Excusez-moi, Monsieur Brasseur

photo: cafe near notre dame
The closest café to Notre Dame has a good
selection of beers, as well as tea.

Plus A Touch of French Fashion

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 9. November 1998:- Usually I only go to the Louvre to see how many people are waiting in line to get into the pyramid entry, and maybe to count the heads milling around the métro exit at Palais-Royal.

Last Friday, knowing that some 'facts' about the Louvre were to be added to this week's 'Scene' page, I went there to get some general photos. It was both early and lunchtime, as well as grey and threatening rain, so there weren't many people about - and I got my shots quickly.

Leaving the museum, I crossed the rue de Rivoli to look for a couple of likely posters. I had a warm-up café in the little place on the rue Saint-Honoré. After it, while on the way to the Comédie Française on the opposite side, I stopped and returned to the Tabac à la Civette, on the same side as the café.

There were two customers at the counter and I stood to the right of them - instead of standing behind one, to make a line of two. It is a big shop which sells a lot of knickknacks besides tobacco goods, so there were other things to look at while waiting.

I recognized the voice of the man to my left, so I looked at Claude Brasseur, who I have seen several thousand times in re-runs of his movies on TV. And driving in the old version of the Paris-Dakar race. He was buying one of the knickknacks.

Meanwhile, the lady on the cash, further to the left, finishing with the other customer, asked me what I wanted. I needed to go left, while Mr. Brasseur wanted to go to the right, to get a closer look at what he'd requested.

We both stepped back. "Pardon." We both stepped forward. "Excusez-moi!" An everyday Paris scene; happens all the time, this politeness.

Except that I wanted to ask Mr. Brasseur how he was doing. Getting an answer might have lead to a better story than this one.

My turn to do business was at hand though. To help make the change easier - and faster, I added a 50-centime piece to the payment. The cash lady then inadvertently short-changed mephoto: columns, palais royal a franc. I mentioned this, but she was not exactly listening, so she gave me 50-centime piece, which I returned. On the third go, I got the franc.

The interior of the Palais-Royal; now indifferent to its ribald history.

This took about 90 seconds. Out the door, on the rue Saint-Honoré, Claude Brasseur was gone. Too bad. Now I had plenty of time to think of what to ask him.

The glass above the door of the tabac had '1719' lettered on it so I went back in to ask if it was a date, or the address - the rue Saint-Honoré does have high numbers, although this one seemed off the scale.

This tabac is on the location of the arch of the Hospice des Qunize-Vingts, founded between 1254 and 1261; with a history that ends in the cemetery at Clamart, possibly in the 1780's.

The tobacco shop was started in 1754 on the other side of the street, next to the Palais-Royal. When this was enlarged by the Duc d'Orléans in 1829, the tabac moved into the nearby rue de Richelieu. Later, in 1854, the place du Palais-Royal was redeveloped and the tabac arrived in its present location.

It was opened, in its original location, by Louise de Bourbon-Conti, who married the Duc de Chartres in 1743; and hisphoto: le cafe marly friends were the original clientele. If Madame le Duc was 24 when she married the duke, then she was born in 1719. Otherwise, I don't know where this date comes from.

Just before I plunged into the métro, a fellow from Scotland asked me in passable French if I knew where to find the place des Pyramides. I didn't tell him I didn't know. I told him it is two blocks west; this is what a Parisian would have done.

This Louvre's Café Marly and its terrace face the Pyramid.

No 'pardon,' no 'excusez-moi' from me - it was the right direction at least! It is actually three blocks west, at the rue de Rivoli.

It was okay. The Scot was between my age and Claude Brasseur's, and none of us had shaved on Friday; all of us were grizzlies.

The Scot came to get away from the rain there and said he intended to walk around town for a week. He won't get short-changed, just so long as he doesn't try to speed things along by helping to make the change round out.

News from The Tocqueville Connection:

The Tocqueville Connection' has its usual news and opinion about France this week, but you may be most interested in Patricia Ochs' appreciation of Roger Planchon's new film about Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Before making the film and before seeing John Huston's 'Moulin Rouge' version, Planchon read 500 of Lautrec's letters - and formed an entirely different view of the painter. This short man lived a fast life in high times and died young. I'm too old to do this now, so I'll see the movie instead.

Stylish Links to Mode in Paris

If you, like me, have gone back to wearing jeans, you may not care what color your socks are or if they even match. The good old five-dollar jeans that used to fit and wore for a long time are no longer with us. The hundred-buck jeans which fit poorly and wear out fast seem to be what we're stuck with.

If you find yourself in this situation, you may as well come to terms with our times and get ready to buy thousand-dollar jeans, and get them hand-made in Paris.

Few of Paris' fashion designers have ever touched a computer, even though some of them wear jeans. They work with paper and pencils, and manyphoto: boules, palais royal of their creations are put together with flying fingers, cloth, needles and thread.

Behind the balls, visit the odd shops under the arcades of the Palais-Royal.

Two years ago, when Saint-Laurent's collection was first put online, he shocked an conservative industry, one insane with fear of counterfeits. The man behind Saint-Laurent, Pierre Bergé, noted at the time that digital photos of the shows were in editorial offices around the globe before the last model left the runway.

Naturally, for Prêt-à-Porter, the manufacturers have long used computers - for cutting cloth to get the most out of it, as just one example - but despite all the zoomy software available, few designers use it. Why fight with a dumb machine when a pencil has endless memory?

While some designers don't think the Web is useful for showing off - too slow! too small! too crude! - they do use it to research ideas for their collections.

The top designers are resigned to rip-off copies appearing immediately after their runway presentations - due to television coverage and the digital cameras. They hope their brand-names will be sought as the 'real thing' - the authentic version. The labels make the difference between the real and the fake. Beware of fake labels!

The 'real' by the way, only shows up in shops about six months after their runway presentations. If you see it sooner than this, you probably are not seeing the 'real' thing.

Most of the designers are interested in the eventual possibility of online sales, but many are held back by lack of ready cash to invest in Web sites - and their existing distribution contracts. The designers can't afford to compete with their own distributors.

Just the same, the designers like the idea of showing off their stuff worldwide. Like magazine photos and runway shows on TV, you can't touch the cloth on the Web - but you can see some the excitement - at your leisure.

On the counterfeiter's Web sites, there is nothing to see. Because they have nothing new.

Note: Many of the following Web sites require late-version browsers and/or Java, Flash or Shockwave plug-ins. Some of the sites also have either big or lots of images, and may be slow to load with slower modems.

The Designers' Web Sites: Other Web Sites de Mode:
  • The French Fashion Establishment has news for you.
  • Fashion Live - is brought to you by WorldMedia, who did the 'Football Café.'
  • The Louis Vuitton - Moët Hennessy conglomo is as much about fashion as it is about fancy bags and Champagne, but it is a slow loader.
  • And by no means last, Spoon Magazine.
  • See the full report about fashion and the Web, in last Friday's Libération 'Multimédia.' While there, take a look at 'Chroniques,' to read what Jean-Louis Gassée has to say about Microsoft this week. If you care, that is.
This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 2.45 - 10. November 1997 - This issue featured the columns - Café Metropole - 'Welcome to Parigi!' and 'Au Bistro' had - 'Maurice Papon Was a 'Cleaning Lady'.' The issue had two articles, entitled 'Visiting a Different Museum - Freemason's 'Grand Orient'' and 'How to 'Go Native' in Paris Restaurants' by Adrian Leeds. There were four 'Posters of the Week.' Ric's Cartoon of the Week was subtitled, 'The undercover restaurant critics at work.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 418 medium-sized days left to go.

Regards, Ric
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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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