New Perfume Review Amouage Opus IX- The Ragged Edge of Control

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In music there is an elemental debate whether complete control and technical mastery is more important than a performance containing flaws but having more emotion. In jazz the mastery portion is represented by Wynton Marsalis and the emotion is exemplified by the late Dizzy Gillespie. One of my most treasured musical moments was seeing Wynton and Dizzy play at the Saratoga Jazz Festival together on Dizzy’s “A Night in Tunisia”. This was the two extremes brought into stark contrast as the technician and the emotive traded runs before coming together triumphantly. What I walked away from that night with was true emotion has to live on a ragged edge of control, unafraid to fall off. A recent perfume and its inspiration returned my thoughts to that as it pertains to perfume.

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Maria Callas as Violetta in "La Traviata" (1958)

Creative Director Christopher Chong of Amouage is a man of many passions but one of his most long-lived ones is that of opera. For the latest release in the Library Collection, Opus IX, he drew on that. Opus IX is inspired by one of the great opera singers of all-time, Maria Callas. Mme Callas was a top coloratura soprano in the first part of the Twentieth Century. She was more Dizzy than Wynton. Her performances were so imbued with visible emotions it would cause a fraying of some of the notes as she would reach for them. Derided by the traditionalists she was loved by audiences because of that primal connection which was made. Mr. Chong has chosen a specific performance by Mme Callas of La Traviata in Lisbon during 1958 to inspire Opus IX. The perfume is composed by Nathalie Lorson and Pierre Negrin. I use the word composed a lot when referring to a perfume but in the case of Opus IX this does feel like something which has three very distinctive phases, or acts, as the press material maintain.

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Christopher Chong

La Traviata is the opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi which tells the story of Violetta, the titular "fallen woman”. When we meet her in Act 1 she is one of the most famed courtesans in Paris. She throws a regular salon where the brightest lights of society attend. During the one depicted in La Traviata it is her first back after an illness. It is a room full of beautiful people harboring deep emotions. There is a duet between the young Alfredo and Violetta as he can for the first time try and show her the depth of his devotion. This song is called in English “Let’s drink from the joyful chalices”. The First Act of Opus IX feels very much like this duet to me. As Violetta represented by camellia is met on even terms by black pepper representing Alfredo. The camellia is also bolstered by jasmine to make it an incredibly heady floral. The perfumers have to use an equally intense amount of black pepper to find contrast. It is right up to the edge of being too much. Like Alfredo it runs the risk of taking its emotions too far. The perfumers are sure in their precision and it all stays brightly balanced like an operatic duet.nathalie lorson

 

Nathalie Lorson

Act 2 of the opera opens with Violetta and Alfredo happy living in the country outside of Paris. When Alfredo finds out Violetta is selling off her possessions to fund their country idyll. Events of the kind of missed communications rampant in most tragedies cause our lovers to end up at a party in Paris where their relationship is put to the figurative sword because of familial and societal pressures. It ends with Alfredo angrily throwing money at her feet in payment for her services. The early moments of idyll are shattered with naked emotions. The Second Act of Opus IX is a beautiful cacophony of notes delivered with all the messiness real emotions evoke. The perfumers employ gaiac wood, beeswax, and leather. These notes never seem to find a place to mesh appropriately. This kind of dynamism is going to be tough for some to take. It is very similar to the miscommunication of our protagonists. The smoke of the gaiac battles with a rich beeswax over a refined leather accord. The beeswax is the disruptor keeping apart the more easily paired gaiac and leather. It is the beeswax which maintains the separation.

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Pierre Negrin

In Act 3 of the opera Violetta is dying and Alfredo has been given the missing information he needs to understand all of her actions were because of her love for him. He rushes to her deathbed and arrives before it is too late. They sing another duet mourning the death of Violetta so young. For a moment it seems as if love, and song, has saved the day, only for Violetta to abruptly pass away. The Third Act of Opus IX has dispensed with the discord of the Second Act and now looks for new found harmony. The perfumers use ambergris and civet to represent our lovers at the end. The civet is full of deep animalic emotion and it overwhelms the leather and beeswax of the heart to bring the deeper aspects of the base into something more harmonious. The ambergris provides a fragile partner sometimes reviving only to falter under the civet. It is a deeply emotional place to finish our olfactory opera.

Opus IX has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage.

If you can bring yourself to get lost in the emotion on display in Opus IX you will have a unique perfume experience. There are very few fragrances on the market that would dare this. It is not going to be universally loved, for this open sentimentality is not for everyone. As one who loves living on the ragged edge of emotion I can add Mr. Chong to Dizzy and Mme Callas as artists unafraid to fall only so that they can soar.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Amouage.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Early Summer 2015 Playlist

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I’m not sure what it is about the summer but I want both my books and my music to be less challenging. I want books which are plot-driven page turners not necessarily full of intricate prose. Although those two aims are not mutually exclusive. For music I want things I can sing along to, pump my fist, play air guitar, and tickle the pretend keyboard. These are usually trifles but they find themselves on repeat on my playlist because they are full of infectious hooks and lyrics which are repetitive. There is also one thing I’ve noticed about my summer playlists is that there is an older song, or two, which re-surfaces in my consciousness and I want to hear it as much as I used to.

Top of the Colognoisseur pops is Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”. It has been out for over a year but like the best summer songs it has caught fire just at the right time. Lead singer Nicholas Petricca was inspired by the 80’s acts The Cars and Pat Benatar. There is a very tangible first wave vibe to it that obviously appeals to one like me who lived through it. I suspect this is going to be the dance floor anthem this summer.

Another lyrical hook that I’ve been mumbling under my breath for the last month is from “Hold Back the River” by James Bay.

I am a sucker for a spectacular video which accompanies a great pop song. The new “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift is all of that in spades. The video is a cross between Kill Bill and Fifth Element featuring an array of some of the most recognizable women in entertainment playing badass assassins. This has only been out for a couple of weeks and I’m all over this.

The two older songs on my current summer playlist are “Sometime Around Midnight” by The Airborne Toxic Event and “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. Sometime Around Midnight is one of the rawest break-up songs ever performed but despite the unhappy material I am compulsively playing the guitar riff on my fake Fender. I don’t think Semi-Charmed Life is ever far from being included on any summer playlist I’ve ever compiled because it might be my single favorite chorus to sing in the car at the top of my lungs.

The new single by Pitbull, “Time of Our Lives” is another one that gets me moving my feet to the beat.

“Hold My Hand” by Jess Glynne is exactly what I want from Pop-inclined R&B. With a killer keyboard riff perfect for playing on the steering wheel of the car.

Giorgio Moroder has been behind so much of my favorite music and his recent renaissance shows he hasn’t stopped being relevant. His new album Déjà Vu sees him working with a roster of today’s stars. The title single featuring Sia was just released. It is full of synthesizers which dig into my head matched with Sia’s distinctive voice.

Shawn Mendes is the latest You Tube music star. He has crafted a four part story of a break-up. The third part is called “Stitches” and it is the one which has found the repeat button on my playlist.

Imagine Dragons have been a playlist fixture from their inception and the newest release “Shots” is more of the same fantastic style of music they have been producing.

Mark Behnke

My Favorite Things- Orange

The smell of oranges is the smell of lazy summer days spent in the branches of orange trees near my home in South Florida as a boy. When done well there is almost no other smell which triggers as strong a scent memory as an orange focused fragrance. One of my five favorites is Diptyque L’Eau de Tarocco but I just included that in the recent Diptyque 101. I’ll give you five more of my favorite orange perfumes.

Probably the very first orange fragrance which triggered this atavistic memory was Hermes Eau D’Orange Verte. It wasn’t the perfume but the bath product which I was using at a luxury resort in the 1980’s. It had no label and I had to find out from the front desk the name. I bought a bottle upon my return home and it is still compelling nearly thirty years later. Perfumer Francoise Caron combines the full spectrum of orange notes on top of green muguet. It all produces an evocation of sitting among the leaves of the orange tree while peeling one open.

It would be twenty years until another orange fragrance would make a dent in my monogamous relationship with Eau D’Orange Vert. Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentree is arguably the simplest perfume in that collection. It succeeds in the same way an artist’s still life succeeds. Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena paints in olfactory watercolors a still life of orange. It is given nuance by aldehydes, cardamom, and hay. It is the smell of a fresh ripe orange picked off the tree before cutting into it.

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Roger & Gallet Bois D’Orange is one of my favorite bang for the buck orange fragrances as you can find 100mL bottles for less than $40. Perfumer Dominique Ropion was inspired by the gardens of Alhambra in Spain. M. Ropion takes that inspiration and provides an intense citrus accord led by the orange which is matched by an equally deep floral accord lead by jasmine and rose. There is also a prominent green underpinning to tie all of it together.

Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine was the first one I tried when Creative Director Sylvie Ganter introduced the line to me a little over five years ago. It is a brilliant orange cologne that has the bonus of lasting a long time on my skin because of the Cologne Absolue concentration. Perfumer Ralf Schwieger evokes that moment when I would bite into an orange and the juice would flow from my mouth over my chin. Using the green floralcy of geranium on top of a sandalwood base it is near perfect. Except the new Atelier Cologne Mandarine Glaciale is now vying for my attention within the brand. The next time I do this list there might be a change here.

Thirdman Eau Nomade finishes my list and this one does not remind me of my youth. Perfumer Bruno Jovanovic uses a fabulous green cardamom in conjunction with blood orange as the nucleus of a cologne which is meant to remind one of a spice market. This is the one I keep in the refrigerator to wear on the most sweltering dog days of summer. It has become the olfactory equivalent of a cold glass of lemonade.

None of these suggestions will provide you with any vitamin C but they will all add some needed energy this summer. Give them a try if you haven’t already.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Le Galion Aesthete- The Elegant Snob

There have been a number of older brands which have been revived, especially over the last two or three years. The early days of these brands is a gradual re-formulation and re-release of the originals. Most of these brands, so far, have had no ambition to be more than a nod to the past. It was why I was so pleased to sit down with the owner and creative director of Le Galion, Nicolas Chabot, at Esxence 2015. The follow-up to last year’s re-release of Le Galion’s original founder Paul Vacher’s perfumes was for the brand to create new perfumes. There are three entirely new perfumes to be released in 2015. Two of them are by perfumer Vanina Murraciole and both are leather focused fragrances. Of the two there is one of them which is my favorite of the new compositions, Aesthete.

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Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)

Aesthete is defined as, “a person who has or affects to have a special appreciation of art and beauty”. That is an elegant definition for someone who might be, under other circumstances, called a snob. There is a nice bit of symmetry here as one of the original Le Galion perfumes by M. Vacher was called Snob. As M. Chabot looks to find a modern place for the venerable line Aesthete conjures up a more contemporary version of Snob. Where Snob was fruity floral focused on white florals; Aesthete is all about the leather.

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Vanina Murraciole

Mme Murraciole opens Aesthete on a bold bit of percussion with an overdose of incense matched with saffron. There is probably no better way to capture my attention than to use those notes. Mme Murraciole takes advantage of the intense incense concentration to bring the focus to the slightly metallic background great incense contains. This allows the saffron to coat over that and give it an even more exotic feel. Mme Murraciole’s leather accord is meant to evoke refined Persian Leather. I found it to be extremely soft and supple on my skin. Especially after the incense and saffron from the top notes. The leather gets some company with an extremely well-behaved jasmine. This is a nod to the white floral heart of Snob, I think. Mme Murraciole returns to something a bit more untamed as she uses castoreum and oud next. This is, exactly as you would expect it is, as animalic as it can get. It is like the leather is growing hair again. It has a fabulous development arc from the refined to the raw. It might even be a little too raw for some because it does offer a bit of a tonal shift. The base notes offer a shift back to something less provocative as Mme Murraciole uses sandalwood, vanilla, and a mix of white musks to provide a familiar foundation.

Aesthete has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

When I reviewed Snob I mentioned that it felt the most modern of the line which had been created 62 years previously. Aesthete reinforces the notion that Le Galion is not satisfied with re-interpreting the past but charting a brand new course. M. Chabot provides a steady hand and vision. Aesthete is the product of that and it shows. Le Galion is now ready to set sail on the modern olfactory ocean and I can’t wait to see where it lands next.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015 from Le Galion.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Atelier Cologne Jasmin Angelique- Red Hot and Green

As we approach the mid-point of 2015 if I was going to point out two trends which have stood out over the first half of the year it would be green fragrances and the use of szechuan pepper; mostly as a top note. When it comes to green it is one of the fragrance genres I like therefore having more different interpretations is a pleasant problem to have. The szechuan pepper was a note I was introduced to back at Pitti last September in a talk given by Mane.They passed around some differently extracted forms of it. Each had interesting quirks that I was looking forward to seeing how my favorite perfumers would use it. One of my favorite brands Atelier Cologne and one of my favorite perfumers Jerome Epinette provided me both; a new green perfume using Szechuan pepper called Jasmin Angelique.

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Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Photo: Sarah Bouasse via Flair)

Jasmin Angelique is the sixth entry in the Collection Matieres for Atelier Cologne. Co-owner and creative director Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel describes this collection as “mythical essences reinvented”. I describe it as things you shouldn’t be able to make colognes from, even if they are in absolue concentration. Jasmin Angelique is as close as it can get early on to being a traditional cologne but once it goes green and floral it transforms into something full of powerful intent while still retaining a cologne architecture.

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Jerome Epinette

M. Epinette uses a very traditional bright lemon opening which is at first made slightly green with angelica seeds. Then M. Epinette unleashes the Szechuan pepper. In the case of Jasmin Angelique it provides a piquant contrast you might normally get from baie rose. The difference with the Szechuan pepper is there is a deeper banked energy that radiates off of it. If lemon provides the sunshine the Szechuan peper is providing the molten red ball of the sun itself. These early moments are fascinating in their texture. The heart notes arrive with a green wave starting with galbanum and fig. They douse the fire of the top notes underneath a verdant vivaciousness. As the green pushes the top notes to the back ground the jasmine can then arrive. M. Epinette has to keep the jasmine tightly controlled bacause the green is meant to be ascendant and jasmine is the kind of floral that can take over. He does keep it on a short leash allowing it to take its place but not to dominate. The indolic core fits right into the galbanum and fig duet. After many hours Jasmin Angelique transitions into a base of amber, tonka, and incense. The amber is the leader of the pack with the incense and tonka providing support. The amber is as warm as the opening notes were as Jasmin Angelique finishes where it began, on a warm glow.

Jasmin Angelique has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Jasmin Angelique has to be one of the least floral perfumes I have ever tried which has Jasmine in the name. The keynotes of this perfume are the Szechuan pepper and the galbanum-fig heart chord. They are what draw me in when I am wearing Jasmin Angelique for the day. I once again tip my hat to Mme Ganter-Cervasel and M. Epinette for making a cologne out of a set of notes which you should have a difficult time doing it with. That they make it look so effortless is part of the magic of the Atelier Cologne brand.

Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample provided by Atelier Cologne.

Mark Behnke

Discount Diamonds: Tommy Bahama Set Sail St. Barts for Men- Guilty Pleasure

No matter what it we enjoy there is always a part of it that a person likes that is usually not shared by others. These are usually called guilty pleasures. They are the bad movie you love, mine is “Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension”. At least for me, almost all of my guilty pleasures are overstuffed packages trying to do too many things at the same time. In fragrance I have them and they are definitely found in the discount bins. My favorite perfume guilty pleasure was found in the perfume equivalent of flipping channels at 2AM, digging through the perfume bin at my local discounter chain. As I was doing that one day I came across a blue bottle with a bit of rope wound around the cap. I looked at the name and had remembered a spirited discussion on a couple of the forums saying this was better that you might think. That was enough for me to liberate it from the olfactory hinterlands and bring it home with me. That perfume is Tommy Bahama Set Sail St. Barts for Men.

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Tommy Bahama is best known for the Hawaiian shirts which carry the brand but over time it has branched out into other areas. In 2005 the released a pair of Tommy Bahama perfumes one for men and one for women. Every year for the next five years they would release a pair of men’s and women’s perfumes. The third set was released in 2007 and called Set Sail St. Barts. Perfumer Richard Herpin was asked to employ a tequila accord in both the men’s and women’s perfumes. This pair is a good example of how things can go right and how they can go wrong.  In Set Sail St. Barts for Women M. Herpin tried to mix the tequila with some strong tropical florals on top of a musk cocktail. It was like waking up in a flower shop after having had a few too many tequila shots. As a floral mixed with tequila it just didn’t work. For Set Sail St. Barts for Men M Herpin got rid of the flowers and replaced them with aquatic and fruit notes. This time everything works as it felt like sitting in a beach chair under a palm tree with a bunch of lime, a bottle of tequila, and tropical fruit.

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Richard Herpin

Set Sail St. Barts for Men opens with the bite of lime on top of an ozonic accord mixed with aquatic chords. It is a typical aquatic opening matched with citrus. A bit of wet green comes next as the kelp floating on the water’s surface comes to the foreground. Then a really lush tequila accord which contains a rough synthetic edge to it. This is raw unrefined tequila bought from the local market. M. Herpin matches it with a juicy tropical fruit synthetic. He calls it guava in the note list I get more mango or papaya from it. A woody base note reminiscent of a coconut palm heated by the sun anchors the base with some white musk and vanilla thrown in to add some depth.

Set Sail St. Barts for Men has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage. People will know you are wearing this.

There is nothing terribly original about this fragrance but it tickles me in some undefined place. I wore it for the first time this year over the past Memorial Day weekend and just like seeing the opening credits to Buckaroo Banzai it brings a loopy smile to my face, even if I’m the only one grinning.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Sonoma Scent Studio Amber Incense- Intimate Incense

As I wrote when I posted my five favorite incense perfumes Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio composed one of my favorite incense perfumes ever in Incense Pure. That was a mixture of synthetic and natural ingredients. Ms. Erickson has decided to re-visit incense again; this time for her Sonoma Naturals collection.

In 2013 Ms. Erickson decided to create an all-natural botanical line of fragrances within her Sonoma Scent studio brand. She would work at high concentrations so as to enhance the beautiful natural ingredients she was using. Both of the first two releases Cocoa Sandalwood and Spiced Citrus Vetiver were extremely good. I was wondering when she would return to this line. The answer is 2015 as Ms. Erickson’s latest release is Amber Incense.

To compose an all-natural incense perfume is a significant challenge. Usually a perfumer will use one of the longer lasting woody synthetics as a way of extending the incense used over the length of the fragrance’s development. Ms. Erickson didn’t have that luxury so instead she turned to one of the longest-lasting natural woods, cedar. By co-distilling her frankincense with cedar she was able to use the longevity of the cedar as a matrix for the frankincense to permeate. It is the kind of ingenious solution common in the independent perfume community and it works. The cedar-frankincense spine of Amber Incense provides the substance necessary to add in other notes.

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Laurie Erickson

The cedar and frankincense are present from the first seconds to the final moments. Each phase of the development of Amber Incense uses a set of other natural notes to provide the development from top to base. The first set of complementary notes is led by Szechuan pepper. This turns the very early moments into a kind of cinnamon-like accord. It changes fairly rapidly as a natural damascenone adds that plummy rose quality and converts it into a resinous floral heart. Jasmine, heliotrope, and rose provide the floral depth for the damasceone to rest upon. The base turns a little more woody as oak and oakmoss start to pull the cedar more to the foreground. A nice touch of sweet vanilla provides a bit of sweetness in juxtaposition to the chill of the incense and the clean woodiness of the cedar.

Amber Incense has 8-10 hour longevity and very little sillage.

All three of the Sonoma Naturals are very personal fragrances for the wearer. This was by design as Ms. Erickson wanted these to be softer more intimate perfumes. Amber Incense is the epitome of this aesthetic as it feels like it is a second skin of resinous richness. i didn’t think it was possible for me to like an incense fragrance more than Incense Pure; Amber Incense is giving it a run for its money.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sonoma Scent Studio.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Jacques Zolty Flowersea- St Barth’s Aquatic

I am not sure what it is about the Caribbean island of St. Barth’s but there are a number of creative directors who want to capture the smell of it. One of those is former 1970’s model Jacques Zolty. M. Zolty after his modeling and acting career had cooled down decided to retreat to St. Barth’s as his permanent home. He has lived there for over 25 years now and is as much a native as those who were born there. In 2006 he decided he wanted to start a perfume which captures the smells of his island. He would partner with Roberto Drago to create the line.

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Roberto Drago

Sig. Drago’s vision for the Jacques Zolty line was to create an intermediate line between mainstream and niche. The line would represent something different from what you could find at your local mall but not so unusual as to create a barrier for a consumer to have to leap over. I have admired the restraint of the perfumes in this line. I think Sig. Drago’s vision is clear and the perfumes execute them more than capably. Last year’s release Van-ile was a good example of this aesthetic. For 2015 the latest release Flowersea jumps on the revival of the aquatic fragrance ongoing.

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Marie Duchene

For the previous five releases in the Jacques Zolty line they purposefully stayed away from going for the sea and sand vibe. In Flowersea Sig. Drago asks perfumer Marie Duchene to finally go for it with a suntan lotion component thrown in for good measure.

Flowersea opens with a calone-based marine accord but it is also fortified with a healthy dose of ozonic notes to give the freshness a more open air quality. Together this is like looking at the horizon over an expanse of turquoise water. So there is the sea. For the flower part Mme Duchene uses frangipani, jasmine, and peony to create a rich tropical flower accord. The rougher edges of the indoles are removed leaving only the prettiness of the flowers to mix with the sea part. As you’re walking this flower laden beach you need some sunscreen and Mme Duchene uses coconut flower and a whole lot of white musk to create the oiled sun warmed skin accord. It all ends on clean woods of cedar and sandalwood.

Flowersea has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Flowersea is the most niche-like of the Jacques Zolty fragrances so far. I wonder if Sig. Drago has just decided to start transitioning the line a little more towards niche. Time will tell on that. What I like about Flowersea is that it is yet another modern aquatic that is grabbing my interest in a perfume sector I thought was tapped out. Maybe it just needed some new perspective from somewhere in-between mainstream and niche.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Jacques Zolty at Esxence 2015.

Mark Behnke

Title Graphic via The Beauty Cove

The Sunday Magazine: Carl Hiaasen

As I mentioned in my first The Sunday Magazine this series was inspired by the magazine section that came with the Sunday paper. My love of this section came from my boyhood newspaper The Miami Herald or as we called it The Herald. The Sunday Magazine was called Tropic and inside the regular writers for the daily paper were allowed to do something different. Tropic was the birthplace of Dave Barry who will be a name familiar to many. My favorite writer I discovered in Tropic was a man with a savagely funny way of looking at South Florida and the tourist business which supports so many in that area. His name is Carl Hiaasen.

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Carl Hiaasen

Mr. Hiaasen started writing for the newspaper in 1976 in the capacity of investigative reporter. His job most of the time was to dig deep and find out the truth behind the latest big lie being told by a politician. In South Florida that kind of work would lead you into a real-life theatre of the absurd. He is quoted as describing it this way, "The Sunshine State is a paradise of scandals teeming with drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout. And you'd be surprised how many of them decide to run for public office." As a way of evening up the score with those who kept getting away with everything Mr. Hiaasen started to write novels. This time because he was in charge the forces for good would carry the day.

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I was ay my favorite mystery bookstore in NYC, Murder Ink in 1986 when the owner told me she had an advance copy of a first novel by a reporter from The Herald. I remembered some funny columns by this Hiaasen guy in Tropic and I thought it had a chance to be pretty good. The novel’s name is “Tourist Season” and it tells of a small militant group who has the goal of starting so much mayhem the tourists will stop coming. When I read a book it is rare that I laugh out loud, usually a slight chuckle. Mr. Hiaasen tickles me into laughing so hard I close the book for a moment. Some of it is because growing up in the area the insanity just hits home with me. I was so sure this was only hysterical to someone who lived there I never thought anyone else would get it. Thankfully I was wrong.

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Mr. Hiaasen has had an incredibly prolific career publishing thirteen novels and five young adult novels. All of them feature colorful villains and even more colorful protagonists. One who carries over through many of the books is ex-governor Clinton Tyree who after being forced into selling a wildlife preserve while in office to developers decided to resign. He disappears but re-surfaces as Skink through many of the novels. He is often the anti-development chorus to these novels delivering that message laced with humor. The latest novel released last year called “Skink-No Surrender” was the first to actually feature the usually supporting character.

All of Mr. Hiaasen’s books are full of everything insane about South Florida in general and he skewers all. For his take on Disney World 1991’s Native Tongue covers that ground. 2010’s Star Island takes on our celebrity obsessed pop culture.

As you start to assemble your beach reading for this summer Mr. Hiaasen is a good addition to your beach bag.

Mark Behnke

The Story of Charlie by Revlon, Liberation via Perfume

This week saw the end of two television series. One was The Late Show with David Letterman and the other was Mad Men. David Letterman had been the man who took the late-night talk show and changed it up. Mad Men was this perfect time capsule of America as it grew up during the 1960’s as seen through an advertising executive. When both started out they were the new cool thing. Then they both lived long enough to become perennials without the buzz. When I think of perfume I usually don’t think of it in those terms. There are great perfumes and they have continued to last attaining their own kind of persistent classicism.

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This past weekend at Sniffapalooza Spring Fling Michael Edwards, who I consider to be the perfume equivalent of the Navajo wisdom keeper, reminded me of a perfume which changed everything back in 1973. That perfume was Charlie by Revlon.

As Mr. Edwards recounted prior to 1973 the great majority of perfume was purchased by men for the women in their life. As women entered the workplace and began to find their economic footing Revlon wanted to make a perfume to appeal to that demographic. In 1973 Charlie was released, it was composed by perfumer Francis Camail. M. Camail composed a floral-aldehyde perfume but one not nearly as heavy, or “old lady”, as other prominent floral–aldehydes. Revlon was aggressively hoping to attract the 20-something liberated woman. They were also hoping to create an entire lifestyle brand to cater to that demographic. The approach to this produced one of the classic television commercials of all time.

The television commercial showed this blond statuesque woman getting out of a Rolls Royce in a gold silk pantsuit. As she walks into the bar it is clear she is known by all of the men she encounters. The catchy jingle was sung by lounge singer extraordinaire Bobby Short. If there was an ideal for a liberated woman to try and emulate here it was. A woman exalting her freedom with a laugh.

This worked spectacularly well as within three years Charlie was the best-selling perfume in the world. Revlon had done exactly what they wanted. They had created a new demographic of consumer pointed towards buying their products. The men were no longer going to be the ones who made the fragrance purchases anymore.

charlie advertisement

Every time Mr. Edwards reminds me of the influence Charlie had it makes me all the more surprised it hasn’t really lasted as other perfumes from that era have. Now it is found on the back shelf of your local drug store. Forgotten, probably collecting dust. It is like the women who made Charlie so successful; once opened up to the world of buying their own perfume found something they liked better. It reminds me of that last shot of Don Draper from Mad Men embracing the societal changes but finding a way to leverage them into an advertising angle. Charlie is the story of how Revlon changed the entire sociology of perfume and like Mad Men and David Letterman has now retired to be fondly remembered but not contemporaneously used.

Mark Behnke