DE UM PARIS
Schulenberg's Page: Paris, Part XXXIII
|Schulenberg's Page: Paris, Part XXXIII|
Text and illustrations by ©Bob Schulenberg
I got a wonderful commission to do a series for Marie Claire, which was published in 1963. It was another dream job: to frequent the bars, restaurants or cafes where one could see the performers after the show. And just draw! Of course, that also meant a free dinner.
|On this occasion, I invited a friend, Victor Latcha, who was German and a very successful model.|
les Iles Marquises was a favorite seafood restaurant for performers from the popular music halls, such as Bobino, Gaîté Montparnasse, and the Théâtre Montparnasse.
|Here, I was alone, so I just drew. Evidently, during intermissions at Alhambra, the great music hall (where I later saw the Beatles), Maurice Chevalier was a regular fixture.|
|Sylvie Vartan opened for the Beatles and the impatient audience started shouting, "SYLVIE! VA T'EN," which could be politely translated as "SYLVIE — GO AWAY!!" I hoped she thought they were shouting her name.|
Here is La Régence, a very old restaurant near the Palais Royal where it was claimed thatNapoleon was a frequent visitor. As the people at the table in the foreground (a family) were leaving, they saw that I'd included them in my drawing. The mother said that they had some interesting "woodwork" I might appreciate — she spoke some English — and invited me to come for lunch on the following Sunday. I happily accepted and learned that their name was de Navacelle.
|The next Sunday, I set out for their house which was just off the Champs-Élysées, not far from the Arc de Triomphe. It was a large, imposing building and I was greeted and ushered in by the son.|
The first floor, what in the U.S. is a second or parlor floor, was very grand. I was shown the "salon" and it was explained that this floor, the most opulent, was reserved for the oldest family member. And it was opulent!
The ceilings, which were thirty feet high in this grand room, were painted by Tiepolo.
|But the most shocking thing for me was seeing a unicorn tapestry on the wall!|
|As I stared in disbelief, it was explained to me that the family had been involved early on with the Cluny Museum, the National Museum of the Middle Ages, which is how they acquired the tapestry. One incongruous note in this magnificent room was a tiny television set on a small metal white enamel rolling table, the kind you might find in a middle class kitchen! I was told the grandmother enjoyed watching television.|
When the boulevards were created in the nineteenth century, ancient neighborhoods were demolished and so was the Navacelle family home, so the intricately carved "woodworks" and the Tiepolo were installed in the "new" house. Doors in their boiseried salon opened onto brick walls.
As a matter of fact, it was not unlike a movie set! Except everything was real with a well-earned patina.
|Topping it all off, Madame de Navacelle told me that they had a tenant by the name of Samson Francois (one of my favorite concert pianists!) staying in the adjoining staff house, with his wife and young son. Unfortunately, Francois died in 1970 at the age of 46. He'd had a heart attack during one of his concerts and died several years later.|
I became a frequent visitor in the de Navacelle house and when the daughter had a sort of small coming out party, I was the only American except for "Charmin'" Sharman Douglas, the daughter of the former American Ambassador to Great Britain. Helene Rodocanachi (whose brother Pierre married Princesse Armande de Polignac) and Ines le Gouvello were also guests that night.
|The Navacelles had a place in the country where they also had vineyards. Usually when I was there for dinner, we'd have some of the wine from their own vineyard. They told me apologetically that the family hadn't been granted the Royal permit to make brandies.|
So many nights upon leaving from a wine-filled evening as I stumbled toward the Champs-Élysées for a taxi, I wondered why so many Americans had said how cold and unfriendly the Parisians were!
I found myself wishing that privileged Americans were as "cold and unfriendly."