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Calm Down, Dad! Here, Have A Donut– They’re Simply Irresistible

September 5, 2014

As mentioned in this August post, I did some illustrations for an essay called In My Clothes. In it, the author looks back on her life, using the clothes she was wearing at the time as a reference point.

For me, certain passages will often trigger ideas for an illustration. Things can really get interesting when several passages combine to inspire an idea.

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Consider these three separate passages from the essay In My Clothes. The author is writing about her early teenage years:

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We read the entire V.C. Andrews series. I love them for their descriptions of fabulous wealth, for beds carved into swans, and a cruel, beautiful mother willing to poison her children with powdered donuts. We laugh and cry and laugh at the stories. “Don’t eat the powdered donuts!” We say to one another.

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We go back to Melissa’s and I dress up in everything in the closet, to see what it all looks like. Our favorite is a black dress, red lipstick, a simple necklace. Short, cropped hair slicked back. Melissa takes a picture of me in front of the piano. “Like a Robert Palmer girl,” she says, laughing. “Man! You look so white. Your eyes are huge!”

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In one of his fits, my father storms into the closet, ripping up the dresses… Afterwards, the reconciliation. This wasn’t, I am told, because of the clothes, but an outlet for his anger… It’s my voice. It drives him to these things. See what you did. See what you did to your father.

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Poison donuts. A Robert Palmer girl. A father subject to fits of rage. The following image sprang to mind. I can’t really explain the yellow teeth. They seemed right.

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Teenage girl wearing Robert Palmer Girl dress and makeup dark eye shadow mascara red lipstick tossing poison powdered donut into mouth of her angry father who's in a rage with flames leaping from his head with black smoke

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I’d heard the name V.C. Andrews, but knew nothing about her. Didn’t even realize it was a woman. Her specialty: Teen Gothic: sex, horror, dysfunctional families with secrets.

Flowers in the Attic (1979) was her first bestseller. Four kids are imprisoned in an attic. They’re abused by their sadistic grandmother. Mom tries to poison them with arsenic-laced donuts so she can inherit the family fortune. I don’t think I’ll be reading it anytime soon.

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Two interesting facts:

Andrews died in 1986. Her estate hired a ghostwriter who has continued to write books in her name till this very day.

Andrews was a commercial artist and illustrator before she became a writer. That’s one of her paintings on the right, below. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but it seems to suggest a poor little prisoner in an attic.

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Photo of gothic horror author V.C. Andrews holding her first book Flowers In The Attic, and her painting of wide-eyed plaintive little girl in frilly dress

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You know what a Robert Palmer Girl is, of course. Well, you do if you know who Robert Palmer is, and have seen a certain slightly notorious 1980’s music video (see end of post).

They have very pale faces; short, severely pulled-back hair; heavy dark eye makeup; and extremely red lips. Here’s a still from Palmer’s video for Addicted To Love.

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Still photo from Robert Palmer Addicted To Love video showing girl with white face, dark eye mascara and makeup, and very red lips

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I think I caught the look pretty well. The more extreme the look, the easier it is to capture. Here’s a larger detail image.

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detail image of Teenage girl wearing Robert Palmer Girl dress and makeup dark eye shadow mascara red lipstick tossing poison powdered donut into mouth of her angry father who's in a rage with flames leaping from his head with black smoke

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The Addicted To Love video featured five Robert Palmer Girls, who were clearly chosen
for their musicianship… Not.

The video for a subsequent hit, Simply Irresistible, featured a lot more RP Girls. No one’s ever accused the pop music industry of originality or good taste. We must look to illustrators for these qualities…

Here’s Addicted in all its grainy glory.

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Any Gothic horror fans out there? Are they the sort of books one can take to the beach?

Has anyone ever dressed up as a Robert Palmer Girl, say, for a Halloween party? How about a job interview??

Do you think you’ll ever be able to eat another powdered donut after reading this post??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

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Gypsy In The Morning: Django Reinhardt Alarm Clock

How To Hang Loose, Fly A Jeep & Why It’s A Good Idea To Number Your Rocks

Sometimes An Illustrator Has To Fiddle Around

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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2014 11:34 AM

    I love the way you combined all those fragments into your illustration. I would have picked that look for a Robert Palmer girl even if you had not mentioned it. Hideous. I judder at the memory. I do like gothic horror, since you ask, but have not tried the teen variety as the romance elements don’t appeal. ‘Frankenstein’ is one of my favourite novels of all time and is the (high) standard to which I hold all other gothic writing. Susan Hill’s ‘Woman in Black’ is another favourite.

    Like

    • September 5, 2014 9:35 PM

      Thanks so much, nice to see you again. Robert Palmer Girls… where have they gone?? Probably locked in attics somewhere, still trying to learn how to play their instruments… : )

      I’ve never read Frankenstein. Seen the movies, of course. Since most books are vastly superior to their movie counterparts, I should probably read the original. I shall pick up a copy, and wait for a dark and stormy night… : )

      I struggled thru Wilkie Collins’ The Woman In White once. The Woman In Black sounds a lot more gothic. Many thanks for your kind comment and support!

      Like

  2. September 5, 2014 2:10 PM

    Where do I start, my talented friend?!!!! From your brilliant interpretation of course! Perfect to the detail! Yellow teeth are from the donuts [the teeth obviously saw the donuts coming and instantly turned yellow!]. The Palmer girl was recognizable before reading about it and actually looks much better than the real ones! You can probably guess I’m not much of a Palmer fan, so no, I never dressed up as one! Brilliant work -AS ALWAYS, Mark. You have earned [a long time ago actually] a spot in Mt Olympus! 🙂

    Like

    • September 5, 2014 10:27 PM

      My dear Goddess of Brush, Canvas, Watercolor, India Ink, and Acrylic!! Your exquisite comment has put a smile of Olympian proportions on my sweet face, exposing my big yellow teeth! I ran out of toothpaste, and had to use mustard… : (

      I doubt Robert Palmer Girls would fit in on Mt. Olympus. There’s something very disturbing about black togas… : P

      There’s an opening for a janitor on Mt. O., and I may apply. I could bring you baklava from the cafeteria, and sweep up any laurel leaves that fall, as you dip and whirl before your easel, creating your next masterpiece. Sounds like my kinda job!! : )

      Like

      • September 6, 2014 5:50 PM

        Oh, no, my dear Mark, no janitors on Mt. Olympus. It’s a place of gods and well, demis [like me!] only, so get ready! Baklava is most welcome though… I can’t tell you how much!!!! 🙂

        Like

  3. September 7, 2014 3:19 AM

    Brilliant work Mark, yellow teeth and all. I love how you achieved the plastic lips of the Palmer girls 😉

    Like

    • September 8, 2014 7:58 AM

      Thanks, Jen! You can’t beat yellow teeth when it comes to gaudy showmanship. I suppose the same can be said of red plastic lips! Kinda makes me nostalgic for my misspent childhood. I remember buying wax lips and candy cigarettes at the corner store. Yup, we had real vice back in those days!! Always great to see you, thanks for your kind comment! : )

      Like

  4. September 7, 2014 6:53 AM

    Great combination! The personified evils comes together.
    And very close to my true experiences 🙂 Bad people have always yellow chompers!
    And like all movies evidence – the cowboy with the black hat, the lady with black hair, and all the other dark guises, are always the bad guys! Life is simple!

    Would really be keen to see how the story goes on! I’ll have an eye on you and your witty donuts!

    Like

    • September 8, 2014 8:25 AM

      Yes indeed, my dear Tutti!– when personified evils come together, there’s a very good chance you’re reading my blog… : (

      I hate to say it, but sometimes very pure, good, and angelic people like myself can have yellow teeth. Like when I put too much mustard on my bratwurst, for example. Or when I eat corn-on-the-cob, and the little pieces get stuck in my teeth. I guess that’s why they invented floss and toothbrushes… : )

      White hats, black hats– yes, life is simple. I wish people could remember to wear their hats. When they don’t, it confuses things… : P

      I’ll share more illustrations from In My Clothes in a future post. Yes, there’s always lots of excitement here at Armstrong’s Witty Donut Shop!! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  5. September 7, 2014 12:44 PM

    Mark … Your illustration, as always, nails it. The gothic girl tossing donuts to deranged Dad … Perfect.

    While I love Frankenstein (as does papiet who wrote here), I am not a fan of other gothic novels. I never read V.C. Andrews’ “Flowers in the Attic.” The plot was disturbing and, as we have found in recent years, it has happened to some children and adults.

    The Robert Palmer girls are beautiful, but emotionless and, yes, they lack musical skills.

    Skewer them all, Mark! Love your illustrations. 😉

    Like

    • September 8, 2014 9:13 AM

      Ha!! My dear Judy! “Skewer them all!” made me howl with delight. I had a fleeting image of myself as Captain Blood, only with a pen, not a sword. Move over, Errol Flynn!! : )

      Interesting how Frankenstein has endured, while many modern gothic novels quickly fade into obscurity. A lot has to do with Frank’s being the first of its kind, but still, I think there’s an important lesson there for artists and writers: a true work of art involves more than shock value. Comedians and humorists could take a tip there as well…

      That Palmer video was directed by a British fashion photographer– which may explain how models got involved. And according to this SongFacts page, the models were chosen because they did not know how to play instruments! Also: the models and Palmer were filmed separately, then edited together. A beautiful fabrication. And that was almost 30 years ago– think how we’re being hoodwinked now!!

      Thanks as ever, Judy, for your wonderful comments and support! : )

      Liked by 1 person

  6. September 10, 2014 11:54 PM

    Well, you do have to give the Robert Palmer girls credit for one thing – they memorized all three of the dance steps…

    Like

    • September 12, 2014 7:38 AM

      Haw!! You can’t beat a Margie quip, and that one made me roar!! Anything requiring more than two steps is always a challenge for me, so yup, I give them gals a lotta credit… : )

      Always a pleasure, Margie– many thanks!

      Like

  7. Lily permalink
    September 11, 2014 5:07 PM

    That illustration really captures the point perfectly. You got the Robert Palmer girl down to a tee!

    Also, after reading this, I had the realisation that Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’ music video was a spoof of those Robert Palmer girls. We learn something new everyday 😛

    Powdered donuts, huh? I’ll add them next to poisoned apples on the list of ‘foods not to eat’ 🙂

    Like

    • September 12, 2014 7:55 AM

      My dear Lily!! I can’t thank you enough for bringing that Shania Twain video to my attention. I’d never seen it, and I laughed all the way thru it. Nothing I enjoy more than a spoof where someone pays close attention to all the details, and that one mimicked Palmer’s Addicted To Love video to perfection. We do indeed learn something new every day– thank you, Professor!

      Your ‘Foods Not To Eat’ quip really made me laugh. Anything with a little skull and crossbones definitely belongs in that category!! Always great to see you, thanks for your most informative comment!! : )

      Like

  8. September 13, 2014 10:35 AM

    Gothic horror or romantic or whatever hasn’t been my thing at all. So what you told us about VC Andrews as a writer, I didn’t know much at all.

    I think you might want to try a take on relationships between teens who have the Gothic look and their parents…the adjustments to fads, etc.

    Like

    • September 16, 2014 8:49 AM

      Hi, Jean! What’s that?– you’re not a gothic horror person?? You surprise me… I’m kidding, of course… : )

      That’s a very interesting question: how do their parents relate to Goth teens? I find myself wondering what said parents look like: unconventional like their kids, or conventional types that the kids are, presumably, rebelling against? The nature of “Goth family relationships” sounds like a perfect subject for a future Rumpus essay.

      Thanks as always, Jean, for pedaling by! : )

      Like

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