What do black cats, The Ramones, Bride of Frankenstein, chocolate biscotti and cocktails have in common? Jean's birthday, of course! Jean turned 65 on Monday. We started celebrating on Sunday by having brunch at BBar & Grill on East 4th Street and Bowery.
Valerie takes birthdays quite seriously and has raised gift-giving to the level of a fine art. Case in point: cookies in the shape of each of the original members of the 1970s punk band The Ramones, specifically, Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee & Tommy. Valerie knows how much I love them. Having lived in the East Village since the 1980s, I have a soft spot in my heart for The Ramones. I even named my cat Dee Dee, after the bassist. Manhattan's East 2nd Street, just north of CBGBs, was renamed Joey Ramone Way.
Here is what the band (who first played at the legendary CBGB's on August 16, 1974) looked like in real life. Although the band took the surname The Ramones, none was actually named Ramone. Joey died in 2001, DeeDee died in 2002, Johnny died in 2004 and Tommy died in 2014. But their punk attitude and their music live on. I misremembered the order in which they appeared in the photo when I shot the cookies and by the time I realized it, there was no going back: my husband and I had already eaten Joey Ramone! (He had broken both femurs, so we had to put him out of his misery.)
Another of the cookies Valerie procured for me bears the image of Elsa Lanchester in "Bride of Frankenstein". She knows I absolutely love Elsa, who was married to actor Charles Laughton. (For a real treat, watch them act together in Witness for the Prosecution with Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power!)
Here is what Elsa looked like in the role. The cookie captures her spirit and amazing profile. How Valerie found a cookie with her on it is amazing. (Valerie spills the beans: I found them on Etsy - while looking for something completely unrelated, of course - under American Cookie Craft.)
In my wedding invitation photo, and at my actual wedding reception in NYC in 1986, I was channeling Elsa's Bride of Frankenstein. I even waived my board straight hair and added two blond streaks at each side to emulate Elsa's lightning bolts.
Brunch at BBar is always a treat. Valerie is addicted to their buttermilk pancakes with berries.
I usually opt for the seasonal fruit salad and one of BBar's amazing lattes. (Valerie pipes up: that's my breakfast, which I wait hours for after rising; what you see below is Jean's snack. She's already had her breakfast, at home.)
In honor of the occasion, I wore my leopard Ignatius hat, complete with giant plastic claws, and my fabulously pointed, spotted Dolce and Gabanna shoes I'd gotten when we did a fashion shoot for Beacon's Closet last year. (Valerie again: she wore that hat, at least partially, to shut me up. Why don't you ever wear it?, I kept badgering her. So now I can quit badgering. Or badger about something else.)
Did I mention Valerie's birthday cards? She can never send just one and often embellishes them, adding her own two cents. Take this Mount Rushmore card she gave me (which reads "Have an Epic Birthday!") to which she added a little party hat on each of the statues. GeorgeWashington and Teddy Roosevelt each got a noisemaker. (Valerie interjects: Um, actually, I can't take credit for the hats. They were already there when I bought the card. But the card maker and I think along the same lines. I bought it thinking that if the guys on Mount Rushmore all wore hats, it would go a long way toward popularizing millinery again, and was a concept to support. I do like to embellish cards, but someone beat me to it with this one.)
Possibly because of the time she spent in Japan, Valerie loves to wrap presents in the most creative way, and this was no exception. The bag is one of the black and white Uniqlo Keith Haring bags. On top is a black and white linen napkin from Bergdorf Goodman.
Inside the napkin? Shoulder pads of course! I had recently mentioned that I'd misplaced several pairs of mine (don't ask), so Valerie found me a brand new pair with velcro to attach them to bra straps. (Valerie pipes up: it's such a rare occasion when you actually know what someone really needs. Even if it's really mundane, run out and get that thing, if only for a gag. Unless, of course, the birthday is next year. Then you have to rethink your strategy.)
Another gift wrapped in black tissue paper was decorated with a pair of Keith Haring barking dog pins. Inside the roll? A black and white striped Ann DeMeulemeester sweater! (Valerie says: I'd seen her admiring it. Bought it secretly and kept it in the closet for so many months after that that I forgot where I'd put it and had to go looking it.)
In the bottom of the bag was this terrific black and grey Keith Haring fleece throw.
Needless to say, DeeDee approves of the throw.
Another birthday card from Valerie arrived in the mail with one of my signature motifs, the domino! The message inside the card: "Age is just a number ... It's all about how you play the game!"
Valerie's third (yes, third!) card with the wonderful woman of a certain age under the old fashioned hair dryer reads: "Wishing you 50 Shades ... of Grey".
Not to be outdone, Forest City Fashionista sent me a pirate birthday card from Canada, complete with eye patch and parrot!
Pals from Baltimore, Anne and Beth, sent a birthday card with a terrific sentiment that I am going to steal and use again and again!
Along with the card, they sent a box with fragrant vanilla hand creme, yummy chocolate frosted biscotti, aromatic pumpkin spice tea and -- a cocktail shaker! The stainless steel shaker has a red aluminum sleeve with cut-outs. As you turn the outer sleeve and stop at the name of a specific cocktail, you can view the ingredients through the strategically placed cut-outs. Funny how it was set on "Margarita" when it arrived!
How ever did they know how well that cocktail shaker fits in with my art deco decor?
My sister in law Maureen sent a hilarious card from Long Beach Island with the image of a mouse and a cat looming in the background that looks suspiciously like DeeDee. The inscription is priceless: "Live dangerously on your birthday!"
My husband's card also features a black cat, although in this case, it is a Tuxedo and a woman on a sofa in front of a very 1950s lamp and floral wallpaper saying: "I never drink alone ... that's why I have a cat."
Pat, who is one of my friends from college, never forgets a birthday or anniversary of mine or any of our friends from school. I do not know how she does it, but the gesture is incredibly thoughtful, especially considering we graduated over forty years ago! This year's birthday card says: "Hoping your birthday dreams and wishes come true."
I can't top that for a sentiment and am going to end this on a high note. With all these good wishes, turing 65 is no big deal. Friends and family make life worth living. I'm looking forward to many more birthdays to come. Cheers, everyone, and many happy returns! Now, all I have to do is figure out what to do for Valerie's birthday next July ...