Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

12/4/17, Shockers

Posted on December 4, 2017

Hi Everyone,

These are usually busy days for everyone, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. The countdown to the holidays has started in earnest. And even though I start shopping in August (which my whole family makes fun of, but I like to get it done early, before the Christmas rush)—but I still always have one or two people on my list whom I feel I haven’t quite taken care of yet, so I do a little frantic late shopping too. And this year is no exception. And I buzz around in the 3 cities I spend time in at this time of year, so I’m busy getting ready for the holidays, after a lovely family Thanksgiving that got things off to a great start.

Out in the world these days, there have been some truly shocking reports, about sexual misconduct and abuses in the world of entertainment, and politics. We read of well-known famous people who have either been abused, or been the abusers, and every day new names are added to the list. These kind of things have happened for centuries, and are not ‘new’, but it is disturbing nonetheless when names of people we respected professionally turn out to be abusive, and even sick in their behaviours toward others. It’s as though a door has opened, dark secrets have been revealed, and people have come tumbling out, suddenly in the spotlight as victims or abusers. We’ve all heard about ‘casting couch’ techniques in Hollywood for years, but never in the numbers and detail that are being talked of now, and it is deeply upsetting to hear of these things happening. And they’ve been handled with seriousness and accountability, as careers have ended, people have been fired, shows have been cancelled, and strong measures have been taken to put a stop to it and support those who have been harmed. It’s all over the news at the moment. And it’s right that the perpetrators of these offenses have been made accountable for their actions. It’s also deeply saddening to hear how many people have been impacted by it, and how upsetting it must have been to them, both male and female victims, though it appears to be mostly women who have been singled out for these abuses, and have remained silent for many years. The victims are often very young people, whose lives must have been changed by it. Being the victim of sexual abuse is upsetting whatever your gender, and at every age. And in every case, there has been an abuse of some kind of power, and spoken or unspoken intimidation, along with humiliating acts.

Luckily for me, I haven’t experienced abuse of that kind professionally in publishing, and have been respectfully treated by the people I deal with. I did have an unpleasant experience on a television show several years ago, which was not sexually inappropriate, but personally embarrassing, and have shied away from that particular show since then, and chose never to appear on it again. As a ‘celebrity’ and well known public figure, these things can happen in interviews, where someone humiliates you for entertainment. And as a person with a real life and children, it is painful nonetheless when I get put on the spot, embarrassed, or have the spotlight put on me in an unflattering light, with millions watching. No one enjoys that, and I didn’t either. You can’t defend yourself adequately publicly if an interviewer puts an embarrassing and unfair spin on things, there isn’t time, you’re at a disadvantage, and it can be very humiliating. There are also some truly wonderful interviewers, like Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, and I have enjoyed and felt privileged during every interview with her. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be on the show with her. And she more than makes up for any bad ones. I love being interviewed by her.

I did have one bad experience several years ago, which involved both abuse of power, and sexually inappropriate suggestions and innuendoes. It took me completely by surprise, and was a frightening and very unpleasant experience. It happened when I came through US Customs, returning to the US from Europe. A customs officer led me into a small private office, supposedly to figure out the amount I owed for duty for what I had purchased in Europe. I had done that many times, and assumed that being taken to the private office was a form of VIP treatment speed up the process of figuring out the duty I owed. What I got instead were verbal suggestions for sexually inappropriate behaviour on the officer’s part, and sexual innuendo. I was so shocked that I was frozen on the spot for a minute, with no idea how to react or respond. I’m a grown woman, calm in most situations, but I felt totally at the mercy of the officer, and all I could think of was that if I did or said the wrong things, or reported it, the officer could retaliate. Customs is a powerful authority. He also made a point of telling me that he knew where I was staying in the city (it was on the customs form), and could show up there any time to find me if he wanted to. I was terrified, and verbally rebuffed as politely as possible his inappropriate suggestions, suffered the indignity of more of the same for a few minutes, and realizing that I was not going to cooperate or be a willing participant, he let me walk out of the office, but I was badly shaken. Nothing like it had ever happened to me, and the idea that he might show up at my hotel that night was terrifying. We like to think we’d be cool in a situation like that, but I wasn’t. I was literally shaking, seriously frightened, and felt totally vulnerable. I told a representative of the airline, who was shocked too, and after paying the duty I owed, I left the airport and called two of my attorneys when I got to my hotel. My male attorney wanted me to report it officially and bring charges against the officer, and my female attorney urged me to remain silent, and was as afraid as I was of some form of retaliation (is that our typical female reaction?? that something even worse will happen if we ‘tell on a sexual predator’?). What if he tried to get even with me, and do something even worse than verbal sexual abuse if I reported him? Both my attorneys were shocked, and after several days, thinking about it, I decided not to bring charges against him. It also shocked me that he would be so bold as to accost a ‘celebrity’ with sexual propositions, in the crudest possible way. He didn’t seem concerned at all by any consequences. The power was all on his side, and whether accurate or not, I felt helpless. That feeling of helplessness was deeply depressing, and I was upset about the incident for months, and frightened that I would run into him again when I came through customs, which I do frequently since I commute to Europe. My male attorney advised me to refuse to enter a private room with him without a female officer present (which I think is the rule anyway), if I ran into him again. But the incident haunted me, and the memory of how vulnerable I had felt. I kept thinking too of what it would be like if he did the same thing to a young girl, who would feel even more helpless than I did—or if he did it to one of my daughters? The thought of it outraged me, but for myself I felt mostly shame that he had singled me out for his inappropriate behaviour. It was all very upsetting. Being famous was no protection—instead it made me feel even more vulnerable. What if I reported it and he denied the accusation, and turned it on me somehow? It would be his word against mine, and he had all the power. The thought of that in the press concerned me too. And in the end, I did nothing about it.

Several months later, while waiting for my bags at the same airport, I saw a customs officer I had seen and chatted with many times before, a kind man who had always been helpful and appropriate, and I told him of the incident in confidence. He urged me to report it officially, and I told him that I was too afraid of some kind of retaliation to do so. Within a day or two of my telling him, he had told his superiors, and I was contacted by the bureau of Internal Affairs for US Customs, and two officers spoke to me, and urged me to file a report on the incident, and I told them why I wouldn’t. On my next flight into the States, they were waiting for me, and again tried to convince me to file a report. They were very kind, but I admitted to them that I was just too frightened to do so, and didn’t want to cause a public scene. They had spoken to him, but they could do nothing, unless I filed a report officially. I spoke to them several times, but I never did report it. I was too afraid of retaliation on the officer’s part if I did. (And I only saw the officer in question once about a year later, and he seemed nervous, but didn’t repeat what he’d done before. I was shaken to the core seeing him again, afraid he would try the same thing again, but he didn’t.)

It makes me realize now how courageous these women are who are coming forward to report the abuse that they suffered. It takes far more courage than most people realize to step forward and speak up. More and more victims are doing so now—-and it even gave me the courage to report this incident to you. It gave me a small taste and understanding of what these victims have gone through, and a deep respect for how brave they are now in speaking up, even long after the abuses happened. And the authorities in these cases are acting appropriately and taking firm, definitive punitive action against the perpetrators. You can’t undo the harm done to the victims, but at least justice is being served in very serious ways.

After my one small experience in this vein, I salute the courage of the victims who have come forward. And with each one who does, another person is given the courage to speak up too. Women today are much braver about speaking up, and feel at last that they have the right to do so, without being ignored or ridiculed, without fear of retaliation. It is a brave new day, and I hope that seeing their abusers punished makes all the victims, male and female, feel validated, avenged, and safe at last. The victims have a voice now, and the whole world hears them loud and clear. It’s a powerful message to us all.

Have a great week as the holidays approach.

with much love, Danielle

6/20/16, Dreams

Posted on June 20, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a great week, and that some really nice things happened to you this week. We can all use that, to give us a boost, even something small, a nice moment, something that makes us smile, or some piece of really good news.

I’ve been somewhat pensive, and quiet, in the almost two weeks since the passing of my ex-husband Tom. It’s a sad event for those of us who knew and loved and admired him, but he had an extraordinary life, a truly great life, and I think he got to do everything he wanted to do, and more. He lived to be a great age, and had opportunities and experiences few people have. He once went to Antarctica for several months on one of his boats—-(I stayed home!!! I would pay money, serious money, NOT to be on a sailboat, dodging icebergs in the dead of winter. He loved it, I would have hated it, so I didn’t go. But what an amazing experience for him, and the photos he brought back were fabulous!!). For those of us left behind when someone we love passes on, we are left with memories, the loose ends to tie up in our minds, and some introspection about their impact on our lives. So I have been quiet and reflective.

I’ve seen some close friends for lunch, and really enjoyed their company. And I had dinner at the home of good friends a few days ago. The wife is Japanese, so there were a number of Japanese people there, which was interesting, and nice to meet them. One of the couples had brought their nephew to dinner. He looked to be somewhere in his late twenties, was a biologist, and was leaving soon for a 6 month research project in Finland, so it was interesting talking to him. And at some point in the conversation, despite his youth, he said something that really caught my attention. He said that “You’re not old until your dreams become regrets”. Wow!! That is a very deep, and very true thought. No matter how old we are, we still have dreams, we ALL have dreams, or we should. Things we’ve always wanted to do, haven’t gotten to yet, and hope to get to one day. Some of it may not be realistic: Winning Miss Universe or Miss America at 55 or 65 or 70 is not likely to happen, you may have missed the boat on that. Or climbing Mount Everest. That could be sketchy too. But going somewhere that is actually feasible, traveling somewhere, building something, learning a language—-taking classes of some kind, or even writing a book. There’s no limit to what we can do—there may be some limits, but in many cases, we can fulfill at least some of our dreams. Some people even find their soul mate late in life. And bitterness and regret is not unique to old age. Some people give up on their dreams early, and shouldn’t. One of my favorite role models is an 88 year old friend of mine in New York. She is still working as an interior designer, takes classes to learn something new, goes to a book club, the theater, and sees nearly every movie and reads every book that comes out. She is still learning things at 88. She is a knock out, and so much fun. She is a living example to me of how I want to be when I’m her age, full of life, and busy, and still growing and doing, and fully alive. And obviously, good health helps.

I try to keep track of what my goals are every few years, and what I want to do. I try to keep track of it so those dreams don’t slip away. It’s easy to put our dreams away, and get bogged down in the every day. And sometimes I achieve those goals better than others. But I thought that what that young man said was so true….that you’re not old until your dreams turn into regrets (about what you didn’t do). It was a good wake up call for me, and I wanted to share it with you.

What are YOUR dreams? What do you want to do, that you haven’t gotten around to yet? It’s good to think about it from time to time. I have a rock on my desk with a saying carved on it, “It’s Never too late”. And another one that says “Follow your dreams”. It’s not too late for you to meet the right person, to take a class you’ve always wanted to take, to learn a language, learn to cook, take a writing class, a dancing class, to get in shape, to make new friends. I think that’s how people do stay young, interested and interesting, by opening new doors and windows, learning new things, even small things, and hanging onto those dreams.

It was a good reminder hearing that, and maybe for you too. Take good care, and have some fun! We all need it, a good belly laugh from time to time, and even just a warm moment with a friend. Have a terrific week!!

love, Danielle

2/23/15, Moving Around

Posted on February 23, 2015

Hi Everyone,

I hope last week was a good week for you, and that you got a day off for President’s Day and had a long weekend. I used the day off (my office was closed) to do some travelling, and I am definitely moving around these days. Last week, I visited a new city, Seattle, to meet two of the big distributors of my books, Costco and Amazon, as I told you in last week’s blog. This week, I spent the whole week in a city I know well, and always love: L.A. I had meetings for some very interesting possible new projects, and this seemed like a good time to explore them, between books, so I went to LA for the week. San Franciscans are often snobbish about LA, but I love it, and always have a great time there. For one thing, I left Paris in a snowstorm two weeks ago, landed in New York in freezing weather between two snowstorms, and the weather has been below zero in New York for weeks now. The weather in San Francisco has been nicer than usual for this time of year but not summer, and Seattle was gray and chilly while I was there. I hopped my bus, which is a fun and easy way to travel—I’ve had a rock star bus for 20 years, which was a fantastic way to travel when my kids were younger. Herding 9 kids and all their equipment onto airplanes got complicated and when I had to go to LA for business regularly, when I was making the TV movies (and always took the kids to LA with me). The bus was terrific for all of us then, with comfortable couches and seats, a kitchen and a bathroom. I still use it whenever I have to go to LA, or for trips to the mountains. I can walk around, eat, sleep,work, go barefoot, and do whatever I want. So I got on the bus in San Francisco last Monday, and five and a half hours later, I was in LA, in gorgeous sunny weather, hovering around eighty degrees. It felt like summer, sheer Heaven. It was so wonderful to be in warm weather, and escape wintry cities for a few days. (I felt guilty toward my New York friends, who keep telling me how cold it is with bone-chilling temperatures).

I have new dramatic agents in LA (dramatic agents handle movies and TV, as opposed to my literary agent, who handles my books). And it was exciting spending time with them, getting to know them, and meeting the people they thought I should meet. It was a VERY exciting week, spent mostly on business, and tossing around some ideas. LA is a vibrant city, where much of the business activity centers around the entertainment industry, and if you’re even remotely related to it, it’s exciting and fun. People are busy, working hard, doing interesting creative projects and the names of famous actors, actresses and directors are bandied around like old friends. And even for someone on the fringe of that world as I am (I did 21 movies for TV, based on my books, 20 years ago, and they still show on TV from time to time around the world), the excitement of that milieu is contagious. And last week was particularly exciting in that business, with the Academy Awards only days away. I had a wonderful time meeting people involved in the business, and those who produce everyone’s favorite TV shows and series. TV Series have become one of the most popular forms of entertainment, and everyone seems to be addicted to one show or another. The series I LOVE is Downton Abbey, and have been in love with it for five seasons now. And they say that next year will be the last season!!! (And before it ends, I hope they tie up all the loose ends just the way I want. I email with several friends who also love the show, and we all have our wish list of what should happen next. I love so much about that show: the characters, the script, the touching moments, the dramas, the funny comments, how well written it is, and the fabulous authentic costumes of the period (1924 right now, it started in 1912, with gorgeous costumes), and even the hairdos are fascinating and true to the times. An incredible amount of meticulous research must go into that show. And when I turn it on, I feel like I’m visiting old friends, after 5 years of devotion to them. Sometimes, when I have a bad day, I watch a favorite episode to cheer me up!!) Being around creative people, involved in creating TV shows and movies is always invigorating. So I thoroughly enjoyed my week in LA, the people I met, the meetings I attended, and my new film and TV agents treated me like royalty. I told them that I felt like Cinderella at the Ball. When no one is spoiling me this week, I will feel like Cinderella after the coach turned back into a pumpkin and the coachmen into 6 white mice!! I’ll be back in my cozy old cashmere nightgown (with the holes in it), at my typewriter at my desk. I won’t be meeting any new creative people, the weather will probably be foggy and gloomy, and no one will be squiring me around!!! Back to real life. LA always has an unreal/movie quality to it, and going back home afterwards is always something of a jolt. But I sure had fun while I was there, and my agents were incredibly kind to me, and even took me to dinner twice. They are both wonderful people, and I really enjoyed their company and discovering their world. They’re terrific, and are already two new friends, and it was a pleasure working with them, and their abundance of ideas.

So it’s been a very lively two weeks for me, ‘out in the world’, and now I have work to do, a set of galleys to edit (the last stage before a book goes to the printer, and my last chance to change anything that needs correcting), and I have an audio script to correct for one of my books to be read on CD. (I have to pick the actor’s voice for that too). And I’ll have to deal with everything that piled up on my desk while I was in LA. But what a fun week it was, definitely a Cinderella experience!!…..and now back to real life. Have a great week!!

love, Danielle

PS. AND DON’T FORGET THAT MY NEW BOOK “PRODIGAL SON” COMES OUT IN HARDCOVER TOMORROW!!! As the publisher says, “it’s a novel of suspicion, betrayal, and suspense”. It’s full of doubts and questions, and the mystery as to who is good and who is evil, with two men who are twins as the main characters, and all the people and complications in their lives. It’s an exciting book, and I worked hard on it. I hope you love it, and have a chance to read it soon!!! love, D.

Filed Under Travel, Writing | 7 Comments

11/13/14, Whirlwind

Posted on November 13, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Whew, whirling dervish time in my life. This has been one of those ‘transitional’ weeks when I run through three cities in two countries all in a matter of four days. And sometimes the transition is gentler than others. And it requires a different mindset and attitude in every country and city, depending on the life I live there. But each city has its own characteristics and pace, some speedier or slower than others.

At the end of last week, I left my quiet, friendly relaxing life in Paris, having lunches and dinners with friends, and headed for New York. Usually I see my children there, but this time in addition, I spent most of one day in very interesting meetings with my publishers, making future plans. The meetings were serious and fun, with both my American literary agent, and the agent who handles my foreign sales, the Chairman of my publishing house, the President and CEO, the heads of marketing and publicity, the woman who handles social media, and another who deals with the distribution of the books. Ordinarily, as most writers do, I work in solitary silence, alone at home, and in cities that are each three thousand miles from New York, which is the hub of literary activity and publishing. So to be in the midst of all the excitement and activity at my publisher’s was a BIG change. And after the meetings, we all went to lunch. And then I met up with my daughters. But it was a day of intense activity and work focused on my publishing life and future books for most of the day. We shared a lot of information and some very good plans.

I had dinner with my daughters that night, and again on Saturday and also spent the day with them, and on Sunday I flew back to San Francisco, to unpack, settle in and get ready for some family time in a few weeks. And by Monday of this week, after catching up at my desk, I moved my things out of my beach house that I’ve told you about, since the house was sold. So I apologize for the delay getting my blog up this week, but you can see what I’ve been up to, and there just was no time to write once I got home.

I was startled by how hard it was to let go of my beach house, because I love it, but it’s going to people who are thrilled and love it, so it feels right, even if bittersweet for me to let it go. I had dinner with one son, and before that with three of my daughters in New York.

The week has whizzed by and the holidays are approaching. And hopefully now things will slow down a little, at least for a few days.

Have a great rest of the week,
love, danielle

8/25/14, Las Vegas

Posted on August 25, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I just took a vacation with friends from France, and their kids (my Godchild and her siblings again), to a place where I haven’t been in 14 years: Las Vegas. I’d been there 3 times in the past, just for a day or so, and found it a bit dazzling and overwhelming, but it’s definitely a place one should see at least once. And on my friends’ American Tour with their kids this summer, it was their next to last stop and I agreed to join them. And Wow!! What an adventure that was!! I never thought of it as a place for kids before, but we didn’t stop for 3 action packed days.  We saw the fabulous Cirque du Soleil’s O show, which is as beautiful as I remembered, combining acrobatics with swimming, a pool which appears and disappears, and then disappears partially, while one part of the cast is dancing on a solid floor, and the others are diving acrobatically (or from high trapezes) into the water. It is a breathtaking experience for all ages, and the children I was with were as dazzled as the adults were. On our last night we saw David Copperfield’s magic show, which is less poetic than O, but totally amazing and fascinated us too. And in between we went to roller coasters inside 2 hotels, Circus Circus and New York New York, we watched the volcano erupt outside the Mirage Hotel, and the water show of fountains outside the Bellagio. We walked for miles along the Strip, peeking at enormous, impressive hotels, each with a special flavor of its own. Some of our group went to the Venetian Hotel, but I missed that, we walked through the lobby of the Bellagio, and walked for many blocks along Fremont Street, which was a little less my cup of tea, with half naked people in costumes posing for photographs, and a lot of souvenirs and tattoo parlors. I wasn’t as crazy about that, it felt like the old days in Times Square in New York, a little on the seamy side. But the rest of what we saw in Vegas wasn’t seamy at all, but mostly fun and exciting.     » read more »

7/21/14, Lazy Days

Posted on July 21, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I hope that all is well with you and that the summer is rolling out nicely for you, with some time to relax, enjoy your families, take time off (and hopefully read a book or two. I have a new book coming out in hardcover tomorrow, “A Perfect Life”. I hope it will be the perfect summer read for you!!).

As I’ve confessed to you before, among my many confessions to you, I’m a creature of habit, AND I am not good at relaxing. I always love having something to do, and getting me to just sit still and take a vacation and enjoy some down time is no easy task. I always think I should be accomplishing something, writing an outline, helping one of my children, doing spring cleaning, or pulling a closet apart. But in spite of that, I take a vacation with my five youngest children every summer, and it is one of the best moments of the year for me, wherever we are, rivalled only by a week together at Christmas with all of my kids. We have gone to the same hotel every summer—we used to spend three weeks there, but now with all of my kids working, and busy with their careers, we are grateful to have a week together. And in spite of myself, eventually I unwind and actually relax. And it is sheer heaven being with them. We swim, lie in the sun, have meals together, they tell some hair raising stories of pranks and mischief they committed when they were younger, and are thrilled to tell me everything I didn’t know, which they think is hysterically funny now. We share long lazy meals, go to favorite restaurants, play games like Scrabble and cards, and a recent addition called “Catch Phrase”, which I love, it’s a little bit like charades where you have to describe a word, with a timer ticking, while everyone tries to guess the word, and pass the game along before the buzzer sounds.  Some years they come with their boyfriends and girlfriends, or just a friend, and sometimes they come alone. Only one of the younger five is married, and my son in law fits right in with the rest of my ‘kids’ (in their mid and late 20’s now), and is a welcome addition to the group.  It is one of the rare times of the year when we all relax together, enjoy each others’ company, reminisce about old times when they were little and other vacations we shared. And we have gone to the same hotel for about 25 years, all of their lives. Many of the same people still work there, and it’s like meeting up with old friends every year. » read more »

7/14/14, Paris Fashion

Posted on July 14, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Unlike (ready to wear) fashion week, which is a wild 10 day relay race, as store buyers, press, movie stars, celebrities, and anyone associated with fashion professionally, dash from one venue to the next to see as many as 7 or 8 major fashion shows a day, in 4 cities (New York, Paris, London, Milan), repeating the wild week again and again, until everyone is exhausted and has seen the wares of every ready to wear designer. Unlike ready to wear, Haute Couture fashion shows happen only in Paris, and whereas once upon a time, a dozen or so years ago, and for many years before that, the Haute Couture shows were the Big event, now Ready to Wear is where everyone wants to go and be seen. I guess I’m dating myself when I say that the Haute Couture shows used to be absolutely knock out, and attracted the most elegant women in the world. The front row at the fashion show was every socialite you’d ever heard of, important dignitaries and movie stars, and presidents’ wives, along with well known royals, and the women who attended the shows actually wore haute couture in their daily lives. The shows were beautiful, dignified, the clothes were spectacular and it was a rarefied scene and atmosphere that took your breath away if you loved beautiful clothes. But like it or not, the world has changed. My daughters and I were reminiscing about those shows a few days ago, since I started taking my 5 daughters to them when they were very young, like 7 or 8 years old. And the shows were dazzling then, for them, and for me. I’ve always loved fashion, and the haute couture shows were every woman and young girl’s dream.  All of Paris buzzed with the excitement, and the women who attended them (by invitation only) were stunningly elegant. But that world no longer exists.

For those who haven’t read about my talking about Haute Couture, what defines haute couture from ready to wear, is that every single stitch is hand made. There is not one machine made stitch on an haute couture garment. The seamstresses who worked on them had to be apprentices in the workrooms for twelve years before they were allowed to touch the clothes. The way it works is that there are two haute couture shows a year by the designer, in January (to show summer clothes) and in July (to show winter wear). The designer would put together about 70 designs, complete outfits, a sample of each one is made by hand, and usually famous models wear the samples down the runway in a beautiful show, so everyone can admire the clothes. Appointments are made afterwards for clients to try on the samples, and if they like them, the client will order a dress or outfit, and it will be handmade to her precise measurements. She will then have three fittings, sometimes more (the first one in a sample of the garment made in muslin, not the actual fabric), and about three months after the process began, the haute couture outfit or dress she ordered is delivered to the client. That process is still true today, and hasn’t changed. Haute Couture clothes were always expensive, but not the way they are now. A dress or outfit cost around $10,000 not that long ago, a spectacular evening gown $20,000. A wedding gown 50 or $100,000.  Today those same clothes can easily be 75 or $100,000 for a wool dress, $150,000 for a suit, up to $300,000 for an evening gown, and $700,000 for an elaborate wedding dress. At those prices, there are only a handful of women in the world who can afford them. And not only have the Haute Couture clients changed, but so has the world. I went to two of those shows in the last two days, as I do twice a year, and have for most of my life, as an admirer of fashion (I went to Parsons School of Design and studied fashion design, and three of my daughters work in fashion, so it’s a family passion), and there were no Presidents’ wives at the shows I attended, only one major movie star, no royals, and the famously well dressed women are only a memory now. I occasionally see well known movie stars at those shows (Jennifer Lawrence at Dior yesterday), and have seen Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, and Kirsten Dunst, and Rihanna in recent years, but on the whole people go now for the spectacle, and many to be seen, and very, very, very few are going to buy haute couture. The haute couture client of today is a very different breed. And the world we live in a very different place. Money is tight, jobs are scarce and the economy strained in many countries, the entire world wears jeans and sneakers, some even to work, exercise clothes are considered okay in every public place. Luxury is often frowned on (though secretly envied), men rarely wear ties now, it’s considered fashionable not to shave, and most people have nowhere to wear the fabulous creations of Haute Couture. And all but 3 of the once numerous haute couture designers still produce haute couture collections, which are labor intensive to make and out in the stratosphere in price. Many of the clothes one sees on the runway are then put in the designer’s museum, and never made for any clients. Sadly, haute couture has become an exquisite beautiful, absolutely spectacular dinosaur from another age. A few people still buy it, but most people’s everyday lives, even those with money, just don’t lend themselves to those fabulous creations anymore. And there are sometimes simpler clothes in the collections too, but always at an astronomical price, due to the fabric, or embroidery, or the remarkable labor and expertise that goes into them. I go to look, and am in awe of the workmanship and the creativity every time. » read more »

6/23/14, Feast or Famine

Posted on June 23, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Wow….busy times here, and I hope that all is well with you.

Oddly, I always find that my social life is very irregular. In New York and San Francisco, I very seldom see friends, and try to spend as much time as I can with my kids. They always have the priority when I’m in their cities. And given the nature of my work, I tend to hole up and disappear whenever I’m writing. Everyone has their own style, and I’m always impressed by writers who have a regular pace and schedule, write for a few hours in the morning, and then go out, see their friends, play golf, or whatever. That sure doesn’t work for me. When I’m writing, I can’t deal with any distraction, I don’t see anyone, talk to anyone (except my kids if they need me), I don’t even read phone messages or mail. Anything distracts me from the work, so I lock myself up in my office and don’t leave my house for weeks at a time. My writing style is to keep my foot on the gas, and keep it there until I finish whatever I’m working on. It can keep me locked up in my house for weeks or a month at a time, with no contact with the outside world. If I interrupt the writing to go to dinner with friends, it can take me days or even a week to get back into the book afterwards. So I don’t do that, and stick with the story, and usually write 20 or even 22 hours a day at a time when I’m working on a first draft, sleep for a few hours, and then go back to work. I’m very energized when I write, and hopefully excited about the story, and don’t want to think about anything else. (I used to have to be more civilized about my writing schedule when my kids were young and at home, but now that they’ve grown up, I can indulge my preference to stick with the story). And coming back from a long writing binge like that is like returning from a trip. I catch up with everything I’ve missed, return calls, open mail, and get back to real life. It makes for a somewhat erratic social life, since I don’t accept invitations to anything while I’m writing. And I find that one’s social life can be erratic anyway, even without writing, since people kind of hibernate in winter and don’t entertain much except for holidays, or everyone goes their separate ways in summer, and then catch up with friends in the fall. And I’ve found that there are times when I don’t go out socially for a long time, and then I get a bunch of invitations and go out every night. And for the last ten days, it has indeed been a feast of seeing friends, and fun invitations, and I’ve been out every night, which is very unlike me. But friends have come through town, childhood friends have surfaced after years of losing touch, and I’ve just had a bunch of fun activities and invitations, and even did a little work, though not serious writing, at least not this week. I’m always working on something!! But it’s only when I’m in the heat of the first draft of a book that I disappear. The rest of the time, I can edit or correct or work on an outline, and not go at it 22 hours a day, and manage to do other things. » read more »

4/21/14, Courage

Posted on April 21, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a good week, that you had a warm family Passover or Easter, or are just having a nice Spring if neither of those religious holidays are part of your life. Religiously, and just philosophically, I have always loved what Easter represents, not the crucifixion, but the resurrection. A renewal, a rebirth, a healing from the challenges we live through, rising from the ashes. It’s about hope that we will survive our difficulties and things will get better again. Whatever one’s religion, or none, it’s a comforting thought.

I just had a wonderful weekend before that, in LA with one of my daughters, to celebrate her birthday. We had a great time, and I always have fun with her in LA. I loved it!!! And as I left LA, she gave me some magazines to flip through on my trip home. And I had a great time browsing through Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Time Magazine, W, Town and Country. I love looking at the fashions, and reading articles that interest me. I wasn’t expecting to find one in Vogue that struck a real chord with me, I was having too much fun looking at the clothes. And then I found one about a fascinating woman. It was an article about an apparently famous political journalist in the l950’s, named Dorothy Thompson. I probably should know about her, or have heard about her, but I don’t know of her. She was greatly respected and apparently in 1939 was named by Time Magazine one of the two most influential women in America, along with Eleanor Roosevelt. She ran a foreign news bureau in Berlin, and apparently stood up to Adolf Hitler, and wrote a book about him, which got her expelled from Germany. From everything the article in Vogue’s Nostalgia section said, she sounded like an amazing, admirable woman. A trail blazer in a major way, at a time when few women worked, most were in the home, and she was apparently a devoted mother and grandmother as well. They mentioned her in Vogue because apparently in the 50’s, she complained that she had nothing decent to wear, and was a size 20. (They commented that in those days a size 12 was considered slim). And apparently Vogue did a whole article at the time, based on putting a wardrobe together for her with half a dozen looks, in her size. But the woman who wrote the article I read went on to say how she had always admired her, and what a gutsy woman Thompson was. It made me think of actresses we admire from those days, who were gutsy too, or appeared to be, Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Katherine Hepburn, women who spoke their minds and had big personalities. Clearly, Dorothy Thompson was not just acting a part, but was the real deal, and just reading about her, I admired her too. The writer said that reading about her had given her courage in her own life, which made me think too. » read more »

3/3/14, Wow!!

Posted on March 3, 2014

Hi Everyone,

When I woke up on New Year’s Day, I had an email from a friend in Paris, congratulating me for something, and telling me that it was ‘greatly deserved’. I had no idea what they were talking about, and assumed that they had celebrated New Year’s eve a little too exuberantly, and had sent me a message that made no sense. Within hours though, I got other emails like it from other friends. I had totally forgotten that the list of people to be honored with the illustrious Legion of Honor awards is published in the newspapers in France on New Year’s Day. (And also on Independence Day, on the 14th of July, Bastille Day). The announcements are only made twice a year. And several hours later, a press release had gone out all over the world. And by nightfall I was getting emails of congratulation from countries as far away as India and Pakistan. My other big surprise over the announcement—-aside from being on the list of honorees—–is that I always thought that the Legion of Honor was only known in France, and I was quite amazed to realize that people in every country seemed to know what it was, even in the States. And in France, it is a huge deal. Since I grew up there for part of my youth, and went to French schools, and have now spent a good part of my adulthood there, I not only knew about it, but was stunned to hear that I was about to be knighted with the Legion of Honor in France. Who? Me? Wow!!!

Twelve years ago, I was knighted in France in the “Order of Arts and letters”, at a high rank, for my literary achievements. I was touched and flattered, and given how many books I’ve written (132 to date), and have been published, in other countries (69) as well as the States, the award for “Arts and Letters” made sense. But the Legion of Honor is the most important distinction in France. It dates back to the time of Napoleon, and was originally created to honor great warriors, usually for acts of extraordinary heroism in battle. In its early days, it was never given to women, and surely not to foreigners. In the 200 years since it began, it is in fact given to women, though less frequently than to men, and sometimes though not often to foreigners. And it is given for major lifetime achievements, not just courage in battle. (Walt Disney was decorated with the Legion of Honor for instance) I’m not sure what it is equal to in the States, maybe the Congressional Medal of Honor, or the Purple Heart, though I’m not sure. There are three grades of it, and you begin as a Knight, graduate to Officer eventually, and after many years and more impressive achievements, you become a Commander. Those who have been decorated with the Legion of Honor as a knight wear a little red thread sewn to their lapel (of a jacket), ‘Officers’ wear a small round red ‘rosette’, very small also on the lapel of a jacket, and a Commander wears the same rosette sewn onto a small white ribbon. And it is a HUGE deal in France. And nowadays, it is given for more general lifetime achievement of an important nature. You have to do something pretty big over a long period of time to be knighted by the Order of the Legion of Honor. And when I heard that I was going to receive the prestigious decoration my initial reaction was “Who? Me?”. As it turns out, I was on this year’s list not just for my literary career, and the number of books I’ve written, and their success in France as well, but for my deep commitment to and work with the mentally ill and homeless, for suicide and child abuse prevention, for my life, and longtime ties to France. But still, when I heard that I was going to receive it, my reaction was still, “Who? Me?” But in spite of that, I was totally thrilled. I was stunned to be included in the ranks of impressive people who have been knighted with that award. » read more »