The 70’s were known for heavy-hitting fragrances: Opium, Cinnabar and Halston pop to mind immediately, but even “lighter” scents Like Anais Anais or Diorella were, by comparison to the 90’s trend of “eaux d’eau” (Eaux dear, bad fwehnch!) pretty in-your-face. For the men, there was the debut of Pierre Cardin, with his suggestive bottle, and heavily advertised oldsters like English Leather, Old Spice, or Hai Karate.
Into this mix Revlon decided to debut Charlie. Launched in 1973 and named after Revlon founder Charles Revson, it debuted with kicky TV ad campaign starring model Shelley Hack as the “Charlie Girl” bopping around a fantasy New York City, parking her Packard before wowing everybody at the “Carlyle” while Bobby Short sang her praises or zipping down the Seine on her motorboat on the way to being hoisted onto Mel Tormé’s piano.
They even had a Western themed one where the very Connecticut Shelley looks very cotillion as she cavorts with the cowboys.
Charlie sold like crack.
Eventually, as will happen with all things, it started to go a little wonky. Miss Hack was conscripted to TV’s “Charlie’s Angels” in a move that in retrospect wasn’t as disastrous as remembered (reruns are all over the place) but after hiring her it was clear that the producers had no idea what to do with this willowy, angular, WASP-y girl and her willowy, angular, WASP-y performing style (Woody Allen got better out of her in 3 minutes than Aaron Spelling did in a whole season, but then Woody didn’t make her pretend to be psychic while wearing a pirate’s costume- or was that Cheryl Ladd?)
In the 80’s the TV commercials kept coming: Shelley was out, but Sharon Stone was in. Long before she was beating up Arnold she was cavorting around LA in her outfits and T-Bird the color of Jordan Almonds, luring a random guy from Tail O the Pup to her hillside white-box house, so she could playfully push him and his Jordan Almond-colored polo shirt into the pool. Unlike Shelly, Sharon never sprays the perfume anywhere near her spiral-permed mullet, but does grin at the camera as if to say “They’re paying me to do this, but not enough to look like I mean it.”
The 90’s saw a commercial with Cindy Crawford and Little Richard, where I believe none of Miss Crawford’s singing was dubbed. Nor, sadly was her dancing. But Cindy would do worse later with her ad for the Cadillac Catera, a $2 million dollar boondoggle that saw her dressed in what Adweek called ”Princess Cindy’s Wilma-Flintstone-as-dominatrix get-up” while playing to a cartoon duck.
The later years also saw so many flankers to the original Charlie that I can’t even. Let’s just say that if there’s a Charlie Creamsicle or Charlie Chopped Liver, I wouldn’t be surprised.
So what, after all this, does it smell like? Well, I read that flanker Charlie Blue was actually the original, or as close to it as you’re going to get and short of going back in time and hitting Dillards I don’t think a 70’s bottle could possible have survived intact. Wikiredia states: “Charlie is classified as a floral–aldehyde fragrance. It is composed of citrus, bergamot, hyacinth, green leaf, tarragon, peach, and aldehyde top notes, cyclamen, carnation, orris root, lily of the valley, jasmine and rose middle notes, and sandalwood, musk, vanilla, oakmoss, and cedar base notes” and that pretty much sums it up. It starts (and this is the “blue” mind you) with a burst of aldehydes and hyacinth followed by greens (including a faint and faintly disturbing pickle note) and that powdery, skin musk drydown that may read to the youth of today as the opposite of “kinda free, kinda now..”. Do I crave it? No. Would I wear it? It were a little more gladioli and a little less gherkin in the middle, maybe. Nobody is going to burst into Cole Porter when my no longer willowy, angular carcass saunters by wearing this, unless it’s “In the Morning, No” and in protest. But hey, it’s $7 and perhaps some willowy, angular teen out there would love it.
Just please don’t bring back the spiral perm..
At least a few of the truly dizzying number of Charlie flankers are available out there on the interwebs at various e-tailers. The original is out there if you’re willing to pay serious money for it. I paid frivolous money for my bottle of Charlie Blue on eBay Photo of the bottle is mine.