Revlon Charlie ~ perfume review

Revlon Charlie

In perfume-loving circles we talk about how scent can evoke powerful emotion and how it seeps into areas of the brain that language is too clumsy to enter. We know that perfume can wake up memories that might have otherwise slept for good. Well, listen up, friends: if you had a rough time of it in the mid-1970s, take my advice and stay far away from Revlon Charlie.

Charlie came out in 1973 and was marketed toward the young, single, pants-wearing, tequila-sunrise-drinking working woman. While Charlie was under construction, its working name was "Cosmo", after the sort of woman who read Cosmopolitan magazine. According to Osmoz, Charlie's top notes are citrus oils, peach, hyacinth, and tarragon; its heart notes are jasmine, lily of the valley, cyclamen, and carnation; and its base is cedarwood, sandalwood, oakmoss, and vanilla. Osmoz describes Charlie as a floral oriental, but I've also seen it referred to as a green floral, or even as a green chypre.

Charlie opens with a burst of aldehydes and green peach, then settles into a minerally, floral soap smell for a few minutes. Eventually the soap and flowers depart to leave the scent of dry rocks and chemicals. It smells cheap. Dana Tabu smells like it's made of liquid hundred dollar bills compared to Charlie. Charlie smells like two-dollar sauvignon blanc served in a bruised glass lightly filmed with dishwasher detergent.

You can tell that I don't like it, but really I'm being nice. In truth, to me Charlie smells just like hangovers from cheap mixed drinks served at the disco at the Holiday Inn on the outskirts of a depressed logging town. It smells like divorce, ratty polyester crepe de chine the color of Lucky Charms marshmallows, and an old Chevy Nova with transmission trouble. It smells like food stamps and Jimmy Carter on the television set. It smells like this plus June bugs raining down on the Kmart parking lot in August, all through the eyes — and also apparently the nose — of a little girl.

While I figure out how to ritualistically dispose of my bottle, I welcome all of your less biased takes on Charlie. After all, it's been selling well enough to keep it in production, with flankers even, for 35 years. Me, I'll turn to Caron Tabac Blond and happier times.

Note: image via gallup-robinson.

Another note: Angela is "on the road" and might be a little slower than usual to respond to comments.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ooofah! What a review! Although Charlie does nothing for me, I can't say it evokes that kind of memory. My aunt has worn it for years, and it smells lovely on her. Unfortunately not on me – I think I mentioned in a previous comment that for me the drydown was “licorice and dirt”. Not a scrubber, but not at the top of my favorites list.

    (P.S. My aunt has also layered Charlie with another cheap thrill, Sweet Honesty, and it smelled terrific! Go figure…)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I usually just lurk on this lovely blog, but seeing Charlie reviewed; I have to comment.
    My Mom has worn this since it was first released. She has tried other fragrances over the years (my cast offs) but always insists that just when she is going to buy something else, she gets another comment on how great she smells wearing Charlie.
    Personally, I have never liked the way Charlie smells on her. And, she wears it so potently that hubby and I jokingly say we have to give our dog and cat a bath after she visits! Our dog apparently has so associated the smell with my Mom, that one day while we were at the vet, there was another woman there wearing Charlie. Our dog went nuts, wiggle-butting all over the place, trying to convince me that Grandma was there!
    Charlie remains the one and only fragrance I can ever identify on someone else. Usually I just think someone smells good (or not so good), but Charlie is instantly recognizable to me.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Doing one of those drugstore sniffs awhile back I re-smelled Charlie and jerked my head away. I wonder if it used to smell different/better? Back in the day? I mean, Norell took some getting used to for me. But Charlie as found in CVS for $3.99 or whatever just smells wrong to me. Glad to see you felt the same.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sad to say, that is exactly what Charlie reminds me of. My ex brother law had a fiancee who he unceremoniously dumped in the basement of the family home. Poor Carrie. She reeked of Charlie. But didn't deserve that.

    Your description of that fragrance and the times are dead on.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I adored Charlie when it first came out. I was living in London and, every afternoon, on my way to work (I worked in the theatre), I used to spritz some in one of the department stores on Oxford Street. I never actually bought a bottle (I was too broke to buy perfume). I haven't smelled it since then and I wouldn't want to – in case, it's been reformulated.

    I don't think it smelled cheap at all then. Before that I used to wear expensive French perfumes (I had more money): I wouldn't have worn a cheap-smelling perfume. It smelled young and delicious.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I worked at a department store cosmetic counter one holiday season (1974). I so wish that I could now remember what scents the store sold and what people purchased, but the inventory and the preferences are all eclipsed in my memory by the one scent that most customers wanted that season: Charlie. We sold box after box of the spray bottle, and as Christmas drew nearer, exhausted the supply and had to offer other products in the line (lotion? dusting powder?). Finally, on Christmas Eve there wasn't a Charlie product left. Half an hour before closing, a drunk man came in, eyes glazed, and demanded a bottle of Charlie for his wife. I had to regretfully inform him we had none. He, being drunk, argued that it couldn't be so. I was a newlywed, and have never forgotten how pathetic it was to encounter a drunk on Christmas Eve who was unable to buy his wife's heart's desire (albeit a bottle of stinky cologne).

  7. Anonymous says:

    What a horrible testing experience this must have been for you. I have no recollection of the smell, but I do recall the ads (the photo you chose made me cringe). Interestingly enough, the list of notes does not sound bad, which just goes to show how much a list of notes is worth. I loved March's description of how she recoiled from it. If I can find a tester, I'll have to try it and see if it brings back any memories. Hope you are having fun on the road.

  8. Anonymous says:

    My mom wore Charlie back in the mid-70s so I can't even decide whether I like it or not–the memory association is just too strong. Thankfully, even though many of her tastes are stuck firmly in that era, she's moved on scentwise to Cashmere Mist.

  9. Anonymous says:

    What an evocative review. You do have a way with words! It is interesting how scents can dredge up memories from the past. Keep it up, Angela. I always enjoy your reviews.

  10. Anonymous says:

    A friend of mine wore this in the 70's and she smelled good. I recently sniffed Charlie at the drugstore and it smelled awful to me. Did it change (a lot)? Or is it me? I've been re-sniffing a lot of old favorites and none of them smell good to me – Shalimar, Calyx, Emeraude (did I ever really wear that?). Has Shalimar been reformulated? I think you wrote just as well about something you disliked as you do about things you love.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Really, I can't say that any other perfume has this kind of impact on me. I'm guessing that most people share your reaction.

    The combo of Charlie and Sweet Honesty sounds like a migraine in a bottle to me!

  12. Anonymous says:

    That's so funny that even your dog associates Charlie with your mom!

    When someone you're close to wears a particular scent, I think you can always recognize it right away, even years later.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Charlie not only smelled not-so-good to me, but it brought back awful memories. So, I guess at least some part of it smells the same as it used to.

    I smelled Norell again a few years ago and had a hard time with it, too. I'll have to try it again, though, knowing that you were able to make the adjustment.

  14. Anonymous says:

    We'll have to form some sort of “Charlie Gets Me Down” club and enroll Carrie, too.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It sounds like for you, not only did Charlie smell good (and it probably did smell better!) but you wore it during an exciting time. I bet smelling it now would bring back lots of good memories.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wow! That's a great Charlie story. Thanks for tellling it. I wonder what ever happened to that couple.

  17. Anonymous says:

    It was awful. Plus, I was testing it while I was around a pack of relatives, so I had all the family tribal behavior (and I do adore my family and all our quirks) along with the memories.

    Isn't it funny how the notes sound so great?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Cashmere Mist is much better, in my book. It's funny, though, how hard it is to be impartial to a scent when you always connect it to a particular person.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! I enjoy writing here and hope to keep it up for a while.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I bet we've changed and the perfume has changed. I love Shalimar, but I bet it's been messed with, too. In a way, though, there's something perversely nice about how things change.

  21. Anonymous says:

    They died of cirrhosis and bad taste?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Great review. I was a teenager when Charlie smacked the world up side the head, so I would add, “stale beer and cigarettes.”

  23. Anonymous says:

    IOh, I prefer the television ad with Shelley Hack driving the convertible:

    Charlie's changed quite a bit, I think. My mum and our neighbor wore it in the 70's and it was a nice woody /amber type fragrance on them. My mum's old bottle smells far better than the one I got as a gag gift from my jokester cousin about 10 years ago.

    Mostly, I remember our neighbor smelling of Charlie and cigarettes. I distinctly recall the scent of Charlie while she would chain smoke Kools, and crochet granny square afghans in squeaky acrylic yarn in a dizzying array of orange & gold patterns….

    goodness, i guess the scent recollection is that strong, LOL!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Angela, thanks for sharing this experience! I can't say that I ever liked Charlie either, although my best friend wore it constantly at one time. Your writing is so beautiful, and the next-to-last paragraph is potently evocative for me. Just subsitute “industrial” for “logging,” and “adolescent” for “little girl,” and I'm right there with you. I don't have many happy memories of the 70's, that's for sure. I think I'll just forget it all and dab on a bit of Tabac Blond tonight, in your honor. :-)

  25. Anonymous says:

    Either that or divorce court and nose plugs…

  26. Anonymous says:

    Funny! I mention cheap beer and cigarettes in tomorrow's review!

  27. Anonymous says:

    I can picture exactly what you describe–especially the acrylic yarn granny squares! (I love it that you described the yarn as “squeaky”–perfect!) Were there any crocheted hats made of cut up beer cans involved in this memory?

  28. Anonymous says:

    I'm too new to really have any association with Charlie; indeed, I've never smelled it with a name attached, if at all. I'm guessing most of the population wished they hadn't either, judging from the comments. That makes me kind of want to try it, just to know it.
    I do know that my mother really wanted to wear it but it stank of her. Which, I mean, is probably lucky for me. I got to grow up with Nahema.
    Well, thanks for the article. I hope the next perfume you review is better.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Have you seen the new TV show called Swing Town (or something like that)? It's set in 1976 and it's meticulously set and costumed. Watching it kind of freaks me out by the memories it brings back: shag carpeting, the “dry look”, bicentennial quarters, the BeeGees (still love the BeeGees).

  30. Anonymous says:

    Wow! If a woman had to choose between Charlie and Nahema, the fact that Charlie was even in the running is remarkable.

    Please do try Charlie sometime if you get the chance. My review is completely biased, and, yes, the next perfumes were much, much better.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Yes, but I've completely repressed the memory of them.

    I was a small child then, so the hat she made for me was not beer cans. It was made of cut-up TAB cans! Remember TAB???

    I'm certain it was just as hideous as the ones made from the Schlitz and Pabst beer cans….

  32. Anonymous says:

    Or they lived happily ever after, as true soulmates?!? lol

  33. Anonymous says:

    Well, there were probably years between her discovering them both, but her taste did more sophisticated. Then it went down again when she started suffering migraines unless she was wearing citrus perfume. Needless to say, it's hard to wear… anything in her presence.

    I'll try to keep an open mind. And I can't wait to hear about them.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I completely remember TAB, and I think the cans would look best with the gold and orange yarn you describe, too!

  35. Anonymous says:

    A true romantic…

  36. Anonymous says:

    Ha- I'm glad you reviewed Charlie! My Grandmother wore it once in a while; her usual scent was Chanel No. 5 EDP. Charlie provokes strong memories for me. A friend of mine – lovely older woman from Egypt – douses herself in Charlie. I could never wear it, but i enjoy it on her for memory's sake.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I'm the same way about Aromatics Elixer and my mother, who wore it in the 70's and, as with you, it evokes bad/sad memories. Although I guess it's a good scent (5 stars in The Guide) I simply cannot bear it; it's a total scrubber. However, I initially had the same reaction to Alliage, but I got over it (She didn't wear it nearly as much) with the help of a considerably softer reformulation. BOY howdy, 70's perfumes were super-duper chypre-y!

  38. Anonymous says:

    What a shame that scent gives her migraines! I hope the headaches go away soon and that you're able to wear whatever you want when you're with her, and that she can wear her favorites, too.

  39. Anonymous says:

    There's simply no star system that can account for personal association with a scent. I guess I should consider myself lucky that for me Charlie is a scrubber, rather than some genius scent.

    Weren't those 1970s scents something else? I like lots of them, though, like Mystere. Love that chypre.

  40. Anonymous says:

    I feel the same way about Revlon Moondrops. My grandmother wore it, and whenever I smell it–very, very rarely–I remember her and how much I adored her.

    How funny that your grandmother shifted between the exalted No. 5 and Charlie!

  41. Anonymous says:

    It doesn't get her down anymore. It's been… seven or eight years. I can wear somethings but I have to choose wisely. No orientals whatsoever, though.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I LOVE Swingtown! Which of the housewives would be a Charlie Girl? Janet? Trina? Susan? Maybe Melinda, the office totty? NST could do a feature on what the Swingtown women would wear, LOL

  43. Anonymous says:

    Good luck. There are lots of fresh, non-oriental scents out there, thank goodness.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I'm sure at least one of those beer-can hats was made with red, white, & blue yarn in honor of the Bicentennial in 1976!

    I'm groaning over the memories, but you know, being a teen in the 80's is pretty darned embarassing, too.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Angela, whatever you do this week, please do NOT review JONTUE by Revlon. I was 7 years old and we lived in Paris at the time. On one of our trips to the US (Dad was American) my mother (Parisian and bitchy and loves a good deal) discovered a new bargain department store named “Target” off Highway 59 in the Sharpstown area of Houston Texas (A real swanky part of town now where Big Lots and marshalls collide side to side)

    Wanting to take back some “Americana” to her L'Heure Bleue-spritzed girlfriends, she stocked-up on those “plastic gift boxes” of Jontue for 6.99 a piece and we had to haul about a dozen back to Paris. Air France being the customer service star they've always been since back in the time of course, broke some of the bottles in our suitcases.

    I remember living in a house where the family 70's hardshell luggage reaked of JONTUE for years.

    (I had to go to college with one of those Samsonite suitcases)

    What was really unfortunate was that all the bottles of Jontue did not “die” during the flight and my mom ended up salvaging some and actually “treating” her left bank girlfriends to the new “scent” from across the pond (Men got the Texas Instruments first digital black plastic watches with “RED” numbers and Women got Jontue that fall of 1979!)

    I had to put up with the stench of Jontue on almost every female that came to our house through the Gloria Gaynor's “I will survive” years!

    I actually SURVIVED Jontue come to think of it!

    (I should have changed my stupid luggage, I should have made you leave the Jontue, if I had known for just one second you'd be back to bother me…Go on now go, walk out the door…I will surviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive

  46. Anonymous says:

    It's just the excuse I need for searching out new perfume! xD

  47. Anonymous says:

    My vote is on Melinda. She seems like a real Charlie girl. Great idea for a feature!

  48. Anonymous says:

    Just plain being a teen can be embarrassing, no matter what the decade, really.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Yikes! I'm terrified to smell Jontue!

    I didn't realize that my mother was a Charlie girl until I smelled it again recently, but I do remember that she wore Jontue, although I can't remember what it smelled like. I'm sure I'd be completely freaked out, just like you are at thinking of it! I feel your pain, I really do.

    Still, being a woman who loves a challenge, now I think I should find a bottle and try it. But never fear, this week is Jontue-free. (No promises for future weeks.)

  50. Anonymous says:


  51. Anonymous says:

    What a great review — I laughed out loud at “Charlie smells like two-dollar sauvignon blanc served in a bruised glass lightly filmed with dishwasher detergent.”

  52. Anonymous says:

    God for me, that's my grandmother wearing Beautiful or Ysatis. And a little-known frag called Ruffles, by Oscar de la Renta. So lovely.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Charlie DOES smell cheap, I agree. Well, it just smells like a fragrance from wallgreens… it does not smell like a girl reading cosmo or maybe just not a 21st century cosmo-reader. Today's comso girl swims in the tommy hilfiger stuff, or perhaps victoria's secret would be just fine too. Charlie is maybe not as horrible as some of the other drugstore frags but it is nowhere need “the good” stuff.

  54. Anonymous says:

    My grandmother always smelled like cabbage rolls. However, I am told that her one and only fragrance was Tweed (still available at Vermont Country Store). Of course, that was a different era….

  55. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, well she was older by 3 yrs or so and still lived at home with her parents in Long Island. THAT was really creepy.

    The '70's were a fraud, loud,racous,artificial, a free for all.

    Does anyone remember “Cachet”? “The perfume that adjusts itself to every woman?” The word means “box” in French and I think some smart aleck at the ad agency needs a smack. “Eau de Love” was nice but didn't last long enough.

    How about the Jovan perfumes..'Mink & Pearls” was similar to “Intimate”, “Frankincense & Myhrr” “Fresh Cut Grass” – oh, gee do I have any repressed memories about smell? My ex wore “Canoe” -agggghhh!

    My fragrance was “Le De” but after my breakup could never wear it.

    There is a part of our brain that remembers for whattever reason. Incidentally, my father gave my mother 'Tabac Blonde” when they first me. I'll be looking forward to that review!

    I hope Carrie had a better time of it later.

  56. Anonymous says:

    Angela, you've outdone yourself. Gut-splittingly funny review.

    To all those who say Charlie just must've smelled better Back in the Day: NO WAY! It was foul, foul, always utterly foul, even among the serious fleet of vile seventies drugstore poisons. I was in grade 10 when it came out, and women were horrified by it from the get-go. It had sillage that could warp vinyl siding and exfoliate nose hairs!!!!!!! My mum was given some by a crazy old aunt of hers, took one sniff, and poured it on the backyard flowerbed weeds. (I'm sure they died a quick but nasty death.)

    It may well be the worst thing I've ever smelled that's been classed as a bona fide fragrance. I never knew anyone who actually wore it, but sometimes if I was in Safeway buying groceries, I could be in aisle 2B and smell it all the way from 7A!!! :-D

    And then Giorgio came along. . .

  57. Anonymous says:

    It really does! Maybe I've drunk too much of it and know it too well.

  58. Anonymous says:

    Ruffles! That was a flash in the pan, but I remember it vaguely.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Iris N, I believe you about today's Cosmo girl–Victoria's Secret and J Lo Glow After Dark would be perfect. It's so interesting how society's idea of what is risque and independent is.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Have you smelled Tweed lately? It might have you longing for a cabbage roll and grandma's hug.

  61. Anonymous says:

    I remember that my mother had bottles of Mink & Pearls and Frankincense & Myrhh! How funny–I had totally forgotten about those. I have an old bottle of Cachet that I bought at a yard sale, but I haven't given it much attention yet. We'll see if it really adjusts itself to every woman…

  62. Anonymous says:

    And Giorgio wiped EVERYTHING off the map. Whew! What a smell that stuff made.

  63. Anonymous says:

    Wow, this is a wonderfully written and hilarious review (and the comments too). A mashup of 70s nostalgia and scary fragrance horror stories, rolled into one. I don't even know what “june bugs raining down on the Kmart parking lot in August” actually means, but I love the line.

    I have never knowingly smelled Charlie. Just this past weekend I was standing looking at the drugstore shelf of perfumes as I do from time to time in rapt curiosity. Oh, how I wish they had testers! My mom wore Ciara, and it has wrapped up in it all those 70s memories that you write of. I'm dying to smell it again sometime (though it wouldn't be the same, you know, without the requisite 'base' of cigarette smoke propping it up…).

  64. Anonymous says:

    The ad above should read:

    “She is Very Charlie, She is Cheap…”

    But She cannot help it!!, so don´t be to hard on She! :-)

    I loved the review.

    And I'll be very particular here.

    What I love the most is that you can tell appart the professional review from the personal feeling.

    I mean you professionally describe the fragrance, and in a very clear way draw the line (and then open the floodgates) of your VERY personal feelings about it.

    And you know what, this review makes me realize why sometimes I do not enjoy Chandler Burr's tirades and rants.

    I mean I love them when I AGREE with him, but I hate them when I dont agree.

    With your review, I agree on the technical part, and even though I empathize with the part of you don't liking it (and I must say it is superbly written) I feel free to “Agree to disagree”.

    The frag may be 1 star out of 5.

    The review is 5 out of 5 ;-)

  65. Anonymous says:

    I've been a silent lurker here for some time. I've never heard of Revlon Charlie, much less smelled it (AFAIK), but I immensely enjoyed the review! There is a genuine exhilarating melancholy about it…

    Actually, you aroused a kind of perverse curiosity about this scent. I wonder if it does exist this side of the Atlantic (in France)

  66. Anonymous says:

    Remember when Sharon Stone was in a Charlie! commercial?

  67. Anonymous says:

    As a knitter and wool snob I can totally relate to this. Charlie has somehow managed to pass me by – the sampling of it, I mean – I know the name of course and am sure it is widely available in the small town where I live. After reading these wonderfully vivid reviews, I feel that in the spirit of scientific inquiry I must acquire a sample without ado!

  68. Anonymous says:

    Sure I remember Cachet, and I had a bottle. I can't remember at all what it smelled like. Oh no, does that mean I'm nondescript and unmemorable? ;-) And how about Jontue, another cheap 70's fragrance?

    An earlier (probably late 60s) drugstore scent was Skinnydip, which I confess to wearing. It was godawful, supersweet stuff, but smelling it at any time immediately jerked me back to what I was doing when I wore it. Not bad memories, luckily.

  69. Anonymous says:

    OMG! The mullet! The poufy bangs! The poufy dress! Definitely a Charlie Girl! Thanks for the laugh.

  70. Anonymous says:

    June bugs are scary, hard-shellled bugs. I remember one hot, hot summer when biblical quantities of the bug flew into to town and seemed to all die at once, falling to the ground like rain.

    It's been a long time since I've smelled Ciara. I did see it at Walgreen's, though, so I'll have to give it a try.

  71. Anonymous says:

    I bet when you smell it you'll recognize it.

  72. Anonymous says:

    The thought of buying Charlie in France boggles the mind. It seems right to buy Charlie in a dimly lit drugstore with buzzing fluorescent lights and overweight clientele pushing shopping carts full of cat litter and sale gallons of milk.

    Thanks for de-lurking!

  73. Anonymous says:

    Wow! I'll have to look this one up. Thanks!

  74. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! I suppose I have lots of bias about particular scents, but this time it was pretty clear that I couldn't look at Charlie with a straight mind. It did, though, confirm to me the power of perfume on memory!

  75. Anonymous says:

    Cachet and Jontue definitely deserve reviews at some point. Skinnydip is such a funny name!

  76. Anonymous says:

    The catchphrase was, “Makes a girl feel pretty!” And Sandy Duncan was in the commercials. (I have no idea why I remember all of this!)

  77. Anonymous says:

    OMG! I'm old enough to remember the commercial when it was on the boob tube, waaaahh!

    I remember sporting the poufy mall hair wearing tons of purple eye shadow (and drinking tab)! Fortunately, there are no pictures to celebrate my lapse on fashion sense….

  78. Anonymous says:

    And how about that Don Johnson look the guy is wearing??

  79. Anonymous says:

    Sandy Duncan! I wouldn't have guessed her. You have a great memory.

  80. Anonymous says:

    Llol, hilarious! I'll have to remember the warping vinyl siding comment…

    A family friend used to wear Charlie and loved the soap. My mom used to douse herself in Giorgio and G Red too. My nose & throat would close instantly upon smelling the stuff!

  81. Anonymous says:

    Gosh, that sounds really 80s. Too bad there aren't pictures!

  82. Anonymous says:

    Maybe Charlie soap wouldn't be as bad, but Giorgio and Red were lethal.

  83. Anonymous says:

    I just saw Ruffles in someone's ebay shop and wondered about it. Can you remember what it was like?

  84. Anonymous says:

    I can't see it, the screen says “this video is no longer available” Waah! I want to see it so bad!

    Remember when Karen “DUFF” Duffy was a Charlie spokeswoman? She & Brooke Shields would duke it out in a commercial pitting Charlie Blue and Charlie Red against each other…. Ah, good times!

  85. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if those of us who thought it smelled better back in the day have damaged oflactory nerves from being subjected to all the chain-smoking that was done then? I was just thinking that last night about Charlie and some of the others, like Jontue, did they smell better under the haze of Kools and Merits or something? Do they not smell as “good” now that we're not under a constant cloud of cigarette smoke? I mean, I remember when my parents and all their friends smoked, and they smoked a LOT.

    *ugh*… Giorgio!

  86. Anonymous says:

    I can't remember it, although maybe Lizbeth can.

  87. Anonymous says:

    Charlie ads make a great cultural study!

  88. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I was a walking ad and the title was: “When Trends Collide”!

  89. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I remember it well, it was a soft creamy oriental/floral, with a vanilla drydown (but not sweet gourmand kind). It was in production mid-80's? Box was cream with gold detail, and a pastel color scheme…

  90. Anonymous says:

    How sad is it that I can remember all the words to the Charlie jingle?

    Thanks for a review that was a pleasure to read, although the trip down memory lane was painful – Charlie, Jontue, Aviance, Enjoli……

  91. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, that could be true. Maybe Charlie has to be smelled in its natural habitat–the smoky cubicle–to appreciate it fully.

  92. Anonymous says:

    I remember every word to the Enjoli ad..I had totally forgotten about it.

  93. Anonymous says:


  94. Anonymous says:

    My mom wore Charlie in the 70's, can't really say I remember how it smelled. Fun read!

  95. Anonymous says:

    Oh, you should give it a smell and see what it brings back…

  96. Anonymous says:

    Indeed it would, but I have a feeling it doesn't smell the same now so I won't try.

  97. Anonymous says:

    Remember the summer of 1983 when Catherine Deneuve was advertising some face lotion like Oil of Olay and she would say in her sexy French (The R's are rolled like in French and I'll use $ for a rolled R here)


    I'm still “scarred” from that commercial!

    It was usually followed by a commercial for “Prince Matchabelli” perfume (any ideas Angela?) LOL

    Gosh I just realized that I'm also too old now and that Catherine Deneuve is 65! Aughhhhhhhhh

  98. Anonymous says:

    You are not too old (because if you are, then so am I)! Well, if Deneuve can still look so fabulous, so can we at a fraction of her age.

    I can see the commercial clear as day, you describe it so well. I bet the commercial that followed was for Wind Song by Prince Matchabelli, or did the Prince have his own perfume? Hmm, will have to investigate.

  99. Anonymous says:

    Angela, you have made me laugh all week re:Charlie & the evil '70's.

    Ciara, No! Someone gave me abottle of that and something else green in the same line which leaked onto a sequined clutch and destroyed the sequins. I never used it and it was flung into the dumpster. Ciara is now owned by 5 Star and comes in various “strengths”. A cheaper version of Mace. You will pass out flat on the floor. A scary overwhleming floral with semi oriental overtones. It never goes away.

    Has anyone noticed that the adlines for these alleged odors always have the tag line “adjusts itself to every woman”? Are we perfume stepford wives so our men can pick us out in a crowd? The ones from the '70's I mean.

    AT this point a bar of Ivory soap would be an improvemnt, but they changed even that….

  100. Anonymous says:

    Wow! A scent that melts sequins! I think I'll keep my distance from Ciara.

  101. Anonymous says:

    Love the ad. I liked Charlie Sunshine I think it was. Well, in my high school and early college years. Don't think I would touch it now.

  102. Anonymous says:

    Charlie must have had a hundred flankers!

  103. Anonymous says:

    Windsong. You can't get her out your mind was the blurb.

    Did Glenn Close wear it in “Fatal Attraction”, Prince Matchebelli (sic) I'm doing laundry and melting so forgive me my misspellngs.

    He did a lot more although I can't remember all their names.Very popular during the '50's Y '60's.The ads were very provacative – the one 1965 she's held dfrom behind by a guy in a tuxedo and she is wearing a Baby Jane Holzer hair do and a killer sequin dress. Me and the sequins.

    It's soapy if anything. At one time a very good house competing with Rubenstein.It reminds me of girls in dorm rooms with curlers and hair dryers wearing little nighty shifts getting ready for a frat party.I think the other one was “Golden Woods”. I'll have to hit my Vogue stash and wander down memory lane.

    And speaking of '60's fragrances – Faberge made one “Xanadu” which came in bright round silvery containers and smelled fabulous. It didn't last too long as we went from Edie Sedgewick behavior to Tricia Nixon/GLoria Steinem.protocol.


  104. Anonymous says:

    Yes, now I remember that Windsong tagline perfectly. You have a great memory!

    Xanadu sounds intriguing…

  105. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. Xanadu was fabulous – I will try and find some ad blurb on it. To me at that time it was the essence of everything that was happening.

  106. Anonymous says:

    Oh no, please try it! I'd be dying to learn what you think — and then I might be willing to buy the remainder of the $10 bottle from you after you've tried the requisite spritz! LOL. I'm wondering if smelling it would really remind me of my mom and too many Christmas mornings, circa late 70s.

  107. Anonymous says:

    I'd love to dredge up that commercial! Anyone know the name of the face cream she was hawking? Only thing similar I could find from the era was the following Deneuve ad for No. 5:

  108. Anonymous says:

    O.K., I'm convinced. I'll give it a try and report back.

  109. Anonymous says:

    I was in my local Boots yesterday and quickly found the Charlie section directly below Coty L'Aimant. But there were three varieties: Red, Blue and Gold! My instinct said red, but what are the relative merits or otherwise of the other colours? Perhaps I have missed a colour guide to Charlie variants at the top of the thread, in which case apologies.

  110. Anonymous says:

    I think that the original Charlie is “blue” Charlie, but I'm not 100% sure. My Charlie didn't have any color associated with it, and it didn't come in a box, so I don't know what color the box may have been. But I think, from looking at reviews on MUA, that blue is the original.

  111. Anonymous says:

    Joe, it was for an “unknown” brand that probably disappeared, possibly cannibalized by a big name like P&G or Noxzema. But it was a face lotion and it would run at least 2-3 times on “Good Morning America” every morning back when Joan Lunden was the (new) host and Paula Zahn the news anchor (Aughh the big blond frosted hair!). I remember it so clearly because I broke my arm that summer of 1983 and didn't do much beside watch TV in the sweltering heat of Houston Texas in July-August. It was too hot to be out by the pool even! Deneuve looked stunning at (almost) 40. I also looked up “Deneuve commercial or ad” on youtube and only got the Chanel 5…If anyone knows the brand name, please write back. Angela please help: Pull up your “connections” at ABC please.


  112. Anonymous says:

    My connections? Do you mean my high-powered Hollywood agent or my intimate relationship with George Clooney?

  113. Anonymous says:

    Well, this afternoon I did the drugstore sniff-a-thon of perfume from long ago. I tried the current Tabu and today's Charlie. I must say that if olfactory memory isn't hallucinatory, these products bore little to no resemblance of what I remember from the 1960s and 70s.
    As someone in the Tabu thread noted, the spray from the bottle is enough to put out a small fire, were it not for the alcohol content of the juice. It was a foul concoction, bearing nothing of the pushy yet vibrant Tabu of my youth. Even the drydown was objectionable, but I wasn't able to define exactly what made it so. It was just unpleasant. Yet it lingers–after a separate arm scrub, followed by a shower and more scrubbing, I can still detect the presence of a vague chemical residue on my arm.
    Charlie was only slightly less objectionable. This was the stuff in the blue box, which is not what I remember–it was something more pastel. But that was a looong time ago.
    On first sniff, it did not ring any bells in my olfactory senses. It was just sweetish and common, not anything I'd go back to. The drydown did bring back a faint memory of the original scent, but it was overlaid by what I can only describe as an “ashy” or burnt scent–like old fireplace or cigarette ashes, not tobacco or anything like that.
    It hasn't lingered like the Tabu of Today did, which figures because it's not quite as unpleasant.
    OTOH, on the basis of a review here, I also spritzed Lady Stetson and was pleasantly surprised, especially by the woody/spicy drydown. I have other fragrances with a similar drydown I prefer, but for a 7$ drugstore offering, I had to say “not bad”.

  114. Anonymous says:

    And then you woke up!

    Drenched from the summer heat and lack of AC…Time for some “refrigerated” Jean Nate'!

  115. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your impressions of Tabu and Charlie. I wish we had some thirty-year old bottles so that we could compare them side by side.

    Lady Stetson is nice, and I really like the men's version, too.

  116. Anonymous says:

    Alas, you know my life too well…

    Enjoy the Jean Nate! Today, finally, the heat here has broke and we're having a good thunderstorm.

  117. Anonymous says:

    I am extremely disgusted by this review. Did you ever stop to think that someone reading this my wear Charlie or may know someone very dear to them that wears Charlie. My mother wears Charlie, and has my whole life. She is very sophisticated. I have many childhood memories wrapped up in the smell of Charlie. I understand reviewing a product, but they comments you made were uneccesary.

  118. Anonymous says:

    I'm glad you love Charlie and have such wonderful memories of it. That's what perfume is for!

  119. murffsgirl says:

    My sister wore the original in the ’70’s. Smelled good on her, like fly spray on moi…ewww. Having said that, I loved and still wear, my adored Jontue. In fact I just bought four bottles! Looked up the top notes, all my favs, no wonder…Plus, the tag line was a perfect description of me (even my husband agrees, and loves the stuff, but nothing else smells as good on me.)
    I loved Shelley Hack in the commercials, though, and had other friends who wore it–one had a husband by that name who bought her only the one scent!

    • Angela says:

      I haven’t smelled Jontue in years. I’m going to have to make a trip to the drugstore soon!

  120. murffsgirl says:

    Oh–about the Wind Song…my beloved grandmother wore it. THe tag line was, “Your Wind Song stqays on my mind.” I remember because I was so comforted by the association of the commercial and the smell of my granny’s perfume.

    • murffsgirl says:

      Sorry, that’s, “Your Wind Song stays on my mind.” :-D for the mistake, not the tag line!

    • Angela says:

      Windsong is a good one! I have a small bottle I use to spray my sheets. I’ll tell you what stays on my mind, though: that song.

  121. laken says:

    Charlie has no bad associations for me, it came out at a reasonably good time in my life, and of course I had a bottle of it like everyone else seemed to. I have a spray of the Charlie blue eu fraiche amongst my collection, and I quite like it.

    • Angela says:

      I think lots of people loved it–Charlie has done really well. My view of it is totally tainted (*sigh*). I’m glad you like it, though. I didn’t know they made an eau fraiche.

  122. breathesgelatin says:

    I was at Walgreens the other day and they had a whole display of Charlie… It seems that they are bringing back some older flankers, or something? I didn’t look too closely, as Charlie doesn’t really seem like my thing.

    • Angela says:

      Maybe they’re doing a big push of it again, although it does seem like it sells pretty consistently. I know I have a biased view of it, though. It’s probably a lot better than I think!

  123. Dilana says:

    I think I actually owned Charlie as a young teenager. I do not remember it smelling foul, and since I secretly used to sniff my mother’s Shalimar (the actual perfume), I think I had reasonably good taste at the time.

    A large part of the appeal of Charlie was that the idea of becoming a Charlie woman. I did not associate it with Cosmo magazine, which was full of articles on how to sexually satisfy a man, but an attractive, independent career girl. This was a real change from perfume ads which were about hovering in some ethereal flowery “beautiful” flowery space and time, or about wearing a fragrance for a man.. Charlie was about some day having your own money, carrying a brief case, rather than a school bag, having a fun job. Yes, Charlie had a boyfriend on the side, but the fragrance was about her, not her having him.

    • Angela says:

      Your observation about the Charlie ad campaign and image is so right! It really was a refreshing and empowering campaign, and I can see why so many women were drawn to it.

  124. barb keddie says:

    I am from Canada, and I heard today that Charlie Perfume is being discontinued? Can anyone verify this? I have been wearing Charlie Perfume since I was a young teenager and have had many, many complements on how nice I smell. I have even had strangers walk up to me asking me what I am wearing. I have tried other perfumes, but alway come back to Charlie. I hope it’s not being discontinued.

    • Angela says:

      Charlie has become such a classic, I’d be shocked if Revlon discontinued it. I hope for your sake it’s around for years to come!

  125. blohan says:

    lol the imagery that you allude to is probably were that young, single, pants-wearing, tequila-sunrise-drinking working woman ended up in life. I hate the advertisements of Charlie, they are hypocritical, trying to pass Lauren Hutton and Sharon Stone as regular working class women, I guess it’s an insult to the intelligence of working class people, you know, the real deal. Does that make sense? I mean I personally dislike advertisements that make the working class look cool, I guess that’s what Charlie was aiming for. Either way it has become the crud of the crud of pharmacy scents. I guess my point is, it’s fun to be an independent working class 20 something, but not fun to be a working class 60 something. I mean being working class is no fun so damn you Charlie for making it seem so! Or at least that’s what I feel.

    • Angela says:

      Maybe in the early 1970s the independent working girl was kind of an exciting icon–although she was still making less than her male peers, and still was expected to clean up the kitchen, do laundry, make dinner, etc. I wonder what Gloria Steinem would have said about the ads?

      • blohan says:

        Don’t take this the wrong way but did you grow up poor? Where does this very vivid association of Charlie comes from? I confess that I finally bought it a few weeks ago and it is actually a great perfume. There is the skeleton of a masterpiece there. It’s a shame you hate it.

        • Angela says:

          Oh, I freely admit that my nasty associations with Charlie are 95% emotional! (That’s the amazing power of perfume, I guess.) I’m glad you like Charlie, though. There’s something wonderful about discovering an old perfume like that–maybe you’ll find a vintage bottle some day that will give you the fragrance’s real flavor.

  126. blohan says:

    Also, somebody mentioned something about advertisement being about this ethereal experience or something, well I infinitely prefer that to advertising like Charlie who want to associate fragrance with a particular lifestyle. It cheapens the actual fragrance and it makes it dishonest. Advertising is incredibly dishonest. Buy this and get that and so on, what does that say about society? Are we that pathetic that we buy products in hopes of them magically transforming our pumpkins in pimping rides and glorious dresses with silver slippers, it’s pathetic. In the same way that Charlie is pathetic, I highly doubt the average working class girl in new york in the 70’s had as much fun as Lauren Hutton did, given all the sexism and harassment and so many things. And things aren’t any better now or with more luxurious products. Have anyone seen Shalimar’s latest film? It’s RIDICULOUS, the taj-mahal coming out of a lake and a model running of with a shiek, I mean c’mon, perfume is not about that. And I believe this dishonest advertising, that began with Charlie and similar fragrances, is what has ruined the industry, those larger than life sexy smouldering advertisements that have nothing to do with life don’t come cheap. That is why we end up with tepid scented water for perfume these days. And the trend doesn’t seem to let up! I don’t know, advertising like Charlie’s and what it stands for rubs me the wrong way. And the perfumes, or rather products that rely on such type of fantastical advertising of several degrees don’t really stand the test of time it seems.

    • Angela says:

      Ah, marketing! I admit to being a sucker for a beautiful ad, but I’m enough of a skeptic (thankfully) to know a spritz of perfume won’t transform me into an exotic siren. I like seeing new ads, though–but I definitely take them with more than a grain of salt!

  127. blohan says:

    Can someone recommend me a fragrance that smells just like Charlie but that isn’t drugstore?

  128. mrcharlesless says:

    Personally, I don’t understand the dislike of Charlie. However, I’m male. The refreshing soapiness this frag brings to the table is well suited for men, IMO.

    • Angela says:

      For me, it’s all bad memories. I’m not sure I could smell Charlie with an unbiased nose. I know it’s well loved, though!

  129. theluscioushellcat says:

    Somehow, I’ve devolved into a weird sort of reverse-snobbery about fragrance. Hear me out.

    I endlessly browse NST, Fragrantica and Pinterest and think about scents, searching for my Holy Grail. I have also recently been in Sephora and Ulta. In both stores, I did a funny experiment on myself. I closed my eyes and reached for a bottle and just sniffed. I’d open my eyes and find a designer name. But I wouldn’t find ‘me’ or something I could honestly say was worth the $. I did that over and over.

    I wish I were wealthy and could send a stupendous order to Luckyscents, or even get something more mainstream, like Hermes. Not po$$ible. But I insist on smelling good, and like me.

    I started thinking “There has to be something out there that smells good without being so pricey.” I started thinking about past scents. Time has passed, they’ve gotten cheaper, you can find them in Walgreens, but what if they’re worth a second look?

    Although I am sure Charlie has been reformulated, if you renamed it, put a crazy price on it, and ran a good advertising campaign (but that was a good ad campaign for the 70s) I bet Charlie might be OK in 2016. I bet it’s a lot better than the ocean of frooty floral dreck out there.

    So, I’m going to be a reverse snob and find a bottle and sniff. I’ll let you know how that comes out. (PS: I was ages 10-19 in the 70s, and the 70s weren’t so bad for me.)

    • Angela says:

      Good luck with Charlie–you might love it! Other good drug store fragrances (in my opinion) are Tabu, Faith Hill (the original), Liz Taylor White Diamonds (although not everyone agrees with me), Jovan Woman, Sand & Sable, and Jean Nate. Oh, Tim McGraw is great, too.

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