Thursday, August 27, 2009

busy, busy, busy

It's been a busy week, hence the blog-free zone. I went off to Cape Town Fashion Week last week, just for the Craig Port show. That's me with one of the cute Westies who were posing with everyone after the show at the door to the Atlantic restaurant.

Lindiwe Suttle posing outside the Atlantic Room at the Table Bay after the Craig Port show (Cape Town Fashion Week)

Still getting over his black toenail painted boy harem. Cape Town really is Planet Gay. Someone told me that ten percent of the world's mammals are gay, including the giraffe population. They should move to Cape Town and paint their toenails black.

After Cape Town (looking so beautiful that I forgot what a horrid childhood I had there) it was back to Joburg for a beautiful pre-spring sunshiny day at the BMW Polo. Very scaled down this year, only one marquee, but still terribly posh and fun. The talk was of Top Billing which rumour has it is going off the air. Bumped into Kelly Parkhurst's "plus one", a Durbanite called Grant, who said that SHE said that there will be reruns in January and February, and then the programme will be back on air. So whose story is true? People generally like the juicier version (whether it's true or not), don't they? Like Belinda boutique, who were based in Hyde Park but apparently did a bunk in the middle of the night. But I see they have relocated back in Parkhurst where they own a house. Damn, can't get to the bottom of this and it's driving me crazy. Everyone has a different version. Let's phone up Naomi Larkin, ex editor of Style magazine, who used to work at Belinda. She should have all the goss!

Off to Giselle the ballet on Saturday and then it's the magnigicent Michael Fridjhon Wine Experience at the Hyatt regency. The GM Yann Gillet was kind enough to invite me and a partner to the Sunday champagne brunch. Suddenly things have picked up after a very quiet and philosophical two weeks so I am back into social bunny mode.

Channeling Chanel

The Little Black Dress. The string of pearls. Chantilly lace. The fabulous suit. Jersey knit. Trousers made for girls. Nautical stripes. The perfect red lipstick.

Celebrity Lee-Anne Summers arrives in Cosatu-red lipstick

Black and white shoes. Camellias. Scarves. And of course Chanel No 5, placed wherever you want to be kissed.

Carolyn Steyn is Chanel'd from head to toe

All symbols of female elegance invented by the most elegant woman who ever lived, Coco Chanel. Besides reinventing the modern definition of femininity Coco was given to "sayings", all of which were memorable. My favourite pronouncements of hers include: "The best colour in the world is the one that looks good on you" (a good reason to ignore dress codes that encourage you to fade into the wallpaper - like the ecru and aqua advised for guests at last Sunday's BMW Polo. Ecru is really a fancy word for BEIGE, and who wants to look just like the decor?), "Fashion is made to become unfashionable" (it's all a big conspiratorial retailer's plot really), and "Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress".

Now Chanel is the only label in the world that drives me moggy; when other people get glassy-eyed and say they would live on pilchards for three years so they can buy their favourite label, I don't understand. But when it comes to Chanel, I do go weak at the knees. I don't of course actually possess any Chanel, but have a fantasy of going to one of those famous Paris vintage shops, where the stuff costs more than a triple heart bypass without medical aid, and buying everything that is genuine pre- or post-war Chanel. Funnily enough modern Chanel doesn't have the same effect on me as the vintage stuff, although it is gorgeous as I found when I was taken to the Chanel shop opposite the Ritz. It's the old money honey stuff that gets me going. It's kind of like expensive men's overcoats, all that silk and cashmere and the smell of new coat drives me crazy. I just wanna roll around in them like a cat high on catnip. A therapist would have a field day with this one. Do they spray men's coats with that new coat smell, like they spray cars with the new car smell?

But I digress. The movie of the year, that eclipses The Devil Wears Prada, is of course Coco Avant Chanel.

Tamara Dey in front of the posters at the Rosebank Nouveau

Friends have been raving about Audrey Tatou's performance. And a lucky few Glamour movie club goers got to enjoy the woman's movie of all time last night while sipping on baby bottles of Piper-Heidsieck.

Actress Nambitha Mpumlwana of "The Lab" fame enjoys a Piper-Heidsieck mini!

The Rosebank Noveau has been looking very sad of late ( I hear they are in big financial pooh, surprising when you think it costs R50 just for a movie) so it was great to see the huge glamazon bash that took place. But you will have to read my column in The Citizen to find out more ...

Monday, August 17, 2009

A 'Saffa' high tea

Sunday saw a high tea at The Westcliff along with Classic fm performing some light pieces. The Terrace is one of the hotel's best kept secrets and white linen tableclothed seating was laid out on the grass as guests arrived in their various shuttle buses. My tables was like the League of Nations: 4 Serbs, 2 jetlagged souls from Los Angeles, one Zambian, one Londoner and the rest of us Seffricans. Or "Saffas" as the Brits call us. The tea was jolly fine too. Besides a croquemboche covered in spun sugar as the focal point there were tiers of savouries and scones (some with choc chip in them; "sacriligious" muttered the more mature high tea goers who were suspicious of this innovation). And behind that there was a massive buffet table of mini cupcakes and scones, fruit and strawberries, chocolate and strawberry gonache, miniature pork and chicken pies, glazed doughnuts and table after table of scrumptious goodies. Of course the guests had to pay handsomely for their high tea (Five Roses, alas) but it was miles better than the tea they lay on at the pool terrace where I remember sad, curling sandwiches and rather meagre dainties.

The former manager of the Westcliff Mark Holden was retrenched last year, sadly I thought as he was a fabulous host and manager and paid all his guests lots of attention. The new manager Andrew Cook was nowhere to be seen. He used to be with the Mount Nelson but was sent up to Joburg as Nick Seewer holds the fort at the Mount Nelson. I hear bad things about the Nelly, which seems to have lost its place as SA's best hotel and is mudsliding downhill at a rapid rate. The mature couple, who have made a hobby of having high teas in the best spots in the world (nice job) told me of a cake they ate at the Nelly which had dire consequences. Dinner engagements had to be cancelled due to the cake and its effects. It had obviously been frozen, defrosted, refrozen, defrosted, and then served to them. Nothing of the sort happened after the Westcliff tea, fortunately.

Putting on a brave face

No wonder I was SAD last week. Looks like winter is back and I have to crawl into my jerseys again. That will teach me to take everything off to the drycleaners before September 1! Women's Day saw to it that last week was a helluva quiet week and the only bright spot was a marvellous facial at the La Mer Retreat at Stuttafords in Sandton which made my face feel twenty again. They had - wait for it- an inhouse towel warmer which beat any airline hot towels hands down. You haven't lived until you've had the hot towel experience. I didn't even mind the bright-ass magnifying glass which looked at every wrinkle, every pore and every defect and blemish in high definition. Great tips from the salon lady Jasmin too: use cleansing lotion with your exfoliator cream for extra "slip". For some peculiar reason La Mer cream has always made me break out in hideous hives along the jawline so it was a blessing to discover that there are alternatives such a gel and lotion. And who knew you could lie in state with a face cream as a mask on your face for 20 minutes, and come out looking all glowing and gorgeous? If a bit greasy ... worth braving the stares in Sandton.

Put your money where the Web is

"If you're not on the web by 2005 you might as well not bother being in business". So said Bill Gates back in 2003. South Africa is lagging about 5 years behind in techno-savvy, so we probably have until 2010 to get fully online. Online shopping, eating, car hire, travel, news, information trawling, blogging, reading, etc, etc , and of course doing business - that is where it will all be at. And for a busy social bunny the web is naturally the place to be. I went off to see Wayne Diamond from Diametrix (off Louis Botha Ave) this morning about getting my website up and running. It turned out to be quite an expensive procedure, anything from R15 grand upwards. The business plan alone is mindboggling, even if you do have your content worked out, and if you aren't completely au fait with the Internet you have to learn fast. But the web is big business right now, probably the only business that is making money in the world in the middle of a desperately depressing recession. Every little click and hit makes a few more cents and those can seriously add up. It was Wayne who provided the Bill Gates quote, by the way. And he should know. Most of his business is with small companies, some of whom are doing extremely well. Let's hope I can join their ranks soon. Watch this space for my new domain name, and of course I will be bloghopping over to the new website!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

feeling SAD (or the summertime blues)

There is apparently a specific medical condition that describes what happens to your mood as the seasons start to change. It's called Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately SAD for short. It was (of course) a South African who discovered it in 1980, Dr Norman Rosenthal who moved from South Africa to New York and then Maryland (which would be enough to make anyone feel SAD). SADness seems to affect people more at the beginning of winter and it's supposed to be worse in the northern hemisphere. I am as usual the opposite of most people and get the summertime blues, just as my mood gauge starts to swing towards a feeling of euphoria that the winter is finally over. WHAM! An inexplicable feeling of misery suddenly descends, I cant sleep properly and I start to expect the worst of everything and brood over the past. This is after a brief period of exhilaration that it is warm again, spring is around the corner and I rush off to buy sweetpeas and daffs. The diagnosis for me is reverse SADness, apparently. It's something to do with light and haywire melatonin levels ?? But it is great to know that this is not total madness or some sort of inherited Celtic melancholia along with the red hair but an actual recognised medical condition. And other people get it. And when other people are miz we somehow feel better, don't we because we are not alone in our affliction! But how to go from SAD to glad? Oranges are good, apparently, as are massages, sunshine and food with serotins in them such as chocolate. And ditch the sunscreen and sunglasses temporarily as moderate sun exposure maximises vitamin D production and boosts serotonin levels.

Well, that all sounds like a plan ... this blogger should be back to her sunny self soon

Monday, August 10, 2009

Meet Mrs Balls herself

Now that I have finally entered the blogosphere it is great to get things out as they happen, so HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY to everyone! Can't decide whether I should have celebrated it today or yesterday, so decided to do both. By now US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will have flown home after celebrating Women's Day in South Africa. After Nelson Mandela's daughter Zenani told me at the Serendipitea function of Hillary's visit I was so looking forward to meeting her but gave up my chance so my esteemed colleagues who are always angling for invites could go to the Presidential Guest house last Friday for a dinner with the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane. Despite her rather Maoist title Maite has the reputation of being very nice (or she was when she first took office) and her face was all over the news with that of Mrs Clinton. So was Zenani's of course, who met up with Hillary- an old friend of hers by her own account - at her father's Houghton residence for lunch.
Not everyone was as lucky. The editor of a leading daily newspaper (I stand corrected, THE leading daily newspaper) was invited by Busa (Business Unity South Africa) together with the US Chamber of Commerce in SA Young Presidents Organisation and Endeavour to meet Mrs Clinton at the IDC training centre in Sandton. "I am one of the few editors who actually work," he said rather tartly, but nevertheless he took time out of his busy schedule to drive through the gruelling Sandton lunchtime traffic. The queue in front of the venue took 40 minutes to negotiate and then there was another 10 minute struggle to find parking as the proceedings were poorly managed and shambolic. When he finally arrived out of breath clutching his invitation at the reception desk he was told he was "not on the list". This is something that makes every journalist grit their teeth as I know from personal experience. When you absolutely know that you RSVP'd or in this case his PA had responded, there is no excuse on the PR agency's side."I really don't want to meet Hillary Clinton this much," he said to himself, turning tail and leaving. A call to his PA confirmed that he had confirmed his attendance but he was subsequently told that he should have gone to the "media centre"which was of course not signposted. The editor in question was not alone; many of the business guests were also messed around badly. Story of our lives when it comes to a visiting dignitary...

Funny about Mrs Clinton: some love her, some hate her. South African may love Mrs Balls but only in chutney form. Hillary definitely has more balls than Bill but it didn't win her enough votes to beat Barack Obama. Some even see her new role as a consolation prize ...
I had a list of intelligent, not too political questions that I would have liked to have asked Mrs Clinton (next time, Zenani, plse make good on your promises and arrange a proper meeting!!!!).
1. In terms of advancement of human rights in Africa, is it good enough to have only one female president on the continent? How does the composition of our Cabinet/parliamentary representation measure up?
2. Archbishop Tutu went live on TV telling us never to mention the word again after the xenophobic attacks last year. As an outsider does she think ubuntu actually exists? Is there a sense of community among Africans?
3. What are the differences and challenges between US and African women, or between a First and Third World?
4. Prior to her appointment as the US Secretary of State her ideal was the presidency ... Does she think she is being utilised optimally?

And my own favourite one ... what changes has she seen within the city of Joburg itself since the early 1990s when she had her husband grew acquainted with the city during the Mandela administration? Will she be here for 2010 and is she a soccer mom? You gotta beat Barack Obama at something

Saturday, August 1, 2009

salsa, baby, salsa

It's not often that songstress PJ Powers leaves an event halfway through. "It would have helped if I spoke Spanish," she said of the premiere of Lady Salsa. I had the opposite reaction to the show and loved it. ""This audience is probably going home to do the horizontal salsa, and make lots of babies," said my neighbour and friend Tat Wolfen who I asked along to enjoy the show. He was very reluctant to get his ass out of his chair and try it out though!

We were very suspicious when members of the audience were dragged up to try out their hip gyrating moves and all proved almost expert in this sexy dance. Even the old ballies were wiggling away and loving every moment, surrounded by nubile young dancers' bodies. I picked out my favourite in the front row, the cutest little peanut with a flashing smile and a body made of indiarubber. It proved that it just doesn't matter how old you are or what your body looks like, if your body rejoices in the feeling of dance that is all that matters. It proves that yoy are alive! Could this incredible prowess on the part of the audience be because Virgin Active has been holding salsa classes (which they call Zumba)? Salsa classes are huge in places like France and I can see this dance form taking off like wildfire in South Africa which loves to dance.

Brazilian and African rhythms are intertwined, as the drums beat together with the Latin Guitar. It was enough to ALMOST make me forget my attachment to the tango.

My onw bitch was that enough of "the glorious revolution" please. Revolutions by their very nature never improve people's lives, except those in whose interests it is that the social order is completely overturned. They create misery, bloodshed and often more poverty and repression than before. Besides the fact that a street in Durban is now named after Che Guevara what relevance does the whole Cuban ideology have? Oops, I forgot about our friend Fidel who doesn't like soap operas!
Speaking of street names, Durban is starting to look like a sailor's forearm: I love Mum (crossed out), I love Grey Street (painted out in black paint so your GPS system doesn;t know where the hell you are anymore), I Love Che Guevera Street. Oh no, look what the municipal strikers did to it over the last week. What a load of rubbish!

sisters in the media do it for themselves

Standing up for the local media has become a personal crusade and my belief that we are a credible group who need to be respected and not shunted aside for international media was vindicated at the Vodacom Women in the Media Awards held at Summer Place this week. Not only was I part of a group of extremely powerful and respected women but one of my personal favourites walked off with the award (amid very tough competition, I might add). Debora Patta,group editor in chief of was responsible for introducing the channel's 24 hournews service. Despite being told when she was starting out that she had a "voice for print media" Debora has risen to great heights as her channel has acquired a reputation for toughness and fairness. There is no excuse for anyone in power not to be accountable she told us.
"When a Zuma-led administration is afraid to step out of line, we know we are doing our job. They know they have to respond otherwise, Helen Zille will be on air all the time." Which would be the ANC's worst nightmare - or maybe that would be the fact that their own voters are coming back to bite them in the bum!!

But I digress. In an interview with the finalists, which was very difficult to edit we were told by Sandra Gordon who MC'd the event, the points which were raised were the "juniorisation" of newsrooms and the fact that reporters coming out of technikons and various institutions were ill equipped to deal with the realities of being in the media. This was discussed by Jane Duncan, executive director of the Freedom of Expression Institute, whose contributions and daily little victories have ensured that the freedom of expression of South Africa's media has not been eroded and eclipsed. There are many attempts to do so, we were told. This "accidental activist" discussed these issues with Terry Volkwyn CEO of Primedia, who my neighbour Daniel Munslow of Newsclip said gave him his first job. Terry was another outspoken, articulate and strong woman who spoke out about the power of the media and how it should be used for the public good. Esmare Weideman was a face that I remember from my early days in a nwsroom and she has also risen to great heights. WE both have a lot more wrinkles than we had back then but wrinkles are something that a woman should wear with pride. "It's not often that I am in a group of women talking, and I think, hey I wish I had said that," chuckled Debora after winning the award. She had brought along her young daughter who I had met at several Durban July functions (extraordinary how we all meet up in various unexpected locations). I had one of the judges Ferial Hafajee at my table who always shows a keen fashion sense, she loved the red and black gloves which I got at Woolies last year.

There were even a few men in the audience, supportive characters who believe in the South African media and fight for their own freedom of expression. Like Denis Becket with whom I had an interesting chat before the awards. Neither of us are very fond of Independent Newspapers, who gave me a raw deal certainly. Don't know what they did to Denis! The group has been in the news a great deal recently, with rumours that they are filing for bankruptcy. The group had sold off a few assets in South Africa but as their newspapers here are the only ones making them any money it might not happen. There would be a bit of a queue to snap the titles up if it should happen. Speculation is that Luthuli House is eyeing out The Star, and make it the whole thing official! Anyway back to Denis ... we chatted about Tony O'Reilly who I still remember addressing the staff when he bought the newspaper. Beware of Irishmen speaking with forked tongue, all he could do was give us a lot of flannel (yes, I come of Irish stock and know exactly what "flannel" is) about how much he loved South Africa and how he loved coming here to play rugby and what a fine time he had. Little did we know he would go on to strip the entire place bare of any assets it might have. "He raped that company," said Denis, who mentioned O'Reilly helping himself to the pension fund surplus as well. This did not go down well with Pippa Green and Luzeka Mda, who despite working for City Press still holds some weird attachment to her former colleagues. But while I thoroughly despise the likes of O Reilly and his lackeys, and sincerely hope that Nazeem Howa finds himself holding cardboard placards in the street I feel terribly sorry for few staff who still work there.

Times are tough for the media and talk was of the Sunday Times dropping their social column. I told The Citizen's publisher Greg Stewart that his paper needs to snap up that readership immediately. What a stupid decision to dump something that people rush to read every week. Try checking out the Cheek to Chic column instead!!

Anyway, back to the event.. Prof Guy Berger from Rhodes University was twittering as the awards took place, proof that the online phenomenon is happening in South Africa. While people still like to hold a paper in their hands online reporting is gaining momentum daily as people want their news now. "SMS me the winner," said Daniel, who had to rush off to an appointment.

Editor of Bona Sbu Mpungose earned herself the title of Rising Star, and Sandra warned those present not to poach her immediately. The Media magazine had an interview with the 27 year old in which she described her first year as a journalism student as "hell". Which is probably true for most of us.

Lovely food for a change as the chicken dish with chickpeas served at the Serendipitea function was fairly ghastly. A lot of faces who had been at the tea were there again the next day for the awards but this time with a completely different sartorial flavour and vibe. No hats, lots of suits and Annie Malan was distracting everyone with her stripey Christian Laboutin wedgies and a sable coat which she told Sandra she bought in LA. Looking good and looking after yourself is important for women in business these days, who like to celebrate their femininity. Which is why La Mer was part of the goody bags, courtesy of Clodagh Knott of Estee Lauder and brand manager Kerry Evans. We all got a pot of the miracle cream and an eyecream. Which should take care of those wrinkles. Maybe.

Sad to say goodbye to Dot Field from Vodacom who is moving on to other things. No one knows what that is yet but she had already had silver and cream business cards made with her name in magnificent calligraphy. So watch this space if you want to know what Dot is up to!

The great thing about the event was that all the women present were jubilant for their sisters'success. Some of them had helped others up the ladder. The glass ceiling is a figment of women's imagination, was the message. Don't be afraid to be ambitions, don't be afraid to ask for what you deserve, like a raise, and don't be afraid to leep on doing an unbelievably great job.
Viva sisters in media, viva