Laughter Upwind

Something about perfume attracts people who love the beautiful and who are often quite serious about it.

But there’s this thing about beauty;  it’s just not as much fun as-  well,  fun.

Think about it.  Even Garbo, that queen of movie stills, had to open up, crinkle her perfect nose and laugh to give Depression era audiences a good time.

If you can conjure the genies of sexuality (Femme Rochas), sensuality (Miller Harris L’Air de Rien), ambiguity (Guerlain- Jicky;  Mick Jagger wore it, QED), wickedness (Caron’s Narcisse Noir), beauty (Guerlain Chamade), melancholy (Guerlain L’Heure Bleue), reverie,(Chanel Bel Respiro) sleepiness ( de Nicolai Cologne Sologne), heat (Dior’s Fahrenheit), cold (Hermes, Terre d’Hermes) clubbing at three a.m. in Paris (Kurkidjian Absolue Pour Le Soir), then why, oh why can’t you cram a laugh into a bottle?

The answer, in a word, is spontaneity. That incomprehensible magic that makes things, people and places come alive in a whirl of charm is given to few people and few things.  It’s the reason why we love our favorite comedians as much as we do.  A beauty may delight the eye, but we soon get bored of her sitting cross legged on her marble plinth filing her nails. We’re all out looking not just for a good time, but for the time of our lives, and the people who give this to us are rare and unpredictable. Same with perfume, it’s pretty hard to bottle a great party, but if you could, how much money would you rake in?

How many have I come across in all the years I’ve been smelling perfume?  Not many.  Beauty is nothing by comparison. I can reel off the names of dozens of gorgeous perfume compositions – but fun?  That’s hard.

One that does actually make me smirk is not new, but is to my mind a prank on the business end of an atomizer: Fifi Chachnil.  It’s such a ridiculosity of a pink foo-foo bottle in which there is a sweet vanilla amber perfume sloshing about. Fifi is almost as much of a cliché as that bottle until you hit the dry-down and…wait for it… it’s a cigar!   You thought you were such a girl and surprise, surprise, surprise! You turn out to be a middle aged man with a paunch and a Havana in that bubblegum pink peignoir.

Fifi is, in short a cross dressing moment designed to ambush the unwary general public.

It’s cute effort, but no cigar in my opinion. Then there are perfumes that actually mimic euphoria.  Joy does until you hit the civet that’s scattered on runway like a box of nails, and that tends to bring Joy back down to earth before it achieves lift off, until that moment though, Joy is well named.

Similarly the big fruity umbrella that shoots up every time you spray Badgely Mischka is perfume as silly fun, being the kind of umbrella you’d unfurl if you worked on a unicycle for Barnum and Bailey, but then you’re left gripping a thin umbrella stick of a dry-down in the middle of a tight rope run, pedaling for dear life. Most of the brilliant ebullience of the formula is dissipated, and the whole ridiculous thing just loses its momentum with you still perched on it.  What the hey, though, you knew that what goes up comes down before you got the rainbow wig on.

Chanel 22 has always struck me as being a bit of a party girl.  Along with Caron’s Royal Bain de Champagne, it evokes those evenings when there’s no curfew and no shortage of bubbly.  At its best, and when it works on your skin, it’s  an impromptu drag race between two fishtailing Rolls with empty Bollinger bottles clinking about your feet.

In short, a P.G. Wodehouse plot in liquid solution. If Chanel No.22 doesn’t work on you, alternatively, it can smell as ghastly as all that champagne tossed back up on the Rolls’ carpeting.

By contrast something like Gucci Rush, more or less created for clubbing seems rather thin and staid, standing on the curb and  priggishly pointing at its wrist watch.

But then, as we know, perfume is a serious business.

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4 Responses to Laughter Upwind

  1. Mals86 says:

    Oh, this post was delightful fun!

    No. 22 – though I do lurve me some aldehydes – is dreadful on me. Dreadful. Just dreadful. It’s as if I ate a spoonful of sugar and can feel the grains crunching between my teeth. Hideous. And not nearly as fun as a tipsy limo drag race, much less Wodehouse.

    Fifi, though, was a laugh and a half. Fifi struck me as being a Very Naughty Girl – a Wild West saloon gal making the bedsprings squeak with a sweaty cowboy who rolls his own smokes.

    The first (1999, Calice Becker-composed) Ines de la Fressange is a mimosas-and-cheese-puffs party on The Lawn at UVa, with 40 of your best college friends ca. 1988, respendently clad in Laura Ashley print dresses and kitten heels, or the “fraternity uniform” (khakis, white button-down, blue blazer, repp tie), depending on gender. With lashings of gossip and flirtation. It always makes me feel both cheerful and nostalgic. Those were fun times…

    • Blacknall Allen says:

      You know, my sister feels the same way about all Chanels. She says they are too “high pitched” and make her want to shake her head and howl. Fifi to me is simply Groucho Marx in drag, but I’m glad that someone else has a sexier mental image than mine. And the original Ines de la Fressange I’ve never smelled. Love the image of a UVa (my father’s alma mater, as it happens) party, it does sound like a really good time!

      • Mals86 says:

        I generally get along very well with Chanels (and aldehydes), so I don’t understand why No. 22 is so awful for me.

        Groucho Marx in drag is simply terrifying.

        I thought of a few more fun ones: PdN Vanille Tonka is a drunken romp (rum, of course) with a cute pirate through a forest of giant carnations. Delightful. And SL Jeux de Peau made me laugh too. If it were priced like a Demeter, or a Smell Bent, I’d have me some already.

        • Blacknall Allen says:

          Rum is very Vanille Tonka, and I’m really up for a romp through the carnations. Can the pirate be Johnny Depp?
          Then my sister in law will want to come along too.
          The rum and no fooling in PdN is Juste Un Reve. It was absolutely tropical, and absolutely boozy, and quite leathery, I loved it, and right on schedule, they reformulated. OOh!

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