Sylvia’s Halo

A Halo shampoo ad, 1958, and a portrait of young Sylvia Plath

Allow me to skip the definition of dinner because I just ate it. That’s how I feel writing a blog about another blog. However I can’t resist. Here goes:

Title: The Cypress Scent of Halo Shampoo

Illustration: a Halo shampoo ad from the 1950s

Intro: The book-loving blogger (Katherine Sedgwick) describes her latest acquisition, a breezy bio relating the youthful adventures of misunderstood poet, Sylvia Plath. The book is set in 1953, when Sylvia worked at Mademoiselle magazine in New York City.

A quote from the breezy bio’s inside flap informs us: “Sylvia lived at the Barbizon hotel … danced at the West Side Tennis Club, typed rejection letters to writers from The New Yorker and ate an entire bowl of caviar at an advertising luncheon. She stalked Dylan Thomas and fought off an aggressive diamond-wielding delegate from the United Nations. She took hot baths, had her hair done, and discovered her signature drink (vodka, no ice).”

Sedgwick confesses she’s reviewing a book she hasn’t yet read (well done!) However she did flip the book open and discovered this: “Mademoiselle’s rooms were mirrored, dark green and pink – fragrant with the cypress scent of Halo shampoo.”

Sedgwick, who also used Halo Shampoo when she was a girl, notes: “Who knew on those 1960s bath nights in tiny Queensborough, Ont., that I had something in common–shampoo–with the glamorous before-she-was-famous poet who worked at a glossy fashion magazine in New York City?”

Postscript: a TV commercial of Halo Shampoo from the 1960s.

What I like here is how three threads at first seem disconnected (the blogger, an ad for shampoo and the biography of a famous writer). When we learn that the blogger and famous writer both use the same shampoo, it sets off a marvelous nostalgia for youth, ambition and shiny hair. In a few words, we learn quite a lot. Sylvia Plath lives in snob city (she stalks Dylan Thomas, rejects New Yorker writers) while fending off a few stalkers of her own. She works in fashion, but is not defined by it–she may be happy (the signature vodkas) or unhappy (the signature vodkas). We don’t know. I like the name dropping, the hotels, the advertising luncheons, though the entire bowl of caviar (how big was the bowl?) sounds uncomfortable. The overall impression is greatness awaits– portrait of the artist as a young woman, but in the meantime, it’s Halo Shampoo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *