Tuesday 1 October 2013

Les Temps Perdu

There are only specific situations or occasions where we might observe history repeating itself. Readers of Oswald Spengler (Decline of the West) will recognize what I am talking about. If we look at democracy as part of the final stage of our culture and the inherent corruption at the heart of it, we can see similarities in other cultures from the past. Instead of comparing our everyday existence to the lives of people from the past, we should compare our values and desires - those, we have in common.

For example, who wouldn't want to own a Bugatti Veyron? Currently priced around $4 million, it is a 1200 hp automobile with a top speed of 431 kmh (268 mph). It will go from 0 to 60 in about 2 seconds. By comparison, back in the 1920s, everyone wanted an Isotta-Fraschini - especially the Tipo 8 Castagna Transformable. It was the most powerful and luxurious car of its day. A 1929 coupe de ville limo version is the car featured in Billy Wilder's 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.

That particular automobile originally belonged to Peggy Hopkins Joyce who is considered the first tabloid celebrity. She was a Jazz Age diva who married a bunch of millionaires and claimed to be engaged 50 times. She also had affairs with King Gustav VI of Sweden, Charlie Chaplin, Irving Thalberg and Walter Chrysler (who bought her the Isotta-Fraschini). Apparently, his own Chrysler Imperials weren't good enough. Mr. Chrysler also bought her a 127 carat diamond (known as The Portugese Diamond, which is currently in the Smithonian Institute). Joyce was later forced to sell it out of necessity.

You can still buy an Isotta-Fraschini. They come up for sale sometimes. A few years ago one was offered by the Blackhawk Collection Exhibit held at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. It was priced at $1,450,000 but I don't think anyone bought it. You can also acquire the recently-released Blu-ray of Sunset Boulevard if you just want to look at one. The film provides a superb example of the decline and separation of the present from the past. For example, as far as Peggy Hopkins Joyce is concerned, although she may have been the most famous woman of her time, she is all but forgotten today.

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