BEAUTIFUL DYNAMITE

BEAUTIFUL DYNAMITE

When Amarillo-born Cyd Charisse became a movie star in the 1950s, no one who knew her in Texas was surprised. She was a strong-willed woman whose combination of brains, beauty, and talent made her one of the era’s most popular silver screen favorites. From overcoming a polio-inflicted childhood to becoming one of the most prolific dancing stars ever, her story one is of luck, determination, and triumph.

 

By Lori Duran                    Photography courtesy of Archival

DANCING LADY

No one glided across the screen quite like native Texan Cyd Charisse. When I saw her dance with Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings or with Gene Kelley in Singin’ in the Rain, she made it look effortless. I never realized she had to overcome polio as a child and had persevered and recovered from the dreaded affliction with childhood dance lessons…and then she kept dancing the rest of her life to the delight of millions. She was always in step with her hoofing talent, and was a beautiful representative of professionalism, grace, and strength. These qualities led her to a life in show business, and she became one of the most sought-after performers in Hollywood. In fact, she danced with the top male dancers of her time. Charisse described dancing with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly as dancing with “two of the greatest dancing personalities.” Even though the studios’ interest in musicals was waning by the end of the 1950s, and since her strength was in dancing, her options were diminished. In the 1960s, Charisse moved on to other opportunities by working in television and even did some stage work with her husband. She inspired others with her victory over polio and dedication to her craft which she executed so beautifully throughout her well-lived life.

Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo in 1922 and was named after her aunt Tulla and uncle Ellis. The panhandle town of Amarillo is about as Texas as it gets. According to the book, The Two of Us by Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse (as told to Dick Kleiner), Charisse’s great-great paternal grandmother, Matilda Smith, had been one of the area’s earliest settlers. The family struck it rich with oil, yet the riches did not last beyond a generation. Her father, Ernest Finklea, owned and operated a jewelry store, while her mother, Lela Finklea, ran the household in which Tula grew up. The loving and stable upper-middle-class home also included Charisse’s younger brother, who called her Sid instead of Sis. The nickname stuck, with the eventual spelling becoming the now familiar, Cyd.

 

When she contracted polio as a six-year-old, her family had her take ballet as part of her recovery to build back her underdeveloped and thinned muscles. In The Two of Us, Charisse said, “one side of my back was slightly atrophied.” Her father loved ballet and encouraged his daughter to excel in it and according to Charisse, whenever a ballet troupe came to Dallas, the family made the trek to see them, a journey of 365 miles across the mostly rural highways of the era.

 

As luck would have it, Charisse truly loved and continued to dance for the rest of her life, gracing screens across the world. She was a gifted dancer who was driven to practice daily, and as a pre-teenager, she was sent to California for more intensive dance instructions. In 1934, as a 12-year-old, she joined the touring troupe, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, where she was trained as a ballerina in the Russian tradition. This is also where she met her first husband, Nico Charisse and in 1939, at the age of 17, they were married.  They owned and operated a Los Angeles area ballet school together. In 1942, the young couple had a son, Nicky. And just before World War II. Charisse and her husband were obtaining mostly uncredited dancing roles in Hollywood movies. Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t last, and they divorced in 1947, but that wasn’t the only thing about her life that changed.

 

MOVIE STAR MAGIC

The motion picture studios she went to seeking a contract liked everything about her except the spelling of her first name, so they modified Sid to “Cyd.” Charisse remembered later, “I had no delusions about myself. I couldn’t act…I had never acted. So how could I be a movie star?” She gradually received more parts in various movies and in 1946 signed an exclusive contract with MGM. The studio was the king of Hollywood musicals then, and their slogan boasted All The Stars In Heaven. She shared with close friends at the time, “Ballet is a closed world and very rigid; MGM was a fairyland. You’d walk down the lot, seeing all these fabulous movies being made with the greatest talent in the world. It was a dream.” That same year she landed a dancing part in the successful film, Till the Clouds Roll By (1946).

On that set, she would meet her second husband, crooner Tony Martin, who also starred in the film. They married in 1948, and by 1950, Charisse had two young sons, a new husband, and a stellar career. She was talented, drop-dead gorgeous, and possessed a slender physique standing 5’6” tall. She seemed taller when she danced because her legs, once wasted by polio, were long and slender. Moviegoers idolized her as well as other famed dancers of the era. Samantha Bonds, of the James Bonds film series, once said, “It has always been a dream of mine to be Ginger Rogers or Cyd Charisse.” She was one of the few who danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in motion pictures.

Charisse was truly electrifying on-screen with her nearly perfect size 8 figure (in today’s terms, a size 4) that was accentuated with a wasp waist and gamine-like legs. She was a major presence in several important musicals of the 1950s and was often displayed in scenes of dreaminess, aloofness, or elegance. Charisse didn’t have a singing voice, so her vocals were dubbed, and movies roles emphasized her dancing, especially during the 1950s golden age of musicals. Some of her best-known movies were Singin’ In The Rain, The Band Wagon, Brigadoon, Deep In My Heart, It’s Always Fair Weather, and Silk Stockings. Her dancing was so provocative that Charisse recounted much later, “The censors were always there when I was on the set. When I was held up in a lift in Deep in My Heart…they were up on ladders to see if I was properly covered.”

In 1952, Singin’ In The Rain was one of the most successful movies of the year and provided Charisse with her initial monumental break into show business. There was a $5 million insurance policy on her talented legs, which was also likely a publicity move at the time. In the film, she made her initial impact by playing an aloof, beautiful woman who is then melted by the love of “the right man.” She has a vampy, torridly memorable scene dancing with Gene Kelly while wearing a slinky green dress accessorized with a long cigarette holder. They dance again in the film while she is wearing an elegant white dress in a dream-like setting. The film’s release established her as one of Hollywood’s most glamorous talents. In 1953, The Band Wagon provided her first leading role. Her character could not fall in love with Fred Astaire until she abandoned her high art pretensions. She stole the show when she danced in it, wearing red sequins. Charisse would later look back on her career and share, “I can watch Astaire anytime. I don’t think he ever made a wrong move. He was a perfectionist. He would work on a few bars for hours until it was just the way he wanted it. Gene was the same way. They both wanted perfection, even though they were completely different personalities.” Charisse, standing at 5’6” to Kelly’s 5’7” and Astaire’s 5’9”, were matches made in heaven.

In 1954’s Brigadoon, another tremendous hit for MGM, Charisse played the woman Gene Kelly’s character loves. She lives in a town, Brigadoon, which materializes only once every 100 years. Charisse later said this was her favorite Gene Kelly musical and commented on the difference between Kelly and Astaire as dancing partners afterward. “My husband could always tell whether I’d been dancing with Kelly or Astaire that day,” Charisse mused. “If I was black and blue, it was Gene. And if it was Fred, I didn’t have a scratch.” In 1955’s It’s Always Fair Weather, her character had encyclopedic memory that intimidated Gene Kelly’s character, and she was haughty until corrected on Shakespeare. In 1957, she stretched her strengths further in Silk Stockings as a beautiful but ice-cold Soviet commissar. Even in a plain gray suit and playing the part of a stern Russian communist, Charisse was spellbinding. In the privacy of her hotel room, she twirled the luxurious silk stockings she had obtained to replace her communist uniform’s black tights. At first, her character doesn’t believe in dancing, but she ultimately capitulates to the male lead character, played by Astaire, and to the city of Paris.

NEW CHAPTERS UNFOLDED

However, movie musicals had passed their peak when Charisse’s character melted for Astaire’s in the late 1950s. Silk Stockings turned out to be her last major musical and due to MGM’s change in administration from movie kingpin Louis B. Mayer, budgets were slashed and there was no priority placed on musicals.  Unfortunately, musicals were her forte, and she was deemed expendable in an era of changing movie consumer tastes. “If I had to give up either acting or dancing, I’d choose to keep dancing,” said Charise. She then appeared in dramatic roles to strong reviews, like Party Girl (1958), costarring with Robert Taylor, and Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), sharing the screen with Kirk Douglas. She was cast in Marilyn Monroe’s last film, Something’s Gotta Give (unfinished, 1962), since Monroe requested Charisse play the secondary female lead of the 20th Century Fox film, as an interesting sidenote to Hollywood history. The two enjoyed an easy camaraderie, and since they shared the same publicity representative, Charisse and Monroe had always been professionally supportive of each other. Charisse appreciated all her peers, and the feeling was mutual. Fred Astaire was known to have said of Charisse and their many dance scenes, “She was beautiful dynamite. When you dance with her, you stayed danced.”

 

In 1959, Charisse and her husband, Tony Martin, starred in an unsold television pilot for a family dramatic series, Night People. Martin played a nightclub singer, and Charisse was his spouse. After offers for movie roles declined in the 1960s, Charisse acted on the dinner theater circuit and made guest appearances on variety TV and in European films. Starting in 1974, the That’s Entertainment film series premiered celebrating old Hollywood movies, including the MGM musicals where Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse had danced together. Their dance number, Dancing in the Dark, was a pivotal part of That’s Entertainment and remains an unforgettable dance scene for both Astaire and Charisse. In 1976, Charisse teamed with her crooner husband, Tony Martin, for a series of successful nightclub revues.

 

“I’ve done about everything in show business except perform on Broadway. I always hoped that I would one day perform at the World Series of show business. If anybody tells you they’re not intimidated, they’re lying,” said Charisse years before landing her Broadway debut, at 70, in Grand Hotel in 1992. In later years, Charisse and Martin continued to stay in the social swirl in both New York and Los Angeles. In 2006 President George W. Bush presented Charisse with the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities, the highest official U.S. honor available in the arts. Sadly, Cyd Charisse passed away in 2008 of a heart attack at the age of 86, yet her films live on with Turner Classic Movies, on DVD and streaming. She was the consummate professional until the end and shared with Gene Kelly when he asked what she might eventually want written on her gravestone. Without hesitation, she replied it would be: People sometimes had a problem placing her face, but they never forgot her legs.

TEXAS–SIZED AMBITION

When Jack’s commission ended, the duo decided to retire, and after much discussion, they chose Grace’s home state of Texas, specifically Salado. The society pages showed a photo of them disembarking an Air Force plane, with the heading, Famous World War II Fighter Pilot And New York Runway Model Return Home. Several Air Force officers, including Colonel Van Bibber and his wife Ruth, owners of the famed Stage Coach Inn, along with a dozen or so other officers, had also picked Salado as their retirement dream site. A group of them even went in together and built a short flight runway for the officer’s small private planes. Jack was content.

 

On any given day, Salado would be best described as a quaint little village, with an old-world atmosphere, nestled along the I-35 Highway between Dallas and Austin. With only 250 inhabitants at the time, it was merely a rest stop for weary travelers wanting a good meal. The Stage Coach Inn, a great place to stop and eat, pulled in many travelers.

 

Directly across the street from the Stage Coach Inn was a cluster of old limestone buildings, some with only a façade left. One of the buildings had a large opening on the wall that perfectly framed Mill Creek, surrounded by beautiful open pastoral fields. The thought of having a world-class couture salon in this little out-of-the-way town was unbelievable, if not laughable. But Grace Jones saw something more.

 

She had ideas of her own rumbling in her brain and told Jack that she wanted to use her world experience to open a boutique. In his mind, he envisioned a small dress shop where ladies could gather, gossip, have a cup of tea, and possibly buy a daytime dress. When he drew out a store sign on paper, it read Grace’s Dress Shop. Grace was speechless. Looking at his plans for the building, Grace was not happy. Her vision was nothing at all similar to Jack’s. A dress shop? The next thing she knew, he would be signing her up for weekly quilting bees. No, no, no, not for Grace Jones.

 

But she knew how to work with Jack and started planning one step at a time. He never saw it coming…the Grace Jones freight train. When they saw the old stone buildings on Main Street behind the Stage Coach Inn, they instantly fell in love with the limestone structure. It perfectly exuded provenance, history, and endurance. They had to get it. After much finagling back and forth, the building was finally theirs. But opening an exclusive clothing salon in the small out-of-the-way town of Salado was going to be hard enough. Getting those customers to the destination was as formidable a challenge as getting the very selective shoppers to buy. But Grace Jones knew from the get-go that her customers would be different. They would certainly not be looking for a shirt or a pair of jeans. Her customers would be looking for the world’s finest clothing, and she would carry the world’s finest clothing. Jack Jones could do nothing but surrender.  

INTERNATIONALLY FASHIONABLE

The day before her iconic namesake boutique opened in 1962, Jones walked through her store’s enormous wooden front doors to check on the furniture’s final placement. Her designer, Bryant Reeves, had found beautiful and luxurious French parlor furniture pieces from an old 1870s home in Waco. An exquisite Austrian crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceilings just inside the door was the perfect accompaniment to the austerity of the old limestone walls and oak floors. A large oak table covered in pale marble, placed just off the side of the entrance, was the setting for Jones’s favorite bouquet of fresh flowers and registration book, awaiting to be opened for the first of her new customers to sign. Nothing over the top, just simple provincial elegance. This proud owner wanted her customers to see her excellent taste reflected in the store, therefore assuring them of the quality of her merchandise. The store was not gaudy or ostentatious in any way, just the quiet suggestion of old money and opulent good taste. Very old money.

 

Getting down to business, Jones knew exactly the designers she wanted to carry and which collections. Her vision was to offer her customers a service they could not find anywhere else other than possibly Neiman Marcus. Even if they had to drive a little out of their way to get to her store, she would make it worth their while. The salon would offer exclusivity, personal assistance, confidential showings, and ambience. Tea and cocktails, along with finger sandwiches and cookies and her favorite hamburgers, were delivered on silver trays, carried by uniformed assistants. Exclusivity was the true ambience.

 

Opening day arrived along with a line of limousines, Cadillacs, and helicopters.  The massive iron brand, with the name Grace Jones written out, was mounted on the roof above the front doors. It could be seen from blocks away, hanging in the air, as if an enormous branding iron had just burned Jones’s name into the hide of thin air. The parking lot was adorned with giant stone planters of red geraniums, her favorite of the month.

 

Almost immediately, the parking lot was full, and the large wooden doors opened for the crowd coming to see what Grace Jones had to offer. She had done a magnificent job of advertising. The salon was filled with the curious, of course, but among the visitors would be some of her most loyal customers throughout her store’s lifetime. This opening night would mark the start of a new endeavor for Jones, one that would would capitalize on her very best strengths and prior experiences to lead her to this final life challenge. She would call it serendipity, but others would call it dogged determination. Once she opened her store in Salado, clients started arriving daily with one goal in mind, and that was to shop at her eponymous boutique. Her enthusiastic customers came from all over the world, using the wide-open, smooth graded field behind the building for a perfect landing strip, even if it was a bit disconcerting to the cattle grazing the land.

 

With no training in business or merchandising, Grace Jones would, nonetheless, become an award winner year after year as one of only two destinations for couture in the State of Texas. Stanley Marcus and Grace Jones were inarguably the reigning royalty of fashion merchandising in the state. Her store became so iconic and recognizable that people would pronounce her name and the store name as if it was one and the same…simply Gracejonesofsalado. 

 

During the sixties and well into the millennium, Texas would become the mecca of pioneering intellectual, cultural, technical, and political dreams; the whole world would eventually have an eye on the happenings in Texas, specifically Central Texas. Among her favorite customers would be Jane Sibley, Liz Carpenter, Joan Brashear, Carolyn Farb, Gray Hawn, Stella Rowan, Bennie Green, Dr. Nancy Heerssen, Janie Briscoe, Bennie Green, Clair Mashburn, Miriam Cox, Loretta Young, Gene Tierney, Governor Ann Richards, Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Kissinger, Meg Heyer, and Sandy Leech. A veritable blue-book of Texas Blue-Bloods.                                     

 

CELEBRITY COMPANY

Born in Salado, Liz Carpenter was the real deal when it came to Texas Women. She was as comfortable in the country walking barefoot in a creek as she was at a White House dinner in Washington, meeting Henry Kissinger. There was nothing pretentious about Liz…what you saw in public was authentic. She was completely comfortable in her own skin, as the saying goes.

 

Jones and Carpenter could not have been more different. Jones was conscious of every move she made and every carefully chosen word that came out of her mouth. She was dressed perfectly from head to toe every minute of the day, always ready to make the best impression possible. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, more important to her than her external presentation. Always dressed in the very best designer clothing with her hair perfectly coiffured, she was a study in sublime control.  

 

Liz Carpenter was a whole different story. Out front and loud with a laugh that could echo, she was funny, irreverent, incredibly entertaining, and brilliant. Always shooting from the hip, throwing out story after story, the room would be rolling in laughter while she entertained and held court. Carpenter, a force herself, was a real Texas whirlwind, gathering up friends and allies in her cyclone. She could pull people from every social and political arena and make a party out of it. She knew how to have a good time and especially how to tell a good story. Her friends worshipped the ground she walked on and constantly sought out her company like a group of camp followers. In addition, with experience in the White House, and as a reporter, she was confident holding her own in all conversations, anywhere, anytime, and with anybody. Carpenter, as a result, also happened to have an enormous amount of influence.

If there was a flaw to her presentation, it was her wardrobe. Carpenter had some lovely features…beautiful sparkling eyes that were always alive with curiosity, a Texas drawl that could soothe the soul, beautiful skin, wonderful silver hair that framed her face, and a fabulous smile. These were her best assets, and she learned to use them well. As for her attire, she just never understood what looked good on her. So, she left it up to others to tell her what to wear. 

 

When the news started traveling all the way to Washington that there was an haute couture salon in little Salado, Texas, Carpenter was fascinated. This state was her birthplace, and she could not imagine this type of store in Salado. So, the next time she traveled to Texas, she made it a point to visit the store and see about all this fuss. The day that Grace Jones and Liz Carpenter met, a best friend bond was permanently sealed. They hit it off immediately…two polar opposites without a thing in common, other than nearby birthplaces. But, they were both women from Texas, both born in the country. And they were both incredibly determined to get things done. This was the full extent of their commonality. Yet, their odd friendship would last for the rest of their lives.      

 

If there ever was someone who needed the help of a personal shopper, it was Liz Carpenter. Never one to pay much attention to her attire, she would show up in the most unflattering ensembles, always loud and always big. Her taste ran from bright to brighter, with red being her favorite color as if that needed to be said. “When Grace and I met, we really hit it off. It was instant liking. Our vibrations just worked together, although we are not at all alike. Grace is a perfectionist. She is always cool, never gets ruffled. While I can’t say the same for myself,” said Liz Carpenter at the time.

 

The reporter had asked Liz what qualities she most admires in her friend, Grace Jones. “Even more than the store and her history in the big war and her modeling career in New York, I would say that I am most impressed with what she has done to put Salado on the map. Opening a store that is now internationally known for its sophistication certainly brought our little town into the limelight. Who would have thought we would have fashions from Milan (Liz said Me-laann, true to her Texas drawl), Paris, and Rome in this tiny town? Certainly not me, who grew up here when Norwood store was our only place to buy gingham.” Liz went on to add, “I am especially proud of her having faith in Salado. Nobody encouraged her. They all said it was too far for people to drive, too inconvenient, too out of the way. No one would ever find her store. But she did it anyway.”

 

Houstonian Carolyn Farb regularly bought from Jones and modeled in fashion shows, especially those involving charity events and philanthropic fundraising. Farb has received many accolades for her work, including an honorary doctorate. As a woman always wanting to wear the very best, she frequently shopped at Grace Jones. “Grace was such an extraordinary fashion beacon,” shared Carolyn Farb. “People came from far and near to get her fashion advice. It is not as if it was easy to get to her store in Salado, but it was always worth it. There are not many like her. Then, the designers were revered, not like these characters today on television fashion shows. Grace introduced us to the very best collections with such conviction; we always felt secure with our purchases. Of course, Grace had her opinions, but I admired her greatly.”

 

Jane Sibley, the well-known and respected Austin Arts enthusiast and philanthropist, was one of Jones’s earliest customers and best friends. She and her husband, Dr. D.J. Sibley, became good friends with Jones, but Jane’s initial interest was the exclusive designers she carried in her store. “I could barely believe my eyes when I saw the designer labels,” mused Jane Sibley. “This was just a little off-the-road shop. My Lord!” Sibley was a perfect size for modeling, but even better, she had the personality and presence that the audience loved. More than one husband wanted to buy the gorgeous ensembles Sibley modeled on the runway hoping their wives would look as great as she did.

 

By far, Grace’s favorite designer was Geoffrey Beene, a man of incredible and exquisite talent. His architectural genius, seen repeatedly in his designs, were Grace’s best-selling collections. Clean yet sophisticated, his collections always sold well. 

DESIGNING VIRTUES

Geoffrey Beene was one of the very first designers to show in Jones’ salon. Upon arrival to show his newest collection, Beene grew slack-jawed at his first glimpse of the country back road entrance to this exclusive salon. But the sight of a huge grain mill across the street shocked him even more. With a bit of sneer, he asked, “Is that really a grain mill?” Grace Jones was quick to reply, “It certainly is. And we in Salado are very proud of it.”

 

The longtime receptionist at Geoffrey Beene, Joyce Hinklin, remembers Jones’s sophistication. “We all really loved her, but especially her accent. After I spent time around her and Mr. B, also a Southerner, I found myself talking just like them. Everyone would ask, ‘Joyce, why are you talking like that? You aren’t a southerner!’  And I’d tell them, ‘Lord no, I’m from the South Bronx!’ I just can’t help myself when I am around Grace Jones.”

 

As a special gift exclusively for Jones, Geoffrey Beene created an Ombre dyed multi-layered silk chiffon gown in one of his most ethereal creations. After it was photographed for Vogue, Beene had it carefully wrapped in tissue and asked his assistant to mail it to Jones with a card that read, I designed this for you.

 

Fashion leaders like Geoffrey Beene, Ron Amey, Michael Vollbracht, Count Sarmi, Jean Louis, Pauline Trigere, Bill Blass, Adolfo representative Oscar DeLavan, Mollie Parnis, Bernard Perris, George Halley, Christian Lacroix, and so many others who came to Salado had to blink twice to believe what they were seeing. Was it really possible that Grace Jones was showing and selling haute couture out of a rock bunker in the middle of nowhere? A rock bunker with its own landing strip.

 

Is it conceivable that some panicked, calling back the design studios to confirm they were at the correct address? Salado, Texas? But Jones always made the trip memorable for every designer who put forth the effort to trust in her. Count Fernando Sarmi, the Italian-born American fashion designer and businessman, squealed the first time he caught a glimpse of a cow behind the store. In his heavy accent, he was startled into asking, “Ewwww, Is that a coo?” Again, without haste but with a smile, Jones answered, “why yes, and it can moo, too.”

 

REALLY, IT’S A RUNWAY

One of the most memorable events held at her salon was a fashion show for Christian Lacroix. He was the newest darling of the fashion scene in the 1980s and regularly featured on the front page of every fashion magazine from Texas to Paris. Many stores in Texas, the state with more Lacroix customers than any other place in the nation, were all fighting for the exclusivity to carry his collection, with Neiman Marcus fighting the hardest. But Grace Jones was the only store chosen.

 

Upon arrival in Salado, Lacroix was startled and speechless to see that the runway for his show had been built in an open field behind the store. Crazy Texans, he must have thought. But as the limousines began arriving, he felt somewhat relieved. As the excited guests took their seats, the music began. Jones took the stage to introduce her guest designer, and after signaling to start the show, the music was turned up. The beautiful backdrop of Mill Creek running behind the stage and the ambience of the pastoral setting surrounding the audience must have been memorable. As the models Jones had hired for the event started their runway walk, the audience was already applauding. Then, out of the corner of her eye, Jane Sibley saw something moving to the far right. As she turned to see what it was, a cow lazily sauntered up and walked directly in front of the stage and then continued meandering through the audience. There was a loud gasp from the onlookers, and especially from Lacroix. But Jones just signaled for the models to keep walking; she never lost her focus. The cows were just part of the ambience, as far as she was concerned. Lacroix looked horrified. But at the finale, the audience gave his collection a loud standing ovation. He said that he wasn’t quite sure the applause was for him or the cow. He sold 150 dresses at this one show. Crazy Texans, indeed.

 

Another reminiscence came from the designer, Michael Vollbracht. “I worked for Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene and then went out on my own for a while, designing prints,” recalled Vollbracht. Grace was so gracious, supporting me in every way, including hosting a fashion show in Salado. Well, I know Texas…but I wasn’t at all prepared for it. I barely remember riding to one of the fashion shows…Grace was driving. I had no idea where we were or where we were going. Somehow, when the evening ended, we were all in a hot tub with Liz Carpenter.”

 

Grace Jones passed away in Salado in 2008. However, she will long be regarded as the First Lady of Texas Fashion, from an era of elegance we can recall fondly and with hopes that she would still have her favorite designers today. For more information on the book, visit http://www.gracejonesofsalado.com. 

ARTFULLY READ

ARTFULLY READ

Summer reading? You bet. Here, our resident bibliophile Lance Avery Morgan has selected some of the best, and surely most artful, tomes to inspire you during the warm weather season.

CHARLOTTE MOSS FLOWERS

MOROCCO: DESTINATION OF STYLE, ELEGANCE, AND DESIGN

By Catherine Scotto

Discover the colors and textures of 21st-century Morocco in this enticing collection of lush and inviting photographs of homes, gardens, hotels, and historic sites. Brimming with inspiration, this guide introduces us to the next generation of interior and landscape designers, architects, and stylists.

$39.95. At PrestelPublishing.com.

AT HOME WITH ART: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO COLLECTING ON ANY BUDGET

By Olivia de Fayet and Fanny Saulay

The authors have compiled their years of experience and advice into a step-by-step guide to take the guesswork out of purchasing art, covering everything you need to know about starting, or enhancing, your own collection.

$25. At RizzoliUSA.com.

DESIGNING INTERIORS
THE BEAUTY BRIEF

COLOR IS HOME

By Charlotte Coote

In this gorgeous and practical new book, Coote guides readers through the complete process of designing a space, from creating the original brief to the finished room…using her five principles of design—timelessness, authenticity, lifestyle, scale, and quality.

$45. At Thames&HudsonUSA.com.

FRENCH CHATEAU STYLE

By Catherine Scotto

From Normandy to Provence, nearly half of France’s 44,000 heritage sites were chateaux in various states of repair. The author embarks on a fascinating journey to find out who, exactly, lived in these medieval fortresses and, more importantly, what they were like on the inside.

$55. At PrestelPublishing.com.

INVITING INTERIORS
FASHION IN THE 90S

THE ALLURE OF CHARLESTON

By Susan Sully

Everyone’s favorite Southern city, Charleston, has never looked more stunning than in this treasure trove of high design never-before-seen looks at eighteenth and nineteenth-century house styles and demonstrates how these timeless traditions continue to be employed and updated by design professionals today.

$55. At RizzoliUSA.com.

THE NEW NATURALISTS

By Claire Bingham

This offers a glimpse inside the homes of twenty of the most interesting and creative contemporary collectors, revealing the stories behind their obsessions and how they celebrate their love for the natural world in everyday spaces. A German manor, a Parisian apartment, a London townhouse, and Hollywood home are just a few examples of the book’s design P.O.V.

$40. At Thames&HudsonUSA.com.

MID-CENTURY TRIM WHITE BORDER
ISLAND WHIMSY

i-D: Wink and Smile!

By Alastair McKimm

Since its founding in 1980 by Terry Jones, across four decades and 500 cover winks, i-D magazine has had one defining message: fashion should be inclusive, fun, diverse, and—always—original. In fact, it’s one of the world’s leading international style titles.

$75. At RizzoliUSA.com.

A LOVING TABLE: CREATING MEMORABLE GATHERINGS

By Kimberly Whitman and Shelley Johnstone Paschke

This book gorgeously showcases inspiring tablescapes and the entertaining styles of 34 trend-setting women from around the world, who also share tips and lessons from the important women in their lives. Built on authenticity, many of the tablescapes captured here are from real dinners and events with tastemakers’ families.

$55. At GibbsSmith.com

STAMPS STAMPS
ISLAND WHIMSY

TIE DYE: FASHION FROM HIPPIE TO CHIC

By Katie McNamara

Here’s a colorful tribute to the instantly recognizable motif treasured by textile enthusiasts, fashionistas, musicians, and erstwhile hippies alike. Offering a vibrant kaleidoscope of contemporary photography, as well as highlights of style icons in tie-dye looks from the 60s to now, the book celebrates tie dye in all its cultural evolutions—from Woodstock to the catwalk.

$35. At RizzoliUSA.com.

JULIA MORGAN

By Gordon Fuglie

This is the perfect way to enjoy and study Julia Morgan, the pioneering female architect, who was best known for creating the Hearst Castle. Her specialty was the vanguard of Beaux-Arts design and style in the first half of the twentieth century.

$75. At RizzoliUSA.com.

STAMPS STAMPS

ARTISTICALLY INCLINED

ARTISTICALLY INCLINED

The best plays, musical performances, and exhibits in Texas are enjoyed by record-breaking crowds, according to our cultural arts arbiter Leanne Raesener, who shares our favorite recommendations for what to enjoy this summer across the state.

AUSTIN

AUS Courtesy of The Texas Performing Arts at The University of Texas Austin, Hollywood, The Prodigal Son

BEHIND EVERY MAN

Irish novelist, James Joyce’s Ulysses was first published on February 2, 1922. The University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center commemorates its 100th anniversary with the exhibit Women and the Making of Joyce’s Ulysses. It explores women’s essential and largely unacknowledged role in realizing his famed masterpiece and its widespread notoriety and success. Through July 17. At HRC.UTexas.edu.

 

ON IMAGE: Sylvia Beach, who published Ulysses and James Joyce in the doorway of Shakespeare and Company (Alliance Paris, 1922). James Joyce Literary File Photography Collection, Harry Ransom Center.

AUS Torbjørn Rødland, Eggs, 2019. Chromogenic print on Kodak Endura paper. Artwork © Torbjørn Rødland.Courtesy the artist and NILS STÆRK, Copenhagen

A FLOCK OF SWANS ENCHANT

Join Ballet Austin Mother’s Day weekend for the world’s best-known ballet, Swan Lake. Marius Petipa’s original choreography is featured with breathtaking corps de ballet sequences. All set to Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score, featuring the Austin Symphony Orchestra. May 6‒8. At BalletAustin.org.

 

ON IMAGE:  Courtesy of Ballet Austin

Texas Gold Changed the World

THE SOUND OF NOSTALGIA

The beloved musical The Sound of Music with the Von Trapp Family is reimagined within a ZACH360 experience where The Topfer will be transformed into a lively Biergarten. Spirits will soar to the TonyÒ, GrammyÒ, and OscarÒ-winning scores. June 15–July 24. At ZachTheatre.org.

 

ON IMAGE: Courtesy of Zachary Scott Theatre

DALLAS / FORT WORTH

DAL Anna, Paris 2017, Photo by Paolo Roversi_Courtesy of the Dallas Contemporary.

A PAS DE DEUX INSHALLAH

The Dallas Museum of Art’s major exhibition, Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity, traces Islamic art’s influence on the objects created by Louis Cartier (1875-1942) and the designers of the great French jewelry Maison from the early 20th century to today. It is also the subject of a Thames & Hudson USA book. April 12‒September 18. At DMA.org.

 

ON IMAGE: Bib necklace, Cartier Paris, 1947. Nils Herrmann, Collection Cartier©Cartier

DAL Photography is Art exhibition, Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum_ Alfred Stieglitz, A Wet Day on the Boulevard, Paris, Photogravure, 2013

TERRA FIRMA

A celebrated, self-taught, Alabama-born artist, Lonnie Holley, comes to the Dallas Contemporary for his first Texas exhibition, Lonnie Holley: coming from the earth. He has devoted his life to improvisational creativity, working across all art forms, including music. Through August 21. At DallasContemporary.org.

 

ON IMAGE: Lonnie Holley, Memorial at Friendship Church, 2006. Metal, found debris, plastic flowers, and ribbon, Courtesy of the artist.

DAL Photo by Andy Nguyen. Courtesy of Galleria Dallas

WOMEN’S INSIGHT

Women Painting Women is a thematic exhibition featuring 46 female artists and approximately 50 evocative portraits from the late 60s to the present. The portraits allow female artists to share the stage with their male counterparts in defining the evolution of the image of a woman. Through September 25. At TheModern.org.

 

UNDER IMAGE: Amy Sherald, A Midsummer Afternoon Dream, 2020. © Amy Sherald. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joseph Hyde

HOUSTON

HOUS Moooi Works, manufactured by Moooi, Mega Chandelier, 2018, mixed media and bulbs. © Moooi, New York

JOYFUL ODE

To conclude its season, the Houston Symphony’s new Music Director Designate, celebrated conductor Juraj Valčuha, will lead the orchestra, chorus, and vocal soloists in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 Choral. Experience one of classical music’s most moving, uplifting, and inspiring journeys in this exuberant Ode to Joy. May 20-23. At HoustonSymphony.org.

ON IMAGE: Juraj Valčuha, Courtesy of Michael Breyer/Houston Symphony

HOUS David Novros, Detail of right wall from Untitled, 1973–75. The Menil Collection, Houston jpg

TRUTH CAN BE STRANGER

Extraordinary Realities examines the career of Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander during her prolific first 15 years. Bringing together nearly 60 of her works from public and private collections, Sikander explores contemporary issues, including gender, sexuality, race, class, and history, through her paintings, drawings, and video animations. Through June 5. At MFAH.org.

 

UNDER IMAGE: Shahzia Sikander, Pleasure Pillars, 2001, collection of Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee. ©2021 Shahzia Sikander/Courtesy of the artist; Sean Kelly, New York; and Pilar Corrias, London

HOUS Signature Works, Courtesy of Ars Lyrica Houston

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY…

The Alley Theatre presents the world premiere of a sexy, mysterious musical entitled Noir with music by Duncan Sheik of Spring Awakening. Inspired by early radio plays and classic film noir, this story unfolds with a heartbroken man isolated in his apartment with only a radio for entertainment until a couple moves in next door and a new obsession develops. June 2‒July 3. At AlleyTheatre.org.

 

ON IMAGE: Courtesy of the Alley Theatre

SAN ANTONIO

SA Brenda Rae, Metropolitan Opera, Courtesy of Opera San Antonio

PRODIGAL SON RETURNS

The McNay Museum presents a ground-breaking exhibition, DONALD MOFFETT+NATURE CULT+THE McNAY, that is centered around the artistic and curatorial vision of Donald Moffett. It will include an interwoven display from native San Antonian Moffett’s private collection of paintings and artworks from the McNay’s holdings. Through September 11. At McNayArt.org.

 

UNDER IMAGE: Donald Moffett, Lot 020619, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, and Aspen. ©Donald Moffett

SA Martine Gutierrez, Still from Clubbing, 2012. HD video. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, © Martine Gutierrez.

THE ARTFUL COWBOY

The Sons of Charlie Russell: Cowboy Artists of America premiers at the Briscoe and consists of 70 works of western art from 17 lenders, 40 artists, and includes paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, with art dating from 1890 to the present. May 27–September 5. At BriscoeMuseum.org.

 

ON IMAGE: Painting by Grant Redden. Courtesy of the Briscoe Museum

SA Gladys Roldan-De-Moras Memories From My Home, oil on linen

PHONE HOME

Enjoy an evening with the San Antonio Symphony when John Williams’ movie music is presented in a new uplifting way. Williams performs scores from his blockbuster hits such as Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter, and more. May 28. At TobinCenter.org.

 

 

ON IMAGE: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

IN A NEW LIGHT

IN A NEW LIGHT

Here, there, and everywhere, the state’s eateries are bustling again like never before. Leave it to our editors Lance Avery Morgan (Austin), Cynthia Smoot (Dallas), Jake Gaines (Houston), and Alexandra del Lago (San Antonio), to recommend the cuisine and beverage hot spots to capture your fancy.

AUSTIN

So Well Done Austin Salad

WAX-ING POETICALLY

At Wax Myrtle’s, the restaurant and bar in the new Thompson Hotel downtown, is the hip, poolside place to be served up Mediterranean appetizers and entrees. Just a block from Lady Bird Lake, it promises to be the in place to be seen this summer.

At WaxMyrtles.com.

The Lolo Austin Texas wine bar

TIKI TATSU-YA

An immersive experience that transports travelers to an island paradise? Count us in to enjoy this Disneyesque Pirates of the Caribbean-vibe venue that dishes out creative interpretations of Tiki drinks alongside a food menu that blends Polynesian and Japanese influences.

At TikiTatsuYa.com.

Rebel Cheese Austin Texas

LIKE IN THE OLD COUNTRY

Escape the ordinary and celebrate the historical German culture of Central Texas at Koko’s Bavarian on Austin’s East Side. The brewery is an oasis of beer and brats housed in an old warehouse building featuring a 400-seat outdoor Biergarten. Some of the specialties include house-made sausages and schnitzels, as well as Belgian-style fries.

At KokosBavarian.com.

DALLAS/FORT WORTH

pastry from La Tarte Tropézienne  dallas texas

CIAO BELLA

Recently opened at The Star in Frisco, Lombardi Cucina Italiana is the latest concept from restaurateur Alberto Lombardi. It has the feel of an alfresco villa in Italy surrounded by olive trees, Italian marble, and Venetian chandeliers. The menu celebrates authentic Italian cuisine with a modern touch that is produced daily in an open-style pasta laboratorio.

At LombardiCucina.com

Georgie Dallas Restaurant

FRENCH TWIST

Toussaint Brasserie is an approachably chic French-inspired restaurant and bar located in what was the historic Tower Petroleum Building (now the Renaissance Saint Elm Dallas Downtown Hotel). The brasserie serves as a relaxing dining destination serving a menu rooted in French and Asian flavors. At ToussaintDallas.com.

Food from Rise & Thyme Dallas tTexas

HOWDY, ‘PARDNER

Rodeo Bar is a modern Texas tavern adjacent to the Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas. Guests enjoy a classic Texas-vibe paired with original 80s neon beer bar lights, vintage rodeo posters, and original rodeo memorabilia while noshing on burgers, chips and queso, and sandwiches. The basement’s Back Room offers billiards, darts, and you can get your groove on under a disco ball or relax on comfy sofas while listening to music from the jukebox.

At Adolphus.com.

HOUSTON

Bottled Blonde Pizzeria + Bier Garden

NORDIC FLAIR

Golfstrømmen at POST HTX Food Market shows Texas what Nordic cuisine is all about. Chef Christopher Haatuft, dubbed the punk chef godfather of Neo-Fjordic cuisine, brings not only a fresh seafood menu with his Nordic bent but will also sell fresh Gulf seafood.

At PostHTX.com.

Chocolate Crepe Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café

BAR DELUXE

The Old Hollywood vibe, reinforced by a vintage backdrop in this 1930 Spanish-Mediterranean-style bar, makes the new Clarkwood the happening spot to be. Its thoughtfully curated black and white seating vignettes include banquettes, tables, and lounge areas that add to the relaxed glam.

At ClarkwoodHTX.com.

Adair Restaurant Houston

GREEN WITH ENVY

The new Insta-worthy Garden Oaks eatery is an all-day café that features extremely healthy fare like sandwiches, salads, coffee drinks, and more. We love the beet and goat cheese toast, as well as strawberry and creme fraiche as part of their garden-fresh menu selections.

At Sunday-Press.com.

SAN ANTONIO

Salad from Jardin San Antonio

SIGNATURE DISH

At the La Cantera Resort & Spa, the award-winning destination set atop the highest elevation point in San Antonio, you’ll find its restaurant, Signature. Led by San Antonio local John Carpenter as executive chef, the team includes Executive Sous Chef Jaime Torres and Pastry Chef Stéphane Leopoldo. They provide a wide selection of contemporary interpretations of classic dishes.

At SignatureRestaurant.com.

Los Azulejos San Antonio

FAMILY STYLE

The English translation of nonna is grandmother. However, it has a deeper meaning that evokes images of matriarchs passing down generations of recipes and hosting big gatherings to bring the family together. Here, at Nonna in the Fairmount Hotel, you’ll find savory, comfort food dishes perfect for anyone to love.

At NonnaSA.com.

Sandwich Best Quality Daughter San Antonio

AMALFI? AMAZING.

Inspired by Italy’s impossibly beautiful Amalfi Coast, Allora brings a bright taste of Italian seafood and pasta to the city. Discover this intimate spot at the Pearl and experience the fresh flavors and scenic spaces while reveling in San Antonio’s modern coastal restaurant and bar.

At AlloraPearl.com.

IS THE NEW JAG TOO BRITISH?

IS THE NEW JAG TOO BRITISH?

True to its legend, it’s tough to beat a luxury British car for style. Our man-about-globe, Michael Satterfield of The Gentleman Racer, takes the new Jaguar F-Type P450 Coupe out for a spin on some country roads to get a handle on its drivability. Love ensues.  

Photography courtesy of The Gentleman Racer

GOOD, THEN GREAT

Few new cars genuinely get me excited these days. Outside of a handful of exotics, there aren’t many obtainable cars that I would describe as lust-worthy. Most companies today have resigned themselves to building just good cars. In fact, it is nearly impossible to buy a bad car in 2022. Like Jim Collins says, “Good is the enemy of great,” and there are far too many good cars in this world. But now and again (when the accountants aren’t looking), a great car can sneak through. Ladies and gentlemen, the Jaguar F-Type P450 is one of them.

 

Now some might say a car starting at $69,900 isn’t really every person’s car, and a sports coupe like a Mustang is more obtainable than a Jaguar. But when you consider this Jaguar is within $6,500 of a well-optioned Mustang Mach 1, and around $6,500 less than the GT500 (before markup), the value of the Jaguar shows. It is at its core a muscle car like the Mustang, but with a better tailor—fully loaded, including destination fees. The F-Type I am driving and testing comes in at $86,200.

The other obvious comparison is the Aston Martin Vantage, which, if equipped with the classic Aston grille, is a very handsome car, too. But the baby Aston starts at $139,000, and when you tack on the options, you’ll find most Vantages come in at between $175,000-$220,000. In shopping around Aston Martin dealers in Texas, the least expensive 2022 Vantage in stock is $170,086. So if you ordered a standard P450, you would save $100,000 and still be driving an exceptional, limited-production British sports car.

THAT’S MY TYPE

Buying an F-Type means, you are buying into an elite club because despite its good looks and sporting heritage, Jaguar is still a boutique company. They only build around 2,000 F-Types for the U.S. market a year, making them far more rare than the Porsche 911 or Chevrolet Corvette. While most reviews focus on pricing, 0-60 M.P.H. times, and cubic square feet of cargo space, most of those things don’t matter much in the real world, do they? There will always be a cheaper, faster car or one that is able to fit more golf clubs. So, buying an F-Type is a lifestyle choice, more akin to buying a luxury item than a mode of daily transportation.  

 

Sliding behind the wheel, the F-Type feels bespoke. In a bold color with a tan leather interior, it looks the part of the quintessential British sports car. For me, the F-Type is an escape pod. Just slip on some driving gloves, point it in the direction of the countryside, and dial in your favorite driving music. If you had a bad day, few cars help make everything right in the world, like the F-Type.

Pushing the start button brings the 444 hp, 5.0-liter supercharged V8 to life with a delightful rumble seldom heard in suburbia in these days of electrification. The F-Type P450 drives like a car with far more horsepower, and with peak power coming on fast at around 2,500 RPM, this Jag is a joy to operate on a twisty country road. Tapping the paddles, turning into a corner, and rolling back onto the throttle, it feels like a classic sports car. Almost as if it is channeling all of Jaguar’s racing heritage with every turn of the wheel. Plus, it just happens to have paddle shifters and dynamic mode. It is impossible not to smile while driving the F-Type on a great road.

THE OPEN ROAD 

Blasting out across the causeway over Lake Livingston towards Point Blank with the windows down is the kind of therapy one can only understand through experience. Ripping down TX-156 through the Sam Houston National Forest and taking the long way home, with the sound of the exhaust echoing off the trees, my Zen was broken only by the chirp of the radar detector, reminding me to check the speed limit. The F-Type wants to go fast, and it is easy to let the speedometer climb. The only thing that would have made this day better is if I had gone to a racetrack to experience the full brilliance of the F-Type.

 

Pulling into any small downtown, the car draws attention among the Ford F150s and Chevrolet Suburbans. “Is it the James Bond car?” one gent asks. I tell him no, it is a Jaguar, and I let him take a seat inside. He especially likes the optional glass roof but thinks it is too fancy for him. Even at the local country club, where the parking lot is a greyscale sea of Porsche 911s, and Mercedes AMGs, the blue coupe makes a statement. Its taut proportions look refined when parked next to some of these.

Perhaps that is what I like most about the Jaguar. It’s exotic, yet not in the garish orange Lamborghini way. It has an understated elegance that many cars simply cannot offer in a practical package for daily use. With that in mind, I would suggest you only drive the P450 if you are genuinely ready to buy one. Because once you do, you’re not going to want to leave the dealership without one.

FLORAL FANTASY

FLORAL FANTASY

Charity Ball Association Celebrates Million-Dollar Fundraising Evening

 

By Jake Gaines      Photography by Jenna Beth Lyde

 

THE SETTING: The Charity Ball Association (CBA) of San Antonio’s 66th Chrysanthemum Ball was held at the Witte Museum’s Mays Family Center, with a record-breaking $1 million of funds raised by the almost 600 supporters in attendance. With pandemic protocol in place, the black-tie clad and elegantly attired guests, arrived on a 100-foot-long red carpet through a floral fantasy arch. They were then ushered into the Zachery Garden for a cocktail reception while the talented Youth Orchestra, San Antonio (YOSA), played in the background.

 

THE STYLE: Guests entered The Mays Family Center, greeted by a 15-foot-tall ice sculpture, in the shape of a birdcage, by award-winning Buddy Rasmussen. It mimicked the invitation design created by Elizabeth Roberts and was framed with floral details and jeweled butterflies, which encircled the base of the sculpture with magenta lighting highlighting the etched ice. Magenta, which represents universal harmony and emotional balance, was selected as the evening’s primary color palette by CBA President Terrie Musselman and Décor Chair Gayle Embrey. Complementing magenta were additional shades of lavender, green and white represented in the floral arrangements, along with jeweled butterflies that dotted the room.

 

The décor and floral design by Danny Cueller of Trinity Flowers was perfection with the ballroom’s beautifully adorned tables covered with oversized vases supporting a burst of colorful flowers. The centerpiece arrangements included magenta flowers, Pink Floyd roses, green hydrangeas, Queen Anne’s lace, green amaranth, curly willow, silver dollar-seeded eucalyptus, and the organization’s signature logo flower, green chrysanthemums. Meanwhile, a giant pergola of a floral effusion was installed over the dance floor.

 

The dinner began with entertainment by a dance orchestra. This year’s program was emceed by Albert Steves, assisted by his wife and sponsor member, Tricia Steves, with Carrie Catalani orchestrating an elaborate and exciting presentation of Prizes & Prize drawings. As the night progressed, guests savored decadent hors d’oeuvres, all by Rosemary’s Catering. Wine pairings were an elegant and perfect accompaniment to the gourmet meal. The evening was capped off by entertainment by the band, Blind Date of Austin.

 

THE PURPOSE: The special, unique, and memorable night was helmed by CBS Chairman of the Board Lynn Ziegler, President Terrie Musselman, and the many committees that orchestrated the festivities. The 2020 and 2021 combined gala Diamond Chrysanthemum Patrons were the Betty Stieren Kelso Foundation, Charity Ball Legacy Foundation, Kittie Nelson Ferguson Foundation, and the Mays Family Foundation. Even with the unusual year in 2020, the Charity Ball raised over one million dollars under the chairmanship of the 2020 Vice President for Patrons, Kelly Kennedy, and then again raised over one million dollars in 2021 under the Vice President for Patrons, Ellen O’Gorman.

 

The organization is so very grateful for The Charity Ball Legacy Foundation, which made a significant contribution of $125,000 in 2020 and an increased donation in 2021 of $180,000 to The Charity Ball Association. During these past two years, under the guidance of Sharon Seal, Vice President of Charities, a rigorous process was developed to determine the 36 charities to be funded in Bexar County. As a result, many needs were met for these children, such as food, shelter, clothing, safety, education, disabilities (both intellectual and developmental), and improved playground facilities.

 

The Charity Ball Association graciously acknowledged decades of giving by Cavender Cadillac. The Charity Ball Association of San Antonio supports the children of Bexar County by distributing grants each year since 1954, now totaling more than $24 million. The organization’s tenet is Children Benefit Always.