Archives for : March1954

Cowboy Pink Is The New Black

There was a light wind in the air that signaled the beginning of spring. I opened the back door, propped it, and took a few more drags from my cigarette. The kids were up and dressing, Steve was still shaving, and I took a moment to enjoy the air. It has been a long winter, and I was ready for a little sunshine, warm air, and color on my cheeks and legs. I am so pasty at this point every year that none of my makeup looks right. The wide gashes of blush on my pale cheeks remind me of a silent film star trying hard to look young. Maybe this spring I’ll work on updating my look so that I project a more youthful style. My girlfriends are all about the same age as I am and they are starting to act stodgy. I might have to call the Sassy Sisters, Marylou and Marysue, to choose some flattering colors to use when making up my face. I’m still hooked on that red lipstick they sold me on their last visit, and I should buy a backup tube anyway.
After breakfast, everyone left and I was able to get down to my daily chores. I noticed that my nail color had chipped and made a mental note to reapply a pretty shade this afternoon. I chatted with Sarah during my second cup of coffee. She was supposed to host the next card party, and we were discussing a possible theme. Sarah has a lovely home, but she has bouts of shyness, and does not show off for anyone. She is my role model on how to treat others but my mind just can’t think as nicely as hers about others. I’ll continue striving but I’m not sure it’s in my personality. She is never catty; I like to add my sarcastic two cents from time to time. Maybe more than two cents. Sarah decided on a flowery theme to welcome spring. It would be easy to carry out and had lots of choices. I suggested that we all wear a hand-made Easter bonnet. Mind you, I’m not particularly crafty. The occasional popsicle raft made with the kids or pot holder made on a loom were my specialties. Sarah liked the idea about the hats.
The day before the card party, Sarah called Mags to discuss whether Sarah should move forward with her planned card party the following day. Sarah said that Roger was taking the day off to oversee the new in-ground pool that he was having dug in the backyard. He thought the ground was finally thawed enough to start and wanted to get it completed before summer. Sarah told Mags that there would be heavy equipment noises that would certainly disturb them while they played cards and talked. Mags offered to let Sarah use her house and called everyone to let them know about the change in plans.
On card party day, I went across the street to help set up a little early. My hat was mildly disturbing in its ugliness. The kids had helped me by gluing extra buttons, glitter, and small pieces of felt to an old hat base. I couldn’t manage to stop them from their tacky creative ways without sounding like a mean old mommy and knew that the other mothers probably had the same dilemma when they made their bonnets. Mags gasped and then laughed when she saw it and asked if she could trade hers for mine so that she could wear the monstrosity. I sensed that she knew that the ugliest hat would probably get the most attention, and gladly accepted her offer. Mags had secured a few lines of “ric rac” to the top of a previously lovely cloche which fit my head perfectly. The ugly hat was a size too small for Mags and it sat off one side of her head. Sarah had made a lovely bonnet with delicate flowers ringing the edge. This was going to be one weird party. Judy Anne arrived with a dainty spray of flowers on one side of her head and Gail created a masterpiece of embellished roses on top of a hat she may have worn about five years ago. My older hats were always sent to the attic or the dress-up box for the kids. We giggled and laughed at Mags wearing the worst hat and sat down to play cards.
Since Sarah was technically the hostess, she didn’t get in on every game and spent her time keeping up the drinks and food. She had masterfully set a beautiful table using some of her own silver and matched it with some from Mags. I looked up and saw her watching something intently out the window. Her gaze followed a moving vehicle and thought maybe she was looking at the equipment heading to her house. Without moving her eyes off the window, she asked Mags if she was expecting a visitor. Mags laughed and replied that she wouldn’t be wearing this particular hat if she were expecting visitors other than us. The doorbell rang, we all stopped playing, and Mags rose to open the front door. When the door swung completely open it was difficult to see exactly who it was, but I guessed based on the silhouette in the sunshine and the strangled sound from Mags that announced the name, Brooke. Baby sister had arrived!
Topped with a stunningly wide brimmed hat for 1954, Brooke stood in the doorway. Her elegant suit must have been custom-made since it fit every curve perfectly. She had a lovely stole wrapped over her shoulders, and dark glasses shaded her eyes. The pumps were dyed the same lovely shade as the suit. There was no expression on her face when she saw Mags, but Mags sure looked shocked. While Mags regained her composure, Sarah invited Brooke in and we all stared at the scene that was playing out right in front of us. There we sat, in our homemade hats, playing cards, eating sugary treats, and drinking. We probably epitomized the essence of the suburbs. I got up and greeted Brooke, letting her know that Mags had spoken about her life and career in LA. Mags seemed to be recovering from the shock and asked Brooke to come in and sit down. Sarah ran to get a drink for Brooke, stopped in her tracks, turned back around, and asked Brooke if she would like a cocktail. A sultry yes was the only response. I guess baby sister was going to drink what we were having that afternoon, Stingers. The coincidence seemed ironic. Brooke glided over to the sofa and floated down to her seat. I was trying to guess what shade of pink her suit was when she looked straight at me and said “cowboy.” The name fit the color perfectly since the color wasn’t girly at all and was really quite dangerous-looking. We all sat down around Brooke and left a place for Mags. Sarah brought in the cocktail and handed it to Brooke. She took a sip and removed her dark glasses. Yep, Mags was right, she was stunning. Gorgeous large pearl earrings rested on her lobes and there was a multi-strand at her neck. She gracefully put down her drink and opened her bag to take out a gleaming cigarette case. I wondered if I should be taking notes on her moves so I could steal them later.
Mags grabbed her own drink glass, sat down next to Brooke, removed a cigarette from the coffee table case, and lit it with the antique lighter that she displays next to it. Brooke pulled out a long cigarette holder, placed the cigarette in the holder, and lit it with the same lighter. We all continued to stare. Mags had not yet given us the green light to start asking questions. The awful hat was still on Mags’ head, and Brooke glanced up at it. Mags asked Brooke if Brooke liked her new hat. There was a stifled giggle from Gail and Mags shot her a quiet look that kept her from giggling again. Mags and Brooke sat side by side on the sofa smoking and watching each other. It seemed a long time until Brooke broke the silence by asking what game we were playing. I understood from her facial response that it wasn’t her chosen card game. Brooke asked if we were up to a game of poker. Mags answered that she was in and looked at me. I had been practicing with Steve each week and thought perhaps I could do okay. Really, how much of card shark could little Brooke be? Gail and Judy Anne answered that they would watch and Sarah strangely answered a little loudly that she would deal first. My head whipped back to look at Sarah. Sarah knows how to play poker? Quiet, sweet Sarah? What was our world coming to?
Brooke kept on her hat, as did Mags, but Brooke removed the stole. We sat down at the card table, and Sarah shuffled the cards and started dealing. The afternoon flew by, hand after hand. Mags unboxed match sticks for us to use for betting and there were varying sizes of piles of sticks in front of each of us. Sarah had the largest since she had somehow won most of the hands. Gail and Judy Anne kept the Stingers coming and the afternoon sun signaled the need for most of us to return home. Generally, at the end of each card party we lounge around from the after effects of the booze. I noticed that everyone still sat up and used their good manners with Brooke in our midst. Gail finally asked Brooke if she was staying for a visit, and Brooke looked directly at Mags. Mags answered for Brooke and told us that she could stay “as long as she chose.”
We all left Sarah, Mags, and Brooke so Mags and Sarah could clean up. Mags told me that she would call me in the morning. As I left, I saw Brooke’s car parked in front of the house. It was a shiny red convertible. This was going to be a good visit.


Little Sister

Mags has always had a wonderful style. I describe her manner of dressing, accessorizing, and living as chic and sophisticated. Her clothing choices are well tailored, on trend, but lean toward conservative. Not surprising with a busy social calendar and a banker husband. She never airs dirty laundry unless we’re gossiping about a friend, does not speak inappropriately around people whom she does not know well, and is pleasant to cashiers, kids, and store clerks. My infatuation with the lip color that she wears is well documented and I am working on my tendency to stare at her to copy her good attributes. Good thing that she’s my best friend or she might contact the authorities.

Last week, we were sitting having a second cup of coffee together and comparing laundry soap choices. Mags calmly mentioned that her younger sister might visit some day soon. The fact that Mags has a younger sister has never even come up before, and I was speechless. It was a little like finding out that there was a relative in the family tree that no one talked about due to some embarrassing social issue. Of course, I turned and stared at her with my mouth wide-open and repeated “younger sister” with surprise. I have no knack for hiding my true feelings from her. Mags gave me a look back that communicated her disinterest in talking about her sister, sighed deeply, and shared the goods.

Little sister Brook had left for California immediately upon graduating from high school, presumably seeking sunshine, fame and fortune. Isn’t that why everyone went west? Brook sent back postcards from Los Angeles from time to time to relieve the growing concern of their parents but never came home for a visit. Mags’ parents sent money and even offered to pay for any travel plans if Brook wanted to come home, but the offer was never accepted. Brook had lived in LA for a few years now and the family accepted her choice.

A month or two ago, Mags and Harold went to a swanky hotel in LA for a banker’s conference. Mags spent her days shopping and enjoying the sunshine, and Harold took her out for extravagant meals at night. One evening, they sat together in the dimly lit clubby bar at the hotel. Mags saw a familiar face across the room but couldn’t place the person. She told me that she nearly dropped her martini glass when she realized that the woman she was staring at was her sister, Brook. Brook was having cocktails with a larger group of mixed company. Mags sent a note over to her with the waiter. Twenty minutes later, Brook approached the table where Mags and Harold sat. They watched her walk across the room. Mags said that her response was a lot like mine when she surprised me earlier. Brook was definitely taller, well heeled, and expensively dressed. Her makeup was perfect and she had long cascading glossy waves of hair gently resting on a small fox thrown casually around her shoulders. Mags said that the fur bothered her a little because it wasn’t even cold in LA. Brook slid into the booth next to Mags. Mags leaned in to kiss her sister and Brook offered her cheek. Mags kissed the air somewhere near the side of Brook’s face. No surprise registered on Brook’s face at seeing her older sister so far from home. In fact, Mags said that Brook seemed slightly bored as Mags began to bubble over with excitement. Harold tamed the excitement by gently squeezing Mags’ leg under the table, and Mags sat back to take a look at Brook. Mags realized that she understood this type of control; Mags even admired it as a form of maturity. She sensed a slight nervousness under the surface but appreciated her sister in a new light. Brook was stunning up close, even glamorous. After two more rounds of martinis, the truth started to pour out.

Brook told Mags that she had struggled a little when she first arrived in California. She had worked as a cigarette girl, did some “gal Friday” assignments, and hosted at a few nightclubs. She liked the nightlife and felt drawn to the smoky fun of the after-hours world. Her break came while working as a hostess at the Crystal Cove, a moderately swanky dinner club that had a big band and featured female singers. Brook had even shared a small flat with another singer by the name of Karoleen Knight. Karoleen was a “professional entertainer” and they became good friends over discussions about the lack of good men, how to get ahead in the world, secret dreams to travel to unknown places, and creating cool decor out of useless trash. Karoleen showed Brook how to wire a lamp using a discarded pipe and they co-designed a shade covered in feathers for it. Karoleen had sparkly doodads all over their apartment and if you opened up the drawers in the dinette, you would find pieces of fabric and trim that she had squirreled away for some future project. They half-heartedly talked about going into business together and wanted to call their store “Trash to Treasures.” Brook helped Karoleen practice her performance songs, they listened to the record player, and sang along to the radio while they made their crafts. Karoleen had champagne taste on a ginger ale budget and bought sparkly, shiny dresses to wear on stage. Karoleen liked how the light reflected off of her dress when the stage lights fell on her. She often performed a solo due to audience requests. This made some of the other entertainers jealous, but Karoleen was the “real deal” and Brook often commented to her that she was right on the edge of being discovered.

One night, Karoleen let Brook borrow a sparkly dress to wear while she worked as a hostess. Brook went back to the dressing room to visit the singers before the show and found them discussing how to fool Big Ed, the manager. One of the other singers had laryngitis, so the others were going to sing her solos for her. Unfortunately, Big Ed overheard the discussion and fired the singer on the spot. Big Ed took one look at Brook and asked her if she knew how to sing. Karoleen answered yes for Brook, and the rest is history. Karoleen was ultimately responsible for Brook’s future success. Brook continued to fill in and a lucky talent agent heard her one night. He talked her into signing with him and got her lots of gigs at the local clubs. Brook changed her name to Brooke Langhorne and started to appear at larger clubs. Brook, or Brooke as she was known now, was starting to get small well-chosen parts in movies and had appeared on many radio shows. Brooke had transformed herself into a glam thinking-man’s bombshell. Mags was pretty proud when she described her. They had a lovely evening talking over the old days and Mags invited Brooke to come and visit whenever she had time.

I was silent for a few minutes while I took in the whole story. Mags had a baby sister, from LA, who was a real-life movie star, wore furs when it was warm, and drank martinis in a darkened bar. My life paled by comparison, but I couldn’t wait for baby sister’s upcoming visit.