I Used to Be Charming Part Five

Posted in Book Reports, GSU photo archive by chamblee54 on May 25, 2022

This is the fifth, and final, installment in the chamblee54 serial book report on I Used to Be Charming, by Eve Babitz. The pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.” The other four parts of this series are available: one two three four

It’s an old cliche about drug abuse … life becomes boring when you quit using. That might be true with Miss Eve. She got scared because of AIDS, and got cleaned up from her druggie ways. She started taking dance lessons, and got into ballroom dancing. When she tried to commit suicide by Tiparillo, the physical activity of dancing aided her recovery.

Hippie Heaven (Vogue October 1992) was the first story that made me want to take notes. “Especially the red rayon forties dress, cut on the bias, that I’d worn the nights I waited in the Troubadour bar in West Hollywood, looking for trouble like Jim Morrison.” Lord, whatever happened to Eve? Writing for Vogue about a dress “cut on the bias.” This is the Dowager Groupie, talking about clothes. Even Eve’s sister Mirandi … who started out as Miriam … made leather suits for Jimbo.

Eve says something about Leicester Square, in London. The Rolling Stones did a song, Cocksucker Blues. They owed a pesky record label one more song, so they decided to give them something they would never play on WQXI. So Mick says something about hanging out in Lester Square, but it turns out to be Leicester Square.

Scent of a Woman (Vogue March 1997) is where Eve finally gets her mojo back. Vogue published SOAW a few weeks before Eve’s catastrophic fire.

Some say that smell is the most animal of our senses. Aromas get directly from the nose to the brain, without the mental filters navigated by sound and sight. In SOAW, Eve discusses the various perfumes of her life. When she was young, the only perfume she felt comfortable with was Here’s My Heart, by Avon. True, it did not make her smell like old stationary, as Chanel N°5 did, but you don’t get more uncool than Avon.

“My great aunt sold Avon when I was a kid, and she and my conservative-about-fragrances mother (the one who flushed my Evening in Paris down the toilet) approved this for me. It was OK, girly, kind of little girly and nowhere near as exciting as Evening in Paris, but I liked it all right. It made me think I was missing something in fragrances, but it was enjoyable to wear.” Avon introduced Here’s My Heart in 1957. Nobody is sure when it was discontinued.

One afternoon in the sixties, Eve went swimming at the house of a Hollywood somebody. In the bathroom, there was a bottle of Le De by Givenchy “Le De came about when Hubert (Givenchy) chose decided to gift his friend (Audrey Hepburn) with a perfume; actually he commissioned two, the other being L’interdit (created in 1957 and commercialized in 1964) and they were hers alone for a whole year. In 1958 the idea of launching perfume under the aegis of his house saw Le De being introduced to the market while L’Interdit was immortalised in … Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“And then the unthinkable happened. They took Le De Givenchy off the market — or at least they cut back its distribution to the point where it became impossible to find. This is something Andy Warhol would have picketed Givenchy with me for. (Andy Warhol had an extremely funny section in his autobiography The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again,) in which he says that whenever a product is “improved,” the manufacturer should leave the original, unimproved product on sale, too, because a lot of people don’t want what they already like pulled from the shelves.”

Amazon has a terrific one star review of the Warhol book. “I bought this due to a need for additional references. It’s written by warhols assistant and is filled by drivel, pompousism and things you may say on acid trips while your in a room wrapped in tin foil. Save your money and if you a want book about Andy warhol use one of the autobiographies written by an author after Andy died and has no connection to him or his factory friends.”

The last fun chapter is I Used To Be Charming. IUTBC is about the fire, on April 13, 1997. “I had just finished brunch with my mother; my aunt Tiby; my sister Mirandi; and my cousin Laurie. Mirandi would be driving my mother back to her place, where I was also living at the time, and I looked forward to smoking the Tiparillo I’ve been saving for the ride in peace and quiet. The cigar was one of those fashionable but hideous cherry-flavored ones I loved because smoking them made me feel like Clint Eastwood; everyone else hated them. I grabbed one of the wooden matches, struck it against the sandpaper side of the box, when all of a sudden the match fell from my hand. The gauzy skirt I’d put on to go out dancing later went up in flames; my panty hose melted to my legs. Thank God for sheepskin Uggs, which protected my lower legs from burns.”

When Eve struck that match, in a 68 VW bug, her life changed. There were a lot of rude comments about cigars. Tiparillos in particular have a curious market niche. One ad campaign had a picturesque young lady working the crowd, with her pitch “Cigars, cigarettes, Tiparillo’s?” “The modern smoke, found in all the right places, with all the right people.”

Another ad campaign asked the oh-so-modern question ”Should a gentleman offer a Tipparillo to a lady?” A later campaign produced a TV classic. “In 1970 the Federal Trade Commission banned cigarette commercials from American airwaves. However, cigars did not fall under the FTC ban, and so we have these two commercials from 1973 for Tiparillo cigars, which — if you believe the ads — must be offered to a lady, which will be appreciated more than “candlelight and small talk.”

Fiorucci, the book takes up the last 48 pages of IUTBC. Eve wrote text for a collection of graphics from the Fiorucci fashion emporium. Fiorucci closed its retail stores in the eighties, and is mostly known today because it rhymes with Gucci. “Zeigt und erklärt, wie und warum Fiorucci in den 70ern und 80ern bigger than life war. Das Buch ist Kunst, Marketinghandbuch und Poesiealbum in einem.”

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