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.