Monthly Archives: August 2012

SCHEIßE : FAME by LADY GAGA – a Tokyo story, August 2012












‘Ceci est la formule de Fame……composée d’abricots pulverisés: coeurs ecrasés d’orchidées tigre… de larmes de belladonne………’



Dense, treacley substances ooze down over alien-sized apricots on borosilicate glass.

White, ghostly orchids beckon like witchcraft….


‘Black, like the soul of fame, but invisible, once airborne…..




Semi-naked, faceless technicians pour smoking black liquids into the test tubes for Lady Gaga’s perfume, at the ‘Haus Laboratories, in Paris…’







A dark, Baudelairean cry of lust…Les Fleurs du Mal Bouteillées; the souls of orchids bottled in an oneirically alchemic process.

Technology (‘la premiere eau de parfum noire’) meets poetry.

That’s what Gaga and her cronies would have us believe, at least, taking advantage of her Little Monsters’ probable ignorance of all things perfumed, and deluging our souls with so much desire for this covetable mirage that our puny little hearts beat for it.










I happen to be one of these sad acolytes. Having resisted the whole Poker Face Moment, happily smug in my knowledge that Our Lady was a fake, I ignored her until  I was pressed into listening to Speechless, with its aching 70’s nostalgia, then – good God – Bad Romance, which to me is one of the most blisteringly brilliant songs of the last ten years – an exultant piece of dance pop that sends the spirits soaring (at karaoke it can border on a religious experience) – and by then I was hooked. (Telephone! the perfect amalgamation of sound and vision! Beyoncé in the Kill Bill video! What could possibly be so nothing and everything at one and the same time? What FUN….) then, most recently, of course, the Born This Way album which has truly been a joy these last two years, songs like Scheiße having some of the most ecstatic hooks I have ever heard: the woman has absolutely nailed the pop song +  art of wily visual manipulation.



There are plenty of people I know who think Ms Germanotta IS a fake; all is just hype, momentary fashion collaborative genius with her partner in crime Nicola Formichetti. She simply sunk her fangs into the zeitgeist and kept them there….

I do not agree: I feel she is real: I know it. But a performer is not a perfumer, and I was embarrassingly naïve to imagine there could be a palpable connection between the singer and her scent, even as she claims it ‘comes from her blood’. The deliciously fictitious ‘laboratory’ (which I fear some poor fools will literally think is where and how this perfume is made – this is very good marketing…) shows those bare-chested, anonymous men at that phantasmagorical, Poe-like assembly line, but the reality behind the masks is a faceless line-up of Coty business executives and their unprecedented push of global promotion for a scent that is nothing without its campaign.







I had to get my paws on a bottle.

Until then I could not know for sure if the perfume was as shit as I secretly feared it could be. But I couldn’t do that because I was working – and hundreds, possibly even thousands of Tokyo fans had already overrun the Tokyu Plaza building in Omotesando, the day the fragrance was launched – exclusively, in the whole world, in just that one place – TANTALIZINGLY CLOSE ( I live just an hour away), and I was terrified it might have sold out.  My better half Duncan went on my behalf, on a mission to the edge of glory, to get that scent and bring it home to me….

















The vicarious pleasure of knowing he was there in that diamond-faceted building was as sweltering as the temperature outside; surreptitious phone messages between us as the photographs flooded into my iPhone:



– You got it?

– You got a bottle?







– Really?!








– What’s it like?!!!!





…………….er, it’s a standard fruity floral ……




– Nothing special? Nothing at all?



………not really..




– But what about the saffron? WHAT ABOUT THE  PULVERIZED APRICOTS?



…….didn’t really get any of that.



–  Nothing?

















SURELY HE WAS WRONG. I was excited anyway, imagining that there might have been something in the ‘multi-tiered’ fragrance that Duncan had perhaps missed on just one cursory sniff; perhaps the ‘push and pull technology, by which the ingredients are mixed to highlight different aspects of each fragrant note at the same time, without any hierarchy’ had not allowed some of these precious notes to present themselves at that moment (isn’t self-delusion beautiful…?)




Perhaps he had only smelled the ‘honey drops’ and ‘light floral accord of Sambac jasmine and Tiger Orchid’, and not the incense and poisonous Belladonna said to lurk down beneath…I would draw them out when I got back home……..















The saffron/peach/jasmine/incense idea has been done beautifully, and very strangely, by Pierre Montale in his obscure but gorgeous Velvet Flowers, which I think is a very original scent and wear occasionally in summer. The overdose of saffron in that perfume creates a hot, undulating sand veil of sensuality, and as I walked up the hill, singing Lady Gaga and anticipating something of the sort, blocking Duncan’s words from my head, I thought there must be something of that perfume in it……it might be a bit like the Montale.














I got home.



I rushed into the kitchen.




There was the bag, designed with the black latex ad, and inside was the box. Lady Gaga Fame Black Fluid.












I tore it open, clutched the alien egg bottle, sweat streaming down my body from the heat of the journey back home, and sprayed that black liquid onto my arm.






























I know this!


I know this smell already.

Surely. Those sweet, cloying American notes; that candy-cane peach, those cheap, synthetic ‘flowers’…what is it what is it?












Britney Spears! Yes, it’s Britney revisited, made even more sugared; a cough-sputtering so-so Sambac and imaginary ‘orchid’ (you will find no mangled tiger orchid hearts, I promise you): just the same old same old same old…



Wait: the saffron…it must be there. Where is it where is it…

if I REALLY concentrate, yes, perhaps there somewhere in the background.

But incense?

No. And who knows what belladonna smells like except dead poets like Keats?



Just no.







NO!! I bellowed.









And then heartfelt thanks to Duncan for sensibly buying the smallest 30ml bottle when I had said I wanted the so-called Masterpiece 100ml. He knew it was shit and had rightly stuck right by his instincts.





But wait.





Surely Gaga, who initially was said to be doing a cover of Etat Libre d’Orange’s shocking Secrétions Magnifiques (see my review), with its repellent notes of blood, sweat and sperm, would have brought out something different, original, shocking?


Could the supreme visualist be so lacking in that other, equally important sense? Or was she in fact barely involved in the ‘creative’ process at all?




I sprayed the room, I sprayed my arms; yes, I suppose it does just about add up to something; a Vanderbilt or Loulou for the 2010s, a fully formed perfume, just about, though mentioning those two sweet classics in the same sentence as this Black Swan-masquerading toilet duck feels almost blasphemous…





Fame doesn’t smell bad, it might even smell cute.

But it doesn’t have one ounce of originality, and the gaping void between style and substance has never been so mammoth.

In fact, it verges on genius, plugging up the lack of knowledge and self-confidence the general public has about scent with visual ploys and word-tricks that work beautifully.


We are beguiled by the lie, sold solely on the image: what we stupidly believe is a poisonous flower dripping honey and black magic, is a sweet, nasty nothing.


Like those ‘pulverized apricots’ I am crushed.


Filed under Apricot, Flowers, Fruit

“Come on Earle, we’ll be late for the arraignment” : : : : OPIUM (Yves Saint Laurent) (1977) VS CINNABAR (Estee Lauder) (1978)










Plagiarism lawsuits don’t seem to occur in the world of perfumery, and this is probably good news for fragrance houses, else writs would be hurled left right and centre. As the exact formulae for perfumes are always very well guarded anyway (Estée Lauder phobically supposedly adding the final 5% of ingredients herself behind closed doors to ensure secrecy), intellectual theft in the invisible, ephemeral world of scent would just too much for jurors, judges and witnesses to handle –  the stench and olfactory confusion in a closed courthouse is easy, and quite hysterical, to imagine.





















Opium was a direct challenge to the insipid sport greens that were taking over the perfume world at the time, and in its criminally erotic complexity, was daring, of the moment; dynamic. So was Cinnabar, which was undoubtedly a copy of Opium. But there are important differences, which I will come to. Opium’s mandarin/jasmine/husking tiger’s breathamber-cinnamon template – gorgeously erotic and overwhelming in vintage parfum – was copied and remodelled, redeveloped with varying success in a number of perfume imitators until its swansong in 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld released the seminal (at least in my opinion) KL; this delicious, eighties spice fest shed some of the weight of the heavier oriental notes in Opium, kept the lingering florality and piquant spices, but flushed the whole with a wonderfully sunset orange top note that surrounded, dazzled the perfume within; it was perhaps this genre of perfume’sconceptual apogée.















Conversely, though obviously very much still an ‘oriental’ and close to Opium in style, Cinnabar was not a spice-laden camel on its weary back home to the souk, but a juggernaut pounding the highway back to Orlando. The first assault of this perfume- and it is an assault – from the thick, trusty bottle, is a sinus-twisting rush of incredibly strong citrus-spice, delved rudely in a flawless, caramellized tang of orange, carnation and that ‘rich divorcée’ accord that is the base of all of Lauder’s creations from Youth Dew to Spellbound. These scents  – such a mainstay of the Reagan generation – are not always to my taste, though I have to say they do mesmerize me, like the houses down the back streets of Beverly Hills – those fortresses of wealth draped in the U.S flag and Mexican vines; the darkness and silence of the living rooms hidden from sight in the blinding California sun.





Cinnabar packs the spices in and it packs ‘em in tight, over stickily suggestive balsams and woods that are bonded as a calyx, yet somehow not in the least bit sexy. I have the vintage Lauder on my one hand and vintage Opium parfum on the other as I write, and in comparison the latter is a panting carnal flower exhaling its last breath; languid jungle lovers in a post-coital, satisfied sleep. Its American counterpart can only imagine such abandon with a fierce, stomach-clenched jealousy. Though a very well constructed fragrance (that I think probably yields more than I am letting on here), there is always something so zipped up, conservative and ‘gated community’ about Cinnabar; wigs, not hair; dressed up not naked: an unyielding pair of lovingly pressed slacks that somehow forever evinces frustrated, unfulfilled sensuality.














Filed under 'Orientals', Flowers, Spice

Eau de Camille by Annick Goutal (1983)

‘When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream.’ (Henri Rousseau)












Annick Goutal’s simple but beautiful Eau de Camille is like one of Rousseau’s paintings. A primeval dawn of innocence where seringa flowers bloom and dew evaporates on giant leaves in the ten o’clock sun. A garden where quick young children hide in secret, dark-green places.









Filed under Flowers, Grass, Green, Ivy, Perfume Reviews, Seringa