Sunday, June 27, 2010

Designing Actor and Author

His mother Gayle  knows him as a wonderful and beloved son who shared her story (and brought her cancer struggle to life) in a "momoir," the residents of his hometown New Orleans value him as a supportive store owner who continually gives back to their unfairly battered city and fans of AMC's enormously popular Mad Men love him as Salvatore Romano, the former Art Director of Sterling Cooper.

I chatted with actor, designer and author Bryan Batt this past Friday afternoon (who is enormously engaging and bordering on the point of wickedly witty I might add) about his recent book, his departure from Mad Men and his designing pursuits.

Bryan recently published a chronicle of his life growing up in New Orleans and his strong-willed straight-out-of-Steel-Magnolia mom Gayle who is battling cancer for the fourth time at the age of 70. The book She Ain't Heavy, She's My Mother (Harmony Books) is quite the entertaining read, particularly for those of us that grew up and/or live in the South and/or have supportive mothers. Apparently Bryan told so many of his mother's amusing anecdotes that it prompted a friend to warn him "if you don't write these down, I will" and a book was born. Part loving tribute/part memoir and many times part hilarity, Bryan talks of his life growing up gay in the Deep South (first hint, he asked for an Easy Bake Oven at an early age, second, he was into musical comedies) and showbiz as he shares tales of acting in Hollywood. The book has a somber yet hopeful tone as he details his mother's struggles with cancer which she faces now for the fourth time. Gayle is currently on protocol drugs and hopefully, it's a battle she will continue to win.

Bryan's character in Mad Men was a closeted art director who was outed and fired (after all, it was the sixties) this past season.  His performance as the talented yet tortured Sal was heart wrenching to watch -- and brilliant -- I only hope the Emmy voters take note and writers decide to bring him back for another season. Fans can also see him in the upcoming indie film Brawler and the comedy Sam, directed by none other than Mel Brooks son. He has a one-man play coming up called Batt on a Hot Tin Roof. He also starred in Broadway's Starlight Express (his mom threw him a "coming out party" at the Russian Tea Room) along with Cats, Sunset Boulevard, La Cage and Seussical just to name a few. And he's even be immortalized on the wall via characterture at Sardi's.

His talents don't rest with writing and acting as he is also adds accomplished interior designer to his resume. Bryan has designed homes in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans (he resides in all three cities) and his design mantra is simply "If it looks right, it is." When pressed for some design pearls of wisdom he offers "don't be afraid of color, what has it ever done to you" and his look is eclectic as he believes in designing with "a great mix, like a martini shaken and stirred." Bryan's Magazine Street shop Hazelnut (co-owned with his longtime partner of Tom Cianfichi) is a design and gift shop that offers everything from Vietri tableware to frames, candles and pottery.

Of particular interest is his line of fabrics that pay homage to his native city and drawn by artist Sonia O'Mara based on his own original sketches - Toile (Delphine, Magnolia, Claret and Cafe au' Lait) and a Lily Pulitzer inspired Pontchartrain Beach. The fabrics can be found in everything from duvet covers and shower curtains to ice buckets and lacquered trays. And yes, the fabrics can be purchased by the yard. A portion of the proceeds from the fabrics and bedding lines will go to victims of the Gulf oil spill. He is also working on a book "Mad About Design" to be published by Clarkson Potter next year.

You can read more on my interview with Bryan and his book later this week on The Huffington Post (check the book section in the next several days). He is clearly someone who you'd love to sit down with several cocktails and endlessly chat and since that is not possible, his book is the next best thing. Here's hoping we see more of his talents on Broadway and the small and silver screen as well...and on the cast of this season's Mad Men as I don't like change and prefer to see the old Sterling Cooper gang intact. Fingers crossed!

Photos courtesy of Harmony Books, www.Bryan, Hazelnut.


While this may not be Cinema Style, it's somewhat movie related. I wanted to share with you my friend Amanda Soll  new line of home accessories called Ribbon Made (her labor of love when she is not promoting movies at Warner Brothers). A great source for everything from wedding to children's gifts and in between, items can be purchased through her Ribbon-Made site on Etsy. Her work can be custom and I especially like her trays -- course I have been mad for anything out of grosgrain ribbon since grammar school! Congrats Amanda!

Ribbon Cocktail Tray

Damask Bin

Letters for Children's Rooms