Suzy Solidor – Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum

Article publié dans FR2DAY en 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in 2010)

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Who was Suzy Solidor? That’s a question many visitors to the Château-Musée Grimaldi in Cagnes-sur-Mer are probably asking themselves when they discover the impressive collection of portraits of this tall blond woman painted by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Few people may remember her name today but Suzy Solidor, who was born Suzanne Louise Marie Marion on 18 December 1900 in the little town of Saint-Servan-sur-Mer in Brittany, was a model, a popular singer, a night club owner, a writer and an actress.

Born to a 28-year-old single mother, she changed her name toSuzy Solidor when she moved to Paris in the late 1920’s to work as a model. Soon thereafter she became the lover of antiques dealer Yvonne de Bremond d’Ars. The two women who had adopted the androgynous look so popular at the time, made the covers of numerous fashion magazines such as Vogue and Fémina.

In 1929, Suzy Solidor began a successful career as a singer. In a deep, captivating and sensual voice, she sang about the sea and her love for women. “Ouvre” and “Obsession” for instance are two unequivocal lesbian hymns. Even though Solidor was openly gay, she was also rumoured to have had a liaison with famed aviator, Jean Mermoz.

In 1933, Solidor opened her first cabaret “La Vie Parisienne“, which became one of the trendiest night spots in Paris and saw the debuts of such artists as Suzy DelairColette Mars and Charles Trénet. She also wrote four novels and played in four movies between 1935 and 1940: «Escale» (1935), «La garçonne» (1936), «La femme du bout du monde» (1937) et «Ceux du ciel» (1940).

During the war, her cabaret remained opened and was very popular with the German officers. Solidor regularly sang the French version of “Lili Marlène” for her audience – probably the most famous songs of that period since the Germans could also hear it sung by Marlène Dietrich and the Americans by Lale Andersen – and attended many galas organized by Radio Paris, the German- controlled radio.

Convicted by the Épuration légale as a collaborator, Solidor was forbidden to work for a few years after the war and her cabaret was closed. After a brief stay in the States, Solidor came back to France and opened a few new cabarets, first in Paris, then in Cagnes-Sur-Mer where she moved in 1966 and stayed until her death, at the age of 82.

Despite a long and rich artistic career, Solidor’s most famous achievement was to become known as the “most painted woman in the world”, with no less that 200 portraits made of her by the like of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Marie Laurencin, Francis Picabia and Kees van Dongen. Her only requirement for posing was that she would be given the paintings to hang in her club. Her most famous portrait is probably the one that was done by Tamara de Lempicka, where she appears in the nude and is one of the paintings on display in the Château Grimaldi.

Gainsbourg, the man behind the myth

Article publié dans FR2DAY en février 2010 (article published in FR2DAY in February 2010)

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Audiences across France are flocking to cinemas to see Serge Gainsbourg, Vie Héroïque (Serge Gainsbourg, a Heroic Life), a French biopic about one of the country’s most original artists of the 20th century. The movie is, however, less about the Gainsbourg myth than the man himself. As Joann Sfar’s biopic shows, the fascination with his life was as much about his creativity as about his private life and the numerous women the artist loved. So who was the man behind the myth?

Today many people remember Gainsbourg as a provocative artist who burned 500 francs during an interview, made a lewd proposal to Whitney Houston on live television, recorded a reggae version of the sacred «La Marseillaise» and appeared half naked with his 14-year-old daughter Charlotte in the video for «Lemon incest». His 1969 duet with long-time companion Jane Birkin, 1969 “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus,” was banned in many corners of the globe because of its steamy lyrics and explicit heavy breathing but still reached the top of the charts throughout Europe and became the first French song to be number one in England.

But Gainsbourg was much more than an over-the-top artist and provocateur. After his death in 1991, he was hailed by President Francois Mitterrand as “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire” and nobody can argue today that his impact on French music is inestimable. Whether one listens to Serge Gainsbourg’s early recordings from the fifties and sixties, his compositions for other artists or more contemporary albums, one hears the music of a man totally connected to his time. With over 200 songs recorded by everyone from Marianne Faithfull and Petula Clark toIsabelle Adjani and Vanessa Paradis, Gainsbourg reached an audience that spanned generations and borders.

Gainsbourg was born Lucien Ginzberg in Paris on April 2, 1928. His parents were Russian Jews who fled to France following the events of the 1917 Bolshevik uprising. He survived the German occupation and attended the Ecole Superieure des Beaux Artsafter the war before working as a bar pianist on the local cabaret circuit.

Gainsbourg’s early songs attracted the attention of other artists and soon he was writing for singers from the left bank such asJuliette Gréco and Yves Montand. He gained his status as France’s main songwriter soon after, in 1965, when France Gallwon first prize at the Eurovision festival with his song “Poupée de cire, poupée de son“, (Doll of Wax, Doll of Sawdust).

By all accounts, Gainbourg was rough, coarse and even downright nasty at times. He was an indifferent-looking guy with a cynical approach to life and a very dark sense of humor. Still, he managed to get most women he wanted. Gainsbourg thought of himself as a very ugly man, and this self-consciousness lent a dark edge to his music. It may be that eccentric behavior and challenging music that made him so fascinating and hypnotic for women. His image fitted so perfectly the “dark, moody artist” mould.

The beautiful women who crossed his path became his muses, and sometimes his lovers. Aside from Jane Birkin, his most famous conquest was without doubt Brigitte Bardot with whom he performed in the late ‘60s a series of fun duets, such as “Comic Strip” and “Bonnie and Clyde”. With Bardot as his muse, Gainsbourg’s music suddenly became erotic and delirious, and the scenes that recount their romance are the highlights of this very interesting movie about an even more interesting character.

Bienvenue sur mon blog – Welcome to my blog

Ce blog est le journal d’une amoureuse des mots. Fervente lectrice et écrivain à mes heures perdues, je souhaite partager avec vous mes différentes publications…En français et en anglais !

This blog is the diary of a lover of words. An avid reader and a writer in my spare time, I wish to share with you my different publications…In French and in English!