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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pansy Hits Manhattan

Manhattan declines to hit back

By Tom

This past week or so I have been visiting the coast of my birth. Mostly for a friend in Connecticut's birthday but with a day or two to visit my former home, NYC. I will cover the parts of the visit that were not perfume related in no doubt nauseatingly exhaustive detail here, the perfume part I'll talk about today. Most of you know that Gaia, the Non-Blonde and I have a freakish thing in common: we are scent twins. Yes, somehow this teensy sloe-eyed Israeli seductress with her mass of caramel curls has skin that reacts the same way as this starchy pasty WASP. Who knew? Well, we found a few minor differences, but still. I'm claiming kinship. I want that coloring.

Gaia drove in and I subwayed it to Saks. We wandered around amongst the most aggressive SA's this side of a pre-war house of ill repute: Someone was pushing something called He Wood/ She Wood. Really, nobody wood if they had sense. There was Mugler's Alien, which had Angel's choco-facehugger jumping out of the chest of something inoffensive to grab at you. Luckily we offered no limbs to these SA's, but had held cards up for spritzing, which we quickly discovered was the garlic to the Saks SA vampire. They can't get you if they can't get skin. Highlights? Gaia loved Miller Harris' Fleurs de Sel, and it loved her back deeply. Derby was there and delicious, and I want, but talked myself out of, since it's available now and I was being a bear about only using a carry-0n this trip. Sous le Vent which is necessary in that abstract "no-one needs to smell this on me but me" way. Again, talked myself out of it for the moment, since I have more than one onanistic scent in my wardrobe...

And on we went. We went to Bendels, which has the entire Etat Libre collection. I noted that the actual sizes sold were much smaller than the testers. I noted that they were still nice, but as wholly as unconvincing as I'd originally thought. I also noted that the rest of the line was $69 (tee hee, are you giggling? Such naughty pricing!) but the Tom Of Finland (sadly not emblazoned with hotties in a$$less chaps) was $90. Discrimination!

We stopped into the special Colette store at the Gap, which must have been some fiendish French revenge for "Freedom Fries". Really, it's the only excuse...

Then to Bergdorfs. I love Bergdorfs in an almost irrational way, perhaps because it's where I got into Annick Goutal back in the 80's when I was in utero. The beauty level there is like some bad Stephen King short story: 12 ways in, no way out. Unless you are able to wander through with a killingly pleasant look on your face at the ceiling and hardness in your eyes that reads "dab me and it's the last thing you'll ever do, bitch" you will have spent your kids college fund on some new gooke du femme. Gaia and I terrorized the nice man at Lutens with our questions and "Village of the Damned" bit until he showed us layering, if not samples. Dude, you might still crash your car. Because you didn't decant me Bois de Violette and wouldn't spill about the new stuff coming.

Then we went to JAR.

JAR is for Joel Allen Rosenthal, who does Important Jewelry. He does big, important pieces, some of which were shown to us. They were large. One of them actually had the important stones on the inside of the piece, near the clasp. Is this a trend? Jewels for the paranoid? My jewels are far too good for you to see, you piker, you? The equivalent of buying a mansion and putting high hedges so the Hoi Polloi can't see you? Mr. JAR wasn't there to be grilled, so we might never know...

In any case, we were shown the perfumes by a very nice man who might have been a little too nice for his job. Not to be catty (or homophobic) but I though that the presentation really needed to be done by some rail-thin queen with attitude to spare, three hour hair and perhaps Lutens eye makeup. Think "Runway" winner Christian, less butch. As it was, the man who helped us seemed almost apologetic about making us first smell the fragrances in the Lucite lidded boxes with the scarves in them. As well he should, since it is at the same time one of the dippiest way to experience a scent and one that will give you absolutely no idea how they are actually going to smell in reality, especially since you have no idea when they were spritzed. The boxes quite frankly smelled of varying degrees of pie and the sort of auto freshener that you get at the better car washes, but that was just me.

We were then allowed to sniff from the actual bottles, which were sitting pristinely by his right elbow: small, river stone shaped things arranged perfectly on black velvet in a manner that said "You can't afford me". As a matter of fact the whole area is done in a dark wood and velvet cubby that manages to be both intimate and yet extravagantly wasteful of expensive Bergdorfs sales floor real estate. I'm surprised they didn't include privacy curtains. Or a vault door.

In any case, the bottles were waved under our nose. ChristianClone would have raised a haughtily plucked eyebrow upon doing so, which would read as "this is the most fabulous thing you've ever smelled and if it ain't, you'd better keep it to yourself buster". The nice man simply waved and then moved on to the next after suitable murmurs on our part.

Then we were allowed to apply some. Actually that's not true, we had it applied by him. In my perfect world, handsome strapping men would apply perfume to my wrist and dab it in. In that world he would also stare dreamily into my eyes, inform me that he has not only purchased me the scent but the SLK350 it was delivered in for me because I am all that. Sadly, I just got the wrist-rub.

The scents? Nice. I tried Bolt of Lightning (tart berries and god love me, gardenia) and Fermez Tes Yeux (musky, somewhat like a tuxedo-clad MKK). I didn't think that in lieu of my rent I needed them necessarily, but I have to admit they are rich enough to make most everything else smelled that day seem rather thin in comparison...

So we ate. Something at someplace around the corner from the GM building (is it even called that anymore?) that was more about recharging than anything, then it was Barneys. Of course we have a Barneys in Beverly Hills, which was bespoke built and features a grand first floor with a large fragrance section to the right of it's flamboyant five-story flying marble staircase. Barneys on Madison Ave has its fragrance area downstairs and is smallish and kind of (IMHO) dowdy. What it does feature are really sweet and helpful SAs. Gaia succumbed to Musc Ravageur, a scent that I do love but haven't come to own yet, mainly because its vanilla/spice drydown with the musk I find to be just a little too much on me: I feel under-dressed wearing it, like I should upgrade from a polo shirt and jeans. If there was the perfect fragrance for white tie, this is it. But I have to hand it to Mssr. Malle; those 10ml "refills" are brilliant and you're not
paying a penalty for going small. I may yet fall.

You are wondering if I got a chance to see Colombina, aren't you? Of course you are... We did see each other all too briefly on my last day in the city. I was struck again how pretty she is: so thin and chic in her buttery leather coat, so perfect for Madison Avenue. We had coffee and a nice catch-up and then stopped at the l'Artisan boutique where I reacquainted with some of that line. I also noted that the bottle of Dzing! I bought there last year in the smaller size was almost gone- which almost never happens. She was kind enough to make up a sample pack of scents for my hostess, who says she only likes light scents like L'Eau d'Issey and Eau de Sud, but whom when I sent her into the Palais to buy me a birthday gift waltzed out with e bell jar of Fumerie Turque and physically took from me my decant of AG Musc Botanique. I think she'll be in for Dzing! soon...

All in all it was a great trip; I do love New York, and it was conspiring to be as seductive as possible. Gorgeous weather and fun shopping helps. Gaia mentioned stopping in Los Angeles sometime soon, so we can do an assault on shopping here, and I am hoping that I can come back to New York soon and terrorize some of Manhattan's SAs with Colombina as she mentioned.

Boy won't that be a post...



Blogger Jarvis said...

Hi, Tom -- what a fun time you had. I greatly enjoy all of your writing, and this one was particularly entertaining.

1:29 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. What a great read this morning and I'm jealous as hell. Sounds like a blast. Thanks for posting; next time, buy the Derby--I love that stuff!

5:01 AM EDT  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

Come back soon....How about next Weekend when I'm going to be there:) I'm coming in for the Food Network Wine and Cheese Festival.....and like you, i share the absolute irrational love for Bergdorfs. Bendels too and Takashimaya and almost everything about Manhattan. I would live there if I could convince my husband to give up his west coast plans.
Great review Tom.....absolutely captivating for me.

7:27 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

What a fun day -- I love reading about other people's NY perfume extravaganzas, esp. since I'm too lazy to go there myself!

8:17 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

What a great time! And how fun to get to go sniffing w/ your scent twin and also see Marina! I am SOOO effing praying that the bail out goes through tomorrow so that just *maybe* I can afford to go to NY this fall. CB's Musk and vetiver scents have been keeping me from total panic over the potential financial chaos.

10:24 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Thank you! That means a lot to me!

11:48 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Gaia and I might split the Derby..

11:50 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Food and Wine festival? Wish I could have been there for that!

11:51 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Go there. I want to read your take!

11:51 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Looks like you got your wish!

11:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, I never tire of living vicariously through your delicious posts about your perfume adventures! I am so envious! That day sounds like my idea of a dream itinerary in NYC. (Day 2 would be shopping for the latest fashions at the very same stores you visited, plus the Macy's flagship and Searle.)

Now all I have to do is win the lottery....

4:21 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


Lotto winnings would have had me buying all that stuff, which would have made me (more) insufferable..

5:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Gaia said...

I can't wait till next month. We'll make some LA SAs cry...
And I think we're going to split that Derby soon enough.

7:41 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Yay! I'd love to!

9:37 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also love BG in an irrational way! I loved your post. this is exactly how i feel as well!!! I will be out in LA for several weeks soon, can anyone recommend me places to check out, both perfume-related and non-perfume related?

12:19 PM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Hey, tom -- sorry for my slow getting over here, yesterday was ridiculous. Wow, I would have loved to be on this adventure with you; sounds perfect. And I too want a man to rub my fragrance in ;-) We had Franz.... I like that they are so nice (rather than snotty), Patty had her mom, sister and niece and it was a big ol' party. But oy, those women on the beauty floor (and the people at Bendel!) are so aggressive.

BTW - I am a huge fan of the ladies-who-lunch cafe just off the BG beauty level. They have enormous salads in there, a lovely afternoon tea, the people watching is fun, prices reasonable for NY.

12:25 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


In West Hollywood alone there is Scentbar on Beverly, Le Labo and Palmetto on Third Street, and Fred Segal and Santa Maria Novella on Melrose and Melrose Place, all within a mile or so of each other.

4:10 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I was glad he was nice too, but somehow the whole shenanigan needed a more epicene touch to complete it for me. It was just so over-the-top. I'll have to try that cafe next time- we were starving by the time we found the place by the GM building..

4:12 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, Tom, what fun! It makes me regret that, when I lived in NY, I didn't yet collect perfume. On the other hand, I had no money either. Perhaps it was just as well...

12:35 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


That's the situation I was in when I lived there. I only had three bottles: AG Sables, Hadrien and Barneys Route de The...

11:25 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
Great read as usual. What layering tips did they give you for SL at Bergdorf?

9:34 AM EDT  

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