Identity and Possible Q and A
you ever been taken for a prostitute? Well I have
- twice! Once in Brazil by association and the
second time in Paris in the late 70s. Ooh la la!
I had rented a charming first floor flat in Rue
Campagne Premiere, a street known for the
numerous famous artists who had lived and worked
at #9 and the famous building where my landlord
lived, designed by Andre Arfvidson with its
exquisite ceramic tiles by Andre Bigot. I resided
at 27 Rue Campagne Premiere, overlooking an inner
courtyard, in Montparnasse. I had arrived in
Paris for a job with the French cultural student
organisation, FMVJ located in the Quartier Latin
but was ousted by a fils de papa and so ended up
finally working as a supersonic typist at the
OECD in posh La Muette where the streets were
paved with golden dog shit!
Not having friends in the beginning, I was
naturally lonely for the company of the male
species. My only social life revolved around
going to art gallery vernissages on the Left Bank
early evenings once every two or three weeks and
weekly to the fashion photographer Willy Maywald's
salon on Saturday nights in the rue de la Grande-Chaumiere,
Montparnasse close to my flat off the Boulevard
Raspail where the famous film 'Bout de souffle'
had been filmed.
Willy's salon was at the precise time of 8.00 to
10.30 pm so I regularly took myself off to a
friendly female owned Vietnamese restaurant close
by that opened at 7.00 for the evening's trade.
The smiling owner always welcomed me as an
habitue so I didn't feel bashful about the social
stigma of dining alone. It always annoys me when
the restaurant waiter knows you are dining alone,
and will always remove the plate and cutlery
opposite so that you are then even more conscious
you are alone! Never would you be joined by
another solo diner!
That evening, as I was savouring my Hanoi beef
soup, a pleasant looking conventional looking man
in his mid 30s walked in and sat opposite me on
his own so in fact we were facing each other. As
it was early, no one else would be in the
restaurant for at least another hour at 8.00, the
usual Parisian hour to indulge gastronomically.
Thus it seemed stupid not to enter into a polite
conversation. The usual boring 'How long have you
lived in Paris?' And all that jazz scenario.
Jean-Paul introduced himself and asked me what I
recommended to eat. He was French Canadian from
Montreal and so spoke perfect English. He
seemed to presume I was a regular and so we spoke
of Vietnamese food and it's ingredients. He was a
sports coach so I knew we would have nothing in
common to talk about at any length after the
social niceties had ended.
I told him I had to be somewhere around the
corner at 8.00. He explained he was in the area
because he was going to a small arts theatre
close by and the performance began also at 8.00.
He would be meeting friends and when the show
finished at 10.00, they would be going for drinks
to Fouquet's on the Champs Elysees. Would I like
to come too? Mais oui, I had never been to
the Right Bank, especially at night and bien sur
never to one of the poshest cafes in Paris. I was
a Left Bank habitue. Obviously I accepted even
though I had to leave Maywald's salon before the
end, I considered it to be a better social option
and I was smartly dressed and made up already, so
pourquoi pas? We thus agreed to meet in the
theatre foyer at 10.15 pm.
I arrived on time excited to be with French
branche people. On seeing me arrive, Jean-Paul
ushered me to one side not introducing me to his
well heeled friends and asked me straight out if
I was a putain! I was so shocked, I blurted
'no' and ran away crying with humiliation. I felt
even lonelier than ever and confused. Just
because I was alone and going somewhere, he must
have assumed I had a client between 8.00 and 10.00.
Little did he know that Willy Maywald was gay
with a coterie of young lovelies as he sat in
state on his couch in his high glass ceilinged
atelier surrounded by his portraits of famous
artists including Picasso and Braque.
Certainly no hanky-panky there!
Today, decades later I would have handled it
differently. I might have laughed in his face. I
might have taken it as a compliment. I would have
interrogated the insignificant male species with
scorn, wanting to know if he really wanted me to
be a putain or not, how much he would have paid
me, which services he would have required. I
would have asked him about his sexual frustration
and perhaps sexual problems, his fantasies and
really humiliated him. But then I thought, maybe
he was just checking I was not, so that if he
thought, in his ignorance, he stood a chance of 'having
me' after 'Fouquets' or was it 'Fuquets', then he
wouldn't have to pay! He was not my type anyhow
and I was not that desperate for a F----! Mon
Ladies, how would you have handled the same
situation today or yesterday?
in the Marco Polo Mansion, Rhodes Old Town,
Greece on 16.9.17
Performed at The Cascade Cafe, Brighton on 4.11.17.
7.30 minutes. You Tube.
Wikipedia - Willy Maywald
Google - Le Fouquet
Wikipedia - Rue Campagne Premiere
Wikipedia - Rue de la Grande-Chaumiere