Scanning My #$@! Photos

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 21: Intrepid exploratrix

trike! Do I make it look easy? It is. And it isn't.

I went through hundreds of photos today, looking for the perfect photo to wrap up this salute. And I found some gems, boy howdy. (The fashions! The hairdos!)

But what is most notable in the aggregate (which is the point of this 21-day thing) is the strange and wondrous collection of emotions that going through the photos brings up. And what is most important, I see, at the end of these three weeks, is having gone through them, day by day, photo by photo, scan by scan.

Or, in plainer words, it's all about the journey. Once you know that, picking the right photo is easy...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Days 19 & 20: If you don't remember the '70s, your grandparents weren't there with a camera

As penance for missing another day (what is it about Fridays, anyway?), a fashion bonanza for lovers and haters of that shining hour for fashion, the 1970s.

Our first stop? The fireplace dyptych. Whether saluting my love for "plaid"...

...or my 1/124th Aztec heritage...

...I did it with verve, pluck, and a certain, Chicago-ey je ne sais wtf?

And speaking of Chicago, let me note right upfront that no matter how chic I was, my Midwestern practicality forbade foolish extravagance. Even without the aid of modern 'styling', I knew almost instinctively, how, with the mere replacement of vest and beaded choker with a saucy yarn 'belt', to transform my look from 'wintry elegance' (above) to 'springtime sass':

yarn belt

Of course, stitch wizardry is every fashionista-on-a-budget's bestest secret weapon. Some girls have Armenian seamstresses; I had "Mom", who not proved invaluable come Halloween, but was instrumental in creating holiday magic at a price:

Nancy girl

Of course, as I grew up, so did my taste. I started approaching fashion with a more playful eye, and began pushing the envelope when it came to traditional holiday garb:


Summer! Winter! What were these to me but seasonal 'suggestions'?! I would wear "summer" in "winter", and "powder blue corduroys" and "Quiana print shirts" whenever the hell I felt like it!!!

Quiana shirt

About this time (age 15-16), I also discovered the subtle allure of fine, French perfume (see Jean Naté spray bottle, above), as well as the sultry allure of a not-smile: what an upside to buck teeth and braces!

Armed with these secret fashion weapons, I was all but unstoppable. It was not until I discovered the culotte, however...


...that my undisputed reign as Queen of Cowtown Style truly began...


Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 18: A face like a map of Old Russia

i love bos ton It's been interesting noting what I think and feel as I go through these old, medium and less-old photos.

Sometimes I'm wonder what I would tell the Colleen of That Particular Past were I given the opportunity. Sometimes I struggle to recall how I felt when the photo was taken, and whether or not I actually felt that way or am imposing freshly-minted thoughts and feelings on a 'memory' that exists only as a photograph. When the photos are of people and places that pre-date me, I wonder how I would enjoy time-traveling to that spot, whether the people in the photo would like me and I them, whether time travel itself will be possible at some point.

When I pulled this photo out, I debated over whether or not to scan and post it. There's nothing notable about it really. It's not funny or striking, and there's no great story behind it. It was taken by a friend on a trip to Geneva, IL, a distant suburb of Chicago, some utterly forgettable street-art-city fair our excuse for the excursion.

But just as I was about to toss the snap back onto the growing pile in the center of my living room floor, the title of this post flitted (flit? floated?) through my brain. I don't remember who described my face that way, but I do remember having been vaguely baffled and mildly offended by it. I am the issue of a classically beautiful gentile woman and a classically handsome Jewish man (proof right here, if you can overlook Stupid Period Crewcut) and I ended up looking mostly like the man, which, let's face it, was not the card to pull in 1961 Chicago if you were planning on being Miss Illinois one day. Which I was, of course, along with Famous Writer, Famous Artist, Famous Actress and Famous Celebrity.

I know it could be worse, which makes me feel worse about feeling bad about it at all. Between my younger sister (who looks like our mother) and me, my parents had a daughter who was born with spina bifida, club feet and Downs. She lived only three months, and given that they started in 1964 or '65, that was probably a good thing. I'm grateful to look as good as I do and since I got diagnosed with the Crohn's, I'm even more grateful that I'm as healthy as I am.

Still, it's always rankled a bit, this looking almost pretty. This sometimespretty: pretty when the light is right or the camera angle great or my mood superb or some mix of the above. It's ridiculous, because not only have I not suffered from being sometimespretty, it's largely responsible for a healthy and longish career in acting, as well. In fact, it may have been my first commercial agent who made the remark.

So the reason I paused when I saw this is because I saw it there, finally, that map of Russia. And not only do like it, I'm almost proud of it, although of course what I'm really proud of is that I feel good about my face looking just the way it does.

This is not, in case you're wondering, a fishing expedition, although it shames me a bit to admit that certain other of these posts have been just that: Here I am, adorable at seven! Here I am, adorable at five! For the love of all that's holy, please confirm that at the very least, I was adorable at seven and five! I curse this culture and what it does to girls without the persistent and aggressive intervention of responsible grownups (and sometimes, despite it). My mother banned Barbieâ„¢ from the house and was given to pronouncements along the lines of anything given you by Nature can be snatched back in a heartbeat by a speeding truck and a swath of asphalt. (At five she said this! and seven!) But let's face it, when Mom has the face of a porcelain goddess, it's hard to take her too seriously.

Speaking of which, that's probably enough seriousness for one day. I think I'll go see if I can dig out that meeting of Grampa's wife and his mistress, or maybe another one of those pictures of me digging for gold south of the equator...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 17: The other Miss Ciccone

You know that whole vogueing thing Madonna lifted from the gays back in the 90's? Fuck Madonna.

I didn't need videos or bustiers to strike a pose; I worked my shit in polyester turtlenecks and matching red barrettes from Walgreens.

Poker Butt

And those big, elaborate shows she's so famous for? Ha! Cast your eyes on this, peoples. I didn't have to go hire expensive backup dancers: I got my sister to dance and play lead!

Tamborine dance

Nor did I need an elaborate production as backdrop to strike my poses. I just hit the stairs, grabbed the nearest walking stick and worked it. In my Sunday-Go-To-Meetin' clothes, no less. Take that, Material Girl!

cane dance

And just in case you think all that early vogueing was a fluke, that she didn't blatantly steal my act and run with it, I would like to point out that I was doing yoga in 1970, back when only skinny Hindu dudes and that Lilias chick did it: headstand

Enough. No need to rub it in. Clearly, I have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt who staked out this territory first.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go adopt an African infant...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 15: The only (known) pictures of me topless extant

Before my big head overtook my big features, I was a pretty photogenic kid. As proof, I offer up to you the following piece of electrifying photojournalism, from the Chicago Tribune, August 30, 1964: Fashion Model Goes to Work

I have no real memories prior to age 3; most of things I call 'memories' are just admixtures of other people's stories, my own wishful thinking and crumbling photos like these. There are still some people around who could confirm how this afternoon of 'fashion' went down: my Aunt Mary, who is helping me on with my, um, bathing trunks. And I think that's Aunt Patti looking on, in the background.

Getting dressed

What strikes me the most about old, old photos like these is not whatever weird, random event was happening or how funny we look but how happy I seem.


My maternal grandmother, the one who bore these two particular aunts, along with seven other children, once said I'd always had a 'sunny disposition'. (I was around 36 when she said it, so I'm pretty sure it actually happened.)

Getting dressed

The happiness itself I mainly remember through pictures. Because the years between 10 and 40 were not so happy, mostly. Of course here, even 10 was a long way off, so of course I'm happy. Ignorance being bliss and all that.

all done

Ignorance and patent-leather Mary Janes and someone to help you put them on...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Days 12 & 13: My Freshman Five

As penance for skipping a day of exercise, I'm doing a little extra today. smoke 'em

That's right: five, count 'em, five, slices of the communicatrix as underclassman.

wheat thins

For the most part, I have given up the follies of my girlhood: Long fingernails (bad on short nailbeds). Track suits and green plastic sunglasses (bad on everyone). Wheat products. Smoking (both tobacco and feminine hygiene products). Bad hair accessories. (Although come to think of it, the rest of my outfit here is surprisingly, um, timeless.)

board game

But in addition to evoking feelings of shame, embarrassment or plain old befuddlement, these trips down Memory Lane also bring out a surprising tenderness in me, surprising, because the tenderness is for myself, an infrequent recipient of that particular feeling from that particular quarter.

On the one hand, how can I help it? I see that face, cheekbones still swaddled in baby fat, and want to grab it in both knobby hands to kiss it. So sweet! So pure! So impossibly earnest!

I mean, look at me: I'm wearing a cowboy hat, for cryin' out loud!

cowboy hat

But don't take my word for it; let me go back in time and speak for myself.

This, from the earliest journal of mine that still exists, started in November of 1979, also known as the first official chasm of my grownup despair:


Six things.

If that doesn't melt your cold, cold heart, you might not have one to begin with...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 9: This Tuesday brought to you by Bea Lillie

Bea Lillie by the fire My paternal grandparents, whose fireplace actress Bea Lillie is posed next to, led a very glamorous life pretty much from the time they hooked up. Gramps was a writer-producer in the Golden Age of Radio and (very much) enjoyed the attendent perks and privileges of such.

Me? I liked the stories. Like the one about Red Skelton passing out on the spare twin bed in my Dad's room after a particularly wild night. Or the one about the time when Gramps got fired, pulled everything out of their bank account except a hundred bucks and took Gram on a cruise around the world. Or the one about Gramps finally introducing Gram to 'Gingy', the woman who finally, albeit briefly, caused Gram to send Gramps packing.

Oh, yes. I've got a lot more scanning to do...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 7: It's a man, baby!

BirdsEye shoot Me, on a BirdsEye shoot in an Oregon field somewheres, back when I was cutting my own hair, smoking 2-3 packs of Marlboro reds/day, embracing the digital calculator watch as fashion accessory for the up-&-coming copywriter and posing like Patton without the slightest trace of irony.

Well, okay, I was working the Patton thing a little.

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 6: Portrait of the blogger as a(n older) mercenary

gold coast art fair '73 Me, selling more pre-communicatrix art at a later (1973) Gold Coast Art Fair. Ponied up for the license this time, too. Paid for the framing, taxes on sales and everything, even though Doting Grandfather offered to pay the expenses and let me enjoy the profit. Not my style. That shirt I'm wearing? 100% hair!

And yes, my prepubescent hands are wandering disturbingly near my crotchal area yet again. What can I say? Give me the child until she is seven and I will give you the slut...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 5: Portrait of the blogger as a young mercenary

old town art fair When I was growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, the Old Town Art Fair was a big, fat, hairy deal. I didn't understand what "unjuried" meant. I didn't understand what the term "entry fee" meant. All I knew was that my friend, Chicago Jan, lived in a building just off the main drag, that my grandparents (who lived in a building across the street) thought I was a genius and that I was an artist, dammit, why wouldn't a bunch of complete strangers want to buy my drawings!? And potholders!? For just 50¢!?! They were a far sight better than some stupid lemonade.

Stupid lemonade...

xxx c

Scanning my #$@! photos, Day 4: Call me 'Patches'!

me with pillow on head There are so many wrongs this picture reminds me of.

Me, leaving the price tag on my new toque.

My grandparents, seizing the free pass for unfettered hillbilly decorating that the 1970s provided to recover their spectacular, Mid-Century sofa in movie theater carpeting.

My mother, letting me out of the house wearing Garanimals, The Holly Hobbie Edition. Hell, I hated Holly Hobbie.

But really, what disturbs me most is the placement of my hands. What am I doing with my hands!?! At my grandparents' house!!!

On Christmas!!!

xxx c

UPDATE: Oh, yeah, and Bonwit Teller closing. And for what? To make room for another Victoria's Secret?

Scanning my #$@! photos: A 21-Day Salute (Day the first)

look ma, one hand! Despite my busy-ness, despite my picayune woes, and mainly because I am both stubborn and perverse, I am going ahead with my monster plan for the next three weeks.

Yes, from the obsessive neurons that brought you Cheering the Hell Upâ„¢ and Cleaning My Damned Apartmentâ„¢ comes the next 21-Day Saluteâ„¢, Scanning My #$@! Photosâ„¢. You have The BF's anal-retentive brother to thank for this; on my recent visit to The BF Family Farm, I was both agitated and inspired by the masterful job The BF's Brother (a.k.a., TBFB) did on the family photos.

I suppose I should have dug deep, deep down into the detritus of my ancestors' photo boxes to find some more appropriate salutory photo. But frankly, I suspect that if one exists, it is at the very bottom of a scarily large pile.

So instead, I have chosen the above gem, taken on the set of one of the many Gatorade commercials I authored, me, whose lack of coordination was rivalled only by her lack of fashion sense.

Lest you miss the finer, more spectacular points of this photo, I must needs point out the following:

1. That actor-boy is holding up my out-of-shape, copywriter ass WITH ONE HAND!!!

2. My (white) cross-trainers have Velco straps!!!

3. I am wearing an actual Tilley Hat!!!

Betcha can't wait 'til tomorrow...

xxx c