Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Attitude is a Terrible Thing to Waste....

This is one of my favorite sayings from the many hundreds of smart-ass phrases I've read and laughed at over the years on cards, napkins and a variety of other products created by Anne Taintor.

While you may not know her name, I suspect you've likely seen her products in fun gift shops over the past two and a half decades. She always uses vintage photos and adds sarcastic, funny captions like "frugal is such an ugly word," "I dreamed my whole desk was clean" and "just file it under who cares." Anne Taintor has given me a lot of laugh-out-loud moments over the years.

A few months ago I was surprised to learn she also does calenders when I spotted one in a co-worker's office. I was flabbergasted to learn the calendar came from another City Hall colleague, our new planning director who happens to Anne Taintor's brother. He told me she was running a caption contest on her web site at and suggested I give it a try.

For a few days I submitted so many entries I thought I might be accused of being a caption stalker. In the end, none were chosen -- apparently I'm only exceptionally clever and funny in my own mind -- but it occurred to me that the 25th anniversary of the company founded by a woman who found a way to make money from being smart and funny (while the rest of us give it away for free) might be worthy of a news story. Fortunately for me, the editors of AARP Bulletin agreed.

Not only did I get the opportunity to chat via phone with Anne, I also got to interview the beautiful blonde whose face accompanies my favorite saying. Would you believe she's 90 now? I learned that Georgia Carroll was a high-fashion model for about six years in the 1940s, won bit parts in over a dozen films and then gave it all up to raise a family with a famous bandleader of that era. Because her photos are now in the public domain, she's recently seen her image in unexpected places -- including on the anniversary can for Spam and illustrating a news article about beautiful complexions in a New York newspaper. These days Georgia, who earned her college degree at 50, is planning to write a book about the cover girls of her era.

She's also part of a group that Anne Taintor calls her "Taintorettes" -- the real women who posed for the ads portraying an idealized version of domesticity, like women vacuuming in pearls and high heels. (Did anyone EVER do that?) Georgia first learned her face was part of some Taintor creations when her daughter's friend spotted Georgia's photo on a set of file folders and left them for the daughter a gift. When she opened the cellophane package she discovered the friend's mother, also a fashion model from that era, was featured in the file folders collection, as well.

Anne Taintor is a native of Maine, but now lives in New Mexico. She told me she once thought her audience was primarily women her age (mid-50s), but she hears from girls as young as 14 and women as old as 84 -- as well as gay men -- who appreciate her brand of humor. I asked if she considered her art feminist, since it features captions like "and to think I'm only using one-tenth of my brain" and "was it just her imagination or were all the men in her life just babies?"

Her response: "I'm told it is, but I don't really think in those kinds of terms. Certainly it's feminist in that I've always rebelled against cultural expectations."

It's an outlook especially appreciated by those who agree "an attitude is a terrible thing to waste." To read my story about Anne Taintor, click here.


Karen said...

Pat, congratulations, great post and great article in the AARP Bulletin! What a wonderful idea to interview her,and I had no idea she'd been doing these captions and products for 20 years now!

PatRemick said...

Thanks! It was a wonderful treat to get to talk to Anne Taintor -- and I really enjoy doing the AARP Bulletin stories.

Cher'ley said...

Love those little quotes; I'm going to check her out, sounds fun. Thanks.