The other day I decided to escape the continuing Reno Follies by driving north to Ventura. Ventura is a small and very attractive coastal city about halfway between LA and Santa Barbara that is still holding onto some of that small-town feel: Main Street might have an Urban Outfitters and a store that sells $200 t-shirts emblazoned with the names of defunct motorcycle manufacturers, but it’s also still wall-to-wall with what we used to call “junk shops” bookstores and inexpensive cafes.
In one of those shops was an empty bottle of a perfume that I used to have way back in the dim, dead 70’s and my yoof. I reviewed it eons ago at PST and am reprinting here:
The other day, a friend of mine who lives near Pasadena invited me out to dinner at a wonderful restaurant near her in the valley. At 8. I work in downtown Los Angeles, and live in a lovely shack in what is known as the “industrial triangle” area of beautiful Beverly Hills, on the westside of LA. Dinner at 8 in Pasadena means killing a few hours- the beauty of living on the westside and commuting downtown is that you are running against prevailing traffic. It takes me about 25 minutes to get home. I know from bitter experience that it can take years to get from the westside to the valley at rush hour, since there are only three canyons that one can get through. So killing time in other people’s AC was on my mind.
I ended up in a mall in Burbank. I thought that I had stumbled across the Glendale Galleria and was looking forward to a cruise through the Apple Store, a traipse through L’Occitane, sidle up to Nordstrom’s and the hours would fly by. The reality was Burbank Town Center, featuring Macy’s, Hooters, and Hot Dog on a Stick. Oh well, I had found a great parking space (and parking is everything in southern California), and I was here.
Macy’s is of course, Macy’s as I am sure that every reader of this Blog knows (haven’t they swallowed up every department store in the US? I mourn Filene’s, I weep for Marshall Field’s, I snarl that there is not a Bullock’s to be found). They have their selection of fragrances that I smugly dismiss as “trainers”. I wandered further. There was a Sears. Having a weakness for electronics, I went in, and I discovered.. a perfume counter. Well, counter was putting it generously, it was a shelf. It was a shelf stocked with some of the sad remains of the past few years: Some J Lo, some other Lo’s, etc. But then I spied a bottle of something that I had not even thought of since I was in junior high: Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur.
Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur was to the 70’s what CK one was to the 90’s. It was a fairly unisex scent in the most phallic bottle that the company could get away with picturing in the ads, which always played up the shape of the bottle. Manly, yes, but I like it too. Cardin sold this scent like hotcakes for a long time until he had so oversold his name (he licensed himself to everything from towels to telephones to tie tacks) that his cachet fell and his fragrances disappeared from department store shelves.
But what you may ask (if you’re still awake) does it smell like? Well, I could take a cheap shot and say the 70’s. It certainly took me back to the time that I bought my first bottle at Steiger’s in the Hampshire Mall with money I earned mowing lawns as a kid (yes, you could tell even then). Getting those memories out of the way, it’s held up surprisingly well. It
starts with a bracing citrus nicely complemented by lavender and basil, moves through leather, sandalwood and geranium before settling into a powdery amber with leather. Objectively, it’s a nice, somewhat simple scent that deserves better than being relegated to the dustbins of drugstores and discounters. Subjectively, I think I could never wear it myself. I’m not the kid who rode his bike to Steiger’s anymore: it’s so intrinsically tied to my young yoof that I just cannot bring myself to go there again. That particular veil has been drawn.
Pour Monsieur by Pierre Cardin is available various places like drugstores and warehouses, as well as on the Internet such as 99perfume.com for as little as $15 for a 4 oz splash. If you have a kid on a bike that’s getting interested in scent of either sex, you could do far worse than starting him or her on this one..
It turns out that Pour Monsieur is still available at the same price point at places like WalMart, or you can plunk down $70 for an original bottle on eBay. Personally my desire for nostalgia isn’t so big that I’d be spendy and go for the latter, nor is it going to get me into a WalMart to try what passes for it today. Sometimes memories are better left as memories.
What are your perfume memories, and are any still with you today? Share in the comments.
Image stolen from WalMart website