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Archive for the ‘art deco’ Category

Since the villa is now almost completely renovated we have decided as a family to take a trip down to the Riviera to enjoy a summer break for a few weeks. So Mama, Papa, Aunt Mimi, Sir Oliver, Millie and Henri and I take the overnight train and then drive to Cap d’Antibes in two cars that we have rented.

The Villa, Cap d'Antibes

When we arrive the lorry with masses of furnishings has also arrived from Paris and there is also Lorenzo who has been persuaded to come and join us from Italy and keep me company. We have a wonderful day emptying the lorry and placing all the furniture. I am thrilled to be able to hang all the paintings that I bought from Montparnasse. They cause a bit of a debate of course but I prevail. We have employed several local people as cook, housekeeper and gardener but they do not arrive until tomorrow. It is lucky Lorenzo is here because he had the good sense to bring with him in his car boxes of Italian delicacies and he cooks us the most amazing supper. He is such a resounding success that even Papa says “well my boy I suggest you get to London and open a restaurant.”

We take a few days to sort ourselves out, and Lorenzo and the cook argue in the kitchen each night. Papa and I discuss the landscaping of the garden and grounds and the building of a swimming pool with the gardener who will arrange and organise everything for us.

Interestingly, the older generation are not good at simply relaxing and doing nothing. Despite excellent food, brilliant sunshine, amazing surroundings, the gramophone, Mah Jong and charades, they miss the hustle and bustle of big city life and start complaining. I on the other hand have got Lorenzo, so I am perfectly content with doing very little. I have enough of a distraction. Millie and I also spend a lot of time teaching Lorenzo new dance steps and generally improving our own dancing technique. However, to ease the discontent, during the day, we start taking a few trips and take leisurely visits to Juan Le Pins and Antibes. But since most places are closed there are more outbursts.

One day we head for the sandy Plage Garoupe shaded by umbrella pines. We meet the American family of Gerald and Sara Murphy. Millie reminds me that Yvette, Henri’s sister, had told us that the Murphy’s had been here last summer with Cole Porter.

‘We are staying at the Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc’ Gerald tells us.

‘The hotel is usually closed from May to September but we persuaded the owner Antoine Sella to keep the place open with a skeleton staff this summer.’

He is thrilled when we tell him that we have bought and renovated the villa near to the hotel and suggests we join them for dinner, which we graciously accept.

We spend a pleasant afternoon swimming and lounging around and the Murphy’s extol the virtues of sunbathing. Lorenzo, Millie, Henri and I are appreciative but Mama and aunt Mimi huddle under a vast umbrella afraid of the sun. Gerald and Sir Oliver have a lot in common as they are both artists and converse for ages.

We have a delightful dinner at the Hotel du Cap. I had forgotten what a beautiful place and setting it is. This is where we came to sign the contracts for the villa back in February.  However, as the pleasantness of the dinner recedes, the grumbling gets too much and we are forced to leave early. Lorenzo comes with us. On our way back to Paris we take a detour to the luxurious surroundings of Aix-Le-Bains, or as all us Brits say ‘Aches and Pains’.

Poster for Aix-le-Bains

We arrive and check into the Splendid-Royal on the Rue Georges, just up above the main centre of the town next to the Excelsior. The more salubrious first-class hotels occupy commanding ledges that give sweeping views and a fresh mountain breeze that comes down from the pine covered peaks above. The Splendid-Royal is a model of architectural perfection and gets Aix’s smart summer crowd. It has a richly carpeted lobby, lined with heavy, blue marble columns, showcases from the best Paris shops and double-sized elevators, originally built to accommodate handicapped guests.

Splendide-Royal Hotel

Aunt Mimi tells Lorenzo ‘this hotel has become a favorite with Americans, because they find the usual match-box French elevators claustrophobic.’  I share a room with Lorenzo which is vast with big windows and a balcony, roomy enough for a cozy breakfast in the morning that opens onto a white alabaster terrace with a fabulous view. We congregate for lunch in the splendid dining room with impeccable service on metropolitan standards, which is full and lively and rather like being in a fashionable Parisian café.

View of Aix-le-Bains towards Lake Bourget

‘Ah this is much better’ says aunt Mimi glancing around nodding to people she thinks she knows.

‘I have no idea why you like that dreary spot on the Riviera at this time of the year’ says Mama. ‘This is where we should be. It is a perfect mix of elegance, good weather and correct company.’

‘Well’ says Millie with a sly smile ‘looks like you and Lorenzo will be spending the summer down there all alone next year.’

 

One of three Aixes in France, Aix-le-Bains of Savoy in the lower ranges of the French Alps is delightful and picturesque and I love being here. Perched on the banks of the beautiful Lac Bourget, which is eleven miles long and therefore the longest lake in France, it has become most fashionable mountain resort in Europe full of rugged crags hovering over deep wooded valleys.

View of mountains, Aix-le-Bains

In the afternoon we take a short stroll down into the town through some quaint streets that wind down the hill with some scenic views and the alpine rooflines behind us. Since Lorenzo has never been here before Mama and Aunt Mimi have taken it upon themselves to introduce him to Aix and I tag along. We reach the thermal establishment which is a veritable palace appropriately designed with a classic Roman façade but fitted with every modern up-to-date device to aid the natural powers of the waters.

Thermal establishment, Aix-le-Bains

Mama steps into guide mode as we wander around and says, as if we haven’t noticed…. ‘the Romans founded this health resort because of the spa and the natural powers of the waters in 122B.C. More recently, the King of Sardinia laid the foundations for another thermal spa in 1776. This new structure was created in 1857.’

She continues Over a million gallons of water pour from Aix’s spring every day, hitting the surface at nearly 115 degrees. It provides the foundation for all treatments which vary according to the condition being treated from gout, nervous disorders, rheumatism, faulty blood circulation or arthritis.’

‘Of course all the ‘cure towns’ including Evian and Vichy have been made so luxurious, expensive and fashionable that many think ‘How can I be chic though sick?’ offers Aunt Mimi.

‘So you have to have the right kind of ‘chic’ malady?’ asks Lorenzo.

‘Of course. Overeating, overdrinking, insufficient use of the legs and too much wear and tear of the grey matter are chic’ replies Aunt Mimi with a laugh.

‘You see Lorenzo’ I say ‘ all the hotels are filled during the season with more or less perfect cases of overindulgence.’

In the centre of the town, just below the thermal establishment and opposite the town hall or Hotel de Ville, stands the arch of Campanus commemorating that illustrious Roman general’s soujourn here.

Place de Ville, Aix-le-Bains

Clustered around the sources, the park and the fountains are other hotels including the Villa Victoria. We walk further and wander around the delightful gardens and terraces associated with the entertainment centres of the Casino and the Villa des Fleurs. The Casino also called Le Grand Cercle was built in 1824 and is a large comfortable, rambling building with a multitude of rooms inside.

The Villa de Fleurs is an equally sumptuous building. Both host excellent restaurants, a theatre, ballrooms and salons. We sit and take tea on the terrace at the Casino listening to a concert which is given daily and browse the programme of events for both venues.

Villa des Fleurs, Aix-le-Bains

Mama continues her lecture ‘Not only is it a cure town but Aix offers the most amazing array of entertainment since there are always many notable quests staying here. Of course Aix has many royal connections. Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor as was Victor Emmanuel II, Napoleon III, Wilhelmina, George of Greece and Leopold of Belgium. There will be fetes, galas and many dancing opportunities for you boys all with the right kind of girls.’

That night we have cocktails at the hotel and then make out way to the Casino for dinner. I am hugely delighted to see that Sielle and Mills, who we caught at L’Ours cabaret in Paris a few weeks ago, are the cabaret and they are once again magnificent. As the older generation drift off, we dance the night away in wonderful surroundings. Our earlier polishing of our dance routines in the villa, pays dividends and we are highly sought after as dancing partners for  a succession of charming ladies. It is very early in the morning and almost breakfast time when we walk up the hill to our hotel and we notice other people walking down the hill.

Henri says  ‘You see one half of Aix-les-Bains goes to bed about the time that the other half ventures to be parboiled and massaged.’

The next night we have dinner in the Villa des Fleurs and spend a great evening dancing in their ballroom. But in Aix-Le-Bains the dance craze doesn’t let up. Besides the casino and the villa there are always dances every night at each of the hotels and at La Polonaire and the Castel Bisolet.

Interior of Villa des Fleurs, Aix-le-Bains, during a gala night

We have a busy and pleasurable stay taking in the air, walks, boat rides on the lake, frolicking on the landscaped sandy beach and enjoying all the evening entertainment, not to mention a steady flow of impromptu invites to private cocktail parties and soirees. Obviously we do not make the regular early morning trek of mountain climbers with their knapsacks, spiked canes and long alpenstocks but do partake of some light tennis in the afternoon and watch boule. But, all too soon, it is time to leave and return to London via Paris.

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Montparnasse: Petit Napolitain, Café du Parnasse, Lavenue, Café du Dome, Jockey Club and Café de la Rotonde.

Saturday 30th June

As a little interlude to our Bois extravaganza, Cecile has insisted on staying in Paris tonight but tells me we will go south and visit the Latin Quarter of Montparnasse.

“Do remember Fynes” she says beforehand “the cafes and restaurants there are mostly of the cheaper and more modest kind… so do not put on airs and graces.”

“Of course not my dear. What on earth do I wear?”

She bashes me with a newspaper
“Don’t be silly” she snaps.

I actually know that Montparnasse is quiet different and that since the turn of the century many artists relocated there from Montmartre which they felt had been overrun with bars, nightclubs and cabarets becoming overpriced and far too commercial. They were attracted to the peace, tranquillity and cheapness of Montparnasse. Of course, its popularity will mean that it may become more like Montmartre in due course.

I meet a group of Cecile’s friends who live in the district at a little cafe: two women called Nina and Regine and two men called Sasha and Raphael. All are either artists or writers or both. I am not sure who is with whom and I feel uncomfortable to ask. However, we have a wonderful conversation talking about Montparnasse, in French of course.

Raphael says “probably no people in Paris have had so much romance spun around them as us bohemians who live here. Take a look at all the literature from Henri Murger’s La Vie Boheme, to George du Maurier’s Trilby and W.C. Morrow’s Bohemian Paris of Today.”

“Well to be honest Raphael”
says Regine “equally annoying are the dozens of American and English journalists who come here for a vacation and sit at our cafes and then spin a thousand words of gushing, puffing romanticism.”

“Actually, the only well-balanced account of the district can be found in W.R. Titterton’s Me as a Model or the wonderful clips by Arthur Moss, the Latin Quarter’s correspondent for the Paris Herald” volunteers Sasha.

“If you ask me” says Cecile “the Latin Quarter is a state of mind rather than an area.”

“Hmm very profound” I add, “my observation is that it is about freedom. Here you can dress as you please, think as you please and do as you please.”

“Bravo” says Raphael.
“Exactly” says Sasha.

It looks I have said the right thing and Cecile smiles at me approvingly.

Then I add “Of course I sometimes think that the Latin Quarter is co called because of a noteworthy scarcity of Latins.” Thankfully everyone laughs.

We visit the Petit Napolitain and then the Café du Parnasse, both on the Boulevard for aperitifs and to look at the vast array of works of art on the walls. Here there is every possible style – Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and every other kind of ism, besides some interesting Byzantine-like paintings in gold and black created by Russians influenced by their village church icons. It is breathtaking and I decide that I will come back another day and buy several that rather appealed. I certainly do not want to appear to be too affluent with my new friends.

Cecile takes us all to Lavenue restaurant on the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Rue du Depart, opposite the Gare Montparnasse. A famous old café – restaurant, it skirts the fringe of bohemia and is accordingly a haunt of mixed company with a clientele of many Americans and well-known artists. The café part is modern and noisy with a band but there is a restaurant at the back comprising three rooms and we eat on a covered porch beside a courtyard garden. She pays the bill despite my protests.

We move to Le Dôme Café (or Café du Dôme) that stands as a sentinel to Bohemia on the corner of Boulevards Montparnasse and Raspail. Founded in 1898, it became renowned as an intellectual gathering place and focal point for artists and is widely known as the “the Anglo-American café.”

Le Dome, Montparnasse, Paris

Le Dome, Montparnasse, Paris

As we take a seat outside which is already almost full, Nina says “Everybody in the artistic and literary circles of the world who visit Paris comes here at some point between six in the evening and two in the morning.”

She tells me all about Cesar the oldest waiter who terrorises the nearly dozen house cats by spraying them with a soda syphon and equally how he terrorises the customers with his cheery rudeness. Nevertheless, he is an institution not to be missed but because Nina is extremely attractive tonight he is rather courteous to us. But, you must not stare or ask about his wife since she ran off with the family fortune and another waiter.

The place is packed with cosmopolitan people of note and character and, like the district generally, is full of ladies with short hair and men with long hair, in fact just like my new friends. I am discreetly made aware of Nina Hamnet, the English woman painter, who draws some of the antics and characters of the Dome and elsewhere for the Paris Herald; Ezra Pound, the esoteric poet who pours his vitriolic wrath on the heads of anti-moderns and a Turkish gentleman called Bluebird, who allegedly has had more mistresses than anyone in the café.

After a rather jolly hour or so we are off to the newest cabaret at the Jockey Club situated at 146 Boulevard Montparnasse on the corner of the Rue Campeigne Premier, that opened a few weeks ago on the site of an old wine store. It is a weird little place that was founded by the American artist Hiler Harzberg (Hiliare Hiler) and a jockey called Miller hence the name.

From the outside it looks like a dilapidated shack with quaint, attenuated cowboys painted on the peeling shutters. Regine says one must never arrive before 11pm “but certainly no later as you will hardly be able to squeeze in.”

It is meant to hold a mere 50 people but on a normal evening over 200 are crammed in like sardines. Luckily, we get a table just in time but it is tight fit. The small room is covered from to floor ceiling with the weirdest posters and inscriptions of every kind and I am told Hiler Harzberg himself has created much of the décor. There is a miniscule dance floor in the centre of the room that must be about 3 ft by 6 ft that is covered in cracking linoleum and dancing there requires real skill. The ‘orchestra’ if you can call it that, consists of a broken down piano with a Russian pianist and two cross-eyed banjoists.

All sorts of peculiar people gather here including some rather bizarre ladies such as a woman in complete male dress who smokes cheroots through a long holder and another who wears a coat that resembles a Persian carpet and dances as if in a trance. However, the Queen of the Jockey Club is the immortal Kiki. Artists love to paint her because she has a fascinating catlike face and a voluptuous body. Recently she has been a model for Man Ray who has been producing the most amazing photographs of her. Tonight her black hair is straight and greased flat and I am told that she changes the colour of her eye shadow to match her dress and changes the contour of her pencilled eyebrows to match her mood. As ornaments she wears a couple of gilt curtain rings in her ears and can usually be found by the bar smoking and sipping an exotic looking drink through two straws. However, on the spur of the moment she would show her breasts or lift her skirt up telling delighted patrons ‘that will cost you a franc or two’ and turn the money over to a needy friend. She is the embodiment of outspokenness, audacity and creativity.

Kiki of Montparnasse

The cabaret is far from conventional and starts with that wonderful American singer Les Copeland, who if you remember we have seen and heard before. This is complimented by Hiler Harzberg himself playing piano and the pretty Floriane, who does this naughty-naughty dance. Finally, Kiki takes the floor wearing a shawl, which slid over her shoulders and sings with a voice that grates and jars, moving from side to side with economical and rounded movements. She sings rather outrageously dirty songs which strangely did not offend but cause enormous merriment and jollity.

For further excitement we visit the Café de la Rotonde, opposite the Dome on the Carrefour Vavin, at the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Raspail, it was founded by Victor Libion in 1910. We loiter outside and snatch a table and take some beers. It is seemingly more animated and amusing that the Dome. There is also an even quainter collection of peculiar looking people comprising a more cosmopolitan and motley assembly of students, poets and artists, Bolsheviks and anarchists. Everybody seems livelier probably because the topics of conversation are not so serious.

La Rotunde, Montparnasse, Paris

After a while we decide to move inside. Throughout, the walls of the café are covered in modern art serving as an admirable background for the modern crowd. Raphael tells me “If an impoverished painter couldn’t pay their bill, the proprietor Libion would often accept a drawing, holding it until the artist could pay, which often did not happen. That is why the walls are littered with a collection of artworks, that would make many drool with envy.”

We moved upstairs to a large room, which until 9pm is a modest restaurant, but is now a dance hall with a jazz band. The atmosphere is electric and I am in my element dancing with Cecile, Nina and Regine.

I tell Raphael “this is swell here.”

Raphael offers this observation “on the surface it certainly looks attractive but to us regular habitués of the quarter there is an air of artificiality here which sometimes makes things a little too obvious for our taste!”

As I take Cecile home in a cab she asks “did you enjoy your outing?”

“Oh yes very much” I reply and then add with a smile “but I have to confess it is far too bohemian for me.”

“I think not she replies” with a glint in her eye.

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Bois de Boulogne: Auteuil, Cafe d’Armenonville, L’Hermitage, Pavillon Dauphine,  Pre-Catalan, Clover Club, Jardin de Ma Soeur, Chateau de Madrid, Abbaye de Theleme

Thursday 21st June

The entire family has decamped to Aunt Mimi’s house in Paris and we are living in organised chaos with Mama as usual in charge of exactly what we are doing each day. Even Sir Oliver, Mimi’s new husband has acquiesced to her will for a quiet life.

Paris in June is blissful and offers racing to the turf enthusiast nearly every day. Usually there is wonderful weather and relaxing outdoor fun. We have missed the Prix de Diane at Chantilly on the 7th June and the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on 14th June but we are here today for a family outing at Auteuil for the Grand Steeple. Auteuil is set deep within the Bois de Bologne on the western fringe of the city and it does feel as if we are in the country.

We loiter in the pesage or paddock, the exclusive enclosure with the viewing stands. And alternate watching the races with strolls behind the stands over the luxurious green lawns with decorative flower beds, popping into a cafe where necessary.  Here the fashion parade unfolds with beautiful women showing off all the latest couture.

“There is an air of restful refinement about the races in France, in contrast to the noisy race-tracks of England and the United States.” Says Aunt Mimi as we take an early lunch.

“Yes, there is also an absence of the “horsy” type so prevalent at Sandown Park or Epsom Downs.”
Adds Sir Oliver with a smile.

During the summer the races have become an institution with practically every American in Paris attending. Papa remind us that racing in France owes much of its prosperity to American sportsman.

“American methods of training and riding are scrupulously followed by the French. Most of the well known jockeys are Americans and most of the prominent owners are American too.” Papa says authoritatively as he waves at a very smart gentleman wandering around with a huge entourage. “Ah, he is a case in point. That is A.K. Macomber of California who married into Standard Oil and purchased the entire Vanderbilt stud including the latter’s breeding establishment at St Louis de Poissy.”

After a delightful day we drift through the Bois de Bologne along the Alle de Longchamps towards Paris. As Mama constantly remarks. “The Parisians have succeeded in turning the beautiful Bois into a  paradise of artisitic artificiality.”

Map of the Bois de Boulogne

Map of the Bois de Boulogne

Through tangles of undergrowth run driveways and equestrian paths and scattered within its leafy interior are not just several race tracks but a dozen or so restaurants and cafes that become the centre of the Parisian social scene and nightlife in the summer.This time – 5pm – is the fashionable hour for the Bois and every inch of the avenue is taken up with luxurious automobiles and elegant strollers. We stop at the small, confined but terribly Parisian Cafe d’Armenonville on the Paris side of the Bois near the Porte Maillot which is the smartest place for tea and fashionable for luncheon too. It is owned by the Mouriers, who also own the Café de Paris, Fouquet’s bar and the Pre-Catalan.Parisians love the ‘intimite’ of d’Armenonville and marvel at the agility of the waiters as they slip between the tables so discreetly.

As Mama says “Put a Parisian in a large room with plenty of space and he perversely refuses to come again… they love crowds!”

The place is awash with the rich and famous and well-to-do folk like us. There is the princess who has eleven dogs of various hues to match each gown she wears. On our left is an actress who wears a coat made from the skin of her pet baboon and there is also a famous demi-mondaine who is brunette in the daytime and blonde at night.

Millie observes “One will notice that women are wearing long diamond necklaces many with a marvelous emerald pendant as dignified protest against the too great influx of artificial jewelry that one sees far too often these days.”

When I observe how warm it is, especially dressed in my evening suit, Millie tells us an amusing story “Last year, when it was really hot there was a bit of a scandal when two men arrived with some ladies in evening dresses but they were wearing pyjamas!”

Each of the Bois venues has its special gala night where tout Paris is to be seen. It is important to be at each place on each successive night. Famous dancers or the latest cabaret favourite usually supply the entertainment. We rush back to Paris, change and freshen up for a quick cocktail before darting back into the Bois to the l’Hermitage on the far fringe of the Bois on the banks of the Seine near the Longchamps race-course and the Porte de Suresnes.

L'Ermitage Nightspot, Bois de Boulogne, Paris

L’Ermitage has a paradoxical rusticity and gives a pleasant sense of escape from the city with the Siene lapping lazily by along the edges of the terraces and the green stretches of Longchamps not far way. The gardens here are immense and create the illusion of being completely in the country.  It is quite lovely sitting outside having dinner and drinks in the gardens where the warm nights make it a delight to linger under the trees in the soft glow of admirably planned lighting.

The entertainment tonight is superb with the fabulous singing and antics of the Trix Sisters and the dancing of Charlie Stuart, Barry Bernard and Joan Pickering, who are all doubling up at the Club Daunou later in the evening.

On our return to Paris we stop off very late at the salubrious Pavillon Dauphine for champagne and a little more dancing. Situated at the bottom of Avenue de L’Imperatrice, and just inside the confines of the Bois within its own luxurious gardens, this stately building was erected on the site of a Chinese Pavilion in 1913 by the city of Paris. One gets an amazing view from here of the Avenue as it rises toward the Arc de Triomphe. Its initial purpose was to serve as a place to receive official delegations arriving by train at the Porte Dauphine station before being taken to State buidlings such as the Elysee. It is now a famous summer rendezvous for drinks, dinner and this season they have a superb cabaret headed by the wonderfully eccentric American dancer Nina Payne, straight from her performance at the Folies Bergere and the Dorel Sisters. However, I am told that for some it is too close to Paris!

Friday 22nd June

Tonight we are off again to another gala in the Bois this time at the Pre-Catalan. Cecile is joining us. As usual all the ladies are gowned beautifully with Cecile and Millie in creations by Paul Caret and Mama and Mimi in Lucile concoctions. The Pre-Catalan used to be a dairy farm and now has a charm all of its own with its gardens and flowers and lights in the trees. It is situated in the middle of the Bois in its own grounds of several acres not far from Autueil and the Lac Inferieur.

The restaurant is a handsome domed hall with an excellent dance floor and we alternate between the restaurant and the gardens until the cabaret begins with Moss and Fontana. They have been dancing in Paris for a while and once again perform their amazing repertoire with astounding dexterity.

We leave in two cars and on the way back to Paris, Millie and Henri and Cecile and I drop into the  Clover Club in the Rue Caumartin to see the dancing of Dina Harris and Ted Trevor before making our way to the Jardin de Ma Soeur or the Embassy not far at no.17 Rue Caumartin. Here there is a so-called  ‘Plantation night’ with Maurice and Leonara Hughes and Harry Pilcer. We have a delightful end to our evening and once again Leonara insists on dancing with me. She is quite lovely.

Saturday 23rd June

Tonight is a gala night at the favourite society place of the Chateau de Madrid in Neuilly on the edge of the Bois and we are all there. It is a scene is of fairylike enchantment. We take dinner and dance in a large garden under the trees with fairy lights and the beautiful architectural background of the chateau. It is like a private garden party, with the soft strains of a perfect orchestra, the glistening of hundreds of immaculate shirt fronts and the flashing of jewels in the subdued lighting.

Chateau Madrid, Paris

We observe many well known personalities including Grand Duke Boris who keeps a suite overlooking the garden, the ex-film star Pearl White and various other well known actresses plus a sprinkling of  society. However,  despite the presence of many celebrities we deduce that the audience is composed one third Ritz, one third tourist and one third business.

“Have you noticed” says Aunt Mimi “that the Bois is becoming a little passé due to the vulgarisation of the automobile making it far too aceessible. It used to be just all Ritz types here.” We all laugh.

“Well I have noticed something else” says Cecile diplomatically “that the lights in the trees and on the tables are cleverly arranged so that the light and colour over the faces of the dancers changes with every hour?”

Sunday 24th June

We are back at Auteuil for further racing and spend the evening in and around Montmartre ending up at the Blue Room of the Abbaye de Theleme and once again marvel at the dancing of Fay Harcourt and Harry Cahill and others in a new show called The Midnight Blue Cabaret. I am sure that Fay’s exquisite costumes are created by Dolly Tree.

Friday 29th June

Today is the Grand Prix at Longchamps and the Bois is swamped. It is a glorious day followed by another visit to the Hermitage de Longchamps to watch the assorted pleasures of Carl Hyson and his company that includes Peggy and Betty Harris.

Our conversation returns to observations of the Bois and its night-time inhabitants and we discuss the rather rigid set gala nights that each venue in the Bois stages in rotation.

Millie pontificates “The crowd of spenders like us are referred to as ‘Tout Paris” but we might as well be called ‘Tout Etranger’ because Americans and English form the majority, followed by South Americans and Spanish. The French lag behind the Italians, Swiss and Germans in number. Although there is a lot of spendthrifts there are not enough and so the restaurants in the Bois take it in turn to entertain them with these set gala nights.”

Aunt Mimi offers “Well, last year at the Pre-Catalan on a Friday night, the telephone boy told the head waiter that there as a call for a Monsieur Gaston Francois. ‘Who?” he asked. And then realised – ‘Ah you mean the Frenchman!”

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Islington Film Studios (The White Shadow). Ciro’s, Piccadilly Hotel, Embassy, Ciro’s and Grafton Galleries

Wednesday 13th June

I almost forget my new role as a film extra in Graham Cutts’ second film with Betty Compson. If it was not for Mama I would not have got up at 6am. I missed appearing in the filming of Woman to Woman and so Dolly Tree persuaded me to register with the production office for this new film and I have several appearances to fulfil. I have strict instructions from her for what I must wear. It is strange arriving at the rather dreary and grubby surroundings of the New North Road and Poole Street in Islington and see the huge old power station which is now a film studio. I meet Monty in the foyer and we are given full instructions of what we have to do by an energetic little man called Alfred Hitchcock and a charming lady called Alma Reville.

We are to be extras in the important Montmartre cabaret scenes. Dolly Tree and her team tweak our outfits before we enter the studio itself to be transported into an illusion of Paris.

“Boy oh boy this is magnificent.” I exclaim to Monty as we walk onto the set of a life-sized reproduction of a Montmartre boulevard. We stroll with others through a big arched door into a long gallery, down stairs onto the main floor of a cabaret with drinks bars in big alcoves beneath the gallery. We take our places at one of the tables with two spectacularly attired young ladies amidst dozens of other characters.

“Blimey this is like the real thing.” Says Monty. “The bohemian atmosphere of Montmartre is all pervasive. Look at the mix of people they have assembled. We are typical British Tommies, but there are French habitues, artists, nondescript dilettantes, sailors, waiters, flower sellers and of course delightful specimens of Parisian femininity.”

We do several rehearsals under the instruction of Graham Cutts before the sequence is filmed by Claude MacDonnel the cameraman. I am in awe watching Betty Compson, Clive Brook, Henry Victor and other leading players doing their stuff against the backdrop of us riff-raff. It is a fascinating experience. Monty has already interviewed Miss Compson, and during a break, she recognises him and blows him a kiss.

Later, we all meet for drinks at the Criterion. Dolly tells us the ins and outs of the film. “It was to be called The Awakening but now it looks like it will be the White Shadow. There is a little grumbling because various people think the entire process is being rushed. Let’s hope it will be as good as Woman to Woman which was a joy.”

We go to Ciro’s for dinner and once again are entertained by Billy Revel and Floriane giving their wonderful exhibition of burlesque dancing.

Thursday 14th June

Despite the fact it is summer time, the London dance clubs are not suffering from any depression in trade despite the time of year. I have been visiting the Embassy, Ciro’s, the Grafton Galleries and Murray’s, rather frequently and they are all crowded.

Tonight I am out again with Eva at the Piccadilly Hotel for the Soiree des Fleurs. The décor in the ballroom is amazing and the entire room is awash with flowers of all kinds. I see many of my old friends including Aubrey who buzzes around Eva like a bee around a honey pot. Eva is entranced by the Piccadilly but I am eager to visit the Embassy where I have agreed to meet Dolly and Monty and others to watch a special cabaret appearance.

When we get there the place is crowded to overflowing. Luckily Dolly has secured seats around a very good table with Eddie Dolly and Velma Deane. The legendary Irene Castle is dancing with a young man called Billy Reardon for a short season to Ambrose’s band.

Irene Castle & Billy Reardon

“It is said that she is receiving £350 per week for the two weeks. It was clearly a shrewd move on the part of Luigi as the place is packed.” Says Monty. “She is rather snooty though and refused to let me interview her because I once made a remark about her that she did not like.”

“What was that?” Asked Eva, who normally just smiles.

“I said that she was a better screen actress than a dancer.”

Nevertheless, Irene has a tremendous reputation as a dancer by reason of her brilliant partnership for so many years with her late husband Vernon Castle. Sadly I never saw them dance but have heard all about them. I have to say her performance was disappointing. And yet she received standing ovations.

“Though she showed much vitality and personality, it must be confessed that judged purely as a dancer she left much to be desired.” Said Monty.

“I agree.” I said. “There was a great sameness about all her movements.”

Eddie is more specific “Her abrupt kicks with a straight leg, though amusing in a foxtrot or one step are quite out of place in an exhibition valse.”

Eva says. “Her frock is divine. I am told it is from Edward Molyneaux just like mine!”

We had not noticed that near to our table was a large throng fronted by Fred and Adele Astaire. Irene and Billy emerge from behind the scenes and are greeting warmly by them. When asked how she was finding her trip to London I overhear her say loudly “the English are doing nothing new in the way of dancing, but they are doing their dancing decently.”

Friday 15th June

I am spending the evening with Priscilla Fry and we have decided to decamp to the Grafton Galleries. She is wearing a baccante dress in gold tissue and sunset tinted georgette decorated with fine leather leaves. Another very alluring gown from Elspeth Phelps-Paquin.

I love the expansive nature of the Grafton which creates a comfortable sense of space with its big hall. I have never spent the entire evening here but have always arrived from somewhere else.

“Our evening will be a joyous, long drawn out affair in three acts: dinner, dancing and a great cabaret floor show.” Priscilla insists.

We arrive at 8pm to the wonderful sound of Paul Whiteman’s wonderful band on the orange and blue striped dias. Dinner is at 8.30pm and we dance in between courses. When Paul Whiteman’s band retires at about 10pm to rush off and play in the show Brighter London at the Hippodrome, an English band takes their place. Monty and Dolly join us and a little later the cabaret begins. A bevy of gorgeous girls arrive from behind the curtain and sing and dance. More ladies arrive clad in Trouville bathing costumes and sing along with a beautiful creature called Fayette Perry. Then Vanda Hoff (Paul Whiteman’s wife) with the Tomson Twins perform in a crazy trio of mirth.

“The Tomson Twins – Randolf and Jack are interesting.” Says Monty. “I met them in New York in 1921 when they were appearing in Two Little Girls in Blue. They are British but of Portuguese descent and were pilots in the Royal Air Force during the war. They are a very original act and their dancing antics very clever.”

Paul Whiteman returns from the Hippodrome at 12.15 and now the place is completely full as people have drifted in from dinner parties and the theatres and other clubs and we carry on dancing and having fun until 2am.

Tuesday 19th June

I am going to Paris tomorrow but have to take Eva once again to the Piccadilly Hotel. It is the start of Ascot week and the Piccadilly are conducting a Fete des Oiseaux all week. The ballroom has been transformed into an aviary with fake birds and feathers everywhere. Eva is in her element and loves it.

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Piccadilly Hotel, Pavilion Theatre (Dovie Street to Dixie), Cavour, Shaftesbury Theatre (Stop Flirting), The Ivy and The Embassy.

Wednesday 5th June

I am back in London and feeling a little miserable without Lorenzo, so I am delighted when Eva telephones.

“Fynes darling. How are you?“ She squeals. “I am fine.” She continues. “But I am stuck. I wanted to go out tonight to the Piccadilly Hotel. But Aubrey is busy and so is Biffy. Are you free?”

Eva tells me that the Piccadilly Hotel has hit upon the novel idea of altering from time to time the design and decoration of the ballroom and of celebrating, in a special and appropriate manner, certain days and events of outstanding social importance.

“This week they have the marvellous theme of ‘A week under the waves’.”
“What is it to celebrate?”
I ask.
“Oh heaven knows.” She says. “Who cares anyway. It will just be fun.”

I pick Eva up and as usual she is in good form and looking quite delightful in her long, slim, gold-thread-over–pink Worth Couture gown with fur border and an enormous spray of pink orchids on her shoulder. Although she is lacking in intellect she certainly knows how to dress and look good. When we arrive the ballroom has been transformed to look like an underwater cave with fairy like seaweed festoons and coral rocks everywhere. Sheets of radiant misty blue and green tinsel festoon the roof and fake exotic fish and sea plants sway in motion all over the place. Irridescent goldfish swim in bowels on the tables and there is soft shaded lighting that enhances the underwater effect. Clearly someone has been observing the efforts of Jean Gabriel Domergue’s Fetes at Cannes.

We have a truly wonderful evening and dance like water nymphs through the crowd, who clearly love the entire ambiance.

“I will get Aubrey to bring me here tomorrow night. And Biffy on Friday.” She says as we leave. She has no tact either.

Thursday 6th June

After a long day what is there to do? I am out with Priscilla Fry. We haven’t seen each other for ages so we have a lot of catching up to do. Unlike Eva she is interested in hearing what I have been doing and all my stories and is quite tactful. She is wearing a gown by Elspeth Phelps-Paquin (her current favourite couturier), which is a Victorian inspired design of teal green peau-de-soie with panniers and a deep berthe of oxidised gold and black lace. She looks divine.

We have drinks at the Criterion and are joined by Monty and Dolly and then walk across to the Pavilion Theatre to see Dover Street to Dixie. It is a black and white show – the first half with white performers, the second half with coloured. Of course we are all well aware of the controversy that surrounded the Plantation sequence in The Rainbow that we saw in April. But the opposite has happened with this show. It is divided into two halves, the first all white with the talent of comedian Stanley Lupino and the wonderful Odette Myrtil and the second, all black featuring the debut of the incomparable Florence Mills in an adaptation of Lew Leslie’s original Plantation cabaret show from New York.

Florence Mills

The first half of the show definitely lacked something despite the best efforts of Odette Myrtil singing ‘Blue Danube Blues’ and playing a violin-playing dancing master in ‘The Dancing Lesson’, Lloyd Garret singing ‘My Wayside Rose’ and Myrtil (as a mermaid) and Stanley Lupino (as an angler) in the comedy interlude of ‘Fishy Story’.

However, the second half was nothing short of phenomenal. The music of Will Vodery’s Plantation Orchestra was fabulous and a great background for the frenetic black chorus dancers as the Dixie Vamps who galvanised the audience with their delirious high spirits. This was followed by the upbeat singing of the statuesque blues singer Edith Wilson in Yankee Doodle Blues. The frail little figure of Florence Mills electrified everyone in her opening number ‘The Sleepy Hills of Tennessee’ followed by other more lively numbers including ‘Homesick’ and ‘You Got to See Sweety.’ There was also the very droll singing of the Plantation trio called the Three Dixie Dudes and the acrobatic dancing of the Two Jailbirds (Thompson and Covan). It is no surprise that at the end they received ovation after ovation.

We decide to go to the Cavour restaurant in Leicester Square for dinner. For many years this was the rendezvous of sportsmen, men of letters and men of the world but now it has a much broader, more glamorous clientele. It has been controlled for the last 16 years by Mrs Julia Dale. It still successfully stands the march of time and retains that delightful old world atmosphere. The food is as good as ever it was and the cellar is one of the best in London.

We sample a delightful menu that includes hors d’oeuvre, Oxtail Claire or Crème d’Asperges, File de sole Americaine or Merlan Frit sauce Tartare, Ballotine d’Agneau Jardinaire or Polet Roti with Cresson, Salade and pommes nouvelle and finally Biegnet Souffle Vaniile or Glaca Panache.

We discuss the show and I say. “The first half was quite colourless – excuse the pun. Lupino just lacked his usual sparkle. Perhaps it was because he has been ill. But Myrtil was her usual amazing self. I know the Times called the first half dreary and they are almost right but I am sure Cochran will knock this bit into shape. As for Miss Mills what can I say? She has an exquisite voice and what a performer!”

“I have never heard anyone sing like that.” Says Philippa “Her frst song about Tennessee was completely haunting.”

“I think a lot of those tunes will be destined for great popularity.” I add.

Friday 7th June

Another trip to the theatre is needed because the American dancers Fred and Adele Astaire have just made their debut in the musical farce Stop Flirting at the Shaftesbury Theatre. They have received rave notices and have become the talk of the town. I am totally intrigued because their dancing is supposed to be terrific. So Priscilla and I have another outing with Monty and Dolly.

The plot is threadbare and rather ridiculous and it is pointless to describe since the entire show is designed to act simply as a showcase for the dancing of the Astaire’s which is magnificent. The Astaire’s are clearly the most original dancers to appear on the West End stage. Suffice to say there is much exuberant high spirits that punctuate the many incidents and fabulous tunes including “Oh Gee, Oh Gosh’ and ‘The Whichness of the Whatness.”

“It is impossible to compare the Astaire’s to any other couple. They represent pure mischievous joy.” I say.

Fred & Adele Astaire


“Their unprecedented twin-like collaboration is the personification of humour in motion.”
Says Priscilla.

“It is not what they do but the cheeky, joyous, inimitable way in which they do it.” Says Monty.

We are all in agreement. We will definitely see the show again.

We go the Ivy Restaurant for dinner. Situated just opposite the Ambassadors Theatre in Seven Dials it is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the West End and distinguished for its good food, clientele and general atmosphere. Since opening just after the war it has been frequented mainly by famous writers, actors and actresses. It is in a V shaped building and there is nothing sumptuous about it within or without since M. Abel, the proprietor, is a modest man. He once was described as ‘originally a bohemian and decorator’ and I am he told features in the pages of a recent novel.

The room is irregular rather like an ivy leaf, there are no flowers on the table, the chairs are of plain leather, the walls are a mix of modern panelling and cream distemper. It is a place absolutely without ostentation where one always expects to see someone.

“I like it here because it has the snugness and impersonality of a club.” Monty says.

We sit around a table in a cosy corner of the restaurant and Dolly nods to two charming actresses who were dining nearby.

We take an amazing selection from the menu: Grapefruit au Maraschino, Supremes de Soles Bonne Femme, Tournedos Grille Sauce Bearnaise, Poussin en Cocotte Plonaise soufflé en surprise Helene (a delightful combo of vanilla ice whipped cream and hot chocolate sauce), Bombe Diable Rose and Friandises. We also have two modest bottles of Sauterne.

We end the evening at the Embassy and attempt to dance off all the calories.

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Ambassadeurs (Paris Sans Viole), Weber’s, Ouisiti Roof Garden, Acacias, Ciro’s, Club Daunou, American Midnight Frolics and Abbeye Theleme.

Friday 31st May

We are in Paris again with Monty and Dolly. Lorenzo is on his way back home to Italy and we have all been given special preview seats to see the Dolly Sisters debut. We settle in at Claridge’s since Aunt Mimi has a houseful of guests and meet Cécile and Gabrielle at Fouquet’s for cocktails. They both look ravishing as always. Cecile had taken Gabrielle to Paul Caret’s and they were wearing their purchases: Cecile in a sleeveless dancing gown of lemon georgette, belted with double silver ribbon strewn with rococo roses and Gabrielle in a low cut, backless taffeta gown with shoulder straps of flowers in soft glazed red and silver. They immediately start talking frocks to Dolly.

We wander down the Champs-Elysees to the Ambassadeurs Theatre, tucked just off to one side. Here in this small yet perfectly appointed theatre Oscar Dufrenne, presents the Dolly Sisters in a show entitled Paris Sans Viole or Brighter Paris, a title clearly used as a reflection of the success Brighter London was having at the London Hippodrome.

Programme for Paris Sans Voiles at the Amabassadeurs, Paris, 1923

The show, also includes the home grown talents of Edmonde Guy and Ernest Van Duren, and our friend Eddie Dolly, fresh from his London triumphs for C.B. Cochran, arranged all the dances for a troupe of 8 ‘London Boys’. The Dollies first appeared as American roses in ‘Let us make a pretty bouquet’ and then danced a rollicking mazurka in a scene depicting the Grand Prix in 1883 contrasted with the Grand Prix of 1923. Oddly they became negresses in Plantation Days, where, surrounded by growers and planting machines, they danced and sang plantation songs. By far their most important scene was Destiny, a sketch in four acts, where the Dollies dressed by Jeanne Lanvin, performed a melodramatic depiction of the life of an actress, tragically terminated by an acrobatic dance in a seedy nightclub. This apparently had been a big success in New York. The sisters alternately held the role of an artist who was reduced to the lowest ebb of misfortune by the spirit of evil in the form of a tempting man about town played by Max Berger. We are led to believe that the same woman is playing the character throughout and marvel at the quick change in costume until the couple appear together in the last act where the dying dancer sees the image of her happy girlhood being a reproduction of the first scene revealed at the back of the stage.

The Dolly Sisters in their Mazurka costumes

Monty was effusive. “Wow the Dolly Sisters were enchanting and they will have a formidable triumph on their hands I am sure.”

We take a short walk and go around the corner for dinner at Weber’s, 21 Rue Royale, regarded as a very salubrious place. It was started many years ago by an Alsatian who made a speciality of Alsatian beer and food and originally the clientele was mainly English but now it is more mixed

This is regarded as the traditional place for posh Parisians to sup after the theatre and this vast café-restaurant is crowded with actors, politicians, writers and mere theatregoers like us. We particularly like their boullabaisse which is highly recommended.

Monty then tells us about his recent interview with Edmonde Guy. “She is simply the most ravishing creature and during the run of Oh Quel Nu at the Concert Mayol earlier in the year she posed for the great Dutch painter Van Dongen. At one of his soirees she was introduced to a certain Giovanni Dal Terroni from Palermo, Sciliy. A man of means, he convinced her that he was producing a movie of Mascagni’s masterpeice called Cavalleria Rusticana which was to be staged near Palermo and he wanted her to play the part of Santuzza and pay her $1,000 per week and all expenses for her and her maid. It was a great opportunity. The only way to get out of her obligations at the Concert Mayol was to feign illness and so she vanished.”

By now we are all sitting riveted to his words.

“Arriving at Terroni’s country villa in Sciliy, he informed her that preparations for the picture were not complete and there would be a delay. She was suspicious. The next morning her maid saw Terroni beating a young servant girl and Edmonde came to the conclusion she had been lured into a trap. She decided to play Terroni at his own game in order to escape. She had lunch with him dressed seductively and he admitted his plan to abduct her because of his infatuation. Later Edmonde lured into her bedroom and managed to lock him in, while the mad did the same with the caretaker. They found the girl that Terroni had been beating who claimed he was a monster and she took them to the French consul at Palermo. Edmonde returned to Paris but the shock forced her to bed for 2 weeks. Then a package arrived from Palermo containing a diamond sunburst and a card that said “you are very clever mademoiselle.’”

After coffee we visit the Ouistiti Roof Garden at the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees and delight in the dancing of the wonderfully dainty Florence Walton and Leo Leitrim backed by the famous Red Devils band. I know she is familiar and Monty reminds us that she is American and the ex-wife of Maurice Mouvet.

“She only married Leo last December, and although no-one can compare to Maurice, he is a good partner for her. She always presents class and style in both her dressing and her dancing. And in my opinion she is far superior to Irene Castle in both personality and skill.”

We soon dart off to the other side of Paris to visit the Acacias, which is in essence a glorified hall in the rear of the Hotel Acacias at 7 Rue des Acacias near the Bois de Bologne. There is also a delightful garden very useful for the hot weather in the summer.

Programme for the Acacias Nightclub, Paris

Cecile tells us the history. “It was originally opened in the summer of 1921 by the legendary singer and dancer Maurice Chevalier and the comedian Saint-Grenier. Last year it was taken over by that rather obnoxious society social fixer Elsa Maxwell and the charming English couturier Captain Edward Molyneux. They re-modelled it as a Southern plantation and had Jenny Dolly and Clifton Webb as the opening act.”

“This year it has been taken over again by that wonderful American dancer Harry Pilcer.”
Says Gabrielle. “And, he has had the good fortune to get that incredible dancing team of Moss and Fontana for a 6 week season.”

“We saw them in London at Ciro’s in March.” Dolly says. “And they are magnificent.”

Monty adds. “M. Andre de Fouquieres known everywhere as the Beau Brummel of Paris society and dictator of its amusements, paid them a handsome compliment saying ‘with them it is the art of dancing seen in all its beauty’.”

Saturday 1st June

Tonight is Lorenzo’s last night and we all decide to go out with a bang and visit lots of places. First stop is Ciro’s for a spot of dinner, followed by the Club Daunou where we watch the exquisite dancing of Joan Pickering and Charlie Stewart. Dolly is entranced as are the other girls with Joan’s frock by Ninette of London in ecru lace on powder blue faille over flesh pink georgette.

“Its absence of adornment is its greatest charm which lends its wearer that coveted jeaune fille appearance.” Dolly tells us. “It is a masterpiece.”

She is so generous in her praise of others.

We move onto to the new American Midnight Frolics at 30 Rue de Grammont which is a Souer-dansant de luxe and like so many places of the same ilk, hailed as the most chic location in Paris. It is of course no better and no worse. The cabaret produced by the English-Australian Dion Titheradge has two sittings from 12.30-1am and 1.30-2am. We catch the former show. Joyce Barbour and Max Rivers (the latter we saw in Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre in April) dance nimbly and Tex McLeod is amazing replicating his act that we also saw at the Midnight Follies. There is also a West End chorus and other acts that include the singing of Winifred Roma.

“It was bright and snappy and not bad but not good.”
I say afterward. “The girls were gorgeous though…”

“The place was opened in mid-May and I thought here we go again, another attempt to imitate Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolics. I also remember reading an odd comment somewhere that said ‘it had a real American atmosphere of intimicy so necessary to the proper expression of the artists talents’. What? The only American in the cast is Tex and the chorus is from the West End.”

Our last call is the Blue room on the first floor of L’Abbaye de Theleme. The Trix Sisters have now left and there is a new show with favourites Fay Harcourt and Harry Cahill, who dance amazingly, the American Goode Sisters, Rene Gagan, Barry Barnard and once again, the glorious singing of Dora Stroeva.

We all retire to my suite at Claridge’s and order breakfast. Lorenzo has had a great send-off before his departure for Rome.

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The Cri Bar, The Palace Theatre (Music Box Revue), Kettners, Murrays and The Embassy

Thursday 17th May 1923

I have returned to London via Paris. The building work on the villa is superb. All is well. And, a week with Lorenzo on our own, was quite simply bliss. He has come to London with me and my parents have allocated him his own room in our London house in appreciation for keeping me company on the Riviera. I am in great demand and after only a day of rest we are out and about.

First Julian (Lucile) asks us for an early drink at the basement bar in the Criterion that I never knew existed. It is clearly a place you go if you are in the know. The bar is simply known as the Cri and you have to get to it via the less obvious service entrance in Jermyn Street which is better than the grand staircase from Piccadilly if you are wearing a tiara and furs.

“Hello darlings.” He squeals as we enter the rather busy room. Tonight he is the correct gender as Julian since he is coming out with us and will be meeting the crowd. He orders drinks and says “Now, before we go any further, this is the meeting place in London before and after the theatre.” The room is full of men in smart dinner suits like us and rather elegant ladies who look a little out of place since they are all really men and certainly not as beau as their French counterparts. Suddenly there is applause as a rather large and older matron descends into the room covered in gold chains and diamond jewels. “Oh that’s Rosie Baroness Bothways.” Julian says with a giggle .“He is a Welshman He lets everyone think he is a millionaire but he is in fact a cook for a rich old boy in Mayfair.”

After the frivolity downstairs we go upstairs to the more salubrious bar and meet Monty and Dolly who I have not seen for sometime. Amidst some rather lovely cocktails, Dolly tells me about developments with Eddie.“He’s gone off with an actress called Velma Deane.” She says with a sigh. She is in remarkably good spirits given the circumstances. Perhaps Millie’s words of caution about Eddie’s reputation lessened the blow.

“We are still friends and they are meeting us in the foyer of the Palace along with his sister Jenny and the free tickets.” She says with a shrug. Monty has his eyebrows raised.

Julian interjects aiming his comments more at myself and Lorenzo. “By the way, you have both missed an amazing performer called Barbette. A kind of glamorous, trapeze strip act with a twist that was launched first at the Finsbury Park Empire and then transferred to the Alhambra. I am told that Barbette will be appearing in Paris soon so look out for her.”

Julian then adds. “Oh and Monty I would definately hunt her down for an interview. Barbette is going to be a big star darling…..”

We meet the others at the Palace Theatre. Velma is charming but quiet which is understandable. Jenny is in good spirits and says we will all love Dover Street to Dixie that she and Eddie are choreographing for the Pavilion Theatre. The Music Box Revue is another C.B. Cochran show and it is a mix of exquisite stage scenes, beautiful dresses, music and dancing and first rate fooling around. In the beginning, the alleged plot is stolen by a troupe of dinky burglers and then one gloriously splendid scene after another unfolds.

The classically statuesque and glittering ballet ‘Fountains of Youth’ showcases the daring dancing of the Americans Chester Hale and Albertina Viback, the black and white brocaded ‘Legend of the Fan’ scene is sumptuous and the shimmering and phosphorescent effects of the ‘Legend of the Pearls’ is breathtaking. Another set of dancers, the husband and wife team of Joseph Santley and Ivy Sawyer – are the exponents of modern ballroom dancing and in the ‘Dinner Menu’ scene they are the diners who sample the delights of the chorus dressed as the oysters, chicken, cauliflower and French pastry followed by the bill. My new friend Peggy Marsh is the French pastry. There is also comedy and eccentric dancing from Fred Duprez and Renie Riano, the three Brox Sisters doing a Duncan sisters act and more dancing from Dickson and Culver.

Jenny and Eddie are effusive. “It is great to see so much excellent dancing.”

Monty adds. “Well you know I hate to say it but it is of that skilful whirling kind that the us Americans prove so exhilarating at.”

We nip into the wonderfully sublime Kettners Restaurant which is a short hop and a skip from the Palace theatre. With a distinct atmosphere it is one of the main restaurants to bring in customers to this part of town. Established in 1869 it grew until it included a block of three houses and King Edward, then the Prince of Wales was a regular. After a period of decline the restaurant has recently been bought by Giordano who was for sometime Chef de Restaurant at the Savoy and before that the Berkeley. He has made it smart again with a major face-lift although it does retain its old world charm which I think is rather endearing.

You enter into a small entrance foyer and on the left is a pleasant little lounge and opening out of it a restaurant they still call the Shaftesbury. The décor here is a modern Florentine style. On the other side of the hall are three restaurant rooms leading from one to the other. The décor here is modern Parisian and very attractive with bright pink silk lamp shades distinctive floral arrangements on every table. In the third one there is a small central dancing area and it is just the right size for our modern dancing taste. There is an unobtrusive orchestra in one corner and often a performance from one entertainer.

The food is exceptional with a speciaility for Italian dishes. We eat our way through numerous plats du jours including Gnocchi a la Romaine, followed by Cannelloni Charlotte Kettner’s that contains a national macaroni made from a lighter paste than usual and in larger form, vaguely like an omlette and also something like a giant ravioli.

After dinner we decide to pop into Murray’s and take a look at Harry Day’s new ‘Rockets’ cabaret with Hilda Newsome, Levoi and Moran and the Rocket dancers. It does not really capture our attention and before long we move to the more salubrious ambiance of the Embassy Club. It was established at the same time as Murray’s at the end of 1913 as the 400 club. Its success is partly down to the presiding genius of Luigi, a small alert personality, who took over the club just after the war and made it extremely fashionable as the Embassy. It is not open to the general public and is regarded as the best dance club in London with a first class restaurant and bar.

The Embassy Club

The Embassy Club

Situated among the shops in the Piccadilly end of Bond Street the entrance is through a wide marble passage. At the end is two unpretentious looking glass doors. Within there is a tiny lobby guarded by some magnificent footmen and a counter to admit guests. On the inner side of the lounge are two more glass doors with attached curtains forming the entrance to the restaurant-dancing room. The room is a vision of grace, wealth, beauty and boredom. It is decorated in violet, jade green and white, luxuriously furnished with sofas and tables along the walls which held glass mirrors. Each table has a couple of green electric candlesticks with pink shades and amber lights hang from the ceiling. In the centre of the room was the dance floor and at one end of the room, on a balcony was the delightful Ambrose and his orchestra dispensing fabulous sounds.

“This is a most exclusive and sophisticated place, and anyone who really belongs to society belongs to the Embassy. It is of course a favourite of our current Prince of Wales.” Says Jenny to Lorenzo who has never been here before. “Look! Half the celebrities in Europe are here….” She waves at a dozen different people and tells us who they all are.

“The atmosphere is that of a rather intriguing aloofness.” Says Julian with a smirk.

“Well, the Embassy is the place where you must be seen fairly frequently if you have any aspiration to be in the mode.” I add. “Members come here to see, be seen and to dance. One third of the room is on the lazily intimate, wink and grin terms with another third while the remaining third wishes it was.”

“Which third are you?” Says Monty with a giggle.

“Definitely the lazily intimate variety!”

“Hey Fynes.” Says a familiar voice followed by a peck on the cheek.
“Peggy darling.” I squawk. “We saw you earlier and what a delicious pastry you make.” I say. We all laugh. And Lorenzo kicks me under the table.

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