Join us as our ardent social chronicler Gordon Kendall recounts his very brief foray as a debutante escort in the Big 80s. Texas Dip included, so pull up a chair as we take an insider’s tongue-in-cheek look at the man behind the bow.


Last year, at an ordinary dinner party (remember those?), the evening took a rather extraordinary turn when I let it slip to all present that, yes, at one time, I had been an escort. All forks dropped to the plates at once. After the seconds of silence, I’m still not quite sure how I should interpret the guffaws of laughter that soon followed. “You?” and “C’mon, really?”  are not affirming credits to any man’s masculine pride. Finally, after a bit of hemming and hawing, I fessed up to having been a debutante escort, which explanation seemed to have satisfied all those assembled for a time.


“So,” it was later asked, “how does that, you know, work? The whole ‘party thing’” Thus, began my wine-enhanced recount of my season being the unsung accessory elbow, an escort to a series of young women as they were introduced to…no pun intended…Society Texas. Although it has, indeed, been a few decades since I donned white tie in the name of chivalry and social custom. However, this elbow will remain anonymously tucked inside its cut-away coat sleeve out of respect to all involved and to make the whole event, just a little more dramatic. Wylie readers, however, may be able to guess a thing or two about the who’s, what’s, and where’s of my experiences, and we’ll leave them to that worthy enterprise. They might be right. Or not. My escort season seemed to end as quickly as it began, yet it was quite a whirlwind of activities.



The life of an escort starts with something usually referred to as an “announcement tea.”. Who will be the upcoming season’s debutantes when the formal presentation will occur, and when the debutante’s individual parties will happen is decided. Often, I know some of the girls from our school days. As a sidenote, escorts for the girls are mentioned with about as much enthusiasm as saying, “Nice weather we’re having.” Then, everyone goes off and talks to someone they haven’t seen since last night’s other party, leaving the escort and deb to initially meet and get to know each other in preparation of “the season.”


If there are any untapped ideas for reality television left, I’d like to suggest Drama Debs, which would recount all the goings‒on that occur during each season. To help draft the pilot, here are other things about the people, places, and happenings the writers should consider. Will she be attractive? Will she be witty? Will you be handsome? Will you be charming? Hers and your faults of beauty or character don’t matter. It’s quite possible the escort and deb will not have known each other previously, so in the first few minutes, with so much at stake, it’s best to agree…to be agreeable with each other. Nothing more is required. The whole thing is “for real,” but only for the others involved. The concept of debs and escorts as players in a saga began much earlier before the first deposits on party venues were paid, before the first contributions to the symphonies, or operas, were put down. This isn’t the time to reinvent the ongoing wheel of societal expectations. Forget that one detail, and it’s going to be reality T.V. time, so watch out. It’s just about having a good time and how many things can you say that about? Hence, that open bar.   

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The girls’ families host a round of parties honoring the debutantes, to celebrate their debut. The themes vary, from Monte Carlo to a simpler fare, like, the State Fair. But, whatever the theme, simple or elaborate, it is the perfect setting for a terrific time for all the attendees to honor the debs.  


These evenings happen across that state…evoking New York’s grandest Fifth Avenue hotels in Austin…recreating Versailles in Houston…70s Studio 54 discos twisting in Dallas…to Luaus hula-ing in Laredo, and beyond. You get the idea: The Texas Debutante Theme Party. Of course, no mention of the escort experience would be complete without mentioning this unique feature of coming out in the Lone Star State. After the Announcement Teas that start off these seasons, there are scores of separate parties as well. They are the enticing amuse-bouches, the tantalizers to prepare one and all for the main course, the grandest gala in the season’s grail of parties, The Presentation Ball.


These season openers come about when one, or several, debs and their families get together and throw some fete-tastic homage to…name your place and time… but think of Paris or French themes as Toujours Favoris. With that in mind, prepare for at least one Les Miz or Mardi Gras inspired to do in any given deb season, or get ready to do your own Can-Can come party time when it’s a Moulin Rouge Rallye, as these parties are called in France. Of course, gardens are always good ideas for these kinds of deb dances, too, but not just any old patch of dirt is party inspiring. They must be Italian Tuscan, or, of course, Provence de France in spirit to be worthy of the debs’ families’ attentions.


Considering the original purpose of the debutante party was to introduce young maidens to society, especially to suitable marriage candidates, you’d think Garden of Eden themes might be popular. Interestingly, but not likely intentionally, economically inflationary epochs, such as the 1950s and 1970s, remain popular themes. Just don’t expect casseroles and Chianti jug wine will ever be served no matter those parties’ homage decades. Costs-of-living be darned; these parties are about having fun and fun…as we know…takes a lot more, a whole lot, to make that happen. So, when it comes to themed deb parties, the sky is the limit to produce these one-night-only fun factories.


Once inside this combination theme park, high school cafeteria at the lunch rush, and rock concert events, what really happens? Dancing, naturally; eating certainly; queuing at bars, inevitably; gawking, a given. And what you will see. How to transform a relatively mundane country club or a generic hotel ballroom into these fantastically focused events? Just as there would be no reason for these parties without debutantes, there would be no way to carry out their themes without flowers. Not just demure arrangements are dotting the tables, but installations that could rival most of the annual floral output of Honduras. That amount will be just about right to hang from the ceilings, fill the corners, line the walkways, and compose huge arrangements surrounding the buffet tables, and flanking the dance floors…all perfect social media backdrop opportunities. The creativity of the florist and their sidekicks, and the lighting pros, know no bounds of checkbook when it comes to not just decorating such plain spaces but transforming them into entertaining environments.


Ultimately, these blooming extravaganzas of the debutante experience will wilt after they are often donated to local charities the following day, the food and drink consumed, and the band packed up. But, inevitably, it will be the memories of these themed parties that will inspire debs in later years to say to their own almost-deb daughters, “It’s up to you, My Dear, certainly, to pick the kind of party you want, but for my party, this is what we did…” 



One and all will deny it, yet the debutantes’ mothers are really the show’s co-stars. They are the ones who sat through countless committee meetings, raised the most money, and hand-addressed the most envelopes. They also were the ones who ever so subtly, politely, but determinedly jockeyed for their daughters to be the jewels, the princesses, the whomever’s being asked to represent whichever group is presenting them. Mess with M.G.M. and you, Mr. Escort, could very well be escorted yourself…out. I’ve heard a few stories of guys who all of a sudden “had obligations” then disappeared from the stag line of escorts and landed into social oblivion. On the other hand, a debutante’s mother who likes an escort can indeed, rally the Oscar-clad crowd of other mothers on his behalf. That happened to me. One deb’s mother just happened to be quite the doyenne. What she said, went and so did I, from well-dressed nobody to hob-nob, because of her. Her David Webb jewels were medals earned from the social battles she’d fought and won to make everything happen, and I’m glad I was able to share in her success.   

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The dress is as much a part of the party as the debutante herself making the coveted bow. So, what if it looks like an upside-down snow cone and costs as much as a nice car? What’s really fun, I hear, is when two debs choose the same style of dress. Rare, but possible. How that issue is resolved is way above my pay grade, but I’m sure it’s nothing that socially savvy mothers can’t work out with no hard feelings, right? As if. When it comes to the actual dress that will appear on the big presentation night, there’s not much you’ll have to worry about, besides not stepping on the huge thing, which is good, because you, Sir, have sartorial problems of your own. To wit.


Imagine having as many as fifteen different articles of clothing you will need to have on your body at once, from fiddly little button-like studs to the more familiar socks and shoes. Now imagine that each of these must be put on in a specific order and in a certain way. Then imagine having to walk, dance, carry things like programs and plates of hors d’oeuvres with all this free-spirited, high-maintenance merchandise attached to you. The first mishap is always with the shirt; trust me on this. “Pop,” “Pop,” “Pop,” go the studs right down the front of your shirt, and everyone might see how well, or not, that new ab routine is working for you. Clear tape and a plain white tee-shirt to your rescue. Not the one covered in logos and what-not sayings. The problems don’t end there. Even at winter events, you will burn up in these layers of wool, silk, and cotton. Think about water in article number sixteen, the hip-flask.   



All dressed up and off you and the deb go. The whole evening will be one of both glamour and grandeur. Lucky you, if you even get to sit down…at all…to enjoy any of it. While everyone else is seated and eating, you and the deb will be backstage, waiting for them to get done, so you can get on with why you’re are there: the presentation. By the time you and the deb line up to get ready, you’re hot, exhausted, and that shirt…it’s always a stiff-as-steel shirt…and has started to come untucked from all the bending over to shake hands. According to some precisely determined order, the same one that says all debs are beautiful, but some go on stage before others, it’s showtime for you and your deb, with all eyes on you two.      


Now, the time comes where it all comes together, so no pressure. Brave is the man who tries to tell the deb what to do, but, as she lowers herself to the floor, arms outstretched, mere seconds before her head goes forward into the white abyss of money that is her gown, you really, really hope she followed your invariable lead and laid off the open bar. In my days of escorting, yoga and Pilates were not the fitness phenomena that they are now, so debs today may actually be stronger than you, Sir. Don’t let your downward dog butt get kicked, just keep an eye on her, nonetheless. Help turn her wobble into a wow. Two well-timed hands at her waist might mean a Rolex on your wrist when it’s all over from appreciative parents. I’ve heard that actually happened: one escort received a gold and stainless TYVM. You may think it’s over after the bow, but that’s when it can get even more interesting.      



We’ll leave it for the etiquette experts to ponder whether an escort is a date, in the “date-date” sense, or just a one-night standup guy. It’s good to get that sorted before all the partying because the deb’s actual date/boyfriend/almost fiancé might just have an opinion about the matter. Leave it to chance, and you’ve set yourself up for a ménage-a-trouble with the three of you. Inevitably, you will not see what she sees in him, the lout. You probably are more fill in the blank than he. He got there first. Don’t forget that and, hopefully, you and the deb will part at some point after the presentation with charming promises to keep in touch and not a terse: “She’s all yours, pal!” ringing in everyone’s ears.

Back to the dinner party that got this walk down memory’s runway started, the inevitable question was asked: would I let my own children do it, be a debutante or escort? My lack of both offspring and funds has already answered for me. So, what can I say? Except for a few evenings, this young man got the chance to play that suave character shown in so many films. So, to those, I’ll take my bow.


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The South of France is always a favorite for visiting Texans. Especially, Monaco. Join our intrepid traveler Gordon Kendall as he jets to the French Riviera and reports on why the French and Texans love having a quality-filled vacation there.

If it has not been a year of travel, it has been a year of dreams…of travel. Where has your imagination, if not your passport, taken you? For some, the adventurous out-of-doors lures, while others seek to rediscover personal favorite haunts. Then, there are those who want to splurge. In recounting recent trips of pre-pandemic times, one delightful but too brief day trip to Monaco and the international luxury hub of Monte Carlo should inspire those sybarites. Yachts? Yes. High fashion? Of course. All the man-made luxury available set against a backdrop of incredibly natural scenic beauty. A sudden, impromptu glimpse of a genuine prince certainly wasn’t a detraction from the excitement. 



Visitors to this famed Principality arrive as best they can: yacht tenders streak in and around Port Hercule, depositing the nautically endowed, and the heliport and helipads atop many a building welcome those who descend from the skies. Many a luxury car, often sporting custom colors and trims, huddle at hotel front doors like elegant dogs waiting for their owners to take them out for perambulations. Or, you can take the train and enjoy the breathtaking scenery it affords, as you travel, from either Menton or Villefranche-sur-Mer depending on your direction. On a clear, bright (if a bit hot) summer day, whether you look to the hills or along the stunning coast, it would be difficult to imagine a more beautiful setting.


Our own journey into Monaco that day began in a manner appropriate for a venue known for gambling. From our starting location lay the Italian attraction of Cinq Terre with Monaco in the opposite direction. As gambling has for so long determined Monaco’s fate, a coin toss, not a hand of Baccarat, settled Monte Carlo as our choice, and we set out from the station at Ventimiglia.


Our guide, an affable Brit named Paul Thompson, who makes it his business to squire visitors through this remarkable place, met us at Monaco’s modernist train station, and we were soon walking the sundrenched Quai Albert along the Grand Prix course. If ever there was a place with stories to tell, it would be Monaco. There are many recounts of famous cars, drivers, and races for car buffs, and related tours focused on those aspects of the place can be had. Of course, for movie fans, there are walking tours of the many locations used in films, such as Hitchcock’s 1955 classic, To Catch a Thief, and, to cover both cars and films in one go, Frankenheimer’s 1966 equally classic Grand Prix. What would tours of these kinds be without a bit of gossip? Our guide shared tib-bits about the apartments looming above us, all with price tags that would make those who spell money in any language with a “B” think twice. Interesting though were, our guide’s recount of the tiny country’s history, heroics of various car drivers, and its astronomical costs, still we slipped away in thought. How to describe a place about which you have always heard but are now actually there? For it was easy to see there were two faces to the Monaco we then encountered.


First, Monaco’s breathtakingly scenic side, a dramatic coastline outlined with beautiful cliffs and gardens, the majestic port laden with yachts of surreal proportions and designs, like creatures from name your Sci-Fi film waiting to return to their aquatic galaxies. Turn the other direction, however. There, towards the hills above where there are…buildings…and more buildings. Like so many boxes from Lawrence Graff, all stacked together, hurriedly, on top of each other, some seeming to tumble onto others. Each, precious and expensive, perhaps beautiful in its own way. How to know with each visually on top of the other? This chock-a-block image stood, in contrast, to the vista just a head turn away. Our guide had the answer to clear from our minds what he called these contrasting Legoland visions. Visit a palace. Specifically, “Le Palais Princier,” to see the changing of the guards at noon. Rediscover, in other words, that unique magic surrounding Monaco, no matter which way you look.

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At the palace, in a throng a few minutes later, we stood, waiting, to watch as centuries of ceremony would be carried out for another day in front of the palace gates. Our experienced guide, however, sensed unfamiliar activity. The guards, as he put it, “are up to something.” Barricades suddenly appeared, lines of white-suited men formed, and around the corner appeared a phalanx. “Oh, good! We’ll maybe get to see Prince Albert,” he exclaimed. Then, in a brief flash, the princely coach out of the group went past.  With a quick nod of his head, one man in back turned and acknowledged the crowd as the processional streaked by and through suddenly opened palace gates. Were he mounted on a white steed, such a princely image would have made the scene most fairy-tale-like, indeed. All of us, however, standing in the Monaco noon sun, envied the air-conditioned practicality of this modern-day prince: a white Lexus 460 sedan.


The palace secured for another day, we set off inside on a tour of its for-your-eyes-not-cameras-only treasures. Since the group of us were not privy to invitations to the apartments we had passed earlier, the ornate palace of gilt and silk would be the closest we would come to experiencing similar ambiances. That said, who could not think the palace a perfect setting for such a style icon as whom we know as Grace Kelly, but was Princess Consort of Monaco, or, simply, Grace de Monaco?


One story of the fabled palace and its inhabitants is from fine art photographer Gray Hawn. She photographed Princess Grace’s last portrait before her untimely death in 1982. “Of course, Princess Grace was gracious and lovely and definitely a princess. Prince Rainier was funny and intelligent,” shares Hawn. “As a photographer, I’ve always had a dreamy love affair with France, and especially at the thought of photographing Princess Grace. The first time I went to Monaco, I stayed on the French Riviera, and when my room overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, with all of its lavish yachts, how could I not be in love with such a beautiful sight?”


Another Texan, Houstonian philanthropist Lynn Wyatt, has many fond memories about the south of France, especially since Princess Grace was a close friend. “I was there every summer for a long time, and I always enjoyed entertaining guests who would come visit,” she says. “Nancy Reagan invited me the first time. Then, I got a villa–I didn’t want to buy since home to me is Texas. I was fortunate to have met so many fabulous people while there–they stayed with me, and I stayed with them. How lucky I was to be able to do those things. Of course, Oscar would be there between his business in Houston and the Middle East.” In fact, so popular was Lynn Wyatt that her annual birthday parties, during the high summer season, became a legendary and coveted invitation.


Onward, we knew lunch was in order. Over Monaco’s own beer…a full-tasting malty brew with perhaps a hint of rose, we contemplated what lay ahead. Our bank balances prevented a full-on assault of the gaming tables, but visiting the casinos, at least their lobbies were gratis, as was wandering past the shops. Those shops. All your favorite brands present and accounted for, and a few that even give the most ardent fashion followers pause. As to their offerings? Fur coats in July to wear on chilly yacht evenings? A parure of diamonds in time for this evening? That handbag? Your credit card, please, and it was a business to do your shopping pleasure in this luxury-laden metropolis.


We sought another respite… from the sun in the lobby of The Fairmont Monte Carlo, complete with a frothy cocktail. More stores awaited our examination. Venetian shoes scattered with crystals in every style imaginable lured those ladies so interested in Rene Caovilla. The sartorial delights of Stefano Ricci promised to transform any man into being mistaken for an Italian count or, perhaps just as well, extremely rich. Across the way, another place caught our eye. “Pawn Shop” would be too lowly a description. No matter such comparisons, how could such a place not attract with its outrageous display of still shiny yet slightly faded luxuries? What we saw there, the once riches of others were now their costly cast-offs. Thus, they were all the more intriguing, n’est-ce pas? Their mystique being their own stories, indeed, as much as any image conjured by their brand. But what might these tales be? Were the many hubcap-sized gold Rolexes sold to pay off that one unlucky poker hand? The (very) many more Hermes Birkin bags deaccessioned in order to cover unexpected “expenses”? Or, were their former owners simply bored and burdened by yet another purse in their closets? The shopkeeper would just shrug if asked, so we didn’t.  Such stories may never be known, perhaps for the best. Isn’t it fun to wonder how the coveted become the commoditized in such a place as Monaco?


Had we stayed for dinner, of course, Le Louis XV, Alain Ducasse’s many Michelin starred outposts in the Hotel de Paris would be a draw. We heard from one lucky source that even the breadbasket with accompanying pots of hand-made butter was exquisite. Other intelligence revealed Marcel Ravin’s Blue Bay (with merely one Michelin star) at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort is a wonderful choice for fine dining in an atmosphere slightly more contemporary and much less ornate than Chez Ducasse. We look forward to our next visit, or, perhaps, the one you will take there, to inform us better.


Our time running out, we made it past the beach to the cement steps near the Grimaldi Forum. Walking back to the station, we watched the bathers diving into the sapphire waters, truly sans souci. Back on the train to Italy, the brochure of the current exhibit, Histoire d’ Une Rencontre, which we saw at the palace, again intrigued us. As this was our first trip to Monaco, so, too, was the show about the first time then-Grace Kelly met always-Prince Renier III May 6, 1955.  From that “first date,” complete with meeting not only the Prince but also his pet tiger, came forth the engagement leading to her becoming the iconic Princess Grace of Monaco.


Upon reflection, something more came about from that meeting, did it not? Monaco’s image emerged and remains as being the place for dreams like never before and forever and eternal. Anything at all. A place where it’s possible to make your own dreams come true. Then at the altar for Princess Grace, or now at the gaming tables, for us all.  Show the world from the palace throne room or the yacht deck your own dreams did come true. Even icons have dreams, and in Monaco, those dreams remain for us all, and unlike almost everything else, there: no charge.    


Show the world from the palace throne room or the yacht deck that your own dreams did come true. Even icons have dreams, and in Monaco, those dreams remain for us all, and unlike almost everything else, there: no charge.

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Our very own fashionisto Gordan Kendall, considers Chanel’s influences and what she might think of shopping in Texas… for herself, today, fifty years after her death. Her legend lives on, yet does her style translate?


These days, the lists go on and on about what has gone up, down, came, or went. Whether related to the economy, the recent election, the Pandemic, the price of eggs, there’s always some marker. Of course, fashion can’t miss out on any trend. The year 2021 will be no exception as it will mark the milestone of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. What more can be said about this icon and her lifetime contributions to fashion? Any follower worth her or, now his, gold buttons and “Boy” bags, knows Chanel’s story.

Convent raised, where she learned to sew, and through skill and all sorts of talents, plus good timing, and even better luck, she established not only what we know as the Chanel brand, but also brought about new ways of thinking about fashion, based on simplicity, ease, and comfort. Her contemporary, Cristbal Balenciaga, noted Chanel had very little taste. Almost all of it good, he exclaimed.

Extravagant simplicity, priced simply extravagantly, came to be le style Chanel. Of course, it was Karl Lagerfeld, of late as well, who masterfully designed Chanel clothing and accessories that kept it consistently current with times and trends. Even so, much has happened since Chanel wafted into fashion’s hereafter that cold January morning in 1971. Given the opportunity to revive her 137-year-old spirit, what might she think of her fashion legacy now? How it has withstood her absence? In the world of fashion fantasy, it’s not too difficult to imagine what it might be like to go shopping today in Texas with Chanel…for Chanel.  


The lone figure in a beige wool suit stepped tentatively out from the Dallas mall and into The Store, the one that in her day Mr. Stanley had minded and had so feted her in September of 1957 with its very own fashion award. Then, they staged a fanciful show, a defilee of cows done up in fancy hats to the mirth of the fashionable crowd. Today, however, taking her sunglasses off and tucking them into the flap bag hung over her arm, she was here, not to party, but to peruse what had happened in her absence.

“Bon. Bon. Bon.” she exclaimed, seeing the entire wall of fragrances bearing her name. “…and right inside the front door, too. I like that. I’ve always said ‘a women should wear perfume where she wants to be kissed’…because I want to be paid when she wears mine. Oui?”

“Good morning,” cooed the approaching sales associate, “I just love that Chanel suit.”

“Non, non, Cherie, it is my suit.”

“Yes, but it is a Chanel suit, right?”  

“Don’t be ridiculous. It is the Chanel suit. Whose would I wear? That bit of upholstery Dior calls a suit?”   

“Then, perhaps, you should visit our boutique upstairs?”

Maintenant ca je dois voir. Oh, I’m in Texas now. I mean, ‘That I gotta see…Pardner.’”

Going up the escalator, she peered at the people she saw below. Where had most of their clothing gone?   

C’est quoi cette folie. What is this, craziness?” she exclaimed. “They are mostly naked, these young, not so young, people. I said it in 1968, and I must agree with myself, fashion has become nothing but une exhibition de Viande, a show of meat. But still, my sandals do look so well even with these awful blue pants cut so short on the legs with their edges fraying loose.

There was a flurry of excitement as she entered her namesake boutique on the third floor. Associates and other shoppers crowded around; all were holding some kind of metal plates in their hands. Annoying, as they occasionally emitted blinding blinks of light into her eyes. 

“Love the hat,” exclaimed one young man, who then swept it off her head and onto his own. “Post this on Insta, everyone.”  

“You’ve nailed that retro look,” screamed one young lady. “So very vintage.”

“Vintage, you say? Mais, non, this is…was…from my latest collection. No one will buy someone else’s old clothes to wear. Quelle folle. There is no fashion in old clothes, I predict, you’ll see,” she said with a knowing wink of her eye.

Then, all of a sudden, she was whisked into the changing room by the crowd, each holding some kind of garment, at once strange, but also somehow familiar, as each bore her famous “double-C, interlocking logo, the one she knew so well.

“No, go with the leggings under the shorts,” said one.

“But how about this tunic top, instead?” asked another.

“We need to fun-it-up,” declared one holding studded wrap band bracelets and a beret to replace her bowler hat. “Here… Post this on Insta.”  

“Now, I know what it was like in the cabines, my girls being pushed and prodded about,” she sighed.

After a bit of a tussle over whether to ‘just go with the high-tops and definitely not the booties,’ with the tweed-covered sneakers winning the most likes from someone or something they seemed all able to communicate with through those strange metal plates, she emerged from the changing room and stood in front of the boutique mirror.

“Here,” said the young man, still wearing her hat, “You need this,” and with a flourish, he belted a large, long zippered pouch around her middle, her Chanel name, in all caps, boldly displayed across her very own Chanel derriere. “Quick. Post it on Insta.” 

“What’s this? A costume pour le sport?” she asked into the mirror. “Ah, but these what you call ‘sneeek-eures,’ they are comfortable. Massaro’s slingbacks can cut so. Even if I did design them for him.”


Gone was the beige suit. Instead, she stood in red and black shorts worn over black patterned leggings, surprisingly easy to get used to for someone so used to wearing skirts. So much better able to move about in. A sleek sweater set, one red beneath a red and gold plaid, replaced the blouse and jacket. The enormous black beret sat at a jaunty angle on her head.  

“Totally love the fanny pack,” said one. “It makes it casual…post it on Insta.”

Un ‘fanny-paque’? And what are these dreadful things you keep holding up into my face?” she asked.

“Oh, we’ve so got to get you on Insta, Guurl,” they all said.

“This ‘Insta’ what is it?” Chanel was perplexed; she didn’t like to be perplexed.

“Look,” said one showing her the device, “You can post your picture on it. Get followers, even buy stuff.”

“Indeed” Chanel said, as she turned the metal plate, now alive with images appearing on its surface, in her hand.

“You mean it can really be a phone and a camera at the same time? These ‘followers.’ Why would anyone want to follow me? I can buy things, Non? With this ‘Insta’ character?”   

The crowd gathered around Chanel, each posing with her, moving her this way and that to “get the right look” All around, other shoppers watched the group, taking their own pictures at what must surely be a celerity in the store. The young man handed back her hat and clothes, folded into a glossy black carrier bag for the trip back.

“How would you like to pay for these?” asked the associate.

“Oh, of course, just how you say ‘post it on my ‘Insta’?” Chanel said. She waved a goodbye and headed over in the time she had left to see what that Christian Dior had once again decreed what everyone, except she, should wear.


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It seemed like a world far away always landed in the mailbox during the holiday season. That was when catalogues with glamorous merchandise were the norm, providing inspirational ideas, according to our very own cultural ambassador, Gordon Kendall, who fondly recalls them in this exclusive look back.


The chic world on the coasts would remain a dream until I lived there as a young man and discovered it for myself. Until then, there was the holiday catalogue, which beckoned me from afar to aspire to dream about life beyond my ho-hum eighth-grade existence. To understand the Christmas catalogues I grew up with, you have to know something about the stores offering them. From the smallest hamlet to the vastly populated Manhattan, there were scores of local, regional, and specialty stores. These retailers worked with local groups and held store events where they learned what people would and would not want to wear. Around the house, to school, work, play, and holiday parties, these stores had you covered because they knew you. They had merchandise teams of buyers, not Excel programs, and programmed orders, determine what their shoppers would like, because they knew those shoppers, often personally.

The three-hundred-dollar dress would fly off the racks, but the five-hundred-dollar one wouldn’t because the buyers knew first-hand how to gauge demand. Red would sell better than green, solid ties, not printed cravats. The success of these stores relied on being part and parcel of their respective communities. So, when the stores put out Christmas catalogs, they were putting their best foot forward with the finest, most edited selection of goods they could create. Yes, they were the original influencers.

Some stores really got it right. Their taste caught on. Everywhere. Maybe they had a unique product niche, like New York’s (original) Abercrombie & Fitch with sporting goods, or FAO Schwarz with inimitable toys. Perhaps they had a particular point of view found nowhere else, like San Francisco’s sublime and now-resurrected Gump’s. Texas’ own Neiman-Marcus offered as much humor as high fashion with items like Chinese trunks and designer cocktail dresses. Whatever snobbishness there might have been was tempered by the genuine understanding that people like to have a good laugh. Although, as I think about it, that Lucite “N-bar-M” mouse ranch that Neiman’s touted was even funny to a kid like me. The point is, seeking out these memorable catalogues was part of the fun of holiday shopping. Something about them gave you the confidence to purchases their items…as best you could.

Magazines figured out the cachet of these special catalogues and how to partner with them. Remember those cards at the back of all your favorite, glossy lifestyle and fashion monthlies? Just fill them out, pay the fees, and within a certain timeframe, store catalogues from all over the U.S. would come to you. Thanks to this service, I was able to see what it would be like, and what it would cost to outfit myself in New York’s A. Sulka & Co.’s silk robes or wear the latest in Italian menswear from Wilkes-Bashford in San Francisco. Amen-Wardy in Newport Beach, California, took care of haute couture dressing for the ladies. It was the kind of catalogue where anyone would feel more affluent, just leafing through it.

Additionally, Tiffany & Co.’s iconic little blue catalogue was filled with coveted holiday gifts and included full-color photographs boasting both twenty-carat diamonds and sterling silver centerpiece Christmas trees. It was a far cry from the catalogues most stores distribute currently since those were printed in Switzerland and cost five-dollars. In the 1970s. Talk about luxury. They remain, to this day, collectible glimpses into yesteryear.



Now, though, the stores are long gone or may soon pivot in response to modern shopping habits. Community has become a virtual concept, much less a local reality, and luxury has been redefined to mean experiences-and-friends-you-pay-for, not things you keep because you cherish them. The excitement of waiting for, and receiving, a catalogue from a store as far away as London means much less when that same store pushes its wares all the time, right on your computer. So, being part of some far-flung exercise group that only meets on your phone seems more exciting to some.

Prices of gifts have polarized, too. Expensive means very expensive, and low-cost means cheap in every sense of the word. There is no middle ground when it comes to profit margins, and we, the consumer, have spoken: lower prices unless we’re really going to splash out and, furthermore, who cares about quality when we’re not likely to keep it for very long, anyway? Maybe what has happened is that our dreams have changed?

Now, being well dressed, male or female, seems only a worthy goal for as many likes, followers, and tweets that one can garner from complete strangers. It doesn’t seem to be about how you might feel and how you’d like to define yourself personally. They, the hypesters on social media, who always have something new to be afraid to miss out on (defined as FOMO Syndrome–Fear Of Missing Out), have come to shape our aspirations, not the stores that at least knew us and offered their pride of place in catalogues confirming the acquired knowledge of their customer base. Now, one must wait too long even to receive the catalogues, much less the merchandise. But at least, with them, you made the selection and had the assuredness from the stores to give you confidence that, Hey! You got this!

Rockin’ the Christmas Stockin’ these days is an experience unto itself. I hold out hope that new stores will come on the scene, take hold, and find a way into my heart. These should be venues that come to know us as the people we are, not just the algorithms they are told to buy for. Moreover, they must take modern-day branding’s elusive mantra of authenticity to heart…and revive the glory of the printed and mailed Christmas catalogue that offered one-of-a-kind items you can’t find anywhere else. I’ll be looking for it in my mailbox again, won’t you?


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The nose always knows. Here, the Yellow Nose of Texas, our own Gordon Kendall recalls what is really missing from virtual partying these days, as he sniffs out the biggest glitch in today’s ever-evolving online world.



Age appropriate, not high style, now informs our evening’s virtual fashion sensibilities. Back in the days of our youth, if we didn’t hear each other, it wasn’t some D.J.s fault…we just had somehow muted ourselves similar to today’s Zoom session. As is happening more and more, we like to reminisce. Like about the times we excitedly, but not ecstatically, made it into certain notorious dance clubs across the state. We had the beat, to paraphrase the Go-Gos. Strange how the olfactory to mind to memory connection works. All of a sudden, I blurted out Calvin…in the blue bottle. That’s what I wore. Calvin Klein, that is. From there, we went on and on about that one elusive thing virtual partying still can’t provide: the smell of it all.  

Our party times started quite young in the late 70s, well into the 2000s. Then, the “big browns” in men’s colognes like Revlon’s Braggi from 1966 and Lauder’s 1968 Aramis, remained favorites for many of our fathers. Where do you think Tom Ford is getting all the ideas for such current colognes as his very own? They harken back in time. Colognes may have lightened in color over time, but not in power, like Dior’s Jules of 1980 and Yves Saint Laurent’s 1981 Korous, both punchy, with citrusy bergamot somewhere in their formulation. Spicy Lagerfeld of 1978 that came in a lab-like bottle was everywhere. Chanel’s Antaeus, 1981, was for that guy who wanted it powerful but with a subtle twist of, get this, sage. It was as smoky as the venues 606 in Austin, Metropole in Houston, Eight-O’s in Dallas, and Bwana Dick in San Antonio. With apologies to oh-so-many others, two men’s colognes sum up the era: Lauren’s tobacco-y, citrus-y Polo, in the green flask from 1978 and Calvin Klein’s Obsession that made the world smell like spicy vanilla in 1986. Still around and going strong, but our generation had them first.      


It was the ladies, though, who really could make their presence felt through fragrances of these times. Sure, big shoulders could carry off White Shoulders, for the lady who loved the classics, and there was and will always be Joy at any party (bought for many daughters by their fathers since it was then billed as the most expensive perfume in the world). The late 70s and 80s brought a whole new way of thinking about women’s fragrances. Sporty, sexy, and powerful. There was a fragrance for every personality. Lauder’s Aliage (1972) and Revlon’s Charlie (1973) were there along with Lauren (1978) to fit those moods. Then, there were the stand outs, the didn’t-smell-that-coming scents like Dior’s wickedly fruity Poison (1985). Later, Mugler’s Angel from 1992 is another. I swear it smells like State Fair cotton candy, even from across a SXSW venue. As with men’s, so many scents were offered then, but Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium (1977) and Giorgio Beverly Hills (1981)…did I even have to name it? They were the scents of that era.

We keep buying newer communication technologies but memory transports us back to our fragrant past. Your memories are likely as sweet as mine. So, let’s keep making more of them with new olfactory sensations the scent masters have in mind for us yet to enjoy. Because, you never know, when that next set of memories will inform your future.

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