Fran Lebowitz : the New York City Ballet audience knew as much about the ballet as the people who made it

Of course, Fran wasn’t talking about ALL New York City Ballet audiences but the pre-AIDS NYCB audience of the 60s and 70s… the ballet of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. And the reason that that particular ballet company was so spectacular was  because the audience pushed it to be so… and they did so because they were knowledgeable about ballet.  Fran goes on to say…

“If you know that the people that are watching have these immensely high standards, you’re going to be better.. and that audience did.  If you write something and you know that the audience is going to get every little thing… you’ll work to put every little thing in.”

Such is the state of perfume today.  There are a lot of people out there who know as much, and even more, about perfume than the people who make it.  That’s why when reformulations come out, it’s so frustrating because you know that tens of thousands of women out there are saying to themselves, “they changed it.”

I think much of this knowledge is coming from the Internet in the form of blogs.  I mean… I’m not talking about MY blog.  Let’s face it, I sit at the kids’ table of bloggers.  But so many other talented and knowledgeable bloggers out there that I dare not list for fear of forgetting someone.  And, of course, as much as people have criticized Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, I think they did a great job of bringing that perfume knowledge out to the general public.  And, last but not least… the people who have worn the perfume for the past 40 – 50 years!  I am stunned when I go out with one such friend and she says, “Oh this smells like X of the late 50s!”  WOW!

Over the past 2-3 years, I have given at least 40 lectures on perfume and one of the questions I get asked most is, “Have they changed X?”  And, the perfume that is most often cited is L’Air du Temps by Nina Ricci.  It’s frustrating but it also makes me sad… particularly since my mother wore L’Air du temps for so many years.  After Crêpe de Chine by Millot, it’s the one I remember the most… L’AdT and Fidji by Guy Laroche. Now, wasn’t that spectacular!

I’ll be back shortly with a perfume review.

Here is a clip of Fran on Jerome Robbins.


Leave a comment


  1. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  March 12, 2014

    Normand, if the Fran Liebowitz contention holds true for perfumery, it follows the effect should be positive, spurring perfume producers to do their best to impress the worldwide perfumista audience with its high standards so prevalent today. There really is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide for poor perfumes–they will be roundly thrashed online–and there is a knowledgeable audience, just like for the ballet, eager for good ones. I do get a sense that some houses have upped their game to respond to the knowledgeable aficionado.

    • Yes! Les Exclusifs from Chanel was certainly influenced by a more demanding audience willing to pay a little more for something spectacular. And the niche perfume houses! I think that their genesis was partly due to a more demanding audience that was fed up with the big houses, particularly the cosmetic firms, playing around with the formulas.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  March 12, 2014

    P.S. Alas, Nina Ricci is not (yet) one of them.

      • FiveoaksBouquet

         /  March 12, 2014

        In the past Nina Ricci had some fabulous perfumes, L’Air du Temps being only one of them. They killed all of them and kept LADT, deforming it more and more over time. Then they embarked on a policy of putting out one new fanciful perfume after the other, which they would take off the market after a short time, leaving customers in the lurch. They still seem to be doing that today and seem to be rudderless.

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