If you don’t know who Marianne Faithfull is, then you’re not a Rolling Stones fan. You should probably find out who she is, though, just in case you bump into a Stones fan, a fashionista, a 60’s or 70’s aficionado, a cinephile, or someone who knows the history of cool.
Today, some people spend millions of dollars on a marketing/PR drive to make themselves cool. They waive giant banners across all media to say, “Look at me and how cool I am!” They use a megaphone to broadcast their message, deluge us with reminders lest we forget.
Once upon a time, though, some people simply wandered around ignoring the entire concept of cool and still managed to be swathed in it. Like Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier, James Dean, Johnny Cash, Peter O’Toole, and Jimi Hendrix. And Marianne Faithfull.
Was she a banner of decadence in her youth? Yes. Even she will tell you that, now, bu do not make the mistake of thinking that indulgent joie de vivre is what made her cool. Nobody really knows what makes someone cool, except perhaps Lester Bangs or Hunter S. Thompson (and I’m pretty sure it’s what drove them mad). Either way, that undeniable magnetism, which the magazine editors and movie producers can only feebly describe as the “it” factor, existed separate from Marianne’s indulgent lifestyle and continues to exist now that she’s left the lifestyle behind.
What A Nice Sword You’ve Got. Gimme!
As her co-star in1968’s The Girl on a Motorcycle/Naked Under Leather, Alain Delon, once famously said, “She is the type of girl men fought dragons for in mythology, the type that duels have been fought over.” She is a magical pixie-girl whose very attention to you could fix all the world’s ills and make you feel, for a brief moment, as though you might be special, too. She was adored and coveted but she was not dominated by that objectification. Marianne Faithfull transcended the shackles of masculine appreciation and carved a place at the table for herself. She refused to abide the meekness of Paris and instead stole his sword to wade into the battle of Troy.
So, last night I happened upon a mention of “Sister Morphine” and realized I had started to forget about this one-time fetishist fulcrum and feminist frenemy. As punitive action, I sought out my favourite photo of Marianne Faithfull and made this wallpaper. Hopefully it will help me remember that, in the Brief History of Cool, it wasn’t just a bunch of dudes who had that unmistakable yet indefinable boon.
Furthermore, perhaps against the clamor and rattling of phallic rulership, the emergence of a woman as a comet of cool should be admired with even greater awe.