"I was loved and in return I love, I loathe the material side of existence. I wanted life to be all love, all happiness."
I hope she is dancing still.
|Jane Avril of the Moulin Rouge||
On this day 77 years ago in 1943 the great Jane Avril passed away on a cold night in Paris.
"I was loved and in return I love, I loathe the material side of existence. I wanted life to be all love, all happiness."
I hope she is dancing still.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Welcome back to the "Roaring 20s!"
I am not aware of any films about Oscar’s life that focuses solely on his post prison exploits under the assumed name of Sebastian Melmoth. The recent release of Rupert Everett’s film about the final years of Oscar Wilde was uncomfortable viewing. That said, I think it’s important to focus on the damage not only to his reputation, his health but also on his wife Constance (Played by Emily Watson), his children and friends. Yes, many friends deserted him, (“my friends will call me Oscar; my enemies will call me Wilde “ Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders – Gyles Brandreth 2008) only the ever faithful Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and a few others stood by him after his release. His wife Constance set boundaries with respect to finance and his children were denied the presence of a father who loved them dearly. He was a broken man susceptible to illness that in the end destroyed him. He survived by acts of kindness, generosity and allowances and he was never again welcomed into London society and the clubs that once adored and welcomed him. He spent his remaining years in exile in France and Italy.
I will only mention Lord Alfred Douglas (Colin Morgan) once and that is only to say that his portrayal in the film continues the theme of a spoilt, conceited and selfish individual following on from where the Stephen Fry film of 1997 left off with Jude Law playing Oscar’s “Bosie”.
The passing of time and the change in social culture has once more elevated Oscar Wilde to his rightful place and I have no doubt he would have been a celebrated television personality with his own talk show and touring around the country with his award winning one man show had he been around today. That said, I’d like to think he would turn his back on the television medium and focus more on further plays, novels and short stories. Oh, to think of the work he could have produced! Yes, he was ahead of his time but he paid a high price for his “sins” which would be considered mere tittle tattle by modern standards.
Bringing The Happy Prince to the big screen was a labour of love for Everett who not only starred as the great man but also directed and produced the movie – no mean feat!
This is a fine and welcome addition to the Wilde biopics that have hit the silver screen throughout the last 60 years.
Oscar Wilde died in Paris in 1900 and is buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.
I know I have been silent lately but just wanted to share a link to a marvellous website that I have discovered recently.
If like me, you are a bit obsessed with the 1890s then you'll appreciate the fine efforts of this particular theatre company.
I recently enjoyed their wonderful, "Tea with Oscar" which has left a mark on me.
Formed in 2010, Don’t go into the Cellar are the UK’s finest practitioners of theatrical Victorians in a macabre vein. The company is based in the heart of the West Midlands, and the region has links with some of the greatest Victorian and Edwardian genre writers
Using a talented and versatile troupe of professionally-trained actors and crew, we perform at theatres, festivals and events across the United Kingdom. Artistic Director Jonathan Goodwin both writes and performs in each show, bringing a lifelong love of Victorian detective, ghost and horror stories to the fore. His commitment to detail and understanding of fin de siècle Zeitgeist ensures that audiences are guaranteed a splendidly authentic slice of stage-frights! Technical Director Gary Archer shares this fascination with old-time classics of popular genre fiction, but adds a twenty-first century twist! His effective and innovative use of digital technology succeeds in pumping new blood into these gothic gems, to create an exciting theatrical experience for audiences dying to see their favourite nineteenth-century heroes and villains come to life before them.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of their superb productions!
American novelist Mark Pryor contacted me recently informing that he would be in Paris in December and wondered if I fancied joining him. I didn't have to wait for him to ask twice.
This isn't new territory to be fair since we met on 19th August 2015 which happened to be the first birthday of my youngest son Edward (Teddy). We met at Le Deux Magots as any serious writer would want and he generously endorsed his then latest novel with a wonderful inscription that will one day go some way to explaining my absence from Teddy's Birthday Celebrations. Sorry Teddy xxx
For those who don't know, Mark Pryor is America's Number 1 crime writer(my opinion) and author of the Hugo Marston Murder Mysteries that are set in modern Paris. They are well worth reading if you fancy intelligent plots, wonderful characters and a beautiful backdrop. Check out Amazon and you'll easily find all his works including the psychological thriller "Hollow Man" and his telling of a real life investigation of a brutal murder in "As She Lay Sleeping."
It will be great to meet up again and chat about literature, arts and politics. Much has changed since we last met not least a new American President. Sadly, I will be without my usual travelling companion Tom as he has set his plans firmly elsewhere where the sun burns a little brighter. So yes, for the first time I take on the City of Paris on my own. Daunting? Yes, a little, but at the same time I have beautiful Paris all to myself and that presents many potential opportunities. I couldn't be anymore excited.
I certainly haven't had the opportunity to visit Paris this close to Christmas. I fly out on Thursday 14th December 2017 and so I expect to see the City in a festive mood and lit up brightly perhaps even more than it usually is.
As ever, I'm staying in Montmartre very close to the Chat Noir and the Moulin Rouge so I will be in familiar surroundings.
Even as I type this I'm thinking like crazy about new sites to visit but I'm not committing just yet as I keep changing my mind with each passing day.
One thing I can say with certainty is that I'll be retuning to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to visit old friends and new. As always, I'll visit Jane Avril and adorn her grave with flowers as it always should be and then to Oscar Wilde. This is a tradition that I have maintained on all my trips to Paris and that's also because I just never know when I'll return. I like to sit with them both and reflect on their lives and all they stood for.
I've spent quite a lot of time these past 2 years away from Paris reading the works of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway so I'll be looking to visit haunts that they favoured. I suspect I'll be visiting the graves of both Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas who knew both Fitz and Hemingway. I don't know if any of you have ever read the works of Gertrude Stein but it isn't easy. It's very much like trying to swim through treacle.
So after a gap of 2 years Paris is calling me again and like last time I'll be chronicling my trip with a view to sharing this latest adventure with you all.
Hey, while I'm here if any of you know of any exciting places in Paris to visit especially this time of year feel free to message me and provide me with some inspiration.
Well, it's been a little time since my last post. Nothing new to add at the moment with regards to Jane but be assured this website still means as much to me today as it did when I created it.
I've decided to give it a new look. I haven't gone overboard with it just thought it would make it look a little more modern.
Hope you like it.
I couldn't let another day go by without remarking about the sad passing of Zsa Zsa Gabor at the grand old age of 99. Quite naturally I will always remember her for her portrayal of Jane Avril in John Houston's film Moulin Rouge made in 1952. Although, the portrayal did not resemble in anyway my own image of Jane, I still have to applaud the effort in bringing Jane to a 50s audience some 9 years after Jane valsed her way into immortality.
She was a witty woman with some killer one liners but I'll instead quote her from the film in the role of Jane Avril.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: "Well, Jane, what a long road you have travelled. Only a few years ago you were singing for your supper, and here you are a full-fledged star at 29."
Jane Avril: "25!"
Henri: "Of course, I beg your pardon. 25."
Jane Avril: "I have been 25 for 4 years, and I shall stay there for another 4. Then I'll be 27 for a while. I intend to grow old gracefully!"
RIP Zsa Zsa.
It has been a while since I posted an entry so here's a real treat for you all while you wait for me to find some inspiration.
This is my friend Maria as her alter ego Millennium Star! What an amazing dress inspired by the Queen of Montmartre herself. Maria created the dress herself and you can see the effort has paid off. Maria is no stranger to the site and I know her love of Jane and the time in which she thrived as a dancer runs deep.
I've also posted the famous Jane Avril lithograph created by Toulouse-Lautrec and photograph by way of comparison.
Thanks for the photo Maria.
The Eiffel Tower as many know was conceived by Gustave Eiffel and constructed as the show piece for the 1889 Paris Exhibition.
I recently managed to get hold of a programme that set out the events and amusements that the exhibition had to offer.
In the programme is described in some detail a description of the Tower.
Jane Avril herself visited the exhibition and used to enjoy ascending the tower that must have been quite a spectacle and experience for a lady of her time.
Here is the description as set out in the programme that accompanied the 1889 exhibition.
In order to attire the stranger, to create a great attraction which assured the success of the exhibition, it wanted something exceptional, unrivalled, and extraordinary. An engineer presented himself, Mr. Eiffel, already known by his considerable and keen works. He proposed to M. Locroy to erect a tower in iron which, reaching the height of three hundred metres would represent, at the industrial sight, the resultant of the modern progresses. Mr. Locroy reflected and accepted. Hardly twenty years ago, this project would have appeared fantastic and impossible. The state of the science of the iron constructions was not advanced enough, the security given by the calculations was not yet assured; today, they know where they are going, they are able to count the force of the wind. The resistance which the iron opposes it. Mr Eiffel came at the proper time.
And nevertheless how many people have prophesised that the tower would never be constructed? How many critics have fallen upon this audacious project? It was erected, however, and one perceives it from all of Paris; it astonishes and lets in ecstasy the strangers who come to contemplate it.
Let us describe it then in all its details, since it constitutes the success of the exhibition.
It is a pyramid with four bend acres connected two by two at their inferior part by arches of 50 metres. These arcs are oblique till at a certain height, then, the colossus having greatly widened its feet in order to prop well with buttress, rises straight towards the sky.
The opening of the feet is of a hundred metres from axis to axis, and a circumstance to be worth to remark, and which is the result of a hazard, the diagonal axis which passes through these two feet is directed according to the Meridian.
At 60 metres above the ground is the first floor. There the posts which form the corners, still oblique, are connected by a gallery of 15 metres of width on every front. Where the visitors who ascend find 4 pavilions richly adorned, which are nothing else than breweries and eating houses, more spacious than the handsomest on the Boulevard, a Flemish brewery, a Russian eating house, an English-American bar and the wine shop, style of Louis XIV. If you ascend during the times of meals, you will see that this spacious platform can contain about 5000 guests, who from their table enjoy one of the most curious panoramas.
But let us ascend higher up. Here we are on the 2nd stair bed, at a height of 117 metres. A glazed room, quarry of 30 metres aside, is opened before us. Let us still ascend, and at the height of 270 metres, we find a last room forming pavilion, crowned with a cupola and measuring 60 metres of development. There a coffee room offers us refreshments of various kinds, and all in drinking a bock, or tasting a glass, we discover the most splendid panorama which it may be possible to fancy.
Let us describe it minutely.
From all parts the void environs you; the 4 sides of the tower, sensibly brought nearer, give to the platform on which you are the appearance of a skiff. The air, the light fall upon you from the 4 cardinal points. In the perspective, the Mont-Valerien has descended under the horizon, the Trocadero under the Bots de Boulogne, the peninsula of Gennevilliers is extended like a little heap of ground, the numerous windings of the Seine wind their ways in the immense plane, like on a geographical map. At your left side, the hills of Mendon are all depressed.
At the right Montmartre, which seems a vessel entering in the side of a Parisian galere. At your feet the houses are very plainly, because you see the 4 sides which are holed by the windows, symmetric like points of dice, so well that Paris has an appearance of a vast party of biribi played by a giant on a green carpet.
In short, 120 kilometres are stretched out before you! For a few sous you can look in the telescope-glass, which will permit us to see, if the weather is clear, the coasts which dominate Rouen and the hills of the department of the Cote-d’Or.
This ascension attires you, visitor, and you lady, who doubted at the first sight, so much the colossus is enormous, that there are about 300 metres until the cupola, where are floating multi-colour flags. Do not deprive you of the pleasure to contemplate Paris from such a height.
For 2 francs the lifts will bring you to the second floor, for 5 francs you will be able to go to the top.
These lifts are in the number of 4, starting from the ground and following the declivity of the jambs which buttress the Tower. They deserve the two first platforms, but from the second, that is to say at the height of 117 metres, two other lifts, this time vertical, withdraw you smoothly till the eupola, with an uniform swiftness of a metre by a second, in such a way that the complete ascension will demand about 7 minutes.
Besides, if you have good legs, it belongs only to you, to reach on foot to the first galleries by the star. The charm of this ascending in spiral will pay you amply of your fatigue.
960 steps lead to the second platform.
1792 steps bring you to the top.
The total weight of the Tower Eiffel is of seven million kilogram’s. The construction has costs about 6 million. Mr Eiffel has received from the State one million five hundred thousand francs, taken upon the forty-three millions of the exhibition, and he enjoys the privilege of the exploitation of the Tower for 20 years.
They have calculated that the action of the wind upon their colossal monument is hardly to be appreciated. The fearful people can on this regard completely be assured.
The science has arrived in our days to determine with an absolute precision the pressure of the wind on the surface: that exercised on the Tower Eiffel, could be of 400 kilograms by square metre, corresponding for the whole monument to more than three millions of kilograms. This number is enormous, but we are sheltered from all fear when we know that the strongest tempests observed in Paris have never been accompanied by a wind superior of 150 kilograms by square metre. The day in which the wind would pull down the Tower, all monuments of Paris would be destroyed before it. That day has not yet come.
The tempest can pass, rush at the long pieces of iron, attack them in front or at three quarters, to run parallel to the ground or point from the top to the bottom and the Tower will remain impassable, and if it be one day necessary to assist to surmount the winds, all has been foreseen; in each one of three immense piles is lodged an hydraulic press strong enough to lift up its sides and maintain it upright in spite of all.
Put the proportion with all the famous monuments of Europe and America, the Tower Eiffel overpasses them in the following proportions: -
Notre Dame 66 metres
Le Pantheon 79 metres
The Invalids 103 metres
St Peters in Rome 132 metres
Cathedral in Strassburg 142 metres
The Great Pyramid of Egypt 146 metres
Cathedral of Cologne 150 metres
Monument of Washington 169 metres
Tower Eiffel 300 metres
In such way that the monument erected to Washington at Philadelphia, which was before the highest of the globe, is still overpassed of 131 metres.
Information re: Ascension.
According to the specifications of the enterprise of the Tower, the privileged has obliged him after statutes, to ascend 2356 persons by hour to the first platform and 750 per hour to the summit.
The tariff of the ascensions is fixed at 2 francs for the first floor, 3 francs for the second and 5 francs to the summit.
Contrary to which passes usually, the prices are lessoned for the Sundays: it is one franc until the first platform, 1 franc 40 cents until the second, 2 francs until the summit, but this tariff is applied but from eleven in the morning till six o’ clock in the evening.
How is the control made? Or, to precise more, how do they pay the price of ascensions?
The administration has opened at this purpose 16 wickets. 10 on the ground floor, 4 at the first platform and 2 at the second.
Tickets are delivered there; red for the first platform, white for the second and blue for the summit.
The person at the destination of the first platform gives up his red ticket at the arrival. Having no more, he cannot ascend higher up but when he buys a second one – the white, which serves between the first and the second platform. Finally, to ascend to the summit, he must buy a blue ticket. Total: 5 francs.
And the pedestrians?
Those who are frightened or impressioned, have at their disposal two comfortable staircases for the service of the first platform.
This on the jamb no 4 to ascend and that of the number 2 to desend. They have four of them at their disposition between the first and second platform, two for the ascension and two for the descent.
One may ascend by foot or by the lift, the price is the same, and the tickets too, so well that the tickets once taken, for the top by instance, one may vary its pleasures in making one part of the way in one manner and the other in another.
Some persons have criticised the uniformity of the price adopted for the two manners of ascension, in saying that the person on foot ought to pay less than this one who uses the lifts but they wished to simplify to avoid the complications of the sale and the control.
The Tower, when it has received its maximum of visitors, can contain on them, namely: -
Each one of the eating house on the first floor 400
For the four 1600
1000 about can move them on each of the 4 exterior galleries 1000
Between the eating houses there are interior galleries able to contain together 400
Total for the first floor 6400
They can be 1500 on the second floor and 500 at the summit together 2000
The ascending persons, with the serving people can be valued to 2000
And you have, when the Tower is filled with visitors, a total of about 10,000
Then thousand persons upon this network of iron!
It is not dreadful, let us add in finishing that a certain number of shops surround the first floor, the space left free by the eating houses. The Figaro has a printing office there very elegantly installed.
As usual I wake early but today I wake with a heavy heart as it’s my last day in Paris. My flight LS316 from Charles de Gaulle to Leeds is 5:00pm. I try to put this at the back of my mind and focus instead on all I have to get done before I leave. As usual I take up my spot at Starbucks and reflect on the past few days. It had been both busy and eventful but was satisfied that I had completed all I had set out to do. I couldn’t be too down about returning home and rejoining my wife and children which reminds me I must deliver on a promise I made to Alexander my eldest at 3 years. Before I left I promised I’d purchase a jet2 model plane. He regularly visits Yeadon Tarn in West Yorkshire to see the flights leave from Leeds/Bradford Airport, and had seen my flight leave for Paris the previous Monday:
“There’s daddy’s plane,” he shouts and follows up with, “I’m going to miss him mummy.” He genuinely believes I own and fly it. Why shatter his little dreams!
I cross the road to pick up a souvenir or two from the tacky gift shop on the left and then re-join Tom at Starbucks.
“Got to be the Musee Montmartre today I think.”
“That sounds good.” Replies Tom and off we set.
We get as far as Anvers and are suddenly stopped in our tracks by the down pouring of rain. This wasn’t on the agenda and the walk up the hill wasn’t looking to appetising. We head left and locate a Costa Coffee and take refuge from the rain.
The rain is much heavier by the time we are served and we don’t feel any enthusiasm for making our way up the hill so we sit outside but under the café’s awning protecting ourselves from the downpour. I love the way the rain trickles from the awning and so attempt some photography to capture it. I fail miserably (see result below) but thought it would give a sense of the conditions.
We assumed the rain was here to stay so when the rain was at its lightest we made our way back to the Elysée Montmartre where we turn an immediate left to climb the hill. I glanced up at the Elysée Montmartre at 72 Boulevard de Rochechouart and note that it is undergoing some repair work and decide to cross over the road taking shelter to take a few snaps of its current condition (see below). I am pleased that the Elysée is being refurbished as it’s a venue with ample history. It’s at the Elysée Montmartre that the unforgettable French cancan was invented in 1807. The shows quickly spread to other venues in the neighbourhood of Boulevard Rochechouart, including the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère and it was at the Elysée Montmartre that Toulouse-Lautrec painted several of his paintings.
After surviving a fire in 1900, Elysée Montmartre diversified and took on many different guises but was again ravaged by fire in 2011, the 200-year-old venue nearly shut down before the French government rallied to save it. Elysée Montmartre is currently closed to the public but a new era awaits.
If you want to know anything about the history of Montmartre and the personalities that lived and executed their art here then this is the place for you. Situated at 8-13 Rue Cortot and founded in 1960 it was home to many artists such as Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and her equally famous artist son Maurice Utrillo (a specialist in capturing the streets and buildings of Montmartre). The gardens have been renovated according to Renior’s paintings and provide a view of the vineyard and the Au Lapin Agile.
Since the last time I was here Suzanne Valadon’s studio has been renovated and this gives you a real sense of how she and Maurice lived and the conditions in which they worked.
For me it wasn’t just about the literal artists that occupied this place it was the history of Montmartre generally and the vision Rodolphe Salis had for it and his subsequent creation of Le Chat Noir which was his attempt to deliver on his vision. Then there is the tribute to The Moulin Rouge and there is plenty to take in especially the lithographs of Toulouse-Lautrec that celebrate the Moulin Rouge performers Jane Avril and Louise Weber. For good measure there is a fine Lithograph of Aristide Bruant a friend of Lautrec and a very interesting personality in his own right who is well worth a study.
It’s worth reading the plaque that exists within the museum that says more about Montmartre and Salis’s vision:
“In 1800 Montmartre was an impoverished, dangerous and physically marginal part of Paris. However, at the end of 1881 a young visionary named Rodolphe Salis opened the Chat Noir cabaret on the Boulevard Rochechouart which soon attracted numerous young, avant-garde artists, writers, musicians and performers to live and work in Montmartre. In 1884 Salis made the following audacious statement: “What is Montmartre? – Nothing! What should it be? – Everything!” Within a relatively short time, Salis’s prediction that Montmartre would be “everything” became a reality. In fact, Montmartre was transformed in to the literary/artistic centre of Europe! This exhibition endeavours to reveal the unique characteristics which define the “Spirit of Montmartre” as well as to the Present Montmartre’s contribution to the development of modern art at the turn of the nineteenth century. Welcome to the show!”
Time is running away from me at this point, less so for Tom who is staying another night. Realistically, I have time for one final lunch at Le Chat Noir before heading back to the hotel to collect my backpack and pick up my taxi back to the airport. I opt for the Caesar salad and I feel like it’s my final meal as a condemned man, I know in reality this is far from the truth but it underlines just how gut wrenching it is for me to leave the city I have come to love so much. Tom, set out his potential plans for the remainder of his stay.
“I may take in some Monet,”
Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about leaving.
“If I want to see some Monet I’ll take a trip to IKEA.”
Seriously, IKEA have destroyed Monet for me simply because I used see his work there all the time and it became too accessible.
I wish Tom well a little envious of his extra day and leave him at the Chat Noir as I head back to the hotel to pick up my stuff. I wait for the taxi who then takes me past The Chat Noir, The Moulin Rouge and Starbucks looking at my seat one final time knowing that tomorrow morning it’ll occupied by someone who perhaps is embarking on their own little adventure in Paris.
Craig Robert Whitfield
Well as you may have gathered I have a love of all things Parisian and especially the 1890's scene. The result is this site devoted to Jane Avril - enjoy!