Welcome to the social design: loose lessons from the stylized representation of the social in cinema and print. A blog very often about the interior design, fashion, social manners, and music created for and reflected in vintage cinema and print. Especially from the Sixties and Seventies, especially Italian, and especially from swingin' party scenes. We're awfully big on disco hippies and the OpArt accent here. Guaranteed, of course, to wander off on the occasional tangent into (maybe?) related subject matter, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek commentary for your consideration along the way. Comments are welcome, so please consider yourself invited...

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Last October I took a tour through Virginia and one of the little treasures that came home with me was a copy of the book The Finest Rooms in America by Thomas Jayne.  I picked it up in the museum shop at Jefferson's Monticello, where it is stocked as it features in its pages the great house's tea room.  But the content of the book is not entirely historical: Jayne, who worked for the noted Parish-Hadley firm, has culled a collection of exemplary rooms ranging from the colonial to the contemporary.  And though in perusing his selections, I am not entirely in agreement that all of these rooms warrant inclusion as being among the very finest, I will say many of them still are or come very close.  Which brings me to my obsession of the moment ... black floors.

One of the interiors included is the de Menil house of Houston, Texas.  It's the former home of the late John & Dominique de Menil, who immigrated from Paris to the U.S. during the Nazi occupation of France and eventually settled in Houston - to oversee a petroleum services empire and otherwise amass a breathtaking art collection in excess of 17,000 pieces.  And in the process probably drop the biggest chic-bomb the state of Texas has ever seen.  It's delight

The couple commissioned Philip Johnson to build their residence there in the International style, and they hired the fashion designer Charles James for its eclectic decorative program - though I am assuming the artwork was always consistently rotated at the de Menils' direction.  Apparently though when the house went up in 1950, it might as well have been 1850 for the ensuing reception of bewilderment.  A New York Times article on the house quotes Houston architect Anderson Todd: ''Most people in Houston knew nothing about Philip Johnson or Mies van der Rohe or Le Corbusier. This wasn't a house -- it was a dental office or a Laundromat.'' 

The results probably do warrant inclusion among the finest rooms in America, but today it is that black floor that I am in love with in particular.  The flooring is described as glazed black Mexican tile, but I'm curious as to whether it was the specification of architect Johnson or designer James?  Apparently Johnson - who preferred strict Modernism in furnishings - was outraged with James' decidedly eclectic and voluptuous treatment of the interiors.  Funny how it's the one thing that really could have been from the hands of either of the two opposing polarities...

The de Menil living room: my apologies to Siegfried & Roy, but really, this is the best use of a White Tiger.  For interior purposes anyway.

I'd have to say that's a Magritte over the piano.  When the artist visited Houston, the de Menils arranged for some students to escort the artist to the rodeo.  How surreal is that?

Probably a pretty comfortable nook to cuddle up and shop the auction catalogs...

Of course these rooms would likely be equally stunning with a variety of other floor coverings, but as we all know (and I cannot seem to stop thinking about lately), it is black that really does make a terrific, appearance-enhancing backdrop.  And here I am also brought to mind the soft black walls Rosamond Bernier chose to offset her own remarkable art collection as well.  And so we know this so well, but sometimes its just very nice to be arrestingly reminded of the fact, in practice and not in theory...   


- a.t.s

The Finest Rooms in America: 50 Influential Interiors from the 18th Century to the Present is available through Random House : www.randomhouse.com

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Ordinarily I wouldn't mind the unseasonably warm weather we've been having.  But you know, I'm "between sizes" right now (which is too say a little too chunky for the slim-tailored shirts that make up the better part of my closet), and I was really counting on hiding under sweaters and coats until at least April.  Guess I'd truly be distraught if I had a new coat from this (unbelievably groovy) Christian Dior fur show from 1969, as reported in a wonderful vintage British Pathé newsreel.  Swoon! 

There is so much here to celebrate:  that Sixties sense of chic, the use of white to enhance the stage presence of the coats, the groovy electric organ music ("if the coats didn't send the customers, the music certainly did..."), and of course all that odd, playful period modeling that seems (sadly) almost unfathomable today.  Frankly, I am living for all the synchronized "jigging about," especially in a chinchilla cape! 

I've written a little bit about Sixties style modeling before on The Social Design -specifically I think on a scene from a '68 Ungaro show used in the Catherine Denueve film Manon 70.  I wish I had a better grasp of the vocabulary of choreography, dance, and movement -  but to me there really is something paradoxical about the dominant modeling expressions of the time that both bewilders and entrances me.  It seems they sought to simultaneously exaggerate both the lines of the clothes and also the terrific sense of movement and freedom of the age.  The result is a recurrence of stiff, stylized postures that work quite well for print editorials (and here I definitely have Peggy Moffitt on the brain) but when applied to the movement of runway come off, well, a little bit bizarre...

It sort of calls to mind some observations I once read in a feature on the Audubon-inspired painter Walton Ford and how there is something distinctly unnatural in the naturalist Audubon's work,  because he was in fact not working from live models but rather from "freshly shot birds pinned into macabre dioramas."   Well, Dior isn't using dead birds but rather ballet dancers - and to great effect in my esteem.  And in my amateur musings on the Sixties modeling milieu I am probably discounting the influence of popular dance anyway. I will also add that Geoffrey Beene, a designer of great intellect, often cast dancers for models in his shows as well.

I wholeheartedly invite anyone with an opinion on Sixties modeling to chime in, or Sixties fashion for that matter (but really, I'm not so interested in the anti-fur sentiments)...


Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Sometimes don't you just think you'll fall asleep if you see another stainless steel kitchen appliance?  Of course the greatest threat of such an acute and décor-triggered case of narcolepsy is hitting one's head on an equally ubiquitous granite counter top.  Last month I had to replace my old refrigerator and found the choices wanting: black or white (which apparently in any other form I love) and of course good old stainless steel.  It brought to mind the Eighties when I thought it was beyond stylish to have commercial grade stainless in the kitchen, especially glass-doored refrigeration units.  Clearly a far cry from the dulled-silver hell that constitutes the American middle class kitchen of today.

Of course what I really wanted was a mustard yellow fridge: please do think sunny Provence and please do not think Harvest Gold - although we did just watch Super 8 and were charmed to see its inclusion in the period kitchen sets. (Still, I am short
a macramé owl hanging to really pull it off...)  What I actually did end up getting was yet another stainless steel model - because, simply, neither black nor white worked with the existent scheme and the last thing I wanted to do was initiate a domino chain of kitchen redecorating.  Stainless steel really is nothing if not neutral. Yawn...

I guess I just didn't know that what I really ought to have done was this: travel back in time and pick myself up a "Match Your Mood" number from Westinghouse! 

I hope you enjoy this most compelling promotional film, one that vividly illustrates the decorative benefits of the company's "Complete Refrigerator," circa the late Sixties.  You'll see it starts off slow and moody as Young Mrs. Homemaker contemplates the winter landscape.  But then, like all groovy things, the electric organ kicks in.  And although it's not documented in the film, perhaps she's paid a call to her M.D. on the way home, since from the looks of her abrupt bout of uncontrolled shake dancing and home decorating, I myself am led to believe she's just gotten a needle of B12 and speed in her butt.  And then soon enough everyone's joining the party.  You will have, too, before all is said and (re)done...

Well, it's a terrific blast from the past - great visual and musical fun.  But on a realistic note, it's a good reminder of what Interior Design can and should be: a world of stimulating customization, a world of expression and license.  Face it, no one gets into the trade for the thrill of spec'ing one of three standardized finishes.  And I think this is one of the reasons I am so often keen on Sixties design - it really oozes optimism, possibility, and a certain kind of freshness and freedom - virtues which are always in style, if you ask me.  And there's something that's definitely out for 2012, and that's neutrality.

And as a matter of fact, I really do want a Mrs. Robinson zebra-striped fridge to match my Mrs. Robinson zebra-striped shift.  More than you know...

Enjoy! xo

Westinghouse ... "The Complete Refrigerator"

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Marilyn Monroe is in the media a lot this week.  I was perusing the Huffington Post at the coffee house the other day and caught a review (with terrific photographs) of a forthcoming book about her - David Wills' Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis, which promises to be the last word in all things Marilyn.  I appreciate the actress as much as the next guy, but truthfully, I've never been one of those gay men with a Marilyn fixation.  I guess it's just not my generation.  I'll laugh at (and, ideally, with) Liza -  but Judy Garland's allure completely escaped me.  I'm really just not into tragic gals much at all, though apparently Wills definitely does not see her as a tragic figure, and I do think his sentiments on the subject are worthy of real consideration. 

But the reason I bring all this up is that I saw the following photos and - in consciousness of my initial reaction to them - was amused by the similarity to a Facebook meme I saw not too long ago.  One of a picture lightheartedly presented to test one's sexuality by what one immediately noticed upon looking at it. There are a few variants on it.

Well, in these I hardly noticed the blonde bombshell for the chairs!  I suppose that makes me gay.  But the fact that I passed up the iconic Marilyn for the chairs? Guess that makes me not that kind of gay. Here, test for yourself and see what kind of gay you are...

This photograph is from a costume test for Something's Got To Give of 1962.  Marilyn is particularly notable in this photo for her radiance in the wake of a twentyfive pound weightloss. (And apparently the actress was often credited for the uncanny gift of appearing on camera ten pounds lighter. That's certainly not tragic).  But seriously, is it that wingback on the right that is the star of this shot, or what?  I love that large-scale pattern applied to this piece. It looks like it was taken from - I don't know at this distance - maybe a Persian miniature painting or something.  And I rather like the idea of a chair upholstered with a bit of a narrative, too. Why not? Why not wrap a chair with more visual narrative than Trajan's column?


This one really kills me. Of course, as anyone who has followed the blog will readily attest,  I've not been shy in expressing my admiration of the orange (or red) accent chair, which I consider as iconic as the actress herself.  And here it is - a big daddy wingback (rakeback, with a Marlborough leg in a pickled finish, no less), and Marilyn Monroe sitting in it, too boot.  That is rich.  This shot was taken from The Seven Year Itch of 1955.  I'm sure many will readily recognize what is probably the dress with which she is most associated - and I rather prefer it in the wingback than over the subway grate.  

Also of course I have long been possessed by the OpArt influence and, really, any instance of an interior effectively accented with the optic, high contrast of black and white for that matter, so of course I am enthralled with those draperies.  What particularly intrigues me, though, is not just the chic (in my esteem) of black and white - but that the silhouette-based pattern could have been pulled out of a Dutch textile design studio any time over the last decade - specifically I am thinking of Tord Boontje, to whom I seem inclined to credit for birthing the entire (and now very ubiquitous) silhouette trend in design. (Of course if I am mistaken, anyone is welcome to set me straight.  I invite it. I am here to learn, too.) And so I say, 1955? Really? I can hardly believe this room is 56 years old!


Saturday, September 24, 2011



Seems like we are long overdue for a little disco hippyism here at The Social Design.  A friend of mine brought this clip to my attention the other day and we had to have a laugh at what is perhaps one of the "squarest" psychedelic swinger scenes known to film. Well, it is a Doris Day film after all - "With Six You Get Eggroll" of 1968.  And if you look closely, everyone is drinking ...um...coffee. Well, it's seldom about social realities on The Social Design, only their stylized representation...

It's pretty apparent Doris Day and the production company are far removed from the psychedelic experience: their idea of a trippy reference effect (and my favorite) is a close up on a stained glass light fixture.  The house band actually is a real band, though - The Grassroots - probably best known for the hit "Midnight Confessions" of the same year. Granted, not as keen as The Strawberry Alarm Clock's appearance in "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls", of course, but given this level of vanilla be appreciative as the band could just as easily turned out to be The Lettermen in fringed suede vests and ponchos. 

What is interesting though is that as this is being filmed, Doris Day's son, the musician and record producer Terry Melcher, is hanging out with Charles Manson and his hippie family, who, though pre-murderous, are most definitely not drinking coffee in a discotheque and tripping on a stained glass light fixture. Otherwise some great swinging beads, minis, and Sassoon bubble cuts. Enjoy!


Thursday, September 15, 2011



Meet Insect Man and Lady Sky Bug. They are from the Future. Specifically, the fictitious  "World of the Future" Ball otherwise (and I have to add, very unfortunately) not attended by Norma Shearer and Herbert Marshall in the 1934 film "Riptide".  Era-wise, not the standard fare on The Social Design, but we caught this one the other night and really, who can resist the appeal of these sort of spoofy-Surrealist-Futurist costumes? I know I couldn't. And I sure as hell wouldn't have traded my invitation to the ball for dinner in a supper club... 

The film itself runs a little slow after a while. But there are some stand-out moments - such as Norma's Deco furnished apartment seen above, with that coral piece that would have been the jaw-dropping envy of any decorator about eight years ago. (I'd still take it if you gave it to me, I won't lie).  Later in the film keep an eye out for Norma and cocktails in a white pantsuit with bias-striped silk halter top that frankly looks like it went down a Milan runway yesterday.  And, my favorite, a quiver-inducing shot where Norma is framed by a wingback chair  - upholstered in a crisp but undulating stripe (I am thinking navy on white), railroaded to the horizontal, and looking about as fresh as ever.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011



File this under "Villas of Distinction".  In my last post I mentioned coming across a spread in the July issue of Architectural Digest on the private Bel Air residence of the late Elizabeth Taylor.  Honestly, it was a privileged view, but one quite a bit softer than the cinematic image of the lady so many of us have loved and enjoyed.  It got me thinking about one of my favorite Taylor-Burton films, 1968's "Boom"...

An adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play, "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore", apparently the film was a bit of both a commerical and critical flop. It sat in obscurity for many years until sometime in (if I remember correctly) the very late 90s bootleg copies began making the rounds and it soon reasserted itself as a campy, cult classic. Also stars Richard Burton, of course, and Noel Coward as "The Witch of Capri" - in a role originally offered to Katherine Hepburn and in part inspired by the eccentric Italian Marchesa Luisa Casati .

Despite the stellar cast, my favorite presence in the film is that of the Mediterranean villa in which it was filmed (Sardinia, actually). Airy, spacious, perched on a dramatic natural setting - the villa once again satisfies my eternal appetite for the white room.  And Taylor's predominantly white wardrobe set against this stylish backdrop is like the icing on the (apparently vanilla) cake.  I also like the approach the designers took in creating the interior mix: the juxtaposition of the clean-lined, modern upholstered pieces (and expansive white interior) with older, detailed casepieces and accents for texture and visual interest.  Hope you enjoy, too...

And below, the trailer for "Boom" - if you are more into dramatic sound bites than interiors. Though I am willing to say the two together are mutually beneficial...


Monday, September 5, 2011


How I hate to stumble on an abandoned blog. Or worse: a blog whose last entry starts with "sorry I haven't posted anything lately..."  And here I am, my own blog teetering on the verge. Well, suffice it to say my creative/editorial energy was directed, by necessity, elsewhere throughout the better part of the summer. But still I was always making note of great little items I knew I wanted to share...

Last month I was waiting to get my hair cut. I like to arrive early so I can peruse the magazines in the reception area and otherwise unwind.  Usually I don't go for the Architectural Digest, but the July cover promised a sneak peek into the private residence of the sadly late, great Elizabeth Taylor. Of course someone with a taste for Sixties glamour like myself is going to take the bait.

Liz aside, what I did find and actually liked quite a bit was a spread on the South Carolina beach house of interior designer Amelia Handegan (photos posted above and below).  And of course anyone who coos on about Op-Art accents as much as I do is going to flip over the graphic floor treatment in the hall above.  I've always loved a white room to begin with - add a dash of that optical black & white and I'm all about it!

Of course on a practical note, I'll say it's good this is a light-usage second home or that A.H. is well off enough to have domestics: painted floors, especially white ones, are frankly a colossal pain in the ass to keep up. I speak from experience since I have painted hardwood floors (long story) myself, the color of an elephant.

Below, a couple more photographs from the editorial - these of a guest bedroom where Handegan again brings in an optical punch, in this instance a black and white Persian kilim I like quite a bit.  Ambiguously Franco-Indienne textiles compliment the airy interior and add a little hippie chic, which is also fine by me, of course...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011




There's a certain charm to the dated vision of the future.  A quaint naiveté one doesn't find in the once-conjectured reality we currently occupy nor recognizable (by ourselves,  not yet) in the visions of tomorrow and the life futuristic we as a culture are producing.  Frankly it's easier to look back on the past and guffaw.  Well, we saw a bit of this charm in the previous post -  a staging of André Courrèges' spring '68 fashions - and so here again I'm posting another little issue from the same year: a Braniff Airlines commercial prophetizing the space age thrill of air travel ... circa 1975. Pretty ambitious for seven years, one has to admit.

Clearly in the scheme of things, 1975 was going to be a great year for hoods and streamlined fashion helmets!  Though I have to ask, what's the story with that lady in the crinkled metallic number scratching her ass?  Guess the future was going to be itchy.  And with all those rather jerky, hard-finished means of conveyance to which the modern traveler is subjected, I would say it's kind of whiplash-y, too...


Thursday, July 7, 2011



Here's another "summer white" for your consideration.  Some great German television footage of André Courrèges' 1968 collection, paired with a little moog music. It's the product of a terrific woman in Germany who posts under the name of cosmocorps2000 on YouTube. She's worth loooking up: she's got scads of great vintage fashion videos and lovingly pairs each one with some equally groovy "space age" tunes.  Says cosmocorps2000's bio: (I) have an affinity for anything futuristic (Design, Furniture, Architecture, Music...) especially from the 1960s and 1970s, the heyday of futuristic design and lifestyle. Well, I have an affinity for you, cosmocorps2000, I have an affinity for you!

I do like this video quite a bit. I'm a sucker for an impractical, all white interior. I'm mad about quaint visions of yesterday's tomorrow.  The totalizing, white interior - that's optimism. See, even dirt has been left behind in mankind's great ascension.  Plus there's a place for everything, as evidenced by the series of closets from which the models enter and exit. It's man's mastery over the elements, or at least clutter.  And it's optimism that says tomorrow's woman can sport a bubble-hooded white space poncho and still have occasion for girlish pigtails, scalloped hems, and sweet white gloves...

Friday, July 1, 2011




Now here's a clip that really takes us back to the heart of the social design: disco hippies. (Yes!) This film, 1968's Le Pacha, really does as much so very literally it even features a highly improbable nightclub titled "Les Hippies"...

Part of this vignette anyway is fabulous.  And another part, well, a piece of shit.  I haven't actually seen the entire film.  Apparently from what I can detect it was never released in an English dub and my command of French doesn't carry me so very far beyond dining, shopping, and insulting.  Maybe there's something sub-titled out there, though it probably doesn't matter since few of these films are even being considered for their plot.

Plot (or lack of) excused, there's some great vintage style here.  Unfortunately it's a bit polluted, as clearly the "scene" has been rendered to serve as a fairly foolish counterpoint to the old detective.  Note how almost every guy on the dance floor is basically an effeminate, spaced-out gypsy with a pashmina. (And though I rather like that in a club, it's as its own end, and here it is decidedly not.)  A sort of dancing floral arrangement as Monsieur L'Inspecteur makes his way through the psychedelic clubscape.  Pity since this blog is not about old detectives.

Well, if you can overlook the obvious bias, there still much to love.  The kaleidoscopic intro with the strobe flash on the dancing girl scantily clad in what appears to be Mylar fringe: hello, terrific!  A great segue into the dancers ornamenting a club which otherwise seems to be populated with little more than highly-visual ornaments.  Of course that bar maid could not look more out of place if they had cast Doris Day in the role, and frankly it looks like they tried and settle for second best (or, as the case may be, worst).  Hilarious! In that pink suit with the jeweled necktie.  Oh dear.  I am definitely not buying it!

Well, speaking of dancing floral arrangements.  We actually encounter one, literally, by which I mean the creature in the blue peek-a-boo caftan with a head of posies.  Shades of the notorious Atlanta drag queen Octavia L'Ampshade, circa 1996, really.  In the film, too silly to be true, of course.  Clearly the stylists went a little overboard.  But otherwise some great fashions and body paint.  Really what I like best in this scene is the controlled use of color and metallics against a black background.  It's a rich effect.

The music is Serge Gainsbourg's Psychasténie.  Of course we've considered this terrific sort of disco-raga mish-mash before... 

Gainsbourg, from Le Pacha (1968)

and again from Manon 70 (1968)

1968 was a great year for electric bass and sitar, which Gainsbourg also married (with Michel Colombier) for the Catherine Deneuve vehicle Manon 70.  Well, it really does set a tone, you cannot deny.

Gainsbourg actually appears in Le Pacha.  Specifically performing the song Requiem pour un con, or Requiem for a Jerk. Very groovy percussion, I think you will agree.  A rough translation of the lyrics follows.  Says one viewer on YouTube: "Gainsbourg à l'apogée de sa coolitude..." 

Listen to the organs, they are playing for you
This tune is dreadful
I hope you like it, good enough, isn't it?
It's the Requiem for a Jerk
I composed it specially for you
In memory of you, scoundrel
On your pale face, on the prisons' walls
I'll inscribe myself: "silly jerk"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011



Here's another "Summer White" for you. I think you'll agree, white is still outta sight...

It's Dyan Cannon in the 1971 film Doctors' Wives.  When Babydoll pulled this one out I have to say I was intrigued.  Of course anything stylish from 1971 entices by default. But then also my grandmother was a doctor's wife (and not just any doctor's wife but a president-of-the-medical-auxiliary, über doctor's wife) so naturally I was very curious to take in an artistic reflection of her world.  Well, sadly, in 1971 she wasn't running around in a sexy white jumpsuit offering to do her friends' husbands, but alas, here in the film Dyan Cannon is...  

She looks pretty great, you have to admit.  It's a good intro scene: love the banter, love the clothes, love the hair, love all that clean taupe and glass in the country club card room. But then - ugh! - her character is dead in the next scene!  And that's that.  So don't shy away from checking out this film, but be prepared to accept the fact that the best character gets killed off immediately and does not come back.

Monday, June 20, 2011




So Babydoll brought this very rich clip to my attention some time ago, from the 1975 Italian film Peccati di gioventu.  Then late one night we eventually ended up watching the full English-dubbed version of the film, set in an Italian beach community.  It's about a girl that can't handle her new (sexy) stepmother, and if I recall correctly, resolves the matter by sleeping with her. Well, why not...  

I think technically Gloria Guida is the top-billed star of Peccati di gioventu, but frankly Dagmar Lassander is the bomb (and bombshell).  Aside from Dagmar's other fabulous films, like Femina ridens (The Frightened Woman) of 1969, it's pretty clear from this clip where she takes all the attention simply by descending the stairs in a high-slit white dress. It's a great look, of course, a classic really.

But what I also love (and kind of hate) about this scene is - quite obviously - the cheesy Casio dance party that breaks out! Of course I love it because it's basically tragic and completely unbelievable to witness in 2011. But of course I hate it, too, because if this film were made just a year or two earlier, there'd have been some groovy electric organ music they'd be getting down to. So I guess 1975 marks the death of the electric organ and the ascendancy of the synthesizer, the end of an era, and that makes me sad. I won't dismiss the synthesizer, I will just say it's not nearly as groovy...

Otherwise summer is here and I'm feeling the cool, collected look of white.  Indeed, it can be a pretty powerful social signifier wearing something as high-maintenance and essentially disposable as white, especially with as much aplomb as Dagmar above. It says: Hello there, I'm no stranger to leisure and ease, I have a fair disposable income, and I'm pretty conscientious, too, to be successfully wearing this stain-magnetizing get-up. So do consider white, when you are feeling (or needing to feel) outta sight. ( And if you're interested in (I think anyway) some pretty fascinating insights into consumer choice and its subliminal meaning - beyond white - I highly recommend Geoffrey Miller's Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior (2009, Viking). It's contents are even more interesting than it's witty (and yes, white) cover, posted below...)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011




So here's a clip that always makes me lose it. I hope you lose it, too. It's Cheri Caffaro in the 1971 sexploitation film Ginger. In this scene, Cheri is in some sort of oddly, aggressively heterosexual bar where the chicks lay claim on the guys with a freaky exhibitionsitic dance ritual.  Guess I don't make a good straight man, 'cause when Cheri starts thrusting that pelvis and making her (ummm...) "sexy-crazy" moves, I just bust out laughing. Sorry, lady. And those facial expressions don't help much, either.  And for that matter, neither do those gigantic white go-go boots. Man, if you really want to make big tugboat feet look even bigger and more tugboat-y, try encasing them in white vinyl...

If the all-too-smiley reaction of her dance partner seems unconvincing, it's probably because he's gayer than those lavender bell bottoms she's sporting. That's Calvin Culver, who will go on to star in Radley Metzger's incredibly fabulous Score of 1973 before achieving perhaps more lasting fame as Casey Donovan, one of the great 1970's gay porn stars, appearing in such films as Wakefield Poole's Boys in the Sand, Joe Gage's L.A. Tool & Die, and Falcon Studios classic The Other Side of Aspen. Sadly, Culver passed away from AIDS in 1987. Cheri Caffaro is alive and, according to IMDB, "abruptly quit show business and now lives in some undisclosed area of California."

Calvin Culver in Score : interesting.

Casey Donovan of Boys in the Sand : very interesting.


Thursday, May 26, 2011



So - regrettable as it is - this is the final post for the Five Dolls for an August Moon (5 Bambole per la luna augusto) marathon. I said I had a lot to post, and I didn't lie. Hope you have enjoyed.

For this dispatch: two more glimpses of that swell villa where Bava shot the film back in 1970.  And both feature one of the more amusing details of the production: a large, round, spinning bed. Honestly, I've always found the "novelty bed" to be a little off, a little tacky. There is (or was?) a round bed available at IKEA and every time I pass it, I think, god-that's-really-horrible-where-the-hell-would-you-get-decent-sheets-for-it-anyway?  IKEA? Probably not decent sheets...

But the thing of it is, it's a big, wide world with room for all sorts of people and all sorts of things.  And sometimes what might be an anxiety-provoking nightmare in your home is perfectly fun in someone else's.  And what really helps integrate a big, spinning bed into an interior isn't so much an arrangement of throw pillows, really, so much as a vixen...

Above, vixen #1: the fabulous euro scream-queen Edwige Fenech in the red bra and panties. 1970 was a very good year for Edwige: with the eye-liner and the big, sexy hair and all those great clothes, what a swell time to be a beautiful, swingin' young woman.  It should be noted that Edwige Fenech, who did not suffer from excessive modesty and would happily go topless for her art, had remarkably perfect breasts. And this is when a perfect breast was grown, not implanted. Maybe she still does.

Here's another clip, ending again with the spinning bed. Only this time it's not topped with the frivolous and sexy Edwige character in red bra and panties, but rather it's the calculating and bisexual Ira von Furstenberg character in red silk pajamas. Yes, a bit of a plot spoiler, this scene, but not entirely. And who cares anyway, since the plot is the least interesting thing about this film? What is very interesting is that terrific spiral staircase. Film critics have noted it's symbolic dollar sign appearance in a film very much about money. I'll just say it's hot.

Another architectural detail that intrigues: those great sliding doors, with the black lacquered frames and the semi-translucent grid panel. Goodbye privacy, hello fabulous! Though I will say I can seriously do without the recurrent use of putti in the hallway.  By putti (singular: putto) I mean the frolicky little statues of angelic babes, like cherubs without wings, that always seem piled up on one another for no easily discernable reason.  It's not that I don't understand the designer's intention: to juxtapose the Renaissance/Baroque ornateness of the statuary against the architectural modernity of the villa. I just tend to be highly unresponsive to statues of angels and babes and children.  

And finally, more of that great Piero Umiliani soundtrack...

Monday, May 23, 2011




So when I posted all these clips from Mario Bava's Five Dolls for an August Moon on YouTube, I also included the very short one above, just because I thought it was kind of a hoot and was having a "why not?" moment. Well, as it turns out, some of the other videos posted at the same time have had less than 100 hits - and yet this one has had over 6,000...

Apparently footage of smoking from a pretty lady's foot plays better than mod Italian interiors and swingin' organ music. Especially in the Middle East, as this video has been most viewed in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates respectively.  Maybe it has something to do with the feet being very dirty and insulting in Arabic culture. This video might very well be completely obscene over there! I don't really know, though, anyone is welcome to chime in and explain the appeal...

Well, fortunately I'm the kind of person who gets hotter from mod Italian interiors and swingin' organ music than foot smokin'. And I rather liked the rest of the scene, as well:


There's that great Umiliani soundtrack, for starters - this time integrated into the scene as music from the radio.  And then, really, why not get out of bed feelin' fabulous? So fabulous in fact you want to dance around a little in your pleated chiffon caftan? Well I'd probably do the same if I had a zebra skin rug like that, too. Or maybe a big beefcake in bikini briefs and gold chains. Or again, really more so the zebra skin rug...

Friday, May 20, 2011




As I've written before, Mario Bava, who directed Five Dolls for an August Moon (5 bambole per la luna d'agosto), historically discounted the film. In fact, apparently he cited it as his worst.  Well, whether or not that's the case, it was definitely the best work of Piero Umiliani, who composed the film's very groovy, mostly upbeat soundtrack.  Full of swingin' electric organ and very engaging and diverse percussion, it's a terrific exercise in theme and variation.  I personally put this on par with the soundtrack from Jesus Franco's Vampiros Lesbos of 1971. They're terrific in their own right, and both exceed in quality the film for which they were composed.

Above, a scene from the film when Professor Farrell burns his secret formula everyone is hot to get their murderous little hands on - and the organ goes crazy! Well, I won't lie - from Ray Manzarek's keyboard work for The Doors, to Italian cinematic jazz, and everything in between - electric organ from the '60s and '70s fascinates me. Then of course and somewhat sadly the synthesizer came to the fore and the organ pretty much died away in pop and cinematic applications. And though it did retain a small niche in jazz, to me it will always be the sound of an era, really.

Here, more tracks - breezier, sexier, probably more typical of the album. Listen to these when you drive your car at night in the summertime, with the sunroof open and all the windows down...

The Five Dolls/5 Bambole soundtrack is available from iTunes in 22 tracks, but eMusic.com, while cheaper, is also offering a 34 track version, with even more variation on Umiliani's catchy riffs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011



Came across this the other day trying to find a way to burn $12 in accidentally prepaid eMusic.com credit, and sure glad I did.  My musical obsession of the moment: Jim Noir's latest EP, Zooper Dooper, released November of 2010. 

Jim Noir is the stage name of the English singer-singwriter Alan Roberts, who works in a style influenced by '60s sunshine pop, though still very respectably his own, with plenty of Beatles-esque and Beach Boys-y gestures fused with contemporary sounds and gentle lyrics. The track "Kitty Cat" (above) first got my attention, since also being into '60s and '70s Italian cinematic jazz, I am of course fond of a good instrumental.  To quote Peter, Paul, and Mary: I dig rock & roll music when the words don't get in the way, and believe me, usually they do.  But then I turned on to the whole EP, actually, words and all.  Probably because Noir is one of the least pretentious lyricists ever and there is intimacy and vulnerability to his work.  Below, a live track of "Map" (do try to get a listen to the studio version, it's really very nice):



Interestingly, I had a laugh when for a moment I couldn't quite recall what an "EP" actually was.  "Extended Play" I remembered. But wasn't it not just a less-than-an-album collection of songs but specifically a 33-sized vinyl record made for playing at 45 speed? Or was that just a 12" Remix? I don't know anymore.

Anyway, enjoy...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011




Of course much of the fun of the vintage media here on The Social Design is the great design components found within - while often more or less ancillary to the original intent of production, these details certainly warrant a more starring role in our current, light-hearted consideration. And then of course there is also the pleasure of nostalgia: little, inviting windows to other times and other places, somehow the same world we exist in today yet hardly recognizable, lost but relived in memory for just a moment...

For your consideration today, a very groovy commercial for The International House of Pancakes from 1969.  Talk about a time, a place, an ethos one is hard pressed to find today.  There's sooo much to love here: The unabashed psychedelia. The trippy early-synthesizer soundtrack. The brilliantly fresh orange/blue complementary color scheme. The contemporary California family that dispenses with the car and prefers to run free across the landscape with great bouquets of colorful balloons...

Well, it's a world that is fresh, expansive, optimistic and free. Of course the food looks like hell, so in regard to actually promoting the IHOP product, the commercial is a complete failure. But in shaping the perceived IHOP experience, that's another story. Though I have to wonder how this little jewel ever got the green light to go beyond a sketch in an ad firm and actually make it onto the American airwaves - probably more of a reflection of the freshness, expansiveness, optimism, and freedom of today, I suspect. So really, America, lighten up. TUNE IN, TURN ON, AND DINE OUT!

Saturday, May 14, 2011





Five Dolls for an August Moon mania continues! Another great clip featuring more of the main living room interior. I'm still loving the predominantly neutral scheme peppered throughout with accents of color. Of course I've written of the virtue of the red accent, but I'm going to extend that deference to the orange accent as well. Hello, look at those floor pillows! Actually I've historically lived for the orange accent more, but found examples for posting of the red accent before the orange. Still, they are both fabulous.

Something else fabulous in this scene?  Let's talk about the character of Trudy making that dire reel-to-reel tape.  Of course in the U.S. when you hear the name von Furstenberg pretty much one person comes to mind: Belgian-born fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, creator of the iconic 70s wrap-dress. But Trudy here is being played by I think an even more interesting von Furstenberg: Ira, the sister of Diane's princely ex-husband, Egon.

Born Her Serene Highness Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina of Fürstenberg, Princess Ira is an inspiration and role model to anyone looking to break free from the gilded-ghetto hell of privileged aristocracry and really make something - oh, you know - more sensational! of themselves...

Ira Furstenberg by Iriving Penn, for Vogue, 1968

Princess Ira zu Furstenberg was born a princess.  Her mother was also a Fiat heiress, sister of the legendarily dapper Gianni Agnelli.  At fifteen she wed Prince Alfonso von Hohenlohe, then aged 31. When (hmmm, surprisingly) that relationship didn't last for the long haul, she married the Brazilian industrialist Francisco "Baby" Pignatari.  It pleases me oddly to say that they were wed in Reno and divorced in Vegas.  And then at some point Ira decided to become a film star.  So, living in Rome, she naturally begins an acting career at Cinecittá, the product of which includes the very fabulous Five Folls for an August Moon (5 Bambole per la luna d'agosto) of 1970, directed by Mario Bava, as well as many others.

Later Ira Furstenberg was romantically linked with Prince Ranier III of Monaco after the death of Grace Kelly, and was apparently assumed to be the next Princess of Monaco until speculative media attention dashed the odds. Well, who cares when you already are a princess?

Ira Furstenberg, closer to today, still working it.

Today Ira Furstenberg creates some very opulent, borderline over-the-top knick-knacks. Objets d'art, if you will.  She works predominantly in gilt-mounted rock crystal, such as this rock crystal bowl with crab ornament:

Or this rock crystal bunny wearing a gold top hat...

I know I'd truly like to use that to bludgeon someone to death in an Italian giallo film.  No idea how much these little treasures run but likely not cheap.  Maybe you can find something to your own taste on Ira's website: http://www.irafurstenberg.com 

Friday, May 13, 2011


Another scene from the fabulous Five Dolls for an August Moon (5 bambole per la luna d'agosto)!

One thing about this gorgeous film: the villa in which it's filmed is another character in itself. So compelling architecturally and in its furnishings, a lot of which stand up quite well today (Look at the lines on those club chairs!). So this is a very short clip, yes, but relevant here on two counts - firstly that it shows off said fabulous interior, and secondly, it features some really premium lounging, which of course we love...


So says the tenth principle. And though technically these aren't disco hippies (they are in fact rich Italian bon vivants), the spirit is the same. Lounging makes for good times. Lounging makes for an opulent accent. Few things signal having it good more effectively than easy leisure and an unhurried sense of time. Anyone can buy the latest conspicuous status symbol, but of course the one who isn't working to pay for it hardly needs it at all. People speak of "effortless chic". Well, I am talking about chic effortlessness...


Wednesday, May 4, 2011




I mean really, how much lounging around a villa is one possibly expected to endure? Sometimes the very best you can do is - oh - spontaneously erupt into wild, unbridled dancing.  It never hurts to make yourself the center of attention, provided of course you're already gorgeous and put together.  But if that's not your style, consider the potential of heavy and intriguing eye-play...

A great cocktail party scene from the film "Five Dolls for an August Moon" (5 bambole per la luna d'agosto, and also known, rather unfortunately, as "Island of Terror").  That's fabulous euro scream-queen Edwige Fenech in the heavy eyeliner and big, sexy hair letting you know who's the belle of this ball.

A great favorite of mine among the Italian stabby films.  Mario Bava directed this film in 1970, and though it is often written that he was not proud of the final result (it was hastily produced, the cast was already hired before he signed on to direct, et cetera), it is still a stunningly delicious piece of eye (and ear) candy.  Like most giallo films, the plot is thin and basically beside the point - it's more a less a variant on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" - but who cares?  Otherwise it's rich with a masterful use of gorgeous, saturated color and features a fabulous Italian modern villa, some great clothes, a charismatic cast, and a very, very groovy soundtrack from my absolute favorite of the Italian cinematic composers, Piero Umiliani.  I ask you then, what's not to love?

From a strictly interiors standpoint, note the sparing and effective use of red to accent the otherwise fairly neutral interior, harkening of course back to #12: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE RED ACCENT PIECE.  I have quite a bit more to post on Five Dolls, interior and otherwise.  I hope you enjoy as much as I do!