BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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The Price of Illusion exposes flaws in the life of luxury

A popular song from 1969, Where Do You Go To My Lovely (click here to listen) by Peter Sarstedt played in a steady loop in my brain as I was reading The Price of Illusion, a memoir by Joan Juliet Buck:

“You talk like Marlène Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair, yes there are

You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard Saint-Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do. . . ”

Joan Juliet Buck. Been there; done it; got the Chanel bag.

That song, although written long before Joan Juliet Buck embraced the lifestyle it describes, could have been her life. The Price of Illusion, a memoir by the former editor of Paris Vogue is a fascinating read. The story of her childhood drags a bit in the beginning but picks up when she becomes a young woman and begins her peripatetic transcontinental life. Buck was the silver spoon only child of Hollywood producer Jules Buck who was responsible for such memorable films as Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye Mr. Chips starring newly discovered Peter O’Toole. She lived a transcontinental lifestyle in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles, spending much of her childhood in Ireland at the home of her godfather, John Huston. There, she formed a life-long friendship with his daughter Angelica.

Moving in such illustrious circles obviously positions her to name-drop many famous people in the worlds of entertainment, politics and business. At first I found this off-putting but soon I was enjoying the rare first-hand insights into a world of wealth, glamour and superficiality. I learned the high life is not all glamour and glory. While Buck was an enthusiastic participant in all forms of pleasure, her highest highs were achieved while overseeing the rebirth of Paris Vogue from its traditional, staid format to a more edgy, avant garde publication. Under her stewardship in the nineties, the magazine doubled its readership and appeal.

Paris Vogue presented itself as being all things representative of French women.

Buck is an excellent writer and her brutal honesty combine to produce a wonderful read. I was halfway through the book before reaching her Vogue years but it was worth the wait. Being close friends with such icons as Yves St. Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Charlotte Rampling, Lauren Bacall and Angelica Huston, Buck transports us into worlds we would otherwise never be able to access. Like any human being, her life is composed of extreme highs and correspondingly debilitating lows. When she was sabotaged by a business associate at Paris Vogue and sent to rehab on false charges of addiction, her life unravelled. Losing her job along with its corresponding salary and benefits meant she could no longer support her ailing father. No matter how charmed one’s life may seem, no one escapes pain, loss or disappointment, even the privileged.

The Price of Illusion is obviously the story of a woman who lived most of her life in a superficial haze of privilege. As a life-long journal keeper and a keen observer of human nature, Joan Juliet Buck treats us to a view of the glamorous life that undoes many of our misconceptions. Her recollections and challenges along the way make for a fascinating read. As someone retired from the corporate world, I found the business and political challenges she encountered along the way to be particularly interesting, especially since I plan to be a magazine editor in my next life. Although I was unsure I would enjoy the book when I first began reading, I was soon swept up in the excitement of a life lived in realms beyond what any ordinary person would ever experience. And, ultimately, that’s the essence and joy of reading. I escaped into another world and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.

To order The Price of Illusion by Joan Juliet Buck from Amazon, click here.

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Fashion . . . are we in or are we out?

Diane Keaton. My style inspiration.

In my mind’s eye I have the quirky fashion panache of Diane Keaton, the adorable personality of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, the casual savoir faire of the mature Lauren Hutton and the smarts of Samantha Bee. In reality, there’s a significant spread between what I am and what I would like to be. Let’s just say my fashion style is more aspirational than inspirational. In reality, I resemble the hapless middle-aged lady from the television commercial who falls off her exercise ball or crashes down from the pole as she attempts the latest dance moves. In my attempts to remain current and relevant, will I ever get it exactly right?

Perhaps my frequent missteps are the result of fashion magazine overload a.k.a. fake news for gullible boomers. In our efforts to remain au courant, we sometimes misinterpret what works and what doesn’t work. Obviously, no one since Caroline Bisset Kennedy (late wife of the late John Jr.) has been able to successfully pull off a slip dress. And now the fashionistas are telling me all I have to do is pop a saucy little tee shirt under it, pair it up with some strappy sandals and I’m all set to go? Or that a one-shouldered pin-striped blouse with acres of ruffles across the front and on the single sleeve will qualify me for the eternal hall of fashion shame? Both looks are too horrifying to even contemplate and I really don’t want my picture circulating on the internet’s “Seen shopping at Walmart”. . . again!

Some things that may look great on supermodels are not quite as successful on real-life boomers.

I don’t need to paint a picture of what boomer gals would look like in a spaghetti-strapped mini length sun dress or, conversely, an oversized chunky knit boyfriend sweater with a cowl neck the size of a tractor tire. Spare me the embarrassment of trying to wear wasp-waisted sailor pants, a tube dress or the agony of five-inch platform heels. It’ll be a frosty day in hell before I expose my saggy knees in ripped three-hundred dollar designer jeans or my sun-damaged décolletage in sheer, gauzy plunging necklines. Rompers and jumpsuits don’t even warrant discussion. I have a drawer full of fabulous leather belts that will never again see the light of day. But I hang on to them in case I get lucky and acquire a parasite that causes me to lose twenty pounds and the return of my long-departed waistline. Haircuts are predicated on making the most of a losing (literally) game.

Despite the challenges, I keep subscribing to fashion magazines and poring over their ridiculously Photoshopped glossy pages in the vain hope they might feature something boomer women can confidently strut out in. We may not be the chicest or the trendiest nor may we ever be short-listed for the Best Dressed list, but most of us have finally found our groove despite being a demographic that is completely ignored by the fashion industry. It’s more about personal style than wearing what’s the latest fashion.

I think the best we boomer gals can hope for is a little bit “in” and not too much “out” sprinkled with a dash of fun and originality. Walking a balanced line of fashionably stylish and stylishly comfortable suits me just fine. And if I manage to capture even a teeny slice of Diane Keaton’s style, then I’ll count myself “in”. In the meantime, I think I’m talking myself into those weird silver earrings I saw yesterday but didn’t have the nerve to buy. Yes?

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Visit Paris with Jojo Moyes

When I read best-selling Me Before You by British author Jojo Moyes last year, I enjoyed it although I can’t say it was one of my favourite books. I thought it was a bit over-rated. When I came across Paris For One and Other Stories by the same author I couldn’t resist—anything with Paris in the title automatically goes on my ‘to read’ list.

The main character Nell is a twenty-something single Londoner with a lost-cause boyfriend and a boring life. Controlled by an overriding sense of caution about everything in her life, she decides to venture outside her comfort zone. With a bonus she earned at work, she impulsively books two tickets on the Eurostar train for a romantic weekend in Paris for her and her boyfriend. When he stands her up, she finds herself for the first time in her life in the city of light, frightened at the prospect of nothing to do for three days. Tempted to return immediately to London, she decides to confront her fears and steps out on her own. As a reluctant single woman eating alone in a Paris café,  she soon eases into the life of food, wine and new experiences.

The story has a happy ending despite bumps along the way. For anyone who likes to read romantic fiction, this book is a winner. Even the number of pages (188 on my e-reader) conforms with the fictional romance novella formula. To be fair though, I’m not a fan of romantic fiction and I didn’t even finish the “Other Stories”. . I’m just glad I read it from the library and didn’t pay good money for it. However, if you enjoy romantic fiction, you’ll enjoy Paris For One & Other Stories.

To order Paris for One & Other Stories by Jojo Moyes from Amazon.com, click here.

To order Me Before You by Jojo Moyes from Amazon.com, click here.

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Life in Russia is complex beyond words

It’s so satisfying to become engrossed in a big fat book you really enjoy. The Patriots by Russian-born author Sana Krasikov more than satisfied my current passion for historical fiction by Russian authors. The main character Florence Fein is a Jewish intellectual who grew up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1930s. Educated and adventuresome, Florence becomes enamoured with communist philosophy while working for a left-wing organization when she finishes college. After falling in love with a Russian engineer visiting on a state-sponsored mission, she sets sail for Russia in hopes of finding him and building a new life in the land of her naive dreams.

Rejected by her Russian lover, Florence moves on and her language skills allow her to work in her new country. Despite the hardships endured by common working people like Florence during the Stalin years, she embraces her new culture and pursues her ideals. The story moves back and forth between her early years in Russia and the year 2008 when her American son and grandson are confronted with the consequences of her choices.

The story provides an informed look inside the daily lives of ordinary Russian citizens under Stalin. The purges, deprivations and injustices force people to live in a state of constant fear. The slightest infraction or even perceived misinterpretation of ever-changing philosophy could result in imprisonment in a labour camp in Siberia, or more likely death. Florence tries vainly to play by the rules. She marries, has a child and works at whatever job she is given in order to maintain a degree of equilibrium in her life. Despite intermittent spells of homesickness, she remains loyal to the communist ideology, even after the government confiscates her American passport and she becomes an unwilling Soviet citizen.

Like many multi-generational sagas, the story circles from Moscow back to New York where her son and his family choose to immigrate as a result of being denied his doctoral degree because of quotas against Jews. Florence is a complicated woman, made more so by the challenges of trying to stay alive and live a simple life in Russia. It’s difficult for North Americans to imagine living under the pressures and stresses of a society built around intimidation, constant surveillance, corruption and lies (although we’re learning). The plot of the story is fascinating in itself, but the psychological examination of the characters adds an even deeper layer to the narrative. As much as I loved the book, I was sorry to finish and leave behind the characters in whom I’d become so invested. I highly recommend The Patriots. I’d give it a nine out of ten.

To order The Patriots by Sana Krasikov from Amazon, click here.

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How many e-readers are too many?

To E or not to E?

At the present time, in addition to being a voracious reader of hardcopy books, magazines and newspapers, I juggle several e-readers to meet my daily needs. Just like computer nerds who have multiple monitors flashing with activity on their desks, it takes several devices to satisfy my lust for the written word. The rationale compares to having multiple pairs of black shoes or a variety of purses (Boomer women can relate). Sometimes you like the comfy rubber soled walkers and other times you prefer the stack-em high stilettos that forsake comfort and performance for attitude.

I’ve been known to shoot smart phone users the evil eye as they thumb their devices in the company of friends at lunch or dinner. I’ve indiscreetly suggested that friends leave them in their purses when we’re lunching or catching up over a cup of tea. I rarely use my own cell phone and quickly become impatient with people who are constantly fiddling with theirs. But try to separate me from my iPad and I’d immediately suffer the DTs. I must confess, though, that I still prefer to read the newspaper in old-fashioned hard copy spread out on my kitchen table. With so many newspapers, magazines and other print publications being threatened with extinction, we have a responsibility to support print publication as much as possible. I’m certainly doing my bit with eighteen subscriptions per month.

Some British mags are just too delicious to wait for the hard copy, so e-subscriptions fit the bill

Since reading is my favourite thing in the world to do, I have totally embraced the digital world which offers unlimited access to nearly every word ever written. As the owner of two Kindles, two iPads and one Kobo I’m always just arm’s length from accessing my current library book, reference book or favourite British magazine that takes too long to reach our shores in hard copy.

A friend recently emailed to ask my opinion on the best e-reader as he was contemplating buying one. Since I’ve owned five, he felt I was somewhat qualified to have an informed opinion. My answer was the iPad mini because of its light weight and versatility. But that’s subjective and I certainly don’t want to diminish the merits and joy of reading on Kindle, Kobo or old-fashioned hardcover books. It’s just that e-readers have greatly reduced my burgeoning inventory of books needing literal shelf space and have saved me a ton of money by downloading from the public library or on-line retailers. E-readers are unbeatable for loading up several books when traveling. They’re convenient for carrying in your purse for a quick read while gobbling a burger and fries at Five Guys, or while getting a pedicure. There are so many options available. Take your pick but I highly recommend picking at least one. The way I read it, the more the merrier.

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Boomer girls just wanna look good

We can still rock it.

A couple of weeks ago I introduced Boomerbroadcast followers to a great fashion website and Facebook page for our demographic—Susan After Sixty. I’ve now found a couple more that I think you would enjoy:

Style At A Certain Age

Style Your Way to Success Over 50

The fashion mags continue to ignore our age group so I’m always delighted when I find fashion sites that offer some inspiration for those of us who aren’t stick thin and six feet tall. Most of us have finally figured out what does and does not flatter our particular body shape and that doesn’t necessarily involve elastic waists and granny prints. Personally, I’m always attracted to animal prints and anything with an abundance of tough-looking zippers going every which way. Remember the book “Color Me Beautiful” written thirty years ago by Carole Jackson? We all had our colours done and thereafter adhered to its dictum according to whether we were a Summer, Autumn, Winter or Spring. That advice stayed with me (I’m a “Summer”) although who doesn’t stray and occasionally strut out in the gorgeous saturated colours accorded to the “Winters”.

Who wouldn’t opt for fabulous over frumpy.

Our generation has always loved fashion and clothes. We invented mini-skirts and platform shoes in the sixties. We dropped our hemlines to maxi length with knee-high boots in the seventies and piled our shoulder pads three-deep to look executive in our power suits during the eighties. Boomers gals now have a few bucks to spend on looking great and we still enjoy it. With the dearth of inspiration out there, I’m hoping you’ll enjoy these sites. You can bookmark them, follow their website or friend them on Facebook. You’ll find lots of great ideas for your Pinterest files. Personal fashion choices are somewhat subjective but there are plenty of wonderful options to inspire. Here are the links.

Susan Street’s Susan After Sixty

Linda Waldon’s Style Your Way To Success Over 50

Beth Djalali’s Style At A Certain Age

Save them and have fun.

To order Color Me Beautiful by Carole Jackson from Amazon, click here

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The Sense of an Ending ends with a twist

How would you react to receiving a letter or other communication from someone you were intimate with in the swinging sixties or early seventies and lost track of decades ago? And what if that communication required a face-to-face meeting, after all these years? Imagine the emotions that would be ignited. That intriguing premise is the basis for a book by Julian Barnes called The Sense of an Ending. What prompted me to read the book was a review in The New York Times. The reviewer was so impressed with the story that as soon as he finished, he immediately started at the beginning to read it again. I can’t say that was my response but I did enjoy it enormously.

At around two hundred pages, The Sense of an Ending is a quick, easy read. When I first started reading, the main character, Anthony Webster reminded me of Holden Caulfield. The story begins in the early sixties with the friendship of three schoolboys in England whose dynamic is altered by the later introduction of a fourth boy, Adrian. When they go off to different universities, they maintain a tentative friendship but their lives naturally begin to follow divergent paths. We follow Tony Webster’s journey through the changes generated early in the sexual revolution. We observe his struggles and confusion with “the meaning of life” which was a popular concern of boomers. Then, suddenly, he’s in his seventies and receives a solicitor’s letter informing him he’s been named as the beneficiary of a minor settlement in the will of the mother of an old girlfriend from university.

The emotional struggles, the mystery surrounding the endowment and the confrontations that result profoundly affect Tony Webster’s entire philosophy of life. I won’t divulge the plot and its twists as I really think you should experience the book first-hand. Baby boomers will relate to the subtleties of morals, ambitions and social relationships we experienced and will find the book particularly interesting. But it’s also a kind of mystery story with a plot twist that makes the entire book worth reading.

Click here to order The Sense of an Ending from Amazon.com

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