Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Brini Maxwell

Sabrina "Brini" Maxwell is a cross between Martha Stewart and Samantha Stevens of Bewitched. Part drag queen, part mid-century domestic diva, Brini Maxwell is portrayed by Ben Sander, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

A Salvation Army find of vintage Pyrex bowls inspired Sander to start filming a how-to show from his tiny apartment in Chelsea, Manhattan. The Brini Maxwell Show debuted on cable access in 1998 and offered practical tips on decorating, entertaining, cooking and fashion, all with a retro twist. The Brini Maxwell Show became so popular that it was picked up by the Style Network in 2004, giving the retro diva a national audience.

Sander's love of the fashions of the late 1950's to the eary 70's has always been evident in Brini's fabulous wardrobe, and in the general look of the show. Sander has said this about his love of retro: ''What fascinates me about mid-century design was that it was a time when we were optimistic about the future." (Sounds like my love for Expo 67.) And like myself, Ben and his alter-ego Brini pine for an era when elegant dinner parties served dishes containing Jell-O and cut up hot dog wieners.

Guess who'll be ordering the first season of Brini Maxwell on DVD?...

images: (1)


Monday, December 18, 2006

The Pavilion of Australia

Australia's pavilion at Expo 67 was a 2-storey structure located on Île Notre-Dame. It was built on steel and concrete pillars, with sloping exterior walls of aluminum and glass. The lower level was recessed and contained the administrative area while the upper section housed the exhibition area.

Surrounding the pavilion were Australian trees, shrubs and flowers planted specially for Expo. A large sunken pen at the rear of the pavilion contained kangaroos and wallabies. A display of coral from the Great Barrier Reef completed the "natural" setting.

Inside, a spiral ramp lead to the main exhibit area. A groovy sculptural display of color transparencies featured typical Australian images. In the main exhibit hall, large curved wooden beams rose through the floor to the ceiling. The entire space had off-white shag carpeting which swept up the walls, between the beams, and to the ceiling! How mod...

In the main hall, high-backed arm chairs equipped with stereo speakers told visitors the story of Australia. A total of 34 different "stories" could be heard, on diverse subjects, in either french or english. Some chairs explained nearby exhibits as well.

French-speaking chairs had orange cushions to distinguish themselves from the english-speaking ones which were green. A total of 14 million visitors sat in these chairs during Expo's 6-month run!

Examples of Australian engineering were shown through scale models of both the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope, and one of the world's most complex hydro electric projects. The same section featured displays of medical and agricultural research.

Another section explored Australian architecture, past and present. Typical Australian activities such as tennis, surfing and cricket were illustrated through photographs and cartoons.

A collection of modern paintings by 22 contemporary artists were hung on the north wall of the pavilion, alongside display cases that contained aboriginal bark paintings.

An adjacent boutique sold a variety of Australian souvenirs.

images: (1) FOS productions
(2-3) personal collection
(4) library and archives Canada

Saturday, December 16, 2006

CBC Vintage Media

The Canadian Broadcasting Company was founded over 70 years ago, on Novemeber 2, 1936. Originally radio-only, the CBC began television broadcasts in 1952, with the opening of their first TV station, in Montreal.

I grew up watching the CBC, and I've always loved vintage CBC media. The logos that were used from the 1950's to the 1970's were totally cool.

The CBC used this logo at the end of TV programs from 1958 to 1974:

This alternate logo was used from the 1960's through to 1974:

The Butterfly logo (below) was introduced in 1966. Designed for CBC by Hubert Tisson, it marked the CBC's transition from black and white to color broadcasting. It was retired once the transition was complete, in 1974.

The logo below (my favorite) was designed by graphic artist Burton Kramer in 1974. It was the most widely recognizable logo of the CBC. It marked the CBC's full transition to color television broadcasting.

The groovy CBC butterfly in action:

This instantly brings me back to my early-childhood days, in the late 70's:

Vintage opening credits from The National, circa 1978:


Saturday, December 9, 2006

Expo 67 Christmas Tree

Tinsel trees were very stylish in the 1950's and 60's. After a long search, I finally found one last year, from a window-dressing décor supplier.

This year, I decided to make the tree Expo 67 themed. With a series of cards produced by Molson Breweries in 1967, I created the pavilion ornaments: I had the cards plasticized, and I attached Martha Stewart ornament ribbons to them (I love Martha...).

The tree is lit with the same type of large, opaque Christmas lights my grandmother used to use on her Yuletide tree.

The result: my first ever Expo 67 Christmas tree!

photos: personal collection

Cucumber Music Lab

I stumbled upon this musical group from Avignon, France on MySpace.

Cyril Jean and Mike Intosh compose the keyboard and flute arrangements while Olee Vaillant provides the mood and groove bass.

Their music is pure retro pop, heavy on orchestral rhythm & blues and funk/soul. Equally impressive is their visual identity and cool website graphics. The overall mix of modern and retro totally appeals to me.

Click to check out their website, and listen to tunes on their MySpace page.

images from and

Monday, December 4, 2006

Montreal's Parisian Metro Portico

Mayor Jean Drapeau had always felt that Montreal had an affinity with the city of Paris.

Among his sillier plans was the idea of dismantling the Eiffel Tower (built for the 1889 Paris World Exhibition) and have it shipped off to Montreal to be rebuilt for the duration of it's own World Exhibition, Expo 67! [Small historical sidenote: it never happened...]

Engineers from the Parisian Metro system collaborated with the city of Montreal during the planning stages of it's subway system, in the early to mid 1960's.

On a trip to Paris for Metro-planning purposes, Mayor Drapeau noticed the dismantling of an Art Nouveau Metro portico and came up with an idea. He suggested that an entrance, designed by artist Hector Guimard in the late 1800's, be brought back to Montreal.

A little easier to ship than the Eiffel Tower, wouldn't you say...?

The idea was accepted and in 1967, the Regie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) donated an original Hector Guimard Metro entrance to the city of Montreal, in honor of their aforementioned collaboration.

The portico was installed at the Square-Victoria station, but Montreal building codes would not allow an entrance narrow enough to properly install it, thus making it impossible to put up the typical Metropolitain sign.

In 2003, with special permission to build a narrower stairwell, the Guimard entrance was completely restored to it's full Art Nouveau splendor.

Today, the Guimard entrance stands proudly at the St-Antoine exit of the Square-Victoria station. It is the jewel of the Montreal Metro art collection, and the centerpiece of the newly revitalized Quartier International.

To see the entire series of photos I took of it, click here.

photos: author's own

Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Quebec Industries Pavilion

A notable element of the Quebec Industries pavilion was it's white roof and walls arranged in jagged steps and angles.

Located in the Cité du Havre sector of Expo 67, the pavilion stood on the edge of the St. Lawrence river, right near Expo's main entrance. More than 100 Quebec industries participated in this exhibit, which was a supplement to the the province's official pavilion, and the only industrial pavilion presented by a Canadian province at Expo.

The theme of the Quebec Industries pavilion was The St. Lawrence Industrial Basin, illustrating the past and present of the river as a center of Quebec's economic activity. The province's economic potential was presented, and the pavilion boasted Quebec's superiority in such industries as asbestos mining and textile production.
Hydro electric power was featured as one of the provinces most important industries. Every day from 9am to 10pm, visitors could watch the progress being made in the construction of Hydro-Quebec's Manicouagan dam. A 160 seat projection room showed live images on a 650 square-foot screen. In 1967, this was the longest closed circuit television system in the world; some 500 miles seperated subject and audience.
images: (top) (2-3-4) personal collection