Monday, October 02, 2023

Monday at The Lafayette: Quixote

A few years ago when I learned that the iconic Red Fox Restaurant was getting the boot from the new owners of the Lafayette Hotel, I was extremely disappointed. Not because the Fox had amazing food, but because it was a historic piece of San Diego restaurant kitsch (and the only restaurant that my late Aunt frequented). As previous posts have reported, the Fox moved across the street to a nondescript building and Quixote, a tapas restaurant, has replaced it. Having dined there, I can now say that I’m 100% fine with that change.

The inside is a visual feast, full of pieces that were reclaimed from an old Mexican church (according to the server). While the booths are not comfortable (without pads, not even sure “cozy” could be used), I’m not gonna’ gripe about it. In this case, the price of the atmosphere and look is worth it.

The bar, which is the perfect place for an after-work happy hour and nosh.

There are two side rooms at Quixote. These blew me away. LOVE ’EM!!

I want this for my house!

The dripping candles are a nice touch to set the mood.

The lighting is perfection, giving an air of mystery and slight decadence. Note the horns on the statue, reminiscent of the ones Michelangelo put on his statue of Moses. Is this meant to be Moses?

Besides candles, there are plenty of way-cool light fixtures.

Tapas doesn’t necessarily translate into good photography, but the cocktail sure did.  This one is the Motomami, with Oaxacan Rum, Mezcal, smoked pineapple, Sochu, lime, and Demerara. Yum.

I highly recommend this place, especially the Forcefully Crispy Chicken Tacos!

See more Quixote at the Lafayette Hotel photos at my main website.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

9/30/55 and The Monkey

It was sixty-eight years ago today that actor James Dean was tragically killed in a freak auto accident at the tender age of twenty-four. The above shot is from “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) and shows a deleted sequence of Dean, a young girl, and a toy monkey. The film opens with Jim Stark (Dean) lying in the road; he has stumbled upon a windup toy monkey and is fascinated by it. He protectively wraps the monkey with newspaper to keep it from getting cold. Seen behind the opening credits of the film, it speaks to his character and foreshadows his key motivation. He desperately seeks safety and protection for himself, but is unable to find it through friendships or his dysfunctional family. Instead, he does his best to create his own family unit with Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo) by becoming what he wishes his father could be.

The house seen behind him still exists just off Hollywood Boulevard:

Cropping the contemporary photo approximates what we saw in 1955:

The monkey itself was not seen in the finished film after the opening scene; most likely Jim Stark gave the toy to the child once he arrived at the police station. The bit was probably touching, but not necessary for the story and was thus deleted.

The monkey came up for auction in 2018 and 2022. From the 2022 Heritage Auctions catalog description:

James Dean "Jim Stark" Toy Monkey from Rebel Without a Cause (Warner Bros., 1955). Vintage original mechanical cymbal-clapping monkey toy constructed of wind-up metal armature covered in faux fur with painted cloth face and red felt cap with silver star ornament. The toy's wind-up stem is present, but the key is missing. Wire armature at feet has breached the fur and protrudes. Metal cymbals are present.

When we first meet the iconic James Dean as "Jim Stark" in this groundbreaking film, he's rolling around playing with this toy monkey amidst trash on a city sidewalk. The actual opening credits roll over this sequence. Mechanicals present but untested. In vintage Good condition. Provenance: Christie's East. Comes with a COA from Heritage Auctions.

It appears that the monkey went unsold both times. There are no details as to how it is known that this is the genuine article that Dean interacted with.

See more James Dean photos at my main website.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Temple Tuesday: Lady in the Dark

Going to movie premieres was all in a day’s work for a Hollywood star, and Shirley Temple was no exception. From the vintage publicity blurb below:

2/12/44 — Younger crowd in the audience at the “Lady in the Dark” premiere was well represented by Shirley Temple and her escort, Craig Flanagan. Shirley looked lovely in a short ermine jacket over a white net gown sprinkled with sequins. She wore an orchid in her hair and a similar corsage on her shoulder. “Since You Went Away” is her current picture, a Selznick production for United Artists release.

While Shirley looked beautiful in her ermine coat, her outfit did not begin to compare to Ginger Rogers’ onscreen wardrobe from “Lady in the Dark.”

“Lady in the Dark” was based on the 1941 Broadway musical of the same name (book by Moss Hart, words and music by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill) about psychoanalysis and career women. Paramount purchased the screen rights in February 1941 for Rogers and Fred Astaire, but negotiations with Rogers’ former dance partner failed, and Ray Milland was cast instead. Released on February 10, 1944, the film was a critical and commercial success, nominated for three Oscars (Best Cinematography, Best Music, and Best Art Direction).

Now about the film’s most infamous costume (shown above). From the Victoria and Albert Museum website:

Rogers wore this costume for the ‘The Saga of Jenny’ sequence in the musical, which was staged in a circus. In 1944, this single costume was the most expensive ever produced in Hollywood. Legendary designer Edith Head is credited as the designer, with strong influence and a design concept from Mitchell Leisen, a former costume designer turned film director. Rogers wore two versions of the dress, one for singing and static close-ups and a lighter version for dancing [shown below, the one in the V&A collection].

According to Edith Head in Edith Head’s Hollywood, ‘as Liza Elliott in Lady in the Dark, Ginger was the fashion-editor of the world’s greatest fashion magazine. Her costumes were superlative. She was constantly having daydreams that she was a glamorous sexpot instead of a tailored-editor type and the dreams created a perfect plot excuse for fabulous gowns. It has come to be known as the mink dress, but actually it was a mink over-skirt that was lined with sequins, worn over a matching sequined bodysuit. It cost about thirty-five thousand dollars to make in those days and couldn’t be made today without a limitless wardrobe budget’.

Recently, I acquired Jay Jorgensen’s 2010 Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer coffee table book. There is some interesting information about the original costume that the V&A Museum left out:

Initially, Edith wasn’t even supposed to be working on the project, and Rogers’ clothes were to be designed by the New York couturier Valentina. When Ginger rejected Valentina’s designs, Edith was asked to step in because of her good working relationship with the actress. There is almost no doubt that left to only her own devices, the budget-conscious and conservative Edith would have never come up with the dress that is considered by many to be the most expensive costume ever designed for a film. But Leisen was always asking Edith to push herself creatively, and under his supervision, a gown was designed that was encrusted entirely of faux rubies and emeralds in a paisley design, lined in mink, with a matching jacket, also lined in mink. At the time, it was estimated to cost around $35,000, with $15,000 being spent on the mink alone. When building the dress, Edith covered the floor of her salon with mink skins and she and Leisen selected the most photogenic ones. When Rogers tried the gown on, the faux stones proved to be too heavy for her to dance the routine that had been choreographed…A second gown was created with sequins in the same paisley pattern. Both gowns are seen on screen. The dress with the stones is seen in close-up as Ginger unpacks it and wears it to the nightclub, and the sequined version is seen in the dance number. The gown with the faux stones was later donated to the Smithsonian Institution and kept on display for several years; Edith used the sequined version in her fashion shows that would be developed later.

The 1984 photo below shows Ginger Rogers presenting her 'Piccolino' dress from "Top Hat" (1935) with Fred Astaire to the Smithsonian. Whether or not they still have the “Lady in the Dark” mink dress in their possession is unknown.

Shirley and Ginger starred together in “I’ll Be Seeing You,” which was her next film assignment after “Lady in the Dark.” This time, since Rogers portrayed a woman on parole, Shirley had the flashier wardrobe!

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.