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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Perfume Slumming, or the 70's revisited

Review by Tom

The other say, a friend of mine who lives near Pasadena invited me out to dinner at a wonderful restaurant near her in the valley. At 8. I work in downtown Los Angeles, and live in a lovely shack in what is known as the "industrial triangle" area of beautiful Beverly Hills, on the westside of LA. Dinner at 8 in Pasadena means killing a few hours- the beauty of living on the westside and commuting downtown is that you are running against prevailing traffic. It takes me about 25 minutes to get home. I know from bitter experience that it can take years to get from the westside to the valley at rush hour, since there are only three canyons that one can get through. So killing time in other people's AC was on my mind.

I ended up in a mall in Burbank. I thought that I had stumbled across the Glendale Galleria and was looking forward to a cruise through the Apple Store, a traipse through L'Occitane, sidle up to Nordstrom's and the hours would fly by. The reality was Burbank Town Center, featuring Macy's, Hooters, and Hot Dog on a Stick. Oh well, I had found a great parking space (and parking is everything in southern California), and I was here.

Macy's is of course, Macy's as I am sure that every reader of this Blog knows (haven't they swallowed up every department store in the US? I mourn Filene's, I weep for Marshall Field's, I snarl that there is not a Bullock's to be found). They have their selection of fragrances that I smugly dismiss as "trainers". I wandered further. There was a Sears. Having a weakness for electronics, I went in, and I discovered.. a perfume counter. Well, counter was putting it generously, it was a shelf. It was a shelf stocked with some of the sad remains of the past few years: Some J Lo, some other Lo's, etc. But then I spied a bottle of something that I had not even thought of since I was in junior high: Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur.

Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur was to the 70's what CK one was to the 90's. It was a fairly unisex scent in the most phallic bottle that the company could get away with picturing in the ads, which always played up the shape of the bottle. Manly, yes, but I like it too. Cardin sold this scent like hotcakes for a long time until he had so oversold his name (he licensed himself to everything from towels to telephones to tie tacks) that his cachet fell and his fragrances disappeared from department store shelves.

But what you may ask (if you’re still awake) does it smell like? Well, I could take a cheap shot and say the 70's. It certainly took me back to the time that I bought my first bottle at Steiger's in the Hampshire Mall with money I earned mowing lawns as a kid (yes, you could tell even then). Getting those memories out of the way, it's held up surprisingly well. It starts with a bracing citrus nicely complemented by lavender and basil, moves through leather, sandalwood and geranium before settling into a powdery amber with leather. Objectively, it's a nice, somewhat simple scent that deserves better than being relegated to the dustbins of drugstores and discounters. Subjectively, I think I could never wear it myself. I'm not the kid who rode his bike to Steiger's anymore: it's so intrinsically tied to my young yoof that I just cannot bring myself to go there again. That particular veil has been drawn.

Pour Monsieur by Pierre Cardin is available various places like drugstores and warehouses, as well as on the Internet such as for as little as $15 for a 4 oz splash. If you have a kid on a bike that's getting interested in scent of either sex, you could do far worse than starting him or her on this one..


Blogger Lisa Olga said...

Holy Habanita, Batman! Steigers at Hampster Mall. I prowled the one at Eastfield Mall. What a freakin' blast from the past, homegirl. Remember Forbes and Wallace too?

I'm a few hundered miles south of there now but man! what a nostalgia trip. sigh....missing picking apples at Atkins now that fall is coming.

12:01 AM EDT  
Blogger Lisa Olga said...

Sorry Tom! that would be amended to "homeslice"...didn't quite not who was writing at the top of the entry.... (is embarassed)

12:05 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Oh honey- I am perfectly willing to own homegirl. Especially for someone who remembers Forbes and Wallace; that was more than a bike ride from 'hamp though.

How much would I love to have some of those old charge cards!

12:32 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Seriously enjoying your blog

12:36 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Hecht's. Macy's is in the process of eating our local Hechts chain, which I loved. They're still transitioning in their signage, so we call them Hacy's. Or (my favorite) Hexy's. Because I feel like Macy's has put a hex on my life. A pox upon them.

But I digress. I TOO was at the fragrance counter at Sears! Your PC story is great -- I spotted the bottle the other day and giggled, I can't imagine them releasing that bottle now. The whole thing reminds me of Tom Selleck. (Wonder what you thought of Magnum PI in your yoof?) But I am not surprised, I guess some of those surviving cheesy classics were classic b/c at one time they were pretty good...

8:02 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

"Trainers" - what a perfect description of most of the 'fumes at Macy's.
I've occasionally thought about buying a perfume on ebay that I wore as a young teen, but in the end I don't because it would be too much like suddenly being back in my 13 year old bedroom w/ its posters and floral print bedspread (ugh) - just too out of sync w/ my current self. Nice to look at pictures occasionally and maybe sniff out of the bottle - inconceivable to think about wearing those perfumes now.

8:04 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Loved the post, although cannot relate to being upset about having Macy's instead of something else. If there wasn't Macy's here there'd be no shops at all. That's right, I live in a shopping desert. Althouhg as far as Macy's perfume area is concerned, there might as well have been no shops. *rolls eyes*. J Lo and some more J Lo with an occasional Spears and KLS, that's what we have. :-)

8:17 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


"I guess some of those surviving cheesy classics were classic b/c at one time they were pretty good". Very well put.

Tom Selleck was hot. Even up to the guest shots on "Friends"

11:50 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


exactly how I feel, although there are some like Habit Rouge and Vetiver that have made it past that barrier. They're too good to leave to my misspent yoof

11:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I must butt in to say that e was at his Hottest in Friends! Ah, Richard, Richard! :-)

11:52 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I think you would have had Kauffman's or May Co. Federated just ended up gobbling up every department store in the country in the 80's and 90's, usually doing nothing but closing the extra stores. So sad.

Here's a list of defunct stores from Wikipedia:

12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lisa Olga said...


They were Charge Plates and they were made of Metal - do you remember that far back? I'm just remembering my mother's - meta land smelling like lipstick and powder and other purse detritus.

And delighted you like da blog - I'm thinking of retitling it "The Blog That Dare Not Speak Its Name"

12:06 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

"Tom Selleck was hot. Even up to the guest shots on 'Friends'" Yes indeedy. Although I have to agree with Marina that older, Friends-era Tom is even hotter.

"(haven't they swallowed up every department store in the US? I mourn Filene's, I weep for Marshall Field's, I snarl that there is not a Bullock's to be found)" They ate our local (Portland, OR) Meier & Frank's, too. It's awful. Meier & Frank always had such good purchasers for their store inventory, and now it's all homogonized stock that I could get pretty much anywhere else, and at better prices to boot. Sigh. The worst, of course, is the change in the way the run the perfume counter. Too many shills for specific brands or specific fragrances now, as opposed to how M&F used to employ general sales people that would actully help you with anything from the perfume area you were interested in. God, last time I was there I ended up feeling stalked by not one, but three different Calvin Klein advocates. "Here, smell this: I'm wearing Euphoria. Isn't it nice?" No! It smells like something died on you! Only it didn't die yet!

As ridiculous as that bottle is, nothing, and I mean nothing will ever beat Francesco Smalto's Full Choke.

7:55 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

OMIGOD- I completely forgot about "Full Choke"! Hilarious!

9:22 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


My parents were staunch New Englanders and did not believe in credit cards. Dad had Amex to make plane reservations, but that was it.

God knows where they got me...

9:28 PM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

You guys are hilarious -- Full Choke is a hunting term referring to narrowing the bore of a shotgun to increase the range. Although I find it funny that hunting comes with all sorts of great, vaguely sexual terms -- lessee, there's also modified choke, ejector, grip, butt, pump, recoil, action ... 'scuse me, I have to go sniff some gunpowder.

10:22 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Colombina...does this mean you grew up in Western Mass? In the Amherst area perhaps? Because you mention the Hampshire mall...which I sorely miss in all its ghettotastic glory.

2:52 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I'm Tom. I've been guest reviewing for Columbina on Thursdays. To answer your question, yes, but on the other side of the river in Northampton. And to date myself, it still had a Steiger's in it when I left the area for the big city...

4:44 PM EDT  

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