Thursday, November 19, 2009


The grand seductress, Wallis, Duchess of Windsor may never have succeeded to the British throne but her reign of celebrity can best be attributed to the period in which she was a conniving American socialite who married, as her third husband, Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom. The king's desire to marry a twice-divorced American with two living ex-husbands caused a sensation throughout the world, and particularly a crisis in the United Kingdom and the Dominions. This decision led to the King's abdication in December 1936 and all ears were pinned to the radio to hear the King decision to marry "the woman I love." After the abdication, the former king was created Duke of Windsor by his brother George VI. Edward married Wallis six months later after which she was formally known as the Duchess of Windsor, but never "Her Royal Highness." One wonders what was so special about this amazing Deco decadent woman to be able to capture the king's heart? Albeit she was a good style setter, she wasn't exactly a beauty. Perhaps it was her sexuality that pinned him down to her allegiance?
An Advantages Alliance
As a prominent figure in the privileged social set in Britain in the 1930s the reigning celebrity couple was Edward, Prince of Wales and his then-mistress Lady Thelma Furness. It is no doubt that the Prince met Wallis at various house parties when she was married to her second husband, Ernest Aldrich Simpson, a shipping executive and former captain in the Coldstream Guards. Wallis was ripe for a new assignation. For one thing, Ernest was beginning to encounter financial difficulties and providence played its opportunistic hand when Lady Furness was away in New York. Abetting Wallis' access to the Prince, before she left Lady Furness unwisely asked Wallis to look after Edward and indeed she did. While Furness was traveling Wallis wove her web of attraction and became the Prince's mistress ousting Lady Furness and alienating him from his former lover.
The Fatal Attraction
You've heard of the term 'fatal attraction.' Well, the Prince was so totally besotted with Wallis that he found her domineering and abrasive irreverence toward his position appealing. In the words of one biographer, he became 'slavishly dependent' on her. If one could look into Edward's upbringing, nannies at birth, shunted to private schools and absence of close motherly love one can perhaps understand the alienation from his family that developed in one so sensitive that he was willing to accept partnership with such a controlling woman. His courtiers became increasingly alarmed as the affair began to interfere with his official duties. Off they went with no concern for his official Princely duties to holiday in Europe. As was the custom of wealthy men, he showered Wallis with money and jewels but when Edward presented Wallis to his mother, at a party in Buckingham Palace, his father was was outraged, primarily on account of her marital history. What's more divorced people were excluded from court.
Romantic Crisis
By the time that Edward had ascended to the throne as Edward VIII after George V died, it became apparent to all concerned, the Court and Government, that Edward was determined to marry Wallis. One major setback was the Church of England that did not permit the re-marriage of divorced people with living ex-spouses, and Wallis already had two ex-spouses. Her marriage Edward would be her third alliance. They could get married in a civil ceremony, but the constitutional position was that the king could not marry a divorcee and remain as King. The marriage idea between the King and an American divorcee was extremely unpopular not only in the British Empire but also because Wallis was perceived as a conniving woman who was pursuing the King because of hsi wealth and position. Although Wallis under pressure by the king's Lord-in-Waiting, Peregrin Cust, 6th Baron Brownlow, was urged to renounce the King, and she did so in a press statement. The King, on the other hand realized that in order to remain the King, Wallis could not be Queen. Furthermore if the King were to marry Wallis, the government would be required to resign, causing a constitutional crisis. Under these conditions if the King wished to marry Wallis he had no option but to abdicate.
The Bitter End
No member of the British Royal family attend the wedding on Wallis and Edward and they were childless. Rumor has it that Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) remained bitter towards the Duchess of Windsor for her role in bringing George VI to the throne and for prematurely behaving as Edward's consort when she was his mistress. This attitude was mere speculation because Queen Elizabeth never voiced it publically.
So the celebrity couple reigned over friends and acquaintances throughout the world traveling with their gang of pug dogs and great amounts of travel luggage. One never knows whether Edward, the Duke of Windsor ever regretted his choice or how truly happy he was in the end.
There's is much more about Edward and Wallis' life together but I have touched on here only the segment of their amazing romance and his abdication. For more information contact www.theduke&

Friday, November 6, 2009


CARMEN MIRANDA: The Brazilian Bombshell
Dear Reader: Those of us who remember that dynamic "tutti frutti " dancing diva, Carmen Miranda, will never forget her bombastic style and sensuous singing. Carmen Miranda who died on August 5, 1955 at the far too young age of 46 set the standard for Latin performers. She broke through racial barriers to make a dramatic mark on the silver screen in Hollywood and by some accounts she was one of the highest-paid artists and reported to be the highest-earning woman in the United States during the 1940s and 1950's, the heyday of her oeuvre.
Promoting Brazil
Although Portuguese-born, Miranda was famous for promoting Brazil in her role as an entertainer. It is no wonder, therefore, that Brazilians called her their own. When she died, according to her wishes her body was flown back to Brazil where the Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning. In tribute to her colossal memory more than a million people stood on the funeral possession's route to mourn her untimely death.
A Good Will Ambassador
This was no ordinary diva. Carmen Miranda was a good will ambassador for Brazil as part of President Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy, designed to strengthen links with Latin America and Europe. The premise of President Roosevelt's policy was that in delivering entertainment like hers, the policy would be better received by the American public. And, indeed it did just that. The public wanted more but her career was short lived.
A Samba Singer
The phrase "Tropicalismo" and CARMEN MIRANDA click together like the rhythm of a samba. The Brazilian Bombshell began her career as a samba singer in 1928 the height of the Jazz Age in American movies, but she was already a genuine superstar in Brazil. I recall seeing many of her iconic stylized and outlandishly flamboyant performances and reveled at her amazing dexterity and vitality that lit up the silver screen with jiggling musical numbers. All the while her antics were original entertainment exuding sexy shimmy and shakes all the time dancing to the beat of a Brazilian band and singing one of her trademark songs, "Chick-A-Boom, Chick-A-Boom." When you repeat these words, "Chick-A-Boom, Chick-A-Boom," you can just feel the beat that makes you want to move to the Latin rhythm. Carmen Miranda became known as "the lady in the "tutti-frutti hat," appearing in Hollywood movies wearing high platform shoes and towering turban-like headdresses made of fruit or other exotic decorations. The platform shoes gave the petite entertainer height as did the towering headdresses and the sensuous evening wear she wore slithered to the curves of her curvaceous body.
Tutti Fruity Inspiration
Carmen Miranda's hat fetish may harken back to the early days when she was employed in a hat shop in Rio, which incidentally was called Olinda, the name of her oldest sister. Carmen Miranda was primarily a super star, a modern woman who multi-tasked her talents in several directions. Her fruit laden hats and sensuous costumes inspired a collection of fruity Bakelite jewelry--pins, brooches, bracelets, necklaces, which today are highly collectible mementos of her iconography. Any woman on a budget could find commercial versions of fruity jewelry, which were sold in fashionable department stores. I remember my aunt Doris, who was quite a flamboyant character herself, wearing a matching tutti-fruity necklace and bracelet, plus an outfit that reminded me of Carmen Miranda's style. Doris was a party woman and paid tribute to Miranda by dancing to the tune of Latin bands in the late 1950s.
Entertainer Extraordinaire
A trouper to the end, Carmen Miranda unknowingly suffered a mild heart attack during a live segment of the Jimmy Durante Show. Miranda quickly pulled herself together to finish the show, but the strain was too much for her and she died later that night after suffering a second heart attack at her home. In retrospect accounts in the newspapers of her passing revealed that her untimely death was caused in part by the fact that in the later years of her life Miranda, like so many other stars, began taking amphetamines and barbiturates which took a toll on her body.
Further abetting her unhappiness she had an extremely difficult and abusive marriage. Her sister Aurora stated in the documentary, "Bananas is My Business, that the marriage was a burden in her life; he only married her for her money." Amazing, is it not, that despite it all she smiled and beguiled us with her ebullient silver screen personality.
The Art Deco World Congress
Members of the Art Deco Society of New York will be attending the 11th World Congress on Art Deco in Rio de Janeiro in 2011 and among the places they will probably visit is the museum dedicated to Carmen Miranda in the Flamengo neighborhood on Avenida Rui Barbosa. Marcio Alves Roiter, Founder-President of the Instituto Art Deco Brasil, is spearheading the Art Deco congress in Rio, which is destined to be an outstanding occasion to visit Art Deco architecture, museums, galleries and all things that are Latin Art Deco. To learn more about the Art Deco Congress visit: ( The Carmen Miranda museum in Rio houses a treasure trove of original costumes, her amazing "tutti frutti" hats and clips of her filmography. Why not take a vicarious trip to Brazil now by visiting the museum. For more information about the exhibits click the Rio link at Doni Sacramento has also created one of the best Internet sources on Carmen,
Legendary Landmarks
If you're in California nostalgic inquirers may wish to visit Carmen Miranda Square, which is only one of a number of Los Angeles city intersections named for the legendary performer. Interested? Go to the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive across from Grauman's Chinese Theater where Carmen Miranda's footprints are preserved in concrete. Imagine if you will how it might feel to put your feet into Carmen's imprints and recall the pulsating rhythm that must have emanated from such animated feet.
Get Into Carmen Miranda Groove
Why not take a vicarious trip back in time, put on some samba music and remember Carmen Miranda's incredible energy, "joie de vivre" joy for life and her captivating smile. If she were with us today she might say, "Dance like you've never danced before, stay up all night, get carried away and dance like nobodies watching but do it Carmen Miranda style!!!"