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Entries in audrey hepburn (4)


In Which We Furnish Our Life With The Usual

On the fiftieth anniversary of Breakfast at Tiffany's...

The Proud Look of It 

None of my memories from childhood involve creaky swings in an overgrown backyard or lemonade on the porch. In fact, our homes rarely had backyards and our porches have never been the kind you drink lemonade on. We've always been apartment-dwelling city folk, and growing up the idea of playing outdoors was so alien to my brother and I that when we finally moved into a house with a honest-to-goodness backyard, we rarely spent any time in it.  

(Before you notify anybody about this, you should know that we both turned out fine.) 

Without a venue for our antics, we had to find unconventional ways to amuse ourselves. So it was always a treat when Mom would disappear shortly after lunch and reappear with lipstick on, a sure sign that adventure was around the corner. We'd buckle into our ancient Honda (named Henri, not to be confused with Henry) and sit in excited discomfort until the air-conditioning kicked in. Then it was wherever the 405 freeway could take us & the sky was the limit. 

Sometimes it involved strolling down Olvera Street. Sometimes we'd drive to a tiny library and check out half of their children’s books. Sometimes we'd visit a really fancy grocery store far away from our house, the only establishment at the time that sold Orangina in individual pear-shaped glass bottles. 

On really good days, we'd visit IKEA. 

When you don't live in one place for very long and you can't afford fancy furniture that might break when you haul it halfway across the world, IKEA becomes a sort of haven. After all, it’s exactly the same everywhere on the planet. You know that if you're in Europe somewhere and you have a sudden hankering for four-dollar Swedish meatballs you can walk in and get a plate of them for four euros. You know that if you’re stranded you can just walk in and collapse onto any sofa and no one will tell you to leave. You know that if you forgot a pen there will always be golf pencils available in a plastic box on the wall. And so on. 

I’m not quite sure how they do it. Somehow, with a few dashes of blue and yellow paint and bizarre Swedish names, something as normal and unexciting as a furniture store can become everything from an exotic wonderland to a comfortable evening at home in front of the fire. As a child I had fantasies of moving in—pitching a tent in the shortcut between the light bulb section and the kids interior décor section and calling it home. Other times I would choose endless combinations of sofas and coffee tables and kitchens, just so that I’d be set when I grew up and got my own place. I still have a crazy habit of classifying furniture in “best look for best price” every time I walk through the showroom. 

Later on, when my family did end up moving halfway across the world, it was comforting to know that most of our furniture would still be from IKEA. Our bookshelves would come in flat boxes and our sofas would come covered in bubble wrap. Our tea lights would still come by the hundred in plastic bags. There would always be exactly the right amount of screws to construct each piece of furniture. IKEA, by far the most empathetic of anybody we came into contact with, understood that we still couldn’t speak French and provided assembly instructions in ten different languages for our convenience. The ice cream was still only fifty cents. 

When I grew up and moved away for college, some of the first things I bought to spruce up a stark dorm room came from IKEA. When we had papers to write and needed an excuse to run away for a while, IKEA offered the cheapest vittles in town. I’ve had dates at IKEA and I’ve had some of the best family dinners over Christmas break at IKEA. There’s no better place to go after a movie, to digest sushi, or to find random odds and ends nobody else sells. It’s there if you need a restroom or if you’re homesick or if you’re PMSing. 

It’s a lot like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Even those who have never seen Blake Edwards’ 1961 film are familiar with the timeless image of Audrey Hepburn smiling enigmatically in a little black dress and pearls, a cigarette just inches from her mouth. Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a New York socialite who takes interest in her new neighbor Paul Varjak (played by George Peppard) and drags him into a glamorous world of parties and scandalous escapades. While she maintains a poised and elegant front for the men who want her company, she moonlights as a vulnerable and neurotic young woman who just wants to find her place and someone to share it with. 

In an iconic opening sequence, a lone yellow taxicab glides up Fifth Avenue and stops for a young woman to emerge. It’s early in the morning and “Moon River” is playing in the background and before we know anything about Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly, we already feel the displacement and loneliness she feels looking into the windows of Tiffany’s jewelry store. With her pastry and cheap cup of coffee she just doesn’t belong, no matter how she’s dressed or who she entertains. As the movie progresses, the boutique becomes a symbol of everything Holly wants, just out of her reach behind pristine display windows.

“You know those days when you get the mean reds? No, [not the blues], the blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you're just sad that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of…well, when I get it the only thing that does me any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany's. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there,” says Holly to Paul Varjak the first time they meet. "If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then — then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!"

There are many things I enjoy about the film. No matter what the snobs say, it has a lot to offer as far as critical analysis goes. But on a purely superficial level, that line of Holly's grabs me every time and won’t let go. Maybe it's because there is no word in French for home and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I'm not sure if I’m in the aisle seat or in somebody’s spare room. Maybe it’s because I’ve fallen prey to the common female problem of wanting to identify with Audrey Hepburn. In any case, when I discovered Breakfast at Tiffany’s at age sixteen it quickly became my favorite film.   

In college, a lot of other English majors were unsurprisingly surprised to discover this about me. It’s a well-known fact that if you're an English major you’re supposed to have favorite films like Memento and shun anything resembling a romantic comedy (unless it’s (500) Days of Summer). Second, when you look past the glitz and glamour of Hepburn’s performance, there really isn’t much to be said of Breakfast at Tiffany's. You could complain about the blatant racism, express concern at the excessive drinking, or write it off as a waste of time. Truth is, it just doesn’t have much of a plot. From the moment Holly Golightly emerges from the taxicab to eat her pastry in front of Tiffany’s to the moment she and Cat fall into Paul Varjak’s arms, the film is just a series of seemingly unrelated events that happen to bring two people together in the end.

In reality, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a fantasy. It is a story of two unlikely people falling in love in a New York that only exists in dreams. It’s a world where the streets of Manhattan are empty and mafia members are just kind old men in Sing-Sing. It’s a world where Brazilian politicians fall in love with escort girls, where people in New York actually know their neighbors, where Tiffany’s engraves romantic messages on Cracker Jack prizes, and where happiness is drinking champagne for breakfast. Holly Golightly is a "real phony", a character so unbelievably believable that we want to have faith in her fantasy. In a world full of divorce and dead younger brothers and financial hardship, we want to believe that going to Tiffany’s can make everything better.   

After all, maybe that’s the reason we do anything — maybe that’s why we go to movies, and make love, and throw pennies into the Fontana di Trevi in Rome. Maybe that’s why we find comfort in Swedish furniture. We’re just looking for a real-life place like home. But then again, maybe you’re not like me and you’ve already found those people and places that are as comfortable to you as golf pencils and cheap meatballs are to me. I hope you have.

Kara VanderBijl is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Downton Abbey. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

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"A Case of You" - James Blake (mp3)

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In Which Nothing About Audrey Hepburn's Ex-Husband Interests Us

The Dark Side of Audrey Hepburn


Nothing about my ex-husband interests me. I have spent two years in hell – surely the worst in my life.

More than once, I was at the station seeing trainloads of Jews being transported, seeing all these faces over the top of the wagon. I was exactly the same age as Anne Frank. We were both 10 when the war broke out… if you read [her] diary, I’ve marked one place where she says, ‘Five hostages shot today.’ That was the day my uncle was shot.

I admit that people have often said they never really get to know me. But does anyone ever know someone else completely?

 It’s become cliché for teenagers and young women of our generation to love Audrey Hepburn. For some reason girls of the 90s grew up with an affinity for Hepburn to where it became, "Welcome to college, here’s your Breakfast At Tiffany’s poster for your dorm room." That film is based on a dark novella in which Holly Golightly doesn't get her cat back, doesn’t get the guy, and is generally a horrible person. But in the film, it’s not even really clear that Hepburn plays a prostitute. That completely went over my head the first time I saw it. I thought she just liked to wake up early and put on a party dress. Also there’s that horribly racist Mr. Yunioshi character that Mickey Rooney threw in there. So I guess if you really analyze it, there is a dark side to the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, just not in an obvious way.

And that’s the thing about Audrey Hepburn. She has darkness but it isn’t obvious. The problems of Marilyn Monroe became part of her legend but Audrey’s were carefully tucked away in a Givenchy handbag. A friend of mine once despaired about a fight she got into with a rude friend of a friend. She didn't even know this person and yet she was torn up about it. When I asked her why it bothered her so much, she said it was because she strived to be like Audrey Hepburn, and "no one ever said anything bad about Audrey Hepburn."

Challenge accepted.

She is a rank amateur who needed a dozen takes. – Humphrey Bogart

Bogart hated working with Hepburn, but he had a point. Though she had come off a major film (Roman Holiday) for which she won an Academy Award, her success was partly due to luck, timing, and the graciousness of her costar Gregory Peck, who insisted on giving the unknown equal billing. Before Roman Holiday Hepburn starred in the play Gigi. Paramount actually considered her "plump" and put her on a strict diet of steak tartare and greens before filming. (You know Hollywood is fucked up when Audrey Hepburn is put on a diet.) Hepburn herself never believed that she was thin.

According to her son, Hepburn would refer to herself as “fake thin” because her upper body and waist was especially thin and would give her an overall appearance of slightness. One can’t help but roll their eyes at her claim because, well, look at her. Rumors of an eating disorder plagued her, but if you consider World War II an eating disorder, then yes, she was very disordered. In 1944 Nazis occupied the Netherlands, where she and her mother lived.

Audrey and her family, with the exception of her Nazi sympathizer father, worked for the resistance. She suffered severe malnutrition and once had to hide in a cellar for a few days. When she was a child she almost died of whooping cough. This, combined with her poor nutrition during the war, lead to her asthma. Despite the fact that she had weak lungs and knew it, she continued to smoke for the rest of her life, even though she was consistently told that she "might be in the early stages of emphysema." Yes, it was the fifties and sixties and smoking was a vice, but even someone in that era with those symptoms would know it was a bad idea.

In the 80s she lamented over the condition of her skin, but it was typical of her to point out flaws. She would often call herself ugly and wished that she had a bigger chest. It is of course these "flaws" that have made her so iconic, but it’s very possible she had some form of body dysmorphic disorder or at least a very low self-esteem.

Her weight plummeted to an all-time low during her first divorce from her controlling and jealous husband Mel Ferrer. A child of divorce and with a child of her own, Hepburn desperately wanted to make the marriage work, but Ferrer's likely infidelity and definite need for complete control over Hepburn’s professional and personal life sent her into a deep depression. The man had to be a total asshole for Hepburn to refer to her divorce as "two years in hell" considering that she spent most of her early teens dodging Nazis.

During the separation Mel stayed with Hepburn but only out of concern for her health; she was apparently, according to a friend, "down to 82 pounds and looks thin and wan; she has never looked so frail in her life, even when she was ill." Again, quite the statement, considering that Hepburn compared her youth to Anne Frank's.

Their divorce was described as "absolutely unexpected" not only to her fans and the media, but their friends as well. One of them, Dee Hartford Hawks, said that only two weeks before their separation she ran into them at a nightclub in France and that "Audrey and Mel were acting like honey-mooners. They danced every number together – even the Watusi." The Watusi!! Who could have predicted this?? A second miscarriage also put a strain on their already frail marriage.

In an article by Tom Daly from the 1960s, he reported that Audrey attempted suicide twice. Once she tried to slit her wrists and it was Mrs. Yul Brynner who got her to the hospital in time. An unnamed insider said that "I've heard about Audrey’s suicide attempts, too, and that shocks me, but in a way I’m not surprised. Whatever that woman does she does with her whole heart and soul. And when she married Mel, she invested everything she had emotionally. It’s no wonder that she feels lost now." And it’s no wonder that so many sources (aside from Bogart and Hawks) wanted to keep such scandalous thoughts to themselves because Audrey was revered and famous for her elegance and charm. In an article "The Two Hepburns" (not referring to Katharine and Audrey, but to Audrey’s light and dark sides), Eliot George tapes into this darker side of Hepburn: "The wispy, sable-browed, gamin-faced Audrey is either Elfin Charmer or Iron Butterfly, depending on where you stand."

Another person who had plenty of bad things to say about Hepburn was Brenda Marshall, William Holden’s wife at the time that Holden and Hepburn shot Sabrina. Hepburn and Holden carried on an affair. (It was ironic that later in life Audrey would try so hard to create the perfect family and do anything for her children, though she slept with Holden well-knowing that he was married with three kids.) Holden would invite Hepburn over to his home for dinner and he, Audrey, and Marshall, who eerily resembled Hepburn, would all eat together. "Audrey felt guilty all through the meal." No! This is Watusi shocking!!

Everyone assumed that Holden would leave Marshall for Hepburn but as soon as she found out that Holden had a vasectomy and could not provide her with children, she left. Holden was also a crazy drunk who died when he fell and hit his head on his coffee table and didn’t realize that it was serious so he didn’t go to the hospital and just kind of bled out to death in his living room. Charlie Sheen has nothing on William Holden.

Paris When It Sizzles, 1964

Holden and Hepburn would reunite about ten years later for the film Paris When It Sizzles, which one column described as "the worst movie ever made by anyone at any time." It was also around this time that Hepburn's marriage slowly and painfully began to unravel, and one can see the stress this put on her body. Even for Hepburn, she is unusually thin in his movie, and it may have been the only time in her life in which the eating disorder rumors were true. Holden tried to reignite their affair, but this time she was the married one and would not cave in.

People think of Hepburn as ever humble and ladylike but even she had her moments of divadom and snarkiness. While filming The Nun’s Story in Africa, Hepburn demanded that, "quarantine laws in the Belgian Congo would be waved for [her terrier] Famous […] and most important of all, that a bidet would be installed and waiting for her... It was probably the only bathroom fixture of its kind in Central Africa at that time." Slyly ironic considering she was playing a nun and nuns are all living without possessions. She did routinely visit a leper colony and refused to wear protective gloves "out of sympathy with the afflicted." She then likely went to her guest house and freshened up in her bidet-equipped bathroom.

While filming My Fair Lady she wouldn’t let Ferrer see her until her street urchin Eliza Doolittle look was completely washed away, though even though this look consisted of mere soot dotted on her face, Vaseline smeared in her hair, and dirty finger nails, and of course she still looked stunning. After retiring from film she married second husband Andrea Dotti and announced, "Now Mia Farrow can get my parts." Perhaps she meant it as a way of passing the baton over to another doe-eyed actress, but there is a certain edge to the comment, considering that after divorcing Mel, Hepburn "emerged with a hairdo even short than Mia's!"

Though people praise her for aging gracefully, perhaps the most shocking Hepburn quote ever was given during a 1980s interview with Harper’s Bazaar: “I think it’s [plastic surgery] a marvelous thing, done in small doses, very expertly, so that no one notices.” Not even Nicole Kidman will admit to her notoriously frozen face, but here was a beauty icon freely praising plastic surgery.

It is just another part of Hepburn’s life that most people breezily skip past. She is more than that waif figure forever posed in that little black dress on 5th Avenue. She came from a god-awful childhood, suffered from depression, got divorced twice and had an affair. There is nothing new or evil about any of these things, but it is interesting that these aspects of her life remained hidden. Monroe was just as sweet, just as loving, but her secrets spilled out and are still notorious. Why is Hepburn so sacred? Granted, the work she did with Unicef was immense and admirable, and nothing should detract from that. But why must she be a goddess? She was human, like any of us. She had flaws.

And Grace Kelly really was a slut. I stand by that.

Almie Rose is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is the creator of Apocalypstick. She last wrote in these pages about her life with rapper Kanye West.

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"Martha" - Tim Buckley (mp3)

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In Which We Walk Around With Candy

We Love You, Be Careful


illustrations by Ren Rossini

My grandmother died this week, and as a tribute to her, I would like to share a few things I think made her a class act. Everyone in the world loved her, and by breaking down the code she lived by, it is easy to see why. These tricks and traits work not only for a grandparent or old person, but also for a twenty-something just trying to get by.


Repeatedly call yourself crazy. This way, everyone will know what to expect. I often got voicemails on my machine that began with, “It’s your crazy grandma!” and that way I was not surprised when what followed was: “I’m working on my autobiography and I’m at the part about winning an Oscar!” (My grandmother never won an Oscar.) I think if I start telling people how crazy I am, or introducing myself with, “Hi, I’m your new crazy friend, Emma,” I will be able to get away with saying pretty much anything else I want, and nothing will ever seem like a non sequitur. I’ll finally be able to recite Elton John lyrics during lulls in conversation, and no one will bat an eyelash! “They said, get back honky cat.”


Tell everyone how wonderful and extraordinary they are all the time, even when they do things that are completely ordinary or unimpressive. It will raise spirits, and make people want to be around you. Comments like, “Your voice on my message machine sounded so lyrical!” or “The way you pour Snapple into a paper cup makes you look like Audrey Hepburn!” are surefire ways to win someone over. It worked on me for 23 years, and I’m no idiot. I plan to start complimenting my family and friends excessively, so that everyone will feel great about themselves, and in turn feel great about me. “Look at how you put your socks on one foot at a time, so delicately but also with such force! I can imagine Gregory Peck putting on his socks in a similar manner! Bravo, you!” I plan to say to my boyfriend tomorrow morning.


Speak in hyperboles. Say, “This is the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted!” and “This is my favorite movie!” about every flavor of ice cream and every movie. No one will trust your judgment, but it won’t matter, because you’ll be the one everyone will want to be eating ice cream and watching movies with. Those were the best two sentences I have ever written.


Put other peoples’ happiness above all else, even if it means being environmentally unfriendly. As a child, I would often stay over at my grandparents’ apartment. I was four or five or six, and my grandmother would give me a huge bowl and wooden spoon from the kitchen, and ask me to make a “concoction.” I was then allowed to go into their (at the time, seemingly) giant bathroom and use shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, perfume, and anything I could find. I would mix them all together in the bowl like a minty soapy stew. It was incredibly wasteful, but I was too young to notice and my grandma was too old to give a shit, as long as I was having fun. Life is about happiness! In the moment! We survived the depression! Make some concoctions! From here on out, I’ll be having parties where we throw out batteries and then dance around them. My place, Tuesday nights, E-mail for details. BYOBatteries.


Sew cartoon characters onto all of your clothing. This immediately shouts, “I’m friendly and harmless!” to everyone you meet. Also, it makes it really easy to boss people around. When Snoopy is stitched on your blouse (grandma’s word choice), you can get people to do whatever you want without them thinking you’re being demanding. You’re just kooky and playful! I’m going to sew Dora the Explorer onto all my skinny jeans. It’s your new crazy friend, Emma!


Carry candy. This should be obvious, but it’s not. Not enough people carry candy around with them at all times. When I lived in LA, I would go to the bank, and the women there would be snacking on Tootsie Rolls and Gummy Bears, asking me when my grandma was coming back to deposit more money. Everyone always seemed so disappointed to see me. If you don’t carry candy, and someone else you know does, at least have the smarts not to follow or be related to them. Next time you see me, ask me for Skittles. I will have them in all my jeans and cardigan pockets. They will be warm and a little linty, but at the end of the day, you’ll like me a lot better than at the beginning of the day, when you didn’t have candy at all.


When people are leaving your home, shout after them, “I love you be careful!” If you’re a real pro like my grandma was, you can get away with saying it all as one word, and the last part will just seep into the subconscious of whoever you’re shouting it to. No one will question why you’re telling them to be careful, and if they do walk into a street and get hit by a truck later in the day, you can say you did everything possible to prevent it. Imagine a guilt-free existence! My whole family has spent lifetimes of being careful, thanks to grandma. Other ideas of things I could shout to people on their way out to make their lives better: “Love you pay attention to changes in tide and phases of the moon!” “Love you don’t be coy!” “Love you nobody likes a hero!”


Keep money in your filing cabinet, under M. You will never forget where it is. You can also keep origami paper under O, and Red Vines under R, like my grandmother did. I plan to turn my entire room into a giant filing cabinet using fitted bed sheets I hang from the ceiling like big file pockets, and I will never lose socks or dimes or bobby pins or used Kleenex ever again. This method of storage is actually brilliant.


To make yourself feel better when someone is being rude to you, whisper obscenities behind their back. My grandmother never wanted to fight with anyone, but calmly reciting a curse word as the instigator left the room made her feel better. Curse words popular with my grandmother were “baldy” and “shitface.” “Baldy” was specifically for my grandfather, because he was bald, and “shitface” was reserved for anyone who beat her at one of those old lady tile games (Rummikub anyone?). I realize now that I am not vocal enough when it comes to my anger. So the next time someone beats me at the Seinfeld trivia board game, or is acting all bald at me, I will whisper “baldy shitface,” under my breath as they walk away.


Go out with a bang. Leave creepy things to people in your will, have a really absurd last request, and kick it on your ex-son-in-law’s birthday. When someone you love has a dying wish, you are pretty much obligated to obey it. As a result, my 28-year-old brother will have a stuffed bear in a raincoat that sings “Singing in the Rain” for the rest of his life. Also, my mother will never throw out a box of stale chocolates, because “they were an incredible bargain.” This is the most brilliant trick I’ve ever heard. After I finish writing this, I’m going out to buy a box of raisins. I’m going to write one friend’s name on each raisin. When I die, my will is going to say, “Each friend must sleep with his/her specific raisin under their pillow forever. Every morning, ‘Oh raisin my raisin’ must be the first thing that comes out of your mouth. It is my dying wish. Please.” Then I plan to choose someone’s birthday to ruin by dying on it. That way, every year on this person’s birthday, people will only think about me and how sad they are to have lost me. Everyone will forget that there is also a birthday taking place. I have a list of people who have wronged me, and they all have tally marks next to their names. Whoever wins gets their birthday fucked with for the rest of time. That’s what happens when you mess with your crazy friend Emma!

Emma Barrie is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about waitressing. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here.

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