09 June 2007

Ellen *owns* the fitted tea-length sheath

Ever since that Saturday afternoon in late Summer 1989 when my precociousness - and Al Pacino crush - led me to sneak a peek of the very R-rated Sea of Love on my way back from a bathroom break of the Michael Keaton mental-illness comedy classic, The Dream Team, I have had a steadfast "thing" for Ellen Barkin.

She wasn't a conventional beauty like other mid-to-late '80s leading blondes such as Kelly McGillis (Top Gun), Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business) or Kathleen Turner (Peggy Sue Got Married), but even at 9 years old, even in the short 20 seconds I watched her bring Helen Cruger to life as the wrong-side-of-the-tracks temptress who could make even straight-shooting detective Frank Keller cross the line, I knew Ellen had that intangible something that separates those who simply act on-screen and those who own the screen.

As I moved on from Trapper Keepers and Al Pacino to Coach purses and Gene Hackman, Ellen fell off my movie star radar. In fact, she fell off everyone's radar. It wasn't until her turn a decade later as the perma-drunk trailer park pageant-Mom in Drop Dead Gorgeous opposite a deliciously skanky Allison Janney and a surprisingly un-annoying Kirsten Dunst and then again last year when she publicly announced her intention to auction off the entirety of the jewellery collection she'd amassed while married to estranged billionaire husband Ron Perelman - a collection valued at more than 15 million dollars - that I began to remember why and how much I wanted to be just a wee bit like Ms. Barkin when I finally grow up.

Unless you've made a concerted effort not to know about Ocean's Thirteen, its 13-star cast and month-long circuit of high-profile international premieres, you've probably come across photos of a now 53-year-old Ellen Barkin walking the red carpet in a melange of her trademark fitted tea-length sheaths.

George, Matt, Al or Brad?

Um, try Ellen. Hands-down.

For more evidence of Ellen's enviable-at-any-age figure setting the standard for how to wear a fitted tea-length sheath, see below:

In pale grey at the Los Angeles premiere of Ocean's Thirteen In steel-blue metallic at the CFDA Awards In coral sequins at the Las Vegas premiere of Ocean's s Thirteen


Johanna said...

Before any you-have-awful-taste venom is spewed, I just want to make clear that I do not at all like the neckline or the color - or even the fit - of the last dress.

The cap-sleeved blue-gray metallic one, though, I'd consider trading my poetry collection for...

Anonymous said...

is this the kind of kept-woman chic that you aspire to?

Johanna said...

Yep. Exactly.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why aspiring to this kind of chic style is a bad thing -- am I missing an inside joke?

Anonymous said...

I'm not commenting on EB's abilities as an actress, or on her taste. I'm commenting on the fact that she slept her way into those clothes by shacking up with an overweight, balding egomaniac. You might say she's a high-priced wh... (I can't, really. It's too mean). That's all a kept woman is, isn't it? And wanting to be one, or to have a sugar daddy, or to look like you have one... It's a little sad.

It's like the message from "Pretty Woman:" it's ok to be a whore, as long as you look good doing it.

Johanna said...

Are you implying Ellen didn't have her own money from her day job as a Hollywood actress to buy a few red carpet dresses?

And just because Ron Perelman wasn't a looker doesn't mean Ellen married him for his money.

What I admire about EB isn't her taut frame or the fact she snagged a billionaire. What I like about her is that she isnt' a conventional beauty, yet when she's on-screen, she captivates you. There are very few actresses who are capable of that. Jodie Foster, Helena Bonham-Carter and Sarah Polley are a few others who pop into mind.

And for the last time, the Sugar Daddy thing is a joke. J-O-K-E.
I'm a single young thing living in DC -- if I wanted a sugar daddy, I could have a handful of them. *Two* handfuls. Any young woman could, just ask Jessica Cutler. The Sugar Daddy/Since I don't (yet) feature was a clever way of showcasing expensive/less expensive articles of clothing, accessories, etc., not an admission of my lifelong goal to be a kept woman.

Anonymous said...


You MUST be the same Anonymous who did the post about philosophical pillars and deconfliction.

I'm more convinced than ever you're a grad student. This latest screed is right out of a Currents of Feminist Thought text.

Three points:
1) Ms. Barkin was a successful actress BEFORE she met Mr. Perelman. You are guilty of gross sexual stereotyping by attributing her appearance and glamour to her relationship with him.

2) Are you arguing that EB should not have received ANY compensation for her time as Perelman's wife? So you're against alimony or the notion that an ex deserves a certain degree of support? You're not a bitter guy going through a divorce, are you?

3) You're clearly a well-educated person, albeit somewhat humorless and literal. You cannot POSSIBLY be so unsophisticated as to be unable to conceive of relationships between men and women in terms other than client/whore or master/kept woman.

When a man or woman gives a gift to someone with whom they're on intimate terms (and that includes friendship as well as physical intimacy) it can mean many things. But much of the time it's a token of affection. It's not payment. Giving and accepting such gifts is a pleasure, and does not demean either party.

If in fact you can't see the difference, well ... kid, you need to live a little. And this blog is going to mostly go right over your head. Maybe look for some online reading that's a little less nuanced.

P.S. The "sugar daddy" thing is what's called a literary device. You may want to google the term. Personally I thought it quite clever.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm missing an inside joke. What are philosophical pillars and deconfliction and Current Feminist thoughts?

Look, Ellen Barkin has been in films that have grossed a little more than $300 million worldwide since 1978. I know this isn't apples to apples (or whatever grad school words YOU might use), but by comparison, Oprah Winfrey, another woman born in 1954 (like Barkin) has a NET worth of something like $1.5 BILLION. So please forget all this "she paid for her dresses with the money she saved in her piggy bank" stuff. You know that red carpet dresses are all loaners, right? You're all too smart to be that dumb, I think. Oh wait, that was the kind of backhanded compliment/criticism that N-Y-i-E made.

Seriously what is with the thought police that stalk this blog? Is there only one way to read anything that is written here? I'm not in grad school, I'm not a divorced guy, I'm not in therapy dealing with fill-in-the blank. I like fashion and movies and every other silly thing in this world but sometimes I just find parts of the BUSINESS a little gross. Sorry if that sends some people over the edge.

Angelina said...

Hi. Feminist grad student here. Anticipating the "well, if you don't like this blog, stop reading it" comments, I'd like to say that I do like many aspects of it. I enjoy fashion and the beauty tips are great. And pretty often the self-effacing humor is endearing. I can tell that the sugar daddy frame for the fashion picks is a joke. But I also think that Johanna walks a fine line between poking fun at stereotypes and totalling affirming them. I think she crosses the line when she makes fun of other women or when she especially validates them. The reason? Almost always her criteria for yaying or naying a woman has to do with her physical appearance and/or relationship to the man/men in her life. Aren't we trying to get past that? Isn't Johanna trying to get past that each time she has to defend herself against a rude commenter who promises her that if she keeps this up, she'll never get married?

This is getting long, so I'll wrap it up: evaluating women according to the standards that they've ALWAYS been judged against isn't funny or unharmful simply because a snarky, clever woman is doing it.

Johanna, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Again, I mostly enjoy your blog, in large part because it's really interesting to watch/read an intelligent woman trying to reconcile her ambition and independence with total indulgence in less weighty matters. How do you think you reconcile the two? Do you think it works?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (can you pick a handle? This is getting confusing):

As far as the dresses, I was picking up on your comment about EB having "slept her way into those clothes". I was simply adopting your terms of reference. In fact, I initially assumed you were using "clothes" as shorthand for a broader selection of goods/habits, but maybe you were being literal again?

I do not quite see your point about the relative earnings of Ms. Barkin and Ms. Winfrey. $300 mill - and of course EB was actually paid only a fraction of that - would still be sufficient to buy most anything she wanted, dresses and jewelry included. The point remains that EB had the lifestyle showcased in the photos BEFORE her relationship with Perelman and your criticism of her as displaying "kept woman chic" is therefore unsupported.

Thought Police? That's a bit sensitive. We're having a debate, I thought. Granted there's a bit of sting, but I feel you set the tone with that comment about kept-woman chic. And by blog standards this exchange is very restrained (and I'd like it to stay that way). The issue - as Angelina points out - is an intrinsically interesting one.

Re: philosophical pillars/deconfliction, perhaps it's my mistake; you write very much like someone else who commented on an earlier post. My apologies if there's been a misidentification.


Joanna said...

Ellen B wants you think that she is interesting, alluring, powerful, etc, etc. But it is most likely that she is a bore, and is quite ordinary like the rest of us.

Look, if you act queer enough, arrogant enough, and desperate enough to do anything, you'd probably land a millionair given the right circumstance. she was able to hook a rich husband but not keep him. Maybe he got bored with her? How cliche. Johanna, why do you even pretent like you want to be a kept woman when all your power is given away to a man who can dump you, and causing you sell off all of the jewelery for millions of dollars so that you can buy another dress in a different color than the 3oo dress you already have?

I don't get it. Older republican fucks that you have crushes are is another story. Powerful people reduced to powerless boys when they are seduced and can't control themselves--well I guess, that's worth seeing. And it sounds to me like you enjoy that kind of stuff. Who doesn't? Seducing and reducing them down to little babies when they are in your bedroom when you are in the prime of your life--I can see how young women might love that.

Your blog is amusing nevertheless. It reminds me of myself when I was in my 20's. I'd whip some sense into you if you were my little sister.

Johanna said...

Great points and questions. I'll think about them while I'm at "Ocean's Thirteen" and craft a response later on tonight.


Johanna said...


Give me another day or two. This is a weighty issue and one for which I need a clear head to respond articulately.

I'm just too blown away by how GREAT "Ocean's Thirteen" was to concentrate right now.