Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Rubbing Shoulders with Marc Rosen!

Marc Rosen is one of a kind – a creative visionary who continues to push the boundaries of design excellence and a professional who never tires of giving back,” says Rochelle Bloom, President of The Fragrance Foundation.
An industry veteran with over 30 years in the luxury, beauty and CPG arenas, Marc has never lost sight of the fact that a brand is only as good as the team that creates it.
Marc is married to legendary film goddess Arlene Dahl. Marc's world of design and Arlene's friends in the film world  came together in a marvelous way thus allowing Marc to rub shoulders with some of the greatest and most iconic names of the twentieth and now twenty first century.
I have also been lucky enough to rub shoulders with Marc. As a matter of fact, I met with Marc recently over coffee at his beautiful Sparkill home (yes, we are neighbors!) to discuss his latest book.
It is a memoir called aptly Rubbing Shoulders. On Saturday afternoon, May 7th, Ned Kelly in Piermont is having a book signing to celebrate this great book. When I called to get the book, Ned said to me, "You won't be able to put it down!". He was right!
Marc was born not far from here in Englewood, New Jersey. He didn't know that he was going to be a designer when he was a young man going to school. In those days, one would aspire to being a doctor or a lawyer or an "indian chief". The guidance counselor, in no way, would have encouraged
anyone to be a designer. He knew one interior designer who helped his mother with their house.
He worked at the blood bank after school his senior year, thinking that he was going to be a doctor until he found out he couldn't stand the sight of blood.
He then decided that he wanted to be a designer even though he had never taken any art or design courses. Any art courses were considered wasted electives. He had done it as a hobby. His parents were very supportive. He put together a portfolio with the help for the designer at the "Y".
He was accepted into all of the schools that he applied to, but in the end he went to Carnegie-Mellon. In his senior year, he was given a package design project and that summer of the junior year prior to that, he was looking for jobs with his portfolio. He didn't realize that there were so many people that he would be competing against.
Because of that, he decided to "specialize". He went to graduate school at Pratt which was offering the first packaging design course in graduate school. While there, he was asked to design a fragrance package. The professor there liked it so much that he suggested that Marc show it to a cosmetic company. Marc got his "gumption" up and went to Avon and they bought it. He thought, "Wow! I love this...AND they pay you! This is for me." So, he decided that this is what he wanted to do. He got a job at Revlon working with Charles Revson, which is in the book (Rubbing Shoulders). Marc is one of those rare people who has been able to follow his career path his entire life. Marc was at Revlon for four years when Charles Revson passed away. From there, at age twenty-nine, Marc was lucky enough to acquire the position of head of design at Elizabeth Arden.
Arden had passed on and Eli Lilly purchased the company. It was very unusual for someone Marc's age to have gotten the job. Normally, it was someone somewhat more "senior". That would be someone in their forties or fifties. Marc was one of those to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Prior to that, when he was at Revlon, he was married to someone that he went to graduate school with.
Arlene Dahl
He was asked if he would like to moonlight for a friend of his in marketing to work on a fragrance for Arlene Dahl, whose films he had never seen, but knew that she had red hair and a beauty mark and who he knew was beautiful.
He went to meet her, another story in the book, and she guessed his astrology sign AND birthday! They became great friends and several years later, both of their marriages broke up and they started going out. It was unheard of in those days; the age difference is eighteen years. There is a great story in the back about Marc's boss' response to this and Marc's response to him. They have been married over 31 years, a marriage that many said wouldn't last. Marc stayed at Arden thirteen years. He started writing a column. He started teaching in the graduate program at Pratt. He has since become a trustee at Pratt. Pratt has become big part of his life. There is an annual scholarship dinner for a scholarship that is given in Marc's name that is worth three and a half million dollars which Marc is very proud of.
with Randy Jones
He has continued writing. His life is divided between the cosmetic industry where he does panels and he writes stories. He still designs and is very active in his life. His personal life, through Arlene, of course, and his career, he has met so many celebrities that he was able to write this book.
Pratt, Marc's own career, and his social life keep him very busy. They, fortunately, have sort of meshed  because glamour in the cosmetic industry and glamour in his personal life have morphed into one ball of wax. The book really came out of "nowhere". 

Marc did a book on perfume bottles, which I have, called Glamour Icons several years ago. He thought that was IT. People kept asking him when he was going to do another book. He kept responding with, "I'm not." He has, however, all these stories that he would tell these stories at a dinner if it was apropos pro and people would laugh. One day, Marc realized that part of it is how you tell the story. He thought that if he could write the way that he speaks, that maybe he would have something. He started wroting a few stories and he ran into Pamela Fiori, who for seventeen years was the Town and Country Magazine.
editor and chief of
She is a good friend and she said on the street, "When are you writing another book?",  and he said "Well, I'm not really going to, but I'm fooling around with these celebrity stories of people I've met.", and she said, "Why don;t you call it Rubbing Shoulders?". Marc actually had another title in mind.
However, he thought the title was so good that he would only use it if she would write the foreword, which she agreed to do. Marc went back to his office thinking, "Well, that's interesting."
Literally rubbing shoulders with Joan Collins (Photo Courtesy: Marc Rosen)
His only caveat was that he didn't want to coming off sounding pretentious. "Look at me! Look at all these celebrities I've been rubbing shoulders with." He thought about how he could make it palpable to him and the reader. All of a sudden, it came to him like divine inspiration that everyone's mother had told them to stand straight, that they had broad shoulders. He sat down and he wrote, "My mother always taught me to stand straight. You have broad shoulders. Broad or not, they've been rubbing shoulders with interesting people for the past forty years.
Young Marc Rosen (Courtsey Marc Rosen)
Once he did that, he really felt comfortable going forward. He wrote four stories. His first publisher was the wrong publisher for this kind of book. She recommended Glitterati.
He sent the stories over and the publisher asked to see him. He went there armed with all the press from the first book. When he got there, he was told that they wanted to publish his book. He was flabbergasted that anyone wanted to publish this book! He became like a whirling dervish and he started writing every morning about three stories when he got to the office and Arlene would say, "Don't forget about this story", or his sister would say, 
"Don't forget about that story about the shrink.". He had a lot of fun writing it...very quickly...about three months. He wrote all the stories and the publisher seemed very pleased. He kept telling her that he was not a writer and she kept telling him that he was. The rest is history!
Marc is an early riser. He would get to the office about eight. He would write from eight until nine before the phone would start to ring.

He would also write a few over the weekend. He didn't write them in any order. He just wrote them as he remembered them. The order and the chapter headings were the hardest aspect of writing the book. Should it be in a time sequence? In the end, Marc came up with the chapter headings which helped him a lot.
Arlene Dahl introduces her family: Marc Rosen, Lorenzo Lamas, Arlene Dahl, Carole Holmes McCarthy, Shanye Lamas, Stephen Schaum, and Christoper Barker
Soon after they married in 1984, Arlene and Marc moved into a charming old Victorian in the Rockland hamlet of Sparkill.
Carol Channing wins a coat! (Courtesy: Marc Rosen)
Through that, they put them in order. He is very pleased with the reaction he has been getting. He says it's not War and Peace but it's a fun read.
He succeeded in writing the book the way he speaks.
Marc has learned that there are different ways that people approach a book. For example, in preparation for this interview, I got the book and read it from start to finish. If a friend of his writes a book and gives it to him, he usually reads it right away or on a plane. He has found that with this book, most people who are in it, only read their chapter! Everyone so far has told Marc that he has captured the moments very accurately depicted in the book. They are amused. They often don't read beyond that. They get lazy
or they put it aside or they read it when they have time. Some do and some don't. Rex Reed called Marc and told him that he read it through and through. Of course, he knew everybody in it.
Hopefully his review will be out soon!

Carole Delouvrier, Marc, Michael Feinstein, Terrence Flannery, Arlene, Joan Collins, Percy Gibson (Courtesy Marc Rosen)
Joan Collins was given the book a few weeks ago upon her departure for Europe. She emailed Marc to tell him she loved her chapter.
As said before, it took Marc essentially three months to write this book. Then edits and additions added another three months. The publisher wanted it by September and Marc was on time.
The book was a catharsis for Marc. Writing the
book, he was focused on each story. When he was in Palm Beach, about a month ago, he was being interviewed by Pamela Fiori. He read the book from cover to cover and realized that he had written a memoir. At the time of writing it, he thought he was just writing a bunch of funny stories. He never thought that it would eventually get published. When it was all done and he read it, he realized that it was a memoir about his social life. The first book was a memoir of his business life. He started appreciating what he had done and he thought, "That was pretty good, Marc!" Also, because some of the people in the book are gone, it made him feel good that he could recount certain moments like the one of Polly Bergen.There are small "snapshot stories" in which people are showing their kindness or their humor.
Recently there was an interview with Tom Hanks (also part of the Bette Davis story), and to Marc's surprise, he recounted one of the stories in the book although he didn't tell it correctly!  
Sitting, l. to r.: Jane Powell, Marc Rosen, Arlene Dahl, Anita Jaffe. Standing, l. to r.: Suzanne Mados, David Staller, Simone Levitt, Liliane Montevecchi, Stephen Schaum, Dick Moore, and Donald Stannard.
Most people just talk about writing a book. It never happens. Marc is the kind of person who gets an
idea and figures out how to make it happen. He doesn't bulldoze it through; he just gets an idea, puts it out there, and he has a belief in himself and the idea. it evolves. He just puts out positive energy. He believe that if it is a good idea, if you stick with it, it happens. He likes that about himself.
It could be doing a new bottle, teaching a class at Pratt; he likes the idea that he is not afraid to follow through. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work.He doesn't feel that he is a failure if it doesn't work, he just thinks some things work, some things don't. You just throw out those that don't work.
Growing up, Marc didn't keep a journal. He only wrote anniversary or birthday cards. He would write "dumb" poems.
His sister, who is a college professor, was the writer. They always thought that SHE would write a book.
Marc was the artist, she was the writer. Marc still doesn't think of himself as a writer.
Robert Osborne, Arlene Dahl and Marc Rosen
Writing a book is a very personal process. This book was not written as a big ego thing. He could have hired a press agent. Marc is famous in his own industry. He doesn't feel a need to be famous as a writer. He doesn't feel that he will write five more books like Barbara Taylor-Bradford. He won't be pursuing a career in writing. He is pleased if people will enjoy it, smile, get a few laughs. Having been married to Arlene all these years and knowing these people, and knowing these classic movies, and knowing Robert Osborne, Marc hopes that people who read the book and knows
Robert Osborne, Liza Minnelli, Marc Rosen, and Carol Channing.
these people  or don't, will have a newer appreciation for the "human" side of these people, not just the cinematic side.
As I stated earlier, when Marc first met Arlene, he was not familiar with her films. He came to know these films as he was falling in love with her. Arlene is not one of these people who talks about her career unless she is being interviewed or prompted. I keep asking when she is going to write HER book! If you ask her, for example, "What was it like working with Robert Taylor?", she'll tell you. She will also share an amusing anecdote if she feels like it, but she is not one of those actresses who talks about how important she was. We ALL know actors or actresses and all they talk about is what it was like, what it was like working with "Clark Gable", etc. Arlene has amazing stories. When Marc and Arlene first met and he was getting to know her, he was more excited over the fact that she knew Elsie deWolfe. As a designer, Marc was more impressed with Elsie de Wolfe than he was with the movie stars.
There is a great story in the book in which Marc talks about going to Elsie de Wolfe's home in Versailles.

Of course, Marc started watching Arlene's movies and choosing the ones he liked best and asking her questions about the films and learning about the directors. He is very interested in the history. Marc even believes that he would have been a great history teacher had he not been a designer. He is very interested in the history of Hollywood, MGM, and the studio system. That part of her career and the stories behind the scenes are far more interesting than the films being made. I have been lucky enough to interview Arlene. There is a great story that happens to be a favorite of both Marc's and mine. She had done Cyrano on Broadway with Jose Ferrer. He always said that she was his favorite Roxanne. She signed with Columbia to be lent out from MGM to do the movie. She was fitted for costumes, wigs,
etc for what was to be a technicolor film. 
This happened to be around the time of the early days of television. The studios were frightened by this new media. They were afraid that people would stop going to movies. When Columbia sent the contract to MGM to be signed for the loan out, there was a "television clause".  In a burst of shortsightedness, many film studios put clauses into actors' contracts forbidding them to appear on TV  —  even to promote their own films. Mayer refused to sign the contract and the film as intended fell apart. Arlene was replaced by Mala Powers and it was made in black and white on a cheaper scale. They fitted her into Arlene's clothes and filmed in black and white because Arlene is a redhead.
Marc loves those back stories. Those stories interest Marc more than "What was it like working with 'so and so'?"
How lucky has Marc been to meet so many of these people socially! Being married to Arlene, he was completely accepted. He was younger and he was not a big raving fan. Rebecca was one of his
favorite movies and he liked Joan Fontaine very much. They became friends. Her sister, Olivia de Havilland who is about to turn 100 is also a friend. Their mother lived to be 103. Olivia stopped traveling about two years ago. It has been great meeting these people. The book is about happenstance, about being in the right place at the right time, being open to things, recognizing that things are funny or eccentric.
Just wait till you read about Carol Channing, winning a $50,000 coat, and her make-up Foundation! Read this Book! Please join me Saturday afternoon with Marc Rosen and you, too, can rub shoulders with him!
Saturday, May 7th at 3:00 PM
 Ned Kelly and Co
458 Piermont Avenue
Piermont, NY 10968
Thank you, to all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

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