Well, last week were the rains, and they are now for the moment, gone. The Santa Ana winds are coming up, oddly not as hot as they would be in a Chandler novel, but I am told it’s the direction they come from and not the temps that make them Santa Anas. The air has a bit of a bite to it, the highs are in the low 60’s and the air is crisp and clean, scrubbed of all the schmutz man and nature normally adds. Driving on Mulholland yesterday (the parts that are open) you could see across the Valley clear as a bell to the snow-capped mountains far in the distance. In my gap hoodie, top down, “Wait,, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” on KPCC enjoying the brisk air. I should have been wearing something like Eau Sauvage or Aqua di Parma.
I was wearing Fracas.
I had brought out the last bit of a sample of Fracas during the rainstorms to wear at bedtime. I enjoy putting something on before I go to sleep, perhaps (so I tell myself) because certain ingredients and scents engender comfort for me: Muscs Kublai Kahn is a lovers embrace for me, the long gone AG Lavender was one that I spritzed before bed for years- it may have actually had Ambien as an ingredient so efficacious was it’s snooze-inducing cloud.
Fracas is slightly different: I do find it comforting in a way but it is also something that I kind of hesitate to wear out of the house. Jake Gilles in “Sunset Boulevard” said of Norma Desmond “she’d smell of tuberose, which is not my favorite perfume, not by a long shot.” “Sunset Blvd” came out n 1950, Fracas in ’48. Hmm. I was re-reading Dominick Dunne’s The Two Mrs. Grenvilles and what does the sexually voracious, scheming, and ultimately murderous Ann Grenville* wear? Fracas.
So, I went to Surrender to Chance and got a decent decant of vintage Fracas and Tubereuse Criminelle, thinking I would do a back to back comparo. The package arrived Thursday and I haven’t touched the Serge. That will be next week. I am having too much fun with Fracas.
Fracas was the third scent that Germaine Cellier created for Robert Piguet, the first being the incomparable Bandit in 1944 then Visa in 1945. She is also responsible for Vent Vert and Jolie Madame for Balmain as well as scents for Nina Ricci and Balenciaga. Fracas was an instant hit, still worn to this day (despite reformulations and it likely being Patient Zero in the War Against Perfume in the workplace.)
What I had forgotten about Fracas is the innocence of it’s opening: the sparkly bergamot and orange blossom are like the procession of the bride down the aisle: all dressed in white, glowing, ready to plight her troth under the eyes of god and her family.
The tuberose is the honeymoon.
The tuberose is what scares people here. This isn’t trying to be self-effacing or coy, It’s a big, buttery TUBEROSE who sweeps in and demands attention. It might have been 1948 and the New Look and Poodle haircuts were in for women, but Fracas pretty much said “you’re mine now, buddy, so just sit back and strap in..” There is zero here that’s shy or self-effacing. Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck were stars that come to mind for me: they might have put on the new-look dresses and cut their hair but they still radiated that sling-on-a-mink attitude that said they would caress you or plug you depending on how they felt at the moment. There’s no middle ground to Fracas. There’s really no “just a dab” to it either- I introduced it to a boss of mine and she adored it but didn’t dare wear it to work until one day when she thought just a pinprick would be okay. Every time she entered or left a room that day sly little puffs of tuberose would sneak out like heat lightning. I loved it but she decided to leave that one for after work and her husband.
So, would I wear it? Well, I guess I am wearing it, so yes. Would I wear it out? Probably not. I find tuberose in general to be one of those accords that are better left to ladies unless it’s far down the list of ingredients. On me Fracas almost feels like drag- unlike victory red lipstick I don’t have to worry about smearing it and unlike that New Look gown I will be able to both breathe and retain my floating ribs after putting it on. Unlike drag, Fracas is not visible to the naked eye, so on days like Sunday when I am only interacting with the steering wheel and he drive-through window I can say damn the torpedoes, put the top down and let my inner Film Noir anti-heroine fly. I suggest you do the same.
*The book by Dunne is a fun read, but the real story is more shocking. Ann Woodward grew up poor in Kansas and managed to marry into the very, very Woodward family of New York. After a party for the Duchess of Windsor, Ann accidentally shot and killed her husband. Rumor was that she did it deliberately and was kept out of prison by her husbands family to avoid further scandal. She was however convicted in the court of opinion and disappeared from her post in New York society. Upon finding out that Truman Capote was resurrecting the story to be published in Esquire (rumor is that Truman sent her an advance copy) she killed herself. Dunne’s book goes with Truman’s theories and mentions some of her real-life antics, such as commissioning, then rejecting and refusing to pay for a portrait by Salvador Dali. She and her husband found the portrait repulsive; some of her friends and most of her detractors found it pretty accurate. “Feud” will do a season two about Capote and tough on this with Demi Moore playing Ann Woodward.
Fracas is available at the usual suspects. I got my sample of vintage from Surrender to Chance. Images are from Pixels and the Dali museum