a word from our sponsor

jean paul masIn the interest of putting to rest the rumors that I’ve devolved into a wino, it’s high time I introduce you to the man who’s brought me to the south of France: Jean Claude Mas, owner and winemaker of Domaines Paul Mas, which comprises seven estates spread across the crus of the Languedoc – most of which I’ve by now had the chance to imbibe. Jean Claude is an ambassador of sorts for both his family owned estate and a unique concept called “le luxe rural,” or affordable, everyday luxury. There’s no pretense about him, just as there’s no pretense to his wines. And more importantly, Mas isn’t selling some imagined romantic notion a la Ralph Lauren, but bringing the best facets of the rural way of life center stage; made by hand and built on traditions that stretch back to his grandfather, who first farmed a small vineyard close to the estate.  It’s an intoxicating conceit because it smacks of authenticity, not just marketing savvy. Mas talks the talk, but he also lives the life: utilizing the local farms, promoting local craftsmen, pressing his own olive oil, commissioning local artists, even creating a line of clothing line based on provincial designs and textiles. Wine, it turns out, is but the tip of a far grander ambition: taking the ordinary out of the quotidian. Now that’s a life we all could live.

domaine paul mas


footloose and fancy pants-free

skinny-dippers001What do Lady Gaga, George Washington, Hugh Jackman, Shakira and Ben Franklin have in common? They’ve all admitted to enjoying an old-fashioned skinny dip. Movie stars, musicians and entertainers today might be openly professing their comfort level with getting naked while swimming. But cleaning house? Gardening? Washing the family pet in your birthday suit? Absolutely – if the American Association For Nude Recreation has any say in the matter. The AANR promotes the stress-relieving freedom of shedding your inhibitions – and swimsuits – each July with a Nude Recreation Week at over 250 clothing-optional and clothes-free clubs across North America. Plus, as a grand finale in the buff celebrations this year, they’re plotting a world record skinny dip on July 13. Staycations are so last year (and the year before that); strip down and get ready for the rise of the Nakation.


at the theater: hands on a hard body & i’ll eat you last

hands on a hard body & i'll eat you lastDo you ever feel like you’re floating somewhere in the outer orbit of the cultural zeitgeist? I’ve felt that way all season, at times amazed by the brave work which has gone virtually ignored and astonished by the dreck which has floated to the top. With the Tony Awards quickly approaching I find it bewildering that two of my favorite evenings at the theater this season have – to quote Julie Andrews – been egregiously overlooked. Hands on a Hardbody – now shuttered, alasis one of the best new musicals I’ve seen in years. Based on the 1997 documentary of the same name, Doug Wright, Amanda Green, and Trey Anastasio’s show takes the pulse of a country where desperate economic times call for desperate measures: ten contestants commit to a grueling endurance competition in hopes of winning a pick-up truck. The premise is simple: last man (or woman) standing with a hand on the hardbody wins. And while in other more experienced Broadway hands that might have been the starting point for a detour into fantasyland, the writers of Hardbody, employing an effective soundtrack of blues, gospel, and honky-tonk, have crafted a sincere portrait of the dimming American dream. In short, they don’t insult the intelligence of the audience. These are real people, small-scaled and human; a cultural cross-section of small town Texas. And if the show doesn’t wow you with literal pyrotechnics, it still touches your heart. Could there be a bigger prize at stake than the elusive American dream? Whether it’s real or not, well, that’s another musical for another time, but everybody loves a winner still the same. Sue Mengers would have been the first to agree with that statement, too. Hollywood’s first female superagent came from poverty, a refugee from Hitler’s Germany. In that uniquely American way she invented herself, and by the 1970’s she represented almost every major star in Hollywood in addition to being the town’s most renowned hostess – one who could make a career with an invite to one of her twinklie-studded dinner parties. Bette Midler has been lured back to Broadway after a 30-year absence to star in I’ll Eat You Last, playwright John Logan’s solo portrait of Mengers now at the Booth Theatre, and the result is an ecstatic synergy of two talented foul-mouthed divas with a gift for the gab who hold their audiences spellbound. Ok, maybe it’s not Chekov, but who doesn’t enjoy a juicy night of gossip. And straight from the horse’s mouth no less. “Think of me as that caterpillar from ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Sue seductively tells us from her couch at the top of the show, radiant in a flowing muumuu and seemingly as immovable as Gertrude Stein. “The one with the hash pipe.” And for the next 70 minutes she lights it up and we breathe deep the ruthless, rarefied dish like it was unadulterated oxygen. But what’s ultimately so appealing about Mengers is not her quickness with a vulgar turn of phrase – though in Midler’s hands it is an art, beautifully perfected – it’s that in an industry built on so much ego and bullshit she heedlessly managed to (mostly) tell the truth. In a male-dominated field, she worked her way to the top through pluck, charm, and a legendary wit. We love her in spite of the excesses she might represent because her version of the American dream wasn’t won by luck, it was built through sheer force of will. And that’s showbiz, kids.


dude looks like a lady

richard bransonEntrepreneur Richard Branson has been called many things, but today he made sure that welcher would never be one of them. The billionaire boss of Virgin Airlines fulfilled a bet he lost to Tony Fernandes, CEO of rival AirAsia, by donning full drag and doing his best trolley dolly impersonation. About 300 passengers on board the AirAsia flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur were treated to the sky-high show of Sir Richard sporting the airline’s short, tight red uniform, freshly shaved legs, and a full face of makeup. The flamboyant 63-year-old’s first duty was to take out a drinks tray, which he mischievously upended all over Fernandes. “It slipped, it really did,” Branson insisted. Fernandes, who had to change into a dry set of clothes, quickly made it clear who was in charge: “You’re going to be cleaning the toilets,” he said. Branson admitted to wearing a dress only once before, when he launched the ill-fated Virgin Brides business. “I could get to like this,” he said, putting a stocking-clad leg up on a passenger’s chair. “All the girls want to have a touch. I don’t normally get that.” Despite a stellar performance of the safety demonstration – which earned a round of applause – the flight ended with Branson being fired before he and Fernandes sprayed each other with champagne. “I’m a great believer in having fun, throwing yourself into everything you do,” Branson said. “If you lose a bet you’ve got to honor that bet and if you can raise lots of money for charity, which we’ve done today, so much the better.” Branson lost the bet to Fernandes more than two years ago. The pair wagered on which one of their Formula One racing teams would finish ahead of the other, in the debut season of the 2010 Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi. AirAsia X is donating $100 from each seat sold on the flight to the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Australia. At a cocktail party last night benefactors chipped in for the opportunity to shave Branson’s legs on stage. A total of $200,000 has been raised so far.


the people have spoken

carnival kit

I’ve gotten a number of e-mails from readers wondering why, despite the volume of fanciful Carnival pictures posted, I’ve neglected to document my own festive gear. In spite of my tendency to remain in the background – at least visually – the people have spoken, what can I say? Witness then my first (and likely last) personal appearance on this site. Oh and just to be clear, I’m on the right.


more mas







a royal send-off

royal guards

Just when you think there’s nothing left to do, no corner left unexplored, Incheon Airport travels back in time as the Korean Royal Family of the Josean Dynasty make a ceremonial procession through the terminal. Dressed in colorful traditional costumes, an enfilade of noblemen and women (staff from the Cultural Heritage Foundation actually) re-enact a scene from a bygone era: the daily walk of the Royal Family. It turns out that transit travelers spend an average of 5.2 hours at Incheon waiting for connecting flights and the procession is part of a push to make the gateway more than just an airport but also a destination representing Korean society. A Cultureport, if you will, which also includes a Traditional Craft Gallery, the Korea Culture Museum, and the Korean Traditional Cultural Experience Centre, all within the terminal confines. Delirious after five hours of shopping and walking and eating and staring at the departures board it made for one of the more intriguing distractions I’ve ever witnessed in an airport and a fun photo-op, too – not to mention a very royal send-off.

the royal procession

the royal guard

a royal nobleman and woman

me and the royal guard


live blog: tradition


live blog: the poet sandal maker melissinos




the stare on the square

Another revitalized area of Belfast’s city center city is Victoria Square, the site of a tasteful multi-story shopping mall. Parallel to the downtown shopping area it hasn’t so much supplanted Royal Avenue as the main drag as provided a high-end complement to the High Street. The structure is semi-enclosed, like a giant breezeway with levels of restaurants and movie theaters sandwiched between the retail raison d’etre. Crowned by a central geodesic dome the public spaces are flooded with the rarest of Irish commodities: natural light. That alone would be enough to warrant a round of applause yet the designers did something really clever with what could have easily been wasted negative space: utilizing the practical aesthetics of the dome toward a civic end. From the top-level of the shopping center the public can ascend a circular staircase to a sheltered viewing platform. And while Belfast doesn’t come close to having a skyline that warrants a Top of the Rock, the Stare on the Square – public monuments in Ireland requires a mellifluous moniker if you hadn’t heard; the sculpture at the entrance might officially be known as The Spirit of Belfast but to locals it will always be Onion Rings – is an ideal height for views out to the Harland & Wolf shipyards, where Titanic was built, and Napoleon’s Nose, the inspiration for Swift’s tales of Lilliput. Shopping, it seems, really can qualify as a cultural pursuit. Double-click the panoramic image at the bottom for greater detail.



textile thursday

It’s not every day I get excited by a new handkerchief. Today is one of those days.


how to be popular in san francisco



three little words

I never expected to hear in the same sentence: Thierry Mugler toiletries. So, so sad.



andy fraser, tartan butler

Curious about whether you can pull off a tartan plaid in 2012?  Look no further than Andy Fraser, the new Tartan Butler at Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel. A master at tracing Scottish ancestry, Fraser scoured over 30 variations of his own family tartan to trace the clan as far back as the early 13th Century. Coming quick to the realization that this talent was more than just an avocation, the local Edinburgh resident partnered with Rocco Forte’s Balmoral to share his expert guidance with guests wanting to find out a little more about their Scottish heritage. The gentleman definitely knows his history, too: “It was the Dress Act of 1746 that tried to bring the warrior clans under government by banning the tartan and other aspects of Gaelic culture,” says the Scotsman. “When the law was abolished in 1782, it was no longer ordinary Highland dress but was adopted instead as the national dress of Scotland.” Just imagine: plaid, a political statement. Once Fraser has established a connection to one of the thousands of clans and traditionally recognized tartans, he can arrange a trip to Kinloch Anderson, one of the city’s most established Highland dress shops. Or better yet head to my friend, kilt maker Howie Nicholsby, for an altogether 21st century kind of statement.


born in a trunk

Maybe it’s the dandy in me but I could easily spend all my money – and then some – shopping my way across London. (Is there another city in the world that takes its waistcoats and collar stays half as seriously? I think not.) Luckily the concierge at The Langham didn’t put me on to Trunk Clothiers, a recently-opened menswear store in Marylebone, until I was halfway out the door for Heathrow. Swedish-born Mats Klingberg is behind the impeccably curated boutique at 8 Chiltern Street where only a few of the handmade modern classics are well-known labels, with highlights including Japanese label Tabio and Porter, Boglioli jackets and suits, Edwin jeans and very appealing flat caps from Wigéns. They say good things come to those who wait. Good thing I’ve got a plane to catch.


Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.