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The Trump image in media

10 Nov

I’m not writing to complain or express any emotion toward Donald Trump being elected the next US president, but I do want to point out an observation.

unflattering-trumpPolitical image is fascinating in that as the candidates get into their campaigns, the media takes their sides and plans how they will portray that candidate. In the case of Donald Trump, the media outside of FOX News painted him as a racist, misogynistic, Cheeto-coloured buffoon, and used very unflattering pictures of him in their news.

trump-disabled

After the stunning election upset, his news image changed immediately. The media – even media that was very anti-Trump during the campaign, has decidedly changed their tune and the way he is pictured is remarkably different than how he was depicted less than a week before Tuesday’s election. Apparently they all got the memo.

Photo by the New York TImes

Photo by the New York Times

At least outwardly, respect is now being paid to Trump as president-elect, but he remains the same person who was depicted in a very negative light by some news sources earlier this week.

The only thing that has changed is how the media illustrates his image. Donald Trump hasn’t changed and neither will his spots.

Photo from The Irish Times

Photo from The Irish Times

Photo by Reuters

Photo by Reuters

 

 

 

 

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The life of the gentleman

10 Dec

The Perfect GentlemanThis is the third and final installment of the gentleman series, starring Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and
1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, a UK outfit that teaches men to be gentlemen,  one man at a time.

In the first article of the series, we discussed the things that drive men to want to become gentlemen: to dress smart, feel good, climb the social ladder, and make more money. The second piece focused on women and romance and found that women respond very well to true gentlemen. Knowing that manners, kindness, politeness, and grace are central to the gentleman, and understanding that largely, the world lacks this type of man, I asked Zach some questions about what it’s like to operate in the world as a gentleman – the topic of this final piece.

I know that well-dressed people – not just men – have a much different experience in life than those who do not pay attention to their clothing. For example, there was a time when people used to dress up to travel. If any of you readers have been in an airport lately, you may have noticed that very few people dress to travel anymore and airline line-ups are made up of extremely casual, almost pajama-clad travellers. But what would happen if a flier chose to dress up for his next trip? I remember my Irish grandfather insisted on dressing in a suit every time he flew back to Dublin, and a man I used to know told me that on a trip to Europe, he put on a suit, tie, and pocket square, and was chosen to upgrade to first class.

This should not come as a surprise. In this Daily Mail article about how to be the lucky flier who is chosen to upgrade, the way to success is through your dress: “Airlines want first and business class to look a league above, so make sure you do too… tracksuits and torn jeans certainly won’t further your cause.”

Gentlemen, as a rule, should do better in life. Zacchary cites other perks besides upgrades for true gents: free meals, compliments, and positive comments “all the time”, never mind the attention from women and the respect that comes with gentlemanly ways. Let’s see how else a gent fares in life as Zach answers my last round of interview questions:

LM: Are gentlemen timeless?

ZFB: Yes, absolutely. The core principles of the gentleman are respect, chivalry, and gentility. There is a 1000 year history of the English gentlemen, and a 4000 year history of Chinese gentlemen – the warrior poet, the philosopher warrior.

LM: Is a gentleman taken more seriously?

ZFB: Yes and no. In business and romance, yes, but not for guys who feel threatened by it. Some men have a fear of being less than, and they get defensive around gentlemen.

LM: How do gentlemen make the world a better place?

ZFB: If everyone treated the world, others, and themselves with respect, by golly, the world would be a better place! Part of being a gentleman is about being selfless. People should think about their actions and the repercussions that follow.

LM: Are politicians gentlemen?

ZFB: In the modern political world, it’s very difficult to be a gentleman. A politician has to do so many ungentlemanly things – there is no reason that politicians need to insult each other, there is a high level of selfishness, and they are not as authentic as they should be – there are so many factors that would not make them a gentleman. Modern politicians aren’t gentlemen because the politics of politics and the business of politics is not gentlemanly. If it was, they’d actually think about things. No politician has ever made our gentleman of the year.

Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

*Happy holidays to all – writing resumes in January!

Gentlemen, women, and romance

26 Nov

how ladies feel about gentlemenWelcome to part two of my interview with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield, founder and 1st Gentleman at London’s The Perfect Gentleman, an operation that seeks to make the world a more respectful, stylish, and gentlemanly place, one man at a time.

Zach and I talked about many things during our Skype interviews, including romance in the world of the gentleman. Perhaps this comes as shock to some of you because romance seems to be something sadly missing from our modern world – Tinder, digital pornography, and internet dating/hook-ups have taken care of that. At least in North America, we don’t make time for romance anymore, but we can pencil in a quick booty call which may momentarily satisfy our needs, but I think will ultimately leave us feeling empty and emotionally frustrated.

The term “romance” may seem old-fashioned to the modern reader, but it is romance that will win our hearts. In fact, The Perfect Gentleman insists that men learn how to romance a woman, to woo her, court her, prove his worth through respect, affection, attention, and mutual enchantment.

Men always want to be a woman’s first love – women like to be a man’s last romance.

-Oscar Wilde

I told/whined to Zach that there are not enough gentlemen in the world and wished there were more.   I asked him if women worldwide ask for gentlemen. “So far, yes!” he said, “I have yet to meet a lady anywhere in the world who does not desire a gentleman.”

The following short video provides a glimpse into women`s desires to have more gentlemen in the world:

Interview

Please enjoy the following interview about gentlemen, women, romance, and sex with Zacchary Falconer-Barfield.

LM: What do gentlemen look for in women?

ZFB: Everyone has different parameters, but most guys, if they’re honest with themselves, are attracted to who they’re naturally attracted to. Look within. Romance is about shared connection. A gentleman should build her self-respect. A gentleman should be able to help the woman he’s interested in.

LM: Does a gentleman understand women better?

ZFB: He should. Fundamentally, a gentleman should be a lover – gentle, kind, courteous, and a fighter in the sense of being a protector, but not an aggressor.

LM: Is there such a thing as a gentlewoman?

ZFB: We call them “ladies”, and ladies abide by the same key principles as gentlemen – respect for themselves, others, the world. Women tend to think more about how they present themselves to the world and there are more resources for them, also, their support structure is different: inclusive, conversational, and supportive. There are more ladies than there are gentlemen in the world because of this.

LM: Do you think gentlemen have more luck with women?

ZFB: Yes.

LM: What about sex?

ZFB: Ha! Between two consenting adults, the gentleman stops at the bedroom door.

The next article in our gentleman’s series will feature a gentleman’s attitude towards the world at large and how he fits into it.

Read part one of my interview with Zach and becoming the perfect gentleman. Click here for tickets for the Becoming the Perfect Gentleman in Toronto March 5 – 6 2016.

Pride 2015: Loving my gays

25 Jun

gay prideI have known and loved gay men ever since I can remember. A man my father worked with when I was a wee child was gay – this was in the early `70s when being gay was still hush-hush and freshly decriminalized in Canada – but I had no conception of sexuality. Sid was flaming and living a lie, married to a woman. As a kid, I could neither put my finger on what it was about Sid that I was sensitive to, nor did I have the language to describe my perception of him, but there was something extra special about Sid: he had a lisp, a limp wrist, and he loved martinis.

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.  – Tennessee Williams

In high school, I made friends with Jay, a fun, gentle gay man who I am still friends with. Jay was just Jay and his sexuality was not an issue – in our social group at least. Trying to deal with high school in the 1980s when homophobia was rampant and homosexuality very misunderstood, I was grateful for people who broke the rules and weren’t afraid to be themselves.  Jay was one of these; he was just himself and we couldn’t understand why people made such a big deal out of his sexuality – especially at a time when the people who teased him wore horrible mullets and listened to crappy bands like REO Speedwagon!

He took me into the clandestine gay bar in our small prairie city, a place very close to one of the larger and popular hetero bars. It was a secret place – we had to be signed in by members of the club and buzzed in through the locked door. At that time, being gay and being a gay ally was dangerous, so precautions had to be taken. But it was a wonderful time; Jay told me about his exploits with older men who recognized his state of being even before he did. It was a time of discovery about ourselves and our tastes; our rebellion, our character, and our desire to be ourselves. Through Jay, I learned to have fun and be true to myself no matter what people said about me.

Before you criticize queens, fairies or someone who acts ‘too queer’, consider where we’d be without them. -Ken Hanes, The Gay Guy`s Guide to Life

My first job out of high school was at a Canadian department store where I worked in the menswear department. This is where I met Greg. He was always neat, tidy, and smelled good. Greg was older than me and lived with his boyfriend in a gorgeous apartment in an old building with white pillars in the front. They introduced me to lots of older professional gay men who immediately accepted me for who I was, and I was completely taken by their open minds, their zest for life, sense of fun, and of course, their good taste.

Life can throw tough circumstances at us, but when you’ve got a life-long friend – especially a gay one – you know that you’ve been blessed. Greg and I have been through good times and bad together, still going strong 30 years later. He’s easy to talk to and laugh with; we have common loves like clothing and design. We don’t live in the same city any more, but no matter how much time has passed since we’ve been in contact, we always pick up where we left off. Greg taught me that no matter what a person’s sexual identity, we share the same joy, fear, and pain because we’re all human.

There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love. That’s completely untrue. Everybody wants to be loved. -Boy George

I spent ten wonderful years volunteering at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). I was the first woman in the history of the agency to volunteer for the gay men’s outreach program, where I handed out countless packs of condoms and lube to guys in gay bars and talked about safer sex and social issues. In the beginning, some bars didn`t welcome women but I went in anyway and did my job with the objective of preventing transmission of HIV and STIs, and ultimately saving lives.  I also coordinated the route on several AIDS Walks for ACT to raise money for services for positive men in the community. My time with ACT gave some of my most fun and fulfilling moments, and I gained a deep understanding about the gay experience, gay politics, sexual health, and stigma; being open-minded, how to listen, and how not to judge.

I have no idea why gay men love me, but I would have to assume it’s because they know how much I love the gays! Everyone needs a good gay man in their life. – Chelsea Handler

The bond between gay men and hetero women is a natural match; most of my friends are gay men. I’ve met many fantastic gay men and made friends with some of the more amazing ones who have completely enriched my life. If you ask me, gay men are perfect beings created from the best elements of the masculine and the feminine and the more they are recognized and empowered, the better world it will be. I am very fortunate to know so many gays and I couldn’t imagine my life without them – love you all, darlings – Happy Pride! XOXO

PS – I’m taking July off writing – enjoy the summer!

Human behaviour, Desmond Morris, and his comb-over

25 Dec
Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris sports a deep comb-over.

Desmond Morris, the famous British zoologist who wrote The Naked Ape, put together a six-part BBC series called The Human Animal: A Personal View of the Human Species during the mid 1990s, in an attempt to examine and explain human behaviour.

During the series, he explores humans as “hunting apes”, looks at our body language, genetics, and tackles the differences of the sexes. During part 6, Beyond Survival, Dr. Morris, the brilliant zoologist that has moved the study of body language further ahead than anyone else in history, says, “Every time we go out in public, we’re making complex statements about ourselves”. Dr. Morris is absolutely right, but his statement reeks of irony because he talks about complex visual statements while wearing a wicked comb-over.

Method

Comb-overs, a ridiculous “style” that balding men create to cover their baldness was extremely popular during the 1970s, as I recall from childhood. The comb-over was so big that it was actually patented in 1977. The patent is officially 37 years old as of December 23, 2014, and was the brain-child of smooth-headed father and son team, Donald and Frank Smith. Below is the U.S. patent. Click on it to read the details about the Smith’s “invention”.

Comb-Over patent

comb-over illustrationThe patent info explains the correct way of covering your bald spot by “cross-hatching” (FIG. 6) three sections of longer hair and combing them over one another. Original illustration at right–it’s a dandy, isn’t it?

Instructions: “To begin with the subject’s hair must be allowed to grow long enough to cover the bald area, generally about 3 to 4 inches. Of course, the length of the hair will depend on the size of the bald area, for example, a person who is front to back bald, as in the illustrations of FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, will require more length than a person with a bald spot either in front or in back of the head. In addition, the particular hair style to be performed will dictate the required hair length.”

Can you imagine losing your hair and thinking that the best thing to do is to grow sections of your existing hair quite long, strategically comb it up to cover over your bald head, then paste it to your scalp or on top of existing strands with some sort of adhesive (probably hair spray) in an attempt to fool others into thinking that you still have your full head of hair? Only the wind could betray your clever ruse! It’s genius!

Just kidding.

Comb-over symbolism

“Wearing a comb-over is like sweeping your baldness under the rug; it’s still there,” says Jason Kearns of Toronto’s Kearns & Co. hair design.

Kearns began his professional life in the late 60s in swinging London, when hair, and everything else, was all about fun and free expression. He watched the music stars of the time mature and change–some of their hair left the building before they did, and grace didn’t necessarily follow. He says of an aging rock star like Robert Plant, “If the hair is long and you’ve got all of it, wear it.” Guys like David Crosby or Max Webster-era Kim Mitchell who have lost it all on top but keep the bottom long? “Cut it.”

Clumsy, fragile comb-overs are an attempt to camouflage or hide something; they may even induce suspicion. It was no surprise to hear Mr. Kearns say that men who do comb-overs have no sense of self and are probably clinging to their youth. I imagine it could be quite upsetting, even devastating for a man to lose his hair; it may be seen as the loss of youth and possibly a loss of strength, and therefore a blow to masculine identity (could all men have a Sampson complex?). But this belief is a choice.

Bald and bald alternatives

Perhaps it was the unforgettable Yul Brynner who made bald okay for the first time in the 20th century. Biography UK describes how Brynner’s bald head became his trademark: Yul Brynner

“For his role as the King of Siam [in the 1956 Academy Award-winning The King And I], Brynner shaved his head and following the success of the film, he continued to shave his head throughout his life but wore wigs for certain roles. This was an unusual and striking look for the time and became known as the Yul Brynner Look.”

While Brynner wasn’t bald, he was balding. Below left is a shot of the intense, Russian-born actor with a receding hairline; at right below, with a hair piece in his second bald role as Pharoah in The Ten Commandments. To my eye, he’s much more striking without hair.

Yul Brynner

Yul Brynner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the 50s moved into the 60s and 70s, a fully bald head was still scary to people, but someone came up to the plate and made baldness sexy. Telly Savalas rocked the bald head in the early 1970s in his hit TV show, Kojak. Unlike Brynner, Savalas didn’t shave his head for any particular role–his hair loss was well under way, as seen at left in a screen shot from season two of The Untouchables (1961), when Savalas still had some hair. Compare that to the second shot at rightwhich is one attractive than the other?

Telly Savalis

Telly Savalas in an early episode of The Untouchables.

Telly Savalas

Savalas as bald-headed NYPD Detective, Theo Kojak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why did bald work for these two when so many other men at the time chose the comb-over? First, they’re both actors, and they’re already confident (I have read in my travels that actors and football players have the highest testosterone counts of all occupations). Second, once they took to the look, they “owned” their baldness and made it work for them. Third, they have good shaped heads that are in proportion to their bodies–this is important.

Shaving one’s head is definitely an alternative if a guy is losing his hair, but shaving your head bald isn’t for everyone. Why? Proportion. I have a small head and I notice that when I put my hair into a tight ponytail, my head looks smaller, and I look out of proportion. Men with small heads who intend to shave their lids should take heed of this; I often see (usually white) men walking around with tiny shaved heads perched above hunched shoulders, their expression embarrassed and apologetic. Just because you’re losing your hair doesn’t mean that you have to shave right down to the wood, fellas; instead leave a 1/8″ or 1/4″ of stubble to break up the visual expanse of skin, and avoid large collars and scarves that can make your head look even smaller.

Probably the most important thing around hair loss is acceptance. I discussed ways to deal with hair loss in my last post, but ultimately gentlemen, it’s all about embracing and making the best of yourself, not making an awkward attempt to hide what is gone and in the past. Jason Kearns says that baldness is a way for modern men to make their lives simple and to deal with hair loss with grace. He offers other alternatives to comb-overs and bald insecurity: “Instead of hiding your bare pate,” he says, “try to work with it and add accessories like interesting eye glasses or a neatly trimmed beard.”Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris said in the Daily Mail  in 2008 that the key to a long life is calmness. If you want a happy and long life, it’s best to relax about things you have no control over, including whether or not your hair will hold out. Don your look with grace, avoid the comb-over, and for goodness’ sake, have a sense of humour about it; it’s not the end of the world.

For a laugh, read this Cracked article: Inside the Mind of a Man With a Comb-Over.

Terry Crews: What Makes A Man 2014

27 Nov

I was lucky enough to attend the What Makes A Man (#wmam2014) conference in Toronto this week. Thewhat makes a man 2014 two-day conference was stuffed with speakers and presentations discussing the state of masculinity, road maps to manhood, and ending violence against women. There were some excellent discussions and ideas presented by writers such as Rachel Giese and Junior Burchell, a panel on mental health and masculinity, and fantastic closing session with TV actor (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Everybody Hates Chris, Who Wants To Be A Millionare?) , former NFL player, and the Old Spice guy, Terry Crews.

Journalist and TV personality, Nam Kiwanuka, discussed manhood with Crews who spoke very freely about his childhood when he witnessed his father’s violence toward his mother, his anger, his terrible behaviour to his wife and family, and his porn addiction. Now Terry Crews is a man redeemed; he has seen the toxic  masculine code turn him and many other men into a stoic, angry, and aggressive men,and he recognizes how destructive this attitude was to his family. Mr. Crews made no move to hide his tears when he described the pain and the shame of mentally and emotionally abusing his daughter, and the relief that never came the day he beat his father out of revenge for the abuse given to his mother.

As I sat in the third row with tears in my eyes, what I saw before me was not a big, powerful football player or an American TV star. I saw a human being. Terry Crews is a real and grounded man who expresses himself naturally and believes that when men show their true feelings, they display strength, not weakness.

I want you to watch a few minutes of Terry Crews speaking to the Huffington Post. Here, he gives his views on anger, the NFL, Ray Rice, and domestic violence; the toxic mindset of hypermasculinity that teaches men that they are of more worth than women, and his strong belief in gender equality. I’d like to thank Terry for his courage and his inspiration, and bringing gender and masculine violence into the light.

Through the eyes of Tom Ford: Pride 2014

26 Jun
Tom Ford by Helmut Newton

Photograph by Helmut Newton. Published in Vogue, March 1999.

With Toronto hosting World Pride this year, I feel that much more inspired to celebrate the powerful gay icons that have shaped our world. I spotlighted Freddie Mercury in 2012, Liberace in 2013, and for 2014, the focus is on the clothing, detail, luxury, and the daring of Tom Ford.

Tom Ford is a man who personifies BOLD not only in his clothing designs but in his business dealings. Before launching his own menswear label in 2007, he spent ten years as Creative Director for Gucci and brought them from near bankruptcy to $3 billion a year in sales. He is aligned with Estee Lauder for the Tom Ford Beauty Brand, and he counts 98 retail Tom Ford stores in the world among many other achievements.

American Vogue‘s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, says Ford has an uncanny way of conveying the same three core themes: sex, power, and divine decadence. “I don’t think I have ever worked with anyone with a greater passion for detail or a clearer vision of his aesthetic goals,” she says.

Ford is a powerhouse of talent that goes beyond fashion design. In 2009, he directed and co-wrote the screenplay for  A Single Man, a tale of gay angst in the early 1960s, starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. I recommend it; it’s tasteful and interesting, but tragic.  Ford’s debut film won many awards and Firth received an Oscar nomination for best actor.

He is incredibly talented and successful; a billionaire with enormous power in the fashion industry, and audacious as all hell. Tom Ford does what he wants and he does it well, otherwise he wouldn’t carry clients like Johnny Depp and Daniel Craig. Yet with all that going for him, with all the success and power and wealth, Tom Ford remains human.

Images of beauty 

Ford studied architecture before he turned to fashion and understands how to build things. He uses geometry in his designs and creates sensuous lines and angles in magnificent, often textured, deeply coloured fabrics in his menswear collections.

He seems to have an inborn sense of balance and opulence and learned about fashion through his mother and grandmother. “My mother was very chic, very classic,” he recalls in an interview with Biography. “My paternal grandmother was very stylish in a very Texas way—everything big and flashy, from jewelry to cars.”

Tom Ford jackets

Note the gorgeous geometry of Ford’s jacket lapels and the sumptuous fabrics and colours.

“The images of beauty you get in your childhood stick with you for life,” Ford explains, “So there’s a certain flashiness at Gucci—Texas-inspired—with a certain Western feel.”

When asked if Texas has influenced his designs, Ford tells FDLuxe,  “I have certain notions of glamour that I never lost… I like a heel on a boot. I feel better with a heel. That Texas taste—big hair and a lot of makeup—was my first notion of beauty. And I have to say, to this day, I still have a thing for big hair.”

The big, bold, and flashy was woven into Ford’s designs for Gucci and used in his own menswear line. The casual luxury of his Western-inspired spring/summer 2015 collection is comprised of suede jackets with tasselled sleeves, jeans, denim shirts, and jean jackets–a far cry from his iconic suits and shirts, dapper enough for 007 himself.

“What we wanted to do was to expand sportswear so that our customer has something to wear for every occasion of his life,” he says of the collection.

Ford uses bold and unexpected colour in his menswear collections, and in his current men’s line, pink, lilac, and ocean blue jackets are paired with white shirts and trousers. Coming up for fall/winter 2014, blacks, greys, creams, and earthy colours mixed in with  beautiful violets and royal blues in cotton-silk Jacquard and velvet cocktail jackets.

Tom Ford the human

Despite what we might think a billionaire designer who caters to high-end clients like Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Drake might be like, Tom Ford is a regular person.

I spoke to former model, Patrick Marano, now husband and manager to gay media mogul, Shaun Proulx, who posed for a 2005 Tom Ford sunglasses campaign.

“The shoot was in L.A. Poolside,” Marano recalls, “At the break Tom came and ate with us. He was very down-to-earth and friendly. And of course he looked great, impeccably dressed.”

Ford is a real person; he’s sensitive and romantic, and he loves to be in love and be in a relationship:”I’m someone who likes being part of a couple and always wanted that and always sought that,” he says, “And it would probably be true for me whether I was gay or straight.”

When Ford saw his long-term partner, Richard Buckley, the former Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Hommes International, at a fashion show in 1986, it was love at first sight. More than twenty-five years along, Ford and Buckley married this past spring and welcomed their son, Alexander John Buckley Ford (Jack), into the world in 2012. Ford has proved to be a devoted partner and father.

“I feed Jack, I dress him, I change his diaper, and I have a good two or three hours with him every morning, just me and him.” Ford says, “At night, again, I put him to bed and try to spend as much time with him as possible.”

Though it may be unbelievable, our superstar designer changes diapers, cooks, and unless he’s travelling, gets home each night to feed Jack. Now that he’s raising a child, his perspective of the world has changed. In particular, he no longer receives Botox injections, saying, “A lot of things I cared about before I don’t care as much about anymore.”

It’s refreshing that a superstar like Tom Ford understands his limited relevance and shelf-life. “No matter how hard you try there is a cultural moment, but eventually that window’s gone, your time on Earth is finished, and you might as well leave,” he says, “I could absolutely die tomorrow–I would not care. I feel like I’ve lived, I feel like I’ve had a great life.”

Tom Ford‘s style advice:

  • A man should never wear shorts in the city. Flip-flops and shorts in the city are never appropriate. Shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach.
  • At home, off-duty, I wear T-shirts from Fruit of the Loom but I have them tailored – if the sleeves are cut over the tricep your arms look much better.
  • Keep your jacket buttoned. Always. It’s just really flattering – it will take pounds off you.

 

My uncle the Olympian

20 Feb
Jim Trifunov, courtesy of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame

Jim Trifunov, courtesy of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame

If you aren’t old enough or you’re not from the Canadian prairies, you probably haven’t heard of an amazing man who fostered the sport and spirit of wrestling and amateur sport in Canada, a man who competed in three Olympic Games, and a man with a twinkle in his eye and a smile to share, my Great Uncle, James Trifunov.

Uncle Jim was a featherweight and bantamweight self-taught freestyle wrestler who competed in the 1924, 1928, and 1932 Olympic Games, won ten national championships between 1923 and 1933, and was awarded a gold metal in the 1930 British Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games).  According to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Famehe had only one defeat on Canadian soil. 

I was just a kid when Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary would come to Regina to my Grandmother’s house from Winnipeg for Christmas, Easters, and sometimes Thanksgivings. I remember him fondly; he spoke in a voice tinged with a far-away Slavic accent, always happy, always interested in what my brother and I had to say for ourselves. I was too young to understand his passion for wrestling and his outstanding achievements, and I never knew of the difficulties he went through to make it to world-class competitions (literally).

History

Jim immigrated to Canada from Serbia with his family in 1910 and settled in Regina, Saskatchewan, where, I suspect, his early life must have been difficult. His father died a few years after the family relocated, and his mother had four children to take care of. Then there was the climate. Being from Saskatchewan myself, I cannot imagine what it must have been like trying to survive without central heating on the harsh Saskatchewan prairie in the winter. Hard times.

In 1922, Jim took up wrestling at the Y.M.C.A. despite the Y’s lack of a formal wrestling program. Still, it sent a team to the Canadian championships and the following year, Jim won the Canadian bantamweight championship. In 1924, he was selected for the Olympic wrestling team.

Back in those days, the Canadian government’s athletic funding was rather limited, leaving athletes scrambling to pay their own way to compete in the Games. In 1924, Jim’s colleagues took up a collection to send him to Paris, and in 1928, friends and help from the Saskatchewan government got him to the Amsterdam Games, where he won a bronze medal for Canada.

Jim Trifunov, courtesy of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame

Jim Trifunov, courtesy of the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame

“For each of his three Olympic appearances,” says the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (CSHF), “he had to take his annual two-week holiday plus an additional four weeks leave from [his job at] the Regina Leader Post. In 1936, the Leader Post sent him to Winnipeg for two weeks to help with the administration of the Free Press.”

Those two weeks became 57 years and Uncle Jim became an active leader in Winnipeg’s amateur sport community. He started off with the Winnipeg Y.M.C.A. wrestling club, then coached at the University of Winnipeg. From then on, his list of accomplishments grew out of his love of sport:

  • President of the Manitoba Wrestling Association for 25 years;
  • Director of the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association;
  • Director of the Winnipeg Y.M.C.A.;
  • President of the Winnipeg Bowling Association (1950-52);
  • Chairman of the boxing and wrestling committee of the Canadian Amateur Athletic Union (1952-1960);
  • Coach for the Canadian wrestling teams at the 1952, 1956, and 1960 Olympic Games;
  • Team Manager for the Canadian wrestling teams at the British Empire Games (1954) and the British Commonwealth Games (1970) where his wrestlers won nine medals in ten weight classes;
  • Inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1960);
  • Inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame (1966);
  • Chairman of the Manitoba Boxing and Wrestling Commission;
  • Diploma of Honour International Amateur Wrestling Federation (1976);
  • Inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame (1981);
  • Founding Director of the Manitoba Sports Federation;
  • Chairman of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame & Museum Inc.;
  • Member of the Order of Canada (1982).

Respect 

“Jim Trifunov was the President of the Hall of Fame when they hired me as Executive Director back in 1990, so I knew your great-uncle fairly well,” says Rick Brownlee, Sport Heritage Manager at Sport Manitoba“Jim was a role model who taught me what a solid work ethic could accomplish, what a few kind words could do to encourage, and what a firm handshake meant.”

“He just happened to be the most energetic octogenarian I had ever met.”

Uncle Jim was a true gentleman, polite, friendly, and always neat in a jacket and tie. My family remembers him fondly as a kind, happy, generous man, the kind of man who could carry on a conversation with anyone, and a man who loved to be with family. He was an absolute delight.

My brother remembers him as a gentleman of a by-gone era who taught him the difference between Greco-Roman wrestling and the campy 1970s Western Canadian Stampede Wrestling (that bore the Hart brothers).

“When I was seven, we went through the Sears Christmas Wish List catalogue to see what I would buy with one million dollars,” Danny says, “It stopped at about $100.00 when I got bored of it. He thought it was great fun.”

Jim Trifunov, courtesy of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame & Museum Inc.

Jim Trifunov, courtesy of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame & Museum Inc.

Though I didn’t get to see much of Uncle Jim as I got older, he continued to do amazing things for sport, wrestling, and for the people of Manitoba. The CSHF explains that Jim “worked tirelessly to achieve a permanent home for the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, which opened five days before his death.”

When we finally cut the ribbon to open his dream of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame Museum in 1993,” Rick Brownlee recalls, “Jim as wheelchair-bound and a shell of his former self. But he cut the ceremonial ribbon nonetheless and I saw a spark in his eyes that day that I had not seen for quite a while.”

Jim Trifunov changed the face of Canadian amateur sport and built a foundation for future athletes with a passion I had never imagined. I’m fortunate to have known him, if only for a brief time, and the memory of his spark still brings a smile to my face.

The Sting, among other things

6 Feb

I was lucky enough to see Susan Claassen’s wonderful A Conversation with Edith Head in Toronto last month. Ms Claassen’s 90-minute near-monologue was impressive, as was learning of Ms Head’s costume design work on over 1100 films. What really struck me, the men’s image consultant in love with men’s clothes, was that Edith Head, winner of seven other Oscars for dressing the most talented and glamorous actresses in Hollywood, named The Sting as her favourite costume work because she learned that she preferred dressing men to women (sounds familiar!). 

Oscar winning The Sting costume designs
Edith Head’s costume renderings for The Sting. Photo by Jason Hollywood. Used with permission.

Head was able to make her stars look flawless– “Accentuate the positive and camouflage the rest,” as she used to say. She had two men, the equivalent of today’s George Clooney and Brad Pitt to outfit in period costume, and I though I can’t imagine what would need camouflaging on Paul Newman or Robert Redford, Ms Head certainly accentuated the positive in these two actors.

Seen in the top rendering, Redford’s pinstriped suit nipped in at the waist compacts his torso and broadens his shoulders, boosting his masculine shape, and at right, note the photo of Paul Newman in the soft royal blue suit and dove grey hat playing up his brilliant blue eyes.

I watched The Sting last night and took note of the costumes which made me think of a quote from Savile Row tailor, Edward Sexton: “The man should wear the suit; the suit should never wear the man”. Similarly, Edith Head said, “My motto is that the audience should notice the actors, not the clothes.”

If you are part of the audience who didn’t notice the clothes, let me take you on a brief walk through the character, the costumes, and the celebration of the period, filled with timeless visual symbols and signs of gentlemanly demeanour.

The Sting

The time is 1936 in Joliet, Illinois. The first scene begins with a shot of a pair of fancy two-tone shoes walking past down-and-out men lying on the dusty sidewalk. The man in the shoes walks up the fire escape of a building into a busy gambling den– our first suggestion that despite the country’s Depression, there is money to be made and those who make it, dress fine.

The Sting

The man in the two-tone shoes is conned out of $11,000 by three men, one of whom is small-time con artist, Johnny Hooker (Redford), scruffy in his dust-coloured unmatched trousers and jacket, and tie-less shirt. The first costumes we see strike the contrast between small and big-time crooks.

The Set-Up

By the time Hooker meets up with Henry Gondorff (Newman) in Chicago to do the “Big Con” and swindle crime boss, Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), out of half a million dollars, they’re getting their gang together to create a theatre of success and wealth in a fake betting club. Each new gang recruit is told to “go grab yourself a suit”. And so the set-up begins.

1930-era silk tie available at Kingpin's Hideaway.

1930-era silk tie available at Kingpin’s Hideaway.

High-rollers wear shiny shoes and three-piece suits with loud, short, wide silk ties. Hooker, the young and eager up-and-coming con-man, needs grooming, and we watch his metamorphosis from small-time grifter to big-roller. Gondorff takes him to a barber shop for a shave, a haircut and a manicure, then to a tailor who fits a high-waisted navy pinstriped suit with peak lapels and matching waistcoat with a short colourful silk tie.  This silhouette, especially in pinstripes, elongates Redford’s legs and exaggerates his masculine V shape, giving him added visual appeal and at the same time, reflecting his character’s youth, its impatience, and its folly.

Snap-together composite and mother-of-pearl cuff links available at Kingpin's Hideaway.

Snap-together composite and mother-of-pearl cuff links available at Kingpin’s Hideaway.

We watch the rest of Gondorff’s gang transform into “men of wealth” with the addition of pocket hankies, spats, shiny two-tone shoes, tie pins, French cuffs and cuff links; starched collars, braces, walking sticks, and gloves to their already fancy suits and waistcoats.

“Not only do these men look more the part by dressing dapper, they’re more confident,” says Jonathan Hagey at Kingpin’s Hideaway, a men’s vintage shop in Toronto, “They carry themselves with more authority and create the illusion that they are well-to-do types.”

When Gondorff’s gang changes from small-time to big-time, it isn’t only their wardrobe that changes, but their behaviour as well. When Gondorff first meets Lonnegan at a poker game, he wants to fool Lonnegan into thinking he’s an inexperienced and foolish card player. He bursts in, smelling of gin, and says, “Sorry I’m late, I was taking a crap.” Lonnegan has little patience for the unrefined dress of the crass newcomer. “This is a gentleman’s game and a tie is required,” he says sternly.

Though the gang plays it as close to Lonnegan’s look as they can, not all the details are the same. Enter the costumer’s insinuation of character.

Charles Dierkop, Robert Redford, and Robert Shaw.

Have a look at the above screen shot and notice the difference in lapel widths and shapes. During this period, lapels were high and often peaked. Redford, the “hero/hunk”, has rounded and upward pointing peaks on lapels in proportion to his body and suggestive of his young age but Shaw, the “villain” is always seen in wide, exaggerated lapels with straight, pointed peaks. In this shot, Shaw looks larger than the other two and particularly devilish with his sharp, massive lapels and waxed moustache.

The Aftermath

The Sting won seven of eleven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and of course, Best Costume Design, but this doesn’t come without some dispute. Edith Head is fabled to have been a little ruthless in her career path, not giving credit where credit was due. In fact, she was sued by the costume illustrator who said it was she who actually designed Newman and Redford’s costumes (source), but I can’t seem to find the outcome of that lawsuit, so I can’t say if it’s true. 

What I do know is that when Edith Head, the most celebrated costume designer in Hollywood history, accepted her Oscar for best costume design for The Sting, she flitted onto the stage in her signature dark glasses and short bangs, in a long white dress with a matching black-trimmed vest.

“Just imagine dressing the two handsomest men in the world, and then getting this!” she said, holding out her award. Her joy and pride in the project cannot be disputed; it is a wonderful film on every level, and tells the story of elegant and ageless gentlemen’s dress and behaviour.

For those of you stylish and confident enough to blend 1930s elegance into your wardrobe, here are more period goodies from Kingpin’s Hideaway:

Dove grey beaver fur fedora.

Dove grey beaver fur fedora.

Two-tone leather spectator / correspondents shoes.

Two-tone leather spectator / correspondents shoes.

Grey double breasted wool jacket with oxblood pinstripe.

Grey double-breasted wool jacket with oxblood pinstripe.

The Beatles + Savile Row? Yes!

9 Jan
On the 1969 album, Abbey Road, three of four Beatles wore Tommy Nutter suits.

On the 1969 album, Abbey Road, three of four Beatles wore Tommy Nutter suits.

Part two of our Savile Row series has links to a well-loved and heavily-influential band that shaped our modern musical world – The Beatles.

Back in the day, the “I buried Paul” phrase heard at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever” claimed by conspiracy theorists to mean that Paul McCartney was dead, was supported by the image of Paul walking in bare feet across Abbey Road outside of Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles recorded. The idea was that John, in white, symbolized the preacher, Ringo in black, the undertaker or a mourner, Paul, presumed deceased (with a secret imposter taking his place in life and in the studio) in bare feet, and George in hard-wearing denim, the gravedigger.

Complete crap, of course. It turns out that the three of the four Beatles wore Tommy Nutter suits, the rebel tailor of Savile Row.

(Have a look at this interesting page with a short video about the famous cross walk, or “zebra crossing”.)

Nutter, together with his expert cutter, Edward Sexton, opened the influential Nutters of Savile Row in 1969. Nutter’s was a solid symbol of Swinging London – the shop had financial backing from singer Cilla Black (who also worked with Beatles producer George Martin and recorded in Abbey Road studios) and her husband Bobby Willis, who happened to be the Managing Director of the Beatles’ Apple Corps, Peter Brown, board member of Apple Corps and a one-time assistant to Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, and lawyer, James Vallance-White.

“Tommy was a one-man revolution, single-handedly responsible for introducing fashion to Savile Row, whilst committing the equally audacious act of inviting the fairer sex to share a world that had previously been the preserve of gentlemen.” (Source)

Nutter and Sexton were famous for their modern bespoke suits with wide lapels, and flared jackets nipped in a the waist, with accompanying flared trousers in bold colours and patterns that catered to posh businessmen and rock stars. Timothy Everest, then a young man who apprenticed with Nutter interviewed with The Arbuturian, said, “Tommy was very good at articulating to a new audience what bespoke was all about.” 

Nice, but their clientele, especially during the late 60s, were unpredictable even at the upscale Mayfair address: “Tommy came to work one morning to find John Lennon and Yoko Ono standing naked in his shop window, and was later called over to Apple Studios to hear Hey Jude before it was released. “Paul and John asked him what he thought and he said it was a load of sh*t.”” 

Location, location, location

Carnaby Street, the leader of Swinging Sixties fashion was just a few blocks away from Savile Row. Carnaby Street was wildly popular among young people, offering cool mod gear by designers like Mary Quant in shops like Lord John. These young, hip, up-to-the-minute disposable fashions were quite different from the quality of the Savile Row tailors, but times were changing, and so were the neighbours.

The Beatles took over 3 Savile Row in 1969, setting up the offices of Apple Corps, each Beatle taking his own office in the five-storey building, a former gentleman’s club. It was here, or rather, the roof of #3 that became the stage for their final live performance and the Let It Be film that came of it.

For an excellent account of the day and the performance, see this link on the Beatles Bible webpage, and enjoy the music, recorded on the roof of Apple Corps, shocking bespoke-wearing business men and delighting fans who climbed up on their own roofs to see and hear this fantastic spectacle!

PS – Paul kicked off his shoes before walking on the zebra crossing because that day in August was warm

Liberace!

20 Jun

My grandmother loved Liberace. liberace1

He was on TV a lot when I was a kid in the 70s, and every time he was on a variety show,  she would sit glued to the set.

She loved his sparkling costumes, the jewelry, the furs, and of course, his ivory-tinkling (he was an extremely talented pianist).  I don’t remember her talking about him so I never got to find out what it was about this rouged and sequined piano player that drew her attention so much.

But when I was in high school, I had a grand-daughterly deja vu with a flamboyant musician myself, so I understood where she was coming from.

I immediately fell in love when I heard Culture Club’s Time (Clock of the Heart) on the radio in 1981, and for the next few years, I had Boy George’s face plastered all over my bedroom walls. There was something about him that I was hopelessly drawn to – his individuality, his creativity, and the courage to be himself. But surely, I was attracted to him, he was a man after all… but something was amiss.

My love of Boy George confused me, just like my grandmother’s attraction to Liberace – we both had rigid gender roles stuffed down our throats, and any behaviour that strayed from what was “normal” for men and for women was suspect – illegal, in fact, during my grandmother’s era – but these were entertainers and they were allowed to be a little “eccentric”.

Though publicly closeted, Liberace was the first gay man to have his own TV show, he starred in movies, he was raking in $50,000 a week at the Riviera in Las Vegas, and he sold millions and millions of records. Women adored him.

He wore outrageous costumes for a man a the time – hell, even for a woman at the time – and I wonder if his female fan following had to do with a mutual love of glitz and girlish glamour.

Liberace red cape

The American Fashion Foundation called him the best-dressed man in show business back in the day,  and apparently, our  Mr. Showmanship  modeled himself after 19th century Bavarian King Ludwig II,  a suspected gay man and patron of Wagner. To me, Liberace was more like a fabulous, flamboyant papal drag queen complete with dainty gold slippers and flowing robes.

Liberace’s tremendous wealth enabled him to surround himself in homes decorated in Rococo style, high-end cars, and custom-made pianos. He wore the most elaborate, heavily sequined, plumed, and embroidered costumes, encrusted with diamond buttons and pounds of Swarovski rhinestones. Even his shoes were custom-made to match his outfits.

Detail of a Liberace costume – hand-sewn sequins and beading

He was a costume designer’s dream and commissioned a new wardrobe every year. In a 1982 interview, Michael Travis, Liberace’s costume designer during the late 70s and early 80s,  said of Liberace, “There’s nothing he will not do. He’s very flexible.”

The article describes Liberace’s most expensive outfit ever – a $300,000, 137-pound shimmering fox fur with a 16-foot train worn over a bejeweled tuxedo valued at $50,000.

“Every time he plays to a new audience he wants to see what he can shock them with,” Travis said.

And shock he did, much to the delight of his femme-heavy fan base.

Cape inspired by Botticelli’s Birth of Venus?

People don’t realize how Liberace inspired many entertainers of our modern era. I can see how he may have inspired Prince who liked to wear ruffled shirts under sequined satin suits and heeled boots. Rob Lowe, who plays Dr. Jack  Startz,  Liberace’s plastic surgeon, in the 2013 HBO special, Behind the Candelabra, says of Liberace,  “He invented bling. Like the rappers of today wouldn’t be wearing or doing anything of what they’re doing without Liberace first.”

He was a true original and fantastically talented man who sadly denied his sexuality to his grave. It is through him that my grandmother’s gaydar found its glow, and I am pleased to have inherited it.

Happy Pride 2013!

Liberace links:

This short TIME video will make you smile.

Interview with Behind the Candelabra costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick.

Take a virtual tour of the (now closed) Liberace museum in Las Vegas. 

Learn about the sets, props, and costumes from the 2013 HBO special, Behind the Candelabra, in this video.