by Ted Welch
Tue Jun 26th, 2007 at 08:30:21 AM EST
The ETers in Paris 07
I got to the RV at Les Abbesses late, but Len and Helen were still there and we joined the rest of the group at Bateau Lavoir. Afew was lamenting the lack of interest in the cultural history of the area in favour of keeping up the bohemian tradition and rapidly getting something alcoholic rather than artistic or historic.
Lilianne, Bob, Dasmonde, Metavision, nanne, Afew (amused rather than bitching),
Fran, Someone, Metatone, the Dear Leader (just visible behind the lamppost), Helen, Bruno-ken.
The way up from the Bateau Lavoir - a very nice Parisian square:
Len (illuminated) enjoying fond memories of his two years in the area:
I listened as Afew gave some background of Dalida's house:
"... Her ex-husband Lucien Morisse took his own life sometime after her attempt at suicide in the wake of Tenco's death, and Haden-Guest compared her to Judy Garland, though musically she was closer to Astrud Gilberto. Dalida's later involvement marriage to a man identified as the Count of St. Germain, who turned out not to be a count and also to prefer male companionship, only added to the picture of a personal life in turmoil and seemed to make her that much more alluring to her admirers. In the midst of this, she won the Oscar Mondial du Disque (World Oscar of Recording), a French award, to be sure, for her "Gigi L'Amoroso," beating out competitors that included Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night," and recorded a peace song, "Salma ya Salama," in Arabic, on the occasion of Egyptian president Sadat's peace summit with Israel. Dalida's career in the 1980s had slowed somewhat as she entered her fifties, looking at least a decade younger but no longer doing 200 engagements a year as she had in her prime.
In 1986, she returned to her native Egypt to make a film, The Sixth Day, with director Youssef Chahine, an old friend from her early career, in which she gave what the critics felt was a superb acting performance. She continued to make Paris her home, where she remained a huge concert draw during her final decade. On May 3, 1987, Dalida was found dead of an overdose of barbiturates, an apparent suicide at the age of 54.
Jerome and Helen calculate the energy expended in the ascent of Montmartre:
"We'd like two hours of resilience-inducing conviviality please":
Metavision, Someone's partner, Crazy Horse, Someone.
Helen saw it, I took it:
Helen seeing the light - again:
"Why don't we take the train down?":
The vertiginous descent:
InWales, nanne, Nicholas Tobin, Laurent Guerby.
Shoot-out with Colman (Fran on the right)
Firenze restaurant, Saturday:
Someone, Helen, Migeru, Montserrat.
Bruno-ken: "So I grabbed this nuclear power supporter by the throat ..."
A somewhat happier Ted than in the photos already up:
"Memories of Montmartre"
Art student in Paris
The recent ET get-together in Paris was nostalgic for me. Montmartre in particular brings back lots of memories. My first trip abroad, at 18, was hitch-hiking with a friend to Paris from London. I was a student at Camberwell School of Art at the time. We didn't have a lot of luck hitching in France, but, just as we were contemplating a cold, damp night in a field, I saw a shooting star. I'm not superstitious, but said to myself: "I wish we could get to Paris tonight." About 30 secs later a car pulled up, asked where we were going and, when we said Paris, they told us to jump in.
A couple of hours later they dropped us off by the Seine, just across from Notre Dame. We found a piece of open ground and began to unroll our sleeping bags. A police car screeched to a halt beside us and two plainclothes police jumped out and searched us and our bags. When one discovered a pen-knife I had in my bag he got a bit excited, and said: "Qu'est que c'est - c'est pour couper la tete n'est ce pas?" (or something like that) and apparently someone had been stabbed not far away! Despite my four years of French at grammar school, I pretended not to understand: "Don't speak French, mate." I think they decided we were pretty harmless English tourists and couldn't be bothered with getting someone to translate. One said something like: "Si vous etes Francais vous etes en prison;" We looked blankly at them and they got back in the car and, to our great relief, drove off.
It had been a long day so we slept quite well, but we were quite far apart in the morning and each complained about the other coughing noisily in the night - till we realised that some sick tramp had come and slept between us!
The next night we found a nice spot in some bushes by the Champs Elysee, but again cops arrived, in uniform this time, looked at our passports and told us that they'd let us sleep there for tonight, but we should find a cheap hotel. As poor students we didn't want to waste money on that and spent a lot of time looking for somewhere else to sleep, but couldn't find anywhere better (the grounds of the Sacre Coeur were too creepy) so we decided to risk going back to the same place. My friend sleeps more easily than I do and was soon asleep. After a while I saw the same two cops approaching, so shut my eyes and pretended to sleep. They looked in and then one said, in a resigned sort of way and with what I imagined must have been a Gallic shrug: "Oh - les Anglais" - and they wandered off.
The curious American
Being a student painter and full of the Romantic myth of the artist, I dragged my friend up to the Place du Tertre and did a little painting in the nearby Rue Rustique (with the top of the Sacre Coeur just visible at the end).
There I had my first encounter with an American, a tubby guy with a cigar, with a group of other American tourists. As he got to me, to my amazement, he grabbed the painting, saying: "What have you got there boy? Oh, you haven't finished." Thrusting it back at speechless me, he passed on.
A better encounter was with an old English lady who lived in the house beside which I was painting and who came out when she heard us speaking English. She told us she'd lived there for about forty years, and had met her French military officer husband when he was stationed in Woolwich, in south-east London, which, by coincidence, was where I had lived for my first ten years.
La vie boheme
My painting was in the typical Camberwell, rather dreary realist style of that period. A painter who sold his stuff in Place du Tertre, suggested that I brightened up the colours and added a few people - a suggestion I scorned as selling out. In retrospect I tend to agree with him; why not give people stuff that makes them feel happy; it wasn't as if I was making any particularly profound point with my dull little painting.
We stayed on in the Place du Tertre, after the tourists had left. Some of the young Spanish guys, who drew tourists during the day, got out bottles of wine, guitars and sang. So we spent several evenings there - ah THIS was the bohemian life!
"We'll always have Paris"
Years later, as a lecturer (history and theory of the media) I returned with a girl-friend. I took her to Rue Rustique and told her about my experiences there during the first trip. It was an autumn day, leaves blew in little circles round our feet, we kissed and she said: "We'll always remember this". I still do - but she died, tragically young, years ago.
New Year sadness
Later still I went to a New Year's Eve party organised by one of my ex-students (she is French and was doing very well managing a design group in a large media company). It was in a small Montmartre restaurant, but the atmosphere was a bit awkward as she and her photographer husband (who wasn't doing so well) were in the process of splitting up. Later we all walked up to Place du Tertre and then round the corner, where there was a café with heaters and seats for a group of us - as there were this time, with the ET group - now another, happier, Montmartre memory.
On the way up, Len had told us about his memories of living in the area for a couple of lucky years, while Afew was a bit disappointed that most ETers weren't very interested in the history of the area - but in keeping up the tradition of many of its artists by finding somewhere to get some drinks. After several bottles of wine, beer, etc. and some good conversation we moved on as a shower died away and helpful Helen suggested photo-opportunities to me, one of which worked out very well. Then it was time to descend the vertiginous steps and leave the top of Montmartre with more memories, and, I hope, more to come.