Hush Puppies Arrive in the Soviet Union

“One of the most established names in U.S. fashion is about to bet $2 million in advertising that Russian consumers are eager to own a pair of casual shoes.
Hush Puppies, the pigskin suede loafers and lace-ups your parents used to wear, have enjoyed a chic rebirth in the U.S. in recent years. Now Wolverine World Wide, the company that markets Hush Puppies, is introducing the brightly colored shoes to Russia as affordable, fun and durable footwear.
‘Right now in Russia you have a dress product — a high-fashion, high-heeled shiny black shoe — and a sports product,’ said Alan Sutherland, managing director of Wolverine in Moscow. ‘There’s literally nothing in the middle for people who want a casual shoe.’
The lack of casual leather shoes reflects the overall lack of casual clothing available in the Russian market, Sutherland added. But as urban dwellers in particular become more affluent, the demand for stylish but casual clothing will grow, he said.
‘Casual shoes are a typical development of spending power and middle class values,’ Sutherland said.
That sentiment may be more American than European, and certainly, stylish Muscovites don’t seem ready to trade their skinny black trousers for a pair of baggy khakis anytime soon. Still, the number of more affordably-priced clothing stores appears to be growing as consumers demand more variety in style and price.
The French retailer Kooka? and Moscow veteran Bennetton late last year opened new stores on Novy Arbat, while the U.S. fashion brand Guess in recent months set up shop on Novokuznetskaya. British clothier NeXt, meanwhile, has plastered the town with billboards to celebrate the opening of its new outlet in the Manezh shopping mall.
Clothing at such stores is still far too expensive for many shoppers. But prices at Kooka? and NeXt are a considerable step down from those at the high-fashion Gucci and Versace boutiques that seem to dominate Moscow’s shopping scene.
‘For less than $100 it is hard to buy nice things,’ said Maria Alkorta, beauty editor at fashion magazine Marie Claire. ‘If you go to the [outdoor] market, then maybe. But many people don’t like to go there.’
‘What I really want is for there to be more big stores where you can buy good pants, sweaters and shoes that you can wear everyday,’ Alkorta said…
Hush Puppies in Russia will sell for $65 to $120, depending on the style. That puts the shoes in the same price category as those of the German Salamander brand and Denmark’s Ecco, both of which are big sellers in Russia.
In a country where consumers often face counterfeit fashions and shoddy products, Hush Puppies will use in-store materials to let shoppers know the shoes are water-proof, scratch-proof and stain resistant, Sutherland said.”

Jeanne Whalen, The Moscow Times, March 3, 1988.

Photograph: Mike Gonzalez, TheCoffee


Margaret Thatcher’s Swinging London

“Indeed, this was a period of obsessive and naive interest in ‘youth’. Parents worried so much about the ‘generation gap’ that even teenagers began to take it seriously. A whole ‘youth culture’ of misunderstood Eastern mysticism, bizarre clothing and indulgence in hallucinatory drugs emerged. I found Chelsea a very different place when we moved back to London in 1970. I had mixed feelings about what was happening. There was a vibrancy and talent, but this was also in large degree a world of make-believe. A perverse pride was taken in Britain about our contribution to these trends. Carnaby Street in Soho, the Beatles, the mini-skirt and the maxi-skirt were the new symbols of ‘Swinging Britain’. And they did indeed prove good exports earners. Harold Wilson was adept at taking maximum political credit for them. The trouble was that they concealed the real economic weaknesses which even a talented fashion industry and entrepreneurial recording companies could not counter-balance. As Desmond Donnelly remarked, ‘My greatest fear is that Britain will sink giggling into the sea.'”

The Path to Power, Margaret Thatcher, Harper Collins, 1995.

F. Wright, the Racquet Professional on the Titanic

Colonel Archibald Grace survived the sinking of Titanic in April of 1912. On the Titanic‘s last day at sea, he availed himself of the sporting facilities on the ship, which included a racquet court, a gymnasium, and a swimming pool, “a six-foot deep tank of salt water, heated to a refreshing temperature.”

“Impressed on my memory as if it were but yesterday, my mind pictures the personal appearance and recalls the conversation which I had with each of these employees of the ship. The racquet professional, F. Wright, was a clean-cut, typical young Englishman, similar to hundreds I have seen and with whom I have played, in bygone years, my favourite game of cricket, which has done more than any other sport for my physical development. I have not seen his name mentioned in any account of the disaster, and therefore take this opportunity of speaking of him, for I am perhaps the only survivor able to relate anything about his last days on earth.”

Colonel Archibald Grace, The Truth About Titanic, 1913,

Frederick Wright:

Christmas in the Soviet Union

“The secular attributes of Christmas – the lighted tree, the gifts, the cards, Santa Claus, street decorations – have been assigned by the Soviet state to New Year’s, and it is then, starting on Dec. 31, that Russians will try to do justice by both New Year’s and Christmas, combining the midnight drinking of the former and the gift-giving and family cheer of the latter in ample measures.

The idea of the hybrid holiday is usually attributed to Stalin. In the first years after the revolution, the Bolsheviks apparently tried to stamp out the celebration of Christmas altogether, targeting the traditional decorated fir trees as a particularly glaring symbol of reactionary rituals for which there was no place in the new atheist society.

The people, however, proved reluctant to part with a cherished winter holiday. So in 1935, the story goes, Stalin did what the Kremlin has done so many times since with sticky customs – he co-opted it. He lifted the ban on Christmas trees, except that he said they were New Year’s trees, and he declared that New Year’s, Novyi God, was to be a national family holiday – a sort of surrogate Christmas stripped of any Christian meaning.

The people, it must be acknowledged, took to the idea. New Year’s has evolved into probably the most popular of official Soviet holidays, in part perhaps because it has remained largely free of the ponderous ideological and civic baggage of May Day or Revolution Day. Instead of the hammers and sickles and slogans, the streets are hung with bright lights, decorated with brightly decorated trees, and the stern Lenins and Marxs make way for Grandpa Frost, the Russian Santa Claus.”

“Capturing the Holiday Spirit; Soviet Union,” Serge Schmemann, December 22, 1985, The New York Times.

Photo: By Sergeev Pavel – Own work, Public Domain.

The Joy of Massage, by George H. W. Bush

Image resultGeorge H. W. Bush has many nicknames: Poppy, Forty-one, and–most recently–David-Cop-a-feel. The forty-first American president has never shied away from a good massage, as he recalled in in a diary he kept when he was serving as the U.S. Envoy to China, Sadly, he has yet to make good on his vow to write a book about the topic.

“Spent the last two days out of that Sheraton Waikiki madhouse and in the 4999 Kahala apartment– just lovely… Checked out the bathhouse again at the Okura. Totally relaxing. Someday I will write a book on massage I have had ranging all the way from Bobby Moore and Harry Carmen at the UN to the steam baths of Egypt and Tokyo. I must confess the Tokyo treatment is the best. Walking on the back, total use of the knees, combination of knees and oil, the back becoming a giant slope does wonders for the sacroiliac, and a little something for the morale too. Massage parlors in the U.S. have ruined the image of real massage. It is a crying shame.” (December 4, 1974).

The China Diary of George H. W. Bush: The Making of a Global President, edited by Jeffrey A. Engel, Princeton University Press, 2008.

Marilyn Monroe’s Affair with RFK Revealed

Fred Lawrence Guile published his biography of Marilyn Monroe in 1969, one year after Robert Kennedy had been assassinated during his presidential run. Norma Jean: The Story of Marilyn Monroe revealed the film star’s affair with the politician, but not his identity.

“Marilyn did not remain completely in seclusion as she had during her similar break with Hollywood and the studio in 1955. Then she had not only withdrawn form the public eye, but socially as well. She had chosen to be alone to reassess her life and to recover her strength. This time she preferred privacy because she was involved with a married man. He was no in the industry; he was an Easterner with few ties on the coast. He had come West mainly to work out the details of a film production of a literary property in which he had had a hand and to escape the pressures of his work as a lawyer and public servant.

It anyone was to blame for the relationship that developed during his California stay, it was his host* who was connected with films and knew Marilyn enough to realize how vulnerable and exposed she was that summer… For the attorney, his holiday on the West Coast was a lark, a vacation from his wife and children. He and Marilyn were discreet, almost never venturing beyond the stuccoed wall surrounding the friend’s beachhouse…

…Their relationship had nowhere to go. Publicity about the affair might destroy all his chances for an important political career. How sensitive he was to Marilyn’s precarious emotional state is difficult ot assess. Within days of their meeting he and Marilyn became nearly constant companions, a relationship interrupted only by his flights to New York or Washington when called on some business that could not be resolved over the telephone.

*Likely Peter Lawford, a friend of Marilyn’s and the husband of RFK’s sister Pat.

Norma Jean: The Story of Marilyn Monroe, Fred Lawrence Guiles, 1969, W. H. Allen & Co. Ltd.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s Birthday Greeting to Margaret Thatcher

In 2014 a fresh batch of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s papers were declassified at the National Archives. Leave it to the Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to mention “correct political tone” in his birthday greetings. And poor old Denis Thatcher. He must have spent his entire life saying “It’s just the one ‘n’ in Denis.”

“Esteemed Madame Thatcher,

On the occasion of the remarkable date in Your life please accept my congratulations. Raisa Maximova joins me in our wishes to You of good health and well-being.

I recall our conversation at Chequers and in Moscow. Then, it seems, we took a correct political tone and gave our dialogue such an orientation that meets the demands of the present situation in the world. I would wish to believe that the understanding on the problems of priority that we reached then will remainin force. But for this to be so, apparently, much effort, political wisdom and goodwill will be needed.

Please convey our best wishes to Your husband, Mr. Dennis Thatcher.

Yours respectfully,

M. Gorbachyov

Moscow, 12 October, 1985”

The National Archives,  PREM 19 1647