Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Reading For Vintage Fashion Aficionados

(Originally published for Vintage Fashion at The Examiner.)

Whenever summertime arrives, most of us have an inkling we might coordinate extra down time to sit back and read. If we could be so lucky, a sunlit porch, a hammock and a good book might be the sole items on our afternoon agenda.

In the spirit of sharing good reading experiences, I decided to look through my own bookshelf and pick a few past favorites. The result is a list of tried -- and very true -- summer reading options, selected especially for vintage fashion aficionados. 

Browse through the list to find out why you should locate each book, as well as the book's obtainability. Several titles are not only vintage in topic, but also in terms of their release dates. Therefore, some are harder to track down. All are worth the effort.

Whether you find hardback, paperback or eBook versions, any one of these will bring a little more cool to your hot summer days and nights.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here is this Examiner's list of recommended (vintage fashion-themed) summer books. Happy summertime reading!

Cherie Currie 'Neon Angel: A Memoir Of A Runaway'
WHY: She was a teenage neon angel, the young cherry bomb who exploded onto the music scene with The Runaways.

Cherie Currie has extraordinary pipes and stage presence, with the rarest brand of raw talent. She is one of the bravest, greatest female front women in rock history -- and a genuine pioneer for female rock star fashion.

But her amazing bravery was never limited to her iconic style and stage presence. Reading Cherie Currie's story, as she tells it, is incredibly exciting -- and sometimes frightening. Currie tells us about her life with the same great courage with which she experienced events that shook the core of her existence.

Her strength of character is a credit to any or all women who endured the tough 1970's well enough to come out on the other side and tell us how it all went down -- while few, if any, have ever commanded the stage and took to the spotlight with the same ferocity as Cherie Currie.

Formidable singer and actress, survivor, loving ex-wife, proud mum, loving daughter and twin sister, a force to be reckoned with -- Cherie Currie is still all of those things. These days, she can be found wielding a chainsaw to create remarkable art pieces. Cherie Currie, the epitome of Renaissance Woman, remains a truly inspirational spirit.

OBTAINABILITY: Relatively easy; Neon Angel is available on Amazon.

Pattie Boyd 'Wonderful Tonight'
WHY: Surprisingly, Pattie Boyd's childhood and early years are as interesting as the period that had her living -- twice -- as a famous rock star wife.

The 1960's model and fashion plate was fascinating to those who knew her long before she became perhaps the most definitive and illustrious of rock-and-roll dream girls, twice a rocker wife, and muse for several of the most iconic love songs of the 20th century.

This is Pattie Boyd's story and there's a great deal to love about her, apart from being Pattie Harrison (inspiration for 'Something') or later, Mrs. Clapton (inspiration for 'Layla' and 'Wonderful Tonight'.)

Essential summertime reading for both fashion enthusiasts and classic rock lovers.

OBTAINABILITY: Easy. You'll find lots of options to purchase Boyd's Wonderful Tonight on Amazon.

Sheila Weller 'Girls Like Us'
WHY: If you love the 1970's, you already know why the legacies of artists like Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon should remain in tact in our collective minds.

Their music, experiences and personal styles defined their generation of women and beyond -- and in many ways, each one of these distinctly different women's experiences and lives were deeply intertwined with the other two.

Biographer extraordinaire Sheila Weller managed the seemingly impossible by weaving a tapestry, so to speak, with the lives of three different famous women of the 20th century -- in order to tell one complete and unique story about an entire era.

Girls Like Us is one of the most ambitious, inspired and flawless storytelling efforts by a music historian. It's a concept which in and of itself ties beautifully with the topic Weller covers -- since this trinity represents the best female storytellers of the 1970's (if not the 20th century.)

Note: There is also a great online companion to Sheila Weller's Girls Like Us, Girls Like Us: The Music.

OBTAINABILITY: Easy; there are many options to purchase Girls Like Us on Amazon.

Jean Shrimpton 'My Own Story: The Truth About Modeling'


WHY: The Shrimp, as Jean Shrimpton was known, was the face of Swinging Sixties London and the greatest international fashion plate of 1960's. Many have made claims to being the first supermodel -- while she's arguably the very first.

Along with her 'discoverer' and boyfriend, inimitable photographer David Bailey, Jean Shrimpton helped bring fashion to the masses. She brought mini-skirts into the public consciousness with the help of Mary Quant.

This is her own story, as she shared it back in 1965 -- while it was all going on. A fun time capsule, if you can find a copy.

OBTAINABILITY: Some stray copies of Jean Shrimpton's My Own Story: the Truth About Modeling are available on Amazon if you're willing to spend a little extra.

Peggy Lipton 'Breathing Out'
WHY: Peggy Lipton describes her life in exquisite detail. Barring any limits on what she wants the public to know, you will feel like you have gotten to know Peggy Lipton upon completing her book.


Standout moments and highlights: her quick rise to fame after being photographed with none other than Paul McCartney, when The Beatles were in town; her experience as a young model; being cast in the role of her lifetime as Julie Barnes in 'The Mod Squad' (and later as Norma Jennings in 'Twin Peaks'); relationships with men as varied as Terence Stamp, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lou Adler, and even The King himself, Elvis Presley -- before marrying Quincy Jones; as well as other great stories and experiences.

Despite her decidedly East Coast upbringing, Peggy Lipton came to epitomize the perfect California girl in the 1970's. She remains a truly lovely woman, with style, grace and beauty to spare -- and it's certainly evident that her beauty isn't skin deep. She is an inspiration.

OBTAINABILITY: Various copies of Breathing Out are still available to purchase on Amazon.

Dyan Cannon 'Dear Cary: My Life With Cary Grant' 
WHY: Dyan Cannon shares her story as wife to one of the most beloved movie stars of all time, Cary Grant, in a loving yet unbiased manner.


It is a credit to Dyan Cannon that a reader who loves Cary Grant can love him more after reading her book -- despite her very candid admissions about him and their life together.

There are a great many references to his (sometimes forceful) influence on her life, her style of dress and her career. But to learn about this very private leading man's passion for LSD and his deeply complicated relationship with his parents adds a dimension to Cary Grant that only enhances the former Archie Leach's credibility as a performer.

As seen through Dyan Cannon's lens, Cary Grant remains a leading man unlike anyone else before him, or since.

OBTAINABILITY: Easy; there are various options to purchase Dear Cary on Amazon.

Diane Keaton 'Then Again'
WHY: The ever fascinating yet down-to-earth Diane Keaton decided to share some aspects of her life, her history, and her family with us in 'Then Again'.

She has held our attention for decades with her unique blend of style and personality, so it's irresistible to learn a little more about Diane Keaton, apart from associating her to her films and her leading men. We also learn about the woman behind the woman, since Keaton largely introduces her mother to the reader in this autobiography.

A scrapbook of sorts, and not a typical autobiography, this one is good for those lazy summer days.

OBTAINABILITY: Easy: there are various options available to purchase Then Again on Amazon.


Mia Farrow 'What Falls Away'
WHY: Mia Farrow has lived a life that's far richer, more connected, more compassionate than just about anyone in history. In her autobiography 'What Falls Away' she tells her story with her own brand of readable and equally eloquent prose.

She was raised in Beverly Hills, but Farrow's becoming an actress was a practicality, a means, a way to support her large family of siblings and her movie star mother when they needed her financial help. Had she gone a different path of her choosing, prior to following in the footsteps of her Hollywood accredited parents, she would have become a nun.

She embodied youth culture and style in the 1960's. Along her incredible journey, Mia Farrow had friendships with the likes of Salvador Dali, Roman Polanski, and The Beatles. She experienced a most unique-for-its-time romance with her first husband, Frank Sinatra. And, as we know, that wasn't even her most lasting or publicized relationship.

Mia Farrow always wanted to help and nurture children. And she always has. Her own adopted family and her efforts to defend those who in need worldwide has been the most natural progression of who she is. Mia Farrow is the authentic in a world of people who try to be the sort of individual she actually is.

OBTAINABILITY: Somewhat rare, but there are some copies available of What Falls Away to purchase on Amazon.

Ali MacGraw 'Moving Pictures'
WHY: Ali MacGraw's experiences prior to her quick rise to fame were as illustrious, in many ways, as the events that followed. In 'Moving Pictures' Ali MacGraw tells her story from a cozy winter abode and her reminiscing is friendly in manner.

As she goes back in time to the beginning, the complexities of this beautiful woman quickly come to light -- as in the flicker of light from her moving pictures -- and the reader comes to realize that Ali MacGraw is talented, capable and exquisite in many more ways than she's been credited.

Ali MacGraw was assistant to Diana Vreeland at Vogue in the exciting days of late 1960's fashion, when Jean Shrimpton would breeze into the office. She found success as a photographer's assistant and a stylist before getting placed in front of the camera as a fashion and commercial model. She endorsed Polaroid cameras and Chanel bath and beauty products before her foray into movies even began.

Despite her Academy Award nomination for portraying the iconic Jenny Cavalleri in 'Love Story', her marriage to Robert Evans and then to Steve McQueen, Ali has always been a unique individual whose talents were at times misplaced and misunderstood -- so she has spent some of her later years finding out, again, who that individual was. Ali MacGraw is a lovely woman to rediscover, via her autobiography, this summer.

OBTAINABILITY: A rare book; it can be difficult to find copies of Moving Pictures at Amazon -- good luck and happy reading.

Mary Tyler Moore 'After All'
WHY: Fans of Mary Tyler Moore, Mimsie (the kitten), those TV shows, her various memorable film roles, her smile, her style, her charm -- and everything else that bears her formidable MTM seal of approval -- will rejoice to hear her share her story with the masses.

What's entirely worthwhile and unexpected for even the most passionate fan of Mary Tyler Moore, as an individual, is to find out -- by her own candid admission -- just how dark the delightful, beloved personality of the Mary we know and love actually is. Mary Tyler Moore is nowhere near as cheerful and smiley as her public persona has long indicated.

But if anything, Mary Tyler Moore is as ambitious as one should expect, given the fact that she pioneered the ideal of a working woman with her iconic character Mary Richards, as well as being career-driven in her real life. Her accomplishments are truly remarkable. Her 'The Mary Tyler Moore' show remains one of the most successful TV shows of all time -- and subsequently, her MTM Enterprises became one of the most successful TV production companies of all time, churning out hit after hit.

That a woman who started her career as a professional dancer should become the head of a large corporation, when women were hardly making their way in the workplace, is extraordinary.

Sadly, her success story came at the highest price imaginable. The fact that she's lived to want to tell about some of her dark thoughts and experiences is a credit to her strength of spirit. Those who love MTM will love and admire her more for her honesty and courage in admitting who she really is -- without expecting to be liked at all for those dark admissions. A surprising read, so be prepared.

OBTAINABILITY: Some copies of After All are available on Amazon, but it's a fairly rare book.

Rod Stewart 'Rod: The Autobiography'
WHY: For good measure, here's one of two male autobiographies on the list. Reading Rod Stewart's take on his childhood and upbringing, his various hobbies and musical career beginnings -- even his hair -- is more delightful than one could ever hope.

Rod Stewart is a funny storyteller. Despite having been raised in London and only discovering his Scottish roots when he had grownup, somewhat, Rod Stewart has decidedly Scottish humor. Which is to say: good humor.  His book is engaging, entertaining -- and a real pleasure to read. In fact, he dedicates a full chapter to detail the life of his famous coif.  A chapter dedicated to his iconic hairstyle? If only more female entertainers would take themselves so lightly!

If you'd like to read a breezy book about football (um, soccer), rock and roll, fashion, hair products, and beautiful women this summer, 'Rod: The Autobiography' is highly recommended!

OBTAINABILITY: Heaps of options to purchase Rod: The Autobiography on Amazon, so happy reading.

Andre Agassi 'Open'
WHY: Andre Agassi's 'Open' is one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. If you love tennis, read this book. If you don't love tennis, but love great storytelling, read this book. Actually, if you're human and you have feelings about anything, read this book.

Andre Agassi might be one of the best and most iconic tennis players in history, but he's also extremely candid about having had personal battles with his playing tennis professionally. Throughout his career, whether he was winning or losing, he hated his life's work. Which is really quite something to admit, and to address. He also admits that for much of the time while his famous mane propelled his highly marketable image as a bleached-mullett-wearing-style-rebel, he had to wear a hair piece -- since he'd lost his actual hair.

Agassi explains that his romance with Brooke Shields was in no way the ideal one the public imagined. He also shares with us the heartwarming (and heart-stoppingly romantic) point in his story when he enters into a pure, honest, comfortable and loving existence with his now wife, fellow tennis icon Stefi Graf. With Graf, he enjoys a life full of understanding and giving -- even beyond their own family.

'Open' is superb summer reading, especially for lovers of Wimbledon and/or the various Opens. For tennis fans and well beyond.

OBTAINABILITY: There are plenty of options to purchase Open on Amazon.

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