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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Confessions of a Perfume Addict: An interview with Kelley

By Tom

Of course, readers of PST know Kelley from his witty and well thought out posts, but now you will get to know the real Kelley: he's even brighter, funnier and nicer than you thought! (He even forgave me for shamelessly lifting his questions, how nice it that?

Tell us about your childhood (just get comfy on that sofa...): where did you grow up? Siblings? What did your parents do? What did you study in school? What did you love and what did you hate about the place you grew up? Why did you leave?

I was born in Daytona Beach, Florida, but we didn’t stay there long. We then moved to Oklahoma to be near my grandparents. My mother was a cytotechnologist (looked for cancer cells on slides) and my father was an insurance salesman. While selling insurance door to door, my father met a lovely woman that is now my step-mother. My parents soon divorced (well, after my mother found out about the other woman). My childhood was spent moving from city to city and from school to school. In fact, I think at last count I attended 13 schools before I graduated from high school in Spanaway, Washington. I have two brothers and a sister.

I was a creative writing major at the University of Washington. Then I was a fine art major at Oklahoma State. Oh yeah, and then I was an art history major at Tulsa University. Did I ever get a diploma? Nope. I think all together I have as much higher education as a doctor.

My mother married a man in the US Army and so we traveled all the time. It was tough. We would move to a wonderful place and start to make friends and then we would have to move again (we lived in Tehran for two years and that was a wonderful experience). That was the worst part…moving. I have lived all over the US but it took leaving the country to finally find a very supportive place for artists (I will explain later when we talk about Mexico).

We can see from your website that you are an artist- and a very good one. What drew you to art? How did you end up in Mexico?

I remember thinking that art was too easy and fun therefore it couldn’t be a job! I tried several things (I was even given an award by the Tulsa World newspaper for male secretary of the year in I think 1988) before I finally decided to make a go of painting. I have always painted…my whole life. The pivotal moment came when I was house sitting for my uncle (the spooky thing about that statement is that I am house sitting for the same uncle at this very moment!) when a famous artist knocked on the door and introduced himself as such. He told me that he would be glad to critique my work for free. I took him up on the offer and his first comment upon seeing my work was that I needed to go away and come back with some real art. I wasn’t devastated just determined to prove him wrong. I went back several more times before I finally quit painting sweet paintings and started painting strange and unusual ones. When I went to see this famous artist for my final critique, he was on the phone and I just remember him looking at my painting and hanging up without even saying goodbye and told me to take the painting and have it framed. He said that he would get me into a good gallery in Tulsa (which he did). The painting sold just a few hours after I dropped it off. And, as they say, the rest is history.

I moved to Mexico because I was slowly getting further and further into debt. Don’t get me wrong, I was a very successful artist but how can you pay your bills much less have medical insurance without a steady income. The year before I made the decision to move, I sold a painting for $15,000 and within weeks there was a famous hail storm that destroyed my roof and my car. I just couldn’t get ahead! My mom, who lives here in San Miguel de Allende, called and told me that the man that lived next to her had died and his sister was looking for a house sitter. I sold everything and moved down. It was an easy decision to make because I had been here before. San Miguel is a beautiful colonial town with cobble stone streets and tall Cyprus trees. It looks a lot like Italy.

You are American by birth; what is it like living in Mexico? You've mentioned that it's a small town, how does it differ from an American one? What do you do for entertainment? What are the pluses and minuses living there? How has it changed over the time you've lived there? (I'm fascinated by this; I've never lived anywhere but America, and not being fluent in any foreign language I don't know that I could)

Yes, I am American. Living in Mexico is very exotic. The days are warm but not hot (San Miguel is over a mile high) and the nights are cool. My electric bill this month was $20. I only pay 3% tax on my income as an artist/gallery owner…I kid you not! It’s a very different kind of life here. It’s very laid back. On Tuesdays, I walk down to a little street vendor and buy my fruits and veggies for the week and I might spend $4. I have my own gallery that is only a block from where I live. It’s a great life.

When I say this is a small town that is putting it mildly. I can walk from north San Miguel to the other end of town in about 45 minutes. I know because I have done it. We have terrific restaurants but I don’t go out to eat that often. We have a major jazz festival and a film festival among many other things. I have to admit that I don’t get out much except to work

Favorite Books?

Palliser’s “The Quincunx”. I also love “Lord of the Rings” and “His Dark Materials”. I read all the time but it has to be well written or I will give it away.

Favorite Movies?

“Auntie Mame”, anything by David Lynch (especially “Wild at Heart”), “Dark City”, and “Cold Comfort Farm”. The problem with this question is that I collect movies and have so many!

Favorite Singers?

My favorite group is the Indigo Girls. I like Sarah McLachlan, Lisa Gerrard, Evanescence, Radio Head (Thom Yorke is a god), Tori Amos, and Mindy Smith. I also have a huge collection of Latin masses on my Ipod.

Favorite Artists?

Donald Roller Wilson.

(Yes, I am going to shamelessly steal your questions; they are good ones and I am lazy)

You mentioned that you are also the year of the Ox, what is your Astrological Sign?

I am a Sagittarius.

You asked both myself and Colombina about mystical experiences and our ideas on destiny, which leads me to believe that you have had one (at least) and have definite ideas on the subject, care to share?

No mystical experiences here. However, they fascinate me! I am a total heathen and don’t believe in organized religion (It exists; it’s just not for me).

You've mentioned that you are gay as well, and I am going to toss some of your questions back at you: when did you know? How did it affect your relationship with your family? How do you think it influenced your decision to live out of the country, if it did at all? How is it being a gay man living in Mexico (which I view in the stereotypically Los Angeles gay-guy way as a very Catholic country, not exactly gay-friendly)? Crushes? Boyfriend?

About being gay, I think I have always known. I remember having a terrible crush on Batman (in the black Speedo). The family thing was tough. I didn’t speak to my parents for several years after they found out because their reaction was terrible. We are all OK now and I talk about it openly. San Miguel is not the place for a gay white boy to live! It’s a tiny town. I just hope that doesn’t mean that I am doomed to live a single life! Mexico is cool with the gay thing. In fact, it’s legal for gay people to get married here.

Crushes…no. Boyfriend…HAH!

I will ask you your 10 desert island scents, but I am also going to ask you to list ten items that you could not live without on that same island (we are assuming art supplies as a given, so no, you can't fill it up by listing pastels, oils, gouache, etc.)

Tom, I can’t imagine that anyone will have read this far but here goes.

1. Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie – roses and ambergris.
2. L’artisan Premier Figuier – coconut and leaves.
3. YSL M7 – I love the amber and oud in this.
4. Alexander McQueen Kingdom – pure pheremones and deliciousness.
5. SL Chergui – I love its tobacco and sweet grass.
6. AG Sables – this just smells like an artist would wear it.
7. Hermes Eau des Merveilles – the ambergris in this just makes me smile.
8. Tauer Lonestar Memories – it’s a birch tar masterpiece.
9. L’artisan Timbuktu – one of the best saffron scents out there.
10. L’artisan Navigateur – Smoke filled, spicy mélange.

I couldn’t live without my Ipod (is there such a thing as a solar-powered Ipod?), Fleurs de Bulgarie, sunscreen, bar of soap, a totally hot guy (I have seen those prison movies so he probably doesn’t even have to be gay!), “The Quincunx” for when my boyfriend is napping, a chef because I love to eat good food, a pillow top mattress because sleep is important, my dogs because who else could love them like I do, and last but not least a lifetime supply of Lindt chocolate.

What are 5 foods you absolutely love? 5 that you loathe?

Love chicken alfredo pizza, fried mushrooms with ranch dressing, molten chocolate cake, chicken enchiladas with mole sauce, and peach cobbler.

I hate fish that is fishy tasting, raw bell peppers, bologna, cooked spinach, and my mom’s Italian Delight (because it always made me feel sick).

If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?

I would have found my true love by now (or that hot guy from the desert island!).

(Yes, I am back to stealing) Since you're so well traveled, I am sure that you have some interesting scent memories: care to share some?

I remember my budgie’s cage (birds have a weird smell). I also had a bottle of herbal cologne that you sealed with a cork when I was 5 and it smelled divine. I remember my grandmother’s garden filled with mint and chrysanthemums.

Finally, if you could create a scent that would be the quintessence of Kelley, what would the notes be?

I think it would smell like turpentine and linseed oil and church incense and some bergamot as a top note. Diptyque has a scent called L’Eau Trois (I think that’s the one) that is fairly close to what I am talking about but not quite.

I know you have a picture on your website of you, you handsome devil, what about one of your washboard abs?

Thanks for putting up with my importuning and natterings!

I am honored that you would ask! Oh, and the washboard abs are hidden under a protective layer of fat…

Mine too!

The photos are of the San Miguel Paroquia, a rock wall in my gallery, me (thanks Marshall), and the photo of Auntie Mame is courtesy of the Teegarden/Nash collection.


Blogger Marina said...

Great intereview with a fascinating person!

Kelley, I hate fishy fish too, with passion. And I can't stand cooked spinach, oy! :-)

10:19 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Well, i'll have the spinach and the fish. But I am a weirdo- I even like Brussels Sprouts!

10:31 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I like Brussels Sprouts too :-) Even the ones served at the college canteen :-) Spinach, on the other hand, tastes like henna smells...only henna smells better than spinach tastes :-)

10:33 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

Tom, that's almost as long as a book! I like raw spinach though.

11:31 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


There's a recipe that the Border Grill did (the Two Hot Tamale ladies) did where you shave Brussels sprouts on a mandolin, sautee them in butter, and finish them with fresh lime jiuce and salt that will convince people who hate them that they are delicious.

Spinach get iodiney if cooked too much, but I love good creamed spinach. That is, mine.

11:51 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


It was long, but it could have been longer. I am sure that commenters are going to be chiming in with questions!

11:52 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelly, nice to meet the man behind the posts! And nice to see you like Premier Figuier; I'm on a break from it now but I do love it. And just fyi, I'm an NYC art person who fantasizes about an easier life elsewhere. You've just added Mexico to my list.
Oh. I love spinach, un fishy fish AND brussel sprouts. But blech! the smell of henna.

12:39 AM EDT  
Blogger Divina said...

Thank you, Tom and Kelley :) I love these interviews! As for spinach...really? Have you ever tried a greek spinach-cheese pie? :P It might change your mind! (err, or not) But it is certainly one thing that always manages to tempt me out of my strict no-carbs lifestyle. I always feel guilty afterwards, but, meh, once or twice a year is ok I guess. Oh dear.

5:32 AM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

Totally interesting interview, thanks Tom! Kelley, you are fascinating. The whole moving around alot part really touched me. It didn't happen to me because it did happen to my father and he so hated it that he made sure my brother and I kind of took root until we wanted to leave home in the natural way anyway. I'm sure you've got some great experiences and memories from that time but there can be a cost. Loved your ten perfumes. I'm such a fan of A McQ Kingdom - it doesn't get enough recognition so glad to see somebody else does love it.

9:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

divalano, I have a friend her that is from New York. His name is Edward Swift. He has written and published several books and one was turned into a Broadway musical ("Splendora").

Check out for all things San Miguel related.

10:07 AM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

divina, if it has cheese in it, I am there! Bring it on!

10:08 AM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

donanicola, moving was tough. I think I secretly wanted roots all of my life. Yes, there was something exciting about constantly starting over but eventually I realized that that I had to keep everything superficial with people because it hurt too much to move away from good friends.

Kindgom is very special and if you read Basenotes, the poor thing gets dragged through the mud there regularly. Personally, I don't understand where people are coming from. It's a wonderful fragrance.

10:11 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great! We finally get to read your interview Kelley!!

I completely identify with the moving bit...My dad had a job that took him all over India and we used to move with him...The first time we moved I was nine, and heart broken as I didnt get to say good bye to my friends,since we moved during the summer vacation.:(

It was hard but I did enjoy all the places.

12:26 PM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

What fun! You are a doll.

I love spinach... and Palak Paneer would redeem it even if it were vile on its own. :)

12:41 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, thanks for this interview!

Kelley, it was fascinating to hear about your meeting with the famous artist and how you kept coming back until you found your true style. Bravo!

I love many of the fragrances on your list and actually bought a full bottle of Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie based on your review of it some time ago. On me, it smells like I bathed with very expensive soap! And I like that smell!

1:27 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Great interview, kudos to you both! And so jealous, would love to live in San Miguel de Allende. The perfume shopping, however, left much to be desired, LOL...not sure I saw any fragrance at all other than in the pharmacy. Guessing you get a lot of perfume through the mail...

1:43 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Such a fun interview, thanks to you both!

Kelley, you are an amazingly talented artist. Somehow I missed that that's what you did and that you were that good.

5:51 PM EDT  
Blogger leopoldo said...

Brussels sprouts rock!

K: when can I come visit?

3:49 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I'll cook the sprouts, you rifle the 'fumes!

Just kidding Kelley (furiously hiding decant equimwnt)

12:32 AM EDT  
Blogger indieperfumes said...

Wonderful interview, the honesty and clarity are really something.
Loved Chergui and the Creed also!

7:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Shannon said...

Loved the interview! I learned so much more about my friend, Kelley. We share a love of so many fragrances and now I learn we also share a hate of bologna and spinach! lol

10:44 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

lavanya, yes...moving was hard but in the end I wouldn't change a thing. I have been to some wonderful places and made great memories.


9:32 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

Ducks, I love raw spinach (not the kind with salmonella).

9:34 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

leopoldo...any time! Just give me a little warning to pick up the house.

9:34 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

Thanks Lucy...

9:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelley said...

Shannon! Glad to hear from you. Thanks so much for reading the interview. Bologna is definitely OUT!

9:37 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kelley, I totally respect that perfume list of yours. You have wonderful taste, to say the least!

Fun interview, so thanks for sharing.


10:59 AM EDT  

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