"You really want to look at that?" the clerk at Goodwill asked. She shouted toward the clerk at the cash register. "She wants to look at this old perfume." She turned to me again. "I don't know. It looks pretty dark. I bet it's gone bad."
True, the bottle wasn't promising: an 8-ounce faceted glass canister with a cap the color of purple Jordan almonds. I figured it for yet another bottle of Avon Skinny Dip but thought I'd have a look just in case. Besides, I'd already seen an ounce bottle of Estée Lauder Aliage in the case I knew I wanted.
The label on the bottom of the bottle identified it as Intimate Eau de Cologne by Revlon. I'd never heard of it but dabbed some on my arm anyway. One whiff and Goodwill's fluorescent lights and slight fust fell away, replaced by visions of rustling organza skirts and white gloves. Intimate was unmistakably a classic 1950s floral animalic chypre with a tingly, soapy top. I couldn't say "I'll take it" fast enough.
Revlon released Intimate in 1955, during the glory years of the floral, animalic chypre. In 1955, Eisenhower was President. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. Nabokov's Lolita was published, James Dean had his fatal car wreck, and The Lady and the Tramp was the year's top grossing movie. The FDA approved the Salk polio vaccine, and the definitive count of human chromosomes was determined. The year straddled racism, ingrained gender roles, and memories of the Great Depression along with an optimistic view of the future and an unshakable faith in science. Wouldn't we all be driving rockets soon? Floral animalic chypres, like girdles and straight razors, couldn't be long for this world.
Sprayed on skin, Intimate starts off with clean aldehydes tinged with a rich, fruity flower like jonquils. Quickly, rose and jasmine spiked with coriander and thickened with white flowers (tuberose? gardenia?) appear. All the while, a bed of purse-leather sweetened with sandalwood lies under the floral heart. Oak moss and the tiniest hint of civet sap the preciousness from the fragrance and establish it firmly as made for a full grown woman. It lasts three or four hours on skin and has minimal sillage — probably because my bottle is Eau de Cologne.
Intimate is more friendly than some other fragrances of its type. Christian Dior Miss Dior's sage-animal combo has scared off legions, and Lanvin My Sin, Caron Narcisse Noir, and Millot Crêpe de Chine are acquired tastes for most people these days. Intimate's flowers are lush and radiant within its mossy, animalic frame. Intimate hints at sex and elegance but lets you know its wearer is a lot more accessible than Marlene Dietrich.
I would think Intimate would have been a blockbuster among women who came of age just after World War Two and didn't have the money to sink into Miss Dior. Maybe its style fell from fashion to be replaced by crisp green chypres, but Intimate lingered at least until the 1970s, when I suspect my bottle was made. For those of us who enjoy dipping into the romance of other eras, Intimate is a delicious time warp.
Revlon Intimate is discontinued.