Monday, January 3, 2011

An Interview with Jack

You probably don't need us to tell you we have sort of interesting readers. I met Jack on Facebook, after doing a search on Paco Rabanne's La Nuit there, and we hit it off instantly. Jack treats his facebook profile like a perfume blog for the most part, posting vintage ads, his scent of the day, and observations about everything from why the kid in an old Arpege image is creepy to the fact that he just found Florida Water at Wal-Mart. He does a recurring thing called Edith's Shopping Bag which keeps track of his perfume purchases, with pictures for the short of attention span. It made sense that he'd been reading the blog for a while--even though it took us a little longer than your average person to figure that out. Hey, you're the guy from that blog, he said one day. Um, yeah, I answered. You know it? Duh! Jack's a really smart guy and, like Abigail, and a lot of you, a lot of fun to talk to. We met on Facebook to chat tonight, in the first of a continuing series:

Brian: So, you're a guy...

Jack: I'm a guy? Yes.

Brian: And I don't know many guys who wear cologne. Do you call it cologne? I always alternate between saying cologne, perfume, and fragrance, the way you vary the spelling of a word when you're not sure how it should be spelled.

Jack: I don't call anything cologne. I call it all perfume.

Brian: I don't like the word cologne really. Over Christmas weekend I was in a store where everything which said cologne, even Poison and Shalimar, was put on the guy's side. Which is why I don't like "cologne" in a nutshell, I guess.

Jack: I don't like the word because it makes men feel safe from their own vanity. Honestly I think that most people have the idea that there is something inherently different in the formulas of men's fragrances and women's.

Brian: I guess I don't like the term cologne because I waited such a long time to wear perfume and now I don't want to call it anything else if I can avoid it.

Jack: When did you first allow yourself to wear it?

Brian: Well, when I lived in NYC about...gulp...2o years ago, I bought Coriandre, because I remembered sneaking into my stepmother's bathroom to smell it. But in NYC I still didn't wear it. I just "enjoyed" it. Like an heirloom you can admire but mustn't wear.

Jack: Crazy! But when did you first buy something for women and spritz it on and go around in public?

Brian: Just a couple years ago, when I started blogging, or right before. It's sad. I guess I'm angry about it and making up for lost time.

Jack: Aww... I remember that thrill--it was drag, but a new, sneaky kind of drag that affects people on an almost subconscious level.

Brian: Yeah, it is kind of drag. Totally.

Jack: I started two years ago.

Brian: What did you first wear?

Jack: First, putting on my dad's Aspen, Stetson, and Cool Water in grade school. Second, a unisex perfume that smelled like freshly cut grass from American Eagle Outfitters, called "Live" or something. All through high school I wore patchouli, which caused enough of a stir that it made me totally immune to the "who sprayed for bugs?" comments of others early on. Then for two years I wore Kiehl's Musk exclusively, all the time, tons of it, and got so much attention from women it's insane- they'd just come up to me, women I'd never met, and nestle in my armpit and ask what I was wearing, like in a commercial or something. Then my friend Monica got the Turin/Sanchez book (Perfume: The Guide) which I started reading and which got me all pumped up with interest. The first actual women's perfume that I bought was Jean-Paul Gaultier, because I wanted the damned cone-bra bottle at all costs and didn't care what it smelled like. But the first women's fragrance I fell totally in love with and brazenly wore all the time was Youth Dew. I bought the EDP, the bath oil, the powder, and the body cream in the big heavy ashtray-like pot in the course of a month. It was affordable Old Hollywood glamor--I really wanted to wear it because I knew that Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson AND Madonna wore it. Not that Madonna is Old Hollywood.

Brian: Madonna is older Hollywood than she'd like to think. When I started in earnest, I first bought Angel. Actually, I first bought a vanilla violet thing from Sephora, then I thought, "I only bought this because it reminded me of Angel, which is what I really want, but I'm still chicken to buy it and wear it." I bought Youth Dew pretty early on, too. I remember it sitting on my mom's dresser, the little gold bow with the elastic band.

Jack: I think a big factor in my descent into perfume madness was finding out about civet. The idea of civet was so titillating that I wanted to know more.

Brian: Can you detect civet in things?

Jack: Well it smells like so many different things according to so many different sources--in old perfume, which I know to have real civet, like Shocking, I definitely can--the alternately fecal, alternately musty mothball smell. But I can definitely tell when it's synthetic and in large quantities, like in Jicky, because that's such a simple composition and the civet isn't buried under a bunch of other stuff. I would like to smell all the animalic ingredients alone, because right now civet and castoreum and musk are sort of conflated into one thing in my mind.

Brian: I'm not sure I know the difference between real and synthetic, though I have some vintage perfumes which truly do seem feral.

Jack: I just assume that if it's new it's synthetic- I get more of a one-dimensional poop smell from new Guerlains, for instance, than the multi-faceted living animal smell of Shocking. La Nuit definitely smells like a living animal, like you were sprayed by something.

Brian: La Nuit IS an animal. It really is. It has so much animal in it that it ceases to be perfume. Talk about drag. It's animal drag.

Jack: My brother was convinced that perfume is an art after he smelled La Nuit. Before that he was skeptical, and thought that it was only about fashion and smelling good. He couldn't believe that women used to go around smelling like that. And was so excited.

Brian: That's sweet. I guess a good example of bad synthetic would be the Alfred Sung reformulation, which is like industrial strength poopy. Did you find EDP or EDT la Nuit? I hadn't read about La Nuit when I discovered it. It was pretty mind blowing.

Jack: EDP. I trolled ebay and got a new 3.4 EDP for $110, which is amazing. A-n-n-n-n-d I bought it with money I didn't have. Credit card impulse purchase!

Brian: I found three 100ml bottles of EDP for 39 bucks each! And bought all of them, of course.

Jack: Oh God, amazing. Do you have any idea when they quit making it?

Brian: I don't--nor why.

Jack: My sister is hooked on it now, too. She comes over and sprays it on without telling me and gets very happy when suddenly she's going around smelling like barnyard. She's going crazy since she doesn't have any.

Brian: Any other rarities you have?

Jack: Let's see--I have some 60's Shocking EDP, and some Shocking parfum. Unfortunately neither is in the torso bottle. I have Forever Krystle, the horrible Vanderbilt rip-off Dynasty tie-in perfume, which I'm quite proud of. I have an awesome green Poison Esprit de Parfum purse spray, which I'd take to the office if I were a high-powered female executive.

Brian: One thing I like about you is that you seem to be really into the sort of all American classics--not stuff made in the US but stuff available to the everyday American consumer--now or in the past. I guess that's a nostalgic thing for me. I love niche and indie perfume. But the stuff that holds the strongest sway for me is the stuff I might have seen on my mothers dresser.

Jack: It's true- Estee Lauder was my first love, since they're the most complex and unusual perfumes that are that widely available here. And they're practically free. Also, I'm just as into the advertising campaigns and commercials and the overall idea of what kind of woman is supposed to wear them as I am into the scents themselves, and obviously niche/indie stuff doesn't have that behind it. So I gravitate toward department store scents. I think the only niche things I have are all the Etat Libre d'Orange ones, and Carnal Flower.

Brian: Yeah the ads too--those are really powerful associations for me. I remember being so under their sway, even the corniest ones. Let's talk about Etat Libre d'Orange. I get really tired of hearing people slam them for their "puerile" imagery. It seems so weird to me. That's annoying enough, but worse is the sense that until Like This and Fat Electrician they'd only done loud, crude perfumes. Some of those older things they've done are so lovely.

Jack: Like This smells like Yankee Candle to me. I thought it was annoying that everyone was talking in rapturous tones about ELDO because of the Tilda Swinton thing. Everything before that was better! I just can't believe how anyone can be into perfume and not be immediately drawn to their stuff, the hilarious ad copy, the graphics, the concepts. I read about Secretions Magnifiques before I even got into perfume, and it got me so excited. I ordered a full bottle with school finanical aid money when it became available at Luckyscent.

Brian: Did you know it was first offered as Alexander McQueen's Kingdom? And was rejected. I sometimes wonder what the reaction would have been. Because as much as I think Secretions is a hard pill to swallow for people in and of itself, I think the overall concept and execution of ELDO packaging works against it as well.

Jack: But yeah, I look at these comments on pre-Like This posts about ELDO, and I just start to lose faith in the perfume community as a whole. I got the coffret of the first 16 of them, little 10 ML ones, for Christmas. My whole family was having fun with them.

Brian: I didn't know such a thing existed!

Jack: My sister sniffed them all, and liked them, and said that they seemed like "explorations of different bathrooms". Yeah, unfortunately they're not sprays, but the box is beautiful and it's a great deal for $150.

Brian: Did you like Vraie Blonde?

Jack: Yes, definitely, though it merges with Encens et Bubblegum in my mind. When you smell them all together, the similarities really come out. They all seem to share this sort of hot spit smell. My favorite, after Secretions, is Rien, then probably Vierges.

Brian: Mine too! Wow. I really really like Vierges. And Rien was the first I bought along with Jasmine et Cigarette.

Jack: Oh I know! It has that peppery, musty complexity about it that real civet does.

Brian: Do you smell the tuberose? I don't.

Jack: No, not at all.

Brian: Have you smelled Noel au Balcon?

Jack: No I haven't. I don't know if they have it at Luckyscent.

Brian: They did for a time. That's where I got mine. It resembles Like This in ways but doesn't feel so apologetic.

Jack: Rossy de Palma is my other favorite. I love icy rose soliflores, and it's the iciest. I think the Almodovar association makes it way more fun for me. The idea of that woman having a perfume is so brilliant.

Brian: I have it and love it but it isn't a favorite and I'm not sure why.

Jack: Last night I wandered around in the cold alone and bought perfume at Walgreens and Wal-Mart.

Brian: So you go shopping for perfume at Wal-Mart too?

Jack: I do, occasionally. One night it resulted in Vanderbilt, yikes! This time it was Aramis. And then I went to the Walgreens next door and bought a tiny Halston spray, and Giorgio Red for men. I'm extremely pleased with Red. It's like a lightened Red for women, with a strong base of scrotum. Seriously, I've never smelled anything that so uncannily captures the exact smell of scrotum.

Brian: I go during the day, so it's slightly less or slightly more squalid, depending on your point of view, your drinking habits, and your wake up call. It's like making a beer run only its perfume. That's where I got Vanderbilt too. I wish I remembered old Red. You can still find slightly older Halston in some drugstores, though not as old as I'd prefer.

Jack: I'd like Giorgio for men, right? I was debating between the original or Red last night, and I decided on Red because I don't see it as much.

Brian: Red had vanished for a long time and was impossible to find, like La Nuit. Then they reformulated I believe and now it's pretty prevalent at discount shops. Giorgio is fantastic--more patchouli than you know what to do with, weirdly musky, and not at all subtly.

Jack: Now it's put out by Elizabeth Arden. Oh, good. Maybe I'll go get it tonight for the hell of it.

Brian: It reminds me a lot of old Givenchy Gentleman and a little of H.O.T. Always by Bond No.9.

Jack: Oh, I wanted to discuss this with you--I watched Working Girl yesterday. And the perfume use in that movie is SUPERB.

Brian: Really?

Jack: Yes! I was wearing Magie Noire at the time, and when Melanie Griffith goes into Sigourney Weaver's house for the first time, she dabs on some Magie Noire parfum (from the awesome old Satanic orange and black bottle), and there is also a big bottle of First sitting next to it. Later, at a wedding reception, she sprays her entire body about 8 times with something that looks like Private Collection. THEN, when Sigounrey Weaver returns to the movie and is preparing to seduce Harrison Ford, she beckons for Melanie to bring her her Shalimar, and says, "Shalimar. I LOVE Shalimar!" contentedly while dabbing it all over.

Brian: Oh my God! How did I miss all that? Really smart usage for that movie.

Jack: I know! It makes such sense for the Sigourney character to have all three of those.

Brian: And for Melanie to stop and spray them surreptitiously and so wantonly, because that's "class" and "luxury". It's such a nice, economical way to show their differences.

Jack: Other movie perfume spottings: in the awesome Scorsese Cape Fear remake, Jessica Lange has White Linen on her dresser. Appropriate.

Brian: Oh wow. Totally. Whenever I'm watching a movie and they show the perfume I freeze frame it trying to see what the bottles are.

Jack: Me too! I hate it when they use fake bottles. And here's a weird one: in I Know Who Killed Me, the Lindsay Lohan stripper horror movie that I think is legitimately great but everyone hates, there's a big bottle of Rive Gauche on the counter in the dressing room of the strip club.

Brian: Another good one for Lange's character in Cape Fear would be...?

Jack: I can see Aromatics Elixir on her. The most humorless actress of all time.

Brian: What would Frances Farmer have worn in the movie Frances? As played by humorless Jessica Lange.

Jack: Oh! Good one...I haven't seen that so I can't say.

Brian: What!?

Jack: I checked it out from the library and never watched it.

Brian: Jack!

Jack: I wonder if it's on instawatch...if so, I'll watch it tonight.

Brian: You must really dislike her if you haven't watched THAT one. We have to end the conversation right now, and next time we'll talk about Frances among other things.

Jack: Okay!

Brian: I can't possibly resume this until you watch it.

Jack: I'll watch it!


Brian said...

Hey Brian - I'm Brian (from Seattle) - I've only been reading your blog for a few months but I've really enjoyed it. I'm still just a couple years into this but can relate to a lot of your discussion with Jack.

I've not heard of or smelled La Nuit though but am deeply intrigued - this is the Paco Rabanne one, correct?

Brian said...

Hey Brian. Glad you've been enjoying it. Yes, we're talking about La Nuit by Paco R. I've smelled it in EDT and EDP. It's pretty amazing stuff. I know where to get a few 5ml bottles of EDT so maybe I'll have to do a draw. What kind of things do you wear/like?

queen_cupcake said...

Whoa, great post and great conversation. I only read the first half but I'll be back to finish it. If I read any more, I'll be late to work! Youth Dew rocks!

ScentScelf said...

How in the world did I miss the perfume in Working Girl???? Wow, there really is a schism in my life between When I Was Not Interested and After I Fell Down the Rabbit Hole. Those *are* perfect. Good eye, Jack. (Plus, I heart Magie Noire, which I was in no way wearing then, but I am now.)

Living animal perfume. Heh.

I'm glad Jack will be back.

Karin said...

When I read your post, Brian (and Jack!), I just had to laugh. How fun is it to talk about perfume with someone else who loves perfume??? As Abigail mentioned in her earlier post - there seem to be so few others out there that have this passion. When we find someone who shares it, can't we just go on and on for hours??? Ha!!! Too much fun.

I haven't tried any ELdO scents except for Like This - and when Jack said it smelled like Yankee candle - YES! I don't get the ravings about it either. Total potpourri to me, and not in a good way. But now I'm curious about their other scents. I'll have to check them out (though I think I'll stay clear of Secretions!).

Marina said...

The word "cologne" makes men feel safe from their own vanity...what an interesting thought!

Dusan said...

Jealous of Jack.

Michael said...

Great dialogue idea for a post - loved it! Thank you...

Elisa said...

This is the greatest. More of these please!!! And YAY for Jack for loving Rossy de Palma as much as I do. Not having intended to at all, I ended up wearing it on New Year's Eve (because I was wearing a red dress)

Angela Cox said...

To think I watch movies for the knitwear ! You guys keep on wearing perfume because if men care about what they wear why not how they smell? I am married to that man who would eye the label on a bottle to make sure it says "Eau de Cologne" .I have tried I really have , I spritzed him with Une Rose once and he didn't notice . I am thinking of "nobbling" ( do you use that expression ?) his 4711 one day as long as it's urine colour he'll splash it on as I smile and wave him off to work .My Idylle is looking at me !

Brian said...

Angela, that's a brilliant idea. I admire your anarchic spirit.

Anonymous said...

Grey on grey text is hard, pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to read FYI.

Brian said...

Agreed, which is why I'd never do it intentionally. Thanks for pointing it out anonymous. When I revamped the site's color and design templates a few months back some of the text I'd used in previous posts became unreadable, and I don't have the patience to comb through 800 posts to see which.