Woman Around Town: Brini Maxwell Helps Us Remove the Fuzzballs from the Cashmere of Our Lives!

When Brini Maxwell burst onto the scene in 2004 for the debut of her Style Network series The Brini Maxwell Show, it was almost as if she had sprung directly from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, circa 1967.

Brini Maxwell began her high-profile career as a “Domestic Guru” rather modestly with a lifestyle show that lasted five years on Manhattan’s Public Access Television. The original idea for the show was formed when Brini purchased a set of vintage Pyrex nesting bowls at a thrift shop and said, “I really must create a show around these bowls.” She was already a popular style icon in New York City by the time Style Network snapped her up. The Brini Maxwell Show aired for two seasons on the Style Network and featured decorating tips and cooking spots as well as segments on entertaining (according to Brini, “having people over for drinks means more than holding down the nozzle on a can of spray cheese and cracking open a box of wine!”) with appearances by iconic celebrities the likes of Helen Gurley Brown and Rip Taylor, amongst others.

In addition to cooking and decorating segments with mid-century flair, the show featured a weekly spot entitled “Help Me Brini” in which viewers could write in for Brini’s advice on matters of etiquette such as the acceptable number of baby showers a re-expectant mother may be entitled to or the proper thing to say to a man who has just obtained a hair replacement system. Another segment, “Why Didn’t You Think of That?” offered helpful hints on everyday matters of cleaning and other household tasks.

The show’s many unique Brini-isms such as, “No party is complete without a Jello mold,” “Isn’t that marvelous?” or “Life is in the garnishes!” were part of what made The Brini Maxwell Show so charming and popular. Brini’s sharp, ironic wit and sarcasm was often surprising especially because it was delivered in the most well-mannered, gentile tone. Brini’s on-screen wardrobe was retro-chic and elegant, usually handmade by Brini herself, or by a friend using authentic vintage fabrics. Her on-screen persona was an amalgam of a number of different women from a certain generation: Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, Auntie Mame and her own mother, Mary Jane. But, Brini’s real background is somewhat of a mystery. Brini tells us only, “I’m related to the Maxwells of San Francisco. Judge Maxwell is my uncle.” When we dig for further explanation, Brini refers us to the Barbra Streisand classic, What’s Up Doc? and politely changes the subject.

As a supplement to the show, in 2005, Brini published Brini Maxwell’s Guide to Gracious Living with “Tips, Tricks, Recipes & Ideas to Make Your Life Bloom.” The book contained instructions and directions for many of the show’s home projects and some hard-to-find recipes such as the one for the popular Bridge Loaf featured in the series. “The Bridge Loaf was our most downloaded recipe,” Brini tells us. “Very slabular!”

Since The Brini Maxwell Show went off the air, Brini has kept busy with a line of decorative home products she designs and sells on the website www.FelixPopuli.com. Felix Populi, a Latin expression, loosely translates to “happy people.” The items offered in Brini’s line are colorful, clever and useful (Woman Around Town loves the “it’s for you” two-piece pillow set!). We took special note of a series of portraits featuring Brini Maxwell as Madeleine in scenes from the classic Hitchcock film, Vertigo, painstakingly recreated by photographer Bradford Noble.

And, if designing a line of home products isn’t enough, Brini keeps up with her podcasts and blog and hosts a summer film series on Thursday evenings during the months of July and August at New York’s Chelsea Clearview Cinemas featuring rarely screened film classics.

In September, Brini will host a Crafty Cabaret Caribbean Cruise with the “Impatient Crafter” Margot Potter. The cruise features crafting classes with Brini and Margot, cabaret performances and Caribbean sight seeing for as low as $595.

For more information on Brini Maxwell, to purchase her book, read her blog, view her podcasts or for additional details on the Crafty Cabaret Caribbean Cruise, go to www.BriniMaxwell.com.

Woman Around Town Six Questions:

Favorite Place to Eat: Sweetiepie
Favorite Place to Shop: San Francisco! And of course, all of the lovely little thrift shops in New York City (see my Woman Around Town shopping challenge)
Favorite New York Sight: That spot in the 50s on Park Avenue where if you turn one way, you see the Seagram Building and if you turn the other way, you see Lever House – icons of modernism!
Favorite New York Moment: A warm summer night, when it cools down just enough to walk around the city without a cardigan
What You Love About New York: The availability of anything you could ever want
What You Hate About New York: How much it costs to live here

Brini Maxwell is performed by her creator, actor Ben Sander.

Photographs by Bradford Noble, NoblePhoto.com

About Carol Toscano (7 Articles)
Native New Yorker and lover of all things New York, Carol Toscano is fiction and entertainment writer. She holds a BS in Journalism from St. John's University and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School University. Carol's work on the award-winning Woman Around Town website includes celebrity profiles, art, book and theatre reviews and travel and lifestyle pieces. Carol is a 2010 recipient of the prestigious Reverend Mychal Judge Heart of New York Journalism Award (for work that is most complementary of New York City) from the New York Press Club.