Sunday, September 14, 2014

Santa Barbara, I. Magnin, and Passion

A fog shrouded morning on the coast. Mid-August and we've had fog-hazed days all summer. May, June, July, and now August, filtered through mesh. The mountains, just a mile away, are invisible. Blotted out with the fuzzy cloth of fog. And when the fog thins, you're left with a filter buffering the mountain's typography. The ridges that in November slice clean against the sky, we rarely see in summer.

When I came to visit 35 years ago, I'd been here once before. Shuttled from L.A., and put up in a quaint cottage inn for one night. Five I. Magnin models were brought here for their annual Champagne Fashion Show. We had just performed it in Los Angeles to an invitation only audience. Two-hundred privileged guests, who included the Ronald Reagans, the Robert Stacks, the Charlton Hestons, and other notable celebrities like platinum-maned Maimie Van Doren and the velvet-voiced Johnny Mathis.

We brought the clothes and the show up the coast. First to Santa Barbara, and then to San Francisco in 1962. I was a "house model" at the store on Wilshre and Vermont, who walked the floor from 9-5 wearing too tight Evan's shoes (supplied by the store.) I strolled the white carpet of the second floor and the beige linoleum of the first, inhaling the dreamy moneyed scent of Eau de Joy. I stopped in front of patrons, smiled and said, "Hello, good day." Then posed, touched the fabric of my garment, and said, "This suit is by Jones of New York. You can find it in the knit department on the third floor." I'd then--in spite of my aching blistered feet--do a full pivot, and if the shopper had no questions, smile and say,"Have a lovely day," and move on.

At age nineteen, Santa Barbara was not for me. I had plans, things to do, places to see. I. Magnin was a first rung on the ladder to my future. I was gong to be a great model. I was going to work in New York. And once I got confidence down, solid in my pocket like the four-corned square of a wallet, then I would do what I was meant to do. I could handle it then, that thing I could not, not do. The art that stirred my passions from way before the euphoria of starring in my high school play.

Santa Barbara was stodgy. Santa Barbara was stuffy; I saw its winding roads ascending into the hills, I saw its sandstone retaining walls, I saw its lush foliage; they all registered somewhere in my mind's eye, but I didn't really see them past the stars blazing across my vision. My future is what I saw, and Santa Barbara was to me exactly what the whispered slogan said: "A place for the newly wed and the nearly dead."


Welcome back Dear Readers. I'd like to mention that the photos above were taken of me by I. Magnin when I worked for the store. After fashion shows, newspaper photographers waited in the wings to take photographs of the designer garments. The fashion coordinator would choose models from the staff to pose  for the newspaper shots. In the photo with Marc Bohan, then the head designer for the "House of Dior" in Paris, I am sitting to his left.

It's great to see you here. I plan to return -- as I have been -- in two months. That will be on November 15th. I am about ready to make a new post on my other blog, "Anitra's Book of Days." I imagine that will be within the next few days. Expressing my warm regards to you all. Be cool and safe,      ~    Aneet


  1. Your photos of Santa Barbara are stunning. I love fog too, and lately have to go visit our San Francisco sons to see it. In 1962 I remember hiking up Nob Hill and entering a cloud of fog --magic. Which reminds me, the poise and grace you project in those great news-clippings --as well as your current photos-- hides the hard work of modeling as a magician conceals the mechanics of illusion. The real magic is in personalities coming through. Well done, you.

    1. Geo, lovely to hear from you. Your image of hiking up Knob Hill in the 60's (at the very time I was posing for those I. Mag photos) takes me on a wonderful journey. Magic is the word for fog.

      Delighted you like the clippings. Who knew then (or even 10 years ago) that they'd be on a blog on the Internet. Your comments are always so insightful and charged with the creative perceptions of a poet or philosopher. They are much appreciated, thank You!

      My fond wished to you and Norma, Anitra

  2. Aneet, hello......

    Hope you had a nice summer. Here in New York, this summer has not been as hot as it normally is. I think we had a total of 2 days where the temperature reached 90. Otherwise, low 80's and comfortable. I would take this summer every year....

    Interesting history you had in modeling. I wonder if you met any of those celebrities who attended that fashion show? I. Magnin knows a classy, elegant and beautiful model when he see's one! But yikes! Having to wear those uncomfortable shoes all day does sound like a painfull experience. I'll bet you had huge callouses to go along with those blisters!

    It's definitely thought provoking about how in life we pass an area (like Santa Barbara for you) or even in my life a company I knew of and thought "This is nice but not for me or even a place I could ever see myself in". Then low and behold you're there. It's happened to me too. It's almost as if there's some kind of premenition attached. Or maybe, the universe has a plan for us that appears totally unpredictable to us. Perhaps we end up better off.

    Anitra...always great corresponding with you. Best of health, happiness and 72% dark chocolate always.

    Jonathan :))

  3. And oh one more thing...........I love those photos of you!

    1. Jonathan, Jonathan, hello!

      So good to hear from you and to read your words. I know New York in the summer. The heat was oppressive and hard to tolerate. Happy to hear you escaped it this year :)

      I did get up close to Maimie at I. Mag,, and Johnny M.,but at a different time, when they were shopping (together) at the store.. Fashion shows, especially during the galas, we were removed from the audience on a tall runway. I don't recall ever seeing anyone inside my myopia of rushing to change clothes in half a minute, and then on the runway (being so new to it) usually just trying to keep my balance and not trip, I was pretty much in that same fog you see on the mountains above.

      As to the irony of those things and places we didn't want then. I'm so glad you have shared your perceptions. We are not alone in coming full circle, and most likely changing as we live and learn.

      My warm wishes to you Johnathan (and cool breezes), ~ Aneet

  4. Hello Aneet!

    Thank you for sharing this fascinating story. I am a big retail history enthusiast, and I have fond memories of I. Magnin when they had a location in Palos Verdes in the early 1990s. It was a beautiful, classy chain whose presence is sorely missed in this day and age. It does not surprise me in the least that you modeled for Magnin's, as you have the grace and elegance that the store embodied so well. Of course, I can't also resist drawing the department store parallel to you being the original "elevator operator" in TPIR's department store showcase.

    Life certainly is funny isn't it? In our youth we always think it is going to go a certain way, and we'll end up in certain places, but as they say "Life happens when you're making other plans". Rummaging through some mementos recently, I ran across what we called our "Memory Book" when I graduated elementary school. The book was a compilation of photos of my class from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Also there was a section where we wrote where we wanted to be in 2015, 20 years after graduation. I wrote that I would be married, have 2 kids, and be living in Northern California either around San Francisco or Lake Tahoe. Again, funny how life happens. I'm still in the South Bay, single, and have no kids. However I still have not lost the desire to experience life beyond the confines of this corner of Southern California. Part of the reason I love to travel is because I have a gut feeling that there will be some place that I'll visit, and ultimately decide to stay.

    Again, thank you for such a thought-provoking post, and I hope you're staying cool during this unpleasant heat wave.

    Best wishes and fondest regards,


    1. Joseph, welcome,

      Once again your insight hits the nail on the head. I'm beginning to believe you are a bit psychic. Whenever I view the elevator sketches, I imagine I. Magnin in my mind's eye.

      Yes, life does have it's twists and turns and circuitous routes. In fact sometimes this includes wry inside cosmic jokes. I understand how that is: traveling with the thought that one might discover that true place you were meant to be, or at least a place that resonates with your heart. Sometimes when we surrender to what is, we find it's right here, where we've been all along.

      I'd love to see you realize your dreams, but I have to add that the appearance of a place is not necessarily how it is in the big picture. Anyhow, the way I see it is that you have lots of time to explore this amazing world, and many adventures to still fulfill.

      Thank you so much for sharing Joseph. Your presence is a gift.

      Sincerely, ~ Aneet

  5. Truly a fascinating piece of autobiography! I'm struck by your description of the reality of a working model's life (having to pivot in too tight shoes and making the discreet sale pitch to visit the third floor) and the glamor that those of us who haven't done this work imagine it to be. There's a wistful wisdom in your memories of the whispered slogan about stodgy old Santa Barbara. Who, at 19, knew there was magic in the sandstone walls and rows of jacarandas...

    1. You have such presence in what you share. I so enjoy the way you see and perceive things. You absolutely got the lack of glamour in the model's bread and butter world. In fact I began to doubt, at times, if it was really worth it. Suppose that was it. Suppose I only walked the floor of the department store for years and never made it to the cover of Vogue, let alone my greater goals?

      It's always a treat to hear from you Louis I hope your finding ways to stay cool. Thank you so much for your rich insights.

      My sincere good wishes, ~ Aneet

  6. Aneet,

    I love this post! It's a glimpse into the wonderful past. Sort of like finding a hidden treasure buried in the stacks of a library or locked away in a box of memorabilia. I always find it so fascinating to hear the inside story of those who pursued their passion and found success. What some people don't realize is that long before you see someone famous on TV or in film, there's a lengthy and interesting chain of events which led to that success. Very inspiring! Would love to hear more :) Confidence, as you mention, is a slippery slope but it is a key to unlocking potential.

    I know you have a love of and true appreciation for great photography, so perhaps now is the time to tell you of one of my passion projects, which I probably hinted at to you in years past. On October 7th, my first book will be published by Insight Editions. It's a hardcover coffee table book of more "hidden treasures" - never-before-seen behind the scenes photos of great Twentieth Century Fox actors and films. Titled "Styling the Stars - Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive", it's a glimpse into the past focusing on continuity photos, back in the day when quality photos were taken with high end cameras by the studio.

    Mary and I send our best wishes to you, hoping you have a happy and rewarding fall season. :)


  7. Tom,

    It's great to hear from you. What a wonderful comment. Such richness and wisdom in your words. The 'box of memorabilia', the lengthy chain of events that led to success, and of course the confidence issue, all such great feedback.

    And then to top it off, you share about this fascinating new book you'll be publishing soon, that you have been keeping under wraps. You are so full of talent and surprises. This book sounds wonderful. I'd love to see the "Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archives. That is when stars were stars and that black and white photography was smashing. Wow, what a coups.

    Very exciting Tom. Delighted that you are following your dreams and sharing them with us :)

    My fond regards to you and Mary, ~ Anitra

  8. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and words! My book is a true labor of love and the culmination of almost three years of work.

    I think there's a book to come from you too (hint, hint)...maybe a book of photos?...maybe a book of your own fascinating journey through life.

    Sending good thoughts your way :)

    1. Tom,

      I was surprised to see no answer here. I'm sure I made the attempt, but the reply must have slipped through the cracks. Again I'm so impressed with this. Would love to know where and when I might see it, and of course, wish you all the luck in the world.

      As for my book: hmm . . . I think I'll take the 5th for now.

      My sincere good wishes, ~ Anitra

  9. Anitra:
    A fascinating series of associations led me here, and I can see I'll have fun going back and reading your earliest posts. Dare I ask how far back this blog goes date-wise? I started out (for some reason unknown even to me) thinking about the old show Truth or Consequences with Jack Bailey (I believe he also emceed a few other shows, such as "Queen For A Day"), which led me to Bob Barker and of course The Price is Right. As a young man, the show obviously made an impression on me as I still remember you modeling furs, clothes and autos, not to mention patio furniture :)
    Your story about I Magnin was priceless. I remember being a small guy of about 7 to 10 years in the during the period of 1957 - 1960 regularly accompanying my sister in law to San Francisco where she loved to shop. Wel lived in Santa Clara at the time. Among the many stores we would enter, I know we went into both I Magnin and J Magnin during those trips but I cannot distinguish which store was which. I know I do not remember a store having a stage or runway as you describe so perhaps I was never in that section of the store.. What I do remember was accompanying my sister in law to the lingerie department and waiting in a small area that featured upholstered chairs, where I would sit waiting while she would disappear behind some curtains/doors where she would periodically come out and pose in front of mirrors. Quite fascinating to think that several years later you might have been walking among the throngs at the same store. My favorite pastime was ogling in the Nylon Stocking / Hosiery Department with its ubiquitous mannequins modeling various brands of nylons. Most memorable were the Van Raalte Nylons featuring the logo of the pink whiskered kitten at the top of the welt - I swear I can still visualize it.
    Anyway I enjoyed this entry. If I don't succeed in going back to the very first entries of your blog tonight, I will soon. I've bookmarked this page and I look forward to seeing what else you'll post in the coming days. Thanks

    1. Paul hello,

      Thank you for your comments. Memories can be so vivid and live within us dormant until something triggers their surfacing. I enjoyed your I. Maginin (or Joseph Magnin) experience. The runways we did our fashion shows on were portable, and only set up for the shows. Therefore, you wouldn't have seen them.

      I'm happy to hear that you have fond memories of The Price is Right. I have been publishing on this blog since June of 2010. I think I have something like 120 posts. It's an ambitious undertaking to think of you reading the entire thing (especially in one sitting). It would be like reading a short book. Or, with comments included, perhaps, a full book. I can see where a book mark would be a good idea in that regard.

      On this blog: AFPB, I publish once every two months, on the 15th of the month. My next post is due on Nov 15th. My other blog: Anitra's Book of days can be found by clicking on the red words in the bottom of my profile in the sidebar, or by simply Googling the title. I don't publish there very often -- perhaps once a month.

      Right now I'm taking a break from my public Facebook pages, but I have made a post on both of them this week. If you haven't already read them, you might enjoy visiting there. We can't do links here in the comment section. "Anitra Ford's Celebrity Page" is my Facebook fan page, and "Anitra's inspiration" is my FB artist's page. I invite you to come visit.

      It's nice to see you here, Paul, welcome.

      Sincerely, ~ Anitra Ford

    2. Just to let you know I did make it through your earliest entries on this blog. I was impressed by the variety of your thoughts and the various forms you used to express them; modeling, I knew about, but prose, poetry, photography, and the Haiku (from way back in 2011/10) caught me by surprise - pleasantly so. More to say about that in the future as I've found a new place to check on periodically. Thank you. As I read the earliest posts, I noticed that for the first year or more, you were receiving a handful of comments per entry (and sometimes fewer than that). In more recent times it's not uncommon for you to receive 10-20 comments and even more; I recall seeing one post where you received over 30 comments. The fact that you persevered the lean times must make publishing this blog all the more rewarding. Oh yeah, beyond all that you've been beautiful all your life! Even Picasso had a blue period.

    3. Paul hello.

      Wow! You did it. You are the first person to tell me that he's read my entire blog. Their may be others who have, but no one has actually shared that with me.

      I am delighted to hear that this blog kept your attention. Your words are so kind and encouraging. When I first began this blog, I'd just gotten my first computer (I was a Cyberspace holdout for many years.) In exploring the blog format (as writers are encouraged to do), I wound up making a test post simply out of curiosity. Given that I have been taking photos for years and writing prose and poetry regularly, my test post felt so right. It was natural and seemed a part of me.

      The expression fit so well into my life that it was effortless to make my posts at first -- as though all that was withing me had a place to express itself.

      I really had no idea if anyone would ever comment, or even see it, and I was so surprised and exuberant when people began to respond. After a couple of years of posting, I found a shift happening with the blog. So many other activities were coming into my life and I lost the time to participate as freely.

      This is why I've needed to pull back from posting more often. But I must say this whole process has been, and continues to be a delight for me.

      I'd love to know a bit more about you, if you'd be willing to share. Such as your hobbies and interests If you're not comfortable with that here, you could send me a personal message via one of my Facebook pages.

      I am so honored that you have taken the time to read the full "book" of my blog. It has been entirely and improvisation for me, and a wonderful way of connecting through the process of art and expression. Thank you Paul.

      My sincere good wishes, ~ Anitra

    4. Whoops, I see a couple of typos up there. Unfortunately, there are no corrections in the comment section. Oh well, c'set la vie.

    5. It took no great effort on my part to read your blog all the way to its beginnings. In fact it was a pleasure. When reading something like diary entries or perhaps a series of letters from one author to several people, I find I get a better idea of how the thoughts all connect if I read them in a relatively few sittings. Anyway, it didn't make me an expert on you, but I did get an idea of the things you think about (Charles and Huey and the gang) and a little about how you think; I like the way you compose your pictures, for example, and I like how you write about life. The last two are probably linked somehow. What you say and what you photograph are inherently interesting - not because it's you who created it - but because of how you created it. Easy way to say it is that there's a talent there. I'm reminded of that Jerry Seinfeld skit about writing a television comedy about "nothing". It takes talent. Writing or taking photographs of everyday events might seem uninteresting on the surface, but you do both those things so well that the result in very interesting. I hope you don't stop.

      I would never dream of foisting my countenance on anybody, which is why I've never developed a Facebook page. Unlike you, who has been beautiful your whole life, I have been ugly almost all of mine. :) They say all children have faces that (at least) their mothers adore - and I was no exception; unfortunately mine was date stamped.

      However, I'm not uncomfortable sharing most things here. Anything too personal I'll send in a message via your Facefook page if that's ok.

      As for hobbies and interests - I like and appreciate artistic efforts (painting, sculpture, photography) but I'm not personally artistic. I don't belong near an easel, but I can spend all afternoon in a museum. I have several cameras including an old 35 mm Pentax with several lenses and tripod; although I keep them clean and ready to go, I never seem to use them. Unlike you, I never seem to take THAT picture. It's as if I'm waiting for something to "click" inside me, and the click never comes. That talent which you have is missing in me. But I do have the desire.

      I like to write and I find it's the best way to express myself. Other interests include music - especially classical and jazz guitar (I play enough to entertain myself, but I don't play well enough to share with others). I share some of your interests in this area, in a way. While I never really got into Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (that must be from your FB page as I don't think you've written about music on this blog), I did love the Spinners and saw them several times along with Bill Withers. Jazz wise, I don't mind Miles Davis, but I'm much happier listening to the sax of John Coltrane. I have to admit it took many weeks of constant exposure to develop and ear for Coltrane. Slowly, however I began to "need" to hear him again and again. Strange how something like that happens.

      I'm really an orderly person (Honest!!), but I'm rambling now, so I'll stop. Have a good time off from the blog.

    6. Paul, thank you so much for your message. I appreciate hearing some things about you. I was surprised to hear you say you are ugly. I don't believe I"ve ever heard someone say that about him/herself. In your very straightforward yet gentle way of expressing yourself with words (maybe kind would be another way to say it) It hurt my heart to read this.

      One of the reasons I wanted to know more about you, was that I sensed you were a writer or an artist. It comes through that you have a deep appreciation for art.

      I really enjoy reading your impressions here, they are, in a way, like what you describe in reading someone's diary or journal. You too have that quality of expressing and seeing life through eyes, or a lens that os interesting to hear about.

      I am touched by your kind appreciation of what I do. As you have read, my mother was an actress and encouraged me to preform and express myself from an early age. I see (and especially now with the greater perspective of time) how helpful that was in feeling as though I was worthy of having something to say.

      It takes courage to put yourself out there. It's a vulnerable position to be in. On this subject, I always remind myself that it's not so much the subject one covers in art, but the details and the universality. The smallest details are usually the most universal.

      There is so much more I could say, but it's getting late, and I think I'd prefer to continue our conversation on a Facebook message -- if that's not to difficult for you.

      I do want to add that I understand what you're saying about music and hearing more and more each time you listen.

      Again, Paul, thank you so much for your generous words. They are so interesting and much appreciated.

      Sincerely, ~ Anitra

    7. Difficult but not impossible. I'll do that. However, I do hope that in future posts you talk a bit more about the music in your life....the music you dance to.