I recently found this photograph of Jane Birkin (it looks very much like her on the right) and two other unidentified actresses and I wondered if anyone knew who the other actresses are and what the photograph is for or from? If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
Thanks to the wonderful French TV show Dim Dam Dom shown on the equally wonderful Melody TV http://www.melody.tv/, I recently discovered a new French pop hero: Évariste. His appearance on the 12 November 1967 episode, performing a song called Wo i nee, is something that has to be seen to be believed; crazy dancing, crazy hair (long on one side and short on the other – apparently in an attempt to combine both the mod and the rocker look in one haircut: the Mocker hairdo), and a crazy song that just cannot be categorised – I can’t describe it other than as “experimental”. Absolutely amazing and a totally unexpected find. How can something so fabulous exist and so few people know about it?
What’s not to like, eh? Naturally I started to research this Évariste character and found out that he had only released 2 EPs and 1 single in the late 60s, all of which have now been made available on a compilation album called Do You Know The Beast?
I can’t recommend the album more – every track is as quirky and amazing as Wo i nee. And to make it even more appealing, Michel Colombier was responsible for the musical arrrangements. It’s a limited edition release, so if you think it sounds like your cup of tea grab it while you can. Since buying the album I have also discovered another single, released in Canada, of two other tracks Si les étoiles pouvaient parler / Je Ne Pense Qu’a Ca, from a theatrical show called Je ne veux pas mourir idiot – Si les étoiles pouvaient parler is particularly lovely.
And, the reason for this article, I also found a press photo from an article in an American newspaper:
I love the granddad slippers. On the back of the photograph is a partial press cutting, showing that there was an English language article about Évariste. I have since sought out the article and whilst I can’t find a copy of the paper to purchase I managed to see a copy online and squinted long enough and hard enough at it to be able to make out the text, here it is below (excuse any errors, it was hard work):
– – O – –
SINGING PHYSICIST – Evariste a 24 year old graduate student at Princeton University sits atop a statue of former Dean Andrew West and relaxes from his research into the mysteries of the atom by composing what he calls “mock ‘n’ roll” songs. His records have made him a top singing star in his native France.
NEW RECORDING STAR
Young Physicist Sings Of Einstein Calculus By WILLIAM J CROMIE
PRINCETON N J – The young physicist stroked his guitar and began to sing what he calls “mock ‘n’ roll” songs – ballads of calculus and Einstein quark bombs and the demographic consequences of power failures.
Perched atop the statue of a former Princeton University dean he looked like a prank happy college freshman. In his own eyes however 24 year old Evariste sees himself as a serious theoretical physicist – while American and French record companies consider him a sensational new singing star.
The young graduate has already become a top recording name in France and four or five companies in this country are preparing to release his records in English next month.
Real Name Is Secret
Evariste keeps his real name a secret lest his singing career complicate his other life as a physicist. “I chose the stage name Evariste in honor of a French mathematician who died in a duel at the age of 21,” he explains.
A native of Lyon France, Evariste started composing as a pastime at the age of 16. On a Paris vacation last year some friends in the record business proposed an audition.
“I don’t think anyone was very serious at first,” he says, “but after I sang for an hour they offered me a five year contract. I was surprised and happy.”
“But I will not let this interfere with my scientific career, I am a physicist above all.”
Wearing a Princeton shirt Evariste appeared on French television last February and sang the song most responsible for his success, “Do You Know the Beast Who Invented Integral Calculus?” It starts off as a soft ballad about an old scientific controversy, whether it was Isaac Newton or Gottfried Leibniz who invented calculus. The composition then proceeds to a frantic rock and roll tempo as the singer screams and wails at the futility of trying to solve the problem.
Before returning to France at the end of the school year to cut another record, Evariste sang and philosophized for a small audience in his dormitory. “For me composing a song involves the same kind of excitement as finding a new idea in physics,” he said. “They are both creations and I am always trying to create. It is the thing that makes me most happy.”
What was he doing at Princeton? “Taking some courses, following seminars, but mainly doing theoretical research in particle physics,” he replied. “I am working to understand the nature of the atom.”
“Dans Les Nuages”
He says his singing does not interfere with this goal. “When I am resting from one, I do the other,” he says. “When I’m tired of physics, I compose a song. It takes no more time than going to the movies.”
Evariste had no formal musical training and composes with the aid of a guitar and tape recorder. The jacket of his first record bears a famous Einstein equation and shows Evariste peering intently at some test tubes. Asked what kind of an experiment he was performing, Evariste confessed, “They needed some scientific equipment for the picture and he only thing available was a urinalysis set-up.”
A French magazine describes him as “Dans Les Nuages” (in the clouds), and he impresses strangers as a candid, naive young man who is having a lot of fun out of life.
Does Evariste hope to influence the world’s youth with mock and roll? “If I wanted to take myself seriously, which I don’t, there would be a message in my songs,” he says.
With that statement, he put down a copy of the scientific paper he had written “On the Masses of Non-Strange Pseudoscalar Mesons and the Generalized Klein-Gordon Equation”, picked up his guitar and began singing:
“Oh Geiger counter where are you tonight? I see you in my dreams What am I going to do with all the electron beams? Oh how I miss my Geiger counter tonight.”
– – O – –
Yes, just when you think Évariste could not be more unusual, you discover he’s a physicist. If you’d like to read Évariste’s scientific paper “On the Masses of Non-Strange Pseudoscalar Mesons and the Generalized Klein-Gordon Equation”, you can find it here: http://www.springerlink.com/content/121342546wwv1222/
Évariste’s alter ego, physicist Joël Sternheimer, continues his research today into the vibratory frequency of elementary particles and the “music of the molecules”. But that’s yet another story and maybe I’ll go into that a bit more later. In any case I’ll definitely be writing more about this unique recording artist on here very soon.
Jane Birkin played her first UK concert at the Savoy Theatre in London on 25 September 1994. Good timing for me as I had just moved to London then. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket down near the front on the third row:
I remember reading at the time that although Jane was English she had not managed to get her singing career off the ground in the UK in any real sense (everyone knows Je t’aime…moi non plus but that’s about as far as it goes) and so had not yet been invited to play over here. In the end she decided to organise a concert in the UK as a tribute to Serge Gainsbourg and to donate the proceeds to charity. It was definitely a success – totally sold out – and, happily, Jane has not had to organise her own concerts in the UK since then.
To make the night more exciting, Dirk Bogarde (who played Jane’s father in Daddy Nostalgie and who she claimed as her adopted father in real life too!), turned up and made a little introduction before the concert began. Unfortunately I didn’t carry a camera with me in those days so I have no photographic evidence to share here.
The concert was amazing. I was sat next to a rather enthusiastic French boy who had travelled over to London especially to see Jane. He started to sing along with her and I heard his friend tell him off, so I joined in too so he wouldn’t feel obliged to stop. After the concert he turned and spoke to me in French, when I told him I was English he was so excited; an English fan of Jane who knew all the words! It was a fortunate meeting for me because he was obviously very experienced in “meeting Jane”. He told me we could meet her afterwards and gave me a word of advice I share with you here: if you ask her for a kiss, she will kiss you! It’s very true, she does.
We went outside and waited for Jane to exit the building. I wish I could remember the French boy’s name but for the life of me, I can’t – we exchanged a couple of letters after the concert but unfortunately lost contact somehow. Anyway, I should like to thank him here for initiating me in the art of meeting Jane. Eventually Charlotte Gainsbourg came out and I screamed her name (it was a little bit like that moment in L’Effrontée where the little girl screams out “Charlotte!” and then gets a nose bleed and faints, only without the nose bleed and fainting bit!) but unfortunately, at the same moment, Jane appeared with her mother Judy Campbell. The French boy told me I had to make my choice and so I had to forget meeting Charlotte. Her hopes must have been dashed, ha ha! Of course, I’ve regretted it a little myself since then…
So, I met Jane and Judy Campbell – Jane signed the front of the programme (see above) and Judy Campbell signed the page of family photos (it looks very faint, like she had an old blue felt tip pen or something!). They were both absolutely lovely and, yes, I did ask Jane for that kiss. I went home feeling as though I had kissed Serge Gainsbourg by proxy – sigh!
I’ve tried to see as many Jane concerts as I can since that day and I’ve also seen her in a couple of plays over in the UK as well (Women of Troy and Hamlet). I’ll share some more programmes and autographs on here at some point. I was also partly responsible for Jane’s appearance on the Graham Norton Show, but I’ll tell that story some other time too. In the meantime, here is the rest of the programme which includes tribute messages for Serge from various friends, collaborators and other famous people:
Some time in the early 1990’s I found a box of Picture Show Art Supplement pages in a second hand book shop in Nottingham. I sat for ages looking through every single page in the box to see if there were any articles or photos of my favourite silent movie star girls. I was thrilled to find a few articles about Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Theda Bara, plus some others like Alla Nazimova and Pola Negri.
Oddly, of my three favourite silent movie actresses, two of them (Clara Bow and Theda Bara) have the same birthday as me – no wonder I like them so much! Anyway, in my collection I have 23 Clara Bow films, 9 Louise Brooks films (plus a couple of documentaries about her) and just 2 Theda Bara films. Despite having so many Clara Bow films, I found that amongst the PSAS extracts there were articles on or photographs from 5 films I don’t have. Maybe I’ll track them down one day.
Here are the scans I have made of the articles – excuse the age spots on some of them, it can’t be helped when you consider how old they are:
Clara Bow in Kick In – date of magazine unknown
Clara Bow in The Shadow of the Law, 26 June 1926
Clara Bow in The Ancient Mariner, 25 December 1926
Clara Bow in Call Her Savage, 22 April 1933
Clara Bow in Helen’s Babies, 20 June 1925
Clara Bow in Wine, 16 May 1925
Clara Bow in The Plastic Age, 14 August 1926
Clara Bow in It, 1 October 1927
Theda Bara in The Red Rose, 12 June 1920
Theda Bara is number 71, 4 August 1923
Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life, 29 June 1929
Louise Brooks in It’s The Old Army Game, 21 May 1927
Louise Brooks Picture Show stamp, 8 November 1930
I’ll write more about the films of Bow, Brooks and Bara at a later date.
I’ve recently been reading Le désespoir des singes … et autres bagatelles, Françoise Hardy’s autobiography (J’ai Lu, Éditions Robert Laffont, 2008). The title roughly translates as something like The Monkey-Puzzle… and other trifles; I’m not sure of the relevance of the title yet as I’m skim reading, which is a bit naughty, I know. Anyway, it’s very sad to read what Françoise has to say about her relationship with her husband Jacques Dutronc – he never seemed to be around, even in the early days of their relationship – but at the same time, it reminded me that I haven’t played his records in a little while and they are so good… And then I thought about my lovely cactus!
This is one of the best gifts I have ever been given, it’s a lovely boxed plastic cactus containing 7 CDs and an incredibly stylish booklet full of great photographs of the, it has to be said, very photogenic Jacques Dutronc. The tracks on the CDs are from 1966 to 1976; the entire period he was recording for Disques Vogue. The first CD is my favourite, covering the period of 1966 to 1968 including tracks from the EPs: Et moi, et moi, et moi; Les playboys; Les cactus; J’aime les filles; La publicité; and Fais pas ci, fais pas ça. I understand that the L’intégrale les Cactus set was released in 2004 but I don’t think it was limited edition – if it was, then it does not seem to say anywhere how “limited” it was. One of the great things about this set is that it contains a CD of unreleased tracks including Spanish and Italian language versions of some of Dutronc’s best tracks. And there are so many other things you wouldn’t find in any other Dutronc greatest hits set, like live recordings and a gala show and an entire CD of songs for children!
I wish my French was better so I could translate some Dutronc lyrics and do them justice in English, but instead of doing that and failing miserably I shall tell you the reason why Françoise Hardy’s autobiography reminded me specifically of the cactus: on p126 of her book she relates a story about Jacques getting it into his head that he could tame a cheetah he had adopted, Sumo. I just have to say, I love the fact that Jacques Dutronc loves animals, and cats in particular. I have read about him being absolutely dedicated to a gang of more than 30 wild cats that he feeds when he is staying at his house in Monticello, Corsica; apparently he loves his cats so much he spends Christmas day with them and decorates the tree with chicken for them!
Anyway, back to the story – maybe he was just trying to defend himself against Françoise Hardy’s (unspecified) “cactus”, but instead of putting a cactus in his bed he took to sleeping with Sumo the cheetah in his bed; and Sumo had to wear a nappy so he wouldn’t pee-pee the bed! It might have kept Françoise away for a while but I guess the “cactus” pricked Jacques anyway because Sumo kept him awake all night stretching, licking him and batting him quite fiercely with his paws as a sign of affection – ouch, ouch, ouch! That’s got to hurt just as much any “cactus”!
Pour me défendre de leurs cactus
A mon tour j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon lit, j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon slip, j’ai mis des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe
The moral of this story? There isn’t one. But I’d recommend getting some Jacques Dutronc EPs and learning French so you can enjoy the lyrics (mostly written by Jacques Lanzmann) which are clever, silly and very caustic. I’d also recommend seeing Jacques Dutronc’s film work – he’s a terrific actor. I’ll try and review some of his films on here at some point. So much to do when you’re an habitual hero-worshipper!
PS Excuse the clutter in the background to the Cactus photos, but you can’t love “stuff” as much as I do and not be surrounded by clutter
PPS I found a photo in MAT of Jacques Dutronc with Delphine Desyeux and, I think, Sumo!!!
At the end of last year I was looking for something unusual and spectacular to give to my boyfriend for a special birthday. When I found a signed 1st edition of a Julian Maclaren-Ross novel, My Name is Love, I knew I’d found just the thing. Although it was very expensive it was a two-for-one deal because included was a letter that Julian had sent, along with the book, to his ex-literary agent Edmund Hughes; this meant that I could have the signed letter myself and the signed book would still make an incredible gift.
The novel is based on Julian Maclaren-Ross’ obsession with George Orwell’s widow, Sonia Brownell, who it seems was a bit of a temptress. I’m not quite sure what it was that Julian saw in her – she doesn’t seem to have given him very much hope at all – and he surely could have done better for himself because he was, after all, a fabulous talent. That said, this particular novel was not amongst his greatest (for anyone who is not familiar with his work, make a start with Of Love and Hunger which can’t fail to please and then look to the short stories for further evidence of his great talent). I guess it is quite often the case that when people are obsessed, their judgement fails them slightly. Anyway, Sonia Brownell was a lucky lady to be thought of so highly by such an incredible writer.
It’s not just the writing that is appealing when it comes to Julian Maclaren-Ross – his intelligence, his dandyism, and his ability to be so prolific are all awe-inspiring. A turbulent lifestyle, a great love of alcohol and an inability to keep any of his hard earned money for a rainy day meant that Maclaren-Ross was often firing off articles, short stories or even novels just to pay off some debts or to have a few pounds to live off for a moment or two.
Photograph of Julian Maclaren-Ross taken from the Camden New Journal website where you will also find an interesting article by Martin Green who was on nodding terms with Maclaren-Ross
Going back to the novel and the letter, what makes it even more special is that Edmund Hughes was very kind to Julian – even when Julian had moved on to another literary agent, Hughes remained his friend and supporter and would often slip him a fiver when he was in desperate straits. Read Paul Willetts’ wonderful biography Fear and Loathing in Fitzrovia (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2005) for more about this and the many other scrapes Julian would get himself into with his irresponsible behaviour and his self-destructive streak.
Even though Julian sounds like he was an incredible egotist – he would always talk about himself and had very little interest in anyone else – I know I would have loved him if I met him. I cried at the description of his death in Willetts’ biography – he died of a heart attack caused by “years of fatty food, lack of exercise, stress, drinking, smoking, and amphetamine use.” The heart breaking bit for me was that his final words were “Graham Greene” and “I love you”. Julian had been a big admirer of Graham Greene’s work and had worked on an adaptation of Greene’s A Gun for Sale. Strange that he should say his name on his death bed – maybe Graham Greene’s work meant as much to Julian as Julian Maclaren-Ross’ work means to me; we all have a bit of the hero-worshipper in us somewhere.
A couple of years ago, when I still lived in London, I realised I lived fairly near where Julian Maclaren-Ross was buried in Paddington Cemetery (near Mill Hill). I had read that his was originally an unmarked grave, but that a few years ago the writer Virginia Ironside had kindly led a fundraising campaign to help to get something a bit more stylish and dignified and permanent to mark Julian’s life. I went to visit the grave and was sad to see that it was a little muddy and there were no flowers there – luckily, as any worthwhile hero-worshipper should, I had thought ahead and bought some pink carnations; they were the flowers Julian Maclaren-Ross used to wear in his buttonhole. I cleaned the grave a little and left the flowers there for Julian and felt a little sad that he didn’t seem to have regular visitors. Some people deserve far more than they get in this world and a talent like Julian Maclaren-Ross’ deserves far more hero-worship as far as I’m concerned.
A gravestone befitting to such a stylish man. It will be so much harder now I don’t live in London but I must get myself over there to see Julian again some time soon.
I shall definitely post more about Julian Maclaren-Ross on Hero Culte – expect to see something about his involvement in the world of film at some point.
After many years of trying, and failing, to get a personalised autograph from Michel Polnareff, I finally succumbed and purchased his autograph from a dealer on the internet. In the end, unable to decide between the purchasing the photograph I like the most (the first one below) and another one with a really bold signature (the second one), I finally bought two signed postcards:
I have never managed to get the autographs verified for authenticity but I still live in hope that one day I will get an autograph directly from Michel Polnareff. Many years ago Michel Polnareff had an application on his website where you could request an electronic personalised signature which he would sign for you with his electronic pen but unfortunately he must have been inundated with requests because I never received one. I think these signed postcards are kind of better anyway and I just hope that they are genuine; they will remain amongst “My Favourite Stuff” until someone proves they are not genuine anyway!
There’s not a lot to say about this except it’s an official Kurt Vonnegut print, numbered 2 out of 60, and signed by the great man himself. It’s one of my most favourite items and I get so much joy from just seeing it hanging on the wall every day.
I only read my first Kurt Vonnegut novel (Breakfast of Champions) about 3 years ago but I fell in love with his style of writing (and his illustrations!) immediately and I’ve been a big fan ever since. I am working my way through his back catalogue now. Kurt Vonnegut had an amazing outlook on life and how we live – he makes excellent hero material. I’d like to subscribe to his philosophy of life: “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
If you would like one of these fabulous prints yourself, they still have some available on the official site: http://www.vonnegut.com/art.asp