Paris

 

 

 


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Le Passe-Muraille
I pass it often.
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Letter from Montmartre: January 2002


La vie en rose.
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.

 


 

 

Place des Abbesses, the Mètro stop closest to our flat, has one of only two remaining original canopies left in Paris (the other is in the 15th Arrondisement)

 

 


SUMMER IN THE CITY OF LIGHT
Paris 2000
Singing in the 6th Annual Montmartre Jazz Festival !!!!!
Plus
La Fête de la Musique Every June Paris throws a party:
a once a year, city-wide festival of music. It goes all day long till the wee small hours, on streets, in parks, in restaurants and bars all over Paris. and I was a part of it! June 21st was also the opening of the Festival, so they sponsored my solo concert to coincide with La Fête de la Musique. I sang outdoors in the lovely garden of the Musée de Montmartre. I also got to sing in a delightful, very old Montmartre restaurant: La Pomponnette at 42, rue Lepic 75018 Paris (M: Abbesses). Pomponnette is a long-stemmed wine tasting glass with no foot. Finally, to celebrate the 4th of July, a Concert for the Franco-American Club Culturel.

Montmartre has been called ‘a village inside of Paris’, not unlike Greenwich Village. Montmartre has Paris’ only vineyard, last windmill, the hundred-year-old Cabaret Lapin Agile, the Moulin Rouge, the Divan Japonais Cabaret of Toulouse Lautrec fame, still at 75, rue de Martyrs (now called Mme. Arthur, named for a number done by Lautrec’s famous singer/model, Yvette Guilbert) endless history and delights.

 

 

 


A letter from Mme. HISTOIRE
Cynthia Crane Story
WONDERFUL MEMORIES Jan 2000

A January Sunday Morning in Paris. The bell in L’Église St. Jean continues to ring and it’s over five minutes. Place des Abbesses is crowded with people, baguettes in hand, shopping their déjeuner. It’s warm like spring, but gray and moist. Paris definitely has a split personality! Douce mais dûr! (sweet but hard!). On Tuesday, a 24-hr. Métro and railroad strike! It’s not for nothing that fierce Dijon mustard is universally served – it burns out the sinuses and clears the head! Getting things done here is devastatingly difficult, but character building!

Well, back in New York here’s the story. Seven of us, good friends, came together for twelve days, to see in the New Year and to live my dream life chez moi à Montmartre, where for 13 years I’ve had a place between La Place des Abbesses and le Théatre de L’Atelier, around the corner from MICHOU’s cabaret and down the street from great big, white Sacre Coeur. The seven us traversed Paris. Shared mornings of cafe au lait and fresh croissants from the boulanger in my building and nightcap chats over a bottle of wine and memorable meals in delightful restaurants.

After we were no longer seven, Ted and I began the task of completely re-doing the place. My concierge says it hasn’t been touched in more than 20 years. The project snowballed. Came home the 10th on the last possible day without buying a new tx. Ended up doing over the whole place *(will actually put photos of every thing on the web before long so check it out in a while – WC new toilet + chasse d’eau (water chase), hot pink seat, lavender carrelages (floor tiles), new faucets all round, carrelages on the tub and floor (used to be carpet everywhere!). New kitchen sink with snappy new Groehe faucet. Turns out the old sink, like everything else in this building, is “tres ancienne “. Buried in the wall, cemented into a plaster wall and covered with indestructible cement tiles they don’t even make anymore. So new carrelages over the old. Might as well tile the floor while we’re at it. Etc. etc. etc.!)

 

 

Doing it in French worked and great fun. Everything sounds better in French! Ted and I were a great team; he measured, I talked. Might not sound like much but what a great adventure. Living in a war zone, searching, choosing, buying – in francs and installing. LOTS of talking. A variety of accents casser la tête< (to break the head!). And, no matter what the task, yet another gorgeous corner of Paris. Searching a new bed began with a couple of big ads in les pages jaunes; I set off down the hill to Pigalle to the <Metro, the end of line #2 and eastern Paris, Nation Literie. There, at Place de la Nation, 3 of the 20 <arrondissements (semi-autonomous neighborhoods each with own Mairie (Town Hall) come together, and there is this gigantic monument to the Republic, and a neighborhood a local paper calls “bourgeoise, populaire et branchée“.

House-bound with the renovation, I did a lot of radio and TV. My ear got really good. I try everything – interview shows, game shows, political discussion and debate, comedy, French pop music, French movies. Dubbed shows in English and German shows go mercifully slower. The French squeeze more words into a breath, and a mile a minute! Plenty mumble. I actually watched an episode of “Loving” so I could watch for Mike Renzi’s name to go by on the credits. I sang at a couple of parties, one with two extraordinary musicians (guitar and clarinet), at the home of a charming lady whose grandfather founded Gibert Jeune, the ubiquitous chain of bookstores in the 6th. Arrondissement. They were wonderfully enthusiastic in that wonderful French way. And I sang in a basement club near Le Bastille using tracks from my CDs . In Paris that’s a routine alternative to accompaniment.

Back in June to sing in the Montmartre Jazz Festival and several concerts. So I’ll sign off with the promise of more letters from Paris.

à bientôt Cynthia Crane


aka: Mrs. Ted Story/Mme. Histoire

Coming soon! More Paris…the neighborhood and the personalities.

 

 

 




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