Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ginny was a Copa girl.........

....I often find myself thinking back on the adventure which has been my life. Perched as I have so often been in my favorite old rocking chair (the one covered in zebra hide), I am reminded of how my dear Archer carried the fine chair through darkest Africa, determined to bring it home and find it a position of appropriate grandeur. It, like myself has seen the finest of days…and here we sit.....

My friend, Ginny, was a Copa Girl…..she danced at the “Copa”. Gin had been a model in New York, primarily showroom and runway modeling; but, while having cocktails one evening at the Copacabana, she was “discovered”. She was outfitted in pink and plumes, and lined up with a group of other beautiful women to create probably the most famous review in New York, if not the entire country. The Copa in the 1950’s was known for its Latin Reviews….thusly, the popular logo of the Copa Girl with the fruit on her head (I still think she looks just like Lucille Ball!)….the club became known as the ”Copacabana, best club North of Havana.”

Archer and I used to visit the club and Gin whenever we spent time in the City. We always stayed next door at the “Hotel Fourteen”, with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and the like. One night, when Archer decided to stay in, Gin invited me to join her, while she had “after the show” cocktails with the entire cast of a popular Western TV series..... We had Manhattans with Michigan sour cherries stuck on frilly toothpicks…..I’ll never forget.  The fruit theme was everywhere!....we teased Gin until she actually added a few to her costume.

Copa Girls
Of course I’ll never forget Gin’s account of the big brawl at the Copa in 1957 when a fight broke out involving Mickey Mantle and a pack of Yankees during a 10 o’clock Sammy Davis performance. Gin popped some rich businessman in the chops and spent the night in jail.


Shortly after, she wound up moving on to Vegas, and I stopped visiting the Copa after Barry Manilow popularized his famous Copacabana song. The whole new era of disco changed the place….I just couldn’t make the transition to mirror balls and disco dancing. Give me Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Jimmy Durante; give me Latin performances by Ricki Ricardo (Desi Arnaz)……babalu!


Astoria might have worn one of these jackets to the Copa!



By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Panama City Beach, Florida

....I often find myself thinking back on the adventure which has been my life. Perched as I have so often been in my favorite old rocking chair (the one covered in zebra hide), I am reminded of how my dear Archer carried the fine chair through darkest Africa, determined to bring it home and find it a position of appropriate grandeur. It, like myself has seen the finest of days…and here we sit......

Me in PCB, 1940
.....We were in search of shells, for our buttons of course. What better excuse though to stroll a place known as “The Worlds Most Beautiful Beaches?” How had I not found this place before? A tiny yet bustling coastal community along the beautiful blue green Gulf of Mexico. While Archer and I had ostensibly come here for business, on the suggestion of a colleague, it turned into one of our lifelong haunts.

27 miles…yes miles, of white sand beaches line the coastline here, and the water is the most beautiful emerald green. Archer always said it reminded him of my eyes…such a sweet man…

The shells here are wonderful. The ones we collect, the ones we eat from (oysters!) and the ones we buy for the trade. We were always so lucky to be able to combine our passions with business and travel.

Panama City is nothing if not about fishing, and my dear Archer is always about anything in the outdoors. Here it’s fishing in the bays for flounder, drum and sea trout, or out on the boats in the Gulf where he would haul in great red snapper and grouper along with the occasional tuna. Each day that he would head out on the water in those rickety old wooden boats I would joke with him that he reminded me of our friend Ernest down in Key West…the other “old man and the sea!”

Oh but how he loved it there, as did I.

One of our favorite private places was far out of town off the beaten path, a place called Phillips Inlet. It seemed like it would take all morning to get there, but it was well worth the effort. We would pull off the beach road and park amidst scrub and the most wonderful white sand dunes, then stroll our way back through history. Wandering through the windswept dunes on our way to the beach we would look for pottery shards left here by the Indians who lived on the point for the fishing, hundreds of years ago. Occasionally we would also find remnants of the old Confederate salt works that were later built on the site. All of it covered over by the shifting sands of time, and periodically uncovered for our delight.
Archer and I would make love in the dunes, and swim in the gulf, then build a fire on the beach with drift wood. Evenings were fresh fish from the embers, a bottle of May wine, firelight and warm breezes. Eventually we would have to pick our way back along the paths to our car and make that long desolate, quiet drive back to our cottage closer to town. It is the memory of evenings like these that keep me warm in my now colder years........astoria

By the by, for vintage images of Panama City Beach

By the by, speaking  about shards of treasures, I recently stumbled upon this article on  up to 10,000 shipwrecks being newly unearthed and explored under the sea in Indonesia….time capsules, wrecks, including  9th century ceramics, imperial quality gold boxes, jewels, and more……….if you think there’s nothing left to find……….start exploring!

By the by, no one paid tribute to the Florida waters like Esther Williams….enjoy videos of Cypress Gardens skiing,

.....and for other vintage videos, view  the “Tilda” blog

Astoria might have worn these jackets with beautiful jewels, the color of the sea..........

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tilda was an oddball............

.........but she was my friend.
Tilda had a secret….a deep, dark secret.
Tilda was not her real name…she wouldn’t tell anyone her real name….not even me.

I suspect it had something to do with her family, perhaps something extraordinary that she was trying to get out from under, or something shameful from which she was hiding. I may never know…..If she does confide in me though, I’ll never breathe a word…..

Tilda left her name behind and married a very wealthy man, from a moneyed East Coast family….she adopted his last name….after all, “you don’t need to look back if you never plan to go that way”, she used to say.  His family had made their fortune in fashion.

His family frequented Grossingers, a popular resort in the Catskills, and they invited Archer and myself to join them there one summer.

My first view of the property was of the enormous pool, with diving platforms and waterfalls. In the evenings the “water ballet” beauties would perform, with light shows and symphonic music. An enormous mirror allowed us to view their water dances from above, swirling in and out of geometric shapes and splashing and flashing colors…..with all the floral swim caps it often looked like giant flowers being blown in the wind, dancing and swaying with butterflies….doing a sort of “pollinating dance”, Alan used to say. 

In the nearly 400-seat dining room, we enjoyed prime rib with potatoes and spinach. We also had shrimp cocktail, the appetizer of the day (I think you call them “apps” these days). Anyone who was “anyone” ate shrimp cocktail….I once saw Marilyn posing for the photogs while eating shrimp! Of course then Eva, Jayne, and the rest had to follow suit and voila! Everyone is eating shrimp cocktail, in champagne glasses, of course! And, yes we did have the bubbly on occasion, but we generally spent the evenings drinking bikini martinis, gimlets, and the occasional Singapore sling.

There was a lineup of comedians at the nightclub, some of the better known headliners were Henny Youngman and Milton Berle, preceeded by many young “start-ups” who spent much of their time serving us our dinner, but just to be among the “big stars” was well worth the “waiting”.

Tilda and I tittered and chatted well into many nights while the men smoked cigars and shared tales of big game safaris and Paris burlesque…maybe someday Tilda will share her secret…..Astoria

By the by, I watched Eddie Fisher marry Debbie Reynolds at Grossinger’s, as shared in Joel Siegel’s you tube video showing “those were the days”…..

By the by, for more on my favorite 1950’s cocktails,

                                                      By the by, fabulous for cocktails:

                                                    By the by, wonderful for shopping:

A tribute to Tilda


By the by, for the hottest stars of the 1950’s,

By the by, Tilda’s friend, Babette, organized this
1950’s swimwear fashion show

By the by, if you ask me, no one could master the water in the 1950’s like Esther Williams….she certainly must have visited Grossinger’s!
If you like underwater art at it’s best, check out Million Dollar Mermaid

By the by, my niece recently showed me this music video with Esther Williams and “Indie” music….I prefer Big Band, but it does take me back to the Beatnik Bars of Amsterdam!

And for my favorite, you can’t talk water art without going to Cypress Gardens! Hold on! This is a wild one!

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to, 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Orleans has been called many things.....

...the "most wicked city of its day, "the city that care forgot". It's also been called the "Queen City of the Inland Sea" and, as I prefer to call it, "The Paris of America".
It was 1937, and I was 25, traveling the country in search of new materials and methods of making buttons and findings. My travels took me to New Orleans….we were told of exotic woods in the bayous, mostly cypress. But I also found a wealth of African woods available there….Black Limba, Cocobolo…..being used by the locals to craft musical instruments! The mysteries in this city would intrigue me for many visits, and its heritage no doubt peaked my interest in both Africa and France. The voodoo, the Mardi Gras….and let’s not forget the chicory “coffee” and beignets! I still remember the morning I was sitting in the French Quarter, enjoying my “favorites” when word spread that Amelia Earhart’s plane was missing! The radio reported it for days, weeks, months, even years. It still remains one of the great mysteries! Every time I visit New Orleans, I think of Amelia........astoria
By the by, I recently read that new information has surfaced that might aid in the search for Amelia Earhart’s plane. The AP reports that “The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery will launch a new search in June, 2012 for the wreckage of Earhardt’s plane off the remote island of Nikumaroro”. For more information on this, visit:

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

By the by, my tribute to Amelia:

Friday, June 1, 2012

As you might expect...........

I was not the only one to chronicle our various adventures. Below is a page from my beloved Archer's old, well travelled, leather journal. The cover itself brings tears to my eyes. Worn, touched by his hands, stained through the oil of his perspiration, it was an old and trusted friend who kept close company with the man I loved.
This excerpt was written while we were staying at that oh so strange hotel in Colorado.

Estes Park, Colorado-June ’51.

While Astoria and B were off traipsing after photographs of flowers in the high mountain meadows, Gerard and I decided to go kill something and put some meat on the table.
This French “Mountain Man” was more like a mountain goat when it came to stomping up and down the rocky high ground. He damn near wore me out!
He carried an old Enfield in 30-06, while I was carrying a new Remington bolt action in .270. Somehow he seemed perfectly at home with that wonderful old ball bat of a rifle (which I knew perfectly well he could shoot accurately out to a thousand meters!).
I was happy to be slinging my much lighter, more streamlined modern shoulder weapon across the valleys and scree sided mountain slopes.
We were in search of Mule deer, those wonderful mountain dwellers with the wide, beautiful racks. I needed another such mount for a particular spot in my lodge room, and Gerard seemed just the fellow who could help me.... not only help me shoot one, but pack it out as well!
We started early in the morning sitting on a scraggy mountain top glassing the opposite side. At those great distances, it was amazingly easy for something the size of one of these large animals to hide in the shadows and brush. Antlers turned to twigs, and their 200 pound bodies became just another shady rock…but finally there he was.
A fine specimen, sitting and watching the valley below......the wind in his nose and the safety of the mountain to his back.
Gerard and I quickly came upon a plan to circle far to our right, downwind, and try to cross the valley in such a way that we would end up behind and above the old boy for a shot.
It took a couple of hours to make the transition, but when we finally poked our heads up he was still there waiting for the afternoon thermals to shift and move him off his hillside perch.
I steadied the fine new rifle across my pack, settled the cross hairs, drew a deep breath and slowly squeezed the trigger. When the smoke cleared Gerard and I stood to see the old boy hadn’t gone but 10 yards before dropping. We whooped and hollered and hugged in the manly way that hunters will to celebrate a job well done. I must say it seems the French take such things a little too far, but then it somehow seemed a bit of alright to be doing it there in the mountains with no one else around! For a brief moment I imagined the women watching and Astoria thinking we had lost our minds! Then the work began.
We made our way down to the deer, assessed his marvelous wide rack and main beams, then we got out our knives and got to work dressing him down to manageable quarters and parts that we could load on our packs and carry out on our backs.
When we finally made it back to the horses, which had been tethered in a meadow, we were dirty, dusty, and exhausted.... inspired though, knowing the end of the trail would hold a blazing fire, roasted mule deer backstraps, whiskey, fine cigars and a wonderful story of men and the mountains to be shared with our appropriately impressed wives.

By the by, to hear about the Stanley Hotel and it's "oh so" strange happenings, check out the blog at,

By the by, to go to the beginning and catch up on Astoria's adventures go to,

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May Festival……whatever is that?


.was my first thought as I read the letter from my old friend Gwendolyn. She was inviting me to Cincinnati to hear her daughter, Percylla, sing in their May Festival, a very large choral event.  It was 1948, and I had just returned to Pittsburgh from Louisville, after a week of festivities at the horse races, the Kentucky Derby, they called it. I was nearly exhausted, having spent many evenings drinking mint julips and hosting fund raisers, or is that “fun” raisers, at the Brown Hotel. But, Gwen was a dear old friend from Pitt, and apparently this was a special year for not only her daughter, an upcoming graduate of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, but for women in general. It was the Diamond Jubilee, and a woman was to lead one of the performances (only because a man had become ill) ….and a High School teacher no less…one brave step for woman-kind! The event had taken place for decades, much to my surprise, and Archer could not believe, with my fond interest in music, that I had not heard of it….Gwen says  it’s because I’d been off gallivanting around the world too much!

So, I hopped on the Pennsy thinking…. if I wanted to, I could always hop right back on in Cincinnati and continue on to Chicago…..I knew I could have a wonderful time in Chicago. After all, I had heard much about this city, but not much about the music.

To my amazement, Cincinnati had the most beautiful train station ever, rivaling Grand Central to be sure. Gwen sent a car that took me to her home near the University. Gwen had married a watchmaker, and with her family’s backing, he had created an empire in clocks, bell towers, and other timepieces. This, and much more, was told to me by their driver, and quite the talker I might add, George, as he went on and on about “Miss V”.

More about my Cincinnati trip later, but I will say the city did remind me of the lovely river towns in Germany, with all the green hills and beer…and yes, it seemed everyone was named George!

The May Festival was performed at their “Music Hall”, a most extraordinary piece of architecture…..with the most amazing “wallwork”, and crystal chandeliers! It was not as though I had never seen such a place….the larger cities in Europe were filled with such buildings, but they were much older….I always think of our country as being so very young…and this city was quite a bit more apace with New York than I might have expected. I was quite taken with it.

The performances…..which were conducted by a New Yorker, I might add, were impeccable…all except for the one with Gwen’s daughter, Percylla. She arrived late to the performance and actually walked on stage in a gold lame dress with an amethyst tiara….and her hair as wild as a jackalope….whatever was she thinking! Everyone else was in black…..her mother said she just liked to “stand out” in a crowd…… but I know, from my conversation with the “talker” George, that she was having a bit of a fling with one of the string players and must have been in his company to the very last minute!

That aside, the event was the “bees knees” and I shall spread the word all the way to Pittsburgh!

As a side note, and mum’s the word, I heard they were having a bit of a financial problem with the festival that year, so I wired $1,000 to them upon returning home….Prys alone made the event worth that to me….....Astoria

By the by, to see my treasury in honor of Music Hall and the May Festival:

By the by, for “what to wear” to the event, you must consider this jacket:



By the by, I returned to Cincinnati a few more times, only once for the May Festival, but I have heard that it is still as popular and respected as ever. For more on May Festival:

By the by, unfortunately the Music Hall building did not fare so well. It rather began to show its age and wear over the years; however, I am pleased to read that it is getting a complete redo (I believe they call it a facelift these days) from the bottom up!
What is and what could be….

By the by, one of the other trips I made to Cincinnati was to document a “ghost hunt” for a book I wrote in the 1970’s. And, in addition to many underground tunnels and charming old homes, I was taken to Music Hall!
Ghosts in these halls……….

By the by, Cincinnati continues to be a leader in music, not only classical, but choral et. al. I recently read an article about an upcoming event there called the World Choir Games!
I wonder if that handsome young man, what is his name, he was in.....what is it called...a boy band?...will be there..........

By the by, for more on the glorious Brown Hotel in Louisville,

By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures go to:                                                                                                                                                     

Monday, April 9, 2012

June 25, 1951..........

....Archer and I decided to join friends, Beatrice and Gerard, in Colorado. Beatrice and I had met years earlier and become lifelong friends. She was living in the wilderness of Oregon with her trapper husband, the son of Veronique, a descendant of Marie Antoinette, and Atian, a native American. Gerard was in town to participate in a “Rocky Mountain Rendezvous”, and we were also here to celebrate Archer’s 40th birthday.We had a keen interest in the mountains (I, mostly to photograph them and Archer enjoyed anything to challenge himself). Archer would hike, climb and fly fish, while I took my camera equipment and took off in search of wildlife. We decided to stay at the Stanley, a fine and  immense hotel near the entrance to the park.
We checked in and were assigned to room 217. With a day to explore before Bea arrived, and without even unpacking, we turned in early to get a good nights sleep. When we awakened we found not only a hot, steamy breakfast awaiting us, but our bags had been unpacked and our belongings put away as well! We gingerly gathered up the food to “go” and stopped by the desk to thank them for the wonderful hospitality. Interestingly, they told us no one had delivered any kind of service to our room….what room was that again? Room 217………………….there was a hush amongst the staff and they all walked away………astoria
By the by, appropriate attire:



By the by, the Stanley is the hotel featured in the movie, The Shining… in the history of the real hotel, strange things happened in one of the rooms, and ghosts of children appeared on the 4th floor. For a reminder of The Shining, see:

By the by, for more on the Stanley and it’s haunted history, visit:

By the by, for  more on Rocky Mountain Rendezvous,

By the by, background on Beatrice: It was while waiting for a train in Grand Central Station that I met Beatrice. I was on my way to Philly and she was going west. Both trains had been delayed due to flooding, so we struck up a chat. I’ll never forget her exquisite green eyes……they sparkled like gems, and she was quite stunning in a big, swing coat and fur pillbox hat. She was on her way to the Pacific Northwest to marry a man she hardly knew. She met him quite by chance, and it was love at first site….he, a trapper, and she a showgirl. As adventurous as my life had become, I still found myself envying her “joi de vivre”!

By the by, more on art in Estes Park:

By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures go to:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I’ll never forget summers at ShadyBrook....

…..a vacation resort in the Catskills. Our family would spend the entire season there (Father would come and go; he could never leave the button factory for very long). We had the cutest cottage, and the activities kept us quite busy….there was the lake, with water skiing and diving from the wooden platforms….there were board games in the common area, and enormous bonfires at night. And my favorite…..the dance lessons. I was young, and of course had a huge crush on the lead dance instructor, Johnny. Father didn’t approve of him because he was much older than I, but I couldn’t stay away….after all, he called me “Baby”. We danced so well together that we won the contest at the end of the summer, fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after. “No, I might be old, but I am not senile! I know that was “Dirty Dancing”! (what’s the point in telling stories if one can’t have a little fun!)"......But we did have great times! And instead of dancing with Johnny, I fell in love with photography!  I had countless afternoons to roam the estate and practice taking pictures of flora and fauna….they even had a darkroom. That passion turned out to be one of the greatest joys of my life. I carted my camera equipment around the world and never looked back………. astoria

This is me around 1929

By the by, every time I see Dirty Dancing, the movie, especially the scene with the final dance, I get the same tingly feeling I did at ShadyBrook.....I hear the music, smell the forest and dream of falling in love.

By the by, alas, it was time to return to
school and back to typing class! I might have worn this:

or this:


By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures, go to:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

“Are you sure we aren’t in Russia?”

.....I asked father. Since I had never been past the Atlantic Ocean, I had no idea what I’d find there, but it could not have been much different from what we wandered into at Brighton Beach. People speaking in foreign tongues, signs in another language….better yet in another alphabet altogether (I later found it was Cyrillic). No one spoke English at all. It was fascinating and exciting! I wandered into one of the many fur shops and tried on huge, full length furs with hoods….I know now that there was probably no place near Pittsburgh where one could wear such a coat. But, later in my life I would find many destinations to appreciate such a coat! Like the Nordic countries, the South Pole, and even Alaska…..

I did not purchase a coat that trip, but I will always remember the fun I had dreaming of doing so…..astoria

By the by, check out my Russian-inspired coat:

By the by, I never again visited Brighton Beach…..but in the very short time I was there, I felt a true sense of community. The people were kind and the welcome was warm. I recently came across other people's memoirs of Brighton Beach and found them heartwarming.
The world is one big community now, but there really is no place like one’s home:

By the by, I just read in a mag that Adele, the grammy-winning singer, just purchased a $3.1 million Brighton beach home! I thought that was so very exciting to be near Coney Island and all....but alas Archer corrected must be the Brighton beach in England! After all, the article also said that it was only a five minute commute to her boyfriend's office, and that would be a quick skip across the ocean. Silly me! I suppose that means she'll be leaving her haunted mansion!


By the by, check out my fabulous black brocade coat, Adele, a tribute to Adele! at:

By the by, to go back to the beginning and catch up to all of Astoria's adventures: