Thursday, 26 November 2009

Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Sally Jackson

Starring Miss Sally Jackson (at left); longtime admirer Ian Tiles (here as Buddy Selfish); Sue Schnee

by Mrs. Tami Thirlwell-Nicol

My dear dead friend Sally, who, I can assure you, was very much alive at the time, was a style mentor for me in the early 1980s. It was the post-punk era and Sally influenced me in the newly-wedded fashion bliss of punk and rockabilly some termed "punkabilly". The members of this music scene favoured vintage clothes from the 1950s worn with a dash of punk rock irony.

Crinolines, fishnets and stiletto heels in various flashy colours started to inhabit my wardrobe. A curling iron was hauled out from the depths of my closet. Having been in exile since my lame attempts at Farrah Fawcett surfer waves, hiding next to my puka shells, it now sat expectantly on stand-by for bouffant dos.

I started to acquire photos of Marilyn Monroe in the hopes of adopting styling tips. She would stare back at me with a perennially surprised expression that whispered, “Oooh! You want to look like me? (Giggle)”. Yes. Yes I do, I would think to myself as I grabbed my Maybelline eyeliner pencil and poked it into my cheek, creating a fictional mole over a faint freckle-- I mean beauty mark. Ah yes, the affected beauty mark. A generous beauty tip, but use it wisely. And try not to touch your face-- you want a small dot, not a Mikhail Gorbachev.

Miss Jackson owned a retro clothing store called Bebop in Vancouver's Gastown, and she travelled all over the lower mainland and even into Washington State to various obscure thrift stores to replenish her vintage merchandise. She would stock her store with old whimsical bowling shirts, crazy poodle skirts and elaborately beaded sweaters. Of course, being the proprietor and a style maven, she always looked so put together. Sally didn’t just have Savoir Faire, she had Savoir Flair. I never once saw her in jeans, or any type of trousers for that matter. Except maybe retro ski pants with stirrups, those sleek numbers with the little fabric strip that goes around the base of your foot in case the hems of your pants ever get the wise idea to scoot north. 

One day I was hanging out with Sally and she had a hankering for hitting the cosmetics department at our city’s biggest retail store. I, still in early days of discovering all that make-up had to offer, had only patronized drug stores for all my beauty needs. (I still love drug stores because you can mess around with make-up without being hassled, whereas in big department stores one is usually eyed suspiciously by raging female drag queen sales clerks. And this was the early 80s after all, when ‘more’ was supplanted for the word ‘yes’ in every aspect of life, including make-up and hair.)

Entering the department we were instantly assaulted by Special Task Force Unit: Perfume Spray Girls. Coming at us from all angles they sprang out from behind pillars and fixtures; some repelled Mission Impossible-style from the ceiling as they napalmed us with all sorts of classy fragrances. Allergic to most things, Sally waved her arms frantically and gasped, “Stop! Stop! Uncle! I give!” I looked around for help and saw a team of doctors behind a sleek, sterile counter. “Sal, look," I said, "they’ve got a MASH unit set up, we can get help there!” Sally looked at me and said “No such luck, Tam, that’s the Clinique counter, don’t let the lab coats fool you; c’mon this way”. I looked back over my shoulder and could have sworn I saw stethoscopes hanging around those lab coats.

I followed Sally over to the Elizabeth Arden counter. I was way out of my league (and most likely out of the range of their target market). We started dipping into the meadow of testers. This was at a time when my germ phobia had not yet manifested and I indulged with giddy abandon. Sally plucked a particularly hot red lipstick and swiped it on. She then showed me how a lipstick could do double duty and started to apply it to the apples of her cheeks. At that moment the cosmetics clerk appeared out of nowhere. She gave us the once over, looking somewhat befuddled by our rockabilly look, and haughtily asserted, “That is a lipstick not a blush, ladies."

To this my make up mentor replied with a smile, “Actually what this is –- is a foolproof way to have your lips match your cheeks.” Sally and I exchanged looks, mine in admiration, Sally’s with an “I’ve got this covered” smirk.
“But, as you can see, we do sell blush,” insisted the sales clerk with great disdain.
“Yes, but it’s not necessary and this is cost effective--two products in one. I like my make-up to be multi-purpose,” Sally shot back as we moved on to another counter. The subtext being, ‘Back off, we’ll buy what we want and apply it how we want.'

And you, big hairy-snooty-scary cosmetic counter lady, have just been skooled.  
Tami Thirlwell-Nicol was raised on good old-fashioned mixed messages: radical hippy parenting and too much television. Aside from illustrating and painting, her latest passion is writing. Gentlemen start your lawsuits because Mrs. Thirlwell-Nicol is currently working on a memoir depicting her rocky road of relationship hell, a topic well researched.

drawing by our very own Tami T-N (click to enlarge)

Next Friday, join us for Miss Alexandra Oliver's brilliant discussion of the vampire craze--"Slightly Undead: A Beginner's Guide."

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Skool Visit: An Interview with Dame Darcy

  an example of Dame Darcy's illustrative talents

Class, we have an extra-special treat today. Miss Justine Brown converses with the glamorous Dame Darcy, girl genius artist extraordinaire! Dame Darcy is the author of the spectacular Fantagraphics comic Meatcake. Among her bands is Death by Doll. Her most recent book is the graphic novel Gasoline, which is being made into a film-- this just scratches the surface of her many projects and accomplishments. The delightful Dame's c.v. is enough to make your head spin!
Dame Darcy, the siren herself

Q: It seems to me that early Hollywood stars, who always stayed "in character" before their public, are far superior to today's stars in their velour track suits. The early stars considered it their duty to be glamorous at all times. Can you comment on this?

A: Toss your hair, lounge on the sofa in the lobby, and flutter your fingers as you talk. You are as gorgeous as any classic movie star.
Movie stars of the past had the right idea. It was part of their civic duty to
be beautiful. Stars get paid a lot so they should take their job seriously and try to uphold this. I think it's vulgar what they do today. I guess having class went out the window with wearing gloves in public. I wish it was the good ol' days again. But in a way it's not hard to blow everyone away with even just a little fabulousness nowadays.

Q: Have you yourself adopted the former approach-- always be grand and mysterious in public?

A: Yes, when I first moved to New York City and realized how many average passers by saw me on the street every day I made an oath to always be really fancy. Whenever I do shows I always wear something glamorous or at least showy. It's really important to celebrate your performance and uphold an image. In high school I always wore a veil over my face; people were really freaked out by its mystery.

Q: Please tell us about your personal style-- makeup, hair, clothes...

A: Incorporate your own version of beauty and style into everything you make. Personally I like faery and Rococo, but I also like hand-crafted folksy type things. My style was also influenced by the flamboyant Adam Ant type new wave pirate look, as well as Goth as in lots of black and stone statues etc. mixed with a little Victorian dark romance, through roaring 20’s jazziness and Renaissance/ancient Celt. So my style is best described as ElectRococo / VamPirate with a dash of American Gothic.
Everything I do is this style. All my clothes, the way I decorate my house, and often the other people I meet or are drawn into my world have a world next door with any or all of these facets.
Ask yourself-- Who are your influences? Emulate them and experiment in your own way. Go for it and see what exciting things form!

Q:  Do you think that personal beauty is magic-- that it has particular powers?

A: Yes! Beauty rituals are important-- the kind that are about your hair and skin, and the magic kind. Make a list, “what would I be like if I were beautiful?” Love your body. Own your beauty. Positive affirmations to hang on your mirror include: "I am beautiful, I am rich, I have everything I want, thank you Goddess." Be a beauty queen in your own way every day. Eternal beauty starts with your mind. Write a love letter to yourself.
Surround yourself with beautiful things, matching curtains and bedspread, matching tea set, etc. Develop beauty rituals, like bubble baths, hair and nails, skin care, make-up...

Beauty Spell
Acorn Youth and Beauty Spell
When 3 acorns are attached to each other they can be used to keep your youth and enhance beauty. If you have a charm of gold or silver of three acorns this will work as well.  Let the acorn charm charge under the new moon, and wear them in your hair.

Goddess Freya’s Potion of Youth
Freya’s favorite flowers are Cowslips (wild peonies); they are also beloved amongst the powerful spirits of the Faeries and are the transmitters of beauty secrets.
1.    Create an herbal infusion by boiling water over the blossoms
2.    When the water cools, strain the blossoms
3.    This potion can now be used as a tincture for your face, use with a cotton ball
4.    Use the remainder in a bath, it can be used up to 24 hrs

Q. The ravishing mermaid, with her fishy tale, appears a lot in your work. Tell us about that.

A: A primary Gnostic symbol being the snake like water spirit, the snake being the main symbol for Goddess culture and its connection to water.  This mirrors the mermaid legends and the mythical Atlantis or “Mu”.
The Dividian and Alexandrian Greek east and west simultaneously erupted in a renaissance caused by the longing for feminine wisdom and presence for both male and female to know and have balance.
We are experiencing a similar rebirth to this way of thinking and belief now.
The history of Tibetan Buddhism parallels the Gnostic tradition in that there is no need for a priest, because wisdom is innate.
The NO-in Gnostic equaling in Pragnia and translating to “inner knowing”
Jna is the name of an ancient Goddess in India.

Q: Have you got any striking beauty secrets you are willing to share with us?

A: Here are a couple-- D.I.Y. Witch-a-rific Lip-gloss with Tint

Ingredients (makes approx: 35ml = 7 tubes or 3 pots)

1 tsp of beeswax pellets
1/2 tsp carnauba wax
2 tbsp of beet juice and /or raspberry juice
little jars with screw on tops, you can reuse small jelly jars for example.

You can flavor your gloss with:

Essential oils or extract (for cooking):  Use peppermint (oil or extract), spearmint, orange, lime, and rose etc. Use approximately 3 drops per lip balm container or natural fruit flavors (and extracts): 1/2 tsp per batch.

For SPF 30 sun block add 1/2 tsp of titanium dioxide

1. To prepare beet or raspberry juice, run beets or raspberries through a juicer. Do not use juice from a store-- it has other additives which will dilute the tint or staining properties you want to be present in your lip-gloss.

2. Using a small non-aluminum pot. Melt wax on the stove. Turn burner on medium heat and slowly stir wax until melted.

3. Remove from heat, add other ingredients while stirring and pour immediately into lip-gloss container. Allow the mixture to cool before capping and using.

Your new concoction has a shelf life of about six months, and will keep best in a cool place.

Glitter Make-up
Mix Aloe-Vera with glitter. It’s sticky at first and will easily apply to your eyelids, arms, and cheeks, anywhere! When it wills dries it will adhere it to your skin so you’ll be sparkling all day.

Q:. Are beauties born or made?

A: All women are creations of the Goddess manifest. Every baby, every girl and every woman is beautiful.
Beauty is the power we all have at our own fingertips.
Any woman can own the power of beauty when she decides to become beautiful, despite her unconventional looks.
When I was a teenager I had a friend who was an elderly lady. We were going through old photo albums of her and her friends when they were young in the 20s and 30s and she made a comment that stuck with me my whole life. “Every one is beautiful when they are young.”
When you realize you are beautiful now then you can have fun with and own your beauty, and also prize cherish and preserve it for later years.

Make good habits and beauty rituals and know you are on a lifelong path. Just drinking a lot of water, getting the beauty rest you need and preserving your skin (from the sun/ no smoking) will do you a world of good you are thankful for in your 30s and 40s and beyond.
Trading in cookies and chips, which have chemicals, fat and carbs for carrots and celery still enables you to eat when you want and snack, but they replace fat with water.
I do raw food desserts like sundaes made from frozen bananas. Here's a recipe:

Banana Mana Sundae (eat for breakfast, even on Sunday its ok!)

Chocolate sauce: mix natural maple syrup with cocoa baking powder

Banana ice cream: freeze four bananas. Then put the bananas into the blender to make ice-cream consistency

Whipped cream: pour ½ cup coconut cream into blender and blend with honey or maple syrup and vanilla extract to thicken add coconut powder [I LOVE coconut cream-- Miss Brown]

Add frozen berries to this mix to make fruit sorbet topping

(Go to Chinatown or other Asian stores; they have a lot of inexpensive ingredients for raw food recipes)

Sprinkle with bee pollen sprinkles, chopped nuts, strawberries, blueberries or other fruit

And a cherry on top!

Vegan Hot Chocolate
1 can of coconut cream
1 heaping table spoonful of baking cocoa (2 if you like extra chocolatey, which I do)
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ cup of maple syrup (1/2 cup of you like extra sweet, which I do)
heat on low and stir.

Raw Food Chocolate Ice Cream
Double this recipe and use half for hot chocolate and the other half pour into a flat Tupperware container and freeze. This will later be your raw food chocolate ice-cream-- eat it with the banana split and you have banana AND chocolate ice-cream options.

Now that's some holiday cheer, folks! Thank you, lovely Dame. Be sure to visit

NEXT FRIDAY: mrs. tami thirlwell-nicol remembers punkabilly

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Going to Extremes

by Miss Justine Brown
How far we will go in our quest for beauty? Pretty darn far, as anyone who has seen photos of poor Mrs. Wildenstein, the so-called "cat woman",
and other plastic surgery victims can attest. The painter above, more cautious, is trying out new looks on the household pet instead of trying to resemble it! Either that or it's the cat wielding the lipstick, flip a coin.

Anyway, back to our heroine's chopped, bleached-out hair (see "Punk Rock Hair" and the pic in "So White She's Blue (with Cold)" for the story so far). There's Miss Brown, 14 years old and none too rich-- plus she shuns conventional hairdressers anyway, as we have seen. Dark roots look styley up to a point, and that point is when your dark roots are longer than your blond bits. At that juncture you are no longer a Blonde, with the whole web of meaning that that designation carries. (This has always intrigued me. You may get highlights, one way down that shining path, but it doesn't necessarily make you a Blonde. A certain minimum number of highlights, a certain ratio, and in the right places, do the trick. But determining that number is no mean feat.) What to do? How low will she go to find help? By the way, the simplest solution was offered by punk rock goddess Debbie Harry-- do the front part yourself and let the back take care of itself. But it took Miss Brown a while to work this out.

So Miss Brown needed someone to bleach her roots. For you hair colour virgins (as rare as unicorns these days), you can't just bleach the whole thing, shampoo style, over and over. Your hair would literally melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. Miss Brown had seen it happen, and she was determined to avoid disasters. (So operatically miserable are these tales that they cry out for a posting of their own.) So here's how far she was prepared to go. Wait for it--our Miss Brown became a reluctant but regular Ouija board partner in exchange for bleach jobs.

Now this home hairstylist was a rare hothouse flower, nothing garden-variety about her. Her name...will be Cassandra for our purposes. She was a regular at punk rock gigs herself, and was dating Jim Cummins (aka I, Braineater), the artist, singer, and dandy about town. Cassandra herself was an artist and lived in a large Edwardian apartment in Vancouver's West End. Miss Brown had sat for both Jim and Cassandra, actually, and the results flattered her and tickled her vanity. (Miss Brown's frequently absurd adventures as an artist's model merit another post.)  Cassandra was a talented artist in her twenties. She had about three feet of beautiful, natural dark blond hair and otherworldly eyes. The other worlds that her eyes reflected were beyond the horizon of death. She read about seances in books featuring a spirit called Seth and written by Seth's "channeler". Yes, Cassandra wanted to speak to the dead, and she had bought a Ouija board for the purpose.

At some point, young Miss Brown had spoken to her of some childhood adventures with the mystifying board. That pointer (see the item on the left?), for whatever reasons, did appear to work. Miss Brown never faked it, as she revealed to Cassandra, and her ten-year-old partner friend would have been hard-pressed to push it all around the board with one solitary index finger-- for Miss Brown, testing her, would barely touch the thing. Go figure.

So: dark roots in need of blonding, Cassandra's years in hairdressing school, and her desire to commune with the dead...all added up to hours on the sofa, followed by a brilliant bleach job (with professional products, I should add!). Miss Brown was leery of the whole inexplicable enterprise. But punk rock hair won the day. (As I write this, deep in South London, I can hear foxes keening. They sound like babies crying; it's just how foxes sound. And fireworks sound throughout the night during the time of All Souls, of Guy Fawkes Day. Fawkes' foxes. All the sounds seem to chime in with these memories.)

Yes, punk rock hair won the day. It sounds trivial, but hair is anything but trivial to a teenager. So Miss Brown overcame her fears and scruples, the Ouija board answered Cassandra's questions-- well, it gave answers, anyway-- and Miss Brown emerged with perfectly peroxide blond spikes. No brassiness. Her hair was almost silver. Eventually, Cassandra no longer needed Miss Brown. She was last seen crouched over the Ouija board, gripping the pointer as it whizzed chattily around the arc of the alphabet. And what of Miss Brown's all-important hair? She dyed it black. So much more manageable.

Moving on to more everyday territory, Miss Brown has noticed of late that silver--even gray-- has become a popular hair colour choice among teenage London hipsters. It is having a moment. The young do not fear being mistaken for old ladies. She remembers going for a very similar look at age 14 or 15, and used old lady-hair products like Roux fearlessly--plus, they had great Fifties-designed bottles. Incidentally, Miss Brown and pal Eve once dressed up in old lady costumes in an effort to get into the Smilin' Buddha Cabaret without ID, during one of their clampdowns. The doorman, the legendary Igor, was not fooled.

In tandem with this youthful trend, magazines for older women are turning out articles on the desirability of chucking the brown dye and letting the gray come in. There is at least one prominent blog devoted to this very undertaking. The phrase "gray is the new blond" has been bandied about.

Now, Miss Brown is not young enough to pull off silver gray hair; nor is she old enough to have a full head of gray to grow in and silverize. But she definitely likes the sound of a violet shampoo, something designed to chase away the brassy bogies.  Miss Brown has located two promising-sounding lines: L'Oreal White Violet Shampoo and Conditioner (seems to be available through various websites like, rather than the mothership), and a similar line from Joico, Colour Endure Violet Shampoo and Conditioner ( Both are recommended for gray and blond hair. And there's something so charming about violet, especially this season. Dahling.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cosmetic Counterculture

By mrs. tami thirlwell-nicol

At about the age of five I could be found routinely perched on the bathtub ledge carefully studying my mother’s application of liquid eyeliner. It was 1966 and she had perfected her mod look. She wasn’t much of an artist but she owned that one skill; delicately drawing jet-black lines above the lash line while a cigarette balanced diligently on the side of the sink quietly staining the porcelain with a golden nicotine. All at once her image had transformed from frumpy mum   

to sixties sex kitten. 
I filed that information away for future use. It was probably the only valuable mother-to-daughter adaptive behavior I ever acquired.
I started flirting with garden variety make up, pink lipsticks and blue eye shadow a la Marsha Brady in my early teens but really hit my stride as I inducted myself into the punk scene a few years later.  Armed with just that basic knowledge of eyeliner (and very little else because my mother’s only other make-up trick was white lipstick) I was left to improvise with what few pieces I deemed necessary. I had heard about ‘base’ or foundation but mainly from witnessing the atrocities of the orange paint that stops just at the jaw line. I guess the word ‘blend’ didn’t exist back in the ‘70’s. As much as I love David Bowie with Twig the Wonderkid on his Pin Ups album cover I was not about to let that look get the best of me. I solved the problem of dealing with the difficulty of foundation matching by simply using Covergirl’s Under Eye Concealer crayon. Everywhere. Talk about a matte finish! Not only flawless perfection but I looked chronically well-rested. (If not a tad otherworldly shall we say). Plus I was ahead of the game economically – that tube was only about two bucks whereas foundation would have set me back at least five.
After slathering on my concealer, eyeliner and several thousands coats of mascara the last step was either hot pink or blood red lipstick and I was set. A night at the Smilin’ Buddha lay ahead which involved plenty of drinking and clowning around. Usually I would come home too wasted to even consider the idea of removing my make-up and in fact this is the best tip ever: pass out with your make-up still on. Really – if you are under 27 years old, try it. (Any older and you may look like a Phyllis Diller wannabe on a day pass). You will awaken to a fabulous devil-may-care visage. What a gift. My make-up and I had truly become one. The colors had saturated nicely into my skin, convincing it that they had always existed. Like a good home-cooked lasagna, my make-up application was always better the next day.

illustration by the author (click to enlarge!)

Coming right up November 14th: Miss Justine Brown presents "Going to Extremes"