"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Auntie Mame

"Auntie Mame" on Broadway (1957)

"You've got to live, live, live!
Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!"

"What times we're going to have.
What visions were going to explore!"

In the 1970s and 1980s, The Riviera Theatre (in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood) had Saturday and Sunday afternoon matinees. Not first runs, like they had at downtown theaters like the Esquire. The Riviera's claim to fame was B-Movies. I can't count the number of times my mother took my sister and I for an afternoon of scholocky-movie-fun: the Voyages of Sinbad, Nectar of the Gods, the Towering Inferno, The Adventures of Benji (1 thru 30), The Poseiden Adventure, Robin Hood, Sherlock Homes, Clash of the Titans, Voyage to the Center of the Earth... For about $15 (including our tickets, popcorn, candy and soda) - the three of us, my mom, sister, and I could enjoy a double feature of delightful-film-camp.

Since the beginning of time, philosophers, intellectuals, poets, musicians, and theologians have written volumes on  moments/profound experiences that effect the trajectory of a person's life. Often times those moments seem so minor, so inconsequential. I don't remember when my mother first took me to see Auntie Mame (1958), but I could not have been much older than 10 years old. And that Saturday or Sunday afternoon was one of those minor/inconsequential/trajectory moments.

My 1st Edition Cover (1955)

Auntie Mame is a fictional-autobiographical-novel, by Patrick Dennis, that chronicles the madcap adventures of an orphaned boy growing up as the ward of his bohmemian Aunt - Mame Dennis - in mid-century America. It spent 112 weeks on the bestseller list, eventually selling more than 2 million copies in 5 different languages. In 1957 the novel was adapted into a successful Broadway play, starring Rosalind Russell. One year later the movie, also starring Ms. Russell, was released - quickly becoming an iconic cult classic - as it remains to this day (source: Wikipedia).

Auntie Mame  is a Sistah-Diva's spiritual and visual guidebook to life. The fashion is ridiculous, and Auntie Mame's grit is undeniable - she not only survives the Great Depression and comes out better on the other side, and she's fantabulous throughout to boot. Auntie Mame is what you'd call a trailblazer. She's a feminist, integrationist, Gay-loving, pro-union, child-rights advocator, eco-friendly, religiously tolerant, believer in true love and the essential importance of family, ever wanting to learn and experience world traveler. Best yet, she's determined to expose her 'darling Patrick' to la belle vie (the good life). And what is the good life? Exploring the world, it's cultures and people. And fashion, of course dalling! ;-)

"La Diva, La Dorothy" (2010)

I loved Auntie Mame: the look of her, the sound of her, the feel of her, and the idea of her. And I knew why - I had my own Aunti Mame in my life, my Mamma. Years later I realized that her taking my sister and I to see Auntie Mame was not only her expression of the type of life she wanted her 'girls' to lead, but an expression of the type of life she wanted to lead herself. She saw herself as our Auntie Mame. But she didn't have counteless Warner Brother's soundstages to romp on, nor their limitedless budget. Mamma was plotting and scheming - she wanted to travel, see and experience the world and not taking us with her was non-negotiable. So, until she could put her plan into action - we went to movies: our window onto the world.

"La Dorothy"

In a time and place that said she shouldn't be, couldn't be, an Auntie Mame my Mamma said "hah!" Like Mame, Mamma was/is a feminist, integrationist, Gay-loving, pro-union, child-rights advocator, eco-friendly, religiously tolerant, believer in true love and the essential importance of family, ever wanting to learn and experience world traveler - well before it was in vouge or politically correct to be and do so. Best yet, she was determined to expose her 'darling Rory and Temple' to la belle vie (the good life). And she was right and triumphant. Now, Mamma is acting as Auntie Mame to my three adorable babies - I'm so grateful that my children get to experience and love her - and so the wheel continues to turn. My mother is not Auntie Mame, she is the Diva-embodiment of an Auntie Mame ethic and lifestyle.

Left to Right: Never, Sage, Dorothy, & Rory ( Summer, 2010)

Sadly, this post is not as descriptive as I would like. Then again, mere words won't suffice. Auntie Mame is so much bigger. You'll just have to buy the movie to get the full import of what I'm talking about (@ $15 at Amazon - a full circle moment, yes?). After you watch it a few times, please let me know what you think. I just hope that you have an Auntie Mame in your life or, better yet, are an Auntie Mame yourself...

Auntie Mame
Original movie trailer (1958)

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!

Me and my 'Auntie Mame' (2010)
- at our monthly champagne-dinner-girl's-night-out

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