Who wouldn’t powder her nose in anticipation of a fling with the legendary libertine, Don Juan?


Tirso Molina

There have been countless tellings of the Don Juan legend; however, it is likely that it first appeared in print in Spain around 1630 as a play by Tirso de Molina. Molina’s output as a playwright was prodigious — he’s alleged to have composed over four hundred plays during a twenty year period!  That is mind boggling!

Molina introduced the character of Don Juan in his play “El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra” (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest).

The legend of Don Juan describes him as a rogue who enjoys seducing women (especially virgins) then dueling with their men.  Hmm.  How very macho.  But that kind of bad behavior doesn’t come without a price.

Don Juan Errol FlynnThere appear to be several interpretations of the legend of Don Juan; the most common one is that Don Juan seduces a girl from a noble family. When the father seeks revenge on his daughter’s behalf, Don Juan kills him.

Don Juan possessed neither a conscience nor, apparently, a capacity for shame; so, when the dead father’s ghost turns up one night and warns him that his days are numbered, Don Juan refuses to repent for his past transgressions.  Not a smart move. Don Juan is then eternally damned.

Variations of this story include one where Don Juan encounters the statue of the dead father in a graveyard. Don Juan, in what is obviously appalling bad taste, invites the ghost to join him for dinner. (What DO ghosts eat, anyway? And can you imagine the awkward pauses in the dinner conversation?)


The father’s ghost arrives at Don Juan’s house at the appointed hour and then, as good manners would demand, extends an invitation to Don Juan to dine with him in the graveyard. Don Juan may have been a world class seducer of women and a fierce fighter of men, but he was too self-absorbed to be a good judge of another’s motives.  When Don Juan extends his arm to shake hands with the ghostly father, the mad dad grabs hold of him and drags him down to Hell.

Being dragged to Hell was a fitting punishment for Don Juan, but was it a fair judgment on loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), who tried to impress her boss by refusing to extend a loan (at least three times) to a gypsy woman by the name of Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) in the 2009 film DRAG ME TO HELL?

Yes, I think maybe it was. Come on, who hasn’t been humiliated or tormented by an officious little bureaucrat? When it’s happened to me I’ve wished that I could place a curse on them. Maybe not something as serious as having them dragged to Hell to roast on a slow spit for eternity, but then again…

I love opera, and you can’t miss with Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI.

There have been many films and plays based on the original premise of DON JUAN – some of them very creative.  One of my favorites was a story thread in the seminal TV sitcom, I LOVE LUCY.  The Lucy and Ricky Ricardo would leave New York for Hollywood when Ricky was offered an opportunity to test for the role of Don Juan in a major motion picture.rickyricardo

There was a 1926 feature film based on the legend of Don Juan which starred John Barrymore as the handsome womanizer.  The film is notable for a couple of reasons. The first is that the number of kisses in the film set a record, and it was also the first feature-length film with synchronized Vitaphone sound effects and a musical soundtrack (but no spoken dialogue.

In the 1995 film DON JUAN DeMARCO, Johnny Depp portrays John Arnold DeMarco, a young man who believes that he is Don Juan the world’s greatest lover.

DeMarco undergoes psychiatric treatment with Dr. Jack Mickler (Marlon Brando).  DeMarco’s sessions have an unexpected effect on the doctor’s staff, some of whom are inspired by DeMarco’s delusion.

 Let’s end with a quote from DON JUAN DeMARCO:  “Every woman is a mystery to be solved.”

Yes, indeed.


Could the woman on the hairnet envelope be anyone other than Carmen, the fiery temptress and faithless lover in Georges Bizet’s opera?Georges_Bizet_-_Rosabel_Morrison

In the first act Carmen, a cigarette factory worker, seduces a young solider by tossing a flower at his feet. Really? Clearly it didn’t take too much to capture Don Jose’s attention, or his love.

By the end of the last act Carmen had dragged Don Jose’s reputation, and his heart, through the mud. Of course a woman of Carmen’s volatile temperament could not hitch her wagon to a doormat, so she would jilt Don Jose in favor of Escamillo, a handsome toreador.

carmen death sceneIn classic operatic tradition Don Jose doesn’t thank Carmen for the memories and bid her adieu – he picks up a knife and stabs her to death just as Escamillo wins the bullfight. Opera has never been known for its subtle symbolism. And that is precisely why I enjoy opera so much. It never makes a small gesture.

There is something else that has never made a small gesture – platform shoes. They are incapable of restraint.Kiss1

Apart from rock stars of the 1970s, my favorite wearer of platform shoes would have to be Carmen Miranda. It’s easy to think of her as an opera on two legs. And she did not earn the moniker “Brazilian Bombshell” by being a wallflower. She was bold and brash and so was her footwear.

carmen miranda and shoesCarmen was born in Varzea da Ovelha, a village in the northern Portuguese municipality of Marco de Canaveses. She was christened Carmen by her father because of his love for Bizet’s masterpiece. His passion for opera influenced all of his children, and especially contributed to Miranda’s love for singing and dancing at an early age.

Her father may have been a fan of opera, but he did not approve of her plans to enter show business. However, in true operatic fashion her mother supported her and was beaten when her husband discovered Carmen had auditioned for a radio show.carmen striped shoes

Carmen had previously sung at parties and festivals in Rio. Her older sister Olinda contracted tuberculosis and was sent to Portugal for treatment. Miranda went to work in a tie shop at age 14 to help pay her sister’s medical bills. She next worked in a boutique, where she learned to make hats and opened her own hat business which became profitable. She may never have envisioned just how well the hat making skills would pay off!

carmen miranda beaded shoes from her museumCarmen was very popular in Brazil, but once in the U.S., Carmen’s career (and platforms)  hit the ground running. She arrived in 1939 with her band, Bando da Lua. She was presented to Franklin D. Roosevelt at a White House banquet, and went on to star in a baker’s dozen of Hollywood films!

Just eight years later Carmen was the highest-paid entertainer and top female taxpayer in the U.S., earning more than $200,000!

On March 17, 1947 she married movie producer David Sebastian. He was not a successful producer and even more of a disaster when he declared himself Carmen’s manager. In the few months that they lived together as husband and wife he made a series of bad business decisions. He was a boozer, and dragged Carmen along with him. Carmen was a Catholic and would not seek a divorce so she and David were legally married until her death in 1955.

The “lady in the tutti frutti hat” has had a profound influence on popular culture, and her likeness has popped up in everything from cartoons to the character of Chiquita Banana.

On August 4, 1955 while appearing in a live segment of the Jimmy Durante Show, Carmen collapsed. She recovered quickly and resumed her performance not realizing that she’s suffered a heart attack. Her heavy smoking and alcohol consumption, compounded by her use of amphetamines and barbiturates had taken a serious toll on her health.

Carmen_Miranda full lengthLater that night Carmen suffered a second heart attack at her home in Beverly Hills and passed away.

Honoring her wishes, Carmen’s family had the entertainer’s body flown back to Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian government declared a period of national mourning and 60,000 people attended a formal ceremony in Rio’s town hall. More than 500,000 people escorted the funeral cortege to her final resting place.

I’ve never had a burning desire to visit Rio de Janeiro, but after finding out that there is a Carmen Miranda Museum there – I may have changed my mind.