In the dimness of my room, I’d often imagined myself dancing a tango while a Carlos Gardel look-alike sang “La Cumparsita”. Just the thought made my heart flutter and sigh. The only way to liberate yourself from a desire, they say, is to actualize it. So, to emancipate myself from leg wrapping fantasies, I booked a flight to Buenos Aires.
Being in airports always makes me feel somewhat displaced. Because in an airport, I’m inbetween here and there which is basically like being nowhere. I look at the strangers around me and realize we have something in common. We are all transients. One transient who caught my attention was sitting on a lounge chair as if she were sitting on a throne. Her appearance was screaming to be noticed so I did. The woman’s hair was blonde and she was wearing tinted eye glasses, a fur trimmed jacket, and, among other things, an impressive emerald ring. Her talent seemed to be that of wearing too much in such a way as to make it look like just enough. Intrigued, I nonchalantly took the seat next to her. She smelled of tonka bean as she was wearing Shalimar, a perfume not to be worn on a hot day (although perfect for winter nights).
To pass the time, we exchanged a few words. Her name was Fleur Cowles and she was the wife of LOOK magazine’s publisher. Fleur, public relations-like friendly, was pleased about my presence only because she needed an audience. A journalist, she was on her way to Buenos Aires to interview Evita Peron. But before more could be said, our flight was announced.
Fleur’s sillage* was still stuck in my nose when I boarded the plane but, like a fleeting fragrance, by the time we’d landed, I‘d already forgotten her. Then, a couple of years later while browsing around Rosengren’s bookstore, I noticed Fleur’s name on the cover of Bloody Precedent,a book about the similarities between Juan and Evita Peron’s regime with that of Juan and Encarnacion Rosas 100 years before. It was obvious that Fleur couldn’t stand Evita and depicted the Perons as typical South American despots. The idea of Fleur’s and Evita’s duello of egos made me chuckle inside.
Despite Fleur’s criticism of Evita, the two had much in common. Both had obscure beginnings (whenever asked about her childhood, Fleur would be reticent saying it was too painful to discuss). Both women, blondes, were ambitious and addicted to wealth and power. Both women loved to be praised and indulged in self-flattering. Fleur, for example, boasted that she had an idea a minute and that she was a “born idea” herself.
Fleur’s biggest accomplishment could be considered FLAIR magazine that she was able to publish thanks to her husband’s considerable financial backing. FLAIR was lavish and unique and offered a juxtaposition of articles and stories by the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jean Cocteau, Tennessee William, Salvador Dalì, Colette, Simone de Beauvoir and even the Duchess of Windsor. FLAIR was extremely expensive to produce as die-cutting, textured paper, and pull-outs were used. Controversial and innovative, the magazine was just too costly to last long.
As a young girl, Evita had arrived in Buenos Aires with a cardboard suitcase packed with darned stockings and tattered dresses. But, recognizing the power of appearance, once she was the First Lady, she carefully constructed her look and took advantage of her husband’s power and wealth to create her image.
A few weeks before her death, Eva rode next to her husband for his second Presidential Inauguration. She was so weak that an armature had to be made to help keep her upright. Many believed her weakness to be the result of cervical cancer. But others believed she was weak because of the lobotomy her husband had subjected her to. He said that the operation had been done to help her deal with the pain caused by the cancer. But there are those who believe her skull had been perforated mainly to muffle her intentions.
Evita wanted to arm trade union workers with pistols and machine guns so they could form their own militia. Obviously, to defend their money and power, Peron and the elite could not permit this or many other of Evita’s initiatives. But they didn’t have to worry long. In 1952, at the age of 33, Evita died. Fleur, on the other hand, was much luckier. She died at the age of 101.
Lesson learned… Both Fleur and Evita started off poor but died excessively rich. Evita’s jewellery cases were loaded with expensive jewels and closets had to be custom made in order to make room for all of her shoes, purses, hats, and designer clothes (she loved Dior’s New Look). Whereas Fleur, also addicted to designer clothes, owned many painting by famous artists that she used, along with other exclusive objects, to decorate her many homes scattered across the world.
When too much is not enough, there’s a problem.
*Sillage is the term used to indicate the lingering smell of a perfume
(from Cool Breeze, aka The Age of Reconfiguration ©)
Bibliography: Cowls, Fleur. She Made Friends and Kept Them. Harper Collins. New York. 1996.