Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Josephine Baker joins French Pantheon of the great
Issued on: 30/11/2021 - 08:46
Modified: 30/11/2021 - 08:44
Baker's adopted country is honouring her 46 years after her death
Paris (AFP) – French-American dancer, singer, actress and rights activist Josephine Baker will become the first black woman to enter France's Pantheon mausoleum of revered historical figures on Tuesday, nearly half a century after her death.
Baker will be just the sixth woman to be honoured in the secular temple to the "great men" of the French Republic, which sits on a hill in Paris's Left Bank.
She will also be the first entertainer to be immortalised alongside the likes of Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Marie Curie.
The "pantheonisation" of the world's first black female superstar caps years of campaigning by Baker's family and admirers to give her the rare posthumous honour.
President Emmanuel Macron granted the request in August to recognise the fact that Baker's "whole life was dedicated to the twin quest for liberty and justice," his office said last week.
Baker is buried in Monaco, where her body will remain.
During Tuesday's ceremony a coffin containing handfuls of earth from four places where she lived -- the US city of St. Louis where she was born; Paris; the Chateau de Milandes where she lived in southwest France; and Monaco -- will be placed in the tomb reserved for her in the Pantheon's crypt.
The coffin will be carried into the building by members of the French air force, commemorating her role in the French Resistance during World War II.
- Born into poverty -
Macron will deliver a speech and some of Baker's relatives will read short texts written by the trailblazing performer.
Baker's name will also soon be added to the name of the Gaite metro station next to the Bobino theatre in southern Paris, where she last appeared on stage a few days before her death in 1975.
Born Freda Josephine McDonald into extreme poverty in Missouri in 1906, Baker left school at 13.
After two failed marriages -- she took the name Baker from her second husband -- she managed to land herself a place in one of the first all-black musicals on Broadway in 1921.
Like many black American artists at the time, she moved to France to escape racial segregation back home.
One of the defining moments of her career came when she danced the Charleston at the Folies Bergere cabaret hall wearing only a string of pearls and a skirt made of rubber bananas, in a sensational send-up of colonial fantasies about black women.
'France made me'
The performance marked the start of a long love affair between France and the free-spirited style icon, who took French nationality in 1937.
At the outbreak of World War II, she joined the Resistance against Nazi Germany, becoming a lieutenant in the French air force's female auxiliary corps.
She also became a spy for France's wartime leader-in-exile General Charles de Gaulle, obtaining information on Italian leader Benito Mussolini and sending reports to London hidden in her music sheets in invisible ink.
"France made me who I am," she said later. "Parisians gave me everything... I am prepared to give them my life."
She also waged a fight against discrimination, adopting 12 children from different ethnic backgrounds to form a "rainbow" family at her chateau in the Dordogne region.
She died on April 12, 1975, aged 68, from a brain haemorrhage, days after a final smash-hit cabaret show in Paris celebrating her half-century on the stage.
She is the second woman to be entered by Macron into the Pantheon, after former minister Simone Veil, who survived the Holocaust to fight for abortion rights and European unity.
In a sign of the universal affection in which Baker is still held in France, there was no public criticism of the decision to honour her, including from far-right commentators that are generally scathing of anti-racism gestures.
Sunday, 28 November 2021
ABOUT ETON, SEE ALSO:
The History of Pop Society
Photo by Rhubarb & Custard
Pop, more properly known as The Eton society and reserved for elite prefects, has been known to include the most charming and popular students, with such members as Prince William, Boris Johnson and Eddie Redmayne in their ranks.
Founded in 1811 as a debating society, Pop originally went by the name “Popina”, from the Latin “Cook Shop” which is where the boys used to meet. In its prime, it was the ultimate networking tool and could open the most incredible doors. Over the years its power and privileges have grown.
Historically, Pop was predominantly filled with athletes rather than intellectuals, their justification being that you had to stand out through your leadership qualities.
The rules were altered in 1987 and again in 2005 so that the new intake are not elected solely by the existing year and a committee of masters. Members of Pop are entitled to wear checked spongebag trousers and a waistcoat of their own design, which means football shirts, team crests, national flags, fluorescent colours, Hermes scarves and even sequins are not uncommon. As one former member of Pop put it "your mother's old evening gown, or a bit of old curtain"
Historically, only members of Pop were entitled to furl their umbrellas or sit on the wall on the Long Walk, in front of the main building. However, this tradition has died out. They perform roles at many of the routine events of the school year, including school plays, parents' evenings and other official events. Pop: officially known as 'Eton Society', a highly glamorous high-status elite society comprising the most popular, well-regarded, confident and able senior boys. It is thus truly an elite within an elite. It is a driving ambition of many capable Eton schoolboys to be elected to Pop, and many high-performers who are refused entry to this elite consider their careers at Eton a failure. Boris Johnson was a member of Pop, whilst David Cameron (unlike his elder brother Alexander) failed to be elected, a fact which possibly fed their later political rivalry. Over the years its power and privileges have grown. Pop is the oldest self-electing society at Eton. The rules were altered in 1987 and again in 2005 so that the new intake are not elected solely by the existing year and a committee of masters. Members of Pop wear white and black houndstooth-checked trousers, a starched stick-up collar and white bow-tie, and are entitled to wear flamboyant waistcoats, often of their own design. Historically, only members of Pop were entitled to furl their umbrellas or sit on the wall on the Long Walk, in front of the main building. However, this tradition has died out. They perform roles at many of the routine events of the school year, including School Plays, parents' evenings and other official events, and generally maintain order. Notable ex-members of Pop include Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (unlike his younger brother Prince Harry, who failed to be elected); Eddie Redmayne; and Boris Johnson.
A very exclusive club called pop
ETON is the most elite school in Britain – and its sixth form society is even more selective...
By BILL COLES
00:00, Thu, Mar 17, 2011
Members of Pop are permitted to wear any waistcoat they please
They are, without a shadow of a doubt, the world’s gaudiest prefects – and when I was a callow 17-year-old it was one of my very slight regrets that I was never elected a member of Eton College’s most prestigious club. The Eton Society – or Pop as it’s known – this year celebrates its 200th anniversary and though Prince William and his uncle Earl Spencer will both have been invited to the £250-a-head party in its honour, I will sadly not be among their number.
As ever, it seems as if all the rankand- file Etonians have been left out on the street, peering in through the windows to catch a glimpse of our old prefects making merry round the fireside. At first glance Pop looks like nothing more than a very posh sixth form club. But Eton (with fees of £30,000 a year) is still regarded by many as the top elite school in the country – one that has provided 19 prime ministers (not least our current one) as well as old boys ranging from George Orwell and James Bond author Ian Fleming to Boris Johnson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. And if Eton is an educational elite then Pop is an even smaller elite within it – one that elects its own members, who form not just an exclusive network but one that doesn’t always admit the members you might expect.
Mr Cameron, for instance, was not a Popper – so at least I’m in good company. Not that I’d ever have wanted to join the clubbable chaps in Pop; I was far too obstreperous and cheeky for that. But their uniform, on the other hand… well they looked like peacocks strutting among a horde of black crows and to a stripling teenager it all seemed rather exotic. Here, in full, was the uniform of an Eton Popper: a black tailcoat with braid piping; spongebag trousers in a houndstooth check; and a starched wing collar with a white (hand-tied) bow tie.
The uniform would usually be capped off with a thick cow-lick of hair, spit-polished black lace-ups pickers), plus a gardenia or a rose in the button-hole. While the rest of us schoolboys had been shoe-horned into grubby black waistcoats the Poppers were allowed to wear any waistcoat they pleased. least a dozen and you can only imagine the glorious oneupmanship that was involved.
I remember waistcoats of green leather, waistcoats spangled with Pearly King buttons, and even a hideous fur electric pink number. Prince William, when he was a Popper, tended towards the staid and I believe his most daring outfit was a patriotic Union Jack. To all intents and purposes the Poppers don exactly the same sort of clothes that the gentlemen will be wearing at next month’s royal wedding – though having been in tails for at least four years a Popper can carry off the look with much more ease than the chaps who’ve hired their kit from Moss Bros.
Once you realise the sheer showiness of the Pop uniform it is all too easy to understand how David Cameron came to be quite so enamoured with the Bullingdon Club at Oxford. For, if he had been elected into Pop he might never had quite such an urge to dress like a foppish Bullingdon blue-blood (though London Mayor Boris Johnson was in both Pop and the Bullingdon Club). Within Eton, Pop was a self-electing club for the sports stars, which certainly did not include me, and the hearty good guys. There were about25 of them and they were charged with keeping the 1,300 other boys for such misdemeanours as not being properly dressed, or even “socking” (eating) in the street.
I still recall how, when I was 13, an enormous Popper accosted me in the street for not wearing any cuff links. “Have a pound in my room by lock‑up,” he told me. Ostensibly all this loot went to charity, though doubtless the Poppers were just using it for extra beer money at the school pub, Tap. Speaking to contemporaries who were members, one is struck by the fact that while Pop is exclusive it does not necessarily bother itself with the most opulent surroundings. “The Poppers had one room which was quite fusty but it did have a huge television,” said one.
“It was a bit like a St James’s club in that boys were put up for election but if there was a single blackball against them then they weren’t in. Things have changed more recently and now the Eton masters have a right of veto. You probably don’t get quite so many bad eggs. “When a boy got elected into Pop we’d all charge round to his house making a lot of noise. His room might be trashed and he’d usually end up in the bath covered in beans, spaghetti, eggs and whatever else we could find in his locker.
Pop was predominantly filled with sports buffs and swells and that’s still pretty accurate to this day. It appeals to people who like to dress up as a peacock.” Pop was founded in 1811 and it was originally a debating society and had the name “Popina”, from the Latin for “Tea-Shop” which is where the boys used to meet. In its heyday Pop was the ultimate networking tool and could open the most incredible doors. One can even see Pop’s shadow hanging over Prime Minister Harold Macmillan when he culled half his cabinet during “The Night of the Long Knives” in the late Fifties.
It’s said that Macmillan sacked half his friends from Pop – only to replace them with the other half. Fagging at Eton is now a distant memory but in my time in the Eighties a Popper could fag off any boy on the street, sending him off to do any chore he pleased. I still remember my outrage when a Popper took offence at my smirking face and sent me to Windsor to buy him a postcard for his mother. Another extraordinary aspect of the society was that 50 years ago Poppers were empowered to deliver a “Pop tan” – where reprobate boys would be flogged by every member of Pop.
One of the more famous recipients of such a beating was the late tycoon Sir James Goldsmith. I was told: “Even when he was quite young Jimmy Goldsmith was very precocious. He’d think nothing of going up to London to place bets on races and often he’d place bets for other boys too. Word got out that he’d been welching on the junior boys and he was given a Pop tan. I know – because my father was one of the Poppers who caned him.”
He added: “One of the strangethings about Pop is that it never goes away. You find it cropping up in a lot of Etonians’ obituaries. These are people who may well have won VCs or who are captains of industry – and yet for some reason the fact that they were a member of Pop is seen to be on a par with anything else that they’ve done.” It will be interesting to see who turns out for Pop’s 200th anniversary this summer. It’s being held at Fellows’ Eyot, a field next to the Thames – though at £250 a head I hope they’ll be drinking the very best of the college wine cellar.
There’s no chance of an invite for me though I have been invited to talk to Eton’s Literary Society next week. I’ll be having dinner with some enthused boys and also my favourite master (still there 30 years later)! There won’t be a Popper in sight. And I know which dinner I’d rather attend.
Bill Coles was at Eton from 1978 to 1982. He was in the same year as Boris Johnson, Earl Spencer, fraudster Darius Guppy and Thai Prime Minister Mark Vejjajiva.
Friday, 26 November 2021
The Cowen Commando Jacket has been developed from an original wartime design customised by Barbour on behalf of one if its favourite British Army customers. The original was returned many times to Barbours Customer Services department for re-waxing, adaptations and numerous pocket additions, and saw service in the Falklands and the Gulf before being retired to the Barbour archives. It was then that its potential for Civvies Street was spotted. In medium weight wax, with re-enforced shoulder pads and many pockets this contemporary wax jacket is finished with the ultimate badge of pride, the Union Jack.
BARBOUR COWEN COMMANDO WAX JACKET
As a quintessentially British label created with the outdoors in mind, Barbour jackets have a long history of being worn by the armed forces. The brand’s military heritage forms the basis for the brand new “Commando” collection which takes its name from the iconic Cowen Commando jacket that has been a mainstay of the Barbour collection since the 1990’s.
The Cowen Commando returns in its classic military waxed style – featuring shoulder epaulettes and camo features throughout. The jacket has been slimmed down for SS ’15 and also features the new collection branding throughout. This promises to be a must have style for the coming season – combining Barbour’s classic sage colourway with a vibrant camo detailing throughout.
Although the jacket was released as part of Barbour’s collection in the 90’s – it was first created for the military during the Second World War; the exact details of this story are hush hush however many have suggested it was created on the orders of Walter “Tich” Cowan, who served in both the first and second world wars and singlehandedly took on an Italian tank crew aged 70!
Whatever the source of this style, there’s no doubt that it is here to stay. Look out for the new Commando collection arriving very soon – all pieces pay homage to their British roots and feature a tonal Union Jack badge as well as the classic Barbour branding.
Wednesday, 24 November 2021
The Men's Fashion Book:
Phaidon Editors with an Introduction by Jacob Gallagher
About the book
‘Is this the chicest coffee-table book ever printed? Quite possibly.’ – Financial Times, How To Spend It
The first-ever authoritative A–Z celebration of the 500 greatest names in men’s fashion – 200 years of men’s style through the work of designers, brands, photographers, icons, models, retailers, tailors, and stylists around the globe
The Men's Fashion Book is an unparalleled A–Z deep-dive into the people and brands that have produced and inspired the most memorable looks in menswear – and are advancing today’s renaissance in men’s clothing and style.
Created in collaboration with Jacob Gallagher, men’s fashion editor at Off Duty for the Wall Street Journal, this stunning book with its striking cover design and red and black marker ribbons, documents more than two centuries of men’s fashion, bringing its history to life through iconic, inspirational images, from traditional suits to streetwear, and beyond.
Inside this ground-breaking book you’ll find approximately 130 designers, 100 brands, 70 icons, 40 photographers, 40 footwear and accessory designers, 30 retailers, 25 stylists, editors, and writers, 20 tailors, 15 publications, 15 models, and 10 illustrators, as well as art directors, influencers, milliners, and textile designers. Arranged alphabetically, the 500 entries spotlight living legends such as Giorgio Armani and Paul Smith alongside today’s most innovative creatives, including Ozwald Boateng, Alessandro Michele, Kim Jones, and Virgil Abloh, and cutting-edge brands such as Bode, Sacai, and Supreme.
Following in the footsteps of Phaidon’s globally acclaimed and bestselling The Fashion Book, this is the most comprehensive guide to the men’s fashion world ever published.
How do Kristen Stewart’s Chanel ensembles in Spencer compare to Diana, Princess of Wales’s real life wardrobe?
Tatler investigates the fashion behind the film
By Chandler Tregaskes
17 November 2021
There are many similarities between Kristen Stewart and Diana, Princess of Wales. They’re both breathtaking beauties with a penchant for short blonde hair, they share pioneering attitudes towards fashion, and most importantly, they’re both Chanel girls.
Diana often opted for ultra-chic skirt sets from the French luxury house in pastels and bouclé accompanied by her trusted quilted 2.55 bag. Stewart is the current poster girl, wearing an impeccable exclusively Chanel wardrobe for the worldwide press tour. It comes as no surprise then that costume designer Jacqueline Durran would collaborate with the house for Stewart’s on-screen portrayal too.
Given access to the extensive archives of the historic house, Durran was able to recreate the same glamour that Diana breathed effortlessly. Focusing on photos between 1988 and 1992 for inspiration, Durran called on Chanel’s bold shoulders, oversized lapels and gold buttons from the era to resurrect the unparalleled chic of the late princess.
Unlike how The Crown only admitted it was fictional after backlash from Buckingham Palace, Spencer was clear that it was a fictional reimagining from the outset. This allows for some creative license when styling K-Stew, however, any portrayal of the People’s Princess is destined to be picked apart from sovereign style sleuths and historical accuracy hounds looking for any slip up to pounce on.
Despite this, the wardrobe in the new film is divine. Positively brimming with vintage Chanel, any fashion fan will rejoice in the delectable designs of yesteryear. See below Kristen Stewart's Diana portrayals, and their original counterparts. The jury is out.
Monday, 22 November 2021
The Beatles: Get Back
The Beatles: Get Back is an upcoming three-part documentary series directed and produced by Peter Jackson. It covers the making of the Beatles' 1970 album Let It Be, which had the working title of Get Back, and draws from material originally captured for Michael Lindsay-Hogg's 1970 documentary of the album. Conceived originally as a feature film, each episode of The Beatles: Get Back is about two hours in length, making up a total of six hours.
Jackson characterised The Beatles: Get Back as "a documentary about a documentary". Commentators have described it as challenging longtime beliefs that the making of Let It Be was marked entirely by tensions between the Beatles, showing a more upbeat side of the production. It will premiere on Disney+ consecutively on 25, 26 and 27 November 2021.
Production of The Beatles: Get Back employed film restoration techniques developed for Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old. Over 55 hours of footage and 140 hours of audio stemming from the original Let It Be film project were made available to Jackson's team. In reference to the long-reported acrimony surrounding the original Get Back project, Jackson wrote in a press statement that he was "relieved to discover the reality is very different to the myth ... Sure, there's moments of drama – but none of the discord this project has long been associated with."
Jackson spent around four years in a darkened suite editing the series. It was created with cooperation from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and the widows of John Lennon (Yoko Ono) and George Harrison (Olivia Harrison), as well as music supervisor Giles Martin (son of George Martin and a regular producer of Beatles projects since 2006). In a news release, McCartney said: "I am really happy that Peter has delved into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about the Beatles recording together", while Starr echoed: "There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the Let It Be film that came out [in 1970]. There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that."
The final cut covers 21 days in the studio with the Beatles as they rehearse for a forthcoming album, concert and film project, and climaxes with the full 42-minute rooftop concert. Jackson described the series as "a documentary about a documentary", as well as a "tougher" one than Let It Be, since it includes controversial events such as Harrison's brief resignation from the band, which the original film had not covered. With the exception of specific shots where no alternative exists, most of the material that had been featured in Let It Be was not reused in Get Back, and the series primarily used footage captured from alternative camera angles in the case of sequences shared between the two works. According to Jackson, this choice was made out of a desire to "not step on Let It Be's toes so that it is still a film that has a reason to exist, and our [series] will be a supplement to it".
Filmmakers convinced Disney+ to allow for swearing to be included in the documentary series. According to Jackson: "The Beatles are scouse boys and they freely swear but not in an aggressive or sexual way."
The project was announced on 30 January 2019, the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' rooftop concert. On 11 March 2020, The Walt Disney Studios announced they had acquired the worldwide distribution rights to Jackson's documentary, now titled The Beatles: Get Back. It was initially set to be released as a film by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures on 4 September 2020 in the United States and Canada, with a global release to follow. On 12 June 2020, it was pushed back to 27 August 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 17 June 2021, it was announced that The Beatles: Get Back would instead be released as a three-part documentary series on Disney+ on the Thanksgiving weekend of 25, 26 and 27 November 2021, with each episode being about two hours in length. On 16 November 2021, Paul McCartney attended the UK premiere of The Beatles: Get Back.
On 21 December 2020, a five-minute preview montage from the reproduced film, presented by Jackson, was released on YouTube and Disney+.The video features the band members dancing, doing impersonations, laughing, Lennon reading a newspaper article about Harrison's encounter with a photographer, as well as Lennon and McCartney "jokingly singing 'Two of Us' through gritted teeth". A one-minute clip of the film was released on YouTube on 12 November, containing a scene with the Beatles working on the song "I've Got a Feeling".
The release was preceded by the publication of a book of the same name – the first official book credited to the band since The Beatles Anthology (2000) – featuring an introduction by Hanif Kureishi. The book was initially scheduled for 31 August 2021 to coincide with the initial August release of the documentary, but was ultimately released on 12 October, ahead of the documentary.The documentary was also preceded by the release of a remixed, deluxe edition box set of the Let It Be album on October 15 by Apple Records.
Sunday, 21 November 2021
Saturday, 20 November 2021
Friday, 19 November 2021
Todd Snyder’s New Collaboration Is with Preppy Powerhouse J. Press Chris Rovzar 11:03 PM IST, 08 Nov 2021 11:19 PM IST, 08 Nov 2021 Save (Bloomberg) -- Fresh off the second collection he created in partnership with L.L. Bean, menswear designer Todd Snyder is doing another take on America’s preppy heritage. Catalogs that feature a new collaboration with tailoring emporium J. Press will hit mailb
Copyright © BloombergQuint
TODD SNYDER EMBRACES CLASSIC COLLEGIATE STYLE WITH J. PRESS COLLABORATION
PUBLISHED ON NOVEMBER 16, 2021
It may be time to survey your wardrobe and make room for new additions! Todd Snyder serves up another collection of irresistible classics for fall. This time around, the designer partners with J. Press.
Snyder offers J. Press a modern platform to appreciate its time-tested designs. Founded in 1902 by Jacobi Press, J. Press came to fruition on Yale University’s Connecticut campus. Since its founding, J. Press has served as a standard-bearer for Ivy League fashion.
The Sack Suit, the Boxy Chino, and the Shaggy Dog sweater, a Shetland design beloved by President John F. Kennedy and actor Cary Grant, were all pioneered by the company. To give these college essentials a contemporary spin, J. Press requested Todd Snyder partner with them.
“J. Press has always been a little under the radar, which makes them cool,” says Snyder. “So we took some of their iconic pieces and gave them a little attitude.” The designer adds, “And we took some of our styles like our chore coat and J. Press-ified them in Harris Tweed.”
Thursday, 18 November 2021
Tuesday, 16 November 2021
and scandalous end of the trashbag genre … Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani in
Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci.
Gaga, Gucci and prison ferrets: how true crime conquered the world
Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci stars Lady Gaga in a tale of fashion and murder. But is true crime – once the soul of cinema, from thrillers and horrors to westerns – now outgrowing the big screen?
Wed 17 Nov 2021 06.00 GMT
What took you so long, House of Gucci? This story was destined to become a movie from the moment the bullet left fashion heir Maurizio Gucci dead outside his Milan office in March 1995 – shot, a witness said, by a hitman with a “beautiful, clean hand”. The film by Ridley Scott now finally arrives dripping with star power, and Lady Gaga as Gucci’s ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani. But the story alone was enough: a glittering tickbox of money, revenge and a villainess kept company in jail by an illicit pet ferret called Bambi.
True crime gold. So why, now that the film is actually here, does the Gucci case feel a strange fit for a movie after all? Put it down to timing. The film’s development began in entertainment prehistory: 2006. Back then, a lavish movie was still the grand prize for any news story, and true crime – that trashbag genre – would simply be glad of the association. Now though, film and true crime have the air of an estranged couple. Had Maurizio Gucci been gunned down on Via Palestro last week, Netflix would already have the rights and the podcast would be on Spotify.
Such is how true crime conquered the world. The vast success of the 2014 podcast Serial remains the origin story, but the peak never seems to come. The genre has become bigger than the movies – made that way by an interlocking partnership with pods and streaming.
“When I started studying true crime, nobody took it seriously,” says New York writer Jean Murley, who in 2008 published The Rise of True Crime: 20th Century Murder and American Popular Culture. “Now it feels like the dominant form of pop culture storytelling. And I’m glad. I think it has a lot to tell us about ourselves.” It just probably wouldn’t tell us in a film. “True crime movies were definitely bigger in the past,” says Murley. “Media changes. We change.”
Yet the movies were there first. Consider the classics: Fritz Lang’s trailblazing M sprang out of real child murders; Psycho saw Hitchcock repurpose the grim Ed Gein case. Beyond individual milestones, the very stuff of film storytelling – gangster movies, horror, thrillers, westerns – all grew out of true crime. It is less a sub-genre than the soul of cinema.
The big-screen genre became a sliding scale, from sober documentary to the starry and scandalous. House of Gucci is the latter, of course – a bloody soap.Of course Jared Leto is involved, and already a meme in his velvet suit at the London premiere. The red carpet hijinks feel old-fangled too. At the higher end, true crime now carries itself differently. Stories may still focus on the wealthy and notorious – but only with a certain gravity of purpose.
Take The People v OJ Simpson, 2016’s acclaimed longform dramatisation. Stylistically, it had everything a series gives and a movie cannot. The breathing space of its running time, the episodic structure, room for breadcrumb-trail detail – all this came with streaming and TV, which are perfect for true crime. But there was also a question of tone. After Serial, a bar had been set, whatever the medium. If a project was going to reopen a famous old wound such as, say, the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson, it would also have to widen the lens, humanise the victim, contextualise everything. The mere crime could not be the only story.
Hollywood has always made money from a gun and a girl. The gun is glorified and the girl – the woman – is silent
For podcasts, the whole point has been the quotidian. Terrible murders, everyday victims. The lesson of movies such as M or Psycho – that monsters are among us so FFS roll the window up – now comes instead from Park Predators and Wine & Crime. The gulf is only made more pronounced by the low-tech of it all, millions of dollars away from the aggressive gloss of a Ridley Scott movie.
Still, plenty of true crime podcasts indulge in cinematic scene-setting. This American Life – the series from which Serial span-off – says it makes “movies for radio”. But the filmic touches feel less like homage than a cannibalising for parts.
Even a Hollywood crime story now becomes a podcast. Film-maker Vanessa Hope is the granddaughter of movie producer Walter Wanger and actor Joan Bennett, once a leading femme fatale. In 1951, suspecting an affair, Wanger shot his wife’s agent, Jennings Lang, in a Beverly Hills parking lot. This year, Hope told the story in a 10-part podcast, Love Is a Crime, with Jon Hamm and Zooey Deschanel playing her grandparents. To Hope, it made perfect sense that the project was not a movie. “Hollywood has always made money from a gun and a girl. The gun is glorified and the girl – the woman – is silent.” The very nature of film, she says, is wrong for the job. “A two-hour movie always reduces the full arc of people’s lives – and the person most reduced is the victim.”
A similar ripple of change has reached Britain. Last September, huge audiences watched Des, ITV’s three-part drama about the 1983 arrest of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen. Co-writer Luke Neal had been inspired by The People v OJ Simpson. “You start out thinking you’re watching to find out how OJ got away with it. And the brilliance is, he ends up a minor character. What keeps you there is the human cost.”
In Des, Neal created the same dynamic. “We watch these stories because we want to know who this person is who takes other people’s lives. In fact, he doesn’t matter. What does is the people whose lives he took. The problem with true crime is it wants to compete with fiction, so you end up with countless Ted Bundy movies. But real killers have no glamour. The truth isn’t Jamie Dornan in a sexy game of cat and mouse.”
Longform true crime upped the ante elsewhere too. Another landmark was The Jinx, Andrew Jarecki’s 2015 portrait of the US real estate heir and now convicted murderer Robert Durst. The finale featured a muttered confession, seemingly recorded by accident. How could a movie match that? (And who now remembers All Good Things, the Durst-inspired movie released by Jarecki five years earlier, starring a vague Ryan Gosling?)
The impulse to crack cases on air has been wired into the true crime podcast. That the results often end in a shrug is not a dealbreaker. Loose threads are simply picked up online. But for a Hollywood movie, uncertainty is death. The exception that proved the rule was David Fincher’s doubt-shrouded Zodiac, a box-office hit that inspired not a single rip-off. (Fincher then took his serial killer habit to Netflix with the sleekly titillating series Mindhunter.)
But true crime as live investigation is not the only new remit. Genre fans have always skewed female. Podcasts have only intensified that, and the result is a landscape of work made by women for women about – and this can seem an odd dynamic – women being murdered. There is an explanation. Social psychologist Amanda Vicary is a true crime fan with a professional interest. “My research,” she says, “shows that women like true crime when it gives them information about techniques to escape a killer.” If horror movies give our fear centres a harmless work-out, modern true crime has a bleakly practical purpose. “Women listen,” Vicary adds, “to find out what to do if they’re thrown in the trunk of a car.”
Of course, House of Gucci centres on a woman too. The Black Widow trope is as old as it is statistically improbable and commercially alluring. If the story overlaps with Killer Women With Piers Morgan, it is not the first film to draw a prestige male director to a real story of a woman accused. This year’s other major true crime-ish movie was Stillwater, with Tom McCarthy fictionalising the case of Amanda Knox, who was acquitted after four years in an Italian jail for murder. Knox herself went public with her distress.
House of Gucci has also drawn criticism from family members on various grounds: 1) violation of privacy; 2) Al Pacino’s rendering of patriarch Aldo Gucci (“fat, short, ugly”). But it would be a mistake to think the old hulk of movie true crime was the only problem. The whole genre still lives on ethical thin ice. The success may not be helping. This September, a giddy podcast-ish hubbub greeted the disappearance of American “vanlifer” Gabby Petito. It only grew louder when she was found to have been killed. Big True Crime was already at work. “When you turn on Hulu,” her mother, Nichole Schmidt, tweeted this month, “and your daughter’s story is the recommended show.”
Even lovers of the genre are also troubled by a fixation with one kind of victim. “True crime has never reflected the reality of murder,” Jean Murley says. “It’s almost a fantasy genre. Who gets killed in America? Disproportionately, it is young men of colour. But the quintessential true crime victim is a young, pretty, white woman. It’s very ritualised.” Murley will consider this and other matters in an updated version of her book. There is a lot to say about true crime in the 21st century.
Des writer Neal is optimistic – cautiously. “I do think true crime is changing,” he says. “And that’s good. It needs to. Because actually, life is not cheap.”
House of Gucci is released in UK cinemas on 26 November.
The Gucci wife and the hitman: fashion's darkest tale
When Patrizia Reggiani married Maurizio Gucci, they became one of Italy’s first celebrity power couples. But then he left her – and she had him murdered. Abigail Haworth unpicks an incredible tale of glamour, sex, betrayal, death and prison in the dizzying world of high fashion
Patrizia Reggiani perched on an armchair wearing a short, colourful dress and sunglasses
Death by design: Patrizia Reggiani had her husband Maurizio Gucci gunned down – a crime for which she would spend 16 years in prison. Photograph: Uli Weber/The Observer
Sun 24 Jul 2016 08.00 BST
Two years ago, not long after Patrizia Reggiani was released from prison, a camera crew from a trashy Italian TV show turned up unannounced at her Milan workplace. Reggiani had just spent 16 years inside after being convicted of arranging the murder, in March 1995, of her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci, the last of the Gucci family dynasty to run the luxury brand. The former socialite had always maintained her innocence – her best friend had set her up, she said – but the TV crew caught her in a reckless mood.
“Patrizia, why did you hire a hitman to kill Maurizio Gucci? Why didn’t you shoot him yourself?” badgered the reporter.
“My eyesight is not so good,” she lobbed back. “I didn’t want to miss.”
Understandably then, when I try to find her, Reggiani’s inner circle doesn’t seem keen to let her near another journalist. “She’s not here. She’s off work with a bad back,” says Alessandra Brunero, co-owner of Bozart, a Milanese costume jewellery firm that has employed Reggiani as a “design consultant” since April 2014.
Sentenced to 26 years on appeal, Reggiani was required to find a job as a condition of her parole. She turned down her first offer of release in 2011, according to the Italian press, because the very idea of working horrified her. “I’ve never worked in my life and I don’t intend to start now,” she told her lawyer.
Bozart, with its Renaissance-style premises full of sparkling necklaces and chandeliers, was obviously an acceptable compromise. Brunero and her business-partner husband have now become Reggiani’s de facto minders, tasked with ensuring the 67-year-old sticks to her parole and quietly rebuilds her life as a regular citizen.
Reggiani in court in 1998, her face impassive
‘I am a very strong person. I survived all the years in captivity’: Reggiani in court in 1998. Photograph: EPA
“Oh, mamma mia, it’s not easy,” says Brunero, a stylish 40-something. She invites me inside, and I get the impression she really needs to talk. “I cried after that TV interview. It was terrible,” she says, putting her head in her hands. “Naturally, Patrizia was only joking…”
Even before the impromptu “confession”, persuading Reggiani to remain low-key was a lost cause. One of her first acts of freedom was to go shopping on Via Monte Napoleone – Milan’s Bond Street – decked out in gaudy jewels and movie-star sunglasses, with a large pet macaw perched on her shoulder. The paparazzi couldn’t believe their luck. Lady Gucci, as she used to be known, was back.
The gunning down of 46-year-old Maurizio Gucci one morning in the red-carpeted foyer of his office, and the subsequent murder trial, captivated Italy in the late 1990s. It was sensational fin de siècle stuff. This was elegant Milan, not mob-riddled Naples, and execution-style killings of the city’s glamorous elite were unknown. Reggiani, dubbed the “Liz Taylor of luxury labels” in the 1970s and 80s, was an immediate suspect. She had openly threatened to kill Gucci after their split. But, without evidence, the crime went unsolved for nearly two years. A tip-off led to her arrest in 1997, along with four others, including the hitman.
I met Maurizio at a party and he fell madly in love with me. I was exciting and different
While the public loved it, the Gucci company was less enthralled. After decades of infighting among the heirs of the founder Guccio Gucci, the brand was no longer under family control. Maurizio, a grandson of Guccio who’d ousted his relatives from the business to become CEO in 1992, had been forced to sell his stake 18 months before he died. Ownership was taken over by Bahrain- based investment bank Investcorp. The murder coincided with a thrilling revival of the brand’s image in the mid-1990s under new boss Domenico De Sole and edgy young designer Tom Ford.
“The last thing Gucci wanted was a sordid scandal,” says Giusi Ferrè, a veteran Milan-based fashion writer and cultural critic with trademark spiky orange hair. “The company tried to ignore the whole drama and they wanted everyone else to ignore it, too.” The label’s continued rise over the past two decades has eclipsed memories of the murder even more. Gucci is currently on yet another high. Revenue is soaring, and androgynous new creative director Alessandro Michele recently turned Westminster Abbey into the most hallowed venue ever for his latest collection. Yet the amnesia is odd, because the saga has everything: glamour, greed, sex, death, betrayal, raging status anxiety. It probably says more about the primal allure of a name like Gucci than all the sales figures in the world.
After Reggiani was arrested, the media dubbed her Vedova Nera – the Black Widow – and touted all the stereotypical theories about her likely motives. She was jealous of Maurizio’s girlfriend, she wanted his money, she was bitter about his neglect, she was plain mad. If there is a grain of truth in any of these, there was also something deeper, too. “Everything Reggiani was stemmed from being a Gucci,” says Ferrè. “It was her whole identity, even as an ex-wife. She was furious with Maurizio for selling out.” Even after her release from prison, Reggiani couldn’t let go. She told La Repubblica newspaper in 2014 that, now she was available again, she hoped to return to the company fold. “They need me,” she said. “I still feel like a Gucci – in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”
Bozart’s owners relent a week later and agree to introduce me to Reggiani at their offices. She appears in their grand sitting room wearing a short floral dress. She is tiny, barely 5ft tall, although her enormous hair, now reddish brown, and nude high heels give her extra height. “That’s a lovely dress,” I say to break the ice. “It’s Zara. I don’t earn enough at this place to buy proper clothes,” she replies, throwing a disgruntled look at her hovering employers.
We sit down on matching white sofas to espressos and iced water, and I ask her about life in Milan’s San Vittore prison. “I think I am a very strong person because I survived all these years in captivity,” she says in the heavily accented English she picked up during her jet-setting days. “I slept a lot. I took care of my plants. I looked after Bambi, my pet ferret.” Bambi, she adds, was a special privilege negotiated by her lawyer, but the creature met a sticky end when a fellow inmate accidentally sat on him. “I don’t like to talk about this time at all,” she says, already keen to change the subject. “It is all a bad dream to me.” Reggiani won’t admit out loud that she was in prison, referring to her incarceration as “my stay at Vittore Residence.”
She relaxes more when we start to talk about the past. She was born in a small town outside Milan to a waitress and a much older man who made his fortune in trucking.
They were very rich, but not part of Milan’s high society. As a young woman she liked fine things – her father spoiled her with mink coats and fast cars – and she found her way on to the elite social circuit. “I met Maurizio at a party and he fell madly in love with me. I was exciting and different,” says Reggiani. The Guccis came from Florence so Maurizio also felt something of an outsider. “I didn’t think much of him at first. He was just the quiet boy whose teeth crossed over at the front.” Reggiani had other suitors, but the young Gucci chased her hard with all the riches at his disposal.
They married in 1972 when they were both around 24. The union caused a rift with Gucci’s father Rodolfo, one of Guccio Gucci’s sons, who disapproved of Reggiani’s background and, no doubt, her strong personality. Maurizio was an only child whose mother had died when he was five, and his father had always been overprotective.
“Maurizio felt free with me. We had fun, we were a team,” says Reggiani. Rodolfo softened after she gave birth to a daughter, Alessandra, and he could see that she “really loved Maurizio”. The elder Gucci bought the couple numerous properties, including a luxury penthouse in New York’s Olympic Tower. Early adopters of celebrity coupledom, the pair rode around Manhattan in a chauffeur-driven car with the personalised plate “Mauizia”. They hung out with Jackie Onassis and the Kennedy brood whenever they were all in town.
I was angry with Maurizio about many things. But losing the family business was stupid
“We were a beautiful couple and we had a beautiful life, of course,” says Reggiani, throwing her hands in the air and briefly leaving them there. “It still hurts to think about this.” She perks up when she remembers the lavish colour-themed parties she threw in the early 1980s – “one was all orange and yellow, including the food” – and the trips to private islands on their 64m wooden yacht, the Creole, which Maurizio bought to mark the birth of their second daughter, Allegra. (Worth millions, it is still owned and sailed by the couple’s two daughters). Their charmed world also included a ski chalet in Saint Moritz, a holiday home in Acapulco and a farm in Connecticut.
It all started to unravel after the death of Rodolfo in 1983, Reggiani says, when Maurizio inherited his father’s 50% stake in Gucci. “Maurizio got crazy. Until then I was his chief adviser about all Gucci matters. But he wanted to be the best, and he stopped listening to me.” The Gucci brand had been losing prestige from over-licensing its famed double-G logo and from mass production of canvas bags. Maurizio had a plan to restore it to high-end glory by reverting to the exquisite craftsmanship the company was built upon.
He fought for years with his uncle and cousins, who jointly owned the other half of the firm, until he pulled off a plot to buy them out with the help of Investcorp. The couple’s marriage imploded along the way. Apparently weary of Reggiani’s constant “meddling”, one evening Maurizio packed an overnight bag and left. Meanwhile, the company lost millions under his control. Reggiani had been right, at least, that Maurizio was mismanaging business and not creating enough revenue to execute his grand ideas. His personal fortune was dwindling and he was forced to sell Gucci wholly to Investcorp for $120m in 1993.
“I was angry with Maurizio about many, many things at that time,” says Reggiani. “But above all, this. Losing the family business. It was stupid. It was a failure. I was filled with rage, but there was nothing I could do.” She turns her head and drops her voice so low I can hardly hear her. “He shouldn’t have done that to me.”
Giuseppe Onorato was sweeping away leaves inside the arched doorway of Via Palestro 20, the graceful building where Maurizio Gucci had his private office, at 8:30am on 27 March 1995. “It was a lovely spring morning, very quiet,” says Onorato, now 71, the former building doorman and the only person who witnessed what occurred next. “Mr Gucci arrived carrying some magazines and said good morning. Then I saw a hand. It was a beautiful, clean hand, and it was pointing a gun.”
The gun fired three shots at Gucci’s back as he went up the steps, and a fourth into his head as he collapsed. “I thought it was a joke. Then the shooter saw me. He lifted the gun again and fired two more times. ‘What a shame,’ I thought. ‘This is how I die.’”
Reggiani couldn’t bear the thought of another woman taking the power, status and money she ‘had earned’
Onorato can’t remember how he made it to the foyer’s steps after he’d been shot twice in the arm, but he was sitting there in a pool of blood when the carabinieri arrived. “I was cradling Mr Gucci’s head. He died in my arms,” says the ex-doorman.
Speaking on the phone from Sardinia, where he has a small holiday house, Onorato still sounds incredulous that he survived. “I still have stabbing pains in my left arm, but every day for the past 21 years I’ve woken up thankful I’m alive.” The gunman vanished into Milan’s Monday morning rush hour. The aftermath wasn’t easy for the doorman.
As the only direct witness, Onorato was terrified that the killer would return. “I was a poor man, so I had to go back to work at Via Palestro 20 when I recovered. I had a panic attack every time an unfriendly looking stranger approached.”
After Reggiani’s conviction, the courts ordered her to pay Onorato compensation of the equivalent of roughly £142,000. He has yet to receive any of it, he says. Reggiani’s daughters, who are now in their late 30s and have always stuck by their mother (at least publicly), directly inherited Maurizio Gucci’s millions, as well as the yacht and properties in New York, Saint Moritz and Milan. Reggiani declared herself nullatenente – the Italian word for bankrupt, meaning “a person who has nothing”.
“I’m not bitter,” says Onorato, “but I do wonder, if a rich person had been wounded in that doorway instead of me, whether they’d have been treated with more respect.” He has a point. When, for instance, Gucci’s lawyers proposed a divorce settlement to Reggiani of £2.5m plus £650,000 per year, she rejected it as “a mere bowl of lentils” and landed a better deal.
Onorato isn’t the only person whose life was turned upside down by the murder. Paola Franchi, now 61, had been Gucci’s live-in partner for five years before his death. The couple shared a palatial apartment on the city centre boulevard, Corso Venezia, along with Franchi’s 11-year-old son Charly, and had planned to marry. Tall and blonde, Franchi didn’t fare much better than Reggiani in the trial’s media coverage, which often portrayed her as a glamorous gold digger.
“Oh, they always resort to these stupid types,” Franchi says. “Actually my previous husband, whom I left for Maurizio, was even richer, so it was all nonsense.” An interior designer turned artist, Franchi lives in a converted porcelain factory in Milan and spends half the year in Kenya. Her home is stuffed with books, paintings and exotic souvenirs. She’s chatty and quick to laugh, with a lightness of spirit that I wasn’t expecting.
During the trial it emerged that Reggiani had put pressure on her hired accomplices to carry out the murder quickly, before Franchi and Gucci’s wedding. Reggiani’s one-time best friend Pina Auriemma, who confessed to arranging the hitman, testified that Reggiani couldn’t bear the thought of another woman taking her place as Mrs Maurizio Gucci – and with it, the power, status and money that she “had earned”.
She also feared that her daughters could lose some or all of their inheritance if the couple had children. “Patrizia was stalking us,” says Franchi. “She still had spies in Maurizio’s circle and she knew all about our plans, his business dealings, everything. She called many times abusing him and threatening to kill him.”
If Gucci didn’t take Reggiani’s calls, she sent him diatribes on cassette tape, later played in court, saying he was “a monster” for neglecting her and their daughters, and warning that “the inferno for you is yet to come”.
“I begged him to hire a bodyguard,” says Franchi, “but he refused. He didn’t believe Patrizia would go through with her threat because of their girls.”
My family has cut off my financial support. I have nothing, I haven’t even met my two grandsons
Gucci and Franchi had crossed paths briefly in their youth on the Euro-rich-kid party circuit. They reconnected by chance when they were both reeling from unhappy marriages. “We fell in love immediately. Maurizio used to tell me” – Franchi starts to cry – “that we were two halves of the same apple.”
The day after the murder she received an eviction order from Reggiani to move out of the grand apartment she’d shared with Gucci. The notarised timestamp, Franchi noticed, showed the papers had been drawn up at 11am the previous day – less than three hours after Maurizio died. “In those days co-habiting couples had no legal protection. Charly and I were out, just like that.”
Franchi slowly began, as she puts it, “to build a different future”. But five years later she suffered another tragedy. While visiting his father over Christmas, her son Charly killed himself at the age of 16. “It was completely unexpected,” she says. “He was a happy, shining boy, greatly loved. We think it was a flash of teen madness.” Franchi has photos of Maurizio and Charly all over her house, but says they’re not there so she can dwell on her pain. “I like to have their faces around, to say hello. For a year after Charly died I felt a rage in my soul, but then I got on with life. I’m the kind of person who has to keep moving forward.” She poured her emotions into painting and writing, she says, and is also active in a charity for troubled or suicidal teens, L’Amico Charly, that her ex- husband set up in memory of their son.
When Franchi moved out of the Corso Venezia apartment, Reggiani moved in with her daughters. She lived there in luxury for the next two years, until one of her accomplices boasted about the murder to the wrong person. The man informed the police, who launched a sting operation to trick Reggiani and her four paid accomplices – her friend Pina Auriemma, a friend of Auriemma’s who set up the hitman, the hitman himself and the getaway driver – into discussing the crime on wiretapped phones. It succeeded. Among other evidence they found at Reggiani’s home was her Cartier diary, which had a one-word entry for the day of Gucci’s death: “Paradeisos” – the Greek word for paradise.
In court, Reggiani admitted she’d paid Auriemma around £200,000, but denied it was for the murder, claiming Auriemma had arranged the hit herself and was threatening to frame her if she didn’t pay. “But it was worth every lira,” Reggiani then added, confusingly, unable to help herself even then. All five involved in the murder plot were found guilty. Despite the Gucci company’s supposed indifference to the scandal, on the day of the verdict the Italian media reported that Gucci shops around the country hung silver handcuffs in their windows. (Gucci declined to make any comment at all for this article.)
Paolo Franchi in her decorative garden
‘I begged Maurizio to hire a bodyguard’: Paolo Franchi, who Gucci lived with for five years after leaving Reggiani. Photograph: Uli Weber/The Observer
At Bozart, Brunero’s husband and co-owner Maurizio Manca gives me a tour of Reggiani’s new workplace. It seems almost too perfect for her. The jewellery the upmarket firm creates is designed to be big, ornate and dazzling. Manca, who is dressed all in black and has a mop of floppy grey hair, freely admits the 60-year-old company had its heyday in the 1980s when “there was corruption everywhere and the money was flowing”. Stars, including Madonna and Pamela Anderson, have worn Bozart’s designs which, best of all, supplied all the glitz worn by Linda Evans’s character Krystle Carrington on the set of Dynasty.
When she’s at work, Reggiani spends much of her day advising Bozart’s design team and reading fashion magazines. “She’s like our Michael Schumacher – she keeps on top of trends and test-drives our creations,” says Manca.
“I prefer Senna. He has much more class,” Reggiani says, emerging from her portrait shoot with the Observer photographer. There’s a pause while everyone remembers the unfortunate fates of both drivers, and the analogy is quickly dropped. Reggiani says she enjoys the job, but admits that she hasn’t found it easy to adjust to the modern workplace. “I don’t like computers. They are quite evil.” Manca points out, in her defence, that the fax machine was still cutting-edge technology when she went to prison. Still, he adds that they had to remove her computer from their internal network after she permanently deleted Bozart’s entire photo archive.
Nobody says it directly, but it seems clear a big reason for taking on Reggiani was to generate publicity and try to rekindle the firm’s edge of flashy danger. If so, it hasn’t been straightforward so far. When Reggiani first arrived she helped to design a collection of rainbow coloured jewellery and evening bags inspired by her pet macaw, Bo. Bozart held a launch in Milan in September 2014 and invited the fashion press. “Everybody came and it was a big success,” says Manca. “But it happened to be on the same day that Gucci was having a runway show up the street. The next day there was nothing at all in the newspapers about Patrizia’s collection.” Manca says the journalists later told him they’d been leaned on by “someone at Gucci” not to publish. While Gucci wouldn’t confirm or deny, an Italian fashion editor friend later doubts his claim. “The fashion corps probably just didn’t like the parrot designs,” he says.
All the same, Manca and Brunero appear to be genuinely fond of their employee. As the afternoon goes by, Reggiani gets tired and cracks in her bravado appear. She talks about how, by court order, she lives in a Milan townhouse with her 89-year-old mother, who is still in good health. “Sometimes I wish I was back inside Vittore Residence because my mother is very difficult. She berates me every day for no reason.” Reggiani’s daughters Alessandra and Allegra, who were 18 and 14 when she was arrested, are both married and now live in Switzerland. Unimaginably rich thanks to their father’s estate, they haven’t visited Reggiani much since her release.
It’s almost the stuff of Greek tragedy. “We are going through a bad time now,” says Reggiani. “They don’t understand me and have cut off my financial support. I have nothing, and I haven’t even met my two grandsons.” She says she has “no idea” what the future holds when her parole ends, possibly in a few months. She may continue to work at Bozart and says she’d like to travel when she’s allowed to leave the country again. She seems to have given up the idea of trying to find a job at Gucci, even if she hasn’t quite let go of the past. “If I could see Maurizio again I would tell him that I love him, because he is the person who has mattered most to me in my life.” I ask her what she thinks he’d say to her in reply, and she sounds a note of realism at last. “I think he’d say the feeling wasn’t mutual.”