The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia on August 28, 1982 · Page 125
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The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia · Page 125

Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date:
Saturday, August 28, 1982
Page 125
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The Age', 28 August Saturday Extra AS-BEFITS a family whose name is synonymous with prestige and gOpd taste, the Guccis are upholding an old Italian tradition: " Pakni sporchi si lavanno in famiglia" dirty clothes are washed at home, within the family. - In the elegant palazzo in Via ty ornabuoni that is the Florence headquarters of the multi-national fashion family, Roberto's secretary politely but firmly insists that Roberto the firm's administrator and indeed Aldo the firm's head as well as Giorgio, Maurizio and Rodolfo, are all on holiday. Unavailable, unfindable, . unable to comment, very sorry. This is not strange as, according to tradition, most Italians abandon tfieir ancient cities to tourists for almost the entire summer. 'But ever since the Gucci prodigal son Paolo filed a $13.1 million lawsuit against the rest of the family and their US company, Gucci Shops Inc., Aldo, Roberto, Maurizio, Giorgio and Rodolfo have been keeping a very low profile. "Paolo Gucci, 51 a citizen of Haiti who lives and works in New York, has accused brothers Giorgio and Roberto and cousin Maurizio of "wilfully and maliciously assaulting, batting and beating the plaintiff about his person, using their hands, fists, and various objects" at the behest and instigation of the defendants Aldo Gucci (his father) and Rodolfo Gucci (his uncle, once a feted film star under the pseudonym Maurizio D'Ancora). ' The elegant shop windows of the House of Gucci attract almost as many tourists in Rome and Florence as the Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps and the Uffizl Gallery. .'For a mere $70 or so they can buy a silver key ring in the form of the famous GG or a leather vest for. about $400. Gucci is not cheap. For its summer sale in Rome it threw out its old stock of canvas and leather sneakers with the familiar red-and-green stripe; in less than 24 hours the whole collection had been bought and elegant double-G prints covered Italy's streets, beaches and tennis courts. That double-G was born last century when Guccio Gucci marked his horse-feed bags with his initials td provide customers with identifi- From Wendy Owen in Rome cation in the paddocks. The saddle factory which he started in a small shop in Florence with four workmen also produced horse girths made of webbing woven in red-and-green stripes, now the colors of the Gucci emblem. Gucci then began making handbags and suitcases, and has not looked back. The company has been continually expanding and the Gucci family now headed by Guccio's son, 70-year-old Aldo has become a multi-national company with an annual turnover last year of millions of dollars. The parent company, Guccio Gucci Pry. Ltd., controls Gucci Perfumes, Gucci: Export and Gucci Shops Inc. of New York, with 40 shops in Italy, France, London, Hong Kong and the US and 180 authorised retail outlets throughout the world. But the celebrated double-G has come to represent more than success. Gucci means prestige and good taste. A moccasin with the buckle which Aldo designed is on -display at the Metropolitan' Museum of Modern Art in New York. Shirley MacLaine's throw-away line, that Andrew Peacock was the only politician she knew with a Gucci toothbrush, was a marvellously double-edge compliment The financial success of the company is apparently assured and it is reportedly planning to open another 100 shops throughout the world within the next three .years. Whether the prestige of a pair of double-G sneakers was reduced when Paolo told the courts that his family had thrown a tape recorder at his head after a meeting of the Gucci board of directors that is, the family in Florence this summer has yet to be determined, though it's unlikely. When a New York magazine said that though Gucci may claim to be among the most exclusive fashion and accessory houses in the world it had the rudest shop assistants in town, it did not affect the flow of customers one bit To protect its faithful, prestige customers, Gucci opened an exclusive art gallery on top of one of its stores on New York's exclusive' (Disappearing world of elephant lore A. FEW months ago, when I was crossing Ploenchit Road in Bangkok, I saw to my great surprise and joy, a full-grown elephant with a driver, bearing on its back a load of plastic buckets. . The surprise was all the greater since Ploenchit Road is one of the noisiest and most hellish in what is a city maddened by motor traffic; and elephants are no longer common even in northern Thailand because of the wicked destruction of 80 per cent of the country's teak forest The attack by Japan on nature in South-East Asia may come to be seen as far more pernicious and lasting than anything done to human beings during the second world war. An elephant even when burdened with plastic buckets, would purely have gladdened the heart of the first Chakri king who founded Bangkok 200 years ago. The first of the dynasty, Rama I, was a special-"1st in the elephant craft and loved the beasts so much that he wanted 7 to. build a causeway for them to ; "Bangkok over the swamp. His ad-1 visers warned him that this would fay him open to Burmese attack. The elephant was revered but not always sensibly treated in !$ome of the other old kingdoms of ,-Indo-China. In Burma, at what is how Mandalay, a British diplomat . in, the 1830s witnessed the unsuccessful staging of elephant fights: '."The elephant is not a courageous linimal, nor is it pugnacious. After l&jencontre which does not last "jjipve a few seconds, one of the ' parties is sure to run away." -.v.dnly decadent kings or princes .tried to pervert the elephant into unnatural behavior like fighting. The wisdom and usefulness of the -beasts were more often acknowledged in South-East Asia and noted , by Europeans as well. "In my judgment there is not a beast so -intellective as are the elephants, .nor of more understanding in all the world," wrote the Venetian .jCaesar Frederick.. Quoting this in "The Making of Burma', Dorothy Woodman wrote that the 16th-century traveller ."was in fact an early edition of Elephant Bill". . This was a reference to the book '.Elephant Bill' by Lt-Col. J. H. Williams, published in 1950, and just now republished in paperback .form. As an animal book it ranks with the very greatest like 'Jock of the Bushveldt', and ought to be read not only for fun, but to draw attention to what ecologists call an 'Endangered species" not only endangered, but surely quite as worthy of preservation as man. - Colonel Williams went out to :Burma after the first world war as elephant man to one of the teak .firms, but he was not one of those animal lovers who hate the human ".race. v Colonel Williams corrects some of the legends that have attached to elephants. They can forget although they will long remember a From RICHARD WEST in London kindness like medical treatment They are not frightened of mice but loathe dogs, even puppies. The training of elephants, even of those who are born in the wild, need not involve any serious cruelty; scarcely more discipline than is needed by human children. Elephants have a life cycle exactly matching the human, so that the beast may grow up alongside its oozie, or driver, and grow old in friendship and understanding. Elephants fall in love like human beings, but when the female has given birth she takes as companion and helper another female or "auntie". Together they guard the calf against the tiger, which tries to drive off mother and "auntie" in a stampede. "To do this," Colonel Williams explains, "he will first attack the mother, springing on her back and stampeding her; then he returns to attack "auntie", who defends the calf, knowing that in a few moments the mother will return. Colonel Williams would sit up all night to discover when elephants sleep, and for how long. "The time is never the same, but it is always at that eerie hour when even the insects stop their serenades." "Savage elephants .-e as rare as really wicked men," Colonel Williams said, but they sometimes have fits of bad temper. He tells how a young European assistant home on leave, tried to impress his mother and sister by giving commands to an elephant at the London Zoo. "Shall I make her sit down?" he asked, then shouted out 'Hmit!', like a Burmese oozie. The elephant merely swished her tail. 'Hmit! Hmit! Hmit!' At last the elephant condescended to notice him . . . With lightning swiftness, she seized a lump of her dung the size of a cottage loaf and slung it at the young assistant It missed him, but it knocked a feather out of his mother's hat and exploded against the wall behind." When the Japanese invaded in 1942, Williams used elephants to carry a group of women out of Burma over the mountains to India, at an altitude higher than Hannibal reached when crossing the Alps. The journey included a stretch on a ledge that was narrower than the width of an elephant, overlooking a precipice. Colonel Williams, who suffered from vertigo, led the party on all fours, with his eyes shut; but not one human or elephant fell. Later, Williams employed his beasts on building bridges for Slim's 14th Army. Elephants were again used in war by American Special Forces in Vietnam in 1967, near the Cambodian border, west of the town of Ban Me Thuot As it happens, I was the first and I think the only reporter, to travel by elephant on a military operation in Vietnam. Both helicopters and jet planes had been attacking the elephants, so our little party carried the Stars and Stripes to drape on the animals' backs at the sound of approaching aircraft Elephant-riding involved other perils, especially the big red ants that drop off the branches on to your hair and shirt, but I found myself growing to love this way of travelling through the forest To quote from a book I wrote soon afterwards: "We forded a shallow stream in which the animals drank and showered and enjoyed themselves. We passed through a plain of tall, silken elephant grass, which the Viet Cong in these parts use as shelter for ambushes. The driver pointed out gaudy lizards and stick insects crouched on the tree trunks and branches. The American and Mohtagnard troops had lit many brush fires in this forest to rob the Viet Cong of their shelter and once a gust of wind brought a ripple of flame to the convoy, the elephants reared on their hind legs, uttered a trumpeting squeal and bolted into the bamboo brush, but luckily none of the riders lost his balance." At that point I got off and walked the rest of the way. The Saigon command did not approve of the elephants, nor indeed the special forces, the Green Berets, whom I liked and admired. Few of the animals survived the war. The region west of Ban Me Thuot where we went by elephant through the forest, was used by the North Vietnamese to launch their final offensive against the south in March 1975. When I went back to Vietnam two years ago, I travelled a little in what had once been elephant country but got no chance to go near the Cambodian border. But one might expect that whatever their faults, the new communist rulers of Vietnam are conservationists. Unlike the capitalists of, for instance, Thailand, they will not allow the forests to disappear for a few quick yen. Apparently Burma is good in this respect When Colonel Williams finished his book, in 1950, he noted sardonically that the socialist government of Burma had nationalised the elephants; which may have turned out well. It is hard for the tourist to get permission to enter the northern part of the country to see the elephants and the teak forests but so one hears, they still survive, along with the tigers, the oozies and sprites. Richard West, author of 'Sketches from Vietnam' (1968) and 'Victory in Vietnam' (1974), is just completing a third, called 'Peace in Vietnam', on the still-continuing war in South-East Asia. Spectator Fifth Avenue. Aldo Gucci called it a "cultural concept in retailing" and issued personal keys to big-spending customers. The less, privileged have to make an appointment with the manager. It is precisely on this matter of prestige that the Gucci family feud is based, according to Vittorio Scutti,, who writes for the Italian weekly magazine 'L 'Espresso'. Paolo has never liked the policy of conserving prestige, he says. He would even like to see Gucci products in the supermarkets. And for this reason he abandoned the direction of the Gucci factory in Scandicci, a suburb of Florence, "officially after a final discussion on methods of marketing, unofficially because (he was) suspected by the family of having promoted in some way the production of false Gucci products. : The real reason for this argument wasn't a vulgar contest for power, Mr Scutti said, but a dispute to decide whether there existed in the world two Gucci symbols, competing against each other. The threat of a schism in the House of Gucci ?the empire on which the Sun never sets, and whose trademark is guarded like the Holy Grail" is very real, according to Mr Scutti In his suit filed in the New York Supreme Court last month. Pnnin accuesd his relatives of breach of contract causing him emotional harm and physically attacking him during the meeting of the board of directors in Italy. Paolo Gucci became the chief designer for the Italian parent company in the late 1960s and in 1978 was named vice-president in charge of marketing for the American company. His lawyer, Mr Stuart Speiser, said bis client designed 80 per cent of the products in the present catalogue. When he was discharged from the family business in September 1980, he began work as an independent designer. He then sought in a Federal lawsuit authority to use the Gucci name without infringing upon the Gucci trademark. But Judge Lee Gagliardi, of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, dismissed the suit. . The new lawsuit asserts that the Gucci family persuaded Paolo to return to the company as a vice-president last February, but conspired to prevent him from taking an active role. - According to court papers and Mr Speiser, when all the Guccis had gathered in Florence for a. board meeting, Paolo Gucci "attempted to question the conspiratorial and malicious conduct of the defendants and the assault had' occurred". Calls to the Mahattan offices of Gucci Shops Inc. were referred to a public relations agent In Italy, journalists have tried also with great difficulty to get the Guccis to comment Father Aldo made a brief statement to Italy's prestige paper 'Corriere Dela Sera. "The story has been overblown," he said, and he denied the part concerning the tape recorder. Paolo had for some time wanted to go into the business using the Gucci name, the paper said. This had been agreed providing he used his full name Paolo Gucci and not just the illustrious surname. For the 70-year-old Gucci patriarch who spends most of his time in a Hollywood-style abode in Manhattan, leaving the effective administration to his son Roberto, it was really just a matter of father giving son a slap or two to bring him to his senses. Purely a $13 million family affair. Ac . y . iM... 53 mi HI V . aT i wSf Wr hf Vrf V Iff r ' m mm m. -rj J m 63 m LE O N A R THE GEN DO i us A Unique Exhibition Of Leonardo da Vinci Anatomical Drawings Irom Tlie Royal Library, WmdsorC ADMISSION: Adults $3.50. CONCESSIONS: $1.50. FAMILY TICKETS: $9. (Please note that last admission will be 1 hour before advertised dosing times.) Proudly sponsored by THE NATIONAL GALLERYOF VICTORIA. AUGUST28th.-OCT 6th. Tliis is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see some of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous anatomical drawings. Eighty original pen drawings on fragile 500 year old hand crafted paper a development of Leonardo's thought and skill spanning nearly three decades. Truly incredible illustrations drawn five centuries ago, wliich, in a modern sense, actually portray the first concept of modern human anatomy. These drawings are not only fascinating scientific diagrams but also magnificent works of art. The infant in the womb. The skull. Muscles of die neck and shoulder. The bones of the hand . and many more. Don't miss this fascinating exhibition from the most brilliant creative mindofall time : Leonardo da Vinci, the genius. At the National Gallery of Victoria by arrangement with the International Cultural Corporation of Australia Limited. THE AGE GALLERY HOURS: Tues.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. : In association with British airways rr -:fil ."--, SA4LI i

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