Sunday, February 27, 2011

Jean's Legs, Valerie's Arms

Jean's Legs

Jean says:
One of the most memorable highlights of my life in New York City so far was the honor of having my legs appear on the theater poster designed by Fraver for the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George. For months in 1984, I had the marvelous experience of seeing my gams on posters all over town - on subway platforms, bus stops and billboards -- all thanks to my friend Fraver. The original show starred Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters. I even got free tickets to the show! Numerous friends (and strangers) begged me to stand in front of the poster, mimicking my pose, for photographs.

Twenty seven years later, on February 23rd to be exact, history repeated itself. Valerie and I attended the opening of an exhibit and reception at the New York Public Library for the performing Arts celebrating the work of legendary theatrical advertising artist, Frank "Fraver" Verlizzo. The exhibit, DESIGN: FRAVER - Four Decades of Theatre Poster Art at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, highlights some of Broadway's most indelible images. "Fraver" (an amalgam of the first three letters of his first and last names) has created artwork for over 300 shows, including some of theater's most memorable images, for shows like Sweeney Todd, The Lion King, Follies and Ira Levin's Deathtrap. My Sunday in the Park poster graces the cover of the program for the show which runs from February 24 through April 30th. Once again, I was photographed in front of the poster. (I confess I AM such a ham!) (Oh, says Valerie appropos the previous sentence, shades of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham!)

Fraver is one of the first people I met when I moved to New York in November 1974. We sat next to each other at a Blaine Thompson Christmas party at Sardi's, no less, and instantly bonded. Fraver also used to shoot Super 8 silent murder mysteries starring his friends. I was not only lucky enough to star in Beauty Secret, but also won Fraver awards for Best Actress AND Best Costume. I played Spyra Webb, with slicked back jet black hair, chalk white kabuki makeup with a black widow spider glued to my forhead, and a black vintage 1940s film noir wardrobe. How could I miss? Fraver's mom and aunt and their Bronx girlfriends were the official Fraver Awards Committee. Last Wednesday night, Valerie got to meet many of my friends and co-stars from the Fraver films of the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the time, several of Fraver's starlets like Bryn and Peggy, were imported from out of town (Reading, PA). Peggy (in blue) played Eva Peron in Furor and Bryn played Liz Taylor in another of Fraver's epics. (Valerie says: I'm accustomed to Jean instantly attracting attention when she walks into a room, but that night was beyond the beyond. She knew nearly everyone, and nearly everyone knew her. It was astonishing. AND everybody LOVED her. None of those awful people who approach celebrities and blurt out things like "Oh, you look so much older in person!")

Fraver (second from the left) poses with John Reilly (photographer for the Sunday in the Park poster), illustrator Linda Fennimore and Fraver's nephew Thomas (whom I hadn't seen since he was less than 3 feet tall!). Bryn and Peggy and I reminisced about Fraver's obsession with detail when directing his Super 8 extravaganzas -- to the point of tying one of their friends to a railroad track to achieve the right cinematic effect! We truly would do anything he asked us to do. (Valerie wants to know where those movies are today.)

Here I am with Scott Fless, who has not only starred in Fraver films but also appeared in a number of Broadway and off-Broadway shows. I'll always remember the trip Fraver and I took to D.C. to see Scott perform at the Kennedy Center in Pippin. We sent flowers backstage "to the Diva" and all three of us went out afterwards to celebrate, with me at the wheel of my mother's Buick Electra 225 (the "Deuce and a Quarter"). A true New Yorker, Fraver did not learn to drive until he was in his mid-thirties.

Joe Ligammari and Fraver have been partners for thirty years. Last July, they made their union legal and got married in Connecticut. When I opened their wedding announcement, it tickled me to remember the summer in the early 1980's that Fraver and Joe joined me and my friends in a summer share in Madison, CT in a house on Long Island Sound. Joe is an amazing cook and he dazzled us all on numerous occasions with delectable hors d'oeuvres, hearty meals and truly sinful desserts.

Robert W. Richards, another famous illustrator, escorted one of his stylish friends to the opening reception. Fraver and Joe have hosted some swellegant holiday parties over the years, at which Robert and I never failed to connect.

Paul McDonough (pictured on the left with two of Fraver's pals) is most famous in my experience as the creator of shockingly fabulous hand-made customized greeting cards featuring his surprisingly accommodating great dane Spencer in all types of costumes and wigs. For years, all holidays great and small (Chinese New Year, Easter, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween...) have been the occasion for one of Paul's hilariously entertaining cards. One unforgettable President's day card included shots of Spencer appearing as both George AND Martha Washington -- in full wigs and historically accurate 18th century costumes. When Spencer finally passed away last year, I was heartbroken. But never fear! Gus, another rescue mutt, has stepped into the breach, so to speak, and the tradition continues. Photographer William Wegman and his famous Weimeraners have nothing on Paul and his dogs!

Valerie rallied and wore a fabulous polka dot suit enhanced by a zebra print sling for her cast. She's posing here with John Reilly, Ivan Mair and Linda Fennimore. Ivan had been a frequent collaborator on Fraver films before he moved to the West Coast. After years of bi-coastal living, he has recently returned to Manhattan. Hooray! (Valerie says: I rallied all too briefly. More on that below. Suit is vintage Armani, so it can look good and I don't have to. As for bi-coastals, I don't believe in them. I think they're just fooling themselves.)

When Luke McDonough (Paul's other half) confessed to me that Paul never shows him the exotic canine photo-montages he mails to me, I shared with him the most recent fabulous creation that Paul sent (in a gold envelope) to celebrate my appearance in Time Out New York's Style Icon issue. Appearing with Luke are Ramona and Eric, longtime wild and crazy friends of Fraver, and Joe. The first time I met Ramona over a decade ago, she was a scantily clad Santa's helper at one of the Fraver and Joe's holiday parties. (We really, truly do anything that Fraver asks us to.)

Scott, Valerie and John indulge my request for "just one more" photo!

Ta da! Here is Joe Ligammari's latest and greatest culinary incarnation -- as Cookie Jough! He provided the evening's delicious, home-baked dessert - cookies lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Telltale dustings of powdered sugar made it easy to spot the partiers who chose to indulge in cookies rather than the adult beverages. (Valerie and I confess: Guilty as charged!)

Before they headed back to PA, the "Ladies from Reading" graciously posed for that one last photo!

The DESIGN: FRAVER show runs through April 30th, 2011. Check it out. You'll thank us!

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hat (from the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show), vintage glasses (Revue OATH from Fabulous Fanny's), vintage twisted aluminum wire and glass marble earrings (vintage clothing show), Kyodan jacket, Ronen Chen skirt (from Rosebud in Soho), Lux de Ville quilted black patent handbag with leopard print lining, and giant silver dice charms (from Enz in the East Village), customized black patent Dansko clogs outfitted with 4" platform saw-tooth soles.

Valerie is wearing a vintage B. Altman black curly lamb hat with faux baroque pearl hat pin from the late great dollar flea market in Chelsea; a vintage Giorgio Armani wool suit from a thrift shop; H&M leggings as a sling, H&M black canvas shibori bag, and unseen black Arche ankle boots.

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Valerie's Arms

Valerie says: This is just to say THANK YOU VERY MUCH to everyone who has expressed sympathy and concern for my broken right wrist. My left arm is fine, if overworked; my right wrist had surgery on February 9, nearly a month after the initial break, setting me back to zero in terms of recovery, and giving me six additional weeks encased in fiberglass. Apparently the fracture was drifting apart again, and I was advised to get a titanium pin. (For those of you with a wicked sense of humor, everyone assures me it will NOT set off airport secrity alarms. Almost everyone assures me I will never feel the pin.) Jean says: Valerie is a trooper. Even after the insertion of the pin, there are times when her wrist continues to ache. She had a new cast put on last Thursday (after removal of some of the stitches) and after a sleepless night, had to have that one replaced on Friday.

The post-surgical body is different from the merely post-fracture body. Four days after my fracture, I foolishly showed up at work, although, not being a professional singer (for example), there wasn't very much I could actually DO with only one hand - and the wrong hand, at that. Post-surgery, on the other - um - hand, far from wanting to show up for a full day of work, I seem to have a very brief daily window of opportunity. They say it takes time for the body to recover from drugs, and energy is diverted to speed recovery, blah, blah, blah. The intellectual side of me understands all this, but the other side (what is that side called?) wants to roll its eyes and ask me what my effing problem is. My foot surgery last year was like Sunday in the Park with George compared to this. This coming Friday I'll get a new cast that frees my right elbow for the first time since the accident. (Kiss your elbows, folks. You have no idea how much they really do for you.) And somewhere around March 21 (omg - isn't that the Ides of March?) I may be free of the whole thing. Till then, I find I'm often tired, and often tired of feeling tired. (This is a web photo of a pinned wrist. I have no idea if mine looks like this.)

Valerie is wearing a black and white Junko Koshino jacket - one of very few that will fit over her cast; a barely visible neclace of gray and white pre-Columbian spindle whorls; a Marilyn Monroe print 'sleeve' over her cast, cut from leggings purchased at Sock Man; her trusty H&M bustier, since she still cannot hook up her bra (but thankfully can pull up a zipper, in a manner worthy of videotaping); unseen black cotton canvas Caravicci pants, the standard washable favorite for one-handed eaters who might spill something; and unseen Arche ankle boots.

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Where We Get Ideas for Outings

Last week we got a comment from Rebecca, who asked how we find out about the places we visit.

Of course, it all depends on what you're looking for, but some favorites we rely on are:

The New York Times, especially the Thursday through Sunday editions. This is where we first found out about our beloved SOFA, opening April 14 at the Park Avenue Armory. Now we get our invitations via e mail, so we never accidentally miss it.

The Wall Street Journal is no longer the dry old codger of our youth. LOTS of great tips on a variety of fun subjects. Really!

Of course, Time Out New York, brilliant enough to publish US, is an excellent source for what's going on around town.

City Arts, which calls itself "New York's review of culture", has taken up where the late lamented SUN had to leave off, and covers a broad spectrum of cultural events, including the avant garde. Hard to find sometimes, but worth looking for. And free.

Gallery Guide, which publishes special editions for several different cities, tells you which artists' works are featured at which galleries. One problem is they don't show pictures of the work at every gallery, so often you have to be willing to go on a kind of blind date with the gallery/galleries you choose. (This can be fun, unless you're holding down a full time job.) You can pick up Gallery Guide for free at most galleries.

We've put American Craft magazine here, which is where we first read about the annual Philadelphia Craft Show, but you could replace that with any specialty magazine - for quilters, painters, train buffs, etc. - to find fairs and other events that focus on your interests. Idiosyncratic Fashionista readers might like Ornament or Selvedge or Hali...

Like museums? Keep track of museum websites. Many cultural institutions have mailing lists - for snail mail and e mail. We get to attend certain limited admissions events because we respond quickly to e mail invitations we receive. Get on the mailing lists of the institutions that interest you most.

WNYC radio is a wonderful source of information, from books and cooks to musical groups and tv shows.

We first found out about the vintage clothing shows in the New York Times, but then we started to get e mail invitations and post cards from vendors we'd patronized. The next Stella Pier Show will start on March 31; the next Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show on April 29. At the show entrances, or at the dealers' booths, you'll often find post cards for other events that might interest you. (photo by

Your friends can be better than the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time Out New York and all the museum websites combined. Sometimes your friend has connections you don't have; you have connections your friend doesn't have. Like they say on TV, PRICELESS! Work your connections! (In a nice way, of course.) You invite your friend as your guest to THIS; s/he invites you as his/her plus one to THAT. (Works best if you're both interested in similar things.)

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We now have 100 followers, as of several days ago! Thanks to all of you for your interest. Older ladies rock! And older ladies of the future rock, too!

(And if we get about a million more readers, we will begin to catch up with Style Rookie!)

Still no readers from Greenland...

1 comment:

  1. Great legs Jean!: and Valerie, love your Marilyn Monroe plaster cast "sleeve". Hope your wrist will heal up good and strong and better than before, and that this week will be easier for you. Thanks to you both for continuing to post - I look forward to reading your reports every week.