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It's Rachel Levis, host of the new podcast, Rachel Goes Rogue. This podcast is about choosing my own path and standing in my power.


I have been involved with one of the biggest scandals in reality television history.


We're going to get into all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly. I've been keeping secrets for far too long, and I just want to come clean. Listen to Rachel Goes Rogue on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to Hello, beautiful people. I'm Saida Garret, award-winning singer-singer-songwriter and passionate knitter. And now, host of the uppity Knitter podcast, Celebrity Hobbies Uncovered. I'll be spilling the tea on the hidden talents of your favorite stars. Tune in to the uppity Knitter podcast, Celebrity Hobbies Uncovered, with me, Saida Garret, for a stitch of inspiration and pearls of laughter. Subscribe now on the iHeartRadio app and Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome to stuff you should know, a production of iHeartRadio.


Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh, and there's Chuck, and Jerry's here, too. And we're just doing our usual, chatting it up here on the podcast that we like to call stuff you should know.


That's right. I'm pretty excited about this one.


Yeah, this is your pick, right?


Yeah, this is I've been wanting to do for a long time.


Well, here we are, Charles.


Here we are.


Well, I'm glad you're excited. I'm excited, too. It's a pretty cool topic, the Eames, Charles and Ray Eames, Ray and Charles Eames, depending on how you want to say it. It doesn't matter because any way you slice it, they were equals.


Yeah. If you don't know who we're talking about, we should probably say so right off the bat. They are, or I guess they should say were, a married couple who who, I don't know if they changed the face of design, but they were certainly very influential in design. They did all kinds of things in their career, but what they're most known for is their design of simple, eye-pleasing, and back then, affordable furniture.


Yeah, I'm not even sure it was particularly affordable back then, but that was definitely their goal. They wanted to make the best for the most for the least. That really tied into the ethos that they were working in, which was immediately postwar economic boom America.


Yeah, I saw that there, and this was in their great documentary, Eames, the Architect and the Painter from 2011, filmmakers Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey. I've seen it twice now.


It's an American master's one, isn't it?


I don't know. I think it is. I may have picked it up, but I don't think it originally was. Nice.i'm not sure.I got you. But I saw it back in 2011, I guess, and then watched it again yesterday and today. But they said that it was definitely middle to upper middle class people who could afford to buy their stuff at the time. But it wasn't for the lofty super rich. Right.


But it also wasn't for your average Joe Schmo with a mortgage and all that, right?


Well, some stuff was.


Okay. You said that they didn't necessarily change as a face of design. I don't know. I'm not 100 % sure. I guess looking back with hindsight, the way that people treat them today, they're revered like gods.


Yeah, for sure.


But I guess maybe at the time, contemporaneously, they were part of a larger push. They worked with Eero Saeranin. He was a hugely influential architect and designer. They worked with Charles Nelson, a hugely influential designer. They were part of this Vanguard, I guess, of new modernist design, again, using industrial, readily available, mass-producible materials, but applying really, legitimately artistic talent, and vision, and design to the whole thing.


I had no idea until just now that Charles Nilsson-Reilly also worked in design.


He did. He said, I can't even do it. I can't do it in person. Yumi probably could. One of her dogs was named Charlie, named after Charles Nielson-Reilly when she was a kid.


Oh, man. I mean, if that's not a joke for... I mean, Gen X is the low end of that joke.


Did you see his one-man show?




They did a documentary of his one-man show that he did before his death, and it's good. Very touching, poignant. You have to see that. Charles Nelsson-Reilly with a little bit of his guard down.


I'd like to see that. Yeah, check it out.


But let's say we go back to the beginning, and we'll let everybody else decide whether they change the face of design or not.


All right, we'll start with... Well, let's start with Bernice Alexander Kaiser. We were like, Who the heck is that? Her family called her Rey Rey, and that eventually just got shortened to Rey.


Sure. That's why you got sick of that hyphen.


Yeah, she was born in Sacramento in 1912, and she ended up being interested in a lot of things, as did her future husband, Charles. But she was largely an artist and largely a painter, even though she was into engineering and obviously design and all kinds of stuff like that. But she was basically a painter and would eventually study under a gentleman named Hans Hoffmann, very famous German expressionist, and was a bit of a rabble Wauzer in the art community early on, and that she was in a group called American Abstract Artists that would do things like pick it if they didn't have art shows that represented different kinds of artists.


Yeah. Apparently, militancy toward modernist ideas was a through thread for people who were into modernism. They really were in the face of tradition and bucking that whole thing. And part of that was a militant approach to it, which I guess includes picketing art galleries, right? Yeah. But she was part of that movement before Pollock and de Kooning. Is it de Kooning or Kooning?


I think it's de Kooning. Yeah.


Before those guys, even a decade before those guys came into it. She was part of that first wave. So she was legit abstract artist. And then her husband, who was born five years previously, I think in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, just missed the World's Fair.


When was that?




Well, he might have gone.


Have you ever seen Meet Me in St. Louis?


Oh, wait, three years prior. Sorry, that would be impossible. I was like, They could have taken a three-year-old.


Yeah, but they couldn't have taken a negative of three-year-old?


No, they tried.


Technically, I guess they did. If that sperm had just stayed in the same place and it was the same egg, and they just were frozen in time, essentially reproductively.


Oh, boy.


At any rate, he was born in St. Louis in 1907, and he wanted to be an architect, essentially out of the gate. He studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and he got kicked out. He left/got kicked out after about two years of study because he was also a militant modernist. At the time, the training he was receiving was not, as I described as bozart, and it was not modernist at all. They were like, Get out of here, you hippie.

[00:07:43] he did. That did not stop him, though. He was like, I'm still going to be an architect. How often does anyone say, Let me see your degree?


It's true. It seems so reckless.


When you're designing a house.


I know.


Even though he didn't technically have the professional schooled credentials, finished. He started practicing with a guy named Robert Walsh. He was very good at it early on, and everyone was like, This guy, did you see his degree? I didn't see his degree, but I'm not going to ask because you should see the way he draws up a house.


Yeah, he would hand off his drawings with, This probably won't fall down.


I think that was Frank Lloyd Wright. Okay. 1929, he got married for the first time to a woman named Katherine Warman. They were college sweethearts, I and had a daughter who would end up being the only sire to child for Charles Eames. He never had a kid with Ray. Her name was Lucia. He was doing such a good job that there was an architect, you mentioned his son, Eero Saeranen, earlier. But the architect, the father, I guess, Eliel Saeranen, said, Hey, I like what you're throwing down there. Why don't you come on out to Michigan to the Cranberry Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills? Why don't you become... Well, first of all, come out for a fellowship, but as you'll see, Charles Eames was a very ambitious guy. Before you know it, he was the director of the industrial design program there.


Yeah, he was supposedly thinking he was just going to go there and take it easy and regather, regroup, and they're like, No, you're too talented. You need to head all this up at Cranbrooke, I believe.


Right, which is very key because that is where Ray ended up.


Yeah, working together at Cranbrooke, they got into one of their early materials, probably the material that made them famous, at least initially, but still is associated with their design, plywood. They were like, plywood, we're going to start making things out of plywood, just watch. And I think at the time, plywood doesn't have quite the connotation that does now, the stuff you just lay over your attic rafters and crawl on. It was a little more high tech than that, but not that much more. So the idea of taking plywood and turning into a beautiful, organic design that also was functional, too, it was ground-breaking.


Yeah, for sure. Aero Rael and Charles, and then Ray assisted on this project, entered a chair into Museum of Modern Arts, 1941, Organic Design and Home Furnishings Competition. They won. Even though this chair was technically a failure, they realized the reason they love plywood is that they could bend it in two different directions.


They won because they found love.


Probably so. But you could curve wood pieces that weren't plywood But what you couldn't do is curve a wood piece and then curve it again in a different direction. But they found that with plywood, you basically could, but it was pretty early on in this process. Their chair where the back met the seat would splinter, which is no good, but they ended up covering it in fabric to hide that, something that you'll see they did not like fabric. Later in their designs, they thought it was old fashioned, it was expensive, and they were trying to make stuff a little more affordable. But they covered this thing in fabric to hide that, and they won the competition. But the chair was, even though it won the competition, it was a failure in that it could not be mass-produced, basically, as is.


Yeah, I saw another stage of their plywood bending molding design was that they figured out that they could bend it even further if they cut a slit in the middle of it. They would make it almost like a keyhole slit, so it looked like a design element, but really it was allowing them to mold it a little further than before. This is what they were doing throughout the late '20s and through the whole '30s and into the '40s, they were experimenting with bending plywood to their will, essentially.


Come here, plywood.


Yeah. So that was, I think, did you say Ray helped on that particular one?


Yeah, she worked with them, and that's where they fell in love.


Yeah. Charles and his first wife, Katherine, divorced, I think after about 11 or 12 years of marriage. He went after Ray, pretty much immediately after, and they got married in 1941. Right after they got married in 1941, they did what any self-respecting artist was doing at the time. They looked westward and got into some jalopy or other and drove out to California.


Yeah, they were like, Forget it, New York. We're going to LA.


Also, I should say, I'm presuming they drove, but knowing me and the streak I'm on lately, they definitely flew, and everyone knows that they flew except me.


Oh, come on. They went to LA. I'm with you, man. They drove their butts to California.


Thanks, Chuck. You're so supportive of me, and I appreciate it.


Like the Beverly Hillbillies. Charles on top in a rocking chair.


Ray had the shotgun in her lap.


Yeah, can you imagine? I mean, that setup was very unsafe. There's a gun in a lap, there's an elderly woman in a rocking chair on top of a truck.


Exactly. Yeah, Good Lord. But that's the hillbilly way. They don't care. They'll look danger in the face and laugh all the way to California.


They get to California. They started making connections, obviously, pretty quickly out there to the Southern California modernist scene, which was just getting going, pretty hopping. A very key person they met and befriended was a guy named John Intenza, who published Arts and Architecture magazine. They ended up designing 26 different covers over a five-year period. That's a lot.


That's about half.


Yeah, I'm not a big math guy, but is it a monthly?


Yeah, if it was monthly, that's 60 issues over that five years. If they did 26, it's almost half of them.


As soon as I said, Was it monthly? I immediately panicked that the name that I had just said was Arts and Architecture Monthly.


No, you didn't. It's just Arts and Architecture, quarterly.


All right. Oh, quarterly? So they designed a bunch of those covers. Intenza became a big supporter of theirs. And they also met a guy, an architect named Richard Nutra, who said, Hey, I designed these killer apartments in Westwood, the Strathmore Apartments, and you should live in one of them because Orson Welles will live there, too.


Yeah. Strathmore makes me think of some new skyscraper, but it was a two-story house-ish structure, I think, divided into three apartments, and they're still on the market these days.


They're very nice looking.


They are. They're very cool. So they just started making connections right off the bat, but they weren't really making any money. And Charles ended up... They were doing two things. They were spending all of their free time working at home in their apartment, which they converted into a working studio. Bending plywood. Bending plywood. There's a legendary machine called the Kazaam machine that no one seems to know exactly how it worked, but they used it to mold plywood, to bend plywood. Part of it involved a heavy balloon in a bicycle pump that would provide the shape that it would be molded against. But somehow it also used electricity. So Charles climbed an electrical pole and tapped into the electricity It's a very, very unwise thing to do. And luckily, he survived. But that's how broke they were. They were stealing electricity to power their Kazaam machine in their studio, where they were still working on plywood designs.


Yeah, it used heating coils, so that had to have been what took all the juice. Sure. And applying heat to bend something is a pretty tried and true method. So I don't know about the air pump. The balloon, I can picture. But I don't know what that bike pump did.


It blew up the a balloon.


Yeah. If you look at the Kazaan machine, it looks almost like a teak lounge chair that hasn't been finished yet.


Exactly. It's dancing right along the line of a Wicker wheelchair, so I'm not a big fan of it.


Yeah. I would have come in like a to me and said, You're trying to design a chair with this thing. Look at it. Just sit in it.


That's right.


You got your chair.


But they call that the Kazaam machine as a reference to Al-Kazaam because you would put in plywood and glue and something magically different would appear.


Yeah, Kazaam with a exclamation point. Yeah, for sure. After Kazaam, not after machine.


That's right. Although they should have used two and been like, Kazaam, machine.


Well, that would conjure something very deadly.


I guess so. Like I said, they were pretty broke, and Charles ended up taking a job at MGM designing sets, I believe. Could not for life have me find out what films he actually worked on. But while there, he was not happy about that. He wrote to a friend that, All hope for the future is lost, but I get a regular paycheck. So he was also taking materials that he found from his work back home, too, to use in their home studio. But he also made, I think, a lifelong friend in director Billy Wilder.




Great. Yeah, Billy Wilder. Isn't he Chad, our director from the Stuff You Should Know TV show's favorite director? Oh, is he? I think Chad said The Apartment is his favorite movie of all time.


It's a great one. That's our pal Scott Ackerman chose for a movie crush.


Okay. Yeah, there you go.


One of the great movies. Billy Wilder did all kinds of great movies.


You had me at Sunset Boulevard.


Yeah, exactly.


The Eme Shays, the reason Billy Wilder figures into it, aside from like, wow, there's the name drop right there. The Eme Shays, which is a very famous, well, Shays Lounge, decked out in leather with a pillow to go under your calves and everything. To me, it looks It's like what your psychologist would use while they gave you a gynecological exam. It's like a cross between a couch in your shrink's office and an exam table in your doctor's office.


Oh, well, just a word of advice. If your psychologist is trying to give you a gynecological exam, that's so good.


Exit. Stage left quickly. Yeah. So, yes, thank you for taking my joke and turning it really dark.


Well, I just want to make sure everyone understood clearly.


But the reason Billy Wilder inspired the Eames-Shays is that he would take naps on sets. And apparently, there was one that God bless him. Charles Eames witnessed where Billy Wilder was taking a nap on a 6 by 12-inch plank that was stood up on two saw horses. That's where he was napping.


That's no good.


No. Charles was like, I need to help my friend here.


All right. I think that's a good time for a break. You got Billy Wilder asleep in the corner. On one of those curvy psychologist chases.


No, this one's straight. It's not the other one. The curvy one is the Lushase.


Oh, really? Because I saw the the chase was the curvy one. No?


There's two. One, the curvy one is called Lushase. The Lushays, the Eames Shays, the original Eames Shays, it looks like one of their aluminum group leather upholstered chairs, but laid out essentially flat.


Billy Wilder should have stuck around.


I'm telling you, My description of it was spot on.


In my head, though, it made more sense for the curvy one, your description.


Yeah, I guess so. If you wanted to be really comfortable.


All right, we'll take a break, and we'll be right back.


Learning stuff with Joshua and Charles. Stuff you should know. Hi, everyone. I'm Jackie Goldschneider from the Real Housewise of New Jersey. I joined the show in season nine. And I'm Jennifer Fessler, also I'm the Real Housewives of New Jersey.


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Listen to the big take on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. All right, so World War II rolls around, and this was a bit of a shift for everybody in the world, probably, but certainly for the Eames family. Southern California was and still is very big in defense manufacturing. The military said, Hey, this plywood stuff is really something.


Have you seen this plywood?


It's lightweight. It can be bent in two different directions, I hear, if you have a Kazaam machine. We're into it. They knew a guy named Wendell Scott, an old friend of Charles' who was a Navy doctor. They got together for a visit. He saw this Kazaam machine, and he said, Wait a minute. We've been using these metal leg splints for war, and these things are no good. They're not good for protection in the field. We need metal for other things. And we think that you might be able to, or I think you might be able to build some better wooden splints out of bending plywood.


Yeah. So that's exactly what they did. They recruited a friend that Charles had made at MGM, a a computer designer named Margaret Harris. And together with them and Intenza, they're pretty much their benefactor by this point in Los Angeles, they created a wooden splint for the US Navy that was lightweight. It had strategic holes in it that made it extra lightweight, but also you could run straps through to strap the leg to the splint. They were stackable, very, very important. So it was mass-producible. It was extremely mobile. It was lightweight, but it also looked nice. I mean, as far as leg splints go, it's an attractive leg splint.


It was called the Transportation eggsplint. My Lord.


Transportation eggs benedict.


Legsplint. They made 5,000. The Navy ordered 5,000 of these things. So all of a sudden, they had a little money coming in.


Yeah, because at $10 per, that's what they charged, which they could have. That'd be a million dollars, a million dollar order.


That's a lot of dough. And that's not my math.


I just went ahead and converted it to today's dollars. That's what I meant. Oh, okay.


I was about to say, oh, boy, here we go.


5,000 times 10 is a million.


So such money that they were able to form a company called the Plywood... I'm sorry, the Plyformed Wood Company. They had a little office in Venice Beach at the time, and they sold that thing. They didn't want to be in that business, really. So they built it and they sold it to a company based out of Mission called Evans Products. Charles worked there for a little while, headed up the molded plywood division. And then the big, big change in their life came in 1943 when they opened up what they called 901, which was their office. It's still there today at 901. Now it's Abbott Kinne Boulevard. Back then, it was West Washington Boulevard in Venice.


Got you. So, yeah, the leg splint thing was not just a little boon-doggle we went on. The reason it was important was they made a bunch of context. They got a lot of business experience. They got a little money, and essentially, that's what gave them the foundation to move up from being broke theater designers who were just working in their apartment to legitimate furniture designers who now had their own business and office.


Yeah, they got equipment, too, and materials. They were pretty set up there at 901. For sure. If you watch the documentary or just know about 901, it was a bit of a crazy wonderland to work at. Some of the designers there said it was like working at Disneyland. It was fun. There weren't regular routines. There weren't stuffy staff meetings. It was just one of those places where long long before every tech office in the world was like, Let's have a ping-pong table and Skittles all over the place. Man, I love Skittles. They had a a classy version of that in 1943, which was not how offices worked back then, even creative offices.


Yeah, as we'll see, one of the things they're also known for is they made a line of toys. And the reason they also forade into toys is because at least to Charles, but I think also to Ray as well, Charles often gets the quotes, but they were in such sync that I assume in a lot of cases, Ray probably felt at least similar, if not the same. But in this instance, Charles had some quote about how play is actually serious business, that that's the thing that unlocks curiosity. Just doing an activity, simply for the activity's sake, just resets the brain and the mind. So I'm not at all surprised to hear that their office was like that, because that's just what they seem to do. They would just do stuff, learn by doing all the time.


Yeah. Another reason they went into things like toys and then later filmmaking, as we'll see, is as great as his reputation was, he didn't want to be chair guy.


Sure. Plus, he really liked toys.


Yeah, but he was so good at chairs.


Right. Well, that's the thing. When you hear the word Eames, almost, probably 80% of the time, if not more, the next word is chair.




Because the chairs that they designed are so iconic. And the first one that they hit the market with... So they opened the office in 1943. By 1946, they had a chair in mass production. At first with that Evans products, but eventually, Evans is like, We don't really know what we're doing. We're more the leg splint producers. Maybe you guys should talk to Herman Miller. And that's what they did. They came up with the Eames Chairwood, the ECW. Nowadays, it's called the LCW, the Lounge Chairwood. And it's molded, bent plywood on a plywood base, and it is gorgeous, and it's actually super comfortable without a lick of padding on it.


Yeah. They figured out if you mold something just right to where the human body can function well in it. They were in the form, but they were very much into function. They did not want some weird, fancy-looking thing that's not fun or comfortable to sit on ever.


Yeah, Ray had a quote, and I assume Charles probably felt the same way, is that what works is better than what looks good. The looks can change, but what works, works. There's a ton of wisdom in there.


That was actually Ray.


That's what I said.


Oh, okay. I didn't get the joke.


I made a reference to the joke where I went on some horrible tangent earlier I was about to do it again. So thank you for saving everyone.


So, Herman Miller, you mentioned this is a big deal because the Herman Miller Company out of Michigan was great at making furniture. They were producing modernist furniture. Oh, boy. Did we already have a big mistake with Charles Nelson?


I don't know. I guess maybe I said Charles.


All right. Well, George Nelson is who we're talking about, a very iconic designer. In fact, in my little studio here, I'm looking at a George Nelson clock.


Which one?


The one that is rounded wood. Like the balls on the end, the ball clock? I mean, it's like someone took a round ball made of wood, and then slice the first third of it off, and that's a clock face. I got you.


Okay. Yeah. We have the eye clock.


The eye clock. I think I know which one you're talking about.


It looks like an eye, and the numbers, it doesn't have numbers, but the little lines that go to the numbers, it has those, but they're in some crazy, weird spread out positions, but they still keep time. It's really amazing. But yeah, George Nelson is very well known for creating a lot of super for '50s clocks.


Yeah, I don't think any of his clocks had numbers, if I'm not mistaken, because he was like, You don't need a number if you know what a clock looks like and how to read it. Yeah. That's another reason this one's fun for us, because both of us love this stuff.


Yeah. So for George Nelson, go look up Nelson clocks, look up Nelson bubble lamps, probably seen those before, the Nelson platform bench, and then the swag leg desk. Those are some of his best designs. But in addition to being a designer himself, he was one of those A+ people who recruited other A+ people to work with him. And one of the groups of A+ people he recruited were the EMS. And they started working with George Nelson at Herman Miller, essentially is like independent contractors, just probably exclusively sending their designs to Herman Miller to be produced.


That's right. Could you imagine if we didn't have little slip-ups, we would have never gotten a Charles Nelson-Reilly sidebar.


Man, you just found the silver lining to that thousand emails.


And that's a good lesson to people to never stop the podcast right in the middle to email us a correction. Sometimes we catch things. So they're working together now. They're working for Herman Miller. This is a match made in heaven because they had the smarts and the experience to mass produce and pump out these great designs on Herman Miller's side. They had these amazing designers now working for them. Like you said, from the beginning, they were trying to create these simple, stylish, but practical pieces. As we'll see, things that would end up going in schools and bus stations and stuff like that.


And airport. So if you go to an airport today and you see that long row of chairs that you just sit in while you're waiting at the gate, and they're all connected by metal, they have a leather back, a leather seat, and two arms. That's an Eames design. I can't remember the sling group chair is what they're called, and they're still in production. So if it's not an actual legitimate Eames set of chairs, it's a knockoff of it. That's how ubiquitous their stuff is. It was everywhere. Most of the stuff we're talking about, if you can't bring it to mind, I will bet that if you go look it up, you've probably seen it before.


Yeah, I mean, their stuff is either literally all over the place or just in spirit in a lot of places just ubiquitous in America. Yeah, for sure. Maybe elsewhere, but I don't get to travel much.


I know. I haven't traveled that much either. It's always for tour.


For Ray's side, She was an amazing artist, a great painter. She ended up working and adding a lot of fun and design elements to the things that were happening. If you watch a documentary, you definitely get the sense that she She's the one that held it all together. She had a great attention to detail. As far as the company functioning as a company and not just a fun house of kids designing things, as far as the staff goes, she kept things on the rails and also provided a lot of fun and color and textural detail. If you watch interviews with them over the years on YouTube, she He's always standing behind Charles, of course, and she doesn't say much on camera. It's always him, and his name is the one that's up there, and it gets a little frustrating. But the fact of the matter is, it was just a time in the 1950s where even though Charles would say things like, Anything I can do, Ray can do better than me, it's just how it was then. She took a bit of a back seat, unfortunately.


Yeah, and there's no other way to put it. That's just how it was. There's a very famous clip of them on an DC show called Home that was hosted by the actress Arlene Francis. And in this clip, it's, I think, nine or eleven minute segment on the show. They actually debut. Robust. Yeah, it is. They début one of their famous chairs, which we'll talk about in a second, the Eames Lounge chair. But Arlene Francis is even almost cattily dismissive of Ray, and Ray is just sitting there, has to have a big smile on her face because that's what you're expected to do. But she was just sidelined, just pushed to the side in this interview, despite, yeah, over the years, Charles is being like, no, this woman is not behind me. She's right next to me. We're equals. We're partners. We do this together. Society was just like, that's not true.


Stop lying. She's like, I'm paraphrasing, but the overall vibe was in the brief time she was allowed to speak was, Tell me how you support your husband, that thing.


Exactly. Yeah.


So they're making all kinds of things, collapsible sofas, fiber glass, shell chairs. Those were very famous. If you look up there, and I think this one won a design award for MoMA as well in 1950, their molded fiber glass armchair. Look that thing up and you'll say, Oh, that chair.


Yeah, the one that I've sat in in every school cafeteria ever at the bus station. If you see a seat that's plastic and molded to fit your form, that was the Eames fiber glass armchair.


Yeah, absolutely. Again, Sons Appolstry, they would end up using leather, as we'll see here in a second. But most of this early stuff was aluminum, molded fiber glass and-Don't forget plywood. Plastic, plywood, wire mesh, stuff like that.


Yeah, which to me, that's what I don't like about their design. It has too much of an industrial flavor, which is exactly what they're going for. They were trying to show you can come up with beautiful design that's affordable using mass-produced materials. And so that's what they were doing. But it just looks a little industrial to me. And then it has that veneer of 50 years, which makes industrial products somehow creepy. So some of their actual vintage stuff I'm not crazy about. But there's a really cute segment on Antiques Roadshow, if you want to see one of the Eames storage units, one of their earliest ones. If you look up a Herman Miller storage unit, Fortworth, there's a five or six minute segment where this woman is told that something she paid $15 for is worth $20,000. Oh, wow. I love Antiques Road show.


Yeah, it's a great show. And another thing that was great about their designs with these chairs in particular is that they were stackable. I think they may have learned from that egg splint that if you make something stackable, that's very handy if you have to clear a cafeteria for a school play or dodgeball.


Right, exactly. So that was their genuinely affordable breakthrough. And they actually, from what I can tell, left molded plywood largely behind. That's not entirely true, but they really went full bore on molded fiber glass and then plastic because it really did fulfill a lot of the services or purposes they wanted, including affordability. Like that first chair of theirs, Time magazine named it the Chair of the Century. Before the century, it was even halfway through. That's how much of a splash it made. And they were making it for the average person to be able to buy, but it was still in today's dollars, a $525 single chair. You know what I mean? So it wasn't exactly affordable. When they started to get into fiber glass and plastic, then they were making chairs that the average person could afford.


I wonder if when they made that announcement, how many chair designers and builders were just like, Well, what What's the point? And just threw their chair into the fireplace.


They're like, I guess I'll go into toys. Damn it, they're into toys, too.


So you said they moved away from plywood, but not before this iconic chair that you mentioned briefly earlier.


That's why I corrected myself.


The Eames Lounge, which was molded plywood. It was fabric. The very first one that was introduced on that show was rosewood plywood and black leather. This is one that made them famous. It came with an Ottoman, or I guess, I don't even know if you had to buy it separately back then, but it's a gorgeous chair. They're the ones they sit on on Shark Tank. They are copied heavily. I imagine the knock-offs are not nearly as good, but I don't own one, but I've always wanted one, and I think one day I might have to splash down for one.


There's this one that I covet that was owned Orville Redenbacher, which just somehow makes it even more mid-century amazing.


Can you imagine eating popcorn in that thing watching a movie?


Yeah, there's this guy who refurbished an atomic ranch. It's on the magazine, the Internet magazine Atomic Ranch, but the mid-century, space-age house he refurbished. And he has that Orville Redenbacher knockoff. It's actually a knockoff of the Eames Lounge. He has it, and he said they eat popcorn in Amazing. I think so, too. I don't know why. I don't even know how I first heard about it, but I cover it that particular chair. It's great.


You know, one day, Josh, I'm going to really root for you to get that chair.


Thank you. I can't wait till that day starts. Let's talk about that chair a little bit.


Oh, sure.


Okay, well, here I go. So the chair itself was different. It was moldy plywood, like you said, but it was upholstered in leather, like I think also you said. But it was meant to be exceedingly comfortable. And the way that Charles put it is supposed to have the warm, receptive look of a well-used first basement's mitt.


Yeah, I sat in them.


Which definitely gets that across. No, they're super, duper comfortable, especially if you remind yourself, I'm actually sitting on upholster plywood here.




And history. But they have become so iconic and so associated with the mid-century modern esthetic. And in particular, it's almost like a signal or code for someone who is a powerful captain of industry, like a mover and a shaker of that era, if you're doing a period piece. So much so that when... Is it Matthew Wiener, who was the showruner for Mad Men?




Wiener? Wienerslough? He said, We're not using the Eames Lounge in our show. It's just such a cliché. It shows up everywhere. And Mad Men is like, Of course, it's going to show up in Mad Men. So he very wisely was like, No, we're not doing that. But he went with a different Eames set, the Eames Aluminum Group, which is equally cool, but in a different way.


Yeah, I definitely like the other one better, but this was more of an office chair. You've seen it before as well. No padding on the arms, but it's like a ribbed leather. I promise you, look this thing up and you'll go, Oh, that thing.




That held Don Draper's butt for however many years.


And also, I mean, depending on how hip your workplace is, you might have a knockoff of this in your office. That's something that happens in design a lot. Somebody comes up with an iconic design, and then everybody rips it off. That's just the part of the industry.


Yeah. All right. I feel like that's another break point, yay?




All right, Hepcat. We're going to be right back after this, and Josh will pick up after the break with Toys.


Learning stuff with Joshua and Charles. Stuff you should know.


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Listen to The Why with Dwyane Wade on the iHeartRadio app, Apple podcast, or whatever you can get your podcast. All right, Chuck, let's talk toys, because like I said, they considered play serious business because of what it could do to unlock you.


And they were playful people for sure.




Before we talk about toys, let's put that on the back burner for a second and talk about their architecture work. Because remember, Charles was a crypto pseudo architect for a while, an outlaw architect, I guess. And this was an age where you could work with other amazing designers and architects. And remember, they were friends already with Eero Saeranen. So they worked with him on at least one house called Case Study House number 9. And that's a pretty famous house, but it is nothing compared to Case Study House number 8, which is in fact the house that Ray and Charles Eames designed and ended living in.


Yeah, the Case Study House is, we'll say what it is, but I've had this on my list for 10 years to do.


Oh, it's so neat.Yumi took it there.It is.


It's beautiful. But what, to that house?


Yeah, it's really neat.


But the case study program was a program sponsored by Art and Architecture magazine, where they built these houses. I think there were 36 designs, not just the Eames, all sorts of Over the course of like 21 years, they built 26 of these houses, and 18 of them are still as is. A handful have been destroyed, which is awful. Yeah. And be more awful. A handful of them, when you look up, the list says something like renovated... I'm paraphrasing, but basically-In the country clutter. Renovated so much that you can't even tell it's what it was. Got you.


Yeah, for sure.


But we're going to do one on the case study houses in that program. It was pretty amazing. But out of this came case study 8, where, like you said, the Eames lived in the Pacific Palisades. It was initially called the Bridge House because it was going to be cantilevered out over this big grassy meadow toward the sea because you could see the ocean there. Charles, at one point, reconsidered along with Ray, and they said, Hey, we're doing that thing that you're not supposed to do in architecture, which is take this beautiful area and just plunk a house down in the middle of it. He fell in love with that meadow, and he decided to change the complete design of it. Instead of Cantilevering it out over this meadow, make the meadow this big, beautiful front yard, basically. They came up with... They scrapped the Ridge house and came up with the design for number 8, which was this very beautiful, square, flat-roofed, colorful, amazing house.


Yeah. So apparently, Ray was a fan of Mondrian. And you can tell because these are two giant squares made of glass and steel, and then they have panels in some places where you might have a window, and those panels would be colored like yellow, or blue, or red, or white, like a Mondrian painting. But they were the ones... I don't know if this house is the one that introduced it. It's possible. The idea of soaring ceilings, of huge open space floor plans. It's a modernist masterpiece. But one of the things that's so great about it is that Ray decorated it through to the hilt with art objects, gifts from friends, paintings, sculptures, folk art, weavings, everything you can think of. It was just such a busy room. There's like, leopard skin rugs and just weird stuff everywhere. And this was entirely counter to the trend at the time, which was if you're a modernist, you're also a minimalist. You can't extract one from the other. And she did. And that was a huge contribution to modernism, because a lot of people are turned off, including me, are turned off by minimalism. I can't stand it.


It's an awful, awful way to live, I think. And she was like, Hey, you can be modern and not be minimalist. So she's credited with that as being probably her greatest solo contribution to modernism is the design choices she made in that house.


Yeah, whimsicle and warm I love it. It's pretty amazing. Like you said, they also did case study house number 9 on the same lot as number 8. Intenza himself would live in number 9. He also designed his old buddy Billy Wilder's house. He said, Hey, I love that flat board that you gussied up for me. Can you make me a flat house? And he said, Sure. And so this house in Beverly Hills, where Billy Wilder and his wife, Audrey Young, lived, is another gorgeous flat roofed, square boxy, brilliant design.


Yeah, it's very cool. And they also planted eucalyptus trees all around it. And I think, at least on one of them, there's swings that you can swing on when you're there. When we went, we just showed up. We didn't make reservations, and there was no one there. So we had the place to ourselves. We weren't able to go inside, but we peaked in the windows and all that.


It's all windows.


You could see the whole thing. I know you really could. It was neat, though. It's definitely worth visiting, Chuck. I think you'd love it.


Oh, totally. There are so many things in LA that I was either unaware of or too broke to do that I try to do those things when I go back now. Nice. Ray is busy also working on side gigs, designing textiles and fabrics and patterns. A couple of her most famous ones that Waverly products picked up is called See Things, S-E-A Things, which is whimsicle and fun, just like she was, little starfish and amoeba like things. Then she was very famous for something you still see a lot today called the Eames' Dots, which is this design that are dots with interconnected lines. It's simple stuff, but iconic.


Yes. If you're into West Elm stuff, you have seen this design before, or some version of it, for sure. Toys? Toys. I think it's time to talk about toys. In particular, they had one called The Toy. It was a set of these vinyl panels that you would frame with dowels and then connect to other panels with other dowels. They were either square or triangle. I think they're about three feet across. And the whole point of it was you can build all sorts of structures out of it. You can use it to build the wings of a theater and pretend you're on a stage. You were intended to use your imagination, even though in the instructions, it shows you some ideas on how to build some stuff. But it was a toy for everybody, for all ages. That was, I think, the first one they came up with.


Yeah, that was in '51. They had the House of Cards as well, which is produced in '52. It's a deck of cards. The patterns on them are beautiful. All the cards are different things. It's not like just a single pattern deck, but they had notches. It's a house, you build it. So they had notches so you could build it into these very Emsy-looking square structures, the way the notches are built. I was like, I'm going to buy one of those for my old pal Josh.


Oh, thanks.


It's not coming, don't worry. I went to Etsy. An original pack is 3,200 bucks.




Hey, man, that's a lot of money for a deck of cards.


Yeah, it is. Okay, well, then you can get me one of their musical towers instead.


Yes, they were very well known for this being in their office. It's still there today. It is a vertical xylophone, and you drop a ball down it. Yeah, like Plinko. Yeah, and it just bounces its way down, hitting different notes on the way down, which is just super fun.


Yeah, and all the notes are rearrangeable, too, which is just sweet. There's only three of them in existence, so I presume it might even be more than a house of cards toy.


You can buy me that.


So in addition to toys, to furniture, the Eames, they were just creative. Creative people through and through, and they saw design everywhere. They had a collection of almost a quarter of a million slides, and they would create these slideshow or multimedia presentations, juxtaposing a shell with an interstate overpass and be like, Look at how similar this is. They were just into all that stuff. And so they found a lot of fulfillment in another phase, the end phase of their career together, which was coming up with movies, exhibits, and presentations, essentially.


Yeah. So they found work in a few different ways. They ended up being sponsored, or I guess hired by corporations, notably, IBM was one of them, to create industrial films here and there, multi TV media projects. It wasn't like how you can get your hand caught in a print or anything like that. All kinds of different stuff, very creative things. One of the most famous films they made, probably the most famous, is called Power's Of Ten. They did a prototype film in 1968 called A Rough Skech for a Proposed Film dealing with the Power's Of Ten and the Relative Size of Things in the Universe, shot at Miami in Black and White, and then made a final version They worked on this thing for a long time. It's based on a book by a Dutch teacher named Kies Boca, called Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps. But the final version, they shot on the shores of Lake Erie. I'm sorry. Boy, I almost screwed that one up. Man. Lake Michigan in Chicago. The final version was in '77. It was in color. It was called Power's Of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe.


What that all means is they start with a simple overhead shot of this couple next to Lake Michigan having a picnic, and then it just keeps zooming back by Power's Of Ten, narrated the whole time by a gentleman, MIT a T physics professor named Philip Morison. And Cameron Crow, the director, very much inspired by Billy Wilder, he opens Jerry Maguire with a very similar thing, and I guarantee you he took this from the Eames Project.


Oh, yeah, I'm sure. It's just neat. And if you think of it, you're like, yeah, of course, it's like somebody was going to stumble on this sooner or later. But I don't know how much that is just because they put it out there initially. But they would zoom out, I think all the way until it was 10 to the 10th power, 15th power, something like that. So the entire known universe was encompassed and then zoomed all the way in. Back to that guy laying on a picnic blanket in Chicago, and then threw his skin into a proton in a carbon atom, I think.


Yeah, super cool. It's nine minutes on YouTube. It's very much worth watching.


Yeah, you could watch it 10 times in an hour and a half if you wanted to. But it is very cool, and it is on YouTube, and it is definitely worth watching. And that's definitely what they were known for. But they made, I think, 125 films. And like I said, they made exhibits for museums, some of which are still around right now. They just did all sorts of really cool things. If they had an idea, they would explore any medium that they thought best got it across. They were just not afraid of taking risks. And I didn't realize that about them. I didn't know anything about them until I met Yumi, and then I started to learn about furniture design and all that. And then from researching this, I got to know them better. And I just think I admire them a lot more than I did before I started researching this just because they were so varied in their pursuits. I just think they're neat.


Yeah, absolutely. It was a great love story on one hand, but we do need to just mention the darker side, which is when I was talking to you about this, you made a joke about people buried in their basement or something. Not that dark.




But when you run a design concern, your name is the one that's on it. Sometimes it was Charles and Ray, usually just Charles. But they had a whole team of people that worked on this stuff, these young designers that worked for them that they never got any credit, and they talked about that. Some people felt exploited. Some were like, Yeah, we were exploited, but we also exploited their name because we worked for the hottest design firm, and it was a give and take, and that's just the deal. Your name doesn't go up there. If you're on the team that creates the thing that the person whose name is on the placard on the office door, they're going to get the credit. Still happens a lot. People are better these days about giving credit down to staff. Back then, not so much. Then the other thing is Charles, a Ray, very sadly, had some affairs. Notably, he had a pretty heavy love affair with a woman named Judith Wexler. He was so far into it that he was like, I want to sell 901. I want to get divorced. I want to move to New York.


I want to marry you. I want to have a baby. She broke it off because she said she couldn't do that to Ray because they were friends as well.


Man, the middle century.


Yeah. Ray knew about this stuff. It was a time where divorce wasn't as popular, and it was tough for her. She apparently dealt with it very privately, but they stuck together until the end.


Yeah, man. Wow, I didn't know about that either.


Yeah, but worth mentioning until Charles died in 1978.


Yeah, something sweet about that is Ray died exactly a decade later, on August 21st, 1988. She spent that decade basically archiving and organizing and documenting all the work they did together. Then I guess she realized or felt like her work was done and said, Ray, out.


Yeah, she passed from cancer. He died of a heart attack on a consulting trip in St. Louis. They were very beloved. The people... He didn't have any employees that sounded like they didn't absolutely love them. I think some of them were a little salty about credit here and there, but to a person, they were all like, it was a magical time, they were magical people, and it was just a great thing all the way around.


Well, I'm definitely... I'm glad we included the dark side then.


You can't whitewash that stuff.


It's true. You got anything else, Chuck?


I got nothing else. Look forward to a case study house podcast.


Okay. Podcast or short stuff?


I think we could probably stretch that one out to a full no problem. Because, hey, what's better than sitting around and listening to a show describe the way something looks.


That's right. Let's do it. Since Chuck and I just negotiated whether that episode would be a short stuff or a full-length episode, it's time for a listener mail.


All right, I'm going to call This is a reminder to Sandwich. This is from Aaron Burke. Hey, guys, recently found your show? I've gotten into it. I started to listen to the most recent, and then I thought, Well, maybe I should have the whole experience and start at the beginning. These early episodes are a little unsatisfying because I know the finely-tuned show that you have achieved after 1,500 episodes. My question is, what would you recommend for new listeners? Start at the beginning, work backwards, go to episode 177? As of now, I'm starting at day one, and that is from Aaron Burke. I let Aaron know which episode this is going to be on so he could hear it. But what we recommend is sandwiching. That is, listen to the latest one and then listen to the earliest one and then work forwards and backwards until you meet in the middle. For the reasons of compare and contrast, it's fun to hear the show now and how much has changed. But also, you don't want to miss out on announcements and live show stuff and changes that happen, although there's really not many.


No, there's no changes whatsoever these days.


But we think the sandwich method is pretty fun.


Yeah, it's been the recommended version or method for the whole time, I think, essentially, right?


Yeah, but Do it how you want. That's what we think. Sure.


Yeah, to each their own, right?




Who is that?


Aaron Burke.


Aaron, however you listen to the entire catalog of stuff you should know, we hope you enjoy every single minute of it. If you want to be like Aaron and get in touch with us and ask us for some advice of some sort, do it. You can send it in an email to stuffpodcast@iheartradio. Com.


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