There Goes the Neighborhood

Bar du Marché - Buci
The Bar au Marché at Buci always gets the afternoon sun.

And Nastiness in Mantes-la-Jolie

by Ric Erickson

Issue 2.22:- Metropole Paris - Monday, 2. June 1997:- Last night thousands of enthusiastic supporters were gathered in front of the Socialist Party headquarters on the left bank in Saint-Germain, to celebrate the victory of their party and its leader.

This is a reflection that democracy works, this spontaneous enthusiasm on a Sunday night, in the streets of one of the world's capitals.

In some other part of France, perhaps also in Paris, another political leader was publicly proposing that since the results of the balloting didn't please him, it was time to rethink and 'readjust' the mechanisms of the French Republic.

With memories of another election in another country 67 years ago, much press attention has been focused on the man who is unhappy with democracy; much more so than was focused on Adolf Hitler in 1933.

All the same, the press isn't particularly careful to report exactly what this unhappy man says. Like many French speakers, he says many things somewhat ambiguously; he uses a shorthand of code-phrases the bateaux-mouches to say things normal democratic politicians not only don't say, but don't even think privately.

The 'bateaux-mouches' at pont de l'Alma look like Roman galleys.

The unanswered question is how many people in France, or in Europe for that matter, are tuned into the real meaning of the 'code-phrases,' and how many are merely responding to what they imagine the man is saying? It is impossible to tell. An indication will be given later today when voting figures are more complete, and the Front National's score is totalled.

No dictator can prosper and survive without followers, just as no mafia figure can command respect without gunmen for backup. By these I do not mean ordinary citizens; I mean the dictator's trusted advisors, financiers and guys willing to do the rough stuff.

Jean-Marie Le Pen is a very glossy character with his natty suits, glass eye and fake teeth, and lately he has been saying that democracy doesn't work in France because all the other political leaders are corrupt - 'on the take.'

I have no doubt he believes what he is saying. I assume also that he includes himself as a political leader, and includes himself as one of those 'on the take,' because characters like him will do it, especially if he believes everybody else is doing it - and, that's a rationalization for you.

Actually, the Nazis had no morals, so rationalizations by them were redundant, as I have a feeling is the case for citizen Le Pen.

Where does Jean-Marie Le Pen get his money from? Who finances his fairly lush life-style and his political party? Of the 15 percent who voted for the Front National in the first round of the French elections, I am willing to assume eight percent are hard-core Front National 'believers' and will willingly toss some coins into the hat for the 'cause.'

Between these donations and what it actually costs to run the Front National on a France-wide basis, especially during a national election, I think there is a black hole. Who is filling it up?

Since judicial prosecutors are sniffing around all politicians and their parties these days, looking for dirty money, I hope they haven't somehow overlooked Monsieur Le Pen.

A Particularly Nasty Incident

Jean-Marie Le Pen's daughter, Marie-Caroline, picked up the best score in the first round of the elections last week in Mantes-la-Jolie in Yvelines, near Paris. Out of the usual field of about a dozen candidates, she managed to get more votes than the out-going Pierre Bédier of the RPR and the socialist candidate, Annette Peulvast.

Last Friday, her dad went out there to give his daughter a hand, even though she was doing well - leading, in fact - in the polls.

He arrived at 10:30 and as he stepped out of his big car he was met by about 20 demonstrators who were hollering, "Le Pen Assassin." Surrounded by his bodyguards, Le Pen tried to charge through the demonstrators to get to his supporters waiting beyond them.

It was a brawl and at the centre of it was the socialist candidate, Annette Peulvast, wearing a tricolor scarf. She said Le Pen forced his way to her, crying, "I'm fed up with you!" Peulvast was hit and Le Pen grabbed at her, trying to snatch the scarf away.

This was all captured by television cameras. Le Pen's bodyguards look and dress like very big secret service agents and he travels with about 20 of them.

There was a general and confused brawl with the tiny Peulvast pinned against a wall, trying to fend off an enraged Le Pen. One photo in Saturday's Le Parisien clearly A2 TV LePen at Mantes shows a metal truncheon in the hand of a bodyguard, as an anti-Le Pen demonstrator is attacked.

Le Pen, in white shirt, has Annette Peulvast pinned to wall in Mantes.

For the following hour Le Pen was followed through the centre of town by booing demonstrators, who he didn't hesitate to charge towards. Finally he took refuge in a café with its metal shutter rolled down; and the demonstrators threw stones and eggs at it for about 20 minutes.

The mayor of Mantes reportedly said, "Le Pen is a lout, everyone knows; but the socialist candidate shouldn't have been there - it was a provocation on her part."

Annette Peulvast's comment was that she had been there by accident, not design, and that the mayor was losing his cool.

In the afternoon everybody went to the police station and laid charges against Le Pen for assault and a doctor prescribed three days of sick leave for Annette Peulvast. Le Pen announced on Friday evening he was going to prefer charges against the deputy perfect of Mantes-la-Jolie, presumably for not keeping his mouth shut.

Radio France Info apparently broadcast an interview with the deputy prefect, Michel Schmidt de la Brelie, who said in part, "Le Pen's bodyguards were extremely brutal in action," and that Le Pen had "shot first." This, anyone could see on the TV-news report.

Marie-Caroline Le Pen was fined 5,000 francs earlier in the week for slandering Annette Peulvast.

Last night Annette Peulvast got about 40 percent of the vote in Mantes-la-Jolie, Pierre Bédier of the RPR came in second and Marie-Caroline Le Pen came last, with about 24 percent.

Headlines of the Week:

Libération on Tuesday: 'Chirac Dissout Juppé'

Le Parisien on Tuesday: 'Chirac Dissout Juppé'

Now the Movie - Nirvana

There are not a lot of great new posters around town so I gave in and took a shot of a movie poster as one of this rue Grégoire de Tours week's two posters. The name of the movie seemed vaguely familiar - 'Nirvana' - but I assure readers it has nothing to do with the Seattle 'grunge' band of the same name.

The rue Grégoire de Tours in Quartier Latin, near Buci.

This 'Nirvana' takes Christophe Lambert to the year 2005, and it seems as it has a science-fiction video-game theme with computer viruses thrown in for movie fans who may be 'geeks.' Le Parisien's critic gives it three stars, but his description of it won't get me to fork over any bread for the popcorn.

The 80-minute Franco-Italian production was directed by Gabrielle Salvatores and also stars Diego Abatantuono and Sergio Rubini, and started in Paris on Wednesday.

Coming Events:

After paying extra attention to this section the past few weeks, I find that I've run out of current 'new' events. In addition I have most of what I need for future events, but they are too far off.

The 'art' event of this season is the show at Beaubourg and there have been a number of articles about it in the press sufficiently contradictory to incite me to go. Therefore I repeat last week's 'Coming Event,' which is on now:

Fernand Léger - Exposition Rétrospective

Homage to the rich and lively personality of an artist, who took part in the major changes of his time; whose bold pictorial vision was of modernity itself - illustrated by 200 works, both paintings and designs.

Centre Georges Pompidou
Plateau Beaubourg, Paris 4. Info Tel.: 01 44 78 12 33. Until Monday, 29. September. Open from noon to 22:00 weekdays, from 10:00 to 22:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Always closed on Tuesdays.

Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 1.15 - 3. June 1996 featured the columns - Metropole 'Diary' -Green and Gentle Land - France?; and 'Au Bistro' - Where's the Money? Articles in the issue were: In the Pit of Le Forum des Halles: Le Mall - This is Paris Life? and Le Mall as Marché - Handily Wins 'Do the Right Thing' Prize; and Sunshine in the rue Montorgueil - La Rue is Paris' Life. The eMail was from Nigel White and he wanted to know if La Palette is still open. Plus the week's Paris Posters and Ric's Cartoon of the Week.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 2000:

Only 943 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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