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Old 07-31-2020, 05:33 PM
 
Location: Pacific Northwest & NYC Central Park South
3,321 posts, read 4,576,941 times
Reputation: 12540

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It's another Covid-19 fatality, and reading about The Purple Parrot's closing, brought half-a-tear to my eye (I'm a tough-'ol itch, and half-a-tear is about all one's going to get). Jackson Jambalaya: Robert St. John: Farewell, Old Friend

This summoned memories of a time long ago, when Fashionable Northeast Jackson was... well... fashionable, and Hattiesburg was fabulous.

'The Arbor at Turtle Creek' was brand-new, and still looked, to us astonished Mississippi shoppers, like Luchino Visconti's family's palace on Lake Como. Canebrake was new, and winning national awards. Ringing its newly-made lake, 'Adirondak' boathouses, more picturesque and luxurious than those they emulated, served mansions which were improved versions of 'Hamptons Shingle Style' and 'Acadian French'. And all of this was being documented in books, magazines, and New York Times articles. All sorts of amazing people, were building amazing houses out in the woods around Hattiesburg. https://virtualglobetrotting.com/map...2/view/google/ Exotic Hattiesburg folk were having exotic affairs, in ways which seemed liberating and groundbreaking (rather than ugly and punitive, like the ones happening in Jackson).

Mercedes and Jaguar were pumping-out opulent executive sedans, and even plain-ol' Cadillac, was producing mansions-on-wheels, worthy of the era's big-shouldered, ultra-accessorized fashions. Hattiesburg and FNEJ were crawling with fabulous cars and fabulous people wearing fabulous clothes. Observing the summer clothing strategies of wealthy sorority suzies, at pool and garden parties, in sweltering Hattiesburg, was how I learned the art of 'Dressy-but-skimpy', and why I can hold my own, visually, today, in The Hamptons.

Saul and Gayfryd Steinberg's sumptuous and ultra-traditional thirty-room Manhattan triplex, set the tone for interiors of the era. Fashionable Northeast Jackson and Hattiesburg, were not far behind. Picking up a copy of Traditional Home, Veranda, or House & Garden, meant the possibility of spotting the home of someone you knew (or would want to know), either in Hattiesburg, or in Jackson.

People traveled, frequently, between cities. So, there I was, not long out-of-school, being taken to lunch by bosses, at Nick's in Jackson, or at The Purple Parrot. I was neither pretty nor white, but I had cosmetic value as an exotic. I conferred status upon my employers. I was a bright young thing, being shown-off.

While not pretty, I was extremely fit. Clothes which had been worn by models and mannequins, at Saks Fifth Avenue, then marked-out-of-stock, fit me just fine. I'd picked them up, for pennies-on-the-Dollar, at the original Steinmart Saks Sales. Possibly, they were a tad faded. Usually, they needed expert ironing/gluing/stitching. I was paying four bucks, for an Italian handbag - three bucks, for a Pucci silk dress - two Dollars for an Italian Merino knit dress - eight Dollars for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche day dresses - ten, for a Louis Feraud overcoat - four, for a Vuitton handbag (this was LONG ago: before owning LV became the Kiss of Death). Yes, I had to do discrete repairs, but those things had gotten me into the world of The Purple Parrot.

Being a gymbunny, I tended to know, from various gyms, other bright young things being shown-off by their bosses. "Hello, Mignon!", from me, and suddenly my bosses had occasion to be schmoozing the group of powerbroker attorneys for whom Mignon was a new hire. And there's the Architect in every magazine, and his designer wife, with their exotic hire, a guy with whom I'd shared much gymtime .... and with those three, a client soon to be on Forbes' List. More schmoozing... I was VALUABLE.

Can it be conveyed, how new and wonderful it was, to be VALUABLE? To be there, in The Purple Parrot (a name being breathlessly repeated, all over the state), in a room which evoked Art Nouveau Paris? (the restaurant's opulence got dialed-back, in later years) ...how wonderful, to be in a room - and in a milieu - where my Tutto Fatto in Italia fashions were not outré - not overkill - to be in a space and time, where EXOTIC and FABULOUS were among the objectives?

"Haay Bubba! Ah jus' haaaaayid ta come ovah an' git uh closuh look at yo-wah striking young associate, and that NECKLACE!"

My husband began acquiring jewelry for me, in college, when he posed for drawing classes: free jewelry being part of the deal, somehow. The budding Jeweler intended his Postmodern pieces to be in the traditions of Kandinsky and Naum Gabo. But they came out looking more like Salvador Dali. This may have been better, actually, since they made for better kvelling on the part of the beholder - ambiguity lending itself more freely to interpretation. But an abstract shape carved from a mussel shell, or an abalone fragment from the beach - sprigged with whatever jewels we could afford (by that time, DH was paying in real money), and linked to shapes in papier-mâché (gold-leafed/palladium-leafed/enameled), tended to draw the eye, from across a room.

"May ah present, Gloria VanSnootenhorn? She's uh real Choctaw Princess!" (It's arguable that I've never been a real anything: and the 'princess' part was definitely my boss's own creation)

"...she baaaaawt huh fuhst uhpahtmundt buildin' wen she wuz ownleh nohn'd-tuhaeen yee-yuhz ol'!"

"Yeeeeeeew awght ta suaeeee huh husbun! He look jus' lak Mahk Gastineau..."

Thus, it was nice, to momentarily occupy the limelight, which normally fell upon DH. And at lunch, with my bosses, in that fabulous time and place, the limelight was MINE - earned by ME.

Thank you, Robert St. John, for memories of so many truly transcendent moments at The Purple Parrot.

Last edited by GrandviewGloria; 07-31-2020 at 06:47 PM..
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Old 07-31-2020, 10:38 PM
 
Location: NE Mississippi
18,599 posts, read 10,903,130 times
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Quote:
"Can it be conveyed, how new and wonderful it was, to be VALUABLE?"......
No, I don't think it can. And even when it happens, I have seen the recipient of such an honor promptly screw it up.
My niece blew it. I speak as literally the only White member of my multi racial family. My mother, the only other White person, has died. My sister and I have different fathers - hers was Malaysian. Because we grew up in the land of Bubba, we just tell people she's Chinese. Bubba doesn't know where Malaysia is; might be an island somewhere, you know.
Sis married a Japanese national; our mother was Irish (that's White). So my niece is Chinese/Japanese/Irish. And what you get is this beautiful exotic Asian with blue eyes. You ought to see her! She has a masters in international business and speaks fluent French.
But do you think she had the sense to embrace what was going on when people wanted to be seen with her? ...... Newp! Declared right up front that she did not want to be a "pretty thing on someone's arm".
She rejected all offers of dinner, long lunches, receptions, and so forth because she wanted to make it on her own merit. Silly girl. She is over 50 and has not worked in years. Her German husband (that's White, too) gets by alright, but they are not happy.
The term carpe diem comes to mind when I look back at her life and her lost opportunity. She didn't understand and did not capitalize on her good fortune which was delivered to her at the tail end of good work.


I'm glad you did better than her, Gloria.
Goon on ya!
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Old 08-04-2020, 10:40 PM
 
Location: Pacific Northwest & NYC Central Park South
3,321 posts, read 4,576,941 times
Reputation: 12540
Quote:
Originally Posted by Listener2307 View Post
No, I don't think it can. And even when it happens, I have seen the recipient of such an honor promptly screw it up.
My niece blew it. I speak as literally the only White member of my multi racial family. My mother, the only other White person, has died. My sister and I have different fathers - hers was Malaysian. Because we grew up in the land of Bubba, we just tell people she's Chinese. Bubba doesn't know where Malaysia is; might be an island somewhere, you know.
Sis married a Japanese national; our mother was Irish (that's White). So my niece is Chinese/Japanese/Irish. And what you get is this beautiful exotic Asian with blue eyes. You ought to see her! She has a masters in international business and speaks fluent French.
But do you think she had the sense to embrace what was going on when people wanted to be seen with her? ...... Newp! Declared right up front that she did not want to be a "pretty thing on someone's arm".
She rejected all offers of dinner, long lunches, receptions, and so forth because she wanted to make it on her own merit. Silly girl. She is over 50 and has not worked in years. Her German husband (that's White, too) gets by alright, but they are not happy.
The term carpe diem comes to mind when I look back at her life and her lost opportunity. She didn't understand and did not capitalize on her good fortune which was delivered to her at the tail end of good work.

I'm glad you did better than her, Gloria.
Goon on ya!
Thank you, Listener!

You're in the same position, within your family, as our Son-in-law is, within ours. In coming decades, such rarity may become the norm.

Your niece certainly would seem to have been poised to leap forward. Striking looks, plus mastery of French, and an advanced degree in International Business, would seem ideal for aiding capital flight from all sorts of places - getting sizeable money under management, or carving a niche within the complex world of Venture Capital. However, if one doesn't want to dress-up and go to the ball, then I'm not sure how that's supposed to happen.

And I'm grateful to Robert St. John, for creating, with The Purple Parrot, one of the stages where young things like me, could expand our circles of contacts - could become known - could create affiliations which went beyond the official structures, and into the tacit alignments where profit and power lie.

I wish I could rhapsodize about the food. But frankly, I seldom noticed. It was pretty, though. And the rooms were pretty. And Foodie People loved the food. But it was the atmosphere of POSSIBILITY - the transmogrifying, mythologizing undercurrents of that venue, which were valuable to me.

Again, thank you for your kind words.
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Old 08-07-2020, 04:47 PM
 
Location: Southern California
476 posts, read 583,719 times
Reputation: 1392
You made the best use of all those many years of study and sacrifice. Seizing the right moment with the right people must be calculated and played well. That, in and of itself is, as you illustrated in your post, quite an undertaking. Everything from a well modulated voice to faultless style must appear effortless and unpremeditated. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

I'd never heard of Purple Parrot. Shame that another exceptional restaurant is closing.

Last edited by Seadory; 08-07-2020 at 05:00 PM..
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Old 08-08-2020, 05:40 PM
 
Location: Oklahoma
11,412 posts, read 8,192,433 times
Reputation: 10160
I ate at the Purple Parrot right after it first opened in 1987. Sad news.
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Old 08-12-2020, 02:20 AM
 
Location: Pacific Northwest & NYC Central Park South
3,321 posts, read 4,576,941 times
Reputation: 12540
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seadory View Post
You made the best use of all those many years of study and sacrifice. Seizing the right moment with the right people must be calculated and played well. That, in and of itself is, as you illustrated in your post, quite an undertaking. Everything from a well modulated voice to faultless style must appear effortless and unpremeditated. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

I'd never heard of Purple Parrot. Shame that another exceptional restaurant is closing.
Don't get TOO exhausted thinking about it! Mostly, I just overcompensated, and overdeveloped skills, then threw the Capellini Con Salsa Cruda at the wall, to see what would stick. Then again, I'm told I'm blind to my own Machiavellian ploys. So, maybe you're right.

The Purple Parrot has been called, by an authority, 'The Second Best Restaurant in the South' (top place goes to one of the biggies in New Orleans). Who knew such a venue would be created by an apparently very genuine guy, with a huge love for humanity? I remember lunches there, as Grisham novels waiting to be written.

Were all of us posturing monsters - each a complex salad of secrets, aggressions, and pretensions - attracted - in some unseen, magnetic way - to Robert St. John's venues, because he had something we lacked: true goodness?

Last edited by GrandviewGloria; 08-12-2020 at 03:31 AM..
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Old 08-14-2020, 03:41 PM
 
Location: Southern California
476 posts, read 583,719 times
Reputation: 1392
You're no more Machiavellian than Mr. Robert St. John is angelic and incorruptible. His farewell letter was way too long and saccharine. That was penned by a guy who made out like a champ. He is a skilled marketeer who successfully operated a good restaurant. Good for Him!
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Old 09-09-2020, 07:43 PM
 
Location: Pacific Northwest & NYC Central Park South
3,321 posts, read 4,576,941 times
Reputation: 12540
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seadory View Post
You're no more Machiavellian than Mr. Robert St. John is angelic and incorruptible. His farewell letter was way too long and saccharine. That was penned by a guy who made out like a champ. He is a skilled marketeer who successfully operated a good restaurant. Good for Him!
Upon further review, I agree - particularly now that the piece in the OP, seems to be only the first of a whole SERIES he's writing for Jackson Jambalaya. There's a new one out, this week. Generally, the "great humanitarians" are, in reality, virtue-signaling narcissists who've acquired gaggles of gullible accolytes. Not sure if this applies to St. John, but I think you're onto something.

On the bright side, now that DH and I have adopted a Ketogenic foodway, and are only eating once-a-day, we're back to fitting in our clothes from that late-Eighties/early-Nineties era (just in time for the revivals of that style, dominating the more edgy runways).
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Old 09-11-2020, 05:50 PM
 
Location: Southern California
476 posts, read 583,719 times
Reputation: 1392
It sounds like the Purple Parrot is going to be sorely missed by many, many people. Apparently St. John set some pretty high standards all the while, at least outwardly, maintaining the highest principles. And St. John retained his customer base for, I forgot how long. Decades? I wish I could have dined at the Purple Parrot. I wonder exactly what it was that made the Purple Parrot a unique and happy experience. There must have been something more than excellent food and an efficient pleasing staff.

Maybe the Purple Parrot really was transcendent by virtue of Mr. St. John. One thing is for sure, St John is a happy man. Perhaps his joy is, at least in part, the reason that people gravitated to this restaurant.
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