Wednesday, March 25, 2015


This blog is about Hungarians and why I love them. A great example is the legendary Hungarian movie star, Zsa Zsa Gabor. She (and this post) have nothing to do with antiques except that she passed away when she was really really old. Then why am I writing this? Because it's my calling-I wasn't meant to be a "blogger" the rest of my life! I don't want my tombstone to read "Here Lies Buzz Kaplan-Yeah that blogger dude."

So I'm going to spread my literary wings here to show you, Houghton Miflin and the world that I'm a serious auteur as well as a blogger about antiques.

Anyhow, let's get back to Zsa Zsa (pronounced "JHASHA gab Bore"; or uh, "Za Za gah BORED"--it's very hard to phonetically spell, out so let me get back to you on that.) :/

Who could forget her electrifying win as Miss Hungary of 1936? OK, everyone has forgotten it. But it really did happen and it's worth mentioning because it launched her meteoric rise to the heights of Hollywood Royalty (that's royalty with a small "r"). Even the great John Huston raved, "At her acting best, she was credible." I think he meant to say INcredible but unfortunately he didn't.

Her dizzying rise to stardom (cinched into her signature "Clamato" dress) culminated in the film cult classic "Queen of Outer Space," a Technicolor extravaganza released in 1958 by a studio that refuses to divulge its name.

But the plot was riveting:  A bunch of astronauts crash land on Venus only to find that it's an all-female planet ruled by the evil queen Yllana (played by an actress who's name I forget). And for some reason, this Queen wears a mask all the time. Plus she's banished all men from the planet. Ugh.

Anyhow, the astronauts are taken captive by the glamazon Venusians and brought to Yllana's palace. Luckily, one of the courtiers at the palace is the beautiful, overly ripe and very lusty courtier named Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor). She and a few of her co-courtiers, all "long for the love of a man" (isn't that quaint!) and so they're plotting to overthrow the evil Queen to get some desperately needed lovin'. After all, a girl's got needs, right?

Next scene: one of the astronauts distracts the Queen by twerking wildly to show her how cultured and refined we are on earth. And as she's transfixed oggling his gyrations, he yanks off her mask, poignantly revealing that she's horribly disfigured (oddly resembling a burnt Kraft Jet Puff Marshmallow-I suspect that this was an early version of product placement.) 

Anyhow, so her face looks like a s'more and the tragic reason is shocking: she was exposed to radiation burns "caused by men and their wars." Damn those men! In a fury, the Queen decides to destroy Earth and its twerking inhabitants but then she dies because the astronauts and Talleah/Zsa Zsa and handsome astronauts foil her plot. The Venusians are free again to enjoy the love of men. Yay. Ding dong the Vitch is dead (note my authentic Hungarian pronunciation of W's. They say them kind of like Russians saying Wodka.)

Wait! I forgot the most important part! Right before Talleah/Zsa Zsa overthrows the queen, she hisses to her new boyfriend (the cutest of the imprisoned astronauts), "I HATE ZAT KVEEN!" I know Zsa Zsa meant "I hate that queen"--but it's Zsa Zsa's perfect delivery of that line in pigeon English that has made it a classic. Much like Wodka. Try her line yourself the next time you get upset with a gay guy. It's fun, he'll like it  and it'll be therapeutic all at the same time.

Oh: my other favorite Hungarian/Austrian/German (they all sound the same to me) line in film is from Blazing Saddles, where an exhausted Madeline Kahn (using a Marlene Dietrich Hungarian cum German accent) comments after a long night of….uh…lovemaking, "I'm tired from the vaist down." 

Am I the only one who thinks this stuff is funny? Sometimes I worry… :(

P.S. Anyhow just to make this a real post about antiques, here's a good word to know: Kouros, pronounced "COO rohs." It's a sculpture form of a young male from Ancient Greek sculpture dating to around 500 BC to the onset of the Hellenistic style around 323 BC. They appear very stiff, much like Zsa Zsa's acting. Zing!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


The table shown below is a coffee table. Duh.

It's also a work of art, also sold to a private collector, and also once belonged to James Mayer de Rothschild. No, not the kid who just had the Bar Mitzvah (I took one of the flower arrangements...Gorgeous!) This masterpiece belonged to the French-German banker who founded the French branch of the Rothschild family. It's also conservatively valued at well over $175,000 USD... so you and I couldn't afford it anyhow. I'm just glad I got the flower arrangement (which would actually look very smart on this table):

The top of this table is circa 19th century and was created by the renowned 19th c. masters, the Falcini Brothers. The base was designed and created by C. Mariani Custom Workshop.

But the BIG QUESTION still remains "How high should a coffee table be, Buzz?"- ah yes, that eternal and imponderable question that has plagued mankind for millennia.

Which is understandable because the question "How High the Coffee Table?" is almost as baffling as "How High the Moon?" But that question was already asked back in 1951 by Les Paul and Mary Ford in the first recording ever to feature an electric guitar (I swear!) and became a huge hit for them. Listen for yourself (it's really fantastic!):

BTW, the correct answer is that the moon is 238,900 miles high -- that's just a tad high for a coffee table.

Now that I think about it, if  Les and Mary were smart they would have recorded "How High the Coffee Table?" That baby would have gone PLATINUM. Plus it's so much easier to calculate than the moon thing. And besides, who cares about the moon's height anyhow? Well, Buzz Aldrin but I think he's dead. I should have said deceased. Sounds less dead and more sensitive. Whatever.

Sold but extraordinary because the top stone mosaic is 15th c. Roman

Anyhow, what I want to know (just to prove my point about moon height) is this: Has coffee EVER been served on the moon? Of course not! Why? Isn't it obvious? Because there isn't a single coffee table on the lunar surface!  Duh. And to make matters even weirder, the knuckleheads at NASA are so clueless they only allow TANG to be served on the moon. No wonder no one goes there anymore.

Um, where was I? Oh yeah, coffee tables: A coffee table should be around 18 inches high. But it depends...

The exact coffee table height you need can be affected by the seating surrounding the table as well as the purpose you see the table fulfilling. For example, if you're a board gamer, you'll want the table higher than 18" so people don't have to hunch over to play.

We also create a lot of custom coffee tables at C. Mariani with heights that range from a low of 14" to a high of 26". Test the right height for your needs by sitting on your sofa or club chair and reach for an imaginary Tang cocktail and see where your hand feels comfortable. But 18" is the average.

A Rare English Blue John Stone Coffee Table I sold a few years ago

Factoid you should know: coffee tables weren't invented until the 1920's! Why not? I have no idea and I'm not your mommie! Ugh-I think I have Mommie issues. But the point is that anyone offering you an "antique coffee table" is shady as hell and you should run for the nearest exit. The closest you can get to an antique coffee table is an antique top (like a scagliola, pietra dure, mosaic or marquetry panel) inset into a later base (or an antique table that's had its legs "tipped," meaning the legs were cut down at some point to take the height down and render it pretty worthless as an antique.)

Here are some antique coffee table tops with later bases created by C. Mariani (in our descriptions of tables like these, we specifically call out that they have "later" bases--that's the proper way to do it):

No. 3332

No. 1063

No. 2457

SO PICK UP THE PHONE AND ACT NOW! Call 415 541 7868 - that's 415 541 7868!!! The first 3 lucky callers will get absolutely nothing! :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Whenever you think of elegant and sophisticated French crystal lighting, you automatically think of Bagues. But you never say it out loud because you're worried you'll humiliate yourself by mispronouncing it. And that's good because you probably would. I know I did. :)


Anyhow, Maison Bagues was founded in 1840 and quickly became renowned for their art lighting, hand made and utilizing bronze, clear or rock crystal, and gold or silver leaf. By 1860, the manufactory had moved to Paris and today Maison Bagues can be found nestled under the Viaduct des Arts, Paris, and continues to create recreations of its oldest models, examples of which are currently hung in hotels like George V Four Seasons Paris, The Ritz, The Savoy in London and the Royal Mansour in Marrakech.

Most people mispronounce "Bagues" as "BAG'D GAYS," which is completely wrong. A "bagged-gay" is just a homosexual gentlemen who's partied all night, gotten zero sleep, is coming off God knows what pill (or spent the evening "powdering" his nose in the mensroom) and is, well, totally in the bag. It also refers to the unavoidable dark "hound dog" bags under his eyes which scream for chilled cucumbers to take the swelling down. Elvis sung it best:

But Bagues is completely unrelated to bags of any kind and it's correctly pronounced just "BAG" or "BAG-(guh)"- either is fine. 

But  now you ask, "Ok, Buzz, but how am I supposed to remember this this year's Opera Gala? The thought terrifies me and my doctor won't refill my Xanax prescription." You poor thing. I understand... you're a hot mess. Luckily, I specialize in messes. But I'm afraid you may need more than my blog to screw your head on straight. In the meantime, here's what you should do when that Bagues Panic Attack strikes:

  • First, throw 3 or 4 martinis down your throat, (Grey Goose up, very dry with olives please). 
  • Second, remember that you can master the pronunciation of Bagues simply by associating it with JAMES BROWN, the 1960's King of Soul.  Can you believe how easy that was!?
  • Ok, fine-I know what you're thinking: "Buzz, that makes NO SENSE!" Correct, but what else is new on this blog? Besides, illiterate writing and reasoning are my signature styles of teaching and I consider it a gift as well as the reason I was in Special Ed classes for far to long. Anyhow,  let me explain: here's James Brown:

According to himself,  James was "The hardest working man in show business." And he may have been right because NOBODY perspired more on stage than James did. Ok, Judy did at Carnegie Hall but she was hopped up on 20 diet pills so she doesn't count. But what about James Brown? Well, I suspect the "poor fool" (as James would say) had hyperhidrosis (look it up and be thankful your pits aren't soaked at this very moment). Ick.

I also think James overly-wet himself because he went on stage (est. temperature 95 degrees) wearing a heavy wool cape over a polyester jumpsuit (OMG who doesn't know that polyester doesn't breathe for God's sake!). On top of all that, he insisted on wearing a huge wig-hat on his head (see above). Plus he'd shimmy, gyrate, do the splits (I'm not kidding-he was practically a chorine!), scream like a banshee (HEP ME! HEP ME!) and then collapse in a sopping heap on the floor. His back-up dancers would then rush to his aid, dragging his lifeless but miraculously still singing body offstage to thunderous applause. What a showman! Liberace had nothing on him. Ok, he did but that's another post completely.
No comment.
Anyhow, the point is (yes, there is a point somewhere here) that when you think of James Brown, you remember Bagues crystal because you automatically think of his chart busting hit "Poppa's got a Brand New Bag Part I." 

NPR defines "bag" as "soul slang for a new female love interest." Ridiculous. What does NPR know? Music insiders like myself (and Clive Davis) know that this was the '60's dude! Get with it. Back then "bag" was one of the many "secret hidden street slang words" that only the coolest artists and listening cognoscenti of that era could decipher. Cognoscenti is pronounced "KANYE shentee."  I know you expect me to make a smarmy Kim Kardashian crack here…ok, that was funny…and I just did.

A perfect example of these "street slang lyrics" of the 60's  is "Puff the Magic Dragon" by Peter Paul and Mary.

That dragon is so cute, right? But that song wasn't about a dragon at all! It's hard to say but I think it was about marijuana or maybe just smoking in the boy's room. Or maybe a drag queen. I have no idea but all were verboten back then! True factoid: I've never even tried a cigarette in my entire life. Nor have I done drag. But I have verbotened a coupla times after too many vodka sodas at the Fall Antique Show.

Anyhow, in the 1960's, it just wasn't cool to be a big "Mo" and I think James might have been, sigh, a friend of Dorothy's. But don't believe me - just check out the name Brown cleverly chose for his back- up singers: "The Famous Flames." Uh huh.

Desperate to bust outta the closet (but politically impossible back then), James was trying to share with us with his sexual, uh, bent. He was never interested in women! We know this because:
1. He hated sharing his wig hats, and
2. His ONLY passion was collecting foofy/girly and delicate Bagues crystal sconces like this one:

And 3, it's a little known factoid that James follow up single to "Papa's Gotta a Brand New Bag Part 1" was "Papa's Gotta a Brand New Bag Part 2" which was a disco remix of "I Enjoy Being a Girl." So that's even more evidence to support my point. Sadly, Papa's got blah blah Part 2 was never released for obvious reasons.

Now I forgot what this blog was about. Oh yeah, Bagues crystal. Here's a whopper chandelier in the Chinoiserie style:

And my favorite is this pair of rock crystal girandoles (pronounced "JEER on doles") in the Bagues taste:

No. 3566

This pair is at C. Mariani so if you want them, drop by, we'll crank up some James Brown music (HAVE MOYSEY!) and get bagged on a bottle of Cristal, which ties me right back into the crystal treasures of Bagues. The end. :)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Let me start by saying I have nothing against Geeks or appliqués.

In fact, some of my best friends are Geeks. OK, I can't say I'd be comfortable with one moving next door, but that doesn't mean I don't like them.

Appliqués of baby geeks No. 1554-available

I'm actually a very hip guy--I say gag when I really like something....AND I know geeks are cool now, so I accept their lifestyle choice. I just don't want my daughter marrying one.

Appliqué of another baby geek No. 4256-available

And to all you Geek Activists in San Francisco, please don't send me whiney texts about this. In San Francisco, everyone and everything has an activist group: Insects, Polyester, Dust Mites, Clams, you name it.

I myself am a Gerbil activist (along with other celebrities like Richard Gere). In fact, when biking to work I wear a Go!Cam on my noggin trying to capture videos of Gerbil abuse.

Just look at these adorable angels (OK, they're rodents, but what mom wouldn't want 1000 of them nesting in her nursery?).  I myself own three:

"Shrimp Boy"


and "Stretch"

Awwwwww, so cute, right? OK, so now that we're feeling all warm and fuzzy, let's talk about inhumane torture.

I'm talking about what's "going down" (hip right?) at Guantanamo Bay (pronounced WONTON-uh-mo, BAY): Waterboarding. Blasting the Red Hot Chili Peppers music day and night (this is not a joke-really-Google it). Solitary confinement with no access to Cool Ranch Doritos. They probably even use the tried and true "Iron Maiden." I think we can all agree these are barbaric forms of extracting information from terrorists as well as reappearing cast members on ABC's Scandal (ABC Thursdays at 10|9 central):

The Iron Maiden-ouch, ouch, ouchie!

But for an antique guy like me (no smart cracks about my age), the cruelest and most inhumane torture is having to listen to antique geeks constantly mispronounce one of the most common words in antique-speak: APPLIQUÉ.

It's pronounced "app-lick-KAY" but for some reason everyone says "app-PLEEK." ARRRGGHHH. And it's so darn easy to remember: just think of that catchy jingle from Kay Jewelers: (music) "Every kiss begins with Kay." And then think of its lesser known but equally delightful sister ditty, (music) "Every appliqué ends with Kay." Simple dimple.

I suspect all this appalling mispronunciation of "appliqué" started in 1978 with that disco crowd in New York City. Many of these glitterati were overly rich antique dealers who learned all the French they know at Studio 54 (while "powdering their noses" in the bathroom stalls with Bianca Jagger).

How do I know this? Well, the biggest disco hit of 1978 was the smash Le Freak C'est Chic (pronounced "leh freek say sheek.") So to me it's obvious that calling an appliqué an "App-LEEK" can be directly traced to drugs, alcohol, Studio 54 and some lousy DJ (now waiting tables at Chick-fil-A in Snellville, GA).

This is why I despise discos: BAD FRENCH. Damn you Steve Rubel!

The word appliqué is used a lot when talking antiques because it means so many things! It can mean a wall sconce, a bracket, an architectural element mounted on a wall, or a variety of pieces that are carved or molded and then overlayed on a larger piece.

OK, so now that we know how to pronounce appliqué, let's take a look at some.

Here's a beautiful pair of giltwood wall appliqués (also called trophies) currently hanging in our Gallery. The detail is extraordinary:

No. 3521-available

And this was an amazing pair we had from Florence, 18th c. Italian wrought iron, showing two of the Papal hats:


Look at the hat on the left above. It's called a "Saturno" hat--I think it was designed by the renowned milliner to the Popes, Guido Saturno. But to me, it looks like a cowboy hat. Is there NOTHING new in fashion? Anyhow, the Pope dons this jaunty hat for resort wear, beach volleyball, and romantic picnics on St. Peter's Square. Little known fact: Pope Benedict XVI (shown below) was as much a fashion icon as Princess Di. Sigh. Here's a photo of him wearing his smart chapeau at an impromptu beer bust thrown by the College of Cardinals. College boys, will they ever change? :)

The Pope at Malibu Beach early last year.

More appliqués, these 19th c. polychrome and mecca giltwood with ebonized animal paws grasping candle torcheres:

No. 1059-available

And here's a handsome antique appliqué pair of sconces in silver gilt with tole "leaf" bobeches:


Appliqués are also wall brackets like this rare and gargantuan 18th c. Italian pair in polychrome and parcel gilt:

No. 3196-available

Baroque 18th c. Italian Giltwood sconces with hand-made tapers (hand-made by ME-I kid you not):

No. 2250-available

And this pair of remarkable Italian 17th c. copper clad repoussé wall sconces:

No. 2317-available

So what have we learned from this post? This is a multiple choice question:
   A. Not a whole helluva lot except that I forgot how revolting disco music was.
   B. NOW I know how to pronounce appliqué.
   C. Appliqué means so many things that the word is pretty worthless and so is this blog.

The correct answer is ALL ARE RIGHT! Congratulations--no one's a loser (at least not here).

Here's the most important thing to take away from this post. The word appliqué means so many things (sconces, brackets, stuff that hangs on walls, wall trophies, blah blah), that you're much better off just speaking in terms of what you really want. 

If you want a wall bracket, then say that. A light sconce? Say that. Some dooohicky to hang on your wall? You're on your own and I'm not your mother. 

The thing is, that if you walk into an antique shop and ask for an appliqué, you're just gonna be asked, "What kind?" So save yourself the effort but take great comfort in the knowledge that you know a very sophisticated antique term that comes in very handy with all the parvenus (pronounced PAR-ven-news) at uppity cocktail parties. Buzz out. :)

Legal Disclaimers: I don't own gerbils, I don't ride a bike, I don't wear a Go!Cam on my head; the Red Hot Chili Pepper Torture is absolutely true;  I don't have a daughter-duh.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


It's almost February 14th and you know what that means: VD is right around the corner. So I'm sure you're planning a romantic Valentine's Day  dinner for your "special someone." Awwww. :)

UNRELATED FACTOID: I love this holiday because it reminds me of the 5th Grade when Miriam Lipschitz (yes, pronounced "LIP shits") nervously asked me, "Buzzy, would you be my Valentine?"

Of course, I completely panicked! Did this mean I had to kiss her? Or worse, would I have to go to FIRST BASE with her (whatever that meant-but I heard about it and suspected it could get her pregnant and being a mother at 9 just seemed wrong to me).

So I said, "Uh, well, Miriam, can I think about it?" That took the blush off the rose so I didn't have to worry about her again, but I still remember her fondly. Besides, truth be told, I secretly wanted either Tab Hunter (woof!) or Mousketeer Annette Funicello as my dream date Valentine. But neither called. :(

ANOTHER UNRELATED FACTOID: Ralph Lauren's real last name is actually Lipschitz too. Not kidding. But wait...OMG!.... I wonder if Miriam was related to Ralph which means I could've married her, become a filthy rich Lipschitz and pretended I belonged to the most restricted WASP country clubs just like Ralph and his POLO models do??? WAAAHHHHHH!!!!

But back to the big upcoming romantic dinner: If you're like me, you're wondering what to make for that killer dessert. The one your sweetheart will never forget.

I have the perfect answer: how about a yummy terra cotta Valentine (pronounced "TER uh COT duh"), drizzled with lots of sweet raspberry coulis (pronounced "COOL lee"). Talk about amuse-bouche!!! Pronounced "ahm mooz BOOSH." Trust me, it'll make for an unforgettable evening.

Uh, hang on a second.....lemme think, TERRA COTTA IS THE SAME AS PANNA COTTA, RIGHT?

Well, that depends. If your Valentine is stoned out of his mind-then yes, terra cotta and panna cotta are exactly the same. They both taste like chicken. Buzz's disclaimer on controlled substances: just say no to drugs and spend that money on antiques.

This is important because if your sweetheart is NOT smoking "Valentine weed" (or whatever they call it these days...somebody told me "420" (!?). But I may have just asked for the time-I can't remember I was so out of it....), anyhow if the bf/gf is sober, then the answer is NO, terra cotta is nothing like panna cotta! Here's a pair of late 19th c. terra cotta urns from C. Mariani Antiques, Restoration & Custom:

Would you eat them? Of course not! It's criminal to destroy a perfectly good antique. Duh.

Anyhow, Panna Cotta is a rich dessert that comes from a Jello mold--and it's SO easy to make! In fact, you can prepare it in advance if guests are coming to admire your collection of terra cotta.

Terra Cotta, on the other hand, is just mud that comes from the earth. Well, technically it's a reddish clay used for statues, totems and other objet d'art.

WELL KNOWN FACTOID: Terra cotta doesn't work as a dessert because it tastes gritty, clogs your colon and makes you extremely gassy. In other words, it's an acquired taste.

So now you know. Have a ROMANTIC Valentines Day.