Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part One : Washington DC

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Some impressions of a city that impressed us much more than we could have expected.

Important and self-important all at once, fitted out in wall to wall marble punctuated by red velvet ropes and heavy curtains.

A Capitol and Capital of Imperial Proportions, like a vast movie set Rome in elongated letterbox Cinemascope: inflated and stretched almost to the horizon and absurdity.

And yet, and yet at once quite profoundly beautiful, marked out everywhere by memorials for lost souls and past presidents.

And the Art so much of it and all around and so very, very good…

1. The Hotel

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The place is vast, as American hotels seem to be.

The lobby long enough to accommodate a golf range if so chose it.

Apparently the Inauguration Ball for newly sworn in Presidents is held here. They must do something right as two have chosen to stay while their own abode was being fixed up.

The fixtures here are something very special, harking back to an age in which gold leaf was elegant rather than merely gauche.

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That peculiar rams head motif on each side of the patriarch’s broad face reminds us how much like rutting goats politicians are: so obstinate and unnecessarily aggressive, and with invariably voracious appetites (for food, for fame, for fornication) .

I reflect on the neo-classical surroundings, the pomp, the powerful people who have been here, their presidential or even imperial ambitions and can think of only one perfume…

Van Cleef and Arpels Tsar.

I wonder if anyone wears this egocentric aromatic fougere extraordinaire any more?

Then a thought occurs: if… when a woman occupies The White House, as anything other than a First Lady, will she be allowed to break perfume rules as well as glass ceilings?

Could she where a fougere herself?

Tauer Perfumes 04 Reverie au Jardin?

Its creamy coniferousness, its resinous, iris and lavender could usher in an entirely new type of perfumed executive power.

2. That House

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Of course the place is terribly grand.

But not ostentatiously so.

It’s nothing that could outshine the megalomaniac follies of the magnates who made their fortunes on the vast continent in the nineteenth and America’s century, the twentieth.

Just modest enough, in fact, to remind the inhabitant that the Commander in Chief is ultimately meant to be a servant  and not master of the people.

So the President may not have anything approaching absolute power, but he is still allowed his toys.

The whirring of helicopters the whole time in Washington bears testament to this.

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On this occasion at least, so the policewoman told me, it was  The Man.

Creating a whirlwind off to visit the victims of a real storm in Oklahoma.

Helicopters, an infrequent sight in London save for the military and police, are synonymous in my mind with war.

With war in Vietnam in particular.

The cinema that retells that conflict has fixed this association.

Helicopters, ‘Apocalypse’ and Wagner.

Strangely, I begin to ponder whether there was a perfume like Worth’s Je Reviens that sweethearts wore to remember their far away soldiers in the sixties and seventies. Or a scent like Shalimar by Guerlain than men brought back as a gift.

Then I reflect that there were no couture houses in Saigon, no Chanel or Guerlain boutiques in Hanoi.

Perhaps the perfume the women left back home wore depended more on their political persuasion than fashion.

Jane Fonda and protesters in patchouli oil smelling as rough and ready as le labo’s 24.

Marine wives holding it together in Avon, or No.5.

A decade later it would have been easy, Estee Lauder’s White Linen.

3. Angels in Leather

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The hum of choppers comes and goes, but the first part of Memorial Weekend is accompanied by the constant roar of engines.

Harleys mainly, but other American motorcycles too.

Men, who when they were considered or were counter cultural, were called Hell’s Angels have descended on the Capital.

From across the Continent they have come on thousand mile sponsored rides to remember the POWs and MIAs as their banners, fluttering along side stars and stripes, proclaim.

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The machines all around smell of petrol and polish, of gasoline and grime-defying sheen.

The men, almost invariably men, that drive them smell of gas, and sweat and unusually of sweet fruity sodas they drink all day through straws from the enormous buckets of sugary liquid they carry around with them.

Only one scent comes to mind.

That of the first mechanised war.

The perfume of petrol and peaches that is The Great Fragrance of the end of The Great War.

The war that was supposed to end all wars but didn’t.

The faded photographs and photocopies of lost brothers, friends and perhaps lovers show that.

All attached with sellotape and tender care to mudguards and windshields of shining machines.

The unmistakable smell of Mitsouko is in my nose and on my mind as we turn and walk towards The National Mall and the formal memorials…

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part One : Washington DC

  1. Lilybelle

    How interesting it is to see us through other eyes, particularly those of our cousins in the UK. What scent did you wear in DC, Mr. Dandy?

    • Dearest Lily
      I feel very much the same about visitor’s accounts about the UK, a different perspective broadens the mind.
      The weather in Washington was glorious, sunny and warm without being stiffling or sticky.
      As I am sure you can imagine I always carry a few scents and found myself in Aqua Allegoria Mandarin Basilic, Sisley’s Eau de Campagne, Pell Wall’s 1953 and L’Eau de Boisee by Guerlain when in Washington.
      Oh and there was a definite day of Dyptique Do Son…
      Now that does sound like a lot, we were there nearly five days and the Mandarin really was just for breakfast!!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Lilybelle

        It doesn’t sound like too much, especially as Mandarin wouldn’t last beyond breakfast anyway. I’m glad the weather in DC was good to you! I’d like to know more about L’Eau de Boisee. I’ll go read up on it.

      • Oh… and before I forget, l’Eau de Boisee is officially for men, but you know ny thoughts on these foolish demarcations.
        Besides there are so few good vetivers ‘for women’ that crisp citrus and smoke affair with a perfectly pitched pepper and shot of rum is perfectly appropriate to everyone.
        It’s very much a scent I can smell Katherine Hepburn wearing.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • Dearest Lily
        You read The Dandy like a book.
        If I’m having breakfast at the hotel, I have a tradition of wearing breakfast perfumes, something that last just long enough to take from room to dining room and back again!
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  2. wonderful.

    and also very moving.

  3. Mitsouko and Hell’s Angels – to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, “Wow”! That gave me a fresh perspective like no other.

    • Dearest V
      Tee Hee.
      Yes, it may seem, to say the least, like a strange association, but I always think of the mechanical and Mitsouko together. It smells to me irrevocably and beautifully of a gentle variation on petrol.
      In turn that has me thinking of the musical masterpiece ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ and the exchange between the not-quite romantic leads. Catherine Deneuve’s character sings ‘You smell of petrol’, Nino Castenuovo croons back ‘It’s a perfume like any other’….
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  4. Dear Mr Dandy,

    A fascinating review. I could smell everything! In keeping with your theme, I happen to know that Bill Clinton smells of Habit Rouge (I read it, I don’t know him or anything!) and Jackie Kennedy was a fan of Jicky. I’d love to know what Mrs Obama wears.

    I love your ground level view of the real Washington with the helicopters, and the lavish hotels.

    Your friend
    IScent

    • Dearest Iscent
      How interesting about Habit Rouge… I’ve read that both the Clintons wore the his and hers of Calvin Klein’s Obsession, which I had always rather hoped was not true.
      The Kennedy’s, of course, had excellent taste, indeed in the next part of my reports from across The Pond I touch on Jack’s cologne.
      As for Michele, interestingly, her status as a style icon has ensured wide reporting of her liking for Creed’s Love in White.
      What makes this more surprising is that the first bottle, in the house’s typically grand style, was presented to former First Lady Laura Bush, who also took it to her heart.
      So creed, parfumeurs to royalty, have seamlessly transfformed themselves into the scents providers to the presidential household too.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Dear Mr Dandy,

        That is fascinating. I hear Angelina Jolie is a fan of Creed Love in White, although Luca Turin is not. I too would be most disappointed to learn that the Clintons wore His’n’Hers Obsession. This could stain my respect for Mrs Clinton!

        I wonder what Mr Obama smells like? His former smoking habit is well documented, so I would like to think of him in Caron Tabac Blond. It goes so well with Le Smoking.

        Your friend
        IScent

  5. Loved reading this part one albeit as late as the late E. Taylor to the party. But having said that I do wear Tsar! And I adore it.

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