Friday, August 2, 2013

Paris — when it sizzles

Taking a snap of a special edition Andy Warhol can of Perrier that was just released this week, while getting my haircut at David Mallett’s salon on the rue Notre-Dames-des-Victoires.
Paris — when it sizzles
by Charlie Scheips

I arrived in Paris on Monday to spend the month writing the text for a book that will be published next year about France in the 1930s. I’m watching the apartment of friends who are off to San Francisco and Mexico on holiday — leaving this city along with practically the rest of the local citizens of Paris.

Gary Knoble turning 75 in Hartford. Inset: Gary at Yale in 1960.
I’ve now been coming to Paris regularly for 30 years. The day of my departure I rented a car and drove up to Hartford, Connecticut to attend the 75th birthday party for one of my dearest friends Gary Knoble. I literally had to turn around and go back to New York a couple hours later — more about that later. Gary shares his beautiful 1920's house, packed full of artwork by Connecticut Valley artists from the 19th to 21st centuries, with composer James Sellars and the world-renowned bassist performer and Hartt Music School professor Robert Black.

In a way, my love affair with France began at their house. In 1981, just after graduating from college, I became friends with Gary, James, and Robert. A few months into our friendship, they announced that composer and critic Virgil Thomson was coming to stay for the weekend.

I was so excited to meet someone so associated with the creative world of Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. It was a weekend of lunches and dinners including Sunday brunch at the Wadsworth Atheneum — scene of one of Virgil’s great triumphs — the 1934 first production of the opera he composed to a libretto by Gertrude Stein entitled Four Saints in Three Acts. At the weekend’s end we all posed together with Virgil.

A month later I had a post card Virgil sent from France inviting me to visit him at the Chelsea Hotel. It was the beginning of a life-changing friendship that only ended with Virgil’s death in 1989 at the age of 93. I still own the couch that Virgil died on — the auction house didn’t want it.
Virgil Thomson with Gertrude Stein.
In 1984, I was invited to spend the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in Paris and the Loire Valley. I stayed at a now long vanished hotel of the rue d'Aguesseau that was just above the entrance of the rue Royale leading to the Madeleine. Virgil gave me lists of restaurants (and what to eat at each of them) and the names of friends of his to look up, including ballet impresario Boris Kochno, Serge Diaghilev’s last secretary, who was also the companion of artist Christian Bérard and one-time lover of Cole Porter.

Serge Diaghilev and Boris Kochno.
It was a memorable meeting, but that is a whole other story. I also visited the graves of Virgil’s friend’s Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas as well as that of Oscar Wilde at Père Lachaise. I fell in love with Paris — forever.

During those years in Paris, it was almost impossible to get a hamburger. On that first trip, I got a stomach flu between Christmas and New Year's and the only thing I could keep down was Coca Cola as it settled my stomach. After the flu passed, I was ravenous and a girlfriend of mine took me to Joe Allen just near the Étienne Marcel metro stop to have a hamburger and a Bloody Mary. It was like mother’s milk.

So, back in Hartford this week, after a few hours at Gary’s birthday Clam Bake, I got back in my rental car and drove three hours in the pouring rain to JFK. My flight, on Air France, was at 11:20 p.m. and I arrived a little after noon at Charles de Gaulle. I got to the apartment around 2 p.m., took a nap, and then headed over with my friends for dinner nearby at Le Square Trousseau — one of my favorite hang-outs in Paris where the manager Mikael always takes such good care of us.

Le Square Trousseau makes a fabulous cheeseburger — in fact most restaurants in Paris now have one on the menu — which is a phenomenon I wouldn’t have dreamed about 30 years ago when I first started coming here.
Charlie Scheips and Tom Graf at Le Square Trousseau.
The next day, I met my friend Pamela Golbin, curator of modern and contemporary fashion at the Musée Arts Décoratifs at the Louvre, for lunch at Le Castiglione on the rue Saint Honoré. I opted for yet another hamburger so that I could concentrate more on our conversation. Even though Pamela is a regular patron at the restaurant, our waiter, whom she did not recognize, refused to let us sit side by side on the banquette after lunch so that we could look at some fashion images I had brought to show her on my iPad. So, we just paid the check and went across the street to a friendlier café that didn’t see it as the same problem.

Rudeness from waiters in Paris restaurants is not limited to tourists — it is now an equal-opportunity phenomenon of our era.
The Sunny Smoker put a smile on my face.
It is very hot this week in Paris — but not as oppressive as New York seems at an equal temperature for some reason. Maybe it is that one doesn’t rush the same way as in New York? I realized I had somehow lost my sunglasses somewhere between New York and Paris, so I headed over to the great Marc Le Bihan shop on the rue Étienne Marcel and picked out a great pair of folding Persol sunglasses.
Marc Le Bihan on rue Étienne Marcel.
Étienne Marcel station of the Métro.
Afterwards, I realized I was just next to Joe Allen (and ravenously hungry) so I decided to go and have yet another cheeseburger and glass of Grolsch at the very place I first had my original French cheeseburger all those years ago. It did not disappoint — the entire outdoor terrace of the restaurant was full — people have a great time eating, drinking, and smoking! Inside the restaurant, like many in Paris these days it was completely empty.
Joe Allen's terrace, fully occupied.
And completely empty on the inside.
Le menu.
Progression of my meal at Joe Allen ...
After lunch, I took advantage of the last days before all the summer closings to get my haircut at David Mallett’s salon (www.david-mallett.com) on the rue Notre-Dames-des-Victoires situated just a block or so between the basilica of the same name and the Bourse stock exchange.

If you don’t know (and you should) David is Paris’s most fashionable hairdresser. I have known the Australian-born Mallett since he opened nearly a decade ago. When I was here in February, as I had my hair cut by Alain, David was styling the locks of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. This time, while Hakim cut my hair, Charlotte Gainsbourg was there.
David Mallett’s salon on the rue Notre-Dames-des-Victoires.
Paris’s most fashionable hairdresser, David Mallett.
The salon is really a great contrast between contemporary and classic French style. Huge framed mirrors go from floor to ceiling with simple metal tables that serve as a platform for the hairdresser’s equipment and what ever the client requests for a beverage. I requested a mineral water — and when it showed up it was on a white porcelain square plate with a glass and special edition Andy Warhol can of Perrier that was just released this week.

Fabulous taxidermied peacocks, ostriches take their place throughout the salon. In the room where your hair is washed with the David Mallett Shampoo and Conditioner I had a leopard lying at my feet. If you are a lover, as I am, of the great Parisian taxidermist Deyrolle on the rue du Bac, then David Mallet is your salon!
David's fabulous salon ...
A haircut with a view.
Afterwards, I wandered down the street and into the very “cooling” Basilica of Notre Dames des Victoires. It’s just off the Place des Victoires (with a sculpture of Louis XIV on horseback) and across the street from the famous Chez Georges — another restaurant I’ve been eating at for thirty years.
Basilica of Notre Dames des Victoires.
Inside the Basilica.
Place des Victoires with Louis XIV front and center.
The Basilica is across the street from Chez Georges.
And down the street from the Paris Bourse (the historical Paris stock exchange), now known as Euronext Paris.
After walking through the Palais-Royal, I jumped on the Metro getting off to check out the two exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume at Concorde. I can’t say American Lorna Simpson’s first large-scale exhibition in Europe was to my taste. Coupled with another show called Phantom Home of the photography of Palestinian photographer Ahlam Shibli’s dreary war-ravaged images was not exactly my idea of an inspiring art experience. It's not that I think that artists shouldn’t deal with political reality — but somehow all these photos seem banal to me now — we see too much of it.
The gates to the Palais-Royal.
Stereo Styles
[Styles stéréo] 1988
Lorna Simpson
Collection Melva Bucksbaum et Raymond Learsy.
© Lorna Simpson
I jumped back on the Metro to visit my great friend Susan Train a couple stops away. Susan is a legend — having been the Vogue (and American Condé Nast’s) editor and bureau chief for more decades than she would allow me to mention. For many years, we would spend a month in the summer in a house Susan rented in the Gers region between Bordeaux and Toulouse — near Condom.

The Edange family, who have long ago become more friends than temporary landlords, owns the house. Denis Edange family hails back centuries and the family’s nearby chateau (lovingly watched over by his mother) has very important murals featuring the siege of Malta. His wife Sophie’s family, the Marcellins, makes some of the best Armagnac and foie gras I’ve ever tasted.
Susan Train and Charlie.
Just this past June, Sophie and Denis Edange’s son Arthur married in the little village church where his parents (and undoubtedly generations of Marcellins once married). I’ve known Arthur since he was a young teenager. Denis had sent Susan photos of the wedding and reception that we looked at on the computer.

They are so charming that I can think of no better ending to my first Art Set in France than to introduce and congratulate the new Monsieur and Madame Arthur Edange!

Another instance of my extended family in France!

Mes meilleurs vœux!
Just Married! Amélie and Arthur Edange.
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