstances.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Another Life, by Michael Korda

Another Life is pretty much the perfect roman à clef - although that's not necessarily a compliment, since good romans à clef are by definition dishy and a bit nasty. Korda has the kind of sly, subtly cruel wit that makes for really juicy reading - and, as editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster for many years, his targets are the movers and shakers of publishing, be they authors, agents, or corporate executives.

The book is a great history of publishing in the latter half of the twentieth century - the fall of the family run houses, the rise of the conglomerates, the changing roles of editors, the birth of the celebrity memoir, the synergy between television and books. He skims across the more glamorous highlights of his career - flying to Italy to discuss a movie deal in a lavishly appointed villa, putting on a bolo tie on his way to woo Larry McMurtry, endless lunches in New York's finest restaurants, driving his little Porsche out to Jersey to visit Richard Nixon. This is when he's not talking about a childhood spent (at times) on a yacht in the Riviera, getting to know Orson Welles and Graham Greene.

At times I found myself really enjoying the book - it's hard not to enjoy, since it manages to be both informative and a guilty pleasure all at once - and really liking the author. He's obviously energetic, curious, and adventurous - not to mention smart, funny, and very well-read. But at times I found myself loathing him, for the savage, needling way he described so many of the individuals in his novel, for his false modesty, and especially for his unbelievable attempts to whitewash his own personality - his protests that he was the least ambitious of men and happened to simply fall into the various social maneuvers and key friendships that made his career ring very, very false. That and the only-too-familiar pseudo-apology with which he dismisses his own philandering.

I'd recommend it to anyone, if only because it's so FUN, but it's not the kind of book I could ever love.