Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hump Day Hottie: Ashley Cowie

Wow, it's been a long time since I've had a hump day hottie, but I just had to share my new discovery, Ashley Cowie. I was scrolling through the TV guide on my DVR when the show Legend Quest popped otu at me.  I've written about my love for the National Treasure movies, and this seemed like a unique combination of those movies and Dan Brown's novels. The first episode that I watched was about the Holy Grail. Sweet, I was eager to hear what he had to say compared to Dan Brown.

Well imagine my surprise when Ashley Cowie turned out to not only be a hottie but a Scottish hottie! Be still my heart.  He's also a member of the Scottish Knights Templar. I'm not sure what that means but it sounds awesome. The TV show didn't disappoint, although I had the feeling that Dan Brown must be sitting in his house, counting his money, thinking 'Wow, that's even crazier than what I came up with!" Cowie's Quest tooks him from Rosslyn Chapel to Providencetown Massachussets, to Washington, DC and finally to the Statue of Liberty where he concluded that it was possible that the Freemasons (because Lord knows they have their hands in everything) melted down the Holy Grail and used the metal to forge the original torch of the Statue of Liberty.  Are you with me?

That's almost insane enough to be believable.  The other episodes that I watched thanks to Syfy on demand includes the search for Merlin's grave, Moses' Staff, and the Stone of Destiny which they may actually have found. There were only six episodes in this first series, but hopefully Syfy will order more. There hasn't been a show this cool since Josh Bernstein's show Digging for the Truth on the History Channel or Brad Meltzer's crazy show.

But back to Mr. Cowie. He's a photographer and a self-taught historian (sort of like me).  Unfortunately he's married, which is just how my luck runs. Just when I find a man who ticks all my boxes (Scottish, interested in history, slightly bat sh*t crazy), he's not available. *Sigh* However, he's now replaced Josh Bernstein as my bit of thinking woman's crumpet. Sorry Josh! Anyway, you're looking for a six-foot tall Jewish blonde who likes the outdoors (by the way, if you haven't found her, how is that working for you? UPDATE:  Josh Bernstein is getting married on Sunday to Lily Snyder who is tall, blonde and Jewish, as well as well-connected).

No, I'll settle for using Mr. Cowie as the prototype for a contemporary series that I'm thinking of working on, that would involve a loveable rogue like him.  Think of the Michael Douglas character in Romancing the Stone but hotter and Scottish!

You can read more about Mr. Cowie in this interview with The Morton Report.

Monday, August 29, 2011

William and Catherine - A Royal Romance

About the Movie

William & Catherine: A Royal Romance chronicles the love story of Prince William (Dan Amboyer) and Kate Middleton (Alice St. Clair) that resulted in one of the most celebrated weddings in history. At a pivotal point in their courtship, William takes to heart the advice of his mother, the late Princess Diana (Lesley Harcourt), which she bestowed in an interview before her untimely death. The message she left for her son: hold on to the love of your life and protect it with all of your heart.

Stars Jane Alexander (Queen Elizabeth II), Victor Garber (Prince Charles), Jean Smart (Camilla Parker Bowles), Alice St. Clair (Kate Middleton), Dan Amboyer (Prince William).

Gotham Gal says - Well, you just knew that I was going to watch this didn't you? Especially with Hurricane Irene battering the East Coast, I really, truly had nothing better to watch this weekend apart from Dr. Who and several episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker (Patti really is a bitch isn't she?).  This TV movie in many ways was even more laughable than the Lifetime TV movie that came out in April. I'm not even sure where to start with this one.  The scene at Prince William's 21st birthday party, when Kate comes bouncing up to the Queen and introduces herself without even curtesying.  The portrayal of the Middleton's as gauche, nouveau-riche idiots? Kate and the Queen playing WiFi tennis? Prince William breaking up with Kate over the telephone?The Queen trying to pronounce Kanye West? Or how about Prince Philip completely getting the Queen's genealogy wrong by calling Edward VII her great uncle? (He was her great grandfather).

The movie opens up with Prince William watching a videotape of his mother in the infamous interview with Martin Bashir (he watches this interview intermittently during the movie to show how close he was to his mother and how her death affected him).  I had no problem with that.  I did have a problem with them showing Prince William showing up at St. Andrew's University sans Prince Charles (which the previous movie at least managed to get right). Kate and William meet cute in the hallway when he bumps into her and she drops her laundry. Hysterical moment when he points out her knickers are still on the ground. This Kate Middleton is a barmaid at the local pub, where William drowns his sorrows trying to be normal bloke.  There is the obligatory scene where Kate convinces him to stay at college which comes out of nowhere, and scenes of him dating some generic blonde named Cynthia.  Of course we have the infamous fashion show, where for some reason Prince Harry shows up, looking older than William.

In this version Kate and William's relationship doesn't start until after his 21st birthday, he's too preoccupied with someone named Jenna (presumably Jecca Craig).  Back at college, during their third year, he sets up a romantic dinner for two, which he burns. Kate comes to the rescue and she jumps him while they are watching a movie.  The one thing I will give this movie credit for, is that at least you have some sense as to why William and Kate are attracted to each other, and why they fell in love, a huge failure of the Lifetime Movie.  Where this movie fails is in their protrayal of the Middleton family.  Kate comes off as completely clueless about royal etiquette as do her parents.  There is no Pippa and James and no sense of how close the Middletons are, which is apparently what attracted William in the first place.

What gauls me about both these movies is that there are dozens of books and magazines that have been written about the royal couple, documenting at least the milestones in their relationship and both movies either fudge the details (because they have the cheapest budgets on the planet) or don't care.  Kate didn't take the job at Jigsaw until almost a year after her graduation from college. Where was the scene of Prince William landing a helicopter on the Middleton's lawn? Kate and her family showing up at Prince William's graduation, and Carole Middleton getting slagged for chewing nicotine gum? The nights out at Bouji and Mahiki? Kate taking part in the charity race (the first movie at least got this right).  The only sign of William feeling trapped is Kate pointing out a crib in a shop window. In the Hallmark movie, Kate and William get back together after they discover they are both watching the same concert in the park. 

While the Hallmark movie has a more distinguished cast (Victor Garber, Jane Alexander and Jean Smart), Ben Cross was a much more believable Prince Charles than Victor Garber.  Not sure what was the point of having scenes with Camilla since we never get a sense of her relationship with Prince William, Prince Harry or even the Queen. The Lifetime movie also gave you more of a sense of the time that Kate and William spent together, skiing, spending weekends at Highgrove.  However, both films feature the generic friends of Prince William who don't really have names but are just filler.

I have to give this film an A for effort but a C+ for delivery.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: TOUT SWEET

Title:  Tout Sweet
Author:  Karen Wheeler
Pub. Date: August 2011

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Format: Paperback , 320pp

Synopsis:  In her mid-thirties, fashion editor Karen has it all: a handsome boyfriend, a fab flat in west London, and an array of gorgeus shoes. But when her boyfriend, Eric, leaves she makes an unexpected decision: to hang up her Manolos and wave good-bye to her glamorous city lifestyle to go it alone in a run-down house in rural Poitou-Charentes, central western France.

Tout Sweet is the perfect read for anyone who dreams of chucking away their BlackBerry in favor of real blackberrying and downshifting to a romantic, alluring locale where new friendships–and new loves–are just some of the treasures to be found amongst life's simple pleasures.

About the Author:  Karen Wheeler is a former fashion editor for the Mail on Sunday and current writer for the Financial Times 'How to Spend It' magazine and London's Daily Mail. Her work has appeared in the Evening Standard and You magazines, Sunday Times Style and numerous international publications. Visit Karen at and Twitter @mimipompom1

Gotham Gal says:  Sourcebooks asked me to review this book weeks ago, and due to work and putting together book proposals, I only managed to read the book this past weekend.  It was just the palate cleanser that I needed after reading severa historical novels and non-fiction books in succession. This was a light, fun read that had surprising depth at times. On the surface, Wheeler has led a life that most of us would envy, she works as a beauty and fashion editor for a leading London magazine (which she does not name), filled with beautiful parties, countless shoes and dresses.  When her plans to marry her handsome French boyfriend fall through, she decides at 35 to change her life. She buys a fixer-upper with no heat or hot water in a remote French village on impulse—"a long way from anyone's idea of the charming French house."

Although her relationship with her boyfriend is long over, Wheeler finds it hard to recover, especially after she finds out some devastating information that makes her question everything. What I found interesting about the book was how quickly Wheeler adapted to life in a small village where everyone knows your business. She quickly settles into a routine and makes friends incredibly easy. I was impressed by the fact that she took her time improving her French in twice weekly classes before she made the move, instead of just relying on some weird version of Franglais like some of the Europeans that she describes in the book.  I found it rather strange that she lived on bread and cheese for months until she has a functioning kitchen, when she had new friends who were more than willing to feed her.

The book only became bogged down when it dealt with her dating life. It seemed like every man she met was either a heel or a loser. The book came to life when it chronicles the details of how she transformed an unloved and neglected house into a cozy home. The house in a sense serves as a metaphor for Wheeler's broken heart.  As the house starts to become more like a home, Wheeler starts to heal and become more whole. Wheeler proves to have a sharp eye for social commentary, her views on the ways on which ex-pats either don't adapt to France or they try to make France more like Britain (which begs the question why some of them chose to retire in a foreign country in the first place) are priceless.  Some of the scenes in the book were priceless, particularly when she makes a discovery about the hunky baker in town, and a fun weekend she spends with friends bunked down in suite at the Plaza Athenee.  I almost began to envy her life, being able to breeze to London and Paris for work, and in between settled down into her cozy country village, even without a Marks and Spencer food hall (don't they one in Paris?).

This book certainly deserves a place on the shelf of any armchair traveler.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: Death Takes a Holiday

Synopsis:  In Death Takes a Holiday, it's just after the first World War and the loneliest of souls arrives at an Italian villa disguised as a handsome young Prince, and for the first time experiences the joys and heartbreaks of life. But when he unexpectedly falls in love with a newly engaged young woman, the mysterious stranger discovers that love may in fact be stronger than death. Directed by Tony® winner Doug Hughes (Doubt), this soaring tale of love is adapted by Tony®-winning writers Peter Stone (1776) and Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray), and features lush, romantic songs by Tony® winner Maury Yeston (Nine, Titanic).

Last night I went to see the new off-Broadway show DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, produced by the Roundabout Theatre company. I absolutely adore the 1934 film with Frederic March (didn't even bother to watch the remake MEET BRAD PITT), so I was anxious to see how they adapted the story.  The film is based on an Italian play that was written right after the first World War when so many young men lost their lives, so there is a poignancy to the story of Death coming to Earth to take a holiday and learning about love and loss, and how what he does affects people.

Unfortunately I was very disappointed in both the show and several of the performances.  My first disappointment was discovering that the lead actor, Julian Ovenden (FOYLE'S WAR, THE FORSYTHE SAGA) had to leave the show because of vocal problems. Just from seeing the stills from the show, and a brief clip, I could tell just how right he would have been for the lead role. Death should be sexy, mysterious and a bit sinister.  The actor who replaced him, Kevin Early while a fine singer, just didn't have the acting chops for the role. He also looks more like a Midwestern farmer than either the Russian Prince he impersonates or Death. Jill Paice, who plays his love interest, plays Grazia as a giddy, naive woman, who flutters her hands alot and babbles on about true love. I found it hard to believe that they fell in love at first sight or that they are soulmates.

It doesn't help that the score is also unmemorable. I can't remember a single melody from the show, nothing stuck.  LOVE NEVER DIES was not a great show but the title tune sticks with you, even though its annoying. One song in DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY sounded like something that was left on the cutting room floor by the creators of the 1920's pastiche musical THE BOYFRIEND. The biggest weakness in the show, however, is the denouement. Death has told Grazia's father that he has decided not to take her with him, he goes to tell her, but she's not frightened of him after he reveals his true nature, and they embrace. End of show.  She never tells her parents of her decision, or why she's going.  There needs to be a song when she explains to her family why she has made the decision that she's made, and how even though she's unhappy to leave them, she's fulfilling her destiny.  The 1934 film has such a scene where Death and Grazia go off together, after she explains why.

The set was lovely and the costumes although generic 1920's were very pretty.  I enjoyed some of the performances of the minor characters incuding Simon Jones and the butler, but all in all, it was a pretty dull evening.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: IRONCLAD (2011)


Directed by: Jonathan English
Written by:  Jonathan English
                    Erick Kastel
                   Stephen McDool

James Purefoy as Marshall

Paul Giamatti as King John
Brian Cox as Albany
Mackenzie Crook as Marks
Jason Flemyng as Beckett
Derek Jacobi as Cornhill
Kate Mara as Lady Isabel
Jamie Foreman
Charles Dance - Archbishop Langton
Aneurin Barnard as Guy

Plot:  A Templar knight and a ragtag band of warriors hold out for months against the hard-fought siege of Rochester Castle in 1215.  Set just after King John's signing of the Magna Carta treaty, the group struggles against the King to defend the freedom iof their country.
Gotham Gal says:  Well isn't that a tidy little plot summary from Wikipedia?  But that basically is the entire plot of IRONCLAD.  The film opens with King John signing the Magna Carta and a voice-over telling the audience that there was more to the story than previously known.  IRONCLAD is what happened after the signing, when King John (Paul Giamatti relishing the chance to play a King), still pissed off at being forced to sign, decides to get back at all the barons in the kingdom because that's just the kind of douchebag that he is.  He hires a band of Danish mercenaries, telling them that he will keep the Pope from Christianizing Denmark, if they help him. Oh, and he'll pay them a bunch of money as well, but apparently the whole keep the Pope out of Denmark is more important to them.
Meanwhile, Thomas Marshal (played by the delectable James Purefoy) has returned to England after many years fighting in the Holy Land. He stops at a castle belonging to the King, along with several priests.  The King arrives, and because the chuch supported the barons, the priests are killed but Marshal manages to escape and make his way to Canterbury where he runs into Albany (Brian Cox) who has decided to continue the rebellion against the King.  It seems that John has been killing off all the barons who signed Magna Carta and Albany is determined to stop him by taking Rochester Castle, which is located on the coast.  Apparently, the French are also supposed to be making their way to England to help.
Albany manages to cobble together a group of about 6 guys along with Marshal to hold the castle. They make their way to Rochester where Cornhill is forced into helping them.  From here on in, the film is one long battle scene interspersed with a few scenes of the men squabbling, learning to write their names, starving, and more squabbling.  The battle scenes are incredibly bloody, body parts flying everywhere, blood spurting from every orifice.  After awhile, I couldn't look at it any more, I just covered my eyes until they were over.
This is a film that requires you to check your brain at the door.  Otherwise, you start wondering as I did, why Albany (D'Aubigny in real life) could only find like 6 men to help? Seriously, there had to have been more people pissed off at the king than that.  Oh, and Thomas Marshal, the Knight Templar, is like a one man killing machine to the point of it being ridiculous. Although the way he wields his sword is incredibly sexy.  I might have to start reading some medieval romances now after seeing this movie.
There is something of a love story, if you can call it that.  Kate Mara (not to be confused with her sister Rooney) plays Lady Isabel, the wife of Cornhill (played by the great Derek Jacobi).  According to Wikipedia, Megan Fox was attached at one point to play this role.  Thank god she dropped out because she would have been terrible. Seriously, Megan Fox attempting an English accent? She can barely speak American English.  Anywhoo, Lady Isabel is seriously horny because Cornhill who is much, much older has no interest in her other than telling her not to drink wine or do anything fun. So of course, the minute she spies Thomas Marshal, her hormones go into overdrive.  See despite his vows of chastity, he just oozes testosterone what with all the killing he's been doing.  Plus he's incredibly noble, he doesn't like killing, even in the name of God.
So of course, Lady Isabel has to get her some of that man candy.  At first she creeps up on him while he's sharpening his sword (hint, hint). Of course, he's partially dressed, with his shirt artfully open to display one tantalizing man titty, lightly dusted with hair.  While Lady Isabel salivated to reach out and touch him, so did every woman in the audience.  I'm telling you it was nice to see a man objectified for a change.  Of course, he tells her know, because he's a Templar and took vows and all.  But Lady Isabel is not deterred, oh no.  What with people dying left and right, she's determined to get some before they all get killed.  This time, she decides to show him the goods by lifting up her dress.  Apparently he liked what he saw because before you can say "Hail Mary," they're doing it in the barn.  Not that the audience got to see anything, since nobody was getting killed.  Instead, we just got a little bit of afterglow on Lady Isabel while Marshal glowered (James Purefoy gives very good glower and smoldering, man can he smolder) at her, calling what they did a sin.
Of course, all turns out well in the end, despite half the castle getting blown up (this actually happened).  The French miraculously arrive in time (which didn't happen) and John is a sore loser.  Again this didn't happen, in real life, the remaining occupants finally surrendered, and John died a year later, leaving his young son Henry III to continue his fight with the barons. I can't quarrel with the acting in this film.  Paul Giamatti plays King John as a petty tyrant but who is very aware of the importance of the crown and wielding power. This is a King John who is not ready to give an inch or to compromise.  James Purefoy has what the New York Times called an 'arresting screen presence.'  He manages to say more without any words than any actor I have seen. And he's hot.  Kate Mara has very little to do as Lady Isabel but be pretty and horny, which she does admirably.  It was fun to see Derek Jacobi and Brian Cox together on film, particularly after having met Derek a few weeks ago.  Was it worth the 'gulp' $13.00 I spent to see this film? No, not really, but it was fun nevertheless.
Gotham Gal verdict:  3 red apples.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

So last night I went to see the Broadway production of ARCADIA by Tom Stoppard which closes this Sunday. This is the first Broadway show that I have seen in god only knows how long, which is something that I'm hoping to change in the coming years (but more on that anon). I'm lucky enough to have a friend who gets TDF discounts so my orchestra ticket was less than half of the usual price although I had a restricted view.

I'm not a huge fan of Tom Stoppard, while I think he's a brilliant writer, sometimes he's too clever for his own good. He tries to cram so many ideas into a play that you don't know whether you're coming or going. I would suggest that if you are going to see any of his plays, that you read the script if it is published beforehand, or even afterwards, because there is a great deal that is just going to fly by you.

Arcadia is set in the fictional country estate of Sidley Park, in the years 1809-1812 and the present day. The events and activities of 2 modern day English scholars and the house's current residents are juxtaposed with the lives of the inhabitants who lived there 200 years in the past. In 1809, Thomasina Coverly, the precocious daughter of the house, is studying with her tutor Septimus Hodge who is a bit of a rake. Hodge is a contemporary of Lord Byron, who is mentioned constantly although he never makes an appearance. In the present day, Bernard Nightingale, a professor of English literature, matches wits with Hannah Jarvis, a writer, who is working on a book about a hermit who once resided on the grounds. Hannah is the author of a popular biography of Lady Caroline Lamb (a personal favorite of mine), rescuing her reputation as an author. Nightingale has been critical of her work. Nightingale is working on a book about Byron, in particular a mysterious chapter in his life, and thinks that the answer lies at Sidley Park  Together, along with Valentine Coverly, who is a graduate student in mathematical biology, they uncover the truth about what happened in Thomasina's time, or what Bernard thinks happens.  The play deals with a number of things including professional jealousy, evidence and truth when it comes to historical research, it skirts the line between being a tragedy and being a comedy.

The play in both the past and the present takes place in one room in the house, the garden front room. The play started off slowly for me, I wasn't sure what was going on, since there is a great deal of talk about Newton and the meaning of the phrase 'carnal embrace.' I won't go into a whole summary of what the play is about, but you can read a summary here. Out of all of the Tom Stoppard plays that I have seen (The Real Thing, Rock and Roll, Invention of Love, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Hapgood), I think that Arcadia is probably my favorite. Maybe because it contains several of my favorite things, Lord Byron, an English Country estate, and the Regency era. He would probably deny it, but I think Mr. Stoppard is a closet romantic.

The cast was Anglo-American, most of the actors were American, but three of them were English. As someone who has spent a great deal of time in Britain, I had no problem picking out which three, without looking at my program. My favorite character in the whole play is Thomasina Coverly (played by Bel Powley who is English). She is quite possibly the cleverest person in the room, which if you know anything about the Regency, was not necessarily a good thing, in terms of marriage. She's incredibly precocious in that annoying way that child geniuses are, but also surprisingly vulnerable. Bel Powley's performance was touching, exuberant, and funny. One of my favorite scenes in the play is toward the end when she gets Septimus Hodge, her tutor, to teach her how to waltz. It's particularly poignant because we know her fate.

Septimus Hodge (played by Rufus Sewell in the original production, and Tom Riley in this production) is a wanna be Byron but he actually has a conscience, which Byron clearly did not.  His role is that of the forbidden (I don't know why more Regency romance novels don't feature female pupils in love with their hot tutor). Lia Williams (who I saw in David Hare's Skylight many moons ago) plays Hannah Jarvis, teh modern day writer who actually does her historical research and doesn't cut corners the way Bernard Nightingale does. The weakest link in the cast for me was Billy Crudup (who I admit I haven't liked much since he left Mary Louise Parker when she was 8 months pregnant for Claire Danes)  who plays Bernard Nightingale. He chews his words while speaking really fast, which means that a great deal of his lines got lost. Stoppard like Sondheim needs crisp, clear diction. He certainly had the right attitude to play the role, although his accent kept slipping. Raul Esparza (Valentine Coverly in the present day), however, managed to speak at just the same amount of speed as Crudup, but I could understand every word that he said. Meryl Streep's daughter Grace Gummer plays Chloe Coverly, and unfortunately she looks so much like her sister Mamie that for a moment, I thought it was her on stage. She also has a similar quality to her acting, and lacks the facility for accents that her mother has.

The production was well worth seeing although I had mixed feelings about some of the acting.

For another more personal viewpoint on the production, head on over here to author Leanna Renee Hieber's review.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: Finding Sarah

FINDING SARAH: From Royalty to the Real World
OWN Network
Sundays at 9:00 p.m.

About the show (from the OWN Network site): Candid and unprecedented, the six-part television series Finding Sarah documents Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York's emotional struggle to rebuild her life. In the series, viewers will hear the Duchess' personal story and witness her unforgettable journey of healing and self-improvement.

To guide her through the ultimate mind/body makeover, she seeks guidance from traditional and non-traditional experts - a shaman, life coach, trainer and a horse whisperer - along with Oprah's "All Stars," Dr. Phil and Suze Orman.

Together they help the Duchess address tough personal issues, ranging from finances to self esteem to physical fitness. Calling upon her inner-strength and resilience, the Duchess comes to terms with past missteps, tackles major life changes and even attempts an unforgettable physical challenge in the Arctic.

Through it all, the Duchess hopes that as she heals and finds the true Sarah, and that others will learn from her story.

My thoughts:  I wasn't sure at first whether or not I was going to watch There was quite a good deal in the newspapers last week about Sarah's claims of abuse, which were blown out of proportion, frankly.  During her talks with Dr. Phil, she mentions what we might call emotional abuse, but certainly it wasn't intended that way.  Her mother Susan spanked her as a child, which was not uncommon in the 1960's, part of that whole 'spare the rod, spoil the child' ethos.  And both her parents were quite tough emotionally, they didn't condone a great deal of whinging or crying from their children, and they seem not to have been demonstrative in their affections. From all accounts, Sarah was quite an emotional child, and what her parents said to her, calling her a sheep's arse, selling her ponies (which really was obnoxious on her father's part, but then he was going to through a divorce and wasn't really thinking about how it affected his children).

Sarah's problems seem to have stemmed from her mother's running off with the handsome Argentinian polo player Hector Barrantes. Back then, it wasn't again uncommon for upper class father's to get custody of their children in the event of a divorce (witness Princess Diana's father Earl Spencer getting custody of his four children), particularly when there was adultery on the part of the mother.  I'm sure that Sarah's mother Susan believed that because her daughters were teenagers, that her leaving would be less traumatic, than it was say for Diana whose mother left when she was a small child.

I really began to feel for Sarah, I know what is like to have well-meaning parents, who loved me, say unkind things without realizing how it might affect me.  I also understand, as I'm sure quite a lot of viewers do, what it's like to turn to food for comfort. On the one hand, I think the Duchess is very brave to finally at the age of 51 to want to change her life for the better and to get a grip. And she seems to have done a remarkable job with her daughters, of showing them love and affection and boosting their confidence, particularly since the press has been remarkably on kind at times about their fashion choices and their weight. On the other hand, I find it hard to listen to her try to blame the whole of last year's fiasco (the scandal of her selling access for cash) solely on The News of the World.   She keeps repeating this story that she was only trying to get money for a friend, when it is clear from the video that she's selling access to Prince Andrew for cash.  The undercover reporter did not make her say those things.

I also found it hard to stomach that she has been so fiscally irresponsible over the years. She had a job for several years before she married into the royal family, so presumably she paid rent, bought food, etc.  At some point, someone should have sat her down (particuarly after she got into debt the first time) and taught her how to budget, invest her money etc. She was awfully cagey with Suze Orman about her divorce settlement from Prince Andrew.  We all know pretty much what Princess Diana received after her divoce, it makes me wonder how the royal family had her over a barrel on that one.

The other thing I found interesting was that she mentioned how little she saw Prince Andrew while they were dating.  Apparently she saw him less than Princess Diana did when Prince Charles was courting her, which again makes me wonder, why would you marry a man that you knew so little about? Was she just swept up in the romance of it, and never really stopped to think what she was getting into. Not so much the bit about marrying into the royal family, but marrying a naval officer. If she saw him so little during their courtship, did it not occur to her that this would continue after they were married?

Her enthusiasm and boisterousness seems to have made her jump in with both feet without ever thinking about the consequences of her actions. What I was struck by was her realization that she has been extraordinarily lucky in her life.  She and Andrew have managed to co-parent successfully after their divorce, there seems to have been no bitterness on either side. He jumped in to offer her a place to live after last year's scandal, and they continued to live together for several years after their divorce.  Oprah came to her rescue and offered her the chance to gain the tools to change her life (of course it wasn't totally altruistic). After her divorce, she managed to capitalize on a whole range of jobs to pull herself out of debt, and she also set up a charitable venture as well. So it's frustrating and heartbreaking that in the midst of all this, she has such self-loathing for herself.

Sarah comes across as likeable, vulnerable, and incredibly clueless. She claims that after she got divorced, she didn't know how to do anything.  I find that hard to believe, considering that for 8 years, she supported herself before she got married (well she had a job anyway) and she was only married to Prince Andrew for 6 years before they seperated in 1992 (they divorced in 1996). I've never met a woman of her age who was more child-like in her need to please people and to be taken care off, instead of standing on her own two feet.

I'm looking forward to seeing if this journey actually creates positive changes in her life, and if they continue after the cameras stop rolling. Will we need to have a Season 2?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: Witches of East End

Author:  Melissa de la Cruz
Pub. Date: June 2011

•Publisher: Hyperion
•Format: Hardcover , 288pp

From the back cover:

The three Beauchamp women--Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid--live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret--they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there's Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache.

For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it's time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them.

With a brand-new cast of characters, a fascinating and fresh world to discover, and a few surprise appearances from some of the Blue Blood fan favorites, this is a page-turning, deliciously fun, magical summer read fraught with love affairs, witchcraft, and an unforgettable battle between good and evil.

Gotham Gal reports:  Melissa de la Cruz's new series is an intoxicating brew, a heady mixture of Norse mythology, and old-fashioned story-telling. I wasn't sure what to make of this book when I first started reading it.  I received an ARC from the publisher, which indicated that the book was being positioned for the YA market that gobbled up her previous series The Blue Bloods and The Au Pairs.  However this book is more suited for more mature teens.  It's much more adult in many ways than her other books.  de la Cruz's writing is much more assured and mature than her earlier works.  Witches of East End is very reminiscent of Alice Hoffmann's work, particularly her book Practical Magic.

My only quibble with the story is that she uses a real location Gardiner's Island in the book as well as the Gardiner family (who actually still own the island), one of whom is the villain in the book. Granted, her Gardiner's are fictional but it would like writing a novel and creating a whole other branch of the Roosevelt or Vanderbilt family.  The Gardiners have owned that island since the late 17th century.  It's perfect for the story, but it took me out of the reality that she was creating.  That's just me and readers who don't know who the Gardiner family is and their relation to Long Island won't really care.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gotham Gal Review: Midnight in Paris

/Title:  Midnight in Paris
Theatrical Release Date: 05/20/2011
Director(s): Woody Allen
Distributor(s): Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated for some sexual references and smoking.
Genre(s): Comedy

This past weekend, I took myself off to the Cineplex along with my friend Mala to see Woody Allen's new film Midnight in Paris. Now I can't remember the last time I actually spent money to see a Woody Allen film, maybe way back when Match Point came out. Truthfully, I have not found his most recent oeuvre, apart from Vicky, Christina Barcelona to be either funny or interesting for that matter (Don't even get me started on the dreck he directed starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell). Despite my mixed feelings about Mr. Allen, I decided to give this film a shot for two reasons; it stars Owen Wilson and it's set in Paris. And not just Paris, but Paris in the 1920's, a period of history that I have been reading alot about lately, first during my research for SCANDALOUS WOMEN (Josephine Baker, Zelda Fitzgerald) but also in Paula MacLean's THE PARIS WIFE.  I'm a huge 1920's buff so I had to see this film. If nothing else, I could look at the scenery for two hours. And indeed the first minute or so of the film is like a Valentine to Paris.

Well, I'm happy to report that Midnight in Paris was delightful. Owen Wilson plays Gil, a successful screenwriter, who is dissatisfied with both his professional career and (as we later see) his personal life.  He's on a trip to Paris, with his fiancee Inez (played by Rachel McAdam) and her parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy) who are celebrating a business deal. While Inez is more concerned with materialistic things, Gil is full of nostalgia.  See, he once lived in Paris after college and has regretted leaving ever since. He dreams of renting a little garret and writing the great American novel. Inez, of course, things the whole idea is ridiculous. How can you get a great table at the Ivy, if you are a starving artist.

One night, after Inez and two of her friends Paul (played to perfection by Michael Sheen) go off dancing, Gil decides to walk back to their hotel (the Hotel Bristol). He gets lost and while he's trying to figure out which direction to go, an antique car pulls up and F. Scott Fitgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda (Allison Pill) invite him to a party. At first Gil thinks he's stumbled into some elaborate costume party (Cole Porter is even playing the piano) but it turns out to be all too real. He even meets his ideal Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll who almost steals the movie) who tells Gil that he should have Gertrude Stein read his novel.  Gil can't believe his luck. Gil is giddy at the idea that he gets to experience a time in Paris that he's only read about and has always wanted to experience. In his mind, Paris in the 1920's is the ultimate.

Instead of just telling Inez what happened, Gil decides to show her, but she gives up before the car shows up. Gil not only gets to meet Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) but he also meets a young model Adriana (played by the beautiful Marion Cotillard) who is having an affair with Picasso. There is an attraction between the two of them, but of course, Picasso (and Hemingway) not to mention Inez in the present complicate matters. Gil slowly starts to realize how dissatisfying his life really is, and how much he wants to seize the dream of writing in Paris.

Gil's novel features a protagonist who owns a nostalgia shop, a place where people can buy relics of the past (how this different from an antique shop I have no idea). Inez, of course, thinks the whole idea is whooey, she's firmly rooted in the present. Gil dreams of staying in the 1920's, hanging out with Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), but Adriana dreams of living in the Belle Epoque. Soon Gil realizes that this yearning is just a symptom of his dissatisfaction, not a cure.

Midnight in Paris is not just about a love affair with a woman (although Gil is spoiled for choices with not just one but three love interests), or a city, but also another time. How many of us read novels set in another time period, or watch Masterpiece Theatre (Downtown Abbey) and wax nostalgic about how much better life was back then. We see the beautiful costumes, and the gorgeous houses, but we rarely think about what life was really like, if you weren't rich. I know that I've often thought about what it would be like to live in New York in the 1920's. Prohibitons, Mobsters, Vogue Magazine, Chanel, Gershwin, Cole Porter, the Stork Club. Of course, the reality is far different than the way that I picture it in my head. Clubs were segregated, mobsters carry guns, and bathtub gin could kill you.

The past seems so much more vivid to Gil and Adrienne, so much more vivid and vibrant in our imaginations, and then it evaporates when we think of the reality of what it would really be like. We ignore the reality of it, that there was no novocaine, women had few rights, if you were diagnosed with cancer it was pretty much a death sentence. The past is so seductive because we weren't there, we don't know what it was really like. I know that growing up whenever my parents used wax nostalgic about what New York used to be like, I would feel pangs of longing that I never got experience seeing the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field or having an egg cream. “Midnight in Paris,”  is wonderfully romantic film, even though it acknowledges the disappointment that goes inevitably goes along with being a romantic.

My only quibble with the film is that the women seem to be underwritten.  Gil's fiancee Inez is a castrating shrew, I had a hard time understanding why Gil fell in love with her and proposed, Adriana is pretty much a cipher, and Carla Bruni is pretty bland as the tour guide.  The only vibrant women are Gertrude Stein and Zelda Fitzgerald but that has less to do with Woody Allen's writing and more to do with who these women were in real-life.

Gotham Gal gives it four shiny red apples

Do you, like Gil, suffer from nostalgia for a time period or a place that you wish that you could have lived in. If you could go back in time, would you?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Open Letter to Garin Wolf

Dear Garin,

Congrats on your new job as head writer of General Hospital. It's no doubt well deserved, given the years that you have toiled in the trenches underneath Bob Guza.  I'm taking your promotion as a sign that ABC has high hopes for GH now that they've tossed the mighty legacy of Agnes Nixon (All My Children and One Life to Live) on the trash heap.

I know it's going to be awhile before you stories air, but might I make a few suggestions as to how you can save this show from suffering the same fate as its sisters? First of all, forget market research, and listen to what the fans want.  It's not hard to do. I suggest that you read what Mallory has been writing about GH over at Serial Drama for the past few years, and I'm sure that Jamie Giddens over at Daytime Confidential could help out as well. Don't forget Carolyn Hinsey at Soap Opera Digest who hit the nail on the head when she said that viewers don't want stories driven by arbitrary events that might boost ratings for 5 seconds but have no lasting effect.  We want character driven stories, not plot driven stories. Of course to make this work, some deadwood has to be trimmed from the cast.  Lisa Niles, Matt Hunter, Spinelli, Clare Walsh, Siobhan (also known as irritating Irish chick who serves no purpose), Abby, Brenda (whose return was totally botched by your predecessor), Johnny and Anthony Zacchara all need to hit the road in the next few months.

Recently my friend Mala and I sat down over the weekend and played Head Writer. Here are just some of the ideas that I came up with (you can read Mala's ideas here). I totally agree with her about a Lucky/Maxie/Liz triangle, it plays to the character's history and it makes sense that Lucky would turn to Maxie, especially if he's contemplating doing drugs again. Siobhan can't compete with that kind of history and frankly she's been written as nothing more than just feisty since she's been on the canvas.

1) Bring back Bobbie from under whatever rock she's been hiding under over the past several years. Carly needs her, as do Luke, Lucky and Lulu.  Find out why she's missed every significant moment in her daughter's life over the past few years, and why she wasn't there for Luke's intervention. Have her help Carly deal with yet another failed marriage. Also give her a job as Head OR nurse or head of the nursing program in general at GH. She finds herself falling for her old love Scott Baldwin who has returned to town with his daughter Serena, who immediately makes a bee-line for Michael Corinthos. Seems she likes to take a walk on the wild side of life.

2) Mala mentioned having Jason Morgan recover his memories.  Bring back either Lainey or Tom Hardy Jr. as head of psychiatry to help Jason deal with the fact that he's killed people for the past 16 years.  Tracy would now feel threatened, wanting Ned and Dillon to come back into the fold at ELQ. Perhaps, if they don't want to come back, she reaches out to JR Chandler and a merger between Chandler Electronics and ELQ which would bring JR and little Adam to Port Charles. JR finds himself drawn to Sam McCall even though she's engaged to Jason Morgan Quartermaine. This would bring the Quartermaines back to the forefront which is what fans have been clamoring for. Perhaps add a little corporate espionage to the mix. While you are at it, why not have Edward start courting Leslie Webber, finding love again in his twilight years. Take a look at the fan reaction to Victor Kiriakis and Maggie Horton over at DOL. Fans are open to love amongst all ages.

3) Now that Jason has taken his rightful place as the Quartermaine heir, where does that leave Sam? How does a con artist/detective/mob moll fit in to his new high sociey world? Especially when Kelly Cramer comes to town to take over the Port Charles newspaper. Sam breaks up with Jason and decided to find out who her father is which sends both Helena Cassadine and Alexis into a tizzy. Valentine Cassadine arrives in Port Charles and immediately moves into Windermere along with his new wife Holly Sutton. Is he Sam's father or is the truth even darker than she realizes? While Helena Cassadine tries to neutralize Sam finding out who her real father is, she also finds time to try and romance both Dr. David Hayward and Edward Quartermaine.

4) Dr. David Hayward arrives in Port Charles and takes over as head of cardiac surgery which puts him into conflict with Dr. Monica Quartermaine who is not ready to be put out to pasture. The two butt heads over surgeries and procedures. He immediately makes an ally of Carly Roberts Quartermaine Corinthos Jax who now has a seat on the hospital board thanks to her divorce from Jax.  Of course they hit the sheets, becoming Port Charles's new power couple. Hayward also clashes with Patrick Drake over who has the bigger cojones as a doctor. Despite the fact that he was once Robin's stepfather when he was married to her mother Anna, Hayward and Robin also clash over her research. Remember David Hayward loves to mess with drugs (Libidizone anyone?).  Who knows what he could create and release into the punch bowl at say the nurse's ball?

5) If Robin didn't have enough of a headache with her former stepfather back in town, her uncle deciding to quit the police force, Bianca Montgomery comes to town and reveals exactly what Robin was doing all those years in Paris.  Bianca comes to town to make a business deal with Jasper Jax. Fusion needs a serious influx of cash and Jax is one of the few venture capitalists who has money to invest. Sonny also wants to invest so that he can launder some cash in a desperate attemp to go clean to try and get Brenda back. While in town, Bianca connects with her old friend Robin. It turns out that the women were more than friends for awhile until Robin decided that she really prefers men, but seeing Bianca again stirs up old feelings which causes Patrick to once again feel insecure and to have problems controlling his jealously.

6) Mac decides to retire as police commissioner, disallusioned by the force's inability to end organized crime in the city. He takes a job as head of security at the MetroCourt where Max and Milo now work since Sonny has decided to go straight. Frisco Jones, after years of working for the WSB, finally comes back to town, on a mission to find out what Helena and Valentine Cassadine are up to. He also needs to deal with one angry daughter, Maxie Jones, who tears into him for his years of neglect, and for not even coming back for her sister Georgie's funeral. Maxie finally deals with her daddy issues. While working at the Metrocourt he runs into Kate Howard, who decides to make Mac her new pet project.

7) Lucas Jones comes back to town and gets a job at General Hospital as a physical therapist. He reconnects with his cousin Maxie, commiserating over the death of Georgie. He also connects with his big sister Carly. When Milo needs physical therapy to cope with an older injury, he finds himself attracted to a guy for the first time in his life. But Milo is not the only one in town who has is eye on the handsome new employee at GH.

8) Ethan and Kristina impulsively get married after he receives his cut of the Quartermaine money but he finds himself feeling left out when Kristina starts attending Port Charles University, along side Dillon Quartermaine who has returned to Port Charles. He keenly feels his lack of education compared to Kristina but doesn't know what to do about it.  Kristina assures him that she loves him exactly the way that he is, but he worries that he can't compete with the Taylor's and Dillon's of the world. The only way he thinks he can compete is by having money. He gets involved in a series of underground high stakes poker games. Initially he wins several but then he gets into deep.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: Royal Housewife

Now that the wedding is over, and the top of the wedding cake has been frozen to be eaten on their first anniversary (do the Brits even follow that custom?) what is next for the royal couple? After a brief weekend break, Prince William went back to work today as a search and rescue pilot with the RAF. The couple are not set to take their honeymoon for a few weeks, hopefully somewhere warm (There is speculation that the royal honeymoon was canceled because of what went down this weekend with Osama). While the Duke is pursuing his career in the RAF, Kate is set to return to normality as a housewife. Word on the street is that she has decided not to become a full-time working royal for the next two years, instead she wants to enjoy life for as long as she can as an ‘ordinary RAF wife’ in the rented farmhouse that they share on the island of Anglesey in North Wales . “Catherine wants to enjoy her time with William as an RAF wife,” said a friend. “It’s so rare that someone in her position gets the chance to live as a normal wife and she intends to make the most of it.”

Kate’s life will be somewhat reminiscent of the Queen’s life when she first married the Duke of Edinburgh who was still an active officer in the Royal Navy. Some of the happiest times of their lives were when they were first married and the Duke was posted to Malta. Between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in Malta (then a British Protectorate) as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently, for several months at a time, in the Maltese hamlet of GwardamanÄ¡ia, at the Villa GwardamanÄ¡ia, the rented home of Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten. The children, Anne and Charles however remained in Britain.

The Duchess has been invited to join the wives' club at RAF Valley. Support from other women in a similar situation will be important. Only they really understand the difficulties of having a spouse in a high-pressure job such as search and rescue. Other wives may also provide a social network for Kate if she goes through a lengthy separation from William. It has been reported that he may be posted to the Falkland Islands to serve for two and a half months as part of his training. In the meantime, Kate will only conduct public engagements with William. According to the Daily Mail, Kate wants to model herself on Camilla, who insisted on a 'supporting role' only after her marriage to Prince Charles in 2005.

This decision is as much William’s as it is Kate’s doing, as he has asked aides to keep her commitments to a minimum. Accordingly, there are only a few events penciled into her diary for the upcoming months. The only definite dates include events like Trooping the Color (aka the Queen’s official birthday), a couple of polo matches and the Duke of Edinburgh's 90th birthday. There will also be Zara Phillip’s wedding to Mike Tindall in Scotland at the end of July. Meanwhile, in Canada excitement is building as Kate will accompany William on a two-week tour in July. Rumor has it that the royal couple may be bringing some glitz and glamor to Tinsletown itself at the end of the tour although that hasn’t been confirmed (at least according to Andrew Morton on his new site The Morton Report). Word is that they will also be taking on a significant role next year for the Olympics, not to mention the Queen’s 60th anniversary on the throne.

Seriously though, one has to wonder, won’t she get bored just sitting around the cottage waiting for William to come home? Before she, at least, had her job at Party Pieces to occupy her when she wasn’t with William. Aides to the Prince however insist that Kate ‘will not be idle’ and that while William is on duty, she will be ‘pursuing other interests.’ Hmm, Kate once expressed an interest in photography, I wonder if she might take that up again. There’s also the possibility eventually of the pitter-patter of tiny royal feet.

Soon, however, Kate will have to take on some royal engagements on her own. It is important that she be seen to be earning her keep as it were. During the years that she was dating Prince William, she was criticized for being ‘work-shy.’ Apart from working for her parents at Party Pieces, the only job she had was as a part-time Accessories buyer for the High-Street chain Jigsaw. Last year, the Queen who is 85 conducted 444 royal engagements, while Prince Charles carried out 585! William on the other hand performed 73. Of course, he also has a full-time job in the RAF so he can be forgiven for not undertaking more. Kate, however, does not have that excuse.

While it is understandable that Prince William does not want Kate to be thrown into the deep end the way is mother was, Kate seems to be a pretty tough cookie. She’s already proven that she has a natural confidence about her in the few royal engagements that she performed before the wedding. I have a feeling that she would be fine if she undertook a few solo engagements at carefully selected charities that have some personal meaning to her. However, according to the Daily Mail, she wants to explore the fields that interest her before committing to her own charities.

It appears that Kate has the blessing of the Queen, who no doubt remembers what it was like in the few short years that she had as a newlywed before her father’s untimely death which thrust her into the duties of the monarchy. You have to applaud Kate’s chutzpah at bucking royal tradition.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

He Liked It So Much He Put a Ring on It: The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton

This is not a recap of the wedding of the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge per se. After watching about a zillion hours of royal wedding programming leading up to yesterday's nuptials, I'm a little burnt out.  Seriously, I felt I had waited almost as long as Kate for the wedding.  When Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, there was hoopla, but nothing like this.  I don't remember quite as many books or TV specials. Of course it was a different world. No internet, no Twitter, Facebook, or blogs.  What did we do back then in the stone age?

The only thing that was the same between that wedding and this was the sense of anticipation.  The biggest difference is here we have a royal couple who are genuinely in love with each other and enjoy each other's company.  The secret smiles they shared during the service, and the slight smirks from Prince William proved that this was an altogether different wedding. Not to mention the best man Prince Harry's stated intention to party all night long!

The night before the wedding, Catherine was at the Goring Hotel, spending her last night as a single woman in the bosom of her family.  Contrast that with Lady Diana who was alone at Clarence House with the Queen Mother. No friends, and no family to soothe any anxieties she might have had.  Prince William also spent the night with his family, Prince Charles and Prince Harry doing some male bonding.

I was lucky enough to be there in England when Prince Charles married Diana, and I remember thinking how surreal it was that a 19 year old girl was marrying a much older Prince and settling down before she had barely lived.  William and Catherine however have grown up together, he's eased her into the family, he's protected her from the beginning.  They are best friends as well as lovers.

However it didn't disappoint. What I loved about Catherine and William's nuptials was how they were able to make it seem like a family wedding, albeit a family with 1,900 guests.  It was royal yet it felt intimate at the same time. I loved that Catherine was able to keep her wedding dress a secret until the day of the ceremony (although already there's apparently backlash against Sarah Burton and the House of Alexander McQueen because they denied making the dress when they were asked. Seriously? What did the press expect them to say?).  I also loved that she didn't want William to see her until she was actually walking down the aisle. Loved that Prince Harry couldn't hellp turning around and then telling his brother that she looked fabulous. How sweet was that?

There were some nice moments during the ceremony. I liked that they both looked at each other when they said their vows.  Although who didn't get the giggles when William said for 'richer or for poorer'? How about just for rich? The whole thing with the wedding ring though, didn't he have that sized before they made it? Watching him having to shove her wedding ring on her finger kind of ruined the moment. Brother James Middleton's rather dramatic reading was a hoot, particularly since I think the Queen slept through it. He looked like he was auditioning to be the 2nd spear carrier in the new RSC production of Antony & Cleopatra.  I don't know what is orientation is, but I bet you he pulled last night at the evening reception at Buckingham Palace.

Love this photo taken on the balcony as the planes flyo overhead, little Grace van Cutsem was just not having it. The planes were too loud and it hurt her ears.

Official Family photo of the happy couple, Windsors on one side, Middletons on the other.  You just know the Pipster knows how gorgeous she looks.

The happy couple drive off in a vintage Aston-Martin with the vanity licence plate of JU5T WED on the back and a big L for learner's permit on the front. Love that Prince William was driving the car himself. Not too thrilled when he kept taking his hand off the wheel to wave to the crowds.  William, you now have a wife, let her do that while you drive.

Royal bridesmaid Pippa Middleton has apparently rocked the Internet after her appearance yesterday at the nuptials. It just goes to show you how confidant Kate is that she had no problem having her sister look as hot as she did in her dress.  According to the Daily Mail there are now Facebook pages devoted to her posterior.  Commenters yesterday were speculating that since it's something of a tradition for the maid of honor and the best man to hook up, that Prince Harry might try to hit on Pippa at the reception.  Two problems with that. One, I just don't think she's into him judging by this photo.

Doesn't it look like Harry just farted or told some really filthy joke? Pippa is clearly not amused by whatever he's saying.  Anyway, Pippa is dating Alexander Loudon, who was her date at the reception, where she showed up looking like this.

If you thought she looked hot at the wedding, just look at her now! Seriously what a gorgeous dress. It's an Alice Temperley and I can tell you, there are going to be knockoffs in the stores before the week is out.  The color looks amazing on Pippa, but I think she needs to lay off the self-tanner a bit. Not that it matters, because Pippa Middleton is now the most eligible bachelorette in the UK.

Ah, Chelsy Davy, Harry's on/off and apparently on again girlfriend, wearing one of the two Alberta Ferretti outfits that she bought for the day's festivities.  I'm sorry but she looks like Prince Harry pulled her into the vestibule for a quickie before the ceremony. (Come on, you totally know he's capable of it). The color totally doesn't suit her, it makes her look too pale and washed out.  It's also too tight in the wrong places, and her fascinator blends in with her hair. Not a good choice Chelse.

Speaking of bad fashion choices, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson looks like she bought her dress from the Elmo Collection. It's just too much blue. Seriously, blue shoes, blue hat, blue gloves, way too matchy-matchy. The dress on it's own might not have been bad with a pair of nude shoes, but right now she looks like a giant blueberry.

Ah, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, I see they inherited their fashion sense from their mother. There is so much wrong with both their outfits, I don't know where to start. Eugenie, on the left, is wearing Vivienne Westwood which would normally be a good thing but this time, her outfit makes her look like a Watteau shepherdess looking for her lost flock. The hat is hideous and her hair looks like she just rolled out of bed. Beatrice is wearing a Valentino which she has ruined by wearing a satellite dish on her forehead.

Catherine's dress for the dinner that Prince Charles threw for the couple at Buckingham Palace. Not as thrilled with it as I was with the dress, but god her waist is miniscule isn't it?

The royal couple leave for their weekend mini-honeymoon from the lawn at Buckingham Palace.  They look relaxed and very happy. Nice to see them holding hands! So different from when Charles and Diana left after the wedding breakfast on the day of their wedding.  Diana was wearing a pink dress and hat that wouldn't have looked out of place at Royal Ascot and Charles was in a stiff suit. They took a carriage to the station, before they headed off to Broadlands. I think I much prefer this casual but happy photo of William and Catherine.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Honeymoons

So the day finally arrived, Prince William and Kate Middleton are now HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Didn't Catherine look lovely in her Alexander McQueen dress, designed by Sarah Burton, wearing the Halo tiara borrowed from the Queen (as her something borrowed)? Did you gasp when it looked like Prince William couldn't get the ring on her finger? And what about those two kisses? Now the question on everyone's mind is, where are these two crazy kids going on their honeymoon?

When it comes to packing for their royal honeymoon, might the couple be taking along swimwear and scuba gear?  The Sunday Mirror reported that the couple could be enjoying their honeymoon on Lizard Island – one among a chain of islands along the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Transportation to the island, "tipped as the most likely destination," according to the Mirror, requires a scenic hour-long flight from Cairns. The white sandy paradise isn't an unlikely post-nuptial destination for the pair. While speaking to Aussie locals last month on a trip to visit towns affected by Cyclone Yasi, William, 28, said, "I love scuba diving. I have always wanted to dive the [Great] Barrier Reef." He added: "I will have to come back – maybe we'll have a honeymoon in Cairns?"

The Duchess sparked that someplace warm might be their destination last week after she was spotted out shopping at Warehouse in London, scooping up $350 worth sundresses and tops. Another suggestion is that they could wind up in Jordan, where Kate spent part of her childhood, or they could return to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, hop the pond to Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, or visit the island of Corfu in Greece. Perhaps the island of Mustique where Princess Margaret used to have a villa or Eleuthera where Princess Diana was famously photographed wearing a bikini when she was pregnant with Prince William. All these places have been talked about but Palace sources have yet to confirm an official royal honeymoon destination which is driving the paparazzi crazy. How can they get those exclusive honeymoon shots which will no doubt net them a fortune (enough to retire on maybe) if they don’t know where the happy couple are going?

If it were me, I would head to Venice or Paris, but I have a feeling this couple are headed somewhere they can relax before they come back to the daunting task of sending out thank you notes (or emails in this modern age) to all their guests. But what about Scotland, a popular honeymoon destination for the Royal Family and where the couple famously met at university. Prince Charles took Princess Diana on a cruise on the royal yacht Britannia for their honeymoon, after spending the night at Broadlands, the estate that belonged to his great uncle Earl Mountbatten of Burma. However, he chose the Queen Mother's home, Birkhall, for his honeymoon with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Earlier on, Prince Philip and the Queen also had their honeymoon here. Also, Princess Alexandra and Angus Ogilvy had their honeymoon in Birkhall. In 1999, Prince Edward and his bride Sophie Rhys-Jones flew to the family's Balmoral Castle in Scotland for the first leg of their honeymoon, according to The Times of London. The word is that they also spent their wedding night at Birkhall Lodge.

Chances are William and Kate will be spending at least part of their summer when the Queen decamps to Balmoral for the summer, but my bet is still someplace quiet where they can enjoy their first few days of married life. Whereever they go, I hope that they get to spend at least part of it without having to worry about photographers following their every move.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Royal Wedding: David, Viscount Linley and Serena Stanhope

"My children are not royal," Princess Margaret once said. "They just happen to have an aunt who is the Queen."

Technically this is only a royal wedding because Viscount Linley's late mother was the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret Rose, Countess of Snowden, but it's my blog and I really thought this wedding was lovely.
Princess Margaret's son, David Armstrong-Jones or Viscount Linley, married the Hon. Serena Stanhope on 8th October 1993 at St. Margaret's Church. The bride, 23, is the daughter of the Earl of Harrington, who owns a 700-acre estate in County Limerick and vast chunks of Kensington. Her mother, Virginia Freeman Jackson, was a debutante.

From the radiant looks on Viscount Linley and his bride, no one would have guessed that there was any tension behind the smiles. Indeed, the House of Windsor was on its best behavior, which was billed in the British tabloids as the Wedding of the Year. The grooms parents, Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon, who had a particularly acrimonious split,  managed to play nice by arriving together for the 3 p.m. wedding. The Queen looked relaxed as she stepped out of her Rolls with Prince Edward and the Queen Mum. And Princess Anne, who never really warmed to her wayward sister-in-law Princess of Wales, greeted her with a kiss. The wedding, however, was noticeable for who didn't show up.  Allegedly eager to avoid his estranged wife, Prince Charles hightailed it to Turkey on official business. For some reason, Prince Philip chose to be at a carriage-driving event in Gladstone, N.J. Prince Andrew at least had a legitimate excuse, he was on naval duty in Gibraltar, and of course Duchess of York was probably not invited beginning her years in the Royal wilderness.
What I find so interesting about this wedding is Serena's dress, whicch was designed by couturier Bruce Bobbins at a cost of $9,000, was reminiscent of Princess Margaret's 1960 wedding gown but reflected her own personality and taste.

As you can see from the pictures, both dresses featured a v-neck, long sleeves, tight waist, and very full skirt.  However Serena's was actually in two parts: a satin 'coat-dress', which buttoned down the front, and continued half-way down the skirt which was made out of silk, covered by multiple layers of tulle.  Princess Margaret's wedding dress, on the other hand, was made from silk organza with thirty  metres of fabric in the skirt alone. However, the embellishment on the dress was minimal which suited Princess Margaret’s delicate frame. Hartnell’s designs were much admired by the Princess, as she explains in The Englishwoman’s Wardrobe, he was ‘always so good at getting the balance right.’  Neither gown featured a long train which was unusual given the long trains featured on the wedding dresses of Diana, Princess of Wales and Sarah, Duchess of York. Since both women are petite, a long train would probably have overbalanced them.

Both Princess Margaret and Serena wore their hair up, enclosed by a tiara, from which a veil fell to the same length as the gown's train. Serena's  upswept blond hair was arranged by hairdresser Nicky Clarke for a reported $1,500.
The Poltimore tiara (see below), made in 1870 for Lady Poltimore, and was bought at auction especially for Princess Margaret.  Unfortunately, her children sold the tiara at auction after her death, which is such a shame because it is gorgeous. It would have looked lovely on Kate Middleton for her wedding, or even as an heirloom for little Margarita Armstrong-Jones to wear at her wedding.

Serena is wearing the Papyrus Motive Tiara. This tiara was bought by Queen Mary from Garrard's. She later gave it to Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Mother), Duchess of York. She in turn gave it to her daughter Princess Margaret. Serena Linley borrowed the tiara on the day the wedding.
Sources:  People Magazine, Hello Magazine, Majesty Magazine.
Viscount Linley goes professionally by the name David Linley, and is currently chairman of Christie's UK, the international auction house. He is the queen's only nephew and is also fourteenth in line to the throne, and the first person in the line of succession who is not a descendant of the queen. The couple have two children, the Honorable Charles Armstrong-Jones, born in 1999, and the Honorable Margarita Amstrong-Jones, who will be a bridesmaid at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth II

Today marks the 85th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was born on April 21, 1926 as HRH Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York at her parents home in Picadilly (Royals didn't give birth in hospitals until the 1960's). Until the age of ten, she was fourth in line to the throne. Things changed of course, when her uncle Edward VIII bagged the throne to marry Mrs. Simpson. All of a sudden, Princess Elizabeth found herself not only second in line to throne, but facing the very real prospect that she would be Queen one day. Her idyllic childhood changed in that moment.  Not that the Queen has ever complained about her life. She has a strong sense of duty (comes from being a Taurus).  According to the April issue of Majesty Magazine, the Queen actually likes the structure and the routine of monarchy, every day regimented, knowing her schedule six months in advance. It's not just that she was brought up with it. No doubt, if Edward VIII had done his duty and married and sired a son (although there is speculation that he was probably sterile), she would have married some nice aristocrat and settled down to a life in the country with her horses and dogs, only occasionally fulfilling royal duties.

Although the Queen will have been on the throne for 60 years next year, there is still so much we don't know about her, and that's as it should be. She has actively cultivated the mystique of the monarchy. We do know that she keeps her breakfast cereal in Tupperware, eats her dinner on trays when she's home, and goes around turning out the lights in Buckingham Palace. We also know that she's worn the same hairstyle for the past 50 years, and wears neon colors so that she can be easily seen by the crowds in public. Beyond that, she is unknowable. Only three people in the world probably know the Queen intimately, her sister Margaret, her mother, Queen Elizabeth, and her husband Prince Philip. Even her children don't know her that well. They are always conscious that their mother is not just their mother, but also their Queen.

The Queen has been married for almost 64 years (Whoa) to Prince Philip. Royal Watchers know that she met her future groom when she was 13 and he was an 18 year old cadet at the Dartmouth Naval College. Apparently from that moment on, she had decided that he was going to be her husband (that stubborn Taurus Sun). Lucky for her, Prince Philip went along with the program and they were married when she turned 21.

That's her dress on the left. Isn't it beautiful? Seriously, I think it's much more beautiful then the dress that Diana wore for her wedding. It's simple but classic. If you shortened the sleeves, it could be worn today, and the color is stunning, from the picture it almost looks like a champagne color. And I adore the embroidery on the dress. It was designed by Norman Hartnell, who designed many of the Queen and the Queen Mother's clothes over the years. Can you imagine being couturier to the Queen of England?

Here is a picture of the happy couple on their wedding day.  The war had been over for only 2 years when the then Princess Elizabeth married her dashing Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, who renounced his Greek titles and citizenship to marry the Queen. The King made him the Duke of Edinburgh on their wedding day, so that she became HRH, the Duchess of Edinburgh. It had to have been hard for such an Alpha male like Prince Philip to know that he was going to have to walk 3 paces behind his wife for the rest of his life.

It would be interesting I think to see a TV movie about the Queen's early years, from the time of the war through the coronation. It would have to be carefully cast, like The Queen or The King's Speech. Otherwise, you end up with something like the Lifetime movie William and Kate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Royal Bachelor: Prince Amedeo of Belgium

Ah, Belgium, land of delicious chocolate, fruity beers, and mussells and pomme frites (mayonnaise on the side!). Belgium is also the home country for this week's royal bachelor, Prince Amedeo, who just turned 25. The monarchy in Belgium is a young one, the first King of the Belgians was Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, uncle to both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and widower of Princess Charlotte of Wales.

Prince Amedeo, who is 7th in line for the throne, is the son of Princess Astrid of Belgium (once tipped as a potential bride for Prince Charles if it hadn't been for her religion, she's Catholic) and Archduke Prince Lorenz of Austria-Este.  The heir to the House of Austria-Este is reputed to be serious, thoughtful and ambitious (he certainly looks it in the photo on the left). Educated at London School of Economics, he is a reserve officer in the Belgian army.

American Princess wannabes take heart.  Prince Amedeo works for Deloitte in New York, where he ran the marathon in 2008. No need to book a plane to Brussels, you can just hop one to New York. I'm sure that job applications for the New York office of Deloitte went off when Prince Amedeo was recently featured in The Fresh Princes of New York article in Page Six magazine of The New York Post. Not to mention, all those girls who previously had never put on a pair of running shoes, are probably jogging around the resevoir in Central Park as I write this, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Like most Princes, he also enjoys rugby, and speaks several languages fluently.

Rumor has it that he has a girlfriend but nobody has been able to confirm it. He doesn't look like a party animal, but no doubt he hangs out at cultural institutions in the city. One could do worse than to read The New York Social Diary, Town and Country or Quest Magazine to see where the Prince might be located or just hang out in any of the trendy bars and restaurants in the Financial District or the Upper East Side. Belgian consulate events n'est pas?