It’s four o’clock in the morning, and the sky is pink. It really is. Rosy and luminous. People coming out of Jack-Bar (downstairs in my building), a motorcycle or two passing, someone singing on his way, a couple kissing on the corner. In two hours the green trucks will pick up the garbage and it all starts again. Montmartre really is a village, and, coming from the city that never sleeps, I’m surprised at the activity as I gaze up the hill at L’Église St Jean from my balcony in the still of the night.
I’m still high from the terrific show tonight at MICHOU, the eponymous cabaret around the corner, “une véritable institution” and subject of a fabulous new book, Montmartre, Beaux jours …et belles de nuit”. Packed with pictures of people I’ve known for fifteen years, it chronicles the wonderful characters and places of Montmartre.
A chapter on Michou himself is titled: “Prince et Reine (and queen) de Montmartre”. I see him all the time; he lives, all blue and mirrors and view, on the top floor of a building around my other corner. (*)”Blonde and blue. Impeccably brushed and blow-dried, big eyeglasses with blue frames sit on his small nose. . .” “The blue silhouette of Michou is every bit as known and recognized as was that, at the end of the last century, of Aristide Bruant.” (* my translation) There are five pages of pictures and a whole chapter on my dear friend, Jacky Henu, “Mademoiselle Hortensia”. I’m getting through the book but slowly.
Something else is happening to Montmartre; it’s Amélie, a darling film (Oscar talk), but now people are flocking to rue Lepic, snapping photos at the film’s location, Tabac des Deux Moulins. I rendez-vous’d there one night with a regular, an old friend, who, with his two large black dogs and his two crows, is himself a local character. His musings on the changes coming made me sad, but I guess it had to happen. Even I can see it. The man with the large panes of glass on his back, walking through the streets crying “Vi-try” is gone (once I called down and he came up to fix a broken window) – gone too the people who used to sing in the streets and wait for us to toss money down from the open windows and the guy who dressed like Napoleon, you’d see him everywhere. But the Lapin Agile is still there, the windmill and the vineyard, Madame Arthur, Michou and so much more.