Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Wind Song Wavelength

Tina and I seem to be on the same wavelength lately. We’re both a bit hung up on the cheap drugstore perfumes of our youth. In a surreal post about her quasi-freakout at a drugstore perfume counter, she mentions Wind Song.

Wind Song, you know, by Prince Matchabelli. The perfume parfum in the exquisite crown-shaped bottle!

The Prince

That dinky bottle of parfum was among my most prized possessions as a girl of, perhaps, 13. I don’t even remember what it smelled like, but I do remember this: I loved that little bottle! I also remember the circumstances surrounding my acquisition of it.

At the back of magazines such as Seventeen and Glamour, you could send in a coupon (along with one dollar cash money) and get this “World of Beauty” box of cosmetics. It was sort of a grab bag; you never knew quite what you were going to get, but they did have you fill out a form listing your hair color, preferred shade of lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, etc., etc., so naturally I presumed that once in receipt of my form and my dollar, a trained "beautician" would carefully study my preferences and thoughtfully select the ideal products for me. All that for a buck! What service.* Boy, oh boy, was I into it. I sent away for several boxes, possibly committing a felony by sending in coupons with my sister’s name and my mom’s name on them, since World of Beauty made it clear in the fine print that under no circumstances was any one person allowed more than one of these boxes per year.

I was so thrilled when my first box arrived. The interior of the box was made of mock velour and each little bottle, tube, or vial had its own recess, tailor-made for it in its own exact shape! I got a little pot of lip gloss, some eyelash crème (?), probably half a dozen other things, and the teensy bottle of Wind Song by Prince Matchabelli. Surely, that alone was worth at least $10! I really scored! Big time! I dutifully used everything else in the box, even the puzzling and gunky eyelash crème, but the Wind Song? I opened it, sure, but did I dab any on so that I could impart the fragrance to the halls of North Junior High and its troglodyte student body? No feckin' way. It was far too precious to squander on the likes of them.

After reading Tina’s post, I started wondering who this Prince Matchabelli jaboney could have been. Was he a real guy or was he a phony persona like Betty Crocker or Mavis Beacon? I had to find out.

I ping-ponged around the Internet (not bothering to be too assiduous about the sources I consulted, so don't use this post to write a term paper), and here’s the dope on the Prince. He was a real guy and an actual prince. His family ruled Georgia. When the Russian Revolution broke out, he fled to the United States.

Fortunately, unlike certain members of other royal families, the Prince had some marketable skills. He had a collection of beakers and test tubes and an extra-keen snoot that was able to detect the “astral” (ya got me) properties of perfumes, which he then re-created in a lab. He concocted and launched some very successful perfumes and his wife, the “Princess” (a former dancehall girl), designed the peacherino of a bottle, modeling it on the Matchabelli family crown.

Alas, Prince Matchabelli’s been dead for 70 years and is buried in a cemetery in Queens. His company is now owned by Unilever (manufacturers of Q-Tips, Vaseline, and Slim-Fast) and Wind Song is now sold in a hideous, supersized spray bottle, more reminiscent of Windex (not a Unilever product, surprisingly) than a dainty crown.

*Now that I'm a grown-up, I suspect that the World of Beauty boxes were a convenient way for cosmetics companies to rid themselves of overstock and products that were not enthusiastically received by the public (e.g., eyelash creme).


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