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."


  1. Hey all, check below link if you want to get detailed information about all Beauty Myths and Tips.

  2. {{Ha! I love it}}
    I loved Sally's shop,Bebop too..
    Great memory shared here.I have
    to admit,I have used lipstick for
    blush too..even smudged a streak
    across my eyelids for the occasional

    Great post AnD artwork ;)

    T xo

  3. Loved her shop also!
    Sally....A gal ahead of her there's all kinds of double duty shit...stila....all those Benefit-y stains but...nothing beats our Nana's technique of the good old liptick as rouge.

  4. I, too, greatly admired Sally's style. she had such color sense. Many a time I'd be cheered by just the way her tights matched her bracelet which matched her scarf. I remember she achieved her signature hair color, a Dark Deep Red with purple highlights by using Miss Clairol's "Redwood" shade and just leaving it on much much longer than you were supposed to. It was very effective.

  5. Hi Tami -- I've just read this post with happy/sad tears. Sally was (is?!) my sister and I sure do miss her and her great style too. For some (maybe silly) reason I googled her name tonight and found your post. What a great story and illustration, and also nice to see how her style and grace effected others too. Man, she was fun! Thanks for this fond memory... I think of all Sally's Vancouver friends from time to time and wish you all the best.