Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Like Fine Wine...Louise Brooks

Most beautiful dumb girls think they are smart and get away with it, because other people, on the whole, aren't much smarter.   ---Louise Brooks

You know her face. Even if you don't know her name, you know the trademark bob hair style, the dark sultry eyes and the pouty lips. Louise Brooks. Legendary 1920's silent film star. Trendsetter, a dame way ahead of her time.

Everybody who knows the Zampster knows Louise Brooks is my idol, my girl dejour. If I could pick from a heavenly line-up of women I'd most choose to look like, it would be this beauty. Not so much because of her gorgeous, obvious looks--but because of her mystery, her sex appeal, her class.

Even without the trademark kohl-lined eyes, she had natural beauty. A glow.


...and then more versatility

But one of the reasons I've always admired her beauty was the grace in which she aged. Though dark beauty can fade, true deep-down-in-the-soul class and grace cannot be dimmed. Nothing can touch it.

Louise in 1957

Just look at those elegant lines...

Years did not diminish her inner warmth, that exquisite glow that came from deep within.

Among her last photos, she still maintined that regal beauty, still the goddess, still that fabulous glow.

Yes, not only the men can hold their own in the aging department. If true beauty resides deep within us, it will shine, even when we are mere memories.

Oh, Louise, you are so my idol.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Like Fine Wine...Gregory Peck...

I had that stubborn streak, the Irish in me I guess.  ---Gregory Peck

In my series, Like Fine Wine, I take admiring glances at men and women who have not only become universal icons whose fame stood the test of time but whose lives and careers paraded before us in a pageant of beautiful, graceful aging.

This week, I'm wallowing in the pool of girlish fan worship with one of my all-time favortes.

Tall. Dark. Handsome. Suave. Classy. Classic. Character. Integrity.

Gregory Peck.

Just starting out. Would you just look at this face that have stepped out of a modern Dolce & Gabbana ad.

Peck, with his trademark chiseled featrues, played a number of personalities....
Noir (and we know this trips ol' Zampa's switch...)

Older man with a younger woman (here with Audrey Hepburn), a very sexy role for him...

Quintessential man with glasses, a look that turns my knees to Jell-O

Mad Captain...

But one thing about him--that lands him on this page--is not only his dashing, extraordinary looks but his passge from youth to late years without skipping a beat in grace or losing an iota of his distinguished beauty.

Was it in the genes...?

That touch of class and masculinity that time cannot touch...

The trademark dark brows, silver hair...Gregory Peck. 

And don't forget that voice. Deep as midnight, rich as velvet.

But something else rode his persona, something no role--no matter how hard he tried--could cloud: his character. He just seemed to be an ordinary, good Joe. No conceit, no airs. Just an authentic man.

Ah. Looking at Peck with deep and dreamy sighs brings to mind the old proverbial they just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Blame it On the Bossa Nova...

I am told to just be myself, but as much as I have practiced the impression, I am still no good at it. ~Robert Brault

Sometimes I fantasize I’m Joan Jett. Yeah, Joan Jett. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve rocked with the scratchy-throated hard rock diva with her song, Hide-n-Seek. In the privacy of my white truck, I’m cool, I’m badass. I’m the sultry crooner with the scruffy jet locks and perfectly smeared mascara. I’m skinny, I’m bitchin’, I’m Joan.

This morning on the way to work, I played Eydie Gorme and her 1963 hit, Blame it On the Bossa Nova. Passing driver hadn’t a clue that in the nondescript vehicle zipping down Highway 90 West was a sixties gal dressed in cute Capri pants and ruffled cut-off top—teased bubble cut hairdo, the whole nine yards. Yes, I imagined I did the Bossa Nova, just like Eydie, with some wallflower guy who just happened to be able to swing his hips like Elvis.
The car and the bathtub. My two favorite places to create imaginary worlds where I can be anybody, do anything. Singer, dancer, actress, famous author, world traveler, queen of a country, mysterious rich recluse, 1920’s flapper, swooning captive of a desert sheik.

In my dreams, I’m always cool. No matter what I’m doing or who I am, I’m…cool.

To BE cool is a fantasy for me. But in reality? I’m really pretty boring. I don’t stand out in a crowd. Hell, I’ll rarely BE in a crowd. I’m not in the ‘in’ crowd at work, I’m never on the inside track of the good jokes. I just hear the laughter from my desk. I’m not…cool.

As I’ve matured—and, damn, that seems to have taken forever—I’ve learned to accept not being on the inside of the nucleus. I’ve embraced my life, just as it is, and I’ve found it’s not so bad. It’s not so bad being C. Zampa.

One thing, though, that’s still in the infancy stages of my journey of self-acceptance is my writing.

I’m going to get some frowns when I say what I’m about to say, and that’s all right. It’s important to me to understand myself and my flaws in order to progress, to grow in my writing career.

What am I going to say that might make you frown? I’m going to be honest and say I sometimes get jealous of others’ writing talent. There. I said it.

It’s just the truth.

One of my writing idols is James Ellroy. I took a moment to read a bit from his American Tabloid last night and found myself envious of his snappy style. His ability to draw this panoramic painting with nothing but a fast-moving stream of short, clipped semi-sentences. As though he wrote the entire novel huddled under a window with bullets flying over his head…but still produced a powerhouse of a story.
I’m jealous of that. Why can’t I write like that?

I love to read romance novelist Laura Kinsale. Her characters—especially her heroes—are so achingly real, so brilliantly layered, I lock them up in my heart long after the book is returned to the shelf.

Again, why can’t I write like that?

Mary Renault. Oh, why, why, why can’t I bring my thoughts to life as she could?

So many authors, so many books, so many VOICES.
And that one word—voice—is the key. Every day, I have to force myself to focus on that one tiny word. Voice. And, if I CAN focus on it, I realize it’s not a matter of whether writers are better than each other. It’s a matter of styles. It’s a matter of readers’ tastes for various styles. Voices.

If I spend my career trying to mold my own voice to mimic an author—any author—I admire, I am wasting my time. I will NEVER grow. I will NEVER know what I’m truly capable of.
Oh, I might be successful in my echoing of some other writer, but I’ll lose out on the most fabulous, the most beautiful, the most rewarding and satisfying part of my own journey—FINDING MYSELF.

I have to cultivate my own voice.

Suppose you have two gardens, side by side. In one is a collection of beautiful cacti. In the other is a bed of lush tropical foliage. If you attempted to tend both gardens the same, one of them would die. The cactus would die from too much water or the lush foliage would die from none. They’re not the same. They each need cultivation to be what they’re intended to be, to reach their full beauty. But only cultivation for their own particular variety.

Same with our writing voices.

It’s difficult to relax, to let go and allow your own voice to mature. There is so much talent out there among my peers and it’s so hard to not be envious.

But, hey. Just as I’m not cool, I’m indeed not Joan Jett—C. Zampa is also not James Ellroy, nor does she need to try. I don't want Ellroy to feel threatened…joking here…but I also just needs to realize something. The important thing.

Being C. Zampa isn’t so bad, either. Who knows, when I realize my potential, just what that will be? Whatever it turns out to be, the voice will be mine.

And, in closing. Just what the hell IS the Bossa Nova?

Joan Jett C. Zampa

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Back Where You Belong...

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she

just once said he)

it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he

how much said she

a lot said he)

why not said she
--e. e. cummings

Two things happened very recently, triggering something in my gut.

First, I came across the above painting by my favorite modern artist of all time, Jack Vettriano. The title of the piece is called Back Where You Belong.

Anyone who knows me at all can tell you the spirit of the painting could practically be a poster for my passion: romance of eras past. Although this painting depicts a modern setting, it seems to have a days-gone-by mood. The heart of the picture is timeless, though— man and woman. Passion.

It reminded me of my true love: gritty, sexy stories of men in fedoras and overcoats. Old Spice Aftershave, Lucky Strike cigarettes, fancy cufflinks, hair pomade, mobsters. Clandestine whispers on Bakelite telephones from the shadows of cheesy restaurant phone booths. Stories of a time when sex was all the more sexy because it wasn’t plastered on every billboard—no naked Joes and dames in every ad in every magazine. Lovemaking—hot, sweet-and-naughty, a secret between lovers.

Everybody tells me those times weren’t as innocent as they seemed. I know, I know, and that’s why I love it all the more! Sex and danger, hotter than Hades but wrapped up in a deceptive package—gals with soft skin, pretty lace slips, seamed stocking, satin peignoirs, powder puffs and Chanel No. 5. The tough guys in dress shirts and suspenders who lusted to get their hands on the garters they knew teased just beneath those kick pleats. But they all looked Sunday-go-to-meetin’ good with Ipana smiles and fancy threads.

My attraction for these eras, though, is the HEART of Vettriano’s painting. The one factor that turns my knees to spaghetti, gives me delicious shivers: the man and the woman. The sizzling chemistry—the sensual chemistry—between a strong man and a girly girl. Call me old fashioned, dial ‘F’ for the Feminist Patrol, lock me up in the too-old-timey-to-live slammer. I admit. I’m a goner for the dynamics of testosterone meets sugar and spice.

The second thing to happen—the second thing to trigger that uncomfortable there’s-something-I-should-be-doing feeling in my gut— was reading the above snippet of a poem by poet E.E. Cummings, May I Feel Said He. There it was again. Man. Woman. Sex. Touching. Feeling. Pleasure.

What’s the big deal? You’re talking about romance. Been around since time began.

Yeah, yeah. I know. The big deal, and it’s just a personal revelation for me, is that—well, damn it—I’ve missed writing my guys and gals.

At this moment, I write male/male romance. I do not write it because it’s a trend, nor because of money. Although I stand strong for equality, particularly in same sex marriage, I don’t even write male/male stories to address the cause. My writing is not a platform. It is a PASSION.

When I stumbled upon the true, natural beauty of men’s love for each other in a WIP of mine, I fell in love with it. It is sensual, it is sexy. But it has one benefit that I find most important: a better knowledge of men in general. Over time, through writing these male/male relationships, I began to see how really beautiful men are.

I’m not what’s popularly classified as a ‘gay man in a woman’s body’. No, I’m 100% woman in a woman’s body. And, yes, a 100%, pure, Grade-A woman CAN find passion in writing male/male stories. Like I said, I do.

To be honest about something, though, as I began to abandon my writing of the relationships I knew by heart—the woman and her man—I began to find myself in a grey zone with my own sexuality. I started to lose focus of the basic need of the feminine side of me—the love, interaction and, yes, the sex—with men. I sort of lost touch with who the hell I even was.

THAT is how closely my writing weaves into every fiber of my actual life.

To lose your footing is scary. Especially when it affects something so personal, so extraordinarily intimate.
Most female writers of male/male romance do not have this problem, I’m sure. Many vow to never write anything but gay fiction or male/male romance. My motto is to ‘never say never’. And I’m glad I did not say ‘never’ because I hadn’t expected the big hole gouged out in my heart from missing my beloved male/female characters. My friends know them: Salvatore and Kate, Enrico and Miss Anita, Sam and Lizzie, Patrick and Mary.

I love and miss them. And when I stared at Vettriano’s painting, I knew I had to return to them.

And I decided I’m going to let them share my time, my pen, with my male/male heroes: Candy and Carlos, Honor and Raimundo, Michael and Anthony, Valentino and Lucky. I think there’s time for them all. There certainly IS room in my heart for all of them, for keeping the genres separate, but still addressing both loves.

The Last Great Romantics II by Jack Vettriano

In fact, to celebrate my decision, I’m going to share a chapterfrom one of my gazillions of WIPs, a glimpse at two of my favorite characters. People tell me all the time, “Don’t post stuff from your WIPs on your blog!” But you know what? I have a thousand characters in my head and a thousand stories for each character. So I’m going to share two of them with you today. There are only a billion more where they came from.

Here are Ben and Suzy (quite unedited, mind you), just grabbing them from my Mount Everest of WIPS. And not sharing because it's good, just to show you my kind of couple.

"Night Geometry" by Jack Vettriano

* * *
Every gaze in the joint focused on him and I was sure he knew it. He always did have that sort of Svengali power.
With a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, he swayed to and fro, slow and sensual—hips and shoulders moving to the rhythm of the bass in Good Rockin’ Tonight. A six-foot-four, sultry, jazzed-up tiger.

His trollop of a partner circled him with fancy dance moves like a ditzy little planet revolving around a big, lazy sun.

I took a fast drag on my cigarette, thumped ashes in the ashtray and nudged Darlene. “Get a load of him, will you? How big is New York City? How many nightclubs in this town? And Ben Cohn comes to this one.”

“Maybe he’s following you.” After dipping and twirling it in her drink, Darlene popped the cherry in her mouth. She sucked and chewed on it for a bit, then pulled out the stem to stare at it.

“He was here first.” Turning to study him once more, I shook my head. “He’ll think I followed him.”

Darlene’s boyfriend, Bobby, rolled his eyes and muttered, “He’s a conceited creepsmobile.”

The music stopped, and the band started into another song.

Ben put a hand at his partner’s back, steering her off the dance floor. They headed in our direction.

My heart rushed, all panicky. Torn between bolting for the powder room and staying at the table to face him, I froze.

They passed down the aisle, closer and closer to our table.

If luck favored me, I’d be able to ditch the joint before he spotted me.

Then the strangest thing happened. Or, considering the history between Ben and me, I suppose it was only normal.

Something sort of took over my brain, shooting adrenaline through me. One of those moments when the mind decides to do something without giving the body a chance to put on the brakes.

Just as Ben reached our table, I stuck out my leg.

I’d have paid best-seat admission to see the stunned look on the arrogant son-of-a-bitch’s face when he tripped and grabbed air, trying to keep his balance, then crashed to floor on all fours. The drink flew from his hand into the air, but he held onto the cigarette.

His five-and-dime partner’s face went a hundred shades of red and she sped away in a jiggly frenzy, clearly mortified.

Chuckles wafted from amused onlookers.

“Goddamn you!” Ben rose, dusting off his trousers. Whirling around to face me, sparks flashed in his eyes. “Why, you—” The words deep-sixed on his lips the second his gaze met mine. A husky whisper, bewildered, “Suzy Q.”

Pretending it didn’t send my heart into a nose-dive to look into those familiar green eyes, I took a slow draw on the cigarette and let my gaze travel up and down his lean frame.

I slowly blew smoke into a cloud around him. “What are the odds of running into you in the middle of nowhere?”

The  Lucky Strikc mist swirling in his face didn't even get a blink from him.

He didn’t ask to sit, just pulled out a chair and sank into it, crossing his long legs at the ankles. Tapping a finger on his chin, he murmured, “I never thought I’d see you again. What the hell are you doing back here in New York, baby?”

“Business.” Shrugging. “May go to work for a paper here.” I tried hard not to smile. God, I hated the bastard, but loved and wanted him something fierce at the same time. “I see you still have your good manners. I didn’t say you could sit, Don Juanstein.”

He rubbed the tip of his wingtip on my ankle.

I crossed my leg to get away from the flirty shoe.

With a slight smile turning up one corner of his mouth, he perused me from head to toe, but didn’t comment.

Darlene just eyed us during the silence, twisting the cherry stem between her red-tipped nails.

Bobby watched Darlene.

Suddenly the sun came out on Ben’s almost-handsome face. He said, “You got custody of my manners in the divorce.”

Ah. My insults never did have any effect on him.

“Oh, yes, that’s right. I sold them with your car that I also got in the divorce.”

“Speaking of....” He cocked a brow and leaned closer. “I have a brand new 1947 Series Sixty-Two Cadillac convertible, right off the showroom floor, outside.”


With a voice soft as mink, he whispered, “Wanna go have sex in it?”

Damn. He didn’t even have to pitch me a hard-sell line to bring a smile to my lips. A glance into the deep-set eyes and I swept out to sea on his seductive tide, my legs—crooked seamed stockings and all—washed out from under me. Right back where it all began.

The schmuck had me and he knew it. So it surely didn’t surprise him when I met his gaze head-on, ground my cigarette in the ashtray and breathed the word. “Sure.”