Tuesday, April 12, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Passion for Paris

Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon), photographer and aeronautical scientist. Nadar took the first aerial photo of Paris from one of his balloons in 1858.
by Liz Smith

My Passion For "Passion for Paris" ... Lesley Stahl's "Becoming Grandma" ... Kyle Norman and "The Adventures of SuperCaptainBraveman."

"THE MORE things change, the more they stay the same!"

Who said this first? This is a comment everybody uses, without knowing the actual source. It was the archetypal Parisian Romantic writer, Alphonse Karr, who probably quipped this in the 1840s. It was after another epic revolution and change in the French regimes.

Click to order "A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Lights."
I learned this from a wonderful little book I have mentioned before, titled "A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Lights."

The last time I wrote about this book I said 'we can never get enough of Paris,' which is why I decided to read it again. This is from author David Downie, who also brought us a best seller "Paris to the Pyrenees." This book, new in paperback this month, is a must read — discovering the historical Paris and it deals with a lot of Bohemian, creative names that still resonate today — Félix Nadar, Charles Beaudelaire, Theophile Gautier, Honore de Balzac, Victor Hugo, the Marquis de Sade, Alexandre Dumas, Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Flaubert, Maxim Gorky, Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, and many others. And, not to forget the ladies — from George Sand up to Gertrude Stein. These were the outlaws, revolutionaries and narcissists who made Paris Romantic. (I'm sure I've omitted many names.)

This book barely starts, when the author tells us who peopled these streets where the Bastille stood, the Marais, the Place des Vosges and the like. You can read all this romantic nonsense in the very spots today while referring to David's book.
Storming of the Bastille on the morning of July 14th, 1789.
I was amused to have the details of one of my favorite anecdotes about Napoleon corrected in these pages. This concerns the Place de Vosges as a favorite rendezvous since the days of that supreme philanderer, King Henry IV. The author writes that the King sent messengers a week before his arrival to order his lady friends to cease bathing. Recent books attribute this to Napoleon. So much for history!
"Cease all bathing at once!"
I loved reading a little further about Victor Hugo's famous play "Hernani" — the most performed French drama of all time. "Hernani" is still performed today as well as the even more popular, romantic and less believable "Ernani," the opera. Downie writes that the play's plot is implausible. And his description of when the principals are eagerly drinking poison is hilarious even today. I won't go on.

Add "A Passion for Paris" to your next visit there. Hold the book in your hand when you go to the very places Downie describes. This isn't a travel book; it is a key to the past that made Paris so romantic. It is published by St. Martin's Griffin.
The "battle of Hernani."
STAYING in the moment, this is the week when the talented correspondent, Lesley Stahl, brings out her new book, "Becoming Grandma." This is a departure for the famed newswoman who covered the White House and is still asking tough questions today on "60 Minutes." But this book is different; the indomitable Lesley takes a new point of view. She writes of her great love for her granddaughters, Jordan and Chloe. Read this vision of change — from Blue Rider Press — by an all business, ever young, last of the breed, a real news correspondent.
IT IS wonderful to me that the celebrated controversial Four Seasons eatery in the Seagram's Building will find a new home around Park Avenue and 49th Street when it leaves its original spot. This is where it flourished for years. I am told that it will have the same décor, the same menu, the same name and most of the intelligent, well-off clientele. I am dying to see when it opens, if a baked potato in the Four Seasons will still cost $30.
ALTHOUGH WE cover many books here, and many genres, we rarely take on children's books. But a new series of kids books caught my attention. The series is called "The Adventures of SuperCaptainBraveMan" and it debuts on April 23rd. The first of the series is titled "A Day at the Park."

This was written, lovingly, by Jennifer and Paul Norman, based on the heroic struggle of their son, Kyle, who battles a rare genetic disorder, requiring constant care. Paul Norman says: "The books are intended to help parents encourage their children to appreciate those with physical, behavioral of neurological challenges. We want to make superheroes out of all kids, so they grow up with really strong values." The book is charmingly illustrated by nurse-turned-artist Victor Lodevico.
Click to pre-order "The Adventures of SuperCaptainBraveMan."
I'll admit right off, I have met Paul Norman on a number of occasions, and he is a terrific guy and father. I met him through my great friend Liz Rosenberg, who sent me the information about this endeavor. There's nothing I wouldn't do for Liz, and although she now handles only a select few show-biz types, it is always with such humanity that it is impossible to refuse her, or not to love her clients, because she presents them as she wishes all people to be — loving and generous. Just as she is.
Jennifer and Paul Norman.
So, I know this project is valid and must mean a lot to her. And to be honest, it's a welcome deviation for us. The adults we shamelessly flatter here on a daily basis — or wrap on the knuckles occasionally — can take care of themselves. As Sitting Bull said: "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."

To learn more about these books, and Kyle, go to supercaptainbraveman.com and supercaptainbraveman.wordpress.com. A portion of the book proceeds go to support The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.
"You come before me as a suppliant."
ENDQUOTE: "Selena Gomez? You must have lost your damn mind!" That is an e-mail I received after I lightly suggested that the young pop star/actress might not be the worst choice in the world to play Cleopatra in the revived production of that Sony Pictures epic — or at least considered. I was mostly thinking of her youth, beauty and sex-appeal. Stranger things have happened (The career of Amy Schumer, for instance. How long do we have to pretend she's funny?)

However, that was the only Gomez complaint we received. I'd love to say who objected, but every time I quote this very smart — and relentlessly acerbic — guy he gets all, "That was shady!" Or, "I didn't give you permission!" I don't know who he thinks he's talking to when he talks to me. It's all grist for the mill, baby. (Actually, he loves it; he just wants to be contrary.)

But this high-flying talent might work with Gomez at some point, so ... I'll be discreet. This time.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.