In the early 1950s, a young Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken arrived in Paris to begin his career as a photographer. By day he worked for Magnum, by night—inspired by Weegee’s photographs in Picture Post—Van der Elsken documented the emerging underground youth culture of the city’s Left Bank.
In 1954, Van der Elsken compiled a volume of photographs Love on the Left Bank that followed a young Beatnik girl “Ann” through the gangs of bohemians, musicians and vagabonds who hung around the bars, clubs and flophouses of St Germain-des-Prés. Ann was in fact “played” by Vali Myers—an Australian artist, model, muse and associate of Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet, who Patti Smith later recalled as:
...the supreme beatnik chick—thick red hair and big black eyes, black boatneck sweaters and trench coats.
As described on its first publication in 1956, Love on the Left Bank was “a story in photographs about Paris”—a freeform impressionistic tale of Ann and her life among the “young men and girls who haunt the Left bank”:
They dine on half a loaf, smoke hashish, sleep in parked cars or on benches under the plane trees, sometimes borrowing a hotel room from a luckier friend to shelter their love. Some of them write,or paint, or dance. Ed van der Elsken, a young Dutch photographer, stalked his prey for many months along the boulevards, in the cafés and under the shadow of prison walls. Whatever may happen in real life to Ann and her Mexican lover, their strange youth will be preserved ‘alive’ in this book for many years.
Ed Van der Elsken‘s photographs changed perceptions about youth culture and anticipated the changes a younger generation brought to culture during the 1960s. Love on the Left Bank is available again, having been republished by Dewi Lewis publishers.
The Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, some who simply walk the beautiful grounds indiscriminately, others on single-minded pilgrimages to visit the tombs of great historical figures like Maria Callas, Marcel Proust or… Jim Morrison. Among these more internationally famous graves is a little-known political journalist, Victor Noir, who was unceremoniously shot dead in a duel by Prince Pierre Bonaparte. Noir is actually pretty well known with Parisians; as a victim of imperial swine, he became a martyr of the people, and his funeral was attended by over 100,000 people.
Oh, and he has a massive crotch bulge.
Noir’s member is so pronounced and popular, it actually has a cult following. The legend is that a little kiss and grope will bring sexual luck, which is why Noir’s groin and face are smooth and coppery, the green patina that coats the rest of the sculpture worn away by randy ladies. Maybe he was actually packing, or maybe sculptor Jules Dalou (the craftsman charged with immortalizing him) just took some artistic license with Noir’s physique. The only thing we know for sure is that this is the most famous—and beautifully rendered!—trouser snake in Père Lachaise.
Despite suffering so many casualties in WWI that its military-eligible population was still decimated when WWII came around, France’s economy bounced back fairly quickly in the wake of Europe’s devastation in the “War to End All Wars.” That 1920s recovery was partly based on two enduringly popular items which were made abundantly available in Paris: alcohol and women’s bodies. Americans, flush with cash in a stock bubble and weary of the prudery that led to alcohol prohibition, visited Paris for cocktails and cockteases. Paris’ sexualized entertainments ran the gamut from mere topless revues to outright sex for sale, and the publishing industry capitalized with “Pleasure Guides” for horny tourists.
Now, some of these were pretty much ordinary tourist guides tarted up with sexy cover art. This English-language guide below, via Archive.org, is a browser widget that lets you actually flip through the book. (The entry on page 79 for the notoriously gory Grand-Guignol is priceless, as it’s demure to the point of deceptiveness.) It picks up a bit of steam on page 121, a chapter titled “The Worst Parts of Paris.”
In front of the Métro Combat, a little to the right, after nº 120, stretches up towards the Buttes-Chaumont the small rue Moniol, which the rue Asselin cuts across, cutting out from the centre of said cross a block of dingy houses called the «Monjol fort», a citadel of love in which a dozen groundfloor rooms each hide in the mouldering walls three or four women, all fallen to the last degree of the vilest prostitution.
Bepainted, scarcely clad in a mere unfastened dressing-gown of oriental colours, they await, watch and call the stevedores and the «sides» who swarm at that hour in the bars around, and who prowl about and succeed one another at their half-closed doors, bespattered with a wan light from within.
You’re just crazy-horny now, aren’t you? Say what you will, that second ‘graf is poetry.
But of course, while the tamer guides were legit tourist resources with a few references to the sex trade—disguised as warnings to provide cover to both the reader and the publisher—other books were just straight-up lists of bordellos. UC Berkeley professor Mel Gordon, in his forthcoming Feral House book Horizontal Collaboration: The Erotic World of Paris, 1920-1946, writes
Paris, universally referred to as Paname by the locals because of de rigueur hats worn by male fashion plates, was back in business. By 1923, over 250,000 American tourists had made their way across the Atlantic to explore the French capital. Fleeing their country’s draconian Prohibition laws and flush with wads of hard currency, the worldly trekkers weren’t just there to inspect the landmarks and museums or ferret out its fine dining establishments. They were drawn to la Ville-Lumière for a more unconventional list of enticements, many of which were primly catalogued in the city’s official directories or featured in the voyagers’ naughty guidebooks.
The classifications of the brothels in many ways resembled those of hotels or restaurants. In general, they were broken into three categories: mammoth luxury establishments, where customers might spend the better part of an evening (masons de tolérance); intimate, more personal-sized dwellings (maisons de ren- dez-vous); and dirt-cheap lairs that mimicked the speed and efficiency of a factory assembly line (maisons d’abattage).
Annual directories and business cards advertised and updated the latest additions to the maisons closes. Smaller houses relocated with some regularity and, occasionally, the names of competing brothels — based on street addresses or landladies’ nicknames — were confusingly duplicated. So there were multiple Château d’Eaus, Chez Billys, Chez Suzys, Le Hanovres, Le Panier Fleuris, and Temples of Beauty. Guidebooks, like the ubiquitous Guide Rose or Guide-Indicateur des Maisons de Plaisirs et d’Art de Paris, were essential aids.
As a general rule, theme bars are embarrassing affairs. You have your corny waitstaff, your overly literal decor and a sense of forced performance that’s… annoying. Once in a blue moon though, there has been a theme bar so fucking cool you would sell your soul to get in. Tragically, you would have to strike some kind of deal with the devil to go to Le Cabaret de L’Enfer, since the Paris red light district nightclub opened around the turn of the last century and closed sometime during the middle of it. Very little information exists on L’Enfer, but the detail in the decor is absolutely gorgeous—almost Boschian elements of twisting human, animal and skeletal forms—couldn’t you just die?
An entry from National Geographic says that the doorman and waiters dressed as Satan and an order of coffees with cognac was translated as “seething bumpers of molten sins, with a dash of brimstone intensifier.” Okay, so that’s a little bit corny, but come on, it’s a goddamn hellmouth! If you’ll notice the external photographs, some cheeky (or possibly just opportunistic) mind opened a club next door called “Ciel,” the French word for “Heaven.” I appreciate the consistency, but let’s be honest-which bar would you rather go to?
Roughly translated: “L’Enfer (Hell), the only cabaret like it in the world, every night from 8 to 2:30 in the morning, devilish attractions, torment of the damned, round of the damned, the boiler (whatever that was), metamorphoses of the damned
As one does, right? Looking like a cross between Leigh Bowery and a whacked-out Vegas showgirl, South African performance artist, Steven Cohen thought it would be a reasonable idea to dress in a bird-like costume with a rooster tied to his penis on a long ribbon and shimmy around the Eiffel Tower. Why not? Lots of reasons…
“He danced with the cock for around ten minutes, before being arrested by the police,” his lawyer Agnes Tricoire told French daily Le Parisien.
Cohen was held by Paris police on charges of indecent exposure.
His lawyer expressed her disgust with the duration of his arrest, telling Le Parisien: “It’s a disgrace. With this performance, Steven Cohen wanted to evoke his situation, split between two countries.”
“South Africa, his native land, and France, where he lives at the moment,” she explained. “France is throwing artists in prison,” she added.
Cohen was released Tuesday evening and is expected to appear in court on December 16th.
In 1964, The British Labour Party was elected into government with a slim majority of 4 seats. Such a small majority made governing the country difficult for canny Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. Therefore, after 17 months in power, Wilson called a second election. In support of winning re-election, the Labour Party’s magazine, Tribune asked a selection of writers and artists who they would vote for in the 1966 General Election. In response, sensing Labour might not hold to their socialist ideals, poet Christopher Logue wrote the poem “I shall vote Labour.”
I shall vote Labour
I shall vote Labour because
God votes Labour.
I shall vote Labour to protect
the sacred institution of The Family.
I shall vote Labour because
I am a dog.
I shall vote Labour because
upper-class hoorays annoy me in expensive restaurants.
I shall vote Labour because
I am on a diet.
I shall vote Labour because if I don’t
somebody else will:
I shall vote Labour because if one person
everybody will be wanting to do it.
I shall vote Labour because if I do not vote Labour
my balls will drop off.
I shall vote Labour because
there are too few cars on the road.
I shall vote Labour because I am
a hopeless drug addict.
I shall vote Labour because
I failed to be a dollar millionaire aged three.
I shall vote Labour because Labour will build
more maximum security prisons.
I shall vote Labour because I want to shop
in an all-weather precinct stretching from Yeovil to Glasgow.
I shall vote Labour because
the Queen’s stamp collection is the best
in the world.
I shall vote Labour because
deep in my heart
I am a Conservative.
Christopher Logue was a poet, writer, journalist, dramatist, screenwriter, actor and performer. Born in Portsmouth, in 1926, Logue was an only child of middle-aged parents. After school, he served in the Black Watch regiment, from which he was given a court-martial for selling stolen pay books, and given a 16-months’ jail sentence.
‘It was so drab. There was nowhere to go. You couldn’t seem to meet any girls. If you went up to London in 1951, looking for the literary scene, what did you find? Dylan Thomas. I thought that if I came to the place where Pound flourished, I might too.’
In Paris, Logue met writer Alexander Trocchi (who saved Logue from an attempted suicide), and the pair set-up and edited the legendary literary magazine Merlin, which premiered work by Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Chester Himes, as well as Logue and Trocchi. The pair also wrote pornographic novels for Maurice Girodias’ Olympia Press, and briefly met William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso in the late 1950s.
George Whitman, propietor of Shakespeare and Co., described the pairing of Trocchi and Logue as:
‘True bohemians, Beats before Beats officially existed. Christopher was the scruffy poet, quite down and out most of the time. He definitely fancied himself as Baudelaire or somebody like that.’
In Paris, Logue toyed with Marxism, and was once famously put down by the author Richard Wright.
‘You’ve got nothing to fight for, boy—you’re looking for a fight. If you were a black, boy, you’re so cheeky you’d be dead.’
But Logue lost none of his mettle, or his socialist convictions and he continued to be a gadfly throughout his life. In the 1960s, he collaborated with Lindsay Anderson, giving poetry readings at the National Film Theater between features. He was a pacifist and a member of Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, taking part with Bertrand Russell on the marches to Aldermarston.
He appeared at Peter Cook’s club The Establishment and wrote songs for jazz singer Annie Ross, and had one recorded by Joan Baez. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Rock Festival, and contributed the wonderfully bizarre “True Stories” to Private Eye magazine. He acted for Ken Russell in The Devils, wrote the screenplay for Russell’s Savage Messiah, and acted in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky. Logue’s poetry was incredibly popular, even appearing in posters throughout the London Underground. His most famous works were Red Bird, a jazz colaboration with Tony Kinsey, and War Music, a stunning and critically praised adaption of Homer’s Illiad. He was awarded the 2005 Whitbread Poetry Prize for his collection Cold Calls.
Logue died in 2011, and Wilson won the 1966 election with a majority of 96 seats.
This is Christopher Logue reading “I shall vote Labour” in 2002, as filmed by Colin Still.
Film-making is about having something to say—something that can only be said in a film and not a short story, or a play, or a novel.
That’s how Woody Allen described his movies—it’s the best way for him to express and explore his ideas, his feelings, and well, because he has ‘to do something for a living.’
It was June 1979, Woody Allen was said to be hiding in Paris. His latest film Manhattan, had opened in New York to overwhelming critical acclaim. As the reviews filtered back to his hotel suite, Woody talked about the movie and film-making to Barry Norman, for the BBC’s Film ‘79.
As Allen explained to Norman, Manhattan was inspired by a dinner conversation with Diane Keaton and cinematographer, Gordon Willis, where they discussed the idea of making a film in Black & White.
‘And as we talked about it, gradually a story spun out in my mind about it. And, you know, it could be anything, it could be a sudden anger over something or, the impulse to want to dress as a pirate. You know, any one of those things could do it.’
But why Manhattan? asked Norman.
‘I live in Manhattan and wouldn’t think of living anywhere else, really,’ said Allen, before going on to explain it’s a great place to live—‘because you know you’re alive.’
Audio of Kraftwerk performing 2 tracks from their album Autobahn, “Kometenmelodie Eins” and “Kometenmelodie Zwei”, as recorded in Paris, 1976.
“Kometenmelodie” (“Comet Melody”) was inspired by the Comet Kohoutek (which proved to be a rather “spectacular dud” as far as comets go), and the track became Kraftwerk’s first single, released in December 1973.
Comet Kohoutek also inspired Sun Ra to perform a special concert for the comet in December 1973, while singer Burl Ives hoped to increase his bank account with the release of his single “The Tail of the Comet Kohoutek” in 1974. But it was Children of God founder David Berg, who received the most column inches when he pronounced Comet Kohoutek as a sign that a Doomsday event would destroy America in January 1974.
An exclusive clip of the fabulous Anne Pigalle performing to a packed house at David Lynch’s Parisian night club Silencio, where she sang a selection of songs from her recent album, L’ Ame Erotique, and a some of her classic early work. Ms. Pigalle was performing at a special event, created by Diane Pernet, to celebrate the international Festival A Shaded View on Film Festival.
Let There Be Rock is a film version of one of AC/DC’s greatest concerts. Recorded during their Highway to Hell tour, at the Pavillon de Paris, France, on December 9th, 1979, this concert contains a great selection of some of the band’s best known early numbers (“Highway To Hell,” “Let There Be Rock,” “Whole Lotta Rosie”), together with stunning performances from an unstoppable Angus Young (only pausing for some oxygen) on guitar, and blistering vocals from Bon Scott.
01. “Live Wire”
02. “Shot Down in Flames”
03. “Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”
04. “Sin City”
06. “Walk All Over You”
08. “Bad Boy Boogie”
09. “The Jack”
11. “Highway to Hell”
12. “Girls Got Rhythm”
13. “High Voltage”
15. “Whole Lotta Rosie”
17. “Let There Be Rock”
Tragically, 2 months after this concert, Bon Scott died, his body found in the back of car outside a friend’s house in London. His demise started the version of AC/DC we know today, with former Geordie singer, Brian Johnson on lead vocals.
Otis Redding was a child when he started singing and playing with the Vineville Baptist Choir. He also tried out his skills playing with the school band. His obvious natural proficiency led him to enter talent competitions at the Douglass Theatre. You see, Otis was more than just prodigiously talented he was thoughtful and kind-hearted and wanted to earn money for his family. That he did and after winning the $5 top prize 15-times in a row, he was banned from the competition.
The ban led him to start out playing with his idol Little Richard’s backing band The Upsetters, and by the early 1960s, when he was performing with The Pinetoppers, it was clear Otis was a dynamic and unstoppable talent.
In 1962, after recording tracks with The PInetoppers at Stax Records, co-owner Jim Stewart allowed Otis to cut some solo material. The result was “These Arms of Mine”.
From there, Otis Redding went onto become one of the biggest stars of the 1960s, the King of Soul. In 1967, the year of his untimely death, Redding outsold that year’s combined record sales for Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, and toppled Elvis Presley from the top of the Melody Maker‘s Best Vocalist chart. It should have been the start of an even greater career when it was cut short in a plane crash December 1967.
All these years later, you can still have sunshine on a cloudy day with Otis Redding. Here he is at his best in Paris and London performing some of his best known and biggest hits “Respect”, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “Shake”, “My Girl”, and “Try a Little Tenderness”.
Confidence has nothing to do with David Lynch’s endless supply of ideas. He credits meditation for that. It helps his ‘ideas flow through like these beautiful little fish, and you catch them,’ as he tells Miranda Sawyer, in this interview from The Culture Show in 2011.
The interview is loosely anchored around the release of Lynch’s album Crazy Clown Time, and bobs around various subjects before fading out on Lynch’s flow of ideas.
Going by how long the likable Ms. Sawyer is on screen (compared to Lynch), this interview has been heavily edited. Perhaps because Lynch rambles? Or, is he too intelligent for BBC viewers? Or, more likely he wasn’t giving the Beeb the sound-bites they required - which is always an issue with interview packages like this.
And note also, there are no cutaways of Mr Lynch, or any shots of the great man pottering about the beautiful Idem Studio in Paris, where he was working last year. Still, these are minor quibbles, as Lynch, with his Jack-Nicholson-on-helium voice, and Stan-Laurel-grimace, is always watchable and never less than interesting.
An extraordinary underground museum of graffiti art has been painstakingly assembled in the ruins of a formerly squatted grocery store in the north of Paris. Organized by two artists, Lek and Sowat, forty French artists and crews took over the building after police had cleared the space of its residents.
Sowat told Dangerous Minds:
On August 12, 2010, Lek and I found an abandoned supermarket in the north of Paris. For a year, in the greatest of secrets, we continuously wandered in this 430,000 sq ft monument to paint murals and organize an illegal artistic residency, inviting forty French graffiti artists to collaborate with us, from the first to the last generation of the graffiti movement. Together we built a Mausoleum, a temple dedicated to our disappearing underground culture, slowly being replaced by street art and its global pop aesthetics. Amongst other things, we made a stop motion movie of the whole experience, showing a years worth of work in 7 minutes of high speed sequence shot, a bit like watching Graffiti through the windows of New York Subway system.
To illustrate this movie, we chose Philip Glass’ ‘Opening’ track. When we reached out for permission to use the music, we were offered Mr Glass’ own master of the song, a version that is less known by the public than the track that was put out in the ‘glassworks’ album. We didn’t do this movie for financial reasons, we wanted it to be free and accessible to the most people possible.
The Mausolée space reflects French social, political and human drama today, as few museums or more traditional art spaces could. Due to the nature of the space, people can’t really visit there, so the artists have published a book commemorating their 40,000 m² “mausoleum” of graffiti art as well as posting this gorgeous Koyaanisqatsi-esque time-lapse video of how the project came together.
It’s a fine selection of songs, which highlights The Jam’s musical progression from the influence of sixties Mods, through Punk to New Wave and onto Paul Weller’s distinct political commentary with “Eton Rifles”. Excellent stuff. Mind you, it’s still hard to believe Tory PM and professional nincompoop, David Cameron was naive enough to claim he had a great liking for “Eton Rifles”, during a radio interview in 2008. However, the Eton-educated Cameron’s admiration for the song did not impact on his politics, something Paul Weller picked up on:
“Which part of it didn’t he get? It wasn’t intended as a jolly drinking song for the cadet corps.”
The song reached number 3 in the U.K. in November 1979, and was the beginning of The Jam’s dominance over the charts until 1982, when guitar bands were replaced by Blitz Kids, and synthesizers.
During their 5 years of recordings, The Jam brought an edge to pop music by fusing musical ambition to strong Left-wing conviction, which wouldn’t happen on such a similar scale until Pulp in the 1990s, and the likes of which are very much required today.