The toupée of Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich wanted to be beautiful.

Even when she reached that age. You know,  when some women go out of their way to be ageless. Can’t blame them. There comes a time when the only looks-oriented compliment a lady can hope for is: “Wow, you don’t look your age at all.”

And don’t even get me started on this perfidious archaeologic saying about “remains of a bygone beauty”, okay? I facepalm hard  every time I hear this one.

Marlene wanted beauty, period. Her approach was methodical.

During the last years of her career walking and standing still presented a challenge to her, so she would squeeze herself into some heavy-duty corsetry before every show. They say she would stretch the skin of her face, pinning it with needles; what she sure did was to crest her physiognomy with an enormous wig. All those preparations made her a little stiff (excuse the lame pun.) She would reportedly fall from the stage from time to time, bruising herself. No wonder. If I had to carry a lampshade made of dead hair on my noggin (do you have any idea how much this fucker itches?) completed with a Hellraiser style crown of thorns underneath, I’d make sure to introduce some vodka into my system before going out there and entertaining people.

Why the misfortunate woman would go to such lengths to maintain her public image? Everyone knew she was 60 years old and not so healthy.  She would get away with showing up clad in comfortably loose gowns. Heck, she didn’t have to stand at all; how about being carried onstage in some pearl encrusted sedan chair? Cleopatra style, very glamour. Marlene’s fans would understand and love her even more. Why the bloody wig? Why the caked on makeup and unforgivingly tight dressses? I’ve seen the photographs. The artist there bears an uncanny resemblance to a velvety-eyelashed, scintillating, rather unhappy mummy.

The Magnificent Marlene. frankly, if I ever was that stunning, I'd found it hard to let meself go too.

The Magnificent Marlene at her best. Frankly, if I ever was that stunning, I’d found it hard to let myself go too.

I think what Marlene yearned for was Perfection.

Perfection is a mythological animal. No one has ever have seen it, yet everyone seems to know what it looks like. Various so called “ladies’ magazines” keep showing newer and newer beauty products down our throats, singing the same old tantalising song: “We know how to make you perfect. This new, outstanding solution made of an extract from Tasmanian spotted ray’s left testicle (do rays have testicles? Is there a biologist in the house?) will make Your neck regain its bygone smoothness. You, dear reader, will retrieve your source of joy in life, because the hubby/the boyfriend will immediately stop checking out all the younger women out there.”

Sounds cheesy and trite? Alas, but it works.

There’s no use pointing out how ridiculous this whole Quest for Perfection is. One can analyse it, uncover it, make jokes of it, even psychologically explain it – and it still stands strong.  I don’t know who did this number on us – was it Nature or Culture? It doesn’t matter. Many ladies will borrow the money they don’t have and put it in the bloody Tasmanian spotted ray steak by-product.

I used to work in a place where one of my coworkers was a young woman of breathtaking beauty. I mean it. She was tall, gracefully slim, leggy, suntanned and golden-haired. She had the face of an elf. Men abandoned all reason when she was around.

Well, this incredibly attractive person went and got herself a botox. At the age of twenty-something.

After that it became sort of an office prank to approach her – and ask her nicely to lift her eyebrows. She was a good-humoured lady, willing to comply. She would raise her eyebrows.

Only that the bloody eyebrows wouldn’t move.

Before it starts to look like I’m taking the good ol’ “Ladies, Y U so silly?” route please acknowledge that this is by no means an exclusively feminine issue. Men are being iffy about their looks too.

One word: hair. Those on the head.

Hair of man seems to be some sort of a masochistic fetish. Intensity of its influence on a man’s well-being can be compared to the Great Cellulite Problem on our side, methinks. Except that those funny little holes on our thighs doesn’t land in the plain sight all the time.

I’ve seen a documentary lately. It was called “It Might Get Loud” and was about electric guitars, rock music and mighty cool stuff. Look it up, it’s worth it – even for the sole reason that it’s got FRIGGIN’ JIMMY PAGE in it.

It also has The Edge, the one from U2. For such an outstanding artist that he is, he seems like a very down-to-earth person. A nice, decent gent. He also wears a fisherman’s beanie. Like, all the time. When the cap isn’t there, a hat is.

The movie left me a little puzzled. Does Edgey greets his wife in the morning, wearing this? Does he goes to bed in the evening, sporting his “don’t-you-dare-look-at-the-top-of -my-head” device?

Because if he does, that’s a bloody shame. I bet U2 fans couldn’t care less whether he still has hair in there or not. I certainly don’t.

Believe it or not, but this post was supposed to cover the abdication of the Pope.

Sooo, the Pope (head of the Catholic Church) had abdicated.  He had a very good point: stated that he feels too old (he’s no spring chicken indeed) to carry on such grave and numerous responsibilities. Sounds legit to me. There was an outburst of commentaries, some of them eulogic, some sparkling with wit. But (I guess) no one focused on the theatrical aspect on the case.

Being a pope (poping?) is mostly – or in my case, all, since I’m not religious – about theatrics, really. Yes, being an Officially Approved Highest Friggin’ Authority concerning, well, everything for a huge heap of people is the part of the deal.  One gets to sleep on very soft pillows and drink his morning tea from Rosenthal, I guess. But there are certain disadvantages.

At age this advanced, one has to bear with a wardrobe full of fantabulously impractical, yet visibly heavy robes on a daily basis. Mastering the complicated pope choreography is a must. Business trips require tiresome Walking, Greeting, Speaking and Conducting. The crosier is not the most comfortable fashion accessory either. And don’t even get me started on those paparazzi. They are everywhere and shot what they shouldn’t be shooting. As a result, a particularly goofy windward take becomes laughing stock of the internet far and wide. This gentleman is 86. I don’t see him improving his public image by jumping into a Marlene style corset and fake eyelashes any time soon.

I’ve browsed through commentaries on gazeta.pl. As usual, they were loaded with vitriol. They say B16 capitulated before the Triumphant Parade of Progress. I don’t think so. I think he just couldn’t be bothered with any of this showy crap anymore. It takes a particular mindset to rule the stage and certainly not anyone can be Marlene.

Wyborcza.pl suggested age-related prostate gland problems as a possible cause of the pope’s withdrawal. Now – I don’t like him very much, but that is pretty fucking low.

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