A shocky-looking sniper lying on his back behind a rock in wooded, snowy mountains. His spotter lying next to him has had his head blown off
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Charlie Red is, and I mean this in a nice way, probably the most depressing perfume I own.

Charlie Red is a flanker to Charlie, which was released by Revlon in the early 70s. I haven't tried the original Charlie, so I don't have anything to say about it. I got Charlie Red because I like tuberose, not because I like Charlie. But Charlie IS an icon. It was very popular, well-marketed, and is still in production. But you wouldn't know that from Revlon's website. They haven't got a thing to say about any of their fragrances. Not Charlie Red, not Ciara, not even the original Charlie. They aren't discontinued. They've been disavowed. You never saw Charlie Red. Charlie Red does not exist. Do not look for Charlie Red. Here's how today's smash film stars use our emery boards. Revlon treats its perfumes as if they are a shameful secret.

Revlon won't help you find it, but Charlie Red is out there in the world, waiting for you. When you find it, it will be in a very large, unpleasant bottle. It's sold only in 3.4 ounce units. The bottle has a rounded wedge shape that doesn't fit very well in the hand. The cap is made of silvertone metal so thin that it could probably be cut with craft scissors. Don't drop it, because if you step on it, it will be crushed. The atomizer is white plastic that is crimped into place with more of that papery metal used in the cap. Nothing about the design suggests that it's a luxury good. Apart from just being extremely cheaply made, there was something bothering me about the bottle. It took me a while to figure it out. It's this: it looks like Revlon expects us to drink it.

I haven't run out of liquor yet, so I put it on my skin instead.

Charlie Red opens with carrier alcohol, carnations, and hairspray. Tuberose rises to the top of this. I didn't always love tuberose notes. When I first explored tuberose in perfume, I often found it crushing and chalky. That hasn't changed. What changed is I like that kind of thing now. Charlie Red's tuberose is as crushing and chalky as a plaster ceiling collapsing on top of you. There is a sweet note, but it's not too sweet, like the smell inside a can of apricots in syrup after the contents are gone. It smells about the same one, two, and three hours later as it does at five minutes, just lighter. I like it better once it's faded. Its initial strength is really hard to sit with. I like how it wears on fabric. Fabric retains it longer and vents some of its musk and flowers in a less hairspray-like way.

While researching Charlie Red, I found other reviewers commenting that it's similar to Elizabeth Arden's Red Door. I have Red Door, too*, so I put them head to head. Both Charlie Red and Red Door are powerful, so this was a rough one. Wearing both at once is overspray. But I did learn from it. They really are extremely similar. In fact, I wonder if Charlie Red was based on it, and its name is a cheeky reference to its source. The two are not identical, though. Charlie Red is a minor key late second act reprise to Red Door, played on the solo tuberose. Red Door has a more complex composition, and while it is not what I consider warm, it has animalic references to warmth in it. Nothing is alive in Charlie Red, not even the flowers, not even bacteria that would decompose them.

Charlie Red is more than just joyless. Charlie Red proposes that there will never be joy again. It is a picture of futility and despair in ponderous volume in an austere bottle held together by scraps. I'm burned out on it now because I had to keep wearing it over and over to write this review. Man, I am glad that I get to stop for a while. I'm sad enough without being in an olfactory exclusion zone. I want to wear something happier for a while. But I don't have much else that's similar to Charlie Red, and I do like it a lot. It's an interpretation of tuberose I didn't already have, and when I'm actually in the mood to be in a mood, it will be there. Until it runs out, like time does. Like life does. Jesus, damn, I'm gonna go put on some Light Blue Italian Zest now. That's enough.

*I don't know what concentration Red Door I used, since that info wore off the bottom sticker. It's either an EdT or the EdP. I also have some of the parfum. This will be important later.

- 12/7/20