By Theadora Brack
Embracing ice skates, glitter, and sequins, this week, let’s glide on up to the Moulin Rouge, sitting pretty in the hills of Montmartre. That’s right. Get ready for some more time travel as smooth and exciting as a vintage Johnny Weir solid gold triple axel. He is still my hero. However, did you catch Yevgeny Plushenko shining like a diamond as he skated to the “Tango de Roxanne” from Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack (2001)? His quad toe / triple toe possessed mass appeal in my book. Love will lift us up where we belong! Indeed!
You will be missed, Monsieur.
Now, let’s grab soda pops at the nearby Monoprix, and commandeer a bench with a view of the centuries-old Moulin Rouge. Spirits are high and I’ve got a tale to spin. Lean in because it’s show-time.
A tale I often tell
“Life is beautiful; here comes the French Cancan!” artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec would shout out before the highly charged show within the Moulin Rouge’s pulsating walls. Built in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller (founder of the Nouveau Cirque—the first venue in Paris to offer the comfort of reclining seats!), the Moulin Rouge has remained the undisputed queen of cabaret dance halls and monarch of her neighborhood, Montmartre—where at one time as many as 30 windmills turned “as swiftly as the Parisians’ heads,” as one smitten Italian poet wrote.
Drunk in love
The eager crowd would rush the stage, forming a tight circle around the cancaneuses. Hemmed in by their aggressively courted fan base—sometimes six-deep—the dancers performed the quadrille naturaliste, always competing to see who could kick the highest with (but often without) pantaloons underneath their multiple layers of lacey petticoats, before climaxing with a final exuberant high split in mid-air!
Do an old-school dance
“Naked feet, and thighs, and arms, and breasts were being flung on me from bloody-red foam of translucent clothes,” wrote Andrey Bely in his 1906 letter to Alexander Blok about the “Tavern of Hell” at the Moulin Rouge, where lackeys dressed as devils, and dancers whirled demonically. Talk, talk about a show-stopper.
On the flip side
Dancer Jane Avril’s description of the scene reminded me of a poem or perhaps, perhaps my new spring wardrobe wish list: “The dancer’s skirts, some twelve metres in circumference, were of panels and frothy lace, as were the drawers. The effect of the black stockings against this snowy whiteness was to emphasize the shape of the legs.” Avril, Toulouse-Lautrec’s favorite red-haired muse, was the first to wear ruby red lipstick and vibrant-colored undergarments.
Here at the Moulin Rouge is also where the famed terpsichorean, La Goulue (the Glutton), another muse of Toulouse-Lautrec, made her debut. In Montmartre, she earned her moniker for swiping drinks and entrees from her audience while distracting them with her pantaloons and little pet goat.
“When I see my behind in these paintings, I find it quite beautiful!” she told Toulouse-Lautrec when she first saw his drawings of her.
Singer Yvette Guilbert wrote, “La Goulue, in black silk stockings, made the sixty yards of lace in her petticoats swirl and showed her drawers, with a heart coquettishly embroidered right in the middle of her little behind!” Toulouse-Lautrec mused, “When you saw her dance, you forgot her sins.”
Elephant Love Medley
Like the queen of Parisian sensuality, the early Moulin Rouge’s most remarkable feature was her derrière. Just on the other side of her main façade—in the secret garden that became not such a secret but an outdoor café during the summer months—stood an enormous stucco elephant. Originally constructed for the Exposition Universelle of 1889, any dandy with a franc to burn could climb a spiral staircase inside one of the elephant’s legs to the hollow belly of the beast to reach a small stage set adorned with red flags and banners. Sadly, when the Moulin Rouge was rebuilt after a fire in 1906, the elephant wasn’t called back for an encore; it mysteriously disappeared.
Le Strip Tease
The Cancan wasn’t the only dance born at the Moulin Rouge. Legend has it that on February 9, 1893, art students gathered at the music hall for their second annual Bal des Quat’z Arts. At midnight, an atelier model named Mona jumped up on a tabletop, and started removing her garments one by one, as she danced the Fandango, much to the sheer delight of her companions. Bump and grind, Le Strip Tease was born! However, it didn’t tickle everyone’s fancy.
Because haters are gonna hate: Mona was arrested, setting off a series of student protests in the Latin Quarter. After a bystander was fatally injured during one of the harrowing tumults, the government relented and apologized, setting Mona free. Like wildfire, word spread about the new craze, and soon other Paris music halls followed suit, adding a little “artistic nudity” to their repertoire of titillating skits.
Fast and Forward: In 1907, writer Colette caused a few commotions of her own when she shared an onstage kiss with the Marquise de Belbeuf at the Moulin Rouge during her Rêve d’Égypte” pantomime, and performed topless at the Folies-Bergère. In fact, she was one of the first to bare it all. “Boredom helps one make decisions,” Colette quipped. By the 1920s, prancing in the buff was the norm in most Paris clubs. Josephine Baker’s 1926 debut at the Folies-Bergère sealed the deal. Wearing only a banana skirt, black Kohl eyeliner by Helena Rubinstein, and a “smile to end all smiles,” a star was born. Yes, we have no bananas!
All that glitters
Despite many major and minor modifications and reconstructions through the years, the Moulin Rouge has steadily flourished. Today a single show may involve 1,000 costumes, 800 kilos of shoes, and 60 kilos of paste jewelry and glitter. The little “Red Mill’s” creaky wooden stage and plaster of Paris walls have seen the likes of Edith Piaf, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Yvette Guilbert (Madame Arthur), Mistinguett (Queen of the Music Hall), and Cab Calloway—just to name a few.
Star Power: Numerous movies have been made about the the historic music hall, including John Huston’s 1952 Moulin Rouge (starring José Ferrer and Zsa-Zsa Gabor), Réne Clair’s 1925 Fantôme du Moulin Rouge, Ewald André Dupont’s 1928 Moulin Rouge, Jean Renoir’s 1954 Le French Cancan, and Baz Luhrmann’s particularly exuberant 2001 Moulin Rouge, with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman.
Scrubbed clean and almost family friendly but not to everyone’s liking!
In 1950, remorseful co-founder Charles Zidler wrote, “I liked the Moulin Rouge as she was, lighthearted and hot-blooded, a little strumpet who thought only of tonight. Now she is grown up and knows better. She has money in her stocking, wears corsets, and never drinks a drop too much. Worst of all, she never sees her old friends anymore. She has gone into society!”
Clipping from Colette, “Be happy. It’s one way of being wise.”
By Theadora Brack
Chim chim-in-ey! Chim, chim, chérie! Get your glad rags and wiggle on, jazz babies and pêcheurs de lune! With the discerning eyeball of a dandy and the goddess Fortuna statue neatly tucked in our pocket, let’s swing by the Clignancourt Flea Market (Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen) for some old-fashioned, toe-tapping, bodice-ripping window-shopping, shall we? Get to picking!
Flashback: In the 19th century, the infamous “rag and bone men” (forerunners of today’s “dumpster divers”) kicked-off the big flea frenzy. Trekking to Paris? Get thee there. Clignancourt’s eclectic palace-worthy collection continues to charm. In fact, the bustling centuries-old market had a cameo in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Confession: Yes, the movie was a tad hokey pokey in places, but I fell gladly for it. Fantasizing about time travel always makes my heart swell. Larger than life, Yves Heck as Cole Porter was simply divine. Paris, you DO do something to me.
Meet me at the Square Django Reinhardt at rue René Binet and Porte de Clignancourt (Métro Porte de Clignancourt). Recently the mayor of Paris honored the late, great musician by renaming the square for him. Reinhardt lived there with his family when they moved to Paris from Belgium shortly after the “Grande Guerre” (a.k.a. World War I). Each weekend, the site is home to a gathering of stalls and booths that form an “offsite” market along the approach to Clingnancourt itself.
To reach the main flea market: Walk beyond Square Django Reinhardt and head underneath the big underpass just down the street. At 122 rue de Rossiers a block or two into the real market, you’ll find La Chope des Puces, with live music, a spirited bar, and an impressive Django Reinhardt shrine surrounding the big performance space in the rear. Guitar aficionados will find many a wonderful instrument to drool over!
WWJCD? (What would Julia Child do?)
Back in the day, here at Clignancourt is where Julia Child purchased her first antique mortar and pestle after she moved to Paris. “The mortar was made of dark-gray marble, and was about the size and weight of a baptismal font,” she wrote. “One look at it, and I knew there was no question: I just had to have that set.” That very mortar and pestle, along with other kitchenware she brought back from France are now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. “Everything has a history,” as Julia would say. I agree!
Who else found inspiration at Clingnancourt? Elsa Schiaparelli, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior, Christain Bérard, Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol, and Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel—just to name a few. According to writer Laure Verchère, Coco coolly quipped, “When I go to the flea market, everyone says hello to me. They come and kiss me. I let them. It doesn’t cost a thing.”
Keeping it Real: I’m not going to lie to you. Finding bargain deals at Clignancourt is not easy-breezy. It takes the curiosity and patience of a cat, and more than a few shots of soda pop for courage. That said, once every blue moon, I do manage to pounce on a few affordable treasures. Grab a ballpoint pen. Here are a few of my favorite hunting grounds.
1. Daniel et Lili (Marché Vernaison)
Clipping from my grandmother, “Diamonds are for the birds!” I agree. Rhinestones and Bakelite have always been this girl’s best friend. Here at the Daniel et Lili shop, you’ll find brooches, buttons, bangles, beads, barrettes, bags, flowers, hankies, illustrations, and key chains. Oh, we’re plastic but we still have fun!
Tip: Throughout the Marché Vernaison, you’ll find more vintage finery, fragrance bottles, and magazines, along with the cozy Chez Louisette. Flaunting a retro-vibe, the café serves food and live music on Sunday afternoons. Pass the hat! Edith Piaf is often on the playlist. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien!
2. Caveyron Devey (Le Passage)
Whenever I misplace my Superpower, I make a beeline to my favorite vintage postcard shop, the Caveyron Devey. It kicks the blues to the curb every time. Looking for a specific category? Don’t play coy. If it’s a rainy or chilly day, wear warm attire, because the stall is open to the breezes and sometimes damp. Also, if offered a seat at the house table to flip through a box, take them up on it. You’ll look like a serious aficionado and your toes will thank you. Tip: Chez Sarah’s antique garb is located just a nip, tuck, and pose away.
3. La librairie de l’Avenue (31 Rue Lécuyer)
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Here the angels sing on high from a little CD player located just below the cashier’s desk. The sweet smell of coffee and frankincense tickles the nose. This large, but still intimate bookshop is well stocked with new and used art books, catalogues, vintage prints and antique magazines, organized by category, author or genre. My recent steals include a short stack of “Elle” magazines from the 1950s, along with a 1920 “Bon Marché” catalogs for just a few euros. Pleased as punch, I’m still aglow.
Embracing André Breton, “The marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.” Now, let’s shop ’til we drop!
By Theadora Brack
Dear friends, Romans, and fellow window-shoppers, I am back behind the old chariot wheel. Delayed and waylaid by la grippe or Roman Fever (Daisy Miller, the Colosseum was lovely at midnight!), but fret not—I am now good to go. So lend me your pointy cat ears and dark glasses! Blame it on the festive holidays, but I’ve suddenly got a strong hankering for some ritzy, glitzy window-shopping in Rome along the straight-as-an-arrow Via del Corso (my new favorite shopping ’hood). Let it glow, let it glow, let it glow. Giddy-up!
Here’s the scoop: Named for the Berber riderless horse races that took place here during the Roman Carnevale, the historic thoroughfare connects the northern spectacular entrance gate, Porta del Popolo to the center hub, the Piazza Venezia (at the base of the Capitoline Hill). After a few spectators were killed during the 1800s, King Victor Emmanuel II put his hoof down and banned the games. Heads-up: The hustling, bustling shopping area is still a prime promenading, people-watching hot spot, so look both ways before dashing. Distractions abound!
Tip: Between 5 PM to 7 PM, the northern section of the stretch becomes a pedestrian-only (almost!) zone, but still watch out for the occasional bus or taxi. Also, both the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) and the Trevi Fountain are just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Shopping and monument hopping during the big winter sales (through February 14, 2014) just got easier! During the holidays, lights twinkle like bright stars against the brilliantly painted shop façades, bathing pedestrians and creating an illusion of a soft rainbow sea.
It is easy being green
More Scoop: I didn’t find a pot of gold, but I didn’t need one. Zara’s brand-spanking-new, planet-friendly flagship at Via del Corso 189 wooed me like a siren. And I’ve got the pencil skirt and ankle booties—in black, and on sale—to prove it. I tumbled flat.
Housed in the former 1880s La Rinascente department store, the five-level atrium flaunts mirrors, massive white columns, and floor-to-ceiling vertical wires. I felt as though I was popping tags in a Justin Timberlake light show, bringing sexy all the way back. Designed by Duccio Grassi Architects, the eco-glam shop consumes 30% less energy and 80% less water than comparable other shops. And that news alone almost made my heady transactions guilt-free.
If the suit, tie, and carbon footprints fit, own it!
And squeaking of high energy: I’ll also throw in a few photographs taken with the Vestal Virgins in the Forum, at the Vatican, and at the Centrale Montemartini Museum. The Montemartini is a new fave–housed in a classic 1932 electric power plant, here you’ll be able to get all up-close and “Olympian calm” with 400 ancient gods and goddesses. Left, right, and center, the white marble collection of curvaceous and delicate torsos, busts, and heads contrasts surreally with the hulking cast iron turbines, diesel engines, and steam boilers like something out of H.G. Wells or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Flaunting a weird futuristic vibe, the juxtaposition is both seamless and titillating. Trekking to Rome? Don’t miss it.
Cause when we kiss, Fire
Tip: After visiting the Montemartini, I highly recommend hoofing it on over to the nearby Cimitero acattolico di Roma (a.k.a., the Protestant Cemetery), nestled behind the Pyramid of Cestius and the city’s ancient Aurelian wall. Back in the day, Oscar Wilde called the cemetery the “Holiest place in Rome.” A perfect place for smouldering reflection on our mad, mad world.
Here I recently spent a luminous hour with John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Tears were shed. On this bewitching night—there was nary a soul in sight. It was dusk and the swooning was easy. With a neighborhood cat napping at my feet, I read out loud in a low whisper one of my favorite passages from Keats’s “Endymion” again and again.
“Now a soft kiss—Aye, by that kiss,
I vow an endless bliss,
An immortality of passion’s thine: Ere long I will exalt thee to the shine
Of heaven ambrosial; and we will shade
Ourselves whole summers by a river glade;
And I will tell thee stories of the sky,
And breathe thee whispers of its minstrelsy.”
Yes. A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever. Happy New Year! (Thank you, Bradley Corbett! I love my new header!) Obsessed with Rome? Check out our chum Tin Man’s field report here! Grab a hankie. His photography is gorgeous. No surprises here!
Now let’s get to prancing!
By Theadora Brack
Calling all Pixies and Saints: Grab three coins, see, because I’ve got the fountain. Our Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign. If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead compartment, I do say with relish. During the festive month of Dicembre, let’s celebrate La Dolce Vita behind the great walls of the Eternal City, shall we?
By all means, in preparation, let’s clip more and more and MORE from Billy Wyler’s “Roman Holiday” trailer (1953). Repeat after me: There’s a new holiday on your calendar, so let your hair down not promises, and prepare for the greatest gay and giddy spree a girl ever had lived, loved, or filmed in Rome.
Stop. Wait. Was that Gregory Peck, Marcello Vincenzo Domenico Mastroianni, or Cleopatra’s main squeeze Mark Antony (we’re talking B.C. not J.Lo!). Never a mess, I am hooked. Love in the ruins. I am lost in time travel.
Pinching from the always “radiant as a royal moonlight” Audrey Hepburn’s character, Princess Ann, in the award-winning “Roman Holiday” flick, “Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live.”
I will, too. Let’s roll the teaser! Lights! Camera! Action!
By Theadora Brack
In the words of the late, great songwriter, Theodora Morse, “Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here!” This week, let’s salute music and Remembrance Day. Up my sleeve, I have a few favorite patriotic music sheets, recently scored at the flea markets. We’ll also pay homage to the Tin Pan Alley music publishers, songwriters, and artists. So strike up the band!
Trekking to Paris?
Don’t miss the Cathédrale Notre Dame’s great organ. Earlier this year, after an intensive and much needed 10-month supreme makeover, the organ kicked-off the festivities for the cathedral’s recent 850th anniversary. Music to my ears. Listen: All 8,000 pipes (some dating back to the 18th century) were individually cleaned, and a new electronic panel with five cascading keyboards and some 200 stops were installed. Boom. Boom. Boom. Can you hear me now?
The Bells of Notre Dame
Calling Quasimodo! Meet your new bells: Jean-Marie, Maurice, Benoit-Joseph, Steven, Marcel, Dennis, Anne-Geneviève and Gabriel, along with six-ton Marie. Using medieval techniques, they were cast at the Cornille Havard Bell Foundry in Normandy. (Marie was made in the Netherlands.) As part of cathedral’s birthday fête, the shiny newbies replaced Napoleon’s 19th century bells: Angélique-Françoise, Antoinette-Charlotte, Hyacinthe-Jeanne and Denise-David.
“Bells are like human beings. They live and, one day, they fade,” said one of the “campanologues” (bell experts) involved. Sunny side: The oldest Bourbon bell (13-ton Emmanuel) survived the French Revolution and the recent turnover. Without fail, since 1856, the bells of Notre Dame have rung every 15 minutes. They also rang to mark the end of World War I and the liberation of Paris in 1944.
Clipping from The New York Times in 1875: The people in the abbeys, cities, towns, and hamlets loved their bells and listened to them on holidays, as people nowadays listen to an opera. They could understand the language of the bells in its many cadences; and when the clanging was heard as a war-alarm, they were stirred as with the sound of a trumpet, and could feel something like Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo, the Hunchback who falls into such a frenzy among the clanging monsters in the belfry of Notre Dame.
People were always willing to fight for their bells, and just as ready to seize those of other people in their military excursions. Bells played high parts in war as well as peace. When the King of France came to attack Millau, in its days of burgher independence, the Archbishop of the city cried out: “Let him sound his trumpets! I will ring my bells!”
The Music Man
Leo Feist would have agreed with the Archbishop! “There isn’t anything in the world that will raise a soldier’s spirits like a good, catchy marching tune,” wrote the music publisher. “Music Will Win The War!” was his mantra. Yes, Feist wore his flag on his “sheets.”
Winding it back: During “La Grande Guerre” (a.k.a. La Première Guerre Mondiale, or World War I), Feist published a pocket-sized “Songs the Soldiers and Sailors Sing” for the masses. At fifteen cents a pop, the 80-page collection was affordable, patriotic, and catchy. It included now-famous titles like “K-K-Katy,” “Over There,” and “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here.” The booklets, along with individual song sheets, were sold in five-and-dimes and department stores. Folks were encouraged to sing the patriotic songs at home, in theaters, and at Liberty Bond rallies.
In full-page advertisements, Feist sounded his trumpet and bells like no other: Our boys on the fields of France, our sailors on the big, gray sea-fighters, and the boys in our training-camps are singing them! The whole country is singing them and dancing to their inspiring melodies! Being sung to tremendous applause in thousands of theatres throughout the land! Try over the choruses and you will know why. Don’t wait until you hear everybody singing them—get copies of all four of these songs now and be the first to sing them. They can’t stop our singing army!
Interested in Notre Dame’s bells? Grab your cloche hat and follow this link to our chum Paris Paul Prescott’s “Paris by Cellphone” site! Then, stop by his new site: “Our Ladies: The Churches and Miracles of Paris.” Paul’s photographs are gorgeous!
By Theadora Brack
Blame it on the falling autumn leaves, but now I’ve got a strong hankering for a little Magical Mystery stroll. Let’s crack open my slim, leather-bound volume of spirited adventures in Paris for another retelling, see. Here are my favorite sacred grounds. Grab the bottle of Suze while I fluff the pillows. Pinching from Edith Piaf: “Tou qui m’aimais! Moi qui t’aimais!” Get closer.
1. Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is a virtual magnet for suicides. From the get-go, folks have been jumping off it like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, it’s one of the most popular spots to commit suicide in all of Europe. She may not have been the first to say it, but perhaps she was the most memorable: “So sorry to rain on your parade,” Princess Anna Troubetzkoy shouted, as she fell from the top on Bastille Day in July 1931. At first it was ruled accidental, but then a farewell note was found in her bag.
Back in May: Anna had married a certain Prince Sergei in New York. They kicked off their European honeymoon in June and were set to renew their four-month vows in August when they reached Russia. So what happened? Was she already envisioning endless crash diets and yet another round of dress fittings? (Heck, we’ve all been there!) Nobody knows for sure, but obviously something had already gone astray between the lovebirds to make her decide to fly the coop so dramatically.
2. Hôtel Cluny Sorbonne
Trekking to Paris? Grab my hand. I’ve got the place for you. Located in the Latin Quarter near the Université de la Sorbonne and Panthéon, the Hôtel Cluny Sorbonne has always attracted starving poets and Lonely Hearts, too. Here La Vie de Bohème can still be found in its coveted reflection-inducing garret rooms.
Poet on Fire
In fact, in room 62 is where visionary poet Arthur Rimbaud composed the ultimate break-up, “he’s just not into you” opus, upon his fiery return to Paris in 1872.
And speaking of another Rimbaud poem, “Eternité,” do keep a watch for spirits. The hotel is rumored to be flush with glowing literary orbs. Experiencing writer’s block? Perhaps one will lend a guiding hand. Just bask.
“I have stretched ropes from bell-tower to bell-tower; garlands from window to window; chains of gold from star to star, and I dance!” Arty brilliantly penned. Sigh.
3. Notre Dame
A young woman known only by the initials “M.J.” appeared at the cathedral on a cold and rainy October day in 1882, begging to climb the tower. She was refused, because back in the day, women weren’t allowed to ascend without a chaperone.
So what to do? She quickly spotted an elderly lady who was also touring the church and decided to make fast friends. After buying her breakfast at a nearby café, M.J. asked the lady to tour the tower with her. She agreed and they headed back to the church.
By the time the pair reached the upper parapets, rain had begun to pour. While the elderly woman sheltered in the bell-ringer’s room, the M.J. screamed and apparently jumped. According to witnesses, she fell onto the spiked railings below and was neatly severed in two. No identification was found in her bag, but her kerchief was marked with the initials “M.J.”
Poof: As for the old lady who agreed to escort her, she seems to have disappeared into thin air too. If you happen to visit Notre Dame, keep one eye peeled for either one—they’ve both been seen flitting between the gargoyles.
Pack the opera glasses, I say. Do let us know if you spot them!
4. Arc de Triomphe
Almost immediately after it was completed, people began heaving themselves off the Arc de Triomphe’s rooftop parapet, after climbing all 284 steps to get there. (Did they not spot the gift shop?) Occasionally a skirt would tangle and catch on a cornice, leaving the poor women dangling a few long moments above the horrified crowds below, before the seams would give way and they’d plunge to their deaths.
Figuring out which police station to contact after one of these unfortunate incidents has always been a major source of confusion because the monument sits at the juncture of four arrondissements and they’ve never clearly settled whether it’s the departure spot or the point of arrival (i.e., the sidewalk) that should be the determining factor in establishing proper jurisdiction.
Atop the Arc, look out for a particular spirit named Rose. After quarreling with her beau on Bastille Day in 1914, Rose jumped, narrowly missing throngs of tourists in her tumble. Our hobble-skirt clad fashionista was “dressed expensively and well,” according to the newspaper report.
Just what is it about Bastille Day that drives folks to make the leap? Is it uniforms or the martial music?
5. Pont-de l’Alma, Princess Di
Just outside the Pont de l’Alma Métro station is the “Flamme de la Liberté” memorial, which now serves double duty as the unofficial Princess Di shrine. Pilgrims still leave poems, flowers, and love letters there.
According to my friend Ghislaine, who worked on two documentary films about the crash that killed her, “There are definitely ghosts in the Alma tunnel. After many nights spent filming there, I can tell you it’s eerie. It was if Diana’s ghost was trying to urge us to find the truth. And I was certainly not the only one to feel this.”
On May 3, 1987, Yolanda Gigliotti, better known as pop idol Dalida, took a handful of pills, put on her sunglasses and “left our world for another,” as a fan website puts it. Ever since, the house has never quite felt the same. However, sometimes a shadowy figure appears at the window as if to greet her fans—and she certainly still has them by the millions.
In addition to the house, the late diva’s life-size sculpture is in the Cimetière de Montmartre, while her bust is at the junction of rues Girardon and Abreuvoir. Both memorials are often rubbed for luck before athletic and musical competitions.
7. Cimetière de Montmartre
After spending time with Dalida, visit Marie Taglioni’s shrine. Paying homage to the ballerina, dancers from all over the world leave their well-worn ballet slippers (sometimes with little notes). The sight of the heartfelt gestures has never failed to lift my spirits. It’s true.
Winding it back: Though Marie Taglioni wasn’t the first to dance en pointe or don the muslin skirt (skimming the ankle much to the delight of every binocular-carrying fan!), she’s the one who made it her own. “Shorten your dress just a little,” begged one admirer, according to a newspaper report in 1884. Taglioni’s popularity launched her name into the lingo: the verb Taglioniser (to be slender and graceful). And most coveted coiffeur? À la syphide!
8. Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
After dancing with the stars, hotfoot it on over to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, you’ll not only find the graves of famous folks like Chopin, Balzac, Modigliani, Proust, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and, some say, Jim Morrison, but a few final resting places that are even more interesting because of the behaviors they induce.
Tip: It’s worth buying a map at the entrance to help you locate them. The best time to watch the action is early in the morning.
One of my favorites is the grave of Allan Kardec in section 44. Here you can discreetly watch as true believers in spiritualism not only come to caress the shoulders of the bronze bust glaring from its niche (under what looks to be a crude prehistoric dolmen), and to whisper messages in order to “telephone” their dead loved ones in his ear, but often also to put in requests for winning lottery numbers.
Behind the tomb is an official warning from the city of Paris (akin to the surgeon-general’s warning on a pack of cigarettes) to the effect that the municipal government can’t be sued if your numbers don’t win.
On the flipside: France is still a hotspot of afterlife activity—it’s no accident that words like séance, clairvoyant, and déjà vu are all French terms. So Bonne Chance!
Clipping from Allan Kardec, ‘Unshakable faith is only that which can face reason in all human epochs.”
By Theadora Brack
Confession: I’ve got a new obsession in my life. Following in the footsteps of the Surrealists and the late writer and historian Walter Benjamin, I am also now carrying a big torch for the 19th century shopping arcades in Paris, (a.k.a., “dream houses”). Whenever I can’t seem to find my supernatural powers, I beat the blues with a breathy jaunt to the passageways in Paris. Adding hustle to my bustle, it does the trick every time.
So this week, let’s roll out some soft focus stills, and pay homage to a few of my favorite passages couverts. Come on, Bébe, light my fire.
Winding back the clock
Ever since Louis XIV cried, “Let there be light,” tourists have been flocking to Paris. Under the reign of the Sun King, Paris became the first city in the world to illuminate its streets after dark, which helped turn it into the Number One tourist destination practically over (a well-lit) night.
The invention of the folding waterproof umbrella in 1709 and the appearance of the passages in 1800, sealed the deal. Providing gas lighting, luxury goods, and heated shelter from rain and mud, the shopping mall was born. Linking streets and boulevards, the passages couverts offered new shortcuts and flâneur-flavored promenades.
Here’s Eduard Devrient’s 1840 description, as recorded in Walter Benjamin’s “The Arcades Project” (1927-1940).
“Rain showers annoy me, so I gave one the slip in an arcade. There are a great many of these glass-covered walkways, which often cross through the blocks of buildings and make several branchings, thus affording welcome shortcuts. Here and there they are constructed with great elegance, and in bad weather or after dark, when they are lit up bright as day, they offer promenades—and very popular they are—past rows of glittering shops.”
Sadly, only about twenty of the original 150 arcades survived “Baron” Haussmann’s sweeping supreme makeover in the 1850s-60s, improvements in transportation, and the dramatic arrival of the Parisian grand magasins (department stores).
On the bright side: The shopping meccas that remain are still very much worth a look-see. Flooded with natural light, their narrow tiled halls are smartly dressed in glazed roofing, cast iron, mosaics, and marble pillar columns, along with sculptures and frescoes, giving a whiff of old-fashioned Parisian glamour. Hives of activity, here you’ll find art galleries, book shops, antique stores, shoe cobblers, boutiques, cafés, bars, and discount bookshops.
Even Émile Zola tumbled flat. Here’s his nostalgic description of the Passage des Panoramas in his 1880 “Nana.”
“She adored the Passage des Panoramas. The tinsel of the Article de Paris, the false jewelry, the gilded zinc, the cardboard made to look like leather, had been the passion of her early youth. It remained, and when she passed the shop- windows she could not tear herself away from them.
It was the same with her today as when she was a ragged, slouching child who fell into reveries in front of the chocolate maker’s sweet-stuff shows or stood listening to a musical box in a neighboring shop or fell into supreme ecstasies over cheap, vulgarly designed knickknacks, such as nutshell workboxes, ragpickers’ baskets for holding toothpicks, Vendome columns and Luxor obelisks on which thermometers were mounted.”
Trekking to Paris? Interested in time travel? Don’t miss the passageways. Here’s how to set the mood: Visit on cold, rainy day. Perhaps spin a little Satie as you throw on your thick tights, hooded cloak, and twelve flouncing horsehair linen petticoats in black, of course. Don’t forget the parapluie.
Kick-off your tour with a glass a red wine at the Pâlais Royal, and then slowly, slowly saunter over to the Galerie Véro-Dodat. As you make your entrance, keep one eye peeled for the spirits flitting high between the globe lights, having a dandy of a good time. Bon Voyage!
1. Galeries du Palais Royal
Métro: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre
2. Galerie Véro-Dodat (1826)
19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau – 2 rue du Bouloi
Métro: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre
3. Galerie Colbert (1826)
6 rue des Petits-Champs – 6 rue Vivienne
4. Galerie Vivienne (1823)
4 rue des Petits-Champs, 5 rue de la Banque, 6 rue Vivienne
5. Passage des Panoramas (1800)
11-13 boulevard Montmartre – 151 rue Montmartre
Métro: Grands Boulevards
6. Passage Jouffroy (1847)
9 rue de la Grange Batelière – 29 Passage Jouffroy
Métro: Grands Boulevards
7. Passage Verdeau (1847)
6 rue de la Grange Batelière – 31 bis rue du Faubourg-Montmartre
Métro: Le Peletier
Clipping from Walter Benjamin’s masterpiece again: “I hear they want to roof all the streets of Paris with glass. That will make for lovely hothouses and will live in them like melons!” Now, let’s take a stroll!
Dress at the Seaside
In these days when amateur photographers swarm everywhere and when the click of the indiscreet apparatus takes one by surprise, on the plain, in the valley, on the mountain, it is necessary, more than ever, for women of fashion to watch over their reputation for style. The bathing hour at the fashionable seaside resorts is, above all others, the most critical.
At that moment the Kodak rages.
It is well to make use of large waterproofed silk knickerbockers over everything, drawn in at the knees; in this manner the dress is kept dry up to the waist. To wear these costumes with comfort, it indispensable to have a waistband corset of strong linen, and very slightly stiffened, which supports the back and gives a curve to the loins.
Lastly, need we sacrifice our pretty waved hair, which forms an auricle round our features and a pleasing nimbus to which all eyes are accustomed? A fringe of curled hair will adapt itself to the interior of our selected harmony of the face. Nowadays, accessories are so numerous that it is really laziness on the part of the woman without a maid who is not bien coiffé!
(All this, according to The Paris Herald in 1901, “The Inevitable Kodak: How to Set off Charms that Nature Has Bestowed and Create Those Which She Has Refused”)
Trekking to Paris? The Musée de la Marine, located at place du Trocadéro is worth the expedition. Dive deep into my favorite French naval history museum’s vast collection of artifacts ranging from Napoleon’s gilded ceremonial barge (with all 24 oars still intact!), the Carmagnolle brothers’ diving suit (at 800 pounds, those brothers were heavy indeed), to toy boats that once belonged to the young Louis XV!
Tip: Stop by the gift shop. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Long and narrow like a ship’s salon, here you’ll find ocean liner posters, postcards, books, model ships, and striped shirts by designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Then, with a book in hand, head to the Jardins des Trocadéro, tucked behind the museum. Its hideaways are the perfect place for a rendezvous.
Covet nautical wear? Heck, who hasn’t been touched by the bold stripes of the traditional nautical shirts of Brittany? That coastal region is where the French-striped top originated.
Thank Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel for taking the French naval uniform to the streets in 1916, deftly improvising with fabric and color like a jazz musician. Off the hook, overnight silky loungewear caught fire—at the seaside and in the city, and soon beach pajamas followed suit. “It is always better to be underdressed,” according to Coco. I agree.
Stars and Stripes Forever
This look not only touched appealingly rugged-types like Picasso, Hemingway, and Jean Paul Gaultier, but also lured Rykiel, Schiaparelli, Jean Seberg, Brigitte Bardot, and Audrey Hepburn—just to name a few. And it continues to captivate. Why, the very shirt (by Mark Cross) that Audrey herself wore on the set of the 1956 film “War and Peace” was recently put up for auction in London. Oh, was I tempted . . .
Speaking of temptation, a confession: I myself fell for the marinière after reading Hemingway’s “Garden of Eden.” Throughout the slim novelette, it crackles.
Here’s a nibble:
“Catherine sat was sitting at breakfast on the terrace. There was a red-and-white checkered cloth on the table. She wore her old Grau du Roi stripped shirt fresh-washed and shrunk now and much faded, new gray flannel slacks, and espadrilles.”
“She had bought the shirts for them and then had washed them in the basin in the room at the hotel to take the stiffness out of them. They were stiff and built for hard wear but the washings softened and now they were worn and softened enough that when he looked at the girl now her breasts showed beautifully against the worn cloth.”
“You look lovely,” he said. “Thank you. I feel lovely,” she said.
Sigh! Inspired, let’s now hit the cobblestone rues, and earn some romantic stripes of our own, shall we?
More Tips Ahoy
In the Marais, you’ll find beaucoup de Breton stripes. Kick-off your quest at the FREE’P’STAR at 61 rue de la Verrerie. Decked out in neon signs, funky lighting fixtures, and original photography and paintings, it’s easy to spot. Keep your eyes peeled for the shrine dedicated to photographer Brassaï. His “Conchita with Sailors, Place d’Italie” (1933) sits pretty in the vitrine.
Though a bit smaller, the Vintage Désir down the street at 32 rue des Rosiers also has bountiful goods aplenty. Then, pop tags by the kilo at the nearby Kilo Shop at 69-71 rue de la Verrerie Vintage. Tarb and scales abound, matey.
This week, I’ll close with a little Paris Pop Quiz.
Here are your clues: Jean-Luc Godard’s classic 1960 “À bout de soufflé” (“Breathless”) was shot on-location in Paris. Both Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg wear striped garb throughout the film. In a few key scenes, Seberg’s character, an up-and-coming journalist named Patricia, sports a marvelous striped dress.
Question: Name the French store where director Godard (Bargain Hunter Extraordinaire) purchased the dress. There was no official costume designer on the set.
Clipping Hemingway yet again, “My big fish must be somewhere!”
By Theadora Brack
“We’ll always have Paris,” Rick tells Elsa at the end of the movie Casablanca, without mentioning any of their favorite haunts in the City of Light. But I say, “Play it again, Sam,” and this time with addresses. After all, everyone’s got their own Paris.
For instance, King Henri IV cavorted on the tip of the Île de la Cité, while centuries later the Seine bridges crossing the island captivated painter Edward Hopper. Hemingway liked to sit on a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg and wait for his first true sentences (along with dinner: roast pigeon), while the food stalls at the great Les Halles market sparked Julia Child’s joy of cooking.
Though I’m hardly a king or a master of French cooking (yet), I, too, have a few outdoor havens I run to for inspiration.
1. The Fontaine Steinlen
Place Constantin-Pecquier, 18th arrondissement
I’ve a confession up my faux fur sleeve. After my cat left this world for another Fancy Feast, this is where I spent many hours. Montmartre residents Eric Satie and Théophile Steinlen understood the wonderous feline, and I found and still find great comfort in that. The fountain was created by Paul Vannier in 1936 as a nod to Steinlen, who lived nearby at 74 rue Caulaincourt. Where is the love? Trust me, it’s here.
Think Steinlen is the cat’s pajamas?
I do, too. After we sunbath at the cool fountain and sip some cream at a nearby café, we’ll hoof it on over to the nearby Musée de Montmartre at 12-14 Rue Cortot, where they often display Steinlen’s works, including his cat iconography in all it’s nine-lives glory. Perfection, eh? Don’t miss its gift shop. Posters from former shows hold court near the entrance.
Along the way, we’ll pass the Cimetière Saint-Vincent (a.k.a. “The Cat Cottage”). Here is where Steinlen rescued and adopted many stray feline muses, much to his poor wife’s chagrin. Though it’s quite fitting, see, because here is also where Steinlen is buried. Wild kitties still keep watch over his grave. Sir Paul got it right: “And, in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” Chow. Wow. Wow.
My tale to tell: From floor to ceiling, my childhood bedroom was decked out in Steinlen posters, so whenever I visit the Musée de Montmartre, it always feels like home. I have my mom, dad and Steinlen to thank for my profound love of Paris, art and cats. Tapping together my ruby-encrusted claws again and again, there is no place like home. It’s true.
Tip: Steinlen’s original Chat Noir Bar sign is on display at the Musée Carnavalet at 23 Rue de Sévigné in the Marais. Trekking to Paris? Don’t miss it.
2. Cimetière des Chiens
4 Pont de Clichy, Asnières-sur-Seine
Celebrating the recent Pet Memorial Day, now let’s hotfoot it on over a few hot tin roofs (teasing) to another favorite resting spot in the city. Located northwest on the Seine, Paris’s Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques (Cemetery of Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) is the oldest pet cemetery in the world. It’s Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise of pet cemeteries.
Founded in 1899 by lawyer Georges Harmois and journalist Marguerite Durand, here you’ll find the graves of dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, mice, hamsters, horses, monkeys, turtles, fish, sheep, foxes, and even one shark. Canine movie star (and World War I hero) Rin Tin Tin and Marguerite Durand’s own pet lion, named Tiger, are also buried here.
Tip: There is a small entrance fee, but paws down, it’s worth every penny. Keep your eyes peeled for the massive but shapely Art Nouveau entrance by Eugene Petit. A well-worn dirt path will lead you through a maze of moss-covered tombstones, urns, and sculptures. You’ll also spot toys, food dishes, photographs, and love letters.
Sit with me on a bench and grab my hand. If it’s a quiet day, you’ll be able to hear the gurgling of the river passing by, while witnessing such heartfelt gestures. Its resulting beauty both soothes and re-energizes my spirits every time. I always weep.
Where is the love? In your lap.
By Theadora Brack
Oops, I did it again.
I attended an exposition’s “vernissage” (literally, the “varnishing”—what we would call the opening), and became smitten with the show and its fine-looking catalog. Obsession activated! Hit hard, and a post card just wouldn’t do. Let me tell you, during the late summer days in Paris, there is nothing sweeter than curling up with an art book in a park just before l’heure bleue.
But, how to score an affordable art catalogue? Take my hand, here’s how this fool falls in love.
1. Check out that rack of glossies
Most museum shops sell “les albums de l’exposition” (guides, magazines, and portfolios). Published by Beaux Arts Magazine, Connaissance des Arts, Le Figaro, or the museum itself, these slim gems are usually prominently displayed, lightweight and affordable, costing just €2 to €10. Full of visuals with punch, they’ll satisfy your head, pocketbook and suitcase. Translated versions are often available, too.
2. Crack Da Chintzy code
La Boutique du Musée du Louvre not only carries current and back issues of “albums de l’exposition,” but also discounts catalogs from its previous expositions by up to 60% off their original cost.
More Tips Ahoy
Other museums like the Centre Pompidou, Musée Carnavalet, and the Palais de Tokyo also slash art catalogue prices throughout the year.
Always one to boast, while at the Musée national de la Marine, I recently netted their “Le Marins Font La Mode—Sailor Chic in Paris” catalog for just a few euros. The felt “bachi” on the cover wooed me like a siren. By the way, the museum also carries handsome striped shirts by designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Steady yourself, Matey. Even the bags are suited in stripes. Now that’s an outfit!
3. Cha-ching at Fuh-nack
Fnac (pronounced “fuh-nack”) also discounts their inventory of books. This includes the catalogues from this year’s blockbuster shows, like Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais, Keith Haring at the Centquatre and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Roy Lichtenstein at the Centre Pompidou. Magazines by Beaux Arts are also discounted here. At the moment, I’m coveting the Musée d’Orsay’s Le Romantisme Noir de Goya à Max Ernst. Like the show, it’s a stunner.
Tip: Founded in 1954, Fnac also stocks cameras, camera chips and batteries (not to mention DVDs, CDs, and tons of French comic books Bande dessinée (an art form all their own).
4. Flâneur-tastique. That’s how we stroll.
I’ve been known to spend entire days in the aisles of Mona Lisait Librairies. Although this funky bookstore chain that specializes in new and used art books has shops scattered all over Paris, its Marais location at 17bis rue Pavée is closest to my heart. Its creaky wooden floorboards, uneven brick flooring, tinny classical music, helpful staff, and free gift-wrapping all add up to real atmosphere.
For another take on the arts, go meet the artists or at least their wax replicas at the Musée Grévin (Paris Wax Museum). Then visit the Librairie du Passage just a few feet away at 39 and 48 Passage Jouffroy. Open since 1846, it’s in one of Paris’ classic 19th-century shopping arcades. Even bargain hound Victor Hugo shopped here.
6. Mosey on to Glory
Here I weep. At La librairie de l’Avenue in the middle of Clignancourt Flea Market, the angels sing on high from a little CD player located just below the cashier’s desk. The sweet smell of frankincense tickles the nose. This large but still cozy bookshop is well stocked with new and used art books, vintage prints and antique magazines. Deciding exactly where to start my quest is the only glitch I encounter here as I make my way though the narrow labyrinth of floor to ceiling bookshelves, stocked with discounted books that have been meticulously organized by category, author or genre.
An important note on pronunciation:
You risk raising a few bemused eyebrows if you ask for directions to an “exhibition.” “Exhibitions” (with an “h”) are peep show—which is fine, if that’s the sort of display you’re after. However, if you’re looking for art, give that word a “p”–“exposition.” Oh, la la.
Trekking to Paris in September?
Here are eight expositions I’m looking forward to seeing. Love is swinging in the air. Heads-up: A few of my picks are scheduled to close in September, so plan accordingly.
L’Art Nouveau: La révolution décorative
Tamara de Lempicka: La Reine de l’Art déco
Through September 8 2013
Art Nouveau AND Art Deco. Pinch yourself! Looking for another win-grin? After your visit, trek it on over to the Jardin des Tuileries. The walk should take you about 15 minutes, but with all the architecture whizzing by, it will feel like five.
2. Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits
Titanic, 100 ans après
Closes on September 9th 2013 but our hearts will go on—Near, far, wherever you are. But for now, anchors aweigh!
3. Musée Jacquemart-André
Désirs et volupté à l’époque victorienne, Alma-Tadema, Leighton, Burne-Jones
September 13 2013 to January 13 2014
Downton Abbey fans, don’t leave the building without having tea in the former formal dining room. It’s worth every cent and calorie. Flaunting frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and chocolate cake, I’ve never failed to make the scene without getting weepy. Afterwards, rendezvous to your heart’s content in the nearby Parc Monceau.
4. Musée de Montmartre
Impressions à Montmartre: Eugène Delâtre and Alfredo Müller
September 14 2013 to January 12 2014
“Come up and see my etchings.” That’s what Eugène Delâtre said.
Inventing color engraving in his rue Lepic studio in Montmartre, his brand-spanking-new technique inspired Picasso, Steinlen, and Toulouse-Lautrec, along with Renoir, Alfredo Müller, and Suzanne Valadon. Featuring works by Delâtre, Müller, and Valadon, the eyes are treated to scenes of daily life in early 20th century Montmartre—night and day, along with portraits of stage starlet Sarah Bernhardt, and dancer Cléopatra de Mérode (the Beyoncé of her day!).
5. Grand Palais
September 18 2013 to January 6 2014
And speaking of Montmartre, it was here at “le Bateau-Lavoir” that Picasso met Georges Braque. “Notre pard,” Picasso took to calling the six-foot former boxer, race car driver and dancer, a phrase he pinched from “Les Histoires de Buffalo Bill.” A tight bond was formed, and Cubism took flight. That was back when you could say, “Be there or be square” and really mean it!
6. Musée national Jean-Jacques Henner
Sensualité et spiritualité: À la recherche de l’absolu
Through September 16 2013
Along with Henner’s dreamy paintings of radiant nudes, the exhibition features his private notebooks, diaries, drawings and sketches. This is one of my favorite ways to get intimate with an artist. It’s all about the process, I say. After your visit, float on over to the Parc Monceau for some more love in the ruins and music lessons.
7. Musée d’Orsay
Masculin / Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 à nos jours
(Masculine / Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day)
September 24 2013 to January 2 2014
Strike a Pose
I have the Anna Wintour bangs, so where’s my front row seat? Mark your calendar and get set. Glow! Then, afterwards hotfoot it on over to the Jardin des Tuileries (literally, “the tileworks”). Built atop the clay pits of the former city tile factory, here swanky cafés, chairs, and over one hundred statues (including many by Maillol) also seductively tempt.
8. Centre Pompidou
Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Une rétrospective’
Through November 4 2013
WHAAM. Oh, Roy. I do love you. Darling, these paintings are masterpieces even if they are a bit cartoonish! But then again, so am I. Pop goes the easel! After your visit, cool your heels by the Stravinsky fountain. Keep your eyes peeled for Jef Aerosol’s “Shhhh” mural. Created by the great graffiti artist back in June 2011, it measures in at an impressive 350 square meters. The mural’s message? “Stop, look and appreciate the city!” It certainly stopped me in my tracks.
Clipping from Henry Miller YET again
“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”