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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Annals of Luxury: It's Official! The Rich Are Just Like You And Me.

Or are they?

Last week The New York Times reported that the wealthy are "tightening their belts."

Until recently, affluent consumers had continued to spend, offering one of the few rays of hope for retailers suffering through these recessionary times.

Next stop, Rodeo Drive!

Now their confidence appears to have ebbed. At least that is the interpretation given the latest retail sales reports by some economic analysts, said The Times.

By affluent consumers, we mean top 5 percent in income earners — those households earning $210,000 or more. They account for about one-third of consumer outlays, including spending on goods and services, interest payments on consumer debt and cash gifts, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by Moody’s Analytics.

Any cutback in purchasing by this elite group produces a disproportionate reduction in overall retail sales. Ouch!

The Times cites the usual reasons for the downturn in spending – swings in dividend payments, investment losses, low interest rates on bank savings accounts, uncertainty about the future, and (here's a new one) fear of looking prosperous.

It turns out that some executives and business owners who have laid off employees don't want to buy new luxury cars because they're afraid of how that will look to their remaining workers.

If things get worse, will they leave their Porsches and Lexuses at home and take the bus to the office?

Click here to read the full New York Times article.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Enlightened Traveler: London's Charlotte St.

Even if you're a frequent visitor to London, you might not know Charlotte St.

Tucked away a few blocks north of Oxford St. and west of bustling Tottenham Court Rd., it's a quiet byway noteworthy for its many restaurants. These aren't London's finest eateries, though many of them are very good.

That makes Charlotte St. your preferred destination when you don't know where you want have dinner. You can work up an appetite as you stroll the area, inspecting your many options.

No phony Sicilian decor at Mennula,
just simple, up-to-the-minute elegance

One that currently is attracting attention is the recently opened Mennula at No. 10. Sicilian-born chef-owner Santino Busciglio has worked at some of the city's better Italian restaurants, Rosmarino, Zafferano and Alloro.

We haven't been there yet, but we have been impressed by the reviews.

Time Out notes that Busciglio's "style of cooking is much more contemporary and refined than Sicilian home cooking, a fact underlined by this Fitzrovia site also being self-consciously smarter than London's other Sicilian restaurants."

The Independent writes: "There's nothing particularly flashy about Mennula; the lion's share of the work has gone into getting the food right, rather than "the concept"... If you're after simple Sicilian food, lovingly prepared by a talented chef, this is the place to come."

We cannot wait to try it.

The British Museum, Bloomsbury, Oxford St. shopping, Wigmore Hall, and West End theaters are 5-15 mins. on foot from Charlotte St. Goodge St. is the nearest tube stop.

The arty, chic Charlotte Street Hotel is a show business favorite and a luxe place to stay if your budget allows. Even if you are not in residence, you can enjoy a drink in the hotel's stylish Oscar Bar before dinner at Mennula or another Fitzrovia restaurant.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

And Another Thing: Everybody's a Legend Nowadays

The advertising campaign for Blackglama mink, with it's often imitated headline "What becomes a legend most?," is one of the most famous of all time.

It had a simple premise: iconic, legendary celebrities (Judy Garland, Bette Davis, and yes, Ray Charles) were shown wearing nothing more than an elegant, expensive black mink coat in striking photographs by the great Richard Avedon.

So successful was the campaign that it has continued off and on from its inception in 1968 to the present century. If it's not broken, don't try to fix it.

For the most part, the subjects of the Blackglama ads were, indeed, legendary, as in meaning someone or something that is extremely famous.

Nowadays, PR people commonly invoke the L Word to describe anyone and anything even the slightest bit acclaimed. Take PR Newswire, the main channel for distributing news releases – we said news releases, not news – to the world's media.

If you look at their website, you quickly come to the cheerless conclusion that pretty much anyone with a publicist is considered to be a legend of some sort. This includes everyone from athletes who are in the twilight of mediocre careers to software developers about whom surely no legends ever have been or will be written.

Legendary should be used only to refer to (1) someone or something that has been celebrated or described in a legend (Paul Bunyan or King Arthur's Court, for example) or (2) someone who is extremely famous.

Here's a sampling of L Word references in more than 500 press releases on PR Newswire over the last 60 days. Which ones fit our description?
  • legendary journalist Dan Rather
  • legendary Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris
  • legendary music photographer Rob Shanahan
  • legendary songwriter Carole King
  • legendary West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd
  • legendary music mogul Kevin Liles
  • legendary concert promoter Leonard Rowe
  • legendary software developer Kent Beck
  • the world's most legendary queen, Cleopatra
  • legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman
  • the legendary Waikiki Beach
Cleopatra: legend; Kevin Liles: just a record producer

By our count, the only bona fide legend here is Cleopatra. While Dan Rather, Robert Byrd, and Carole King are well known in certain circles (and even may be nice guys, to boot), it would be a stretch to call them extremely famous. Waikiki Beach is a nice place to sip a pina colada, but please show us the legends that have been written about it.

As for Kent Beck, Leonard Rowe, and Kevin Liles, all we can say is, "Huh?"

PR professionals take note: the L Word should be used sparingly, if at all.