Glamorous Careers: Images That Change Lives

Borgen woodward bernstein all the presidents men poster
One of the nice background touches in the terrific Danish political drama Borgen, whose episodes can be seen on LinkTV and L.A. station KCET, is the never-mentioned poster on the front door of reporter Katrine Fønsmark's apartment.

Borgen katrine kasper kiss woodward bernstein all the presidents men poster
It tells you why she became a journalist and why, even though the guy kissing her is the prime minister's “spin doctor” (apparently his official title), she maintains a certain skepticism toward public officials. She actually seems a little young for All the President's Men to have sparked her ambitions, but I do know baby boomer journalists whose career ambitions were shaped by that glamorous portrayal of journalism.

More than we like to admit, glamour influences our answers to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Think of all the architects and designers inspired by Ayn Rand's uncompromising genius Howard Roark. As a story of struggle and triumph, The Fountainhead is romantic, but Roark as an ideal is glamorous. As Michael Bierut writes in his  classic post on Design Observer:

Roark's view towards clients -- "I don't intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build." -- still seems to describe the private yearning harbored by most of my fellow professionals whether they care to admit it or not.

Glamour shapes our ideas of what careers are possible and what satisfactions they might offer. It allows us to see our future selves in fulfilling roles. When I reported a column on CSI's glamorous portrayal of science, I heard tales of surging enrollments in those forensic-science. (Numb3rs did not, however, have a similar effect on operations research, the applied math on which that show drew most often.) In its day, L.A. Law reportedly increased law school applications.

Of course, glamour always contains an element of illusion, hiding difficulties and flaws and heightening rewards. In an American Bar Association Journal article, a critic complained about the law according to Stephen Bochco:

In a typical day in La La-Land, beautiful lawyers drive beautiful cars to the beautiful office, discuss sex with twins at a firm meeting, leave for court to win a case that is not only on the "right side" but very lucrative, then go to a beautiful dinner with tonight's beautiful sexual conquest.

At a recent conference I heard a fashion-merchandising professor lament a litany she hears from naive freshmen: Rachel Zoe. Despite what a generation of fashionistas has taken from Zoe's reality show and public persona, "celebrity stylist" isn't a realistic career goal or a subject you can get a degree in.

On the other hand, sometimes even the craziest ambitions come true. As a discerning reader at Zócalo Public Square wrote in the description of my November book talk there, “For a young Bill Clinton, glamour was the Kennedy White House.” And look where it got him.

Was your career choice influenced by glamour? If so, how?

Justified Lust

Olyphant1Many women (including my wife) enthusiastically agree that actor Timothy Olyphant is incredibly hot. As Marshall Raylan Givens in FX channel’s Justified, he is as dangerous as a heart-throb as he is with a gun.

When portraying Marshall Givens in dangerous situations, Olyphant uses his eyes and sly smile to convey the feeling that Givens is coolly sizing up the opposition. Marshall Givens usually seems less prone to rage than the sheriff Olyphant played in Deadwood. Nonetheless, Olyphant makes us feel that Marshall Givens will kill without a moments hesitation, if justified. And since Justified is set in a contemporary rural Kentucky environment filled with dangerous criminals, guns, and drugs, Givens’s expertise with a handgun does frequently come into play.

Olyphant2A number of things seems to make Olyphant particularly attractive to women. He is tall and lean-muscled, with a body like a fashion model. He is boyishly handsome, with a lush head of hair. As Marshall Givens, Olyphant’s intense, dark-eyes sometimes narrow into threatening slits as he looks out from under his cowboy hat. But a sideways glance from those dark eyes, combined with a sly smile, seems to make many of his female fans go weak in the knees.

Olyphant has been talked about as one of the new male actors who have a notable flair with style. GQ magazine recently named his Raylan Givens character as the most stylish man on TV (their site has a great photo of Olyphant in costume). In a December 2011 GQ article Sarah Goldstein wrote that even some men have crushes on Marshall Givens. And Olyphant himself admits that he enjoys playing a badass character like Raylan.

You Read It Here First: The Remarkable Story Of J.R. Martinez

J-r-martinez-300I don't follow Dancing with the Stars, so when I saw J.R. Martinez on the cover of last week's People I didn't realize he'd been in the news lately.

Isn't that the guy Charles Oliver wrote about for DeepGlamour? I asked myself. And, sure enough, it was. For those of you who missed it, here, straight from J.R.'s hometown of Dalton, Georgia, is that 2008 guest post about how an injured veteran turned himself into a soap opera actor.

The Glamour Of The "Oscar Moment"

Cate Blanchett holding Oscar 77AA_T4554a

The Academy Awards show is ridiculous. Guests arrive in broad daylight wearing the most formal of evening gowns. Presenters, including some of the world's most accomplished performers, read their lines with the studied cadence of high-school commencement speakers.

In contrast to the Super Bowl, a beauty pageant or "American Idol," nothing happens on stage that affects the outcome of the competition. The production numbers are just padding. And, of course, the speeches are boring, the show is too long, and comedies never have a chance.

Yet the Oscar ceremony somehow manages to be compelling. In a good year like 2010, its U.S. audience tops 40 million, according to Nielsen Co. In a bad year like 2008, it tops 30 million. By contrast, the recent Grammy ceremony, which offers far better musical numbers, won its week with only 26.7 million viewers.

The Oscar show's appeal can't just be the fun of water-cooler criticism. You can get all the information you need for that from Twitter or the next day's newspaper. You don't need to sit through the awards ceremony.

Virginia holding Oscar In fact, as the marketing efforts of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences suggest, the glamour of the Oscars lies not in the movies the show ostensibly celebrates, but in the "Oscar moment." Watching the Oscars gives viewers the chance to imagine being singled out before the whole world as special, beloved and really good at their jobs.

To promote the show, the Academy is giving fans in New York City two different chances to pose holding Oscars, either virtual statues or, at Grand Central Terminal, real ones. There, "the big payoff is that you get to go on stage and have your Oscar moment," says Janet Weiss, the Academy's director of marketing. Some people, she says, even show up in gowns and tuxes.

Read the rest here. That's my photo to the right, taken on Friday in Grand Central.

[Cate Blanchett photo courtesy of M.P.A.A.S.]

Creating Illusions

Stage-setDigital special effects are now used so frequently in films and television that we tend to take them for granted. Photoshop is so widely used to manipulate digital photographs that we seldom notice the changes, sometimes even when “realistic” advertising photos have missing, wrongly sized, or misaligned parts. (The website Photoshop Disasters adds funny comments to miscalculated images.)

The theater has always dealt in illusions, and we are perfectly capable of imagining that a bare stage or an abstract set (such as the one shown in the photograph) represents a fictional world. Shakespeare’s plays were first performed on bare stages: thus the characters often speak of the time of day and place.

With experience we also sometimes take theatrical conventions for granted. A proscenium stage is described as having an invisible fourth wall through which the audience views the sets and action onstage. A movie or television screen serves much the same purpose. We forget that we are looking at a flat picture plane once we begin looking “through it” to see images that seem to have dimensional qualities. The addition of 3D further heightens our feeling that we are seeing a dimensional reality, rather than the illusion of one projected onto a screen.

Stage and screen illusions depend partially on an awareness that what the audience will be able to perceive is limited. The fourth wall, for example, does not reveal what is going on above, behind, below, or to the sides of the stage. Cameras reveal only what is in front of the lens, concealing even the person operating the camera.

When actors and dancers perform onstage, they know where the fourth wall is, and they sometimes “cheat” by turning their bodies enough to insure that their speeches and actions are audible and visible to the audience. Dance studios have large mirrors so that dancers can develop some sense of how their bodies, costumes, and movements will look to the audience. In film and photographic work, actors and models learn to maintain an awareness of where the camera is, as well as the light.

Kitchen-set In most dramatic productions, the prevailing convention is that the actors act as if the audience is not there, even though actors need to retain some awareness of them. In most film situations, such as the dining room set shown in the photograph, it is impossible to ignore the presence of the equipment. The ability to perform effectively while aware of the presence of an audience, or a camera and a set full of equipment, is a difficult skill, but one that actors must master if we are going enjoy the fictional illusion that they exist in a “real” world.

[The abstract set was built for a production of Sara McKinnon, an opera by Mark Medoff and Randall Shinn. Photograph by Carol Shinn. The photograph “Film set in the dining room” is by Flickr user ricardodiaz11. Used under the Flickr Creative Commons license.]

Covert Affairs Costumes: What Does A Spy Chief Wear? No Sleeves, Apparently.

When tonight's episode of Covert Affairs airs, most fans of the USA Network spy drama will be looking at sexy leading lady Piper Perabo, who plays rookie CIA operative Annie Walker. I, however, will be wondering what sort of sleeveless outfit her boss Joan Campbell, played by Kari Matchett, will be sporting.

Covert Affairs credits Kari Matchett 


Unless she's on assignment, Annie dresses like a typical Washington professional--in suits (though not in the clip below). Joan, however, never covers her arms. Is this a new form of power dressing? Is it Michelle Obama's influence? Or is it yet another Hollywood fantasy? (They've been putting female detectives in tank tops for years. But at least they also have jackets.) You'd think that Langley's air conditioning alone would dictate more coverage.

Here are a couple more YouTube clips. Apparently I'm not the only one wondering about these outfits. There's a whole thread on IMDB.

Covert Affairs Joan Campbell Kari Matchett sleeveless dress   Covert Affairs still Joan Campbell Kari Matchett sleeveless dress

If You Had The Money, What...?

John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel, was already captivated by automobiles by age five. He knew the names and model years of all the cars on the road. He would sit behind the wheel of his father’s parked 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook, and instead of being in the mountains of West Virginia, he would look at his father’s maps of Colorado and Utah and imagine himself driving in the wild West.

As an adult, John loved to watch documentaries and didn't think enough were available on TV, so in 1982 he founded the Cable Educational Network and, three years later, the Discovery Channel. Over time, while doing work that he loves as chairman of Discovery Communications, he and his wife Maureen have become wealthy.

Keep in mind that most entrepreneurial ventures fail, but imagine success. Imagine yourself with a multi-million dollar net worth. Would you imagine continuing to work, starting new ventures, and spending some of your earnings on your personal interests? Or do you see yourself leading a life of leisure, perhaps traveling the world on some fashionable circuit?

John and Maureen Hendricks have realized the first fantasy: Their interests and personalities haven't changed. They aren't flashy, and the luxuries they spend their money on aren't designed to impress the world. John, like many entrepreneurs, continues to work hard at various ventures, and both he and Maureen are involved in charitable activities, including establishing two foundations. But their wealth lets them live the dream of indulging their lifelong passions.

With extra money to spend, John Hendricks began to collect autos in earnest. And to share his love of automobiles, he created the Gateway Colorado Auto Museum to exhibit his growing collection of more than 40 vehicles. This beautifully designed museum provides both an educational and aesthetic experience.  John’s statement about the museum reveals his intense passion for automotive design.

The video above shows the prototype of legendary auto designer Harley Earl’s 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 on display at the museum. General Motors decided against producing the F-88 car partly because they were concerned it would compete with the Corvette. Only four prototypes were built and only this one survives. Hendricks purchased it at auction in 2005 for $3.24 million.

The Hendricks's shared love for the American Southwest led to their latest business venture, Gateway Canyons, a luxurious resort in a remote, spectacularly beautiful location in Western Colorado. The resort is now open after Phase I development, and includes the Experius Academy, a retreat for “introducing the most curious learners to the most passionate experts.”

Maureen Hendricks is avid quilter and art-quilt collector, and the Gateway Canyons facilities display numerous large art quilts, many of them by Katie Pasquini Masopust. Katie used to hold an annual quilt symposium Alegre Retreat in Santa Fe, which Maureen attended each year until rising venue expenses made it too difficult for Katie continue the symposium. The Gateway Canyon resort has given Maureen a way both to enjoy herself and to support other enthusiasts. With the resort’s support, Alegre Retreat now holds its workshops there. Staying at a luxurious resort to study and interact with some of the world’s best-known art quilters remains an expensive retreat for the participants, but Maureen’s passion for quilting is so strong that whether or not the quilting retreat becomes profitable is not her primary concern. She wants the aesthetic rewards of the Alegre Retreat to continue to be a part of her life.

Meeting them when my wife taught at Alegre, I was impressed at how inner-directed John and Maureen Hendricks are. If we fantasize about how we might spend multi-millions if we had them, would our choices likewise remain true to our preexisting passions? (Reflecting on this makes me consider my own passions.) Or do our fantasies revolve about living a life of luxurious leisure dictated by the images we see in fashion and travel magazines? (Such images definitely have appeal for me.) What about you? Imagining that you had some extra millions to spend, DG invites you to comment on how you might spend them.

What Glee Gets Right About Glamour

Glee-promos Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave, you’ve probably heard of Fox’s new crazy big hit show, Glee. The show, which is one part Freaks & Geeks, one part musical theater, and one part Saved by the Bell, has 3.1 million fans on Facebook (I am one of them), has spawned countless blogs and YouTube tributes, and is typically the first or second most watched show in its timeslot, especially among the coveted 18 to 49 demographic. We are, it appears, a “Gleek” nation.

The show’s website calls Glee, “a musical comedy that follows and optimistic high school teacher as he tries to transform the school’s Glee Club and inspire a group of ragtag performers to make it to the biggest competition of all: Nationals” – a description so understated it’s almost funny, considering that Glee is a show that involves Hammer pants, Lady Gaga, and Jane Lynch in a tracksuit. Glee understands how to use theatricality to amuse.

Plus, Glee understands the power of glamour, and this is why it – a show about the geekiest kids at a suburban Ohio high school – really works. It’s funny and over the top, but viewers relate to the characters in their insecure high school kid incarnations, so those same viewers experience the elation when the kids start singing and transform into glamorous stars of the stage.

So what is it, exactly, that Glee does right when it comes to glamour? At least five things:

  1. Clothes (and hair) matter. In the Power of Madonna episode, Jane Lynch’s character, Sue Sylvester – a ball-busting cheerleading coach – is made over in the image of Madonna, the Vogue years. In the blink of an eye, Sue transforms from butch gym coach to Madonna at her most Old Hollywood. She’s got the same face, but thanks to her new clothes and fancy hair, a whole new persona.

  2. Good lighting is important. Many of the show’s musical numbers take place in a bright classroom, or in the hallways, but when the story requires some drama, they get on the stage. The creators of Glee understand the power of a well-placed spotlight, and they use it.

  3. Music can transform. Lea Michele’s character, Rachel, is a familiar one:  the kid with big dreams who’s so ambitious she’s annoying. But when she opens her mouth – to sing, not to talk – she transforms from an obnoxious girl into a desirable and glamorous woman.

  4. There’s power in belonging. One of Glee’s central conflicts is between Sylvester’s “Cheerios” (the cheerleaders) and the geeky glee club. In some ways, the show mocks traditionally powerful high school cliques, exposing the insecurities and faults of the cheerleaders and football players. However, Glee isn’t just a high school geek’s revenge fantasy – in this show, the cheerleaders do win a lot and nobody apologizes for wanting to fit in.

  5. Glamour has multiple faces. Yes, there is power in belonging and the Cheerios, with their ponytails and uniforms, are glamorous in a pretty, typical way. But they’re only one image of glamour on the show – each character has his or her own brand of glamour. Take Kurt and Puck, for example. Kurt is a dramatic and flamboyant gay guy, while Puck is a football-playing, cheerleader-bagging badass. They’re wildly different male characters, but they’re viewed through the same lens, so they’re equally glamorous.

Tuesday’s finale, in which the kids compete at Regionals, promises to be standard Glee fare: lots of heart from the kids, attitude from Sue Sylvester, a few cheerleading uniforms, and a handful of soaring song-and-dance numbers. And glamour, of course – on the surface, underneath, and twisted throughout.

What Retrosexuals And Metrosexuals Have In Common (Besides The Obvious Pun)

Michael Westen Burn Notice  Writing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, William Loeffler proclaims the end of the Metrosexual:

The man's man is back. And he's had enough of unisex salons, simpering emo music and the emasculating kryptonite of the Oprahsphere. 
Or so say a spate of ads, books and websites that hail the emergence of the retrosexual, whose attitude and style hearken back to the strong, silent type of the '50s and early '60s.

The retrosexual keeps things simple. He does not own more hair and skin care products than his wife or girlfriend. He does not "accessorize."

Think Don Draper, the dapper, jut-jawed executive played by Jon Hamm in the AMC series "Mad Men." He may be a philanderer, but you won't find a pink shirt in his wardrobe. Like the dark hero characters of ex-spy Michael Westen in "Burn Notice" and U.S. Marshal Raylon Givens in "Justified," "Mad Men" presents alpha males who live unapologetically by their own code.

Loeffler's is the latest in a string of articles on the so-called Menaissance (see for instance this 2006 Boston Globe piece). What struck me, however, was the juxtaposition of Don Draper and Michael Westen (I've never seen Justified)--both exceedingly stylish figures. They may not own a lot of grooming products, but they do accessorize. Westen's sunglasses are, in fact, one of the show's signature props and have sparked much online discussion from viewers who want their own versions. (That'll be $400.)

The real contrast isn't between these guys and overgroomed Metrosexuals but between both groups, with their grown-up polish, and the beer-bellied American male in comfy shorts and untucked oversized shirt. On my recent trip to research glamour in Shanghai (more on that later), I talked with author and marketing consultant Paul French who, among many other interesting things, commented on why, with a few exceptions, American apparel lines haven't been terribly successful in Shanghai. U.S. companies are too attuned to the sloppy casualness of the American market, and Shanghainese like to look sharp. They want Banana Republic, he said, not The Gap--something that apparently escapes the parent company of both. (Instead of BR, there's a local knockoff called Urban Renewal.)

By way of illustration, French recounted what observed when two jet-lagged Americans came into the McDonald's where he and his 10-year-old son were having breakfast:

I noticed the Chinese were giggling at them. And then I looked at them. These guys were about my age. They’re in their 40s, right? And they had T-shirts, baseball caps, shorts, and then sort of sports shoes that looked like they had some tractor tires on the bottom of them. And I looked at them and then I looked my 10 year old who was not quite as casual as them.....If you put them on a bus and drove them around town, people would think they were retarded and going to the special place that they’re looked after for the day. I mean just isn’t it a shame? They never grew up mentality but they did physically.

No one would say that about either Michael Westen or Brad Pitt. What makes Retrosexuals seem manlier than Metrosexuals is their sprezzatura. They hide the artifice it takes to achieve their look. But the popularity of both models suggests that at least some American men want to escape the pressure to be sloppy.

How Did Project Runway Jump The Sharkskin Pump?

Pr7-ep14-22 In a minor victory for age-inappropriate hipsters everywhere, Seth Aaron Henderson took the title of reigning champion of Project Runway last night in a collection inspired by "1940s Russian-German military style." (Oh what I would have paid to see the look on Michael Kors' mother's face for that gem!  You know he took hell for that one at seder in the Hamptons.) This year's finale theme was "trends that everyone else discovered a few years ago."  Patent leather?  Gasp!  Mustard yellow and bright blue? Don't tell Mr. Jacobs. He'll never think of it.

Ah, to return to those halcyon days when Wendy Pepper was sending  gowns down the runway to the dramatic strains of "A L'Infini," or to have but one glimpse of another ombre feathered creation by Christian Siriano. Drama! Music! Sizzle!  At certain fabulous workplaces, fashionistas would scramble to the water cooler the morning after a Runway finale to dissect every last button on the final collections and defend their designers to the death. But Season 7 not only failed to inspire, but it may have achieved the unthinkable: to de-glam the notion of showing at Fashion Week. This season's collections were, to quote one of Padma Lakshmi's best lines of all time from reality television, "pedestrian at best." This is saying a lot after Season 6, where the unlikeable Irina Shabayeva proved that one really can escape the doldrums of bad taste with a rescue ladder made of pleather and fur, and Season 5, where the milk-toasty Leanne Marshall designed a collection so forgettable that I had to Bing it to remember the signature piece.

So how did Project Runway jump the sharkskin pump and lose its glamour?  DG offers 3 reasons:

1.  The move to Lifetime.  Notwithstanding the great strides that "Television for Women (and Gay Men)" has made over the past few years, this used to be the network that considered re-runs of Supermarket Sweep and The Golden Girls to be its anchor programing.  Watching Runway in high definition on Bravo gave the show an air of cool, current relevance, but Runway on Lifetime feels like wearing a Dior gown for a coffee date at Wal-Mart.  I can't see a commercial break for Drop Dead Diva and then return  to a program purporting to show me haute couture.

2.  The heavy hand of the marketing department.  Frankly, the accessories wall, even when used thoughftfully under the watchful eye of Uncle Tim, is an eyesore. (Remember when Kara Saun got into a throw-down with the producers in Season 1 over those fantastic shoes that may have put her over-budget? Can you imagine telling Kara, "but look at those lovely metallic flats on the accessories wall!") Models on the Runway was another misstep.  Does Lifetime not watch the CW? An ANTM rip-off may have been timely a few years ago, but not when Tyra's girls are now just as likely to end up in (or under) the Rock of Love tourbus with Bret Michaels. But perhaps the lowest point of Season 7 was watching Vivienne Tam hawk an HP TouchSmart PC in somewhat broken English as part of the "fashion meets technology" challenge. Even the designers were visibly unethusiastic about such gross product placement.

3.  Judging fatigue. Could Nina Garcia possibly be any more bored with the show?  We used to live for Nina's caustic critique, but after career demotion and new motherhood, Nina seems to lack the energy to muster much more than a raised eyebrow for an unfinished hem. Inspired by Michael Kors, I live for an opportunity to describe an outfit as looking "like a dinner napkin just crumpled up" or "a paper brioche."  Where were the zingers for this season that brought bitchy fun to the last 10 minutes of the show? 

What could bring back the glamour to Season 8?  Give us your thoughts in the comments.