Friday, 29 January 2010

Luv Song

article and illustrations by Mrs. Tami Thirlwell-Nicol

Things aren’t always what they seem. When the lights are low in a nightclub the magic comes to life. Smoke and mirrors present a world of fantastical images and the Luv-A-Fair was that mythical land. It was the “new wave” club where most hard-core punks would not be caught dead. The air was infused with the heart-pumping mascot drug of the dance floor: poppers. And as the drinks flowed the Look of Love looked increasingly better as the night wore on. But if you have ever been in that club before the magic starts or at the end of the night when the lights come back on, that enchantment has long caught a cab with its new best friend: illusion. You know what I’m taking about. Let’s face it, the majority of people look better in the dark and for the rest good lighting is everything.

The Smilin’ Buddha, punk’s premier destination, on the other hand, had no chance of even attempting to be anything more than it was-- a narrow little beer-soaked pub. It was a rock bottom ‘warehouse’ with rock bottom prices. However, it did carry one claim to fame: Jimi Hendrix once played there. (At least that’s what my parents would boast). That room held as much mystique as its doorman Igor was debonair. Still, it was an exciting dive, our dive; the only club in town that would consistently allow punk bands to perform.

I couldn’t help myself and in the late 1970s to early ‘80s I would traverse the two worlds --sometimes racing from the Buddha to the Luv-A-Fair towards closing or vice versa depending on that night’s talent line-up. These hot spots were Vancouver’s answer to CBGB and Studio 54, respectively. Despite the fact that Poly Styrene was belting out “I am a poseur and I don’t care” on the PA, patrons of the Buddha considered being labeled a poseur a challenge to a duel. In the Luv-A-Fair they were vying to make a career out of it, or at least to get a free drink. People made it a point to look fabulous and fashionable -- they really put in the effort. Giant speakers sat against the walls and doubled as gogo dancing platforms beckoning, “Hey, you just spent 35 bucks on your new black vinyl Le Château pants, jump on up here and showcase those fuckers!” And they would. 

Many club-goers were art school students, aspiring models, designers, hair stylists and make up artists. The hair was big and flawless. I’m sure that Flock of Seagulls dude had backed a truck full of Dippity Do into the loading dock and showed everyone how to use it. 
Mike Score of Flock of Seagulls flew the hair standard high.
Before becoming a pop singer, he cut the stuff for a living.

Meanwhile many of our Buddha counterparts (aspiring or practicing anarchists), were busy using toothpaste, beer, Jello, egg whites and even the very bad choice of glue to achieve serious spikiness. 

Usually we frequented the Luv-A-Fair during the week. Saturday was considered “Squares Night Out” but it also offered the most opportunities in terms of ‘acquiring’ drinks. People would abandon fresh bottles of beer while they hit the dance floor. I felt less remorseful if it happened during a lame song, anything by Split Enz or Haircut 100. (Notice their names are really all about hair?) Fair game, I’d say. However, towards the end of the night my pals and I would get sloppy and disregard the telltale sign of a room temperature beer bottle that offered the special sunken treasure of a cigarette butt or two. Touché. Life’s a gamble. I did not, however, play those odds at the Buddha.

Luv-A-Fair scene-makers took their dance moves very seriously and had their own signature steps, i.e. the iconic “Dan Schnell”, who owned Duran Duran’s Planet Earth, or maybe it owned him. Many affected an expression of ennui while working a cool, slow moving twist or Ska type of swing that communicated something to the effect of, “Oh this dancing thing? It’s so pedestrian, but really what else is there to do except go home and cut...” I considered myself a bit of a bon vivant and would bop in a lively fashion to even the darkest tune. Enola Gay? Bombs away! Love Will Tear Us Apart? I gotta go cut a rug! Fade to Grey? Well, okay! Give me some space, people! Bela Lugosi may be dead, but not me. 

Sharing the dance floor was a little different at the Buddha. The strategy was to actually stay somewhat vertical. Sometimes a playful push to release a heavy Dayton boot from my foot was necessary, other times a little shove to navigate a beer bottle from slamming into the side of my head made for a more coherent evening. There was nothing malicious about the mosh pit, just exuberant sloppy fun-loving kids bouncing around. No one had a true set dance style but when things got rockin’ the ear to shoulder side headshake manifested (which allowed for some great hair resuscitation). Change sides as needed. 

One of the most enjoyable parts of my night was the preparatory stage of hair and make-up. Our primer was of the alcohol variety. However, applying one’s make up sober is, of course, paramount to a successful night of looking good. Touching up one’s make up while slightly tipsy is touch and go. And retouching whilst plastered is just a cry for celibacy. 

Inspired by some of the masters and mistresses of illusion at the Luv-A-Fair I tried my hand at a few beauty aesthetics. I was excited about the idea of having glamorous nails -- those would really accentuate my dance moves. Enter the Lee Press-On Nails kit. Always classy. I was extremely pleased with my way too long smart pink nails even though they prevented me from putting my hands in my pockets; it meant sacrificing a favorite pose. It’s important to decide if your night is going to involve snapping your fingers along to any of those thunderclap and whip cracking enhanced tunes like Master and Servant or Whip it Good. If the answer is yes, the wearer must ensure not to form too strong a relationship with those prosthetic nails. Eighty percent will abandon your fingertips and only about ten percent will be returned to you, usually with the comment “your fucking nail landed in my drink, bitch”.

Another beauty embellishment that backfired was my Mod false eyelashes. (They went extremely well with my Mod white gogo boots). They stayed in place almost till the end of Tainted Love. It was a remix, extended version, so really, that’s a good chunk of time. At the end of the song my pal informed me that I had a caterpillar walking across my eye. When I got upstairs to the girls’ loo I saw Malcolm McDowell circa Clockwork Orange staring menacingly back at me.

What a Kick In the Eye; I realized then I would have made a shitty drag queen. There is a definite art to the magic of self-transformation. I started to understand that I had to work within my limitations. Sure, I can paint my face and tease my hair adequately enough; still, I was never going to achieve anything near the perfection of those glam Luv-A-Fair kids. They had mastered the elusive skill of illusion. They emerged from the darkness while the music and strobe lights were in full swing and the clever ones vanished into the night before the end of Love Song

The Luv-A-Fair ended on February 1st, 2003.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

London Hair Trends Redux

Miss Brown, about to pop out for a pint of milk
(photo by Miss Diyah Pera. Dress by Cathy Mann)

by Miss Justine Brown

Those who are in the habit of dividing the world in two sometimes say that there are two kinds of women: those who wouldn't think of dashing out for milk without lipstick on, and those who would. As the above picture suggests, dear reader, Miss Brown is firmly in the first camp. Lipstick is only the beginning. There is so much else to consider, not least one's hair. And now that big, puffy, "done" hair has made a dramatic comeback, those of us who take fashion SERIOUSLY would rather remain shut indoors than venture out to the convenience store (or, as we call it in our neighborhood, the inconvenience store, for it is strictly a 9-to-5 business) without proper preparation.

No doubt about it, fashion is really an event in London towne (and, for some reason Miss Brown cannot quite fathom, this spectator sport comes complete with jeering and sniggering). The 18th century is back. As you may recall from an earlier post, silver gray hair is all the rage. Just after that post, no less than the Sunday Times Style Supplement ran a piece featuring a number of bright young things-- celebrities and socialites-- camouflaged as old ladies with fabulous skin. 

Pixie Geldof at the height of fashion

Weekly "blowouts" (professional blowdries) are back. Hot rollers and backcombing are part of the deal. But since everyone is still feeling broke, they try to make these last as long as possible. So shower caps are selling briskly, as well as something called "hair perfume." More to the point, every hair product company has added some form of dry shampoo, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1970s, when ladies still went for weekly sets. Well, the whole kit and caboodle is back.

Miss Brown is grateful to a friendly reader who, in a recent letter, mentioned "Pssst", an aerosol dry shampoo quite widely promoted circa 1978. Pssst, whispered Miss Brown's inner something, you used that stuff when you were thirteen. As the reader implied, dry shampoo is a bit of a misnomer. Basically the product just mops up oil with powder and adds scent-- sometimes a rather strange one. It's all terribly aristocratic! (Does that help?) Anyone who saw Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette, which presents the doomed 18th Century Queen of France as a sort of punk chick in Versailles, complete with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack and Sex Pistols-style typography, will notice that underlings often seem to be spritzing her with perfume. As many of you will know, aristocrats of the time seldom bathed, believing the practice to be actively bad for their health. Neither did the rest of the populace, but they didn't have great lashings of perfume.

Right. So, to get down to brass tacks, teenage Miss Brown had a fair bit of oil to contend with. Oily hair, oily skin-- a nasty enchantment that could be broken only with powder. The powder didn't completely sort out the skin, but let us leave that aside for now. Talcum powder works well with blond hair (as does corn starch, though when it rains one fears one's hair will glisten and perhaps smell like a stir-fry) but gives a gray tinge to dark hair. As we have seen, that may be just the ticket if you're going for that look. Many aren't-- but read on to hear of recent developments in dry shampoo "technology."

Miss Brown actually found her first dry shampoo on her mother's shelf. The name of this brand is elusive, but it had a chemical odor. Now Miss Brown's mother does not suffer from oily hair. She likes to set her hair a bit with rollers, and the dry shampoo gave her hair a good texture. This is the thing. With the right curling and powdering, a girl can get quite a big head of hair going. The sky's the limit-- have another look at the photo above. If you are really committed, like Miss Brown, you too can have fantastic hair.

Bumble and Bumble ( make dry shampoo in four colours-- blond, which works well with silver hair; red, brunette and black. The packaging is excellent: it features line drawings of 18th century ladies and getting powdered by their maids in the small chambers built for the purpose, hence the term "powder room." 

A gent in the powder room with a cunningly devised mask

Gentlemen wore powdered wigs, while ladies tended to powder their own hair, though they did use hair pieces to big it all up. Our Rococo predecessors experimented with other colours, like pink, blue and lavender. So did some of our grandmothers, aka "the blue-haired set", but still one begins to see why Vivienne Westwood, doyenne of punk and an immensely successful couture designer today, is obsessed with the 18th century and often incorporates its imagery and forms into her designs. 

A lady at her vanity table

The Bumble and Bumble product is ingenious, but overall Miss Brown favours Stila Hair Refresher ( in "creme bouquet", mainly because it smells good. Now, you will have to excuse her. We are out of milk, and there's some work to be done in milady's boudoir if she is to catch the inconvenience store before it closes in two or three hours. 

Barbie, as fashionable as ever

Friday, 15 January 2010

Beauty Skool Visit: Pia Shandel

Interview by Miss Justine Brown

All right Skoolkids, this week we have a special guest beauty, one of the great blondes-- Pia Shandel. In the interests of journalistic transparency and bragging rights, Miss Brown reveals that Pia is a close family friend. All her life Miss Brown has had the great good luck to know the smart, funny, vibrant and gorgeous blonde. Pia has appeared in films and for a number of years co-hosted an evening talk show on CKVU television in Vancouver. She then hosted her own phone-in show on CFUN radio. Read on to learn more. Hear how Pia went undercover with a shiny black bob. Notepads at the ready!
Q: You were hired at CFUN because you're much more than a lovely face. Was it exciting to develop a persona and work in a medium with no focus on your looks? Was it strange at first?

A: Moving into talk radio was obviously a big change from television, where there was daily pressure and much time consumed trying to look good for the camera. Hair, clothes and makeup had to be perfect (which was, of course, impossible)... then "How do I sit, from what angle are they shooting me?" was always in my mind. Stand up straight, be graceful, try not to make faces, etc.

For radio I could work in comfortable clothes, dressed up just enough to be presentable in a casual work environment. I used to sit in my office at the radio station, working on pre-production, and watch all the sales girls sashay past my floor-to-ceiling... they all looked like they had spent most of the  morning working on hair and outfit etc... getting gorgeous in order to sell, sell, sell. I was in the enviable position of having to use my wits to succeed, rather than looking provocative or delicious. I was amused to hear from listeners who, according to the sound of my voice, pictured me as a sophisticated brunette. I guess if you sound smart, or original, folks assume you could not possibly be a blonde... because everyone knows that blondes are more fun, but not so bright!

It took me much longer to establish credentials when I worked in t.v., perhaps partly because I could be seen as blonde, so there was a kind of built-in bias that I had to work very hard to overcome. Radio was much more stimulating in terms of the content I was free to create, in part because I was invisible!


Pia-- doing justice to blondeness

Q: What has been your favourite job to date?

A: I did most enjoy live television. It was exciting, and glamorous, and tough, and I loved getting famous and I loved the challenge of keeping up with research and content. The daily ritual of hair and makeup and wardrobe, though time consuming, was a lot of fun, because what girl doesn't love to get gorgeous? Professional hair and makeup is like the ultimate luxury...and when I look back at pictures, I probably looked better than I realized at the time. Also, meeting so many fascinating people, from Sting to Pierre Trudeau, and having to meet them on a level playing field in an interview situation without coming off as an ignorant ass, was incredibly stimulating. The five years I did that two-hour live magazine show in prime time each night, was like a dream come true. It was harshly competitive, but it made a man out of me!

Q: Tell us about your recent adventures with a Chinese-style black bob.

A: A couple of years ago I walked away from my media career. I was disillusioned with the radio station because they kept changing their format, dumbing it down according to the trend toward entertainment at the expense of information. I was exhausted, as I had spent three years getting up at four in the morning in order to be on air by six, when the radio audience is largest. I felt like my whole life was shrinking, and I was constantly tired. I am definitely not an early morning girl. But then I kind of fell into a slump, not knowing what to do with myself.

It has been my experience that women do drastic things with their hair when they are depressed or confused. First I tried extensions, which gave me thicker, more glamourous blonde hair, but it never looked quite right, and it certainly felt pretty weird over time.  Since I have fine, blonde hair, those weaves would peek out and I felt the crushing humiliation of inauthenticity. So I had them removed. The next weird thing I did was have my hairdresser take my colour all the way to black and cut it into a cute Chinese style bob. I have to say, I think it looked fantastic. 

Mr and Mrs Brown out for a fabulous dinner with Pia in good ol' London town

There's a back story to this, which I hereby reveal for the first and only time. I had a boyfriend who moved to Shanghai to start a business. I would visit him there, and we travelled to Beijing, as well as Tibet and other Asian places.

I got the definite impression that he was liking the Asian girls, so in my competitive Viking way, I decided that just because there were millions of them with glossy black hair, they did not have a monopoly on the look! So, I decided that if he liked the raven-haired Asian girls, I would do my best to look like one! It worked for a little while, but eventually I decided that he was not worth that kind of desperation. How humiliating for a real blonde to join the herd and go dark just to interest a man.

The black hair in one of its phases

That's as peculiar as Rihanna posing blonde and golden and naked on the December cover of GQ magazine. The things we do...

Two points: as a black magic woman, I generated a completely different vibe. I was striking, but almost scary. People took me very seriously, and certainly noticed me, but I have to admit, I missed the blonde thing. You know, that automatic response a blonde generates walking down the street? The way men automatically check you out when they are attracted by your light hair. A woman with dark hair does not get that magical blonde reaction. You are somehow more powerful, maybe just as attractive, but you are...not...blonde!

Secondly--and I certainly did not think of this ahead of time-- when you are blonde with black hair, as it grows, the light roots make you look bald! Yes, bald. What could be worse? So I had to grow it out. Now what this entails is, first, you have to keep cutting it short as it grows out, and you have to slowly change the colour back, bit by bit.

So I spent eight months going from black, to brown, to blonde and having gamine short hair. This whole going black thing has been my strangest hair experiment ever...even worse than those eighties perms! But when I look back at the pix taken when it was new, and good...I have to admit it was a fabulous look.

Q: What is the strangest piece of beauty advice you've ever received? (For example, I read about one Hollywood actress who never smiled lest she develop wrinkles.)

A: The strangest beauty advice I have ever received is when a renowned dermatologist, recently consulted in relation to the encroaching lines and sags inevitable to the aging process, told me it would be a great idea to undergo something called a 'fraxel', which is a kind of laser burn inflicted on your face, that theoretically improves your appearance by re-surfacing your skin. Odd. The "after" pictures showed men and women whose faces looked like they had been dragged face down behind a speeding truck for several miles...all bloody and oozing. I was assured that this was a temporary result, which would eventually be replaced by a smoother more youthful skin. Sort of like what happens to burn victims....smooth, shiny skin. I couldn't get out of that office fast enough!

Q: Name your three desert island beauty products. (I guess I'm assuming there's a handsome man marooned there too.)

A: Sisley Ecologique Compound (the best light moisturizer ever)...a pink/mauve lip gloss, and black black mascara.

Q: Can you give us Skool girls one or two beauty secrets?

A: Sex is good for your looks.

Q: You radiate fun and optimism. Talk a bit about this in relation to personal glamour.
A: There is no doubt about it...depression, even just a bad mood, makes you look awful.  Beauty really does come from within. When you feel up, your body moves with grace, your posture improves, and your face relaxes. Good thoughts radiate beauty and excitement.  Perhaps those Vogue models can look beautiful no matter how they are feeling, but after the age of 25, what you feel is how you look.

But here's the can't just sit around and expect a good mood to drop down from earn your happiness. Exercise, meditate, eat well, and think good thoughts.  It's such a cliche, but it can be done, and it works. You have to make the effort to be in the moment. To me, that is the real secret. Can you organize your thoughts and perceptions to totally take in your reality, the other people around you, the light, sound and air? To be in the moment is to be beautiful. Dark inner thoughts cloud the beauty of being alive.

Q: Who are your all-time favourite screen sirens? What draws you to them?

A: I love Marilyn Monroe, because she had a luminosity that was probably mental illness, but nevertheless was noteworthy. Her body, her awareness of sex, her need to be desired , all made her  special. Plus the way the light reflected off her skin. She was the ultimate sacrificial lamb. Why is that so sexy? I own two Andy Warhol 'Marilyn' silk screens and worship her daily.

Going completely in the opposite direction...I adored the 'Klute' era Jane Fonda. Her lanky body, unusual features, and fabulous hair, coupled with a ferocious acting talent, made her one of my all-time favourites. I still love the way she looks.

Q: In your opinion, do good looks have a down side?

A: Good looks never have a down side. Extreme beauty definitely does have a down side. To be breathtakingly beautiful, as I have observed in a few people I have known (it is rare), seems to give rise to instability. There is a constant war between narcissism and insecurity in the great beauties, plus a kind of arrested development intellectually and emotionally.

But 'looking good' in the more ordinary sense is always a good thing, and can be acheived by anyone, as the Diana Vreelands and Andree Putnams and Annie Leibovitzes of the world have shown. The key is to know your strengths and your weaknesses, and present yourself at your best, with control and good spirit (and lighting!). To know yourself is to love yourself, and that's good looking.

Q: What is on the horizon for you, Pia?

A: I am currently working on an independent television pilot...hope to finish the shoot in early March. Also, I have been writing a memoir for two years now. I hope to finish the first draft in February, while staying in a jungle villa in Bali. Also, I am returning to  live theatre in a production this spring at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver. It seems I have been discovered again!

I can't say that I particularly like getting older, as far as it pertains to matters of the flesh, but I seem to be having a particularly exciting renaissance in my creative life, such as I have not experienced in years.  Now, if I could just fall in love again, life would be perfect!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Give 'Em Enough Soap

article and artwork by Mrs. Tami Thirlwell-Nicol

In grade eight a funny thing happened on the way to high school. I discovered that not only do I perspire but that things can get fairly ripe. So noticeable was this advanced state of hormonal display that I felt forced to enter the less-than-intriguing adult world of antiperspirant products. I knew nothing about the landscape except for ads on TV like, “Aren’t you glad you used Dial, don’t you wish everybody did?” Hmm, I wondered, could it be that my whole class wishes I were hip to this deodorant business?"

My first treatment was Secret: scented (because really, who doesn’t remember their first), an ozone-destroying family-size can of the finest aerosol around. How ironic to think that heat and sweat prompt the buying of spray deodorant which then effect climate change creating yet more heat thus necessitating the use for more deodorant. But I digress; this is Beauty Skool after all, not Science class. 

A cold blast of toxicity under the arms at seven a.m. was all that one needed to wake up; handy too, because at 13 I hadn’t yet discovered the joys of a caffeinated morning. Before I could get to my first class one of the uber-cool chicks in my grade walked past me, stopped, turned and said, “Hey, nice perfume, what is it?” I was mortified. I wasn’t about to cop to the fact that it was not indeed perfume at all but some lowly B.O. spray masquerading as such. My mind raced and with deft mental agility I blurted out, “Uh, it’s a …secret…?” I felt partially satisfied with my mysterious answer, but wished I could have told her it was the very chic 1970s cologne, Charlie (“kinda free,

kinda now, Char-lee") or the sweet and fabulously unsophisticated scent, Love’s Baby Soft. Still, approval from the upper echelon of tween city was all I needed to convince me that continued use of that spray can was the way to go.

I continued to take note of all sorts of colognes TV commercials had to offer. If I was a man I think I would have investigated Hai Karate. The ad advised men to read the instructions first or suffer the consequences of hordes of women chasing you like you were the fifth Beatle.
Old Spice on the other hand seemed to feature the elusive fisherman who breezes in to town (baby don’t get hooked on me, you know I’ve got to ramble on) and hooks up with that special lady-- in every port. All very romantic stuff and yet it was rather mythical as no one I knew used these products. I may have bought an ex-boyfriend “Soap on a Rope” once in the hopes that he might accidently hang himself with it in the shower.

I was satisfied, however, with my hygiene regimen and wasn’t really all that interested in actually wearing cologne or perfume in my teens. My only real exposure to scents was my mother’s penchant for musks, which creep me out, and my grandmother’s hankering for rose, which I therefore associated with the grey hair set. At one point I was gifted with a twin set of Jean Nate body lotion and after bath splash. I was perplexed. Is it age appropriate? I had no idea because I’d never seen an ad for it, but what the hell, it smelled as good if not better than Secret. It was a real perfume. Rather fresh. Was this to be my signature scent? I still had very little to compare it to, but I would sort that out when I got a little older. I continued to blast more holes in the ozone for a few more years.

By the time I hit the punk scene I still hadn’t discovered an appreciation for olfactory accoutrements – besides, by spending so much time in bars and clubs I felt I was already marinating in Eau de Pale Ale and L’Air de Stale Tabac. An average night out presented itself with a plethora of scintillating scents given the establishments frequented in the scene. One can never be disappointed by a lack of Mosh Pit odor offerings that usually come complete with plenty of precipitation. Depending on the band playing, DOA for example, it was sometimes wise to bring an umbrella. Other notable nasal delights haunted many clubs, including the glamorous backstage of puke-tinged carpets and sofas and a fragrant mix of urine and aged beer kept the air well lit. No amount of Jean Nate is going to cover that up. Even Prince Matchabelli is no match for it.

Mine was not usually an Aviance night, and much imbibing manufactured a by-product of its own and rendered one’s pores the escape route the next day. The synergistic effect of alcohol, hairspray and cheap perfume absorption made me highly flammable. Cigarette smoking would prove to be a very risky habit. In fact avoiding open flames after a night out was a prudent choice. Life lesson tip: Definitely do not bend down and try to light your smoke on the gas range when you stumble into the kitchen.

It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto in 1981 when one of my more flamboyant male friends introduced me to the popular men’s cologne, Halston Z-14, a force to be reckoned with. It sounds like a sports car but it has a wonderful woodsy smell. I would douse myself with it whenever I visited my pal, Michael. Why wasn’t there cologne for women that didn’t always include sweet feminine notes? Maybe just the sheer act of ignoring gender specific products is in essence a punk scent statement. But it’s important to note that a gal must be able to make the distinction between men’s cologne and aftershave. No lady should smell like she has just shaved her face. 

Later in the 1980s Calvin Klein came out with CK One, a unisex cologne. Nowadays there is no shortage of high-end ‘bi-scentuals’ from various houses such as Cartier and Guerlain. I continued to experiment with all types of perfumes. Some favorites were classics like Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps and Estee Lauder’s Pleasures. But when the mood strikes I’ll still mix it up with certain men’s colognes (hold the Brut 33).

It’s been a long time since I deployed an aerosol can of Secret. In fact, I don’t even know if they are still legal. After continually mixing up my Secret with Final Net hairspray, (one is a little stickier than the other), I’ve left the ozone alone and I have been using stick deodorants, still loaded with toxins, but somewhere my old grade 8 class thanks me. At this point my system is steeped in so much aluminum chlorohydrate I’ll be dedicating my body to recycle as coke cans. It’s the least I can do.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Confessions of a Naked Lady Art Model

by Miss Justine Brown

No, not that kind of "art model". At least, that's what Miss Brown keeps saying.

Punks and goths have always had a turbulent relationship with nudity. Whereas for hippies nudity with extra body hair was an crucial emblem on the freak flag, punk rockers have tended to shun it. Johnny Rotten set the tone when he denounced sex in general and everything that went with it-- like Led Zeppelin and hairy chests and sweat-- whereas nakedness, period, was a way of life for hippies. (At least until winter set in.) Hippie grownups encouraged us little kids to let it all float free in the breeze and took moody pictures which later came back to haunt us when, as punks, we were kitted out from head to foot in wool and leather. It was unacceptable to write erotic lyrics and even to disrobe while coupling (sorry, Johnny). No, punk rockers occasionally used nudity as punctuation-- during performances, for example-- but that was about it. Sid Vicious did his thing shirtless, revealing his blueish white, perfectly hairless and toneless skin on stage-- the anti-Robert Plant-- but he was just showing off the slashes.

Below, Sid Vicious demonstrates an acceptable form of nudity.
With Johnny Rotten circa 1977.

Robert Smith of The Cure. Can you imagine this man
voluntarily undressing?

One of my best girlfriends made it a point never to take off her shoes in bed. Or any of the rest of her many clothes-- though it's possible that the wearing of short kilts may have permitted some kind of goings-on. But rarely! When she asked men back to her West End apartment for a pyjama party, she meant what she said. They got hot chocolate, ghost stories, a sleeping bag on the couch, and flannel pyjamas. Did they resent this? Did they heck! My friend travelled with a group of soft-eyed male admirers. Girls, take note. Attempting Cosmopolitan magazine's latest list of acrobatic sex tricks will get you... a one-nighter if you're lucky. The 11pm to 2 am slot perhaps. Even an audition for the circus. My friend, however, was clearly onto something big-- and she wasn't even trying.

Despite having been her roommate for a while and keeping close company with her for decades, Miss Brown has never once seen her naked. Miss Brown is sorry to report that she cannot say the same. In addition to flashing her as she changed from one outfit to another, Miss Brown left some art model promo photos (the aspiring naked lady's resume) on our kitchen table.

Let's get one thing straight here: to be an art model, especially a life-drawing model, you do not need to be attractive. In fact, some of the most successful art models closely resemble gnarled tree stumps-- you know those tree stumps which resemble trolls? If you look like a tree which looks like a troll, you may have a tempting career opportunity before you.

No, you don't need to be attractive. You need to be willing to get your kit off and sit before a roomful of strangers in a freezing studio with only a space heater for comfort-- a space heater that barbecues one leg while leaving the rest of you in the deep freeze. Oh, and you have to strike a pose-- for half an hour at a time minimum. Your extremities go to sleep. Sounds bad, doesn't it? But 15 dollars an hour seemed an awful lot to an otherwise unemployable 18-year-old punk rock girl.

The employers? Respectable art schools, in the main. Some night school stuff. A few private assignments, some of which became very awkward very fast. But the prize for Job Most Sounding Like a Euphemism for Something Dodgy is uncontested: The Vancouver Businessmen's Art Club. The reality of it was respectable enough-- a bunch of hobbyist painters working under the guidance of a professional artist. Every Wednesday night she doled out bags of wisdom and gave each man lots of individual attention. Every time they completely ignored her advice. The businessmen were in the business of painting in a certain rigid style, come hell or high water.

Miss Brown generally got a ten-minute break half way through the class. Then she would enter her little cubicle, put on a dressing gown in a late bid for modesty and tour the classroom. Each canvas seemed to represent a well-known period-- Cubism, for example, was well represented. There were wannabe Renoirs and Modiglianis. There was even a Gibson Girl fan! That particular businessman was about a hundred. The one thing these painters did not represent was Miss Brown, who could have abandoned the class at break time without disturbing it a bit. Looking around the studio, Miss Brown saw juxtapositions rather like this:
Duchamp, Nude Descending Staircase (1912)

Gibson Girl, Charles Dana Gibson (c. 1900)

It was strangely isolating work. The students essentially contrived to stare at you for one or two hours solid while pretending you didn't exist. The sensation was heightened when, one one occasion, Miss Brown was modelling at the University of British Columbia. The assignment involved posing on a table some feet above the seated students. The room was located on the first floor of a noted modernist building. It so happened that the students were too low to see passers-by, while passers-by were unable to see the students. All they could see-- a senior citizen's tour group comes to mind-- was a mysteriously naked lady hovering motionless before them. Neither group could see the other, so the joke was lost on them, and nothing was permitted to burst the bubble of silence in the studio. Miss Brown certainly earned her wages on that day.

No, you don't have to be attractive to be an art model, but you may very well want to be. Since you're not a stripper earning a stripper's salary, you can't afford a magic tan and breast implants. What are the nude person's Desert Island Beauty Products? Come to that, what are anyone's Desert Island Beauty Products? This kind of mental game provides loads of entertainment whenever one has to kill time-- while art modelling, say. Imagine you can bring five items. Sunscreen doesn't count, because you have managed to salvage one wide-brimmed hat full of beauty items from the shipwreck, while a handsome sailor has managed to salvage you.

Once again Boots the Chemist has come provided an answer! Last year the public went barking mad when the BBC featured its anti-aging lotion. Tubes of No.7 Protect and Perfect whizzed off the shelves in their thousands. This year the Daily Mail, that august rag, has created a similar frenzy by featuring Boots Aqueous Cream, which, we are told, does everything except fetch your slippers for £3.99, or about 6 bucks. (And--you guessed it-- it's being marketed as "credit crunch beauty.") Of course, although every pharmacist on earth has made a version of this cream since forever, Miss Brown immediately went out and joined the lineup at Boots. Sure enough, it can be used as a moisturiser, soap, shaving foam etc.; it also soothes cuts and burns.

Thanks to Boots, you now have room in your sunhat for Nars the Multiple (one colour for cheeks, lips and even eyes), some decent concealer, and mascara. Razors. Et voila! We at Beauty Skool only hope that your desert island has some decent long grass and coconuts-- otherwise you'll have to run around naked. And we can't be having that.