VICTOR SKREBNESKI AN ODE TO AN ICON PART 1

 

5C04D415-A736-4643-BC4C-6FA333674B20
Victor’s Birthday Dinner Chez Ivon long ago.  One of my favorite photos of us. My photo, published for the first time

Sweetheart, Baby, Angel, Dearest, Darling…..(each comma represents a pause!) how I will miss these words on my phone early on so many mornings….followed by “Its Victor”…my answer, always, who else would it be!  And always notes for reasons or just a hello….he did those for many of his friends, I treasure mine.

080FDE6A-0F2C-4168-ACE1-90481D1EE521

This was our greeting for decades.  Was each and every decade stress free, of course not, no relationship no matter how close you are doesn’t have bumps and, yes, we had bumps, but the “bumpless” times were so very special.  I wanted to share all the good times…and there were many!

E6BACBBC-B29E-4606-98B8-CFB82D78FE2CAt a Fashion Group International Chicago gala honoring the Ferragamos  Photo credit: Robert Carl.

My dear, special friend of so many, many years and so many, many memories, left us this year on April 4th to join his dear family and friends such as Hubert de Givenchy, Estée Lauder, Joan Weinstein, Jovanna Papadakis to name just a few to make Heaven even more glamorous…….you know he is busy organizing the angels into perfect photo shoots…on that you can be sure.

25AC383B-4326-4C4D-A34E-5EA66B1E9EDE

Shown with Estée Lauder, photo credit unknown.

In retrospect, I can’t remember when we first became friends nor why we were comfortable sharing confidences and champagne, but we were and we did!!  Over many, many dinners at RL and La Scarola (the last time I saw him was at dinner there) or my home, we talked about anything and everything.
0CDCA09B-149B-4FC6-A4B6-085928EECECEAn afternoon benefit at the Chicago Hilton, photo credit unknown.

We often went to events together and he was sure to include me when he was receiving many of his  special honors.

Back in the discotheque days….the 1960’s/1970’s we would meet, along with everyone else, on the weekends at the Disc de Maxim’s, I supplied the dresses for the DJ…it was the place to see and be seen.  Or the evenings spent listening to Bobby Short or Shelley MacArthur at the Gold Sardine Bar.  Great fun times.

Nancy Goldberg’s Maxim’s de Paris at the Astor Towers.  Beyond gorgeous…here the staircase from the main floor into the restaurant and the dance floor.

Photos found on Pinterest credit unknown.

I had the honor of planning the special dinner at the Chicago Cultural Center after he received his Honorary Degree from Columbia College Chicago, one of the only times that a degree was  bestowed outside of Graduation ceremonies making it even more special.

C33D1F9D-E911-41CA-BECA-6412C607EC3C
1995 Columbia College Chicago Honorary Degree evening.  Photographer unknown. From my collection.

Lucky me that I became a friend of one of the major artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

When did this friendship begin…I can’t pin point the exact year, Victor was a well known photographer and Major Influencer when I started at Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago.  I think the first time I was invited into his Circle of Friends was at the Chicago premier of the 1969 film The Damed.  I was invited to a private screening at the screening room at The Chicago Theater and to the reception after.  It was a small group at the screening…the movie was eagerly anticipated and I was beyond thrilled to be included.  Well, dear friends, I don’t shock easily but I must tell you, I was beyond shocked by the film, so much so I have never seen it again.  Since it was such a small group I couldn’t get up and leave.  I guess I should like it, I do admire Visconti’s work. Well there is more to this story…the reception was upstairs at Gene & Georgetti’s (I’m so pleased they are back with us after their fire and the “plague” closings).  As you got to the top of the stairs you were immersed in the decadent “Cabaret Scene” from the film, I was beside myself.  Perhaps if I hadn’t been so undone by the film I might have found it less distasteful and across the room was one of the stars, Helmut Berger who kept staring at me….gave me chills!  If you haven’t seen the film do so and you will get what I’m talking about.  I wonder if I’ll find it not as shocking now???!!!

Flash forward to 1984 when I received a telegraph (remember those) from Town and Country requesting that I report to the Skrebneski Studio on such and such a date at such and such a time to have my photo taken for an upcoming story in the magazine on The Costume Council of the Chicago Historical Society (as the  Museum was called then) .  Victor did exquisite editorial spreads for T&C for years, some of my most favorite images are from those issues.  Well, of course, I thought this was some kind of a joke.  I immediately called Dennis Minkel, Victor’s Assistant and a long time dear friend of mine.  I had been working with him on many shoots when they needed clothing and/or accessories.  He assured me it wasn’t a joke and to wear a favorite dress, preferably a day garment since the other Executive Committee members would be in cocktail and evening gowns.  They would supply the hair and makeup artists and the jewelry.  I was stunned, excited, honored and perplexed being the only “non-socialite” in the group.  I was, at the time serving as Acquisitions Chair.  As I recall I was the last shoot of the day.  I arrived as scheduled in my “uniform” a mock turtleneck black chemise by Adolfo.  My hair was long at the time and it was fashioned into a classic French Twist.  I am photographed in front of period gowns from the Costume Collection in a double page spread.  Let’s talk a minute about how Victor worked, the set ups took time but he knew exactly what shot he wanted and where the fold of the magazine would happen, therefore the two pages always were seamless not so with other photographers nor magazine editors.  Just one example of his brilliance.  And it’s one shot and done.  The photo looks quite simple, it was anything but….to get the angle he wanted, and by the way he loved profiles….so that is how you see me, I don’t love my profile but who am I to say…he had positioned my legs in an awkward position, so much so that I pulled a muscle.  I don’t think I ever told him that!!!!  My hair looks dark due to the dramatic Skrebneski lighting.  Lighting was one of his signatures.  And here is the finished photo

1B7FCB0F-2C91-459A-B330-EE1E24B5AE5EThis framed copy was on my office wall from 1984 until I retired in 2009, it is now part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.  All of us were taken to Les Nomades for an elegant dinner with the T&C editors and a bottle of Kristal was sent to each of us with a lovely note.  What an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience…..I, of course, thought this was my one and only Skrebneski photo session…..wrong again…..

83076FFA-E190-41B7-80F1-EADEC314D5FD

Stay tuned for Part 2 and probably Part 3 of this story.

 

Advertisements

18 thoughts on “VICTOR SKREBNESKI AN ODE TO AN ICON PART 1

  1. Rachel Hanna June 28, 2020 / 3:10 pm

    This is wonderful and I was wanting to keep on reading…can’t wait for the continuance!

    • nenasnotes June 28, 2020 / 3:22 pm

      Thank you…it’s taken me three months to do this….the continuing story will be this week.

  2. Abra Wilkin June 28, 2020 / 3:20 pm

    “Miss Ivon,” I’m loving every word of your Victor series. You turn back the clock with such ease that it’s yesterday all over again. Thanks for the detailed memories and returning us to those happier days.

    • nenasnotes June 28, 2020 / 3:23 pm

      Thanks so much Abra….more to come with my thoughts….

  3. Dianne Erpenbach June 28, 2020 / 7:41 pm

    Thank you for honoring Victor in such a personal and loving tribute. I look forward to the next chapter of your remembrances ❤️ Dianne

    • nenasnotes June 28, 2020 / 8:14 pm

      Thanks Dianne….working on Part 2….hope you are well and safe.

  4. Marcia June 28, 2020 / 10:14 pm

    Thank you Nena. Loved reading your lovely tribute to him and was so happy to have met him before he passed away. What an outstanding photographer and the amazing shot of you he did for T & C !. Such great memories you have and look forward to reading your next story about your adventures with him.

    • nenasnotes June 28, 2020 / 10:29 pm

      Thanks Marcia. Next post is up tomorrow….lots and lots of photos many never seen before.

  5. Pamella Capitanini June 29, 2020 / 12:04 am

    Almost fairytale! Excited to read part II !

    • nenasnotes June 29, 2020 / 1:02 am

      What a lovely thing to say. Part 2 up tomorrow…the tale continues.

  6. TERRI DANCONA June 29, 2020 / 12:33 am

    Thank you for sharing your memories. Love reading them. Btw, magnificent profile picture of you❤️

    • nenasnotes June 29, 2020 / 1:03 am

      Hi Honey….thank you so much. Part 2 up tomorrow.

  7. Jan Wood June 29, 2020 / 3:32 am

    What a wonderful tribute to an exceptional artist! I look forward to part 2 of memory lane!

    • nenasnotes June 29, 2020 / 11:18 am

      Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy Part 2 today….

  8. Thomas Mantel June 29, 2020 / 5:34 pm

    Exquisite photos. I love the last one.

    • nenasnotes June 29, 2020 / 5:46 pm

      Thank you so much.

  9. Vicki Hofstetter June 30, 2020 / 4:30 pm

    I have had to hold on to Part 1 due to a stressed work load, but I just read it and cannot wait for Part 2. That T&C Costume Institute photo is to die for! He was SO correct, the profile shot, so dramatic. How lucky you are to have known him. I have been such a fan of his since his early Cinema Chicago work, bought all his books, etc. I think he is by far the best photographer of our age. How blessed you are to have had this special, special friendship. This week was the anniversary of my most special friends unexpected death. I will love her forever and share some of the same feelings you have expressed regarding Skrebneski. I can relate. It is a loss you will never get over and a hole in your heart you can never fill. But as time passes it does get easier and sorrow turns to sweetness. Thanks so much for sharing your special story. XXOOVV

    • nenasnotes June 30, 2020 / 4:34 pm

      Thank you SO much. I hope you enjoy Parts 2, 3 and 4. It has taken me a couple of months to be able to write the posts, his death was too raw for me to delve into memories. Now was the time.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.