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Archive for June, 2009

Poccardi, Club Daunou, Fysher’s, Le Perroquet, Caveau, Zelli’s, Larue Restaurant, Mitchell’s, Theatre de Vaudeville (Rip Revue), Trix’s Blue Room (Abbaye de Theleme) and Jardin de Ma Souer.

Saturday 21st April

It is almost time for Aunt Mimi’s wedding so on that pretext I go to Paris early on my own. This time I take the usual transit by train and boat. I conspire to help aunt Mimi with her wedding arrangements and Papa is fine about my missing work days. Lorenzo is in Paris for business and pleasure and staying at Claridge’s. After depositing my suitcase at aunt Mimi’s, who is out, I head straight there. We have a rather pleasant re-union. But there is no time for extensive pleasantries. The night is beginning. We meet Gabrielle and Cécile in the foyer. They are thrilled to see us and look incredible – Gabrielle in a blond lace gown by Patou and Cécile in a Calvarrac dancing gown of lemon georgette decorated with silver ribbon and rococo roses. We wander to Fouquet’s for cocktails and Mimi and Sir Oliver are there with a big group of friends.

“Fynes darling. There you are.” Exclaims Mimi engulfing me with a big hug and kiss before she introduces everyone. Sir Oliver orders more champagne and we have a jolly hour before the four of us head off to eat.

Lorenzo has decided to visit an Italian restaurant called Poccardi situated rather appropriately I thought, at 9 Boulevard des Italiens. I am told it is highly regarded and it certainly appears to be very popular because it is overflowing with people. We immediately begin with a range of hors d’oeuvres washed down with a sparkling Lacrima Crisiti Rose. Moving onto the Chianti we devour a rather extensive menu of minestone soup, lobster Fra Diavolo, linguine with red clam sauce, thick country bread and shaved Parmesan cheese, mini Calzones, eggplant Parmigiana, grilled Italian sausage and Veal Sorrentino. Lastly, a simple zabaglione and then cheeses with some delightful dessert wine.

I have chosen a rather interesting route for our Tourne Du Grands Ducs. We start the night at the Club Daunou where Ted Trevor and Dina Harris perform their wonderful dances. We then visit Nilson Fysher’s spot on Rue d’Antin for the exquisite singing of Yvonne George and Dora Stroeva.

Yvonne George is a Belgian blonde sensation, who, over the past few years, has been making a big impression in Paris and has just returned from appearing in the Greenwich Village Follies in New York. She is tall and beautiful with an expressive pale face and unusual violet coloured eyes. With her bobbed and slicked back hair with a single lock over her forehead, she gives off an air of utterly natural feminity. But her ‘look’ is also intense and ‘wild’ a little like her songs and her voice. She gives an emotive performance channelling what must be her own pain into her delivery with a series of tragic songs about real life but then lightens the mood with parodies of Russian and Spanish songs displaying a sophisticated sense of humour.

Yvonee George

Yvonee George

The exotic gipsy singer Dora Stroeva, the latest star of Paris cabaret, sings her songs in Russian or French accompanying herself by guitar. She commanded complete silence when she mounted her high stool to begin. She had a white face, scarlet lips and black hair like a painted skull-cap and was dressed in a simple black skirt and jacket, a low cut white shirt and bright scarlet scarf wrapped about her throat. She is wild and quiet all at the same time with a masculine edge to her voice.

We then move on for an extended stay at Le Perroquet and dance for what seems like hours. Finally we climb the hill to Montmartre and visit the Caveau at 54 Rue Pigalle. This spacious haunt was famed in revolutionary days and currently has two artists who have an equal genius for casting a spell. Mme Efremova sings strange gipsy songs in the dim lamplight conjuring up love and romance while the beautiful Cora Madou sings deeply moving songs with an amazing voice accompanied by a piano only. We then pop into Zelli’s for a spot of cheek to cheek dancing before ending up at Mitchell’s at about 5.30am.

Cora Madou

Cora Madou

As a regular habitué of Le Perroquet, Cécile tells us all about Louis Mitchell. “He is an American singer and drummer who came to Europe in 1912 with James Reece Europe supporting the dancing team of Vernon and Irene Castle. After the war he returned with a 7 piece band called Mitchell’s Jazz Kings and performed at the Casino de Paris and later at Le Perroquet. Now he has opened his own club here.”

Gabrielle adds. “You always come here on at the end of a Paris night out. It is the last resort. We are told by our American friends that it is Harlem transplanted to the Place Pigalle.”

“By the look of it, I am sure Monty would agree if he was here.” I say.

It is a tiny place with a small dance area and it is packed solid but we do get a table, drink the usual fizz, nibble on the house specialities of hot cakes and sausages and listen to a trio bang the piano and sing and then we dance on the 2×4 floor space.

“This place is so small that it has the air of always being overcrowded and therefore highly successful!” Says Cécile.

Monday 23rd April

I assist aunt Mimi with her wedding preparations and post a series of After Dark pieces to my newspaper. By the way, my weekly column is being received well.

Tuesday 24th April

All the family have now arrived and we meet in the drawing room of Mimi’s house for cocktails. We then go to the Theatre de Vaudeville on the corner of the Rue de la Chaussee – d’Antin and the Boulevard des Capucines to see the new Rip revue. Rip, whose real name is George Thenon, is a French institution and a famous cartoonist turned revue writer and satirist.

Programme for Theatre du Vaudeville

Programme for Theatre du Vaudeville

Mimi warns us beforehand. “The show will display all the wit and malice in which Rip excels but to fully appreciate a Rip revue one has to be acquainted with all the current potins of Paris so as to follow the allusions.” She pauses. “Ah, potins means gossip darlings. I will try and fill you in as we progress.”

The stars of the show are Marguerite Deval and Gaby Montbreuse. We had the joy of hearing the latter sing at Chez Fysher’s last September. It is sumptuously staged and costumed with an interlude showing the latest creations of Madeleine and Madeleine each baptized with a name. However, the most intriguing portion for me was the ballet ‘Arlequin et ses Poupees’ performed by Robert Quinault and Iris Rowe with the theme of the illusion of a harlequin who takes a doll for a woman. Quinault uses his acrobatic skill intelligently to express a beautiful conception. They both also appear in Les Pirates, the finale of the revue.

They are an amazing combination and in the interval I overhear someone talking about them. “Iris Rowe is English and a pupil of Margaret Morris. Quinault is French and was a performer for the Opera Comique. They met when he made his debut in Cochran’s London, Paris and New York in 1920 and she danced Columbine to his Harlequin. They have been dancing partners since.”

After the show we congregate at the famous Larue Restaurant at 27 Rue Royale for dinner. It is amusing to be given a royal salute by the three smart chasseurs on the door step. Regarded as one of the gastronomic delights of Paris all the treasures of the earth are perfectly prepared by an illustrious chef. It is indeed delightful with its little tables with rose coloured lamp shades and pink satin seats and we are surrounded by famous writers, foreign princes and charming women. I am told that much wit sparkles here and though I am unable to deny or confirm that rumour I can assure you that the multitudinous diamonds, sapphires, pearls and rubies, beyond price, sparkle here nightly. We indulge in the house specials of Caille a la Souvaroff, Becasee Flambee and Crepes Suzette.

I am allowed to leave early and meet Lorenzo, Gabrielle and Cécile at Le Abbaye de Theleme to see the lovely Trix Sisters once again in their Blue Room cabaret. This time they have the added bonus of the singing and dancing of Josephine Earle. She spots me, waves and blows me a kiss. Later she comes over and I introduce her to everyone.

“What is happening with that Dolly Tree?” She asks. “Still engrossed with that cad Mr Dolly I guess.”

“Yes, Jo.” I say “She is as busy as ever.”

“Well, I will see her in a few weeks time. I have fittings. Oh I guess you do not know. I have a big part in the movie that she is dressing called Woman to Woman. We start filming shortly.”

Thursday 26th April

Today is Aunt Mimi’s wedding. It is rather auspicious because it is also the day of the marriage between Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and the Duke of York in London.

Mimi’s wedding gown is from Lucile of course and she looks divine. It is of soft silver tissue cut on straight Grecian lines. Gracefully draped at the back with a large bustle bow and the two ends forming narrow trains. Plus an enveloping veil of Brussels lace secured with clusters of orange blossom.

The simple ceremony is in the town hall with just close family. Sir Oliver has quiet a following but they are a very cosmopolitan crowd that fit in with us terribly well. Perhaps I have forgotten to tell you, like Mimi, Sir Oliver had been married before but his wife had died. Included in this throng is one of his son’s called Julian who is slightly older than me who is rather tall, slender and delicate but very handsome. He is an artist like his father and works in London and Paris.

We all swiftly decamp to Ciro’s on the Rue Daunou for lunch. This is followed by a vast evening dinner and party at a private room in Claridge’s to which Lorenzo, Gabrielle and Cécile have been invited. I am thrilled that there is an exquisite series of exhibition dances by Samya and Sawyer who are also appearing in the ballroom. Needless to say my father is pleased too.

Much later as the mmod gets quieter we scoot off in our finery to visit Le Jardin De Ma Souer at 17 Rue Caumartin on the suggestion of Cécile. This resort, also called The Embassy, was opened in late 1922 and managed by Oscar Mouvet.

“Why on earth have we not been here before Cécile?”
I ask. “This is incredible.”

We are in, what I consider to be, the smartest and most beautiful room in Paris. It is spacious and airy and the general décor and ambiance is delightful.

Jardin de Ma Souer (The Embassy)

Jardin de Ma Souer (The Embassy)

“I have been keeping it a secret.” Says Cecile slyly with a grin. “I have brought you here because tonight the cabaret features a special act!” I am intrigued.

After a lot dancing to an excellent band, the cabaret begins. The first dancers are sisters – Ethel and Marion Forde – who are dressed beautifully and give a spirited repetoire of dances.

“They are American and arrived in Paris late last year making some appearances at Le Perroquet. We saw Marion Forde in En Douce at the Casino de Paris.” Cécile says.

However, the real stars of the night were the imcomparable Maurice Mouvet and Leonara Hughes. Cécile smiled when they came on. Partly because she knew about my lessons with Leonara in Deauville last year and the fact that I have been wanting to see Maurice dance. They were sensational and received the most rapturous applause I have ever known.

Afterwards, Leonara came up to us and asked me to dance.

“My oh my Fynes, you have progressed rather well. In fact you are quite simply marvellous.” She said. I was very happy.

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The Empire, the Rendezvous, Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies), Court Theatre (Carte Blanche) and Murray’s.

Thursday 12th April 1923

I am taking out Priscilla Fry one of Mama’s latest matches. Priscilla is beautiful like Eva but not quite as spectacular. However, she certainly has more umph. She is wearing a sumptuous ‘baccante’ gown from Elspeth Phelps (Paquin) in gold tissue and sunset tinted georgette decorated with fine leather leaves which sets off her auburn hair perfectly. She was educated in Switzerland, comes from a very well respected family, she paints, she sings and she loves dancing. She also has an opinion.

We have cocktails at the Criterion before seeing Alfred Butt’s new show at the Empire called The Rainbow, a fairly typical lavish Albert de Courville revue. The comedienne Daphne Pollard does an amusingly grotesque dance with Fred Leslie, Ernest Thesiger is hilarious when dressed as Miss Violet Vanbrugh to sing The Price of Love, the dancing of Gaston and Andree was superb and the knockabout comedy of Willie, West and McGinty is excellent. There were also several spectacular scenes including My Lady’s Boudior, In Old Versailles, Indo China and the Great Street in Scarlet and Gold featuring amazing costumes by Hugh Willoughby.

The programme for the Rainbow

The programme for the Rainbow

Within the show is a segment called The Plantation, comprising a coloured entertainment set on a mythical Southern plantation on the Mississipi which has caused a little furure.

“I particularly liked Lola Raine and Alec Kellaway’s pretty singing duet ‘Sweethearts.’’ Says Priscilla afterward as we walk through Soho. “The 16 Empire Girls were superb in this number too. But, I also rather enjoyed The Plantation.”

“Well I must admit I rather liked that bit too. It is good to see something completely different. The dancing was amazing especially Leonard Harper and his wife Osceola Banks and the acrobatic Archie Ware in the Crackerjacks troupe.”

We meet Monty for dinner at the Rendezvous at 45 Dean Street with its latticed windows and rows of quaint Noah Ark trees in green tubs outside. It is in fact a row of two old houses knocked into one, The two front rooms are decorated to represent the parlours of an old English farmhouse with heavy thick black beams, walls panelled with green cloth in wooden frames, electric lights as old lanterns and silver wine coolers with ferns on window sills.

We are greeted by the ruling spirit of Luca Martini and taken to our table in the back room which is decorated in dark oak and mirrors with oriental carpets and a handsome oak gallery.

“He is as cheerful as the cocktail.” I say. “And endures endless witticisms about his name but remains sweet and dry. But one does not get on his wrong side. He is a rather fiery Italian and devoted to Mussolini and thus a fascist.”

The clientele of the restaurant comprises every class of Londoner from Princes to Arts students and it is a Soho landmark.

“There are fashions in Soho restaurants.” I continue “As a rule when a Soho restaurant becomes the fashion it is doomed. It loses its character, its intimacy, its charm and the cuisine declines. And like a faded beauty it lives upon past reputation. This place is one of the few exceptions.”

We have a delicious dinner comprising melon cantloupe, crème fermeuse, aile de poularde en casserole and aubergine a l’espagnole. We partake their two specialiaties as well with Sole Rendezvous (the fish is cooked in white wine sauce) and Souffle Gallina, with branded cherries served in a little lagoon of fine champagne cognac which is set alight. All washed down with a nice Vieux Pre champagne and a bottle of Mottoni.

“Ah, so you went the Empire did you? Because therein lies an interesting story.” Says Monty “Alfred Butt rejected an offer to stage Lew Leslie’s Plantation cabaret show from New York starring Florence Mills on the grounds of cost so Charles Cochran stepped in and secured it for the Pavilion. Butt then engaged another coloured attraction called ‘Plantation Days’ for the Empire that was running at the Green Mill Gardens in Chicago. But Cochran and Leslie issued an injunction against Butt for using the name of The Plantation as it was misrepresenting it as the original Florence Mills show. There was been a huge fuss that is still ongoing.”

“I have heard that there has also been huge opposition to the importation of black musicians and entertainers.” Says Philippa. “Daddy owns a newspaper and tells us all about these things.”

“Yes, you are right Philippa. On opening night the audience hissed and booed.”

“There is nasty odious man called Hannan Swaffer who whipped up a frenzy of racism in the Graphic I believe.” Philippa replied.

“Very disrespectful if you ask me.” I say “Considering where all our dances and jazz music originated from.”

“Very profound Fynes, but you are right of course!” Says Monty. “By the way did you enjoy the songs? They were all from a Yankee composer called George Gershwin. I think he is going to be big.”

We decide the night is still young. Monty suggests a visit to The Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole. “They have added a novel attraction called The Follies Derby.”

The cabaret show has some wonderful scenes including an Hawaiieen number, China Love with the dancing of Vera Lennox and Carl Hyson, Zwadir (the God’s of Passion) and Gipsy Night in June. The costumes by Gordon Conway are magnificent.

The Follies Derby is indeed packing in the audience night after night as one can enjoy the excitement of Newmarket in miniature! The chorus girls in the guise of bookies distribute coloured discs representing racing colours. The odds having been called, four steeds made of papier mache and mounted on tiny wheels concealed in their hoofs appear and they race, albiet rather slowly, across the floor with the winner snapping the tape at the end of the line. What fun!

The highlight for me of course was the speciality dancing of Carl Hyson and Peggy Harris. I watch them intently. However, the featured artist is Odette Myrtil and what a lady she is. This French born artist scored a triple hit as a violinist, dancer and singer. She is a clever performer and, according to Monty she bears a strong resemblance to Mlle Polaire.

Odette Myrtil

Odette Myrtil

“Odette made her first appearance on the stage at the age of 12 at the Olympia in Paris. Florenz Ziegfeld saw her and engaged her for his Midnight Frolic in 1915.” Says Monty “She has been in great demand ever since. We ought to see her in the revue at the Court Theatre.”

Priscilla is a rather capital dancer and even taught me a thing or two. I think we are going to get on fine.

Friday 13th April

I am moping around at home when Monty phones to say he is bored and fancies a night out and says he has got tickets for Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre.

Monty tells me .“I am told it has been modelled along the lines of the Mde Rasimi productions in Paris and all the dances have been arranged by the rather clever Max Rivers who is also one of the specialist dancers. He has just returned from a two-year dancing trip around Europe, so you should enjoy his performance.”

It is a little of a trek out of town but worth it as the show turns out to be rather original, whimsical and colourful. The humour is provided by Tubby Edlin and the Two Bobs, the latter are hysterical when they sing Spain, Spain, Spain with Bob Adams dressed as a large Spanish lady with Donna Rosita and Bob Alden as typical bandaleros.

The French touch is made clear with Odette Myrtil (who doubles up later at the Midnight Follies) singing the charming ‘Bon Soir Madame La Lune’ dressed as a pierrot and standing under the light of a street lamp, packing in all the poetry and melancholy of Montmartre.

“Let’s go to Murray’s Club.” Says Monty. “Dolly will be there with Eddie.”

When we arrive Dolly and Eddie are on their second bottle of champagne.
“I am celebrating boys.” she says with a big grin. “I have just got the job to design all the costumes and gowns for Graham Cutts’ film Woman to Woman that will star the American actress Betty Compson. I am so excited.”

“Congratulations my dear.” Says Monty.

“Wow! Dolly that is terrific.” I add. “Is this film to be based on the stage play of the same name?”

“Yep, it is Fynes… we start shooting in mid May so I have got a lot of work to do!”

Harry Day who controls the revue productions at the Palladium has been assigned the responsibility for all the entertainments at Murray’s for the next two years. His first attraction is called ‘Harry Day’s Crystal Cabaret’ and is derived from his show Crystals that is running at the Palladium and which I have to confess I have not seen.

This is perhaps the first time that a full company of fifty performers has been seen in a dance club. The principals include the comedian Jimmy Leslie and Harry Day’s wife Kitty Colyer, But the star is the very eccentric Douglas Byng as a dude wearing an eyeglass and small moustache. He has a curious mixture of sophistication, schoolboy humour and double entendre that works perfectly in cabaret.

Douglas Byng

Douglas Byng

Dolly loved the costumes designed by George Crisceudo.

After the show, we are milling around and suddenly Monty darts off and talks to a rather attractive lady with a large group of people. He beckons me to join them.

“Fynes, let me introduce Peggy Marsh.” He says to a vivacious, leggy, dark haired beauty.

“Why howdy.” She says.

“We know each other from New York.” Monty says. “Peggy has been in the wars recently and certainly needs cheering up!”

Could have fooled me. She looks more than happy. Hmm that name rings a bell.

“Ah I am sorry to hear that. What has been wrong?”

“My husband Buster Johnson accidentally shot himself in September and died in January. But we were getting divorced!” She says.

Peggy Marsh

Peggy Marsh

A little later when Peggy is powdering her nose, Monty tells me her story which I do now remember. She was a chorus girl in New York but had worked in London during the war where she met and fell in love with fellow American Henry Field, the multi-millionaire heir to the Marshall Field department store in Chicago. She had a son by him but Henry returned to New York and married the right kind of girl. Peggy followed him, got a job in Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and secured a financial agreement for her and her son. But then disaster struck. Henry died and the agreement was not honoured. Peggy went to court and eventually reached a settlement before marrying Buster.

“She is now in London and dancing in Ciro’s and is likely to appear on the West End too before long.” Adds Monty.

Peggy is great company. And, naturally an excellent dancer. We hit it off. I am not surprised that she also likes lunch.

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Revelle’s, the London Hippodrome (Brighter London), the Monico, Ciro’s and Les Gobelins.

Thursday 15th March

When I get home the first thing I do is plan a night out. Aubrey meets me for lunch and tells me to join a new dance club called Revelle’s at 30 Wardour Street. which of course I do. It is not huge but perfectly proportioned with a really nice parquet floor, music by Hugh Mayo’s Reverie Revels band and good food. Luckily, tonight is a gala night and it is packed to overflowing and we are not short of dancing partners. There is a cabaret with the dancing of Vincent Davies and the delightful Flora Le Breton (wearing a beautiful dance gown from Ninette).

“Who is she?” I ask Aubrey. “She is quite exquisite and looks like a dainty piece of Dresden China.”

“You must know of her Fynes. She started off in the chorus of Murray’s cabaret and was then snapped up by film producers. She scored a big success with the boxer Georges Carpentier in the swashbuckling film Gypsy Chavalier last year.”

“Ah. Of course. She is quite an amazing dancer!”

Tuesday 20th March

I am thrilled when I receive a letter from Lorenzo. He is arranging a trip to Paris and we may see each other soon.

Dolly has been totally engrossed with Eddie so it came as a surprise when she telephoned to invite me to see the launch of the new show at the Hippodrome which she has dressed. I meet her and Monty for a drink at the Criterion first and it is like old times which is a relief. To her credit she apologised for her neglect. Eddie is busy but meets us later in the foyer of the Hippodrome.

Programme fro Brighter London at the Hippodrome

Programme fro Brighter London at the Hippodrome

Julian Wylie’s new show Brighter London stars Annie Croft, Reginald Sharland, Lupino Lane. Elsie Prince and Billy Merson. It has no real story but comprises a series of episodes with Cupid setting out to brighten London. There were some stunning scenes. Brighter Shakespeare had Billy Merson playing Hamlet in a contemporary context and the entire company jazzing up many Shakespearian characters. Shawls illustrated a parade of girls wearing Garden, Paisley, Indian, Lancashire and Spanish shawls with a finale of the chorus in picturesque black and white costumes arranged on four shelves, who by reversing their shawls produced a large and beautiful curtain. The Jackdaw of Rheims was founded on the Ingoldsby Legends and had Ruth French dressed as a Jackdaw in a costume of black tights and four hundred black feathers which was very clever. The finale culminates at the Palais de Dance with the appearance of the celebrated American band leader Paul Whiteman and his orchestra.

A scene from Brighter London

A scene from Brighter London

“I think that was a tour de force.” Says Monty afterward. “It is jolly and colourful with never one dull moment. I have a sneaking feeling that this is going to run and run and run…”

“Well my dear” I say to Dolly. “Your costumes and gowns are gorgeous and the colour schemes brilliant. In my opinion they alone are worth visiting the theatre for.”

I decide to take them all to the Monico Restaurant to celebrate. This wonderful establishment stands in Piccadilly Circus and runs through into Shaftesbury Avenue and thus has two entrances. The original Mr Monico came from a village in the Italian provinces of Switzerland and worked for the Gatti’s before founding his restaurant in 1876 in Tichborne Street. The building evolved into the current great bee-hive of different dining rooms. It is a London institution and a temple of excellent international cuisine, but with a more traditional feel about it.

We enter the building on the Piccadilly side through a glass canopy with two gables and emerge into the café which acts as an antre room and sometimes called the Winter Garden. Part of the ceiling is solid  and the other half is glazed over. We walk into the great gilded Saloon or main al la carte restaurant, which was the original restaurant. The walls, mirrors and raised ornamentation are all of gold, there is gilded ceiling with golden pilasters and a golden balcony for the musicians. It is always full and always busy and four maitres d’hotel in frock coats and black ties and a battalion of waiters run from the kitchen to the tables. Further toward the Shaftesbury Avenue entrance is the grill room which is less gorgeous with simple buff marble pillars and walls. There are two marble staircases at each entrance leading to further banqueting rooms upstairs and there is a famous German beer cellar in the basement.

We eat a rather exquisite dinner with oysters served on plates of crushed ice, soup in earthenware bowls with toasted bread, Sole Falciola (sole with white sauce, mushrooms and tomatoes and herbs & garlic), partridge stuffed with rice, foie gras and truffles served with braised celery and soufflé potatoes in a dainty basket of potatoes mounted on toasted bread. And all washed down with lashings of Louis Roederer 1911 champagne.

After dinner we visit Ciro’s where some of the Brighter London crew are having their first night party. I dance with Anne Croft, who is married to Reginald Sharland, Ruth French and another featured dancer in the show Ettie Landau.

A little later, we watch the cabaret which is provided by the renowned dancing team of Moss and Fontana. They started off just after the war and appeared at all the dance places in London and on the continent and have become hugely popular.

Moss and Fontana

Moss and Fontana

“Marjorie is a dear” says Dolly. “She started off as an understudy to Phyllis Bedells in the Empire ballet and also served her apprenticeship with the Kosloff Company. Her ballet training has been invaluable. Off-stage she has a limitless capacity to socialise despite her cockney accent! Sadly she had a severe operation last summer and was forced to cancel her season at the Embassy club and at the Casino in Deauville. I always love watching her dance. She is so graceful and elegant. And Georges is quite simply divine!”

Marjorie, wearing a series of stunning creations from Charlotte in Paris, was tiny, fragile and delicate and as a dancer appeared as an incorporeal creature who seemed to defy gravity. They did a reprise of all their old favourites including a Bacchanalian dance, a Pierrot and Pierette number and an oriental piece. Their acrobatic work was restrained and dainty and executed without effort.

“I am told that these two are without doubt the most attractive exhibition dancing couple now performing in Europe.” Says Monty.

Dolly replies “When the Tatler described them as ‘the greatest pair of dancers since the Vernon Castles’ they were without doubt completely correct.”

“Their dancing is excellent.” Says Eddie effusively. “But, I would argue there is very little of ballroom dancing in their work. In this they differ from the Castles and Maurice. They actually have a style all of their own which will, I am sure, find many imitators. When George raised her from the floor in the ‘grand jete en l’air’ it appeared without any semblance of effort on his part. Marjorie looked as light as a feather and graceful as a bird on the wind. This has to be one of the most beautiful things to be seen in dancing today….”

What an observation I thought. Well Eddie is a choreographer so he should know these things!

Wednesday 21st March

“Hello Fynes darling.” Says an excitable voice on the telephone. It is Eva. “I have missed you. Could we have a night out?”

Eva is a strange creature. It is as if I have not been away. She is not really interested in my tales of the Riviera. She is however delighted to see me and we have a wonderful evening. It looks like Eva is back in the picture.

Thursday 29th March

I meet Monty for a modest lunch at Les Gobelins tucked away in Hedden Street, off Regent Street. Its name is derived after the style of tapestries, which together with the oak panelling on its walls, are in keeping with the Tudor style of decoration. The food here is always nicely cooked, savoury, deliciously hot and remarkable value of money.

I am slightly agitated and need to talk to Monty since Mama has introduced me to more eligible young ladies at a little soirree last night at home.

Oh don’t worry Fynes” Monty advises “Just play along. We can still have a lot of fun! And, who knows perhaps I can entertain the cast-offs!”

Changing the subject he tells me “I have just written a piece all about Toutes Les Femmes. Remember it is the show we saw at the Palace Theatre in Paris? Poor Harry Pilcer has come a cropper. There has been some agitation in puritanical circles in Paris about some of the dances in the show and the dancers and managers were charged with indecency and offensive behaviour.”

“What! Puritanical circles in Paris?” I ask aghast.

“Yes, I know it is hard to believe but apparently they do exist!”

“What dances have caused objections?”

“The oriental dance by Mlle. Zulaika and the dances in ‘L’Après-midi d’un Faune’ by Harry Pilcer and Mlle. Rahna. The latter is no doubt a risky dance, although it has been danced in Paris and elsewhere for donkey’s years. It was a shock to Pilcer that his rendering should be questioned. He wears tights, and his performance is exactly as given at the Petit Casino at Marseilles several months ago, when no objection whatever was made.”

“What silliness…”

“Well it is all a matter of interpretation. You see nudity is permitted in a theatre if it is artistic but not if it is vulgar.”

“What on earth is the difference?”

“It is argued that the difference is motion. But the management maintain that the performers were clad in transparent rubber fabric and therefore were not nude.”

“What a fiasco.”

“Well it gets worse Fynes. Rather amusingly, to judge the accusations, the magistrate asked the defendants to perform the dance before him. The entire scandal is certainly boosting attendance of the show.”

“I think there is some skulduggery going on here.” I say “What excellent publicity. Sounds like a careful engineered ploy by Varna the owner of the Palace Theatre if you ask me.”

“The case will probably turn out to be merely a storm in a teacup, and the artistes will no doubt be acquitted with the classic injunction, ‘Not guilty, but don’t do it again.'”

We both laugh.

“Oh and by the way. Just so you know your friend Jessica Brown has sailed to America to marry Lord Northesk at her home in Buffalo New York. I just thought you should know.” Monty tells me.

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Folies Bergere, Boeuf Sur Le Toit

Tuesday 6th March 1923

Monty is miffed because Edward Dolly has popped up in Paris and Dolly has gone gaga and keeps disappearing like Aunt Mimi. However, we are all terribly excited. Dolly has got us all tickets for the launch of the new show at the Folies Bergere. She has created some of the scenes. We all meet as usual for a quick aperitif at Fouquet’s.

“Hello boys.” Dolly says slightly sheepishly.
“Hi guys.” Says Eddie with his beaming smile. “How are you doing?”
“We are all just dandy.” Says Monty rather pointedly.
“What are you up to?” I ask Eddie politely.
“Well I am just having a break and then I am off to London to attend to some business. I am staging the dances for C.B. Cochran’s show Dover Street to Dixie. My sisters will help when they return but they are still currently working on the Riviera. I am also engaged in negotiations for the debut of the Dolly Sisters here in Paris. All hush hush of course. ”

With this exciting news, we head off to the Folies Bergere but have to take several taxis. I am with Henri and Millie and Millie says rather sweetly “That Eddie is quite a ladies man you know. I have had a quiet word with Dolly in case she gets too involved.”

As we arrive it is clearly a very glamorous affair with a glimpse of who is who in Paris streaming into the Music Hall. Besides the usual programme they have now produced a rather glamorous fully illustrated souvenir brochure which is a really smart idea.

Paul Derval’s show En Pleine Folie stars Yane Exiane, Nade Renoff, Miss Flo, Nina Payne, Constant Remy, Madeleine Loys and the John Tiller Girls in 3 acts and 32 tableaux. There are a host of incredible scenes that would take ages to describe including Les Frivolities du Second Empire with frivolous Victorian fashions and Au Pays de Lotus D’Or with oriental splendour dressed by Brunelleschi; Les Frivolities du Second Empire (Montedoro); the exotic Les Grottes de Crystal (Georges Barbier) and the sumptuous finale Les Grands Fleuves du Monde or the greatest rivers, dressed by Erte.

A scene from the Folies Bergere with a sketch by Dolly Tree

A scene from the Folies Bergere with a sketch by Dolly Tree

Dolly Tree’s first scene Les Nuits du Bois (Night in the Woods) was meant to be representative of the nocturnal “goings on” in the Bois de Bologne and was, I have to say, rather audacious. Several walkers stroll through the woods in the autumn moonlight, including Mlle Yane Exiane. The wood becomes alive with mytholgical satyrs and nymphs dressed in beautifully flowing gowns and dryads perched in the bough of the trees presumably meant to represent tree spirits. The scene ends when the Police arrive and everyone vanishes.

Nuits de Bois scene in the Folies Bergere show

Nuits de Bois scene in the Folies Bergere show

Monte La Dessus (climb up there) was a symbolic scene about Montmarte which capitalised on the view that the area was the home of the real Parisian underworld and featured a chorus in traditional French country costumes with striped bouffant skirts and French caps in red, white and blue. The scene progressed into Tu Verras Montmartre with a depiction of showgirls wearing totally bizarre costumes representing a range of drugs such as L’opium, L’Ether, La Morphine and Le Coco, with each ‘drug’ being revealed by means of colour back-cloths.

The Monte La Dessus scene from the Folies Bergere with sketch by Dolly Tree

The Monte La Dessus scene from the Folies Bergere with sketch by Dolly Tree

It is a magnificent production and seemingly the most ambitious show being staged in Paris.

We decide to have supper at the night-club and restaurant of high repute called Boeuf Sur Le Toit situated at at 28 Rue Boissy Anglais just of the Place de Concorde. This is the creation of Louis Moyses and opened in late 1921. It is sponsored by the great avant-garde artiste Jean Cocteau and here the most extravagant fancy is found side by side with the best old tradition. It is one of the smartest rendezvous in Paris with an atmosphere all its own. Le Boeuf is a melting pot of lively and entertaining discussions and one comes across the very latest developments of the artistic, cultural and literary worlds. In short it is terribly bohemian and very a la mode where high society mingles with artists, business men, actors and writers.

It is in fact two large rooms on the ground floor. We have dinner first in the restaurant and the cuisine was surprisingly good for a night club of snob repute. Since the cooking is Alsatian, the foie gras in pastry was particularly good. We also sample le Sole Maison and Crepes Flambees (Pancakes in hot caramel sauce made with blazing brand).

Mama and Papa and Mimi and Sir Oliver leave and the rest of us carry on drinking champagne. There is a small gipsy band and we can dance on the small dance floor, but it is not long before we are tempted next door to the bar and for the next few hours we switch back and forth. In the bar the walls are hung with photos by Man Ray of some of the celebrities that frequent Le Boeuf and we listen to the French pianists Wiener and Doucet who have made an international reputation jazzing the classics.

Since Dolly is stuck like glue to Eddie, Cecile dances alternately with Monty and I. She is so charming and so easy-going. I dance with Millie at one point.

“That Cecile is quite delightful.” She says.
I know.” I reply

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