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Retrostyle: A Day in the Fifties

While suburbia blossomed, New York reveled in blue jeans, folkies, Beat poetry. And, yes, a beehive or two.


Astro Lab: Asher Siegal's mid-century den.  

In a story published
last year, we provided
itineraries for how
to make contemporary
New York feel like the
sixties, seventies, eighties,
and nineties. Here, we set
the time machine for
further back.

The Doo-Wop Fan

As a kid in sixties Providence, Rhode Island, Asher Siegal was enthralled with his grandparents’ fifties stucco ranch: the blond-wood furniture, the painted vertical blinds, and best of all, the floor-model television, a version of the famous Heywood-Wakefield model. That his brothers sold it before Siegal could claim it makes him crazy to this day. It would have been a perfect fit in his one-bedroom apartment, which he describes as “John Waters Land.” With its pink-and-green kitchen (no microwave), boomerang-pattern wallpaper, and drapes printed in that familiar atomic pattern, Siegal’s home is a diminutive tribute to the space-age optimism of the fifties. It’s also the summation of 30 years’ worth of flea-market trolling, vintage-store rummaging, and eBay scouring. “I don’t shop at mainstream stores because they don’t have anything I want, except socks and underwear,” he explains. “Vintage hardly makes it through the wash more than once.”

He makes shakes in a rocket-shaped blender found for $10 at the Chelsea flea market and cooks “the most unhealthy cheese-laden” recipes from period cookbooks in vintage casserole dishes. When Siegel throws one of his frequent parties, he uses the pineapple-shaped pitchers and ice buckets inherited from his grandmother and plays music on the Blaupunkt console—which has a built-in bar, shortwave AM-FM radio, and hi-fi and was purchased from New and Used for $100. “I haven’t listened to a popular-music station since the early eighties,” says Siegel, who is 45. His all-time favorite album is Bobby Darin’s For Teenagers Only; he paid $2 for his gatefold version with a poster insert at a yard sale in Providence. He hit a fifties-aficionado milestone of sorts when he went to Viva Las Vegas, a four-day festival dedicated to the lifestyle of fifties America, and met a mass of kindred spirits. “These people understand that I’m not in costume,” he says with conviction. “This is what I like.”

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