Monsieur Olivier Creed Sniffs Out a Living

If you’re rich, it’s possible to hire the last true French parfumeur to make a scent for you. His name is Olivier Creed, and he runs a family perfume business that was founded by his great-great-great-great-grandfather, James Creed, in 1760.

He has a new store at 9 Bond Street called Creed on Bond. “But of course we sell other perfumes. We have many perfumes, of course!” said Mr. Creed. He looked thin, rested.

Nestled in another chair was Laurice Rahme, the president of Creed U.S.A., but French to her small-boned core. Red lipstick, high heels, Capri pants. The walls are lined with bottles.

“But we have some clients, they ask for some perfume of measure, and we make!” said Mr. Creed. “But we select the clients, you see. Because I don’t want to waste my time !”

The way it works is this: You fork over anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. And then Mr. Creed will begin. First, he asks about smells.

“I see the client. We speak of course about what he likes. Sometimes, he says, ‘I like the wood.’ But he don’t know the wood! But he’s woody! People come in and say, I would like a warm perfume. But what is a warm perfume? What is that? I have to completely educate them.”

An assistant appeared. Would Mr. Creed like some tea? He would, with lemon. He would also rather speak French. And so he did.

“We discuss everything,” he continued. “I psychoanalyze the clients. We talk about everything. About nothing. If they go to the countryside, what do they do there?”

“He asks about the personal life,” added Ms. Rahme. She winked. Her voice is a little throaty. “Their sex lives.” She grinned, raised her eyebrows theatrically.

The assistant returned, carrying a silver tray laden with pains au chocolat.

“So, after three or four fittings, voilà !” said Mr. Creed.

Voilà . The process takes from four to six months. Sometimes clients have to travel–by Concorde, bien sûr –to Paris to sniff things. And in that four to six months, Mr. Creed explained, each perfume gets about 40 hours of personal nose time. One hour at a time. Last year, Mr. Creed had nine custom-scent clients.

The client must understand that Mr. Creed works only from 9 A.M. till noon. That is when his nose is fresh.

“He relates things to the real-life things,” said Ms. Rahme. “Like golf. He’s very sporty. He skis. On the slopes.”

Indeed, the Green Valley scent in Creed on Bond’s regular collection is inspired by a golf course.

He doesn’t smoke cigarettes, but he does enjoy a good Cuban cigar every afternoon. Et voilà! Tabarome, which Mr. Creed has just reissued, was a favorite of George IV. “He was a bit effeminate, non ?” said Ms. Rahme as she pondered a color photocopy of the king. Tabarom is a perfume with a tobacco base. Mr. Creed brought the supply from Paris himself. In his valise. On the Concorde.

And then there’s the travel. “Turkey, Bulgaria, Morocco, southern Italy. Every country has its own smells,” said Mr. Creed. “I travel everywhere. Always. Le bergamot, le citron , la mandarine! The best is in Sicily. That’s where you find good bergamot.”

The assistant reappeared. “I searched and searched,” she said, “and finally I found some lemon.”

The slices, pitted, glistened on the plate.

Once a Creed client has paid the tab of between $10,000 and $20,000, he or she gets a five-year supply of his or her own secret scent. If you run out, Mr. Creed will mail you another bottle. He will not sell it to anyone else.

“Some people do not know what they want,” said Mr. Creed. Such clients are steered, gently, toward custom blending, which costs from $700 to $1,200. That is just a mix of some of the line’s existing perfumes. When they know themselves a bit better–that is to say, when they know what they like to smell, and how they might like to smell–perhaps, then, Mr. Creed might interview them again.

Outside the store sits the Creedmobile: a white 1962 Aston Martin. With chauf-feur. Facing the backseat is a two-tiered bar. In the little slots, instead of liquor bottles, there are about 20 bottles of perfume and cologne. The subway, after all, can’t smell very good at all.

–Amy Larocca

Public Urinator Repents

Zack B. got busted taking a leak on the street. So did he pay a fine, like most so-called quality-of-life offenders? Nope. See, Zack made the mistake of taking his piss in midtown–where judges take these low-level crimes so seriously that they sentence the ingrates to a few hours of group therapy.

Zack–who teaches kids for a nonprofit group and was too ashamed to let his last name be used–is one of around 15,000 people a year arraigned at the Midtown Community Court, a 6-year-old branch of the state criminal court system, on 314 West 54th Street.

The idea is this. These days, if a cop in one of three midtown precincts covering the experiment’s area catches you pissing or drinking beer in public, or fare-beating, or whatever, it won’t be enough to merely hang your head in front of a judge and hand over a day’s salary.

Instead, the judge is likely to make you sit on a panel with several fellow offenders. It’s called a “quality-of-life group.” You’ll be asked to make understanding noises while someone who claims to represent the community tells you what you’ve done is not only really disgusting, but also harmful to the law-abiding residents of the area around the scene of your crime.

“The point is to demonstrate that these aren’t in fact victimless crimes,” said John Feinblatt, the director of the Center for Court Innovation, a public-private group that helped establish the program.

So here’s what happened to Zack. First, he sat in a room while a city worker gave him a lesson in sexual hygiene. (Mr. Feinblatt said that the city makes a health caseworker available to everyone who passes through the program, though he added the session wasn’t imperative.)

“She said, Do you use a condom? She said, Did you have an AIDS test?” Zack recalled. “And she pulled out a booklet of graphic pictures of genital warts and syphilis.”

After that, he sat at a table with three other public urinators, another low-level offender and two community representatives who discussed the consequences of public pissing. Each urinator was asked to explain what led them to do what they did–too much beer, too little discipline was the short answer–and then to probe the real root cause of their offense.

To a man, Zack recalled, the urinators were able to agree that pissing on the street was a bad habit picked up in childhood. But Zack wasn’t entirely repentant. At one point, he tried to blame his offense on the shortage of public toilets: “I said, ‘Yeah, I usually don’t go to restaurants because I get a dirty look.'”

In the end, Zack came around to the community point of view–sort of.

“I wouldn’t pee on a building,” he remembered confessing to the panel. “It’s my moral code–I only pee in the gutter.”

– Greg Sargent

Don’t Spray on Us

The playground moms and dads of the Upper West Side were angry the morning of Sept. 14. The evening before, at just after

6 P.M., some of them had been in Riverside Park when city helicopters sprayed malathion insecticide. To the hyperliterary, suspicious types who live in the area, this was Don DeLillo’s White Noise come to life.

Calls to the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management confirmed that the city had sprayed Riverside Park before dark. While the Mayor has played down the possible dangers of malathion, even the Official New York City Web Site (www.ci.nyc.ny.us) warns that “people and pets should stay indoors if possible” during sprayings (most of which have taken place during overnight hours) and that any children’s toys left outside during sprayings should be washed “thoroughly with soap and water before using again.” That kind of thing doesn’t leave those who found themselves in the malathion rain feeling too at ease.

The Upper West Side parents have certainly done well under the Rudy Giuliani protectorate. Their property values have gone heavenward and they are not getting shot or mugged in their neighborhoods. But they don’t like the idea of their children being sprayed in the park that serves as their backyard.

Mr. Giuliani knew he had to act decisively in combating the St. Louis encephalitis outbreak. But that display of air power in the evening hour was impolitic at best and dangerous at worst–just the kind of thing that can drive those who’ve learned to love Rudy into the arms of Hillary Clinton, even if she is a big phony.

–Jim Windolf