The erotic was taboo. Though Marilyn Monroe was baring all, sex was hidden, a pleasure rarely discussed in polite 1950s company. All Shook Up Elvis was suggestively shaking, but talk was never about frolicking in the bedroom. Postwar America was far more comfortable chatting about Lassie and Father Knows Best. But instead of disappearing in this syrupy-sleepy I Like Ike era, sex found an avatar, a liberator demanding revolutionary change. Hugh Hefner pictured shapely bunnies cavorting in his Playboy Mansion, and fantasies soared. Suddenly men with money and long-restricted sexual appetites wanted their own playboy retreats. Wealthy Texan Jack Barrett, a fast living, high-flying businessman, liked the idea of abandoning to a “playboy pad” in Dennison, Texas– a den where he could take off his lizard-skinned boots, appreciate the haute couture dresses of female guests, and savor the pleasures of a life well lived. Money no object for this self-made Sky King, Barrett decorated his opulent hideaway with gleaming glass chandeliers, a baby grand piano, a lavishly-stocked bar, and all sorts of settees to heighten the mood of privileged refinement and revelry. R.I.P. Jack. Your extravagant spirit, living large, boldly defying traditions and being adventurous, still emerges in the present. What’s old, freedom unfettered and intoxicating, is new again. No mere time capsule, or recreation of a free-wheeling Texan eager to explore new frontiers, Gerard Harrison’s photos go beyond this wanna-be playboy. They capture the early stirrings of a new liberated age, its fascinations, provocations, and reverential feelings for captivating women. They too, in their white and blazing-red outfits, were also hearing the clarion call to be free, to self-assuringly trumpet their sexuality. So enter Harrison’s dreamy world. He has faithfully taken on Barrett’s persona, visually becoming him from his taste for mid-century, minimalist furniture, to his worshipping women with a distinctive mystique. A few glimpses into Barrett’s life and you will realize Harrison is paying tribute to more than 1950s Texas and its oil well enriched legacy. He’s celebrating the dreamer in Barrett, and in all of us, our hope to reach vast new horizons.
Oh my! So many things to do. But wait. Who put those creamy goodies there? Oh my oh my. My diet…my workout classes…Oprah’s advice…Forget all that. I must have one of those velvety cupcakes. I love the new Me. I can make choices. I must still get ready for the day…get dressed in my Laisa Macias outfit (and shoes by Alice d’Italia)…arrange the party… tell the florist, the bartender what to do. Then go to the spa….Oh, that chocolate one….yum….
What a life it must have been. Lunch at the Bel-Air in Beverly Hills. Hopping to film sets. Seeing Marilyn, Liz Taylor, Shirley T, Marlon and Brigiitte. A dream come true. Everyone’s always telling me I look like Bardot. Do you think so? But I am my own woman. In this Roger Canamar Couture dress I feel I am a starlet, that I can conquer the world. I just wish I could go to Hollywood. Be in a glamour magazine. Sitting on top of the world.
Sea of Blue
Was it Blue Moon’s…”I saw you standing there”…Presley’s Blue Suede Shoes,,,or Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet? Whatever the inspiration for the decor, the lounging Lady in Red is charmingly coquettish with her big bow, bangs, and flaming shoes and Macias pants set. Floating in this veritable blue lagoon, she seems to be teasing us with the question, “Who am I waiting for?” Or even more fascinating, “What lies ahead for me?” Here the possibilities are endless.
The Dog Bar
So much pink champagne, so many laughs. Everyone loved Sam’s bouffant hairdo. She wanted to do 1950s in her Canamar dress, those lovely Alice d’Italia shoes, and even the dogs, haha, got a kick out of the way she looks. Our real guests kept talking about my Canamar pants suit…said it was so utterly retro. ‘Mia, Mia, you look so playful, so comfortable in it…they all crooned.’ I was. Felt like a million bucks, so feminine, so sexy.” Oh, that champagne….wow!
Jackie O. What a woman! Once she began to dominate the fashion magazines, there was no turning back. Women emerged. No longer just pretty statues, no longer just pretty pictures to be framed. We could flaunt our bodies. Look straight, and be so assertive in a sequined sheer dress like this one by Daniel Hinojos. It casts an aura, emphasizes my shape, and announces to the world, “I know who I am.”
Getting ready. Now changes are coming. Applying makeup, adjusting Hinojos gown, fixing her posture, that’s always been a Woman. A new face, a new pose, a thrust of a leg, a little more eye shadow–and magic in a Hinojos dress happens. But mirrors can’t begin to tell the stories of feminine transitions. Neither can makeup. What’s Victoria’s real secret? That this mirror holds the shape of the future. No wonder it’s shining like gold.
Move away from that TV screen. There’s nothing really there. Lassie is gone and so is Gunsmoke. Now it’s New Day, the Empowerment show. Women together, sharing, bonding together like Thelma and Louise, and Steel Magnolias. Togetherness might mean stern looks, strictness and “tough love.” But casting a certain aura in their outfits and Alice d’Italia footwear, these femmes have moved on from the little gal in the kitchen to A League of One’s Own. A playing field where an occasional scolding only adds to the beauty of the feminine mystique.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Sheer relief. It’s time to gossip, to be high schoolers again, to let “one’s hair down.” What a fantastic party. Everyone thought our Hinojos gowns were stunning. But now we have these moments to be silly, to sit provocatively in pools of blue and emerald green, and to await the sunrise–and just maybe be discovered by Quentin Tarantino. He would love all this kitschy pink. He really would.
Written by Edward Kiersh
Photographer Gerard Harrison
IG : thegerardharrison
Hair/Makeup Artist: Stephanie Eiland
Pineapple House Beauty
Accessories by Hello Tallulah Vintage
Misty Novak, Adria Garza Martinez
Dennison Set Location: Historic Barrett Building
Owner: Shelley McBride
Roger Canamar Couture