Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Anglofiles: Blackadder

Last year was the 25th anniversary of the TV show BLACKADDER, which starred Rowan Atkinson as Edmund Blackadder in various eras of English history. Happy Anniversary! Thanks to the BBC for issuing a digitally remastered deluxe set of all 4 BLACKADDER series, plus all the specials including one that I hadn't seen, THE CAVALIER YEARS with Stephen Fry doing his best impersonation of the current Prince Charles while playing Charles I.

I remember the very first time I saw BLACKADDER. I was doing my semester abroad in college, and I turned the television on one Sunday night and there it was. It was the very first series set in Medieval England. Only in this version, he wasn't Edmund Blackadder, he was Edmund Plantagenet, a rather weak, oafish, lily-livered coward. Baldrick, if you can believe it, was the clever one. Truthfully, it wasn't very funny.  The next time I saw BLACKADDER, was the second series with Queen Elizabeth I. This series introduce the Edmund Blackadder we've all come to love. Sarcastic, selfish, and slightly cruel. Miranda Richardson's portrayal of Good Queen Bess is still one of my favorites of all the actresses who have played Elizabeth I. She's childish, funny, flirtacious but woe to anyone who gets on her bad side. She can turn around iin an instant and threaten to kill you in a second.

In fact, I saw at least one episode every series on a trip to England. The last series premiered in 1989 and I remember watching it in the tiny flat in Earl's Court that I lived in with 5 other Americans. In many ways, I think BLACKADDER GOES FORTH is my favorite, although it is the most poignant. Perhaps it is because my mother died that fall, and Blackadder and his men don't survive going over the top in World War I.

What I loved about the series was that the character of Blackadder had no censor.  Even when he was flattering either the Queen or the Prince Regent, it just skirted the edge of being inappropriate. And Blackadder didn't always win, which would have been so boring. And when he did win, it was with a scheme so clever that it makes you marvel at the writers. For example: during the second season episode called MONEY, Blackadder owes the Black Monks 1,000 pounds. He cleverly hires a painter to paint the Black Monk in flagrante delictor with a prostitute who turns out to be Percy. But it was also manna for history geeks. The show's writers knew there stuff and they threw in Sir Walter Raleigh, Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, William Pitt the Younger, Wellington, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and other historical figures into the mix. It was fabulous to get the little in-jokes that might have gone over the heads of people who don't know a great deal of English history. It's also one of the reasons that BLACKADDER hasn't aged as a sitcom.

The new DVD collection also includes a documentary on the making of the series with Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis (writer), Ben Elton (writer), Tim McInnerney, Rik Mayal, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Tony Robinson sharing their memories along with the director John Lloyd. What really intrigued me was the talk of whether or not there would be 5th series, and if there had been what it would have been. Rowan Atkinson expressed affection, as did Stephen Fry for Blackadder to be in a POW camp during WWII. The only problem with that is how to keep it from being a British version of Hogan's Heroes. Another idea was to set it in the 1960's and have Blackadder be a Brian Epstein like manager who discovers  a Beatlesque band with Baldrick as Bald Rick, the drummer. By far my favorite was the suggestion of Blackadder in the Old West. Now that one has real possibilities given the number of 2nd and 3rd sons of the English aristocracy who went out West hoping to make their fortunes and were completely out of their depth.

Can you imagine Blackadder having to deal with like Jesse James of Billy the Kid or somehow getting into the middle of the OK Corral? Miranda Richardson mentioned that she would have loved to have played Calamity Jane. That would have been hysterical. Like BLACKADDER meets DEADWOOD.  Frankly that one has legs as at least a special. Perhaps a co-production between the BBC and HBO? It will probably never happen since Hugh Laurie is so busy with HOUSE now but it would be better than another Mr. Bean movie. Can we put that character to rest?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Real Estate Porn: The Apthorp

Anyone who lives on the Upper West Side has passed the Apthorp. It has been standing on the corner of 79th and Broadway since 1908 (see the photo above when the Upper West Side really was like living in the middle of nowhere.)  For the longest time, the building was under rent control, meaning that the landlords could only raise the rents so much. In 2008 the building, which had been rental, became a condominium. The asking prices, nearly $3,000 a square foot, or an average of $6.5 million per apartment, make it "one of the most expensive condominium conversion projects" ever, according to the New York Times.

Notable residents have included Nora Ephron, Al Pacino, Gelsey Kirkland, Conan O’Brien, Cyndi Lauper, Rosie O’Donnell, 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft, Rita Moreno from West Side Story, Barry Farber of talk radio fame, and newsman Roger Grimsby.

Take a look here at their fabulous web-site. The Apthorp is one of the premiere luxury apartment buildings on the Upper West Side along with the Dakota, the Belnord and the Ansonia. It's also one of the few to occupy a whole block. According to the brochure: "The Apthorp was modeled after The Pitti Palace in Florence and brought to vibrant life by William Waldorf Astor, with his architects, Clinton and Russell. All the grandeur of New York’s Gilded Age is expressed in this exquisite building. The Apthorp was one of Manhattan’s first grand apartment houses, the world’s largest residential building at its creation. The same creativity continues with the current restoration that reinstates the building’s original splendor."

Wow! Seriously if I won mega-millions I would be happy to live in the apartment that only has 3.5 rooms let alone be greedy enough to own a 6 room apartment in this building. You are not only living in a fabulous building, you are living in a piece of NY history.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gotham Gal Movie Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Last night I finally sat down to watch the film version of Sophie Kinsella's novel Confessions of a Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher as Rebecca Bloomwood and Hugh Dancy as her love interest Luke Brandon. Let me say straight up that I absolutely dislike the Shopaholic novels. A friend loaned me the first one and I found it mildly amusing and I was glad that in the end Rebecca had learned the lesson about being in debt. That is until I picked up the second book, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan and discovered that Rebecca was back up to her old tricks. I didn't finish that one, but I did read The Shopaholic gets Married, probably because I had nothing to read at the time, and a friend loaned me her copy. My biggest problem with these books is that I find Rebecca to be an idiot. After awhile her problems ceased to be funny to me.

Well, I have to say that I enjoyed the movie more than I did the books and that probably has to do with Isla Fisher's performance which I found adorable. And although Hugh Dancy looked nothing like the picture of Luke Brandon I had in my head, I liked him enormously. Plus he is very good at playing the straight man to a leading actress who is a little bit ditzy. What I liked about this movie is that Rebecca had some personal growth. They changed the storyline considerably from the books. In the first book Rebecca already works for Successful Savings magazine, and meets Luke Brandon when she attends a press conference held by Brandon Communications. In the film, Rebecca wants to work for Allette magazine, which is a fashion magazine. When she arrives for the interview, she finds out that the position has been filled (The receptionist in the lobby actually tells her that position has been filled which I found hilarious). She stumbles into an interview at Successful Savings magazine and botches it. That night she gets drunk with her friend Suze and writes an article about shoes that she plans on sending to Allette. Unfortunately she mixes up that letter with a kiss-off letter she had planned on sending to Successful Savings. Luke Brandon loves the article and she gets a job at his magazine.

There are some hilarious scenes like when Luke Brandon catches Rebecca using Google to look up how to write an angle for an article or when she's shopping for books on finances at the local Borders. Loved the mannequins talking to Rebecca trying to convince her to buy clothing. And the scenes at the Shopaholics Anonymous meetings are great as well. What's less successful is the sub-plot of a beautiful blonde bitch Alicia Billington who tries to ruin Rebecca's relationship with Luke. Rebecca learns the error of her ways when she is publicly humiliated on television by Derek Smeath (who goes above and beyond the call of duty as a collection agent). And her friend Suze finds out that she donated her bridesmaid dress to a charity shop. Rebecca turns down her dream job, and finally learns the value of money, ending up with Luke after all.

My only quibbles were that even though the film was shot in New York, it didn't feel like it was shot in New York. I wanted to see Rebecca shopping at Barney's, Bloomingdale's or even Macy's. There is a scene shot at a sample sale but how cooler it would have been if it had been at the Barney's sample sale.

I give this film a C+

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hump Day Hotties: Sci Fi Edition

Ah, John Barrowman of Torchwood. I've adored this actor ever since he was in that horrible night-time soap, created by Darren Star, called Central Park West. He played a Kennedyesque character, who was sort of a playboy, until the show got cancelled. Then he was in Titans, another failed night-time soaps, this time produced by Aaron Spelling, where he played an alcoholic playboy who pined for a woman he couldn't have. It wasn't until Torchwood that he was actually in something that was worthy of his talent. Now, Fox Television is doing an American version of the show, but if he's not in it, I'm not watching!

David Tennant, the man who got me to start watching Dr. Who and loving it. I have never any other incarnation of Dr. Who except for the first season where Christopher Eccleston played the role. I liked him but it wasn't until David Tennant put on the long coat of Dr. Who that I really sat up and noticed. He's so lovely and talented, able to play both comedy and drama brilliantly and sometimes in the same episode. I loved his enthusiasm in playing the role. A long-time fan of show, he was excited to get to play the 10th Dr. How many people who are fans of a show actually get a chance to play the lead role on it? And watch out when he's on a chat show and he uses his real Scottish accent. Le pant! Le sigh! He's going to be much missed as Dr. Who.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Harlequin Presents

When I was about ten or eleven years old, I discovered Harlequin Presents. I don't really remember how. I might have been trolling the front of the Coliseum bookstore or the racks of book at Woolworth's (remember them?). I do know that once I read my first HP, I couldn't stop. I used to devour them the way I still devour Twizzlers (Seriously if I have a bag I can't eat just one, especially chocolate Twizzlers). They were the first romances that I ever read, and I read them primarily because there was a hint of sex in them. This was before I discovered Dell Candlelight Ecstasy's which were more graphic.

Each month, I would take my allowance, go down to the bookstore and buy the entire line of books which were about 6 a month I think even back then. I adored Janet Daily's books because she was the only author at the time who was American. She set each of her HP's in a different state, eventually ending up in the Guiness Book of World Records for her feat. But it was the ones that were set in England that I adored. Dark, brooding heroes, young heroines, I was so sure the minute that I set foot in England I would find my own HP hero (Didn't exactly happen like that although one of my dearest friends, who is English, actually looks like an HP hero come to life but I met him in NY doing a play.)

The plots usually involved a much older hero, who seduces, blackmails etc. the heroine into marrying him. Generally because her father/brother is embezzling from the hero's company to pay for his wife/mother/grlfriend's surgery. Once I read one where the heroine had a brain tumor and was taking a world cruise and she met the hero who of course was a neurosurgeon. He performed surgery, I kid you not, on board the ship. Can you magine Doc from The Love Boat doing that? Over the years, I stopped reading Harlequin Presents as I became enamored of other category series, Silhouette Desire, Harlequin Temptation, Blaze, Loveswept. Finally I stopped reading category altogether apart from my friends who write it. The books seemed so formulaic and I got tired of cowboys, amnesia,  and secret babies. I read mainly mysteries, historical fiction, biographies, chick-lit and historical and contemporary romance. Everything but category and particularly Harlequin Presents.

The titles were cheesy, HER PREGNANCY OF REVENGE, THE SHEIKH'S IMPATIENT VIRGIN, HIS MISTRESS FOR A MILLION. And they were so easy to parody. Google The Unseemly Tall Greek Billionaire's Virgin Secretary's Martyr Complex and you'll see what I mean. They had the same white covers though whereas every other Harlequin series has had a makeover. For some reason though, I've found myself drawn to them again. I blame Julie Cohen and Eloisa James. Eloisa has written about her love for Harlequin Presents and I discovered Julie's books when they reprinted here in the US (They were first published as Modern Heat in the UK and HP Extra here).

I've discovered authors like Marion Lennox, Kate Hardy, Ally Blake, India Grey, Susan Napier and one of my favorites Jane Porter I still cringe at the covers and I don't read the ones where the hero is a sheik or the heroine isn't feisty and gives the hero as hard of a time as he does her. I find them comfortingly retro. The heroes are still tall, dark, Alpha Males who brood and are dangerous. They are almost always foreign, billionaires or royalty. The settings are usually exotic locales, mainly in the Mediterranean. They are glitzy and glamorous, a Judith Krantz or Jilly Cooper novel shrunk to fit 182 pages. They take me back to my days when I was an awkward pre-teen who had crushes on Parker Stevenson of The Hardy Boys and Harrison Ford. Although I don't write category, HP are the only ones (along with Desire) that I would want to write for. Seriously, I have thought of writing THE RUTHLESS BILLIONAIRE'S PISSED OFF PREGNANT MISTRESS. I even have a pseudonym picked out.

Right now, I'm reading Caitlin Crews PURE PRINCESS, BARTERED BRIDE and loving it. The hero is Luc Garnier, who has been burned by the scandalous lives of his parents. He's determined to marry a woman with a spotless reputation. Because he's rich, he's able to buy the heir to the throne of Miravakia, Princess Gabrielle. He's ruthless, and mean but she's determined not to let him crush her. After their wedding, she flees to LA, where he finds her and makes mad, passionate love to her repeatedly. Of course, there is a terrible misunderstanding and it makes total sense within the context of the book and is actually pretty cool. I will definitely buy any book that she writes.

Some web-sites to peruse: and

Monday, January 25, 2010

What I'm Reading Now: Lessons in French

I couldn't resist when Sourcebooks gave me the chance to review Laura Kinsale's first romance in 5 years. I was a huge Laura Kinsale fan back in the day when I devoured historical romance like Twizzlers.
From the back cover:

Trevelyn and Callie are childhood sweethearts with a taste for adventure. Until the fateful day her father discovers them embracing in the carriage and in a furious frenzy drives Trevelyn away in disgrace. Nine long, lonely years later, Trevelyn returns. Callie is shocked to discover that he can still make her blood race and fill her life with mischief, excitement and scandal. He would give her the world, but he can't give her the one thing she wants more than anything - himself. For Trevelyn, Callie is a spark of light in a world of darkness and deceit. Before he can bear to say his last good-byes, he's determined to sweep her into one last, fateful adventure, just for the two of them.

Ah, a second chance at love story, I'm a sucker for those. Set during the 1820's, Lessons in French is a heart-warming love story that had a little too much going on for this reader. Lady Callista Taillefaire (Callie) is now 27, and has been jilted three times which is quite scandalous for the time. To loose a fiance is one thing, to loose three is carelessness to paraphrase Oscar Wilde. She's made a life for herself, raising cattle, particularly her prize-winning bull, Hubert. When Trevelyn returns having remade his family's fortune(and how he has done that is one of the more interesting aspects of the story), she can't help but be drawn to him again. The course of true love never runs smooth and this one is no exception. No sooner is the flame of love rekindled than Trevelyn gets into a spot of trouble and is forced to flee.
Readers who know Kinsale from her heart-wrenching earlier tales might find this book a huge departure. It's a lot lighter in tone then Shadowheart. For me this book was very reminiscent of Georgette Heyer, and distantly related to Jane Austen. You know a book that is set in a small village, filled with quirky secondary characters. In Lessons in French that includes Trevelyan's valet Jock, Callie's sister Hermey, Barton and several others. While I enjoyed reading about Trevelyn’s experiences in the Napoleonic wars with another of Callie’s former suitors, Major Sturgeon, there were times when I felt that all the sub-plots were getting in the way of the main romance. I found myself yelling 'just get on with it,' quite a few times while reading. There were also times when I put the book down because it didn't hold my interest.
The book is much longer than the average historical romance at over four hundred pages, and I felt that the story dragged a bit, particulary the scenes when Callie and Trevelyn were dealing with her runaway bull Hubert. Although Trevelyn and Callie have many witty exchanges, sometimes the humor felt forced, as if the author were trying too hard to be funny. However, I enjoyed Callie's relationship with her sister Hermione, as well as Trevelyn's with his mother. It's rare to have a hero whose family are French exiles from the revolution, nor a hero who starts out fighting for Napoleon. Callie is one of the more delightful heroines that I've read in a long time. Despite the fact that she's been jilted three times, she's not cynical or jaded. She has a sense of humor about the whole situation. I liked the fact that Trevelyn had real reasons for keeping Callie at a distance, although he longs to reignite what had just been a spark nine years ago. But the book, at least for me, was lacking a little bit in the sexual tension department between the hero and heroine. But I have to say that my favorite character in the whole book was Hubert. Yes, my heart was won by a bull, a very charismatic bull by the way.
Despite my few quibbles, Lessons in French is well worth the read particularly if you are a reader who enjoys a meatier romance than is usually found on bookshelves.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Real Estate Porn: French Chateau

While trolling through the property listings on the Country Life magazine web-site, I saw this little beauty. A genuine French chateau near Toulouse.  Here are the deets from the estate agency web-site:

"For sale Auvergne Puy de Dome historical Relais Ch√Ęteau Hotel, Situated in the heart of the dramatic volcanic landscape. Built in the 12th century as a lookout tower the Castle was enlarged in the 15th century and since then it became the residence of French noble families. The property is decorated in the Haute Epoque style with Trompe L’Oeil l fresco’s in the bedrooms. The three storey Castle has elevations of stone under a pitched roof with 3 turrets and 2 towers and a cellar. Outside there is a 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom cottage overlooking the Castle and an additional building for receptions positioned by the swimming pool. In total there are 19 bedrooms in the main building comprising 15 rooms and 5 suites. For sale and currently operated as a luxury Relais Chateau Hotel with gastronomic restaurant (1 Michelin star). Externally there is a helipad area with the capacity for 5 helicopters, a swimming pool and a tennis court. The property is on a plot of 7 hectares. Sale price €6 500 000."

You can see more pictures at the Jonathan Charles web-site. I'm thinkin gthat the cost is over 6 million Euros, which comes out to be like $8 million dollars at the current exchange rate. And look it's a hotel, which you can keep it as. Who wouldn't love to own their own French hotel with a 1 star Michelin restaurant? Now if I could only get a Top Chef to run it. I wonder what Sam Talbott is doing these days?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I Want Now: Steve Madden Trumpit Shoe

I saw this shoe in the February issue of LUCKY magazine and was devastated when I couldn't find it on the web-site. Thank God for who has it in both black velvet and red velvet. I would prefer the lovely satin version that I saw in LUCKY but this will certainly do in a pinch. They are so lovely and Neo-Victorian. I can see wearing these with long, flowing dresses or leggings.

They're $149 which is expensive and the heel is a little too high even for me but I still want them.

10 Reasons to Watch One Life To Live

Given that As The World Turns has just been canceled after 53 years on the air that leaves One Life To Live as the only daytime drama left filming in New York. And the only show left on the air at 2 p.m. Remember when it was Another World on NBC, ATWT on CBS, and OLTL on ABC? Now One Life To Live will soon be standing alone. And I'm determined that it will not be another victim of cancellation. OLTL, in my humble opinion, is one of the best written and acted shows on the air that no one is watching. And it gives no love from ABC. While AMC has been moved to Los Angeles into a brand new facility and will soon be shown in HD, OLTL is being moved into AMC's old studio and will not be filmed in HD. While hot groups like the All-American rejects and stars like Snoop Dogg make regular appearances on the show, you would be hard pressed to see any promos or previews for it. Recently OLTL did a huge storyline involving gay marriage and gay couple Fish and Kyle finally consummated their relationship. But did you hear about it in the media? Contrast to last year when Reese and Bianca got married on AMC and the two actresses and the EP were everywhere promoting the storyline, despite the fact that it totally sucked (the bride found out that her fiancee had sucked face with her brother-in-law the night before the wedding).

So here are 10 Reasons why I think that soap fans should watch OLTL (if they aren't already).

1. Diversity:  OLTL has one the most diverse casts in terms of ethnicity on the air right now. OLTL right now has 8 characters who are either African-American or Hispanic. Contrast that with GH which has none, B&B (none), ATWT (none). AMC and Y&R are the only other soaps to really have minority characters that aren't just window-dressing. And these characters have families, they're not just floating out there in the ether. And they have storylines.

2. Actresses over 40 who have storylines:  Dorian, Blair, Tea, Viki, Nora are all women over 40 years old and guess what? They all have major storylines on this show. And romances. In Blair's case, she's had probably had more sex scenes on this show in the past year than some of the younger characters. Dorian Lord is the major of Llanview and involved in a major storyline trying to protect her family from the evil Mitch Lawrence.

3. A police department that actually catches criminals: Unlike GH, where the PCPD make the Keystone Cops look like crack investigators, the cops on OLTL actually do their jobs. They arrest people and actually put people in jail. Sometimes they actually stay there. But they actually do their jobs well, and the police commissioner is not made to constantly look like an incompetent boob.

4. Consistency:  The EP Frank Valentini has been working on the show for 24 years and the Head Writer, Ron Carlivati has been with the show as a writer for 13 years. They know the show intimately and it shows on the screen. Characters on this show generally don't turn around on a dime just to move plot along. They have a consistent through-line. Todd is still a borderline sociopath, Dorian will always protect her family, Viki is always warm, loving, and compassionate, Blair will always wear something that is incredibly skimpy and inappropriate.

5. Love Stories: Nora & Bo, Kyle & Fish, Todd & Tea, Starr & Cole, Langston & Markko, Christian & Layla, Gigi & Schuyler, Brody & Jessica, this show is awash in couples that the audience cares about and roots for.

6. Friendships:  This show is awash in friendships: Schuyler & Rachel, Tea & Rachel, Rex & Bo, Kim & Stacey, Starr & Langston, Cole & Markko, Layla, Fish & Christian, Kyle & Roxy.  They confide each other, they have each other's backs, they go to the mat for each other.

7. Characters don't exist in a bubble: Compare the cast on AMC where people who should interact, don't. People on AMC exist in little bubbles and rarely meet unless it's at some big fuction. Contrast that with OLTL where pretty much everyone interacts on at least some level. On one day, David Vickers Buchanan came to town, ran into Markko, Ford, Elijah, Langston, and Dorian. He's also had scenes with his Pa, Bo, his little brother Matthew, and his step-mother Nora. Not to mention his uncle Clint.

8. The teens act like teens:  Destiny, Matthew and Daniela are the three younger teens on this show. They yell at their parents, break curfews, run away from home, have angst, and unrequited love just like most teens.

9. Kyle & Fish:  This love story has been groundbreaking.  For the first time, two men were given a love scene that was just as romantic and soapy as anything that a straight couple have been given.  I'm talking candles, romantic music, undressing, kissing, and best of all, the cuddling afterwards. Never in my life would I have said that one of the hottest love scenes that I have ever seen on a soap was between two men. And their storyline is classic soap. They were in love in college, but Fish wasn't ready to admit that he was gay, because his parents are uber-religious and conservative. He tried a relationship with Layla but couldn't get Kyle out of his mind (particularly the hot kiss behind the cafe). After sleeping with town slut Stacey, he finally admitted the truth that he was gay, but Kyle had moved on to Nick. Finally during the gay wedding, not only did Fish admit he was gay in public but also that he loved Kyle. Since then it's been incredibly sweet seeing Fish deal with having a boyfriend openly for the first time.

10. The Men are Hot:  Seriously the men on this show are some of the best looking men on television. On any given day, Ford and Christian will spend half the episode with their shirt off. Add Elijah, Greg, Brody and Ross to the mix and OLTL is like beefcake central. Even Scott Clifton, who plays Schuyler, shocked me when he took his shirt off and was looking so buff. Seriously he didn't look that hot on GH.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hump Day Hotties: CNN Edition

Ah, Anderson Cooper, how I heart thee. Not only are you funny and smart, but you also look good in a suit. And you look sexy with the grey har. Not to mention your mother is the Gloria Vanderbilt whose jeans I worshipped in high school (I had pink velvet ones) And you're not afraid to go into hot spots to report the news. When you co-host Live with Regis and Kelly, I'm so jealous of Kelly Ripa because she gets to spend time with you. How I would love to sit down and shoot the breeze while comparing the new Dominos Pizza to the old version. I know that you probably play for the other team, but I still adore you.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has now been added to my dream team. Watching you on Oprah today while you detailed the tragedy that is going on in Haiti made me admire you even more. Even if you did piss off Michael Moore. Not only are you a doctor, but you are married to a lawyer! Sigh! If you were only single. But I can still worship you from afar and admire your pretty shiny white teeth and gorgeous hair.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Hello Magazine

One of my guilty pleasures is reading HELLO! Magazine. Forget People, or OK, I adore HELLO! Maybe it's because I'm an unrepentant Anglophile but the first thing I do whenever I go to the UK is pick up a copy at the W.H.Smith or Boots in the airport so that I can read it on the tube ride into the city.  Unfortunately it's too expensive for me to buy every week in the US (it's about $7), so I read it at either Barnes & Noble or whatever newsagent won't shoo me out for reading without buying.

Why do I love this magazine? Probably because I know that without fail, every other week, there will be an article about Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton with a cover picture.  How else can I keep up with what Kylie Minogue and her sister are doing? Or Russell Brand? Or any of the WAG's (Wives and girlfriends) of various footballer's? I'm particularly fascinated with Colleen Rooney who is famous chiefly because she is the wife of Wayne Rooney who plays for Man U (or did). She's had her own TV show, an autobiography, for basically doing nothing.

And I love reading about their Reality TV stars who seem so much more insane in some ways then ours. There was Jade Goode who became famous for her malapropisms on Big Brother, went into Celebrity Big Brother where she got into trouble for making racist remarks about Bollywood Star Shilpa Shetty, fell from grace, and then when she revealed that she was dying became a national heroine again. Without HELLO! Magazine, I would never have seen the fabulous like 50 page spread on Elizabeth Hurley's two weddings (in England and in India) to her husband Arun Nayar.

And wherelse can I read about foreign royalty particularly Prince Albert, Princess Caroline, and Princess Stephanie in full color.  I love that HELLO! is so oversized compared to American magazines.It makes PEOPLE and US seem anemic by comparison. And just stuffed with pictures galore. It's a little slice of Britain and a little slice of heaven for me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Real Estate Porn: 455 Central Park West

Have you ever wanted to live in a castle? I know that I do, unfortunately castles in New York are rather thin on the ground. So, I was intrigued a few years ago during the transit strike when I was walking down Central Park West in the freezing cold and I saw this building. "Where have you been all my life?" I thought. A few weeks later when I was browsing through real estate listings, I saw one for this building. 455 Central Park West. The apartments are mucho expensive, the only two that are still available cost between $4-6MM and the maintenance plus the taxes are a whopping $4,000 a month.

The building was featured in Linda Fairstein's lastest legal thriller. A dealer in rare maps lives here. Apparently the building used to be the New York Cancer hospital before someone bought it and decided to turn it into condos. The interiors from the web-site 455CPW are stunning. Most of the apartments have walk-in closets, bathrooms that you could spend all day in, and views of Central Park. Of course, if I won mega-millions and I bought a place here, I would want to be in the old part of the building and not the new addition that they added on.

Of course, the building has a health club with an olympic size swimming pool, as well as saunas, and the usual accoutrement. Plus, it also has a private garden where residents can hang out, if they don't want to cross the Street to the Park. The only problem is that the nearest subway stops are not close and 103rd Street is not the greatest part of Central Park West, so the prices are a little high compared to the rest of the neighborhood. Not that would stop me from living here if I could only afford it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What I'm Reading Now: Jane Bites Back

I would normally have avoided this book like the plague if it hadn't been for Sarah over at Reading the Past who reviewed this book on her site. I normally avoid Austen prequels, sequels, etc. like the plague. I've never read any of the Jane Austen or the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy mysteries either. However, I was intrigued by this book. Particularly the cover.

From the back cover:

Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?

After reading that how could I resist? The best part is that Jane was turned into a vampire by Lord Byron which is completely believable. If any 19th century author was going to be an actual vampire it would be him. After all his doctor, John Polidori, wrote a book called The Vampyr that most people assumed was based on Byron. Although Jane Austen still struggles with her altered nature, she doesn't spend alot of time whinging on about it. Yes, she's a vampire and she has to feed, but she finds remarkably clever ways of doing it. The supporting characters, especially her assistant at the bookstore, Lucy are warm, and witty, people that you want to spend more time with. Ford has managed to write a book that should appeal to both Janeites and lovers of vampire fiction. I'm sure there are die-hard Jane Austen fans who will think that their heroine doesn't appear particularly Jane-like but remember she's 234 years old. Ford also doesn't spend alot of time setting up the vampire mythology in his book. Although Jane and Byron go to a vampire restaurant in New Orleans, Jane admits that she hasn't spent a great deal of time with her kind.

The best part are the intriguing snippets from Jane's book Constance that are included at the head of each chapter. I hope that Ballantine at some point decides to publish Constance the way that Avon published the romance that Princess Mia was writing (with a little help from Meg Cabot). There is a sub-plot involving a literary rival of Jane's that I had thought was dropped half-way through but came roaring back towards the end.

The only negative criticisms I have are that most books aren't rushed out as quickly as they are depicted in this book. And I was a little annoyed at the depiction of the Romance Writer's Guild conference. It's a little too easy to poke fun at romance writers. Still, I thought this book was thoroughly enjoyable although slight and I'm intrigued enough that I would be willing to read the next two books in the series.

You can read more about the author at or at

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hump Day Hotties

Today is Wednesday, the middle of the week, so to get everyone through Friday, I thought I'd give us a little eye candy. Normally I prefer brunettes, but here are some blond hotties that I've discovered recently. Curiously they all have curly hair. Hmm!

This is Tom Hiddleston who plays William Buxton in Return to Cranford on Masterpiece Classic. Not the best photo but great cheekbones and lovely curly blond hair.

Another hottie from the UK with curly blond hair, Rafe Spall, son of actor Timothy Spall. This photo is from the remake of A Room with a View that appeared on Masterpiece Classic a few years ago. I hated it but thought he was adorable. He's also appeared in a remake of Jean Rhys novel about Rochester's wife The Wide Sargasso Sea, as well as Hot Fuzz. He also played Jonathan Harker in one of the worst versions of Dracula that I have ever seen which was also on Masterpiece Classic.

This is Samuel West who starred in Howard's End with Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter. You might also have seen him in Persuasion as Anne Elliott's cousin, Mr. Elliott as well as in Notting Hill. He comes from UK theatrical royalty. His father is actor Timothy West and his mother is Prunella Scales of Fawlty Tower fame. Sam is multi-talented, as well as acting he's also a director. He's appearing in a new play in the West End called Enron which should be making its way to our shores in the spring.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Guiliana and Bill

As much as I try to stay away from it, reality TV keeps sucking me back in, and the latest show to get me hooked is Guiliana and Bill on The Style Network. For those who don't know the happy couple, Guiliana De Pandi (as she was then known) is the co-host of E! News Daily with Ryan Seacrest. She interviewed Bill Rancic, the winner of the first The Apprentice and asked him if he was dating anyone. He wasn't, and soon they were dating. They got married two years ago, and now have their own reality show.

One of the reasons I like this show is that they are grappling with a long-distance relationship, living in between Chicago and Los Angeles. Since Guiliana is the co-host of E! News Daily and has been for several years, her career is in Los Angeles. I'm not sure why Rancic won't leave Chicago. He says that he has business interests in real estate. He also works as a motivational speaker. Anyway, now that they are trying to have a baby, at some point, something is going to have to go, and I'm interested to see how this all going to pan out.

Guiliana and Bill seem to be complete opposites. He's more down to earth, while she's goofy and outgoing. The relationship between her and her assistant Matthew is hysterical, he's almost like a third wheel in her relationship with Bill since he seems to travel with her whenever she's in Chicago. At times, Guiliana can be incredibly annoying, and I love Bill's reactions whenever she does something that he thinks is crazy like Sunday night when she put on a pair of maternity panties on over her regular pants. Yet, they seem to compliment each other, and I'm hoping that they won't end up like other couples who have let the cameras in on their relationship. I think they produce the show as well, which is probably smart. They can control exactly what they show and what they don't show.

Guiliana and Bill is on Sunday nights on the Style Network at 9:00 p.m. Check it out and see if you are not charmed by the two of them.

Monday, January 11, 2010

All My Children 40th Anniversary Event at the Times Center

Yesterday, I went downtown to the Times Center for the All My Children 40th Anniversary event which was part of the NYT's Art and Leisure Weekend. I was tres excited for this event because I thought it was sold out. Thanks to Roger and Damon over at We Love Soaps for letting me know that there were still tickets available. I am a huge fan of AMC, having watched the show since the age of 7 when I had the chicken pox. It was the height of the love triangle between Phil Brent/Tara Martin/Chuck Tyler. I was so entranced by this show that I made my father buy another TV so that when I stayed at my grandmother's house during my school breaks, I could watch my own soaps instead of hers (She only watched CBS).

The line-up of stars from the show included Susan Lucci (Erica Kane), Cameron Matheson (Ryan Lavery), Rebecca Budig (Greenlee Smythe Dupree) and Debbi Morgan (Angie Hubbard), along with the creator Agnes Nixon and EP Julie Hanan-Carruthers. The program started at noon and was scheduled to run for a measly hour and fifteen minutes which is not enough time to do justice to 40 years of television. I also wish that a few of the other actors who have been on the show for awhile could have been there like Michael E. Knight (Tad Martin), Jill Larson (Opal Cortlandt), and David Canary, but I was happy with the stars that they had.

The moderator opened up asking Agnes Nixon a few questions about the gestation of the show. Unfortunately, Miss Nixon is in her late eighties and I don't think she really understood the question. The good stuff really happened when the floor was opened up for questions. Despite EW's recent article blaming the fans for the erosion of Daytime Drama, the fans were out in full force for this event. Almost everyone who asked a question had been watching the show for 30+ years. One of the common threads was that the show seems to have lost its way in courting new viewers, and neglecting the fans who have been watching since Day 1. I was pleased to hear EP, Julie Hanan-Carruthers state that the 40th Anniversary made them sit down and rethink the show, possibly taking it back to its roots. The rehiring of Julia Barr who played Brooke English, firing of Head Writer Chuck Pratt, and putting Jill Larson on contract as Opal certainly gives me hope. Now if they just bring Walt Wiley back on the show as Jackson Montgomery as DA to spar with Liza Colby I will be a happy girl. Oh and hire Ted King as Kendall's new love interest.

The best moment was at the end when a man stood up and told Debbi Morgan about a scene that she had played as Angie over 20 years ago. Angie was in medical school and one of her teachers wanted sex for grades. Angie stood up to him and when he asked her to keep quiet, she told him that she was going to "Shout it from the rooftops." Well that became a catch-phrase for this guy and his friends. And when one of them died recently, on his death bed, he told this guy that he was going "Shout it from the rooftops" when he got to heaven. There wasn't a dry eye in the house after that. It was a fitting ending to the program.

You can read a much wittier recap of the event by Mallory over at Serial Drama here.

The only thing that really bugs me is that SOAPNET which is owned by ABC is not doing anything so far to celebrate AMC's 40th other than rerunning the episode of The View that featured the show. Why not run an all day marathon of classic episodes from however far back the network has them? It's not like they haven't had enough time to prepare for this.

Here is some clips from the ABC web-site:

Friday, January 08, 2010

Why I am not watching The Bachelor Anymore

This past Monday started a whole new season of The Bachelor and for the first time since the show started in 2002, I am not watching. That's right, I didn't watch and I didn't DVR it. The Bachelor used to be fun, like a more glamorous version of speed dating. Fabulous dates that would never happen in real life, glamorous clothes, uber-romantic at first. I actually wanted to believe that when The Bachelor went down on one knee that true love woudl follow. Yes, I am a romantic sap that way. But no the bloom is off the rose so to speak.

Why? Is it because out of 19 seasons, only one couple has gotten married? Nope! Is it because some of The Bachelors have been complete tools (Travis Stork, Jesse Palmer, Prince Lorenzo Borghese) I'm not watching it because after the whole Jason proposes to Melissa and then dumps her on national television to get together with Molly I'm done.

Now, I know both Jason and Melissa have said that there relationship was over before the After the Final Rose special but there was no reason for him to have to tell her on national television that he was in love with bachelorette No. 2, particularly when he apparently had been denying to Melissa that was the reason why they broke up. And then whining that the producers made him do it.

Then we move on to Jillian's season where our new Bachelor Jake whined about how Wes had a girlfriend but then couldn't prove it. But heck it got him more screen time after he got dumped and then got him the gig as the next Bachelor. I think he's fake and has about as much charisma as a Ken doll. No, I take it back, Ken doll's have more charisma. Not that I thought sleazy Wes was a charmer. It was clear that he was only on the show to promote himself. And then there was foot fetish Tanner. And finally the man Jillian chose, who it turned out was doing half of Chicago while he was supposed to have left the show for his 'job.' Yes, I know that supposedly they are happy now, but it was just too much.

And now the producers have created a fake scandal about a bachelorette and one of the producers having a sexual relationship but they have no footage of this alleged relationship. You can read all abou the alleged scandal on Reality Steve.

But the final reason why is that I'm tired of the fact that in all of these seasons, not once have we had a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color. Forget about the fact that there is usually one token who never gets any screen time and generally gets booted off after the first two episodes. In the 21st century, I find it ridunkulous that they keep casting only whites. Why no attractive, well-to-do black, Asian, Latin or Indian bachelor or bachelorette?  There is more diversity on BRAVO or any of the VH-1 reality dating shows than on ABC. An argument can of course be made that the Bachelor or Bachelorette who does get cast does not want to date interacially which is of course there perogative but since they are going on national television to find a mate, you think they might be more open to meeting people outside their comfort zone, which in this case means race. I'm not the only one wondering about this. Check out this article in yesterday's The Huffington Post.

And that is why I'm no longer watching The Bachelor.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Portrait of Prince William and Harry

Okay is just me or does this painting make Prince William look like he's middle-aged compared to Prince Harry? The guy is only 27 years old, he can't be that wrinkled can he? I do love the way the artist has captured the camraderie between the two brothers, and I love a man in uniform.

I'll have to check out the painting up close next time I'm in London.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Happy New Year Everyone!

Happy New Year! It's been a long time since I've written anything on this blog, but now it is a New Year and it's time to start fresh. 

The blog has a new title and it will soon have a new look! I will try to blog here at least three or four days a week, in between trips to the library to do research for my other blog Scandalous Women.