Recently, my friend Gailynne asked me to write an article for our costumers’ guild newsletter. She knows I love mid-century fashion, and she needed someone to write a piece on “beatnik” fashion for our “On the Road” event coming up in November. I thought it would be fun, so I jumped on it! I figured it would be a good way to learn more about the “Beat Generation” and the (old school) hipster culture that inspired – and was inspired by – it.
When most people hear the word “beatnik,” they probably imagine bored-looking bohemian gals in berets and guys in turtlenecks and weird little goatees. These stereotypes are rooted in truth, but like the term “beatnik” itself, they’re not really very representative of the movement defined by the “Beat Generation” nor the people inspired by its counterculture philosophy. The reality is that the intellectuals, artists, and anti-bourgeois iconoclasts of mid-twentieth century America dressed a lot like everyone else.
Legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen created the term “beatnik” in 1958, a portmanteau of “beat” and “Sputnik” (as in the Soviet satellite) that – in conjunction with a short report about freeloading hep cats helping themselves to booze at a magazine party – was meant to poke fun at common perceptions of the counterculture. Namely, that the group was full of lazy opportunists with far left political leanings. According to Caen, however, Beat Generation mainstay Jack Kerouac didn’t find it very amusing. “You’re putting us down and making us sound like jerks,” Kerouac apparently told him. “I hate it. Stop using it.”
I’ve linked the newsletter .pdf below if you’d like to read the whole article!
Yeah, that would be me. In the last two weeks I got two more (yes, these make three) vintage Heywood Wakefield M308G “step” side tables in the “Champagne” finish and the M320 “kneehole” desk in “Wheat.”
I seriously love this side table model. If I could be a piece of furniture, this is what I’d be. steppy second level and the sweepy legs are quirky, yet graceful. The inward-upward taper created by the legs and the smaller upper step take a page straight out of classical Greek architecture. This is the freaking Parthenon of end tables.
While this particular style was only in production for about six years (1948-1953) and they don’t come cheap, there are enough M308Gs out there to populate your own modest-sized mid century furniture planet if you really wanted to. I got these from a knowledgeable collector who had a nice HeyWake buffet project in the hopper and didn’t have time or space to deal with them now.
Now for the desk and chair. I picked them up from a nice couple who needed to make room for their baby’s crib. The wife’s grandfather had purchased the set new, which made me a little sad to think that such a nifty piece was leaving its original family. That said, I will give it a very nice, loving home, so no one has to worry.
Heywood Wakefield produced this iconic kneehole design from 1950-1965. Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky – the 20th century Russian-American industrial designer known for his streamlined, modernist style – created it. What makes the desk extra-nifty is the very wide upper drawer. And the left-lower double-high bottom drawer, which makes it perfect for storing file folders. And the fully finished desk back. And…well, pretty much everything.
My plans for world domination through mid century birch furniture are becoming reality! Craigslist, I couldn’t do it without you!
Anyone who knows me knows I love me some Vertigo. It’s my favorite Hitchcock film. The mystery involved makes it an obvious choice for Halloween, but there’s more to in than that. There’s the local aspect (I’m from Northern California), the Edith Head costumes (which aren’t exclusive to this Hitchcock piece, though they are particularly wonderful in it), and Kim Novak, whom I admire greatly.
She’s not just beautiful, she’s a tremendously sensitive actress. Novak’s very raw, vulnerable portrayal of Judy resonated with me. I could relate. Plus, she looked darn hot as both a rough-edged shop girl and a sanitized stand-in for the very patrician Madeleine Elster.
This humble post is dedicated to Minoru Yamasaki, modern architectural master, and Guy Tozzoli, the man who directly managed the original World Trade Center project and deeply loved his Twins.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was a source of political contention and financial worry. In the late 1970s, it was a symbol of metropolitan glamor (it was the Emerald City in The Wiz, after all!). In the 1980s and 1990s, it stood for commercial success and tourist fascination. In the early 21st century, it became Ground Zero. And now, for most people, the World Trade Center is back to being the World Trade Center once again, proof that determination can – just as in the 60s and 70s – overcome political strife. Things may never be right in Lower Manhattan again, but things can be good.
Disneyland’s 58 years old today! To celebrate, here’s the Barstow family’s 1956 D-Land adventure! One of the kids won the trip – a dream vacation to the then-one-year-old theme park – through a 3M cellophane tape contest.
I’m a Christmas nut. I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but I freaking love everything about the season – the lights, the food, the festive mood, and maybe most of all, the amazing holiday music. My favorite Christmas tracks are nostalgic, particularly the ones from the 1950s through the early 1970s that remind me of my early childhood. This is why I love the original WPIX Yule Log, a Christmas Eve television tradition since 1966. Originally conceived by WPIX General Manager Fred Thrower to bring old-fashioned holiday hearth experiences to New Yorkers, the “classic” WPIX playlist – like the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom Main Street Christmas loops compiled by “voice of Disneyland” Jack Wagner – brings many of my absolute favorite Christmas recordings together in a single, quirky package.
Being a West Coaster and a child of the 1980s, my first TV Yule Log experience happened care of KOFY TV-20, the legendary independent station in the San Francisco Bay Area known for its crazy dog bumpers. I remember hours of Philadelphia Brass, but I’m fairly sure the playlist was similar to the following WPIX playlist, which features everyone from Percy Faith to David Rose:
‘Tis the season for spooky festivities! While some current Halloween traditions have roots that stretch back to antiquity, our contemporary children’s holiday activities – like parties, games, costume parades, and even trick-or-treating – were actually devised in the 20th century as ways to keep kids from partaking in the destructive and dangerous pranks that plagued the season in the 1920s and 1930s.
The following Halloween party ideas come from a wonderful Halloween Program Kit distributed by the Cooperative Recreation Service in Delaware, OH, in the 1930s. My copy is stamped as the property of the Fresno, CA, Works Progress Administration. The kit – marked #28 in the series, revised – was edited by Lynn & Katherine Rorhbough. Continue reading “A 1930s Halloween”