The Hidden Life of a Fragrance Addict: An Interview with Tom
I realized early on that I wanted to know more about Marina and about Tom after reading their reviews day after day. Oh, I would get snippets of memories and pieces of stories but they weren’t enough. What makes them tick? What do they do when they aren’t writing reviews or answering their many fans’ questions? I have to admit that any time I am thinking of buying something “unsniffed”, I write to Marina for advice. You are going to notice that a lot of the questions I asked to Marina and Tom are similar…OK, so sue me. (To read Marina’s interview check out the post on August 15th, 2007)
Tom has been so kind over this past year by giving me loads of praise for my reviews but also by sending me lots of samples (this was how I discovered my new love, Annick Goutal’s Sables). I want to share an interview that took place over the past few weeks by email. He was very kind and open about all aspects of his life. And, did I mention that he is very funny?
Tom, my year anniversary with PST is [in August] and I want to do something a little different so I thought maybe I would interview both you and Marina. So, what do you think?
Sure. As long as you don't ask me my real age or weight. Oh wait, it's the internet, I can lie!! Fire away and happy anniversary!
Tom lets start this interview with a little background information. Why don't you tell us where were you born and how many siblings you have? Are you the oldest child? What jobs did your parents have while you were growing up?
I was born in a small college town in Western Massachusetts, now known as the Lesbian capital of the US. For a small town it was fairly cosmopolitan since there were (are) five colleges in the area. It was a nice place to grow up: close enough to Boston and New York to be able to make day trips but still rural enough to be able to get lost in the woods, and with a lot of wonderful cultural activities available.
I am the middle child with an older brother and a younger sister, from whom I am very different: I think they rather roll their eyes at some of my pretensions. My mother ran the household while my father was the equivalent of an Admiral in the Merchant Marines, which would take him away for months at a time. At the time much was made of this by some people in our town. Questions were raised about how we children were being "affected". Of course, children will parrot what their parents say, so some kids in the neighborhood would try to tease me about it. Being a child who was precocious bordering on the diabolical I merely pointed out that when my dad was home, he was “home”: he drove us to school, picked us up, played ball, and made sure we did our homework- and he came home from work after those months with incredible presents. Their dad came home from work at 6, sat on the sofa and got drunk.
Shockingly I had only a few good friends...
In high school, did you belong to any clubs? What were your passions/hobbies? If you went to college, what was your major? What was your first cologne? Any special memories associated with it?
Nope, [there were] no clubs. My hobbies were reading and art, which led to me majoring in art in college. I believe Eau Sauvage was the first cologne I had but it holds no special memories for me: I still wear it!
Since you were an art major, did you do anything with your art? What do you do now?
I draw for fun, but I don't use art in my day job.
Do you have anything scanned in that we can use as an example of your work for the interview?
No, I rarely keep any of it.
What is your job? Are you a male prostitute? A spy? A drug dealer? I know, if you tell me you will have to kill me right?
Nothing that interesting. I work in finance.
So, how did you end up in California?
I first came out to California in 1984 to work at the Olympic Arts Festival from New York. I was here for about three months and was so homesick I practically cried through "Ghostbusters" When I got back to my crummy place in the East Village, I was like "what was I thinking?", Five years later I had an offer from friends to move back and stay with them, and I took it.
What are your favorite things to do in Los Angeles?
My favorite thing to do in Los Angeles is drive. A lot of the best things about architecturally are pretty much only available to see by car: architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Schindler, Lautner, Eames, Ain and non-modernists such as Paul Williams, John Woolfe, Roland Coate and early architects such as Roy Seldon Price, the Greenes and Gordon Kaufman are far flung enough or up in the hills enough that doing a tour is easier by car. I no longer have a convertible, but my next car will be one. There is nothing more wonderful than a drive on a warm LA evening along Mulholland from Hollywood to Bel Air along Mulholland with the top down: the scent of jasmine palpable and the twinkling lights of the valley below are a lovely carpet. LA at my feet.
There is of course also going to the movies at some of the surviving movie palaces from the 20's and 30's. Graumann's Chinese is still there, as is the el Capitain (showing Disney movies). Graumann's Egyptian was spared from the wrecking ball, a bad 60's remodel and the '94 earthquake by the American Cinematheque, who restored it to it's slightly loony Egypro-Hollywood glory and shows a spate of revivals there. Sadly, Beverly Hills has been less fortunate, allowing the Warner theater to be torn down in '88 and what was left of the Beverly Theater to be razed a couple of years ago.
Favorite book (OK you can list more than one)
I have way too many favorite books to list, but near the top of them is E. F. Bensons Lucia novels. I just finished a biography of Morris Lapidus, the architect who went from darling of the intelligentsia to pariah when he went dropped modernism and started designing kitsch palaces like the Fontainbleu and the Eden Roc.
Again, way too many to list, but "Death Becomes Her" is up there. I tend to like classic movies (at least the ones that I buy on DVD) but I admit to owning both "Showgirls" and "Basic Instinct 2", and enjoying every second of their awfulness.
A long list as well. Right now I am listening to Mark Ronson, Charles Trenet, the new Joan Armatrading, Nouvelle Vague, the new Scissor Sisters and the new Bjork (which I don't think is that great)
Can I ask some personal questions?
Yes, but I might not answer them.
Gemini. I share a birthday with Nicole Kidman. I am of course far, far younger ;-)
Chinese astrological sign?
Yes, once on the boat to Provincetown from Boston. I was annoyed that he wouldn't tell me how long I would live.
Have you ever had a mystical experience?
What do you think your purpose/destiny is (why are you here)?
To Annoy. I am really not sure I believe in destiny: sometimes I really think we're just plonked here and what we do with our lives is entirely up to us.
Let's talk about the gay thing now. When did you figure it out? Do you think being gay has impacted your life choices and if so how? What is your most romantic memory? Do you feel that being gay was a choice? Have you ever been the victim of anti-gay attitudes? Who do you have a crush on? Do you have a significant other? (Am I really nosy or what?)
I think I always knew I was gay, and if wasn’t, I most likely would have stayed in my hometown, gotten married and worn Madras. I do wear the Madras, but with a distinct sense of irony. And Prada sneakers.
I think my most romantic memory was one of those "gotcha" moments that life sometime hands you: I spent a wonderful afternoon in the Berkshires, getting to my lovely Inn at about 4 to one of those fluffy snowstorms that are lovely but won't cause power outages, but still have enough stick to them to make snow angels followed by a romantic and delicious dinner in a cozy restaurant in town, then back to the fire-lit room for an aperitif and... reading my book since I was there with my BFF Bitsy. But you know, I am not sure that I would have had a better time with a romantic partner.
I feel that my sexuality is no more a choice than me having green eyes and pale skin. I don't know that I have been the victim of anti-gay attitudes; if I have at least they had the good taste not to broadcast it. Except for pinheads who yell out of car windows, but that hasn't happened in years- perhaps because I am tall, well built and not very nice.
Not that there would be any reading here but can anybody explain the sport in driving through a gay neighborhood and yelling things? Its West Hollywood people, what were you expecting to find? Migrating Wildebeest? We don't go to Mar Vista and diss your curtains or your flat asses, do we?
I don't have a crush on anyone at the moment, I don't have a significant other, and yes, you are [nosy]. But that's okay.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only 10 bottles of fragrance, what are the 10 that you couldn't live without and why?
Well, I am sure the list will change, but as of now:
MKK because I would want something a little sexy.
CB Cradle of Light because it's so freaking lovely
French Lover because even on a deserted island I might want to feel a little dressy.
Reverie au Jardin because when I get sick of the island I can imagine a country garden.
SL Encense et Lavande for the same reason, but insert mountain church.
L'Air de Rien because its Veddy Jane Birkinness would do the same, with that musty house.
Kolnisch Juchten because its smoky, fatty yumminess would assuage my boredom with eating fish and fruit.
Caron Nuit de Noel because Christmas Eve on a deserted island would be helped- and there would have to be a bunch of Christmas Eves.
Dior Diorissimo would keep me from getting too homesick with its flowers.
And an underground reservoir of Annick Goutal Hadrien, because it's so refreshing, and in case this is one of those deserted islands lacking spa services.
What are a couple of your favorite scent memories?
Fall in New England, with the still warm days that have just a touch of that goose-over-your-grave chill that says winter's coming; the scent of leaf piles.
Early summer thunderstorms in New York: sudden torrential rains, lilacs and the smell of ozone.
Late summer drives along Mulholland in my old convertible: air so dry it feels like a hair dryer, jasmine and old car.
Is there anything else you would like your many fans to know about you?
I accept PayPal. ;-)
Thanks for being such a good sport.