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Saturday 4th August

Millie has completely re-decorated and furnished Lorenzo’s apartment. She has spent week’s co-ordinating everything with help from Liberty and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s atelier in Paris. The result is stunning. Well, when you have unlimited funds supplied by a rich Italian what do you expect?

She has also organised a spiffiing welcome party from 6.30 -8.30 pm. Rather early I know but we do not want to start off on the wrong footing with the neighbours by having loud and noisy parties late at night. We have Champagne and canapés. The latter of which Lorenzo has co-ordinated himself which are delicious.

Millie has taken it upon herself to become the hostess with the mostess, in the most delightful way possible and greets everyone who arrives from her husband Henri and Henri’s sister Yvette, to Mama, Papa, Aunt Mimi and Sir Oliver. She introduces Lorenzo to dozens of her society friends and friends of our parents, but finally gives up when a flood of familiar faces descend including Monty, Dolly Tree, Eddie Dolly, Velma Deane, Julian (Sir Oliver’s son), Eva with Peregrine, Aubrey, Priscilla, Dora, Josephine Earle and Peggy Marsh and a host of all their guests. There are even scores of Italians – friends and acquaintances of Lorenzo’s family – that arrive and add to the joviality. We have a wonderful evening.

Much later when most people have left we take a late dinner at Bellomos nearby on Jermyn Street. Mr Bellomos is an artist in food and the restaurant is run on the most up-to-date lines (as is the hotel above). The menu was delightful with Hors d’Oeuvre Varies or Crème Jackson, Supreme de Merlan Italienne or Oeufs Brouillles au Jambon, Poulet Bouilli au Riz Sauce Supreme or Entrecote Minute or Hamord a la Newburg or Poulet Saute Chasseur with all the trimmings and either a Rhubard Tart or Beignet Souffle St Joseph for dessert.

In the following days we get ready to decamp to Deauville.

Wednesday 8th August

The promenade at Deauville

The world and his wife is at Deauville. It is tremendously busy. We take our usual rooms at the Normandy Hotel and Lorenzo and I share. Tonight, after dinner, we are in the Casino but something appears different. Mama is the first to observe ‘Oh dear it is far too crowded’ as we struggle to find seats in the gilded ballroom. ‘Not only that but it is full of rather vulgar rich Americans’ says Aunt Mimi with disdain, as we are all squeezed into a space that is really not to our liking. But we are positioned adjacent to some of Mama’s friends who come over to greet us and end up gossiping.

‘Oh it has been frightful this year. There have been the most rancorous disputes between the various French, English and American circles.’ Says Mrs Fitzgibbon. ‘Really, some people are losing the art of etiquette and politeness.’

‘Deauville’s reputation seems to be enhanced when it is contemplated from a distance. That is certainly the case with Americans. So many of them cross the Atlantic simply because they think that they must see Deauville’ says Lady Rocksavage.

‘The trouble is’ says Comte de Maza ‘Deauville is losing its exclusivity. There are more and more provincial tourists coming here trying to appear fashionable.’

‘….and then’ says Mrs Fitzgibbon ‘there is a new fashion to have a suntan. Some women are becoming brown you know!”

‘Heavens above’ Says Mrs Reggie Fellowes ‘Whatever next?’

Millie is uncomfortable, blushes and covers herself with her shawl saying ‘hmm it is a bit chilly in here tonight isn’t it?’ as the other ladies continue to gossip.

‘Come and dance with me’ I say and we head off to the dance floor to join Lorenzo who is already dancing with the daughter of the Comte de Maza. ‘That’s a nice tan’ I whisper to Millie.

Despite the congestion the evening is pleasurable and the cabaret with the dancing of old favourites Robert Sielle and Annette Mills is quite delightful.

La Potinaire Cafe, Deauville

We swiftly settle into the gentle rhythm of life – breakfast, the beach, lunch at the Potiniére café, horse racing, beach walks, cocktails, dinner at Ciro’s or the Casino, followed by dancing and sometimes a little flutter.

Thursday 9th August

The tennis star Suzanne Lenglen with her mother and a party are the talk of the day on the beach. Lenglen is becoming bronzed like so many others. I am intrigued by this sunbathing fad and following a discrete tip from Millie head off for a walk following another chap who she tells me is a journalist writing about the subject.

The mystery of how beautiful creatures manage to get sunburnt all over as lavish décolleté gowns at night reveal, was solved when we stumbled upon a secluded spot about half a mile from the usual bathing place. We discovered a dozen charmers tanning themselves in full glory. Since we stumbled upon them by accident there were screams of surprise and a great scurry to button up shoulder straps on the bathing sits and don bath robes as we gawp in disbelief.

One of the ‘girls’ recognises me ‘honestly Fynes fancy sneaking up on a girl like that.’ Peggy Marsh scolds me.

‘Ah Peggy my dear’ I say with a smile ‘I didn’t recognize you…’

That night in the Casino, we nip into the gaming rooms and watch George Carpentier, the handsome French boxer, lose a large sum at chemin de fer. Despite his losses he dances very well in turn with Peggy Marsh and ex-Ziegfeld beauty Muriel Miles. Lorenzo and I catch both of them afterward.

Sunday 12th August

The Terrace at the Casino, Deauville

It is my birthday and I have a more sedate celebration than last year. A simple family dinner at Ciro’s, followed by an evening of even more dancing at the casino. Peggy tells me she is to make her debut shortly in the cabaret with a certain Marshall Hall and they are practising routines. She says that he is one of the most versatile of American dancers and creator of the role of Prince Guidon in Le Coq D’Or at the Metropolitan Opera six years ago.

Monday 20th August

We are out in force for the new cabaret entertainment in the Casino that features the exotic acrobatic dancing of the American Nina Payne and the new team of Peggy Marsh and Marshall Hall. They are all sensational.

Frank J. Gould, his new wife and Edith Kelly Gould his former wife were all present at the same baccarat table in the gaming rooms creating a bit of a sensation. They did not look at each other, and Edith Gould enjoyed winning a small fortune back from the new Mrs Gould.

Papa says ‘One has ceased to be impressed by wins or losses of a mere few hundred thousand Francs. When Sir Alfred Butt was counting out a win of over a million Francs, the other day it was considered a pleasant little haul, but nothing impressive.’

As for the dresses and jewelry – the displays in the Casino ballroom are becoming more intense every day like the frenzy of gambling. One woman walked past our table and put all the chandeliers to shame by the brilliance of her earrings – four great stones gleamed from each ear and reached to her shoulders. Many people gasped. Millie was amazed but said ‘if you think they are the biggest diamonds in existence, observe the three even larger ones hanging from her necklace!’

‘Look at that woman with the belt of real diamonds on her brocaded dress’ says Mama ‘Soon the usual glitterering bracelets and ropes of pearls will appear quite insignificant.’

Aunt Mimi adds ‘Well I still do not like those barebacked dresses. And I know you wear them Millie, but allowing one to contemplate the vertebrae of the wearer is for me most disturbing.’

Sunday 26th August

A view of the Normandy Hotel, Deauville with the Casino on the right

We wake up early since today is the Grand Prix racing but the weather is vile and has become dreary and wet. We amble down for breakfast but enthusiasm to go out in the rain is slight and many people have not even got up.

‘Goodness’ says Henri (Millie’s husband) as we eat our bacon and eggs ‘it is ghastly and like being in Scotland for heaven’s sake.’

As the rain subsides a little, we persevere and along with thousands of others, trail to the race course carrying umbrellas for a rather dull Grand Semaine with a French horse, Sao Pauloa, a comparative outsider, winning.

In late afternoon we are sat taking cocktails in a slightly wet La Potinaire Café. There has been huge excitement regarding the arrival of Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova for a flying visit and everyone is talking about them.

‘It is their belated honeymoon you know…’ says Millie ‘they have already seen the sights in London and Paris.’

‘I am told they arrived in three cars’ says Mama ‘The first for the luggage, the second for secretaries and the last for the Valentino’s and guests. They are staying in a villa rather than a hotel that is wise for privacy: they would be swamped in a hotel.’

That night the Valentino’s arrive in the Casino, take drinks, dinner, visit the baccarat rooms and watch the cabaret but are rather aloof and do not mingle much. Needless to say they cause a huge flutter. But gossip spreads like wild fire as usual. Mama comes back from conversations with her nearby groups of friends and tells us ‘they are in ill humour and not happy with the weather or their accommodation. They are also disappointed with the Casino, upset with the food and rather disdainful of all of us. Mrs Valentino apparently has her nose stuck in the air and was heard to ask ‘where is the fashionable crowd?’ I can see no smart women and no smart men’ What a cheek.’

‘Mind you’ retorts Millie ‘you were only saying the other day that Deauville has lost its attractiveness and had become less exclusive. So she might just have a point.’

Friday 30th August

The season is winding down and many people are leaving. We are having fun dancing in the Casino again but were all rather shocked to learn that Harry Pilcer narrowly escaped death in an automobile accident while racing the Dolly Sisters from Paris to Deauville. The Dollies and Pilcer had completed their respective performances in Paris and left at midnight in two cars with a bet of 2000 francs for whoever got to the Casino first. In heavy mist, Harry Pilcer tried to pass the Dollies who were being driven by the Vicomte de Rochefoucauld. His car jumped the road and struck a tree. The Dollies stopped and rescued Pilcer and his chauffeur both of whom were unconscious and bought them to Deauville. With Pilcer being cared for, they made a dash into the ballroom and Lorenzo and I managed to get a dance from each of them despite their ordeal.

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The Ritz Hotel, Ouistiti Roof Garden, New York Bar, L’Ours and Champs Elysees Restaurant

Sunday 1st July

Like any good visitor to Paris who is in the know, the only place to be on a Sunday night at this time of the year is the Ritz. Well, this is the official statement from Papa, hence his insistance that we all go. Instead of Fouquet’s all the family, along with Cecile, meet up in the Ritz bar for cocktails situated on the discreet side of the Ritz Hotel on the Rue Cambon. However, the ladies are not admitted into the main the bar, and have to sip their drinks in an adjoining annex. This of course is not appreciated by our lady-folk who are of the more strident kind. Without doubt, the bar we are in is one of the most select watering holes in the world and Frank Meyer who is in charge is the best-known drink shaker anywhere.

We collect the disgruntled ladies. “It is the last time I do that” says Mama indignantly.

We make our way into the stupendous Grill Room with its restaurant, gallery and dance floor for over 400 covers. The world that counts gathers here and it is regarded as the place for diplomats, foreign princes, newspaper proprietors, great dressmakers and American millionaires. Indeed, tonight there is a reigning King and Queen, the heir to a famous throne, the richest banker in the world, a once famous beauty who has just divorced a steel magnate, the head of the greatest jewellery house in the world, a dowdy old dowager, a French newspaper baron and a string of American woman who have married into French artistocracy including Princess de Polignac.

Papa tells Cecile “this is the habitat of international society. They talk a common language, wear a common livery, and they are as much at home here in Paris as in London or New York. But, they will only gather here together under this roof.” Cecile is looking a little uncomfortable. I do not blame her and squeeze her hand under the table.

It is a rarified atmosphere of polite extremes that I find very tedious. In fact it is rather stuffy. But our dinner is exceptional. Under M. Elles, the manager, the chefs have gained a great reputation and the cuisine features the best French dishes that include Poularde sauté au champagne, Caneton la bigarade (a succulent duck served cold with orange and porto jelly), Poularde Vendome (a stuffed bird with foie gras served with tarragon jelly) and vol-au-vont de sole Marquise.

Between courses we dance but there is no real excitement. I am relieved when we retire for coffee and cognac in the long narrow lounge. Afterward, Cecile and I, along with Millie and Henri, pop into the Ouistiti Roof Garden above the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees. This is our second visit to see the elegant dancing of Florence Walton and her husband Leo Leitrim, who have been dancing here for what seems like a long season. Their popularity is undiminished. Equally, this is a lovely venue and we have a marvellous time in an atmosphere much more to our liking.

Monday 2nd July

In light of poor Cecile’s ordeal at the Ritz, Millie and Henri and I decide to take her out to the Rue Daunou for a lighter, more enjoyable evening. We start by having a delightful informal dinner at Ciro’s (6 Rue Daunou). Like the Ritz this is also a society rendezvous but Millie says “this is the place where anybody who is anybody goes to see what everybody who is anybody is wearing. Far more interesting than the Ritz.”

Between the end of dinner and 11.30 when the supper-dancing establishments open there is only one thing doing in Paris and that is the cabaret underneath the famous the New York bar at 5 Rue Daunou.

Henri, who is a regular, tells us “It was first opened by Mrs Milton Henry wife of a well known jockey in 1911 but she sold out. During the war the bar became a favourite meeting place for war correspondents. In 1920 Mrs Henry returned, re-purchased the bar and installed Les Copeland at the piano as the cabaret.”

“Ah, we saw Les Copeland only the other night at the Jockey Club”
says Cecile.

“He is amazing and I used to come and listen to his singing all the time” continues Henri “anyway, in 1922 Maurice and Leonara Hughes arrived and opened the now defunct Clover Club in the Rue Caumartin. They brought with them two singers from New York’s East side – Tommy Lyman and Roy Barton. Lyman was not happy with his treatment by Maurice and so moved to the New York bar when Les Copeland quit. The boxer Jack Dempsey and Damon Runyon, who knew Lyman were then in town and made the place famous.”

“One particular night last year” says Millie “Irving Berlin was playing at the piano and Jenny Dolly was asked to dance. She persuaded Dempsey to join her and they performed a rather spirited jazz dance that they called Chicago’ on top of the piano.”

“I believe Mrs Henry has now sold the bar to a Scottish gentleman called Harry McElthone, who used to be head bartender at Ciro’s in London. I guess it may well be renamed Harry’s Bar.” Says Henri.

Moving on we visit L’Ours cabaret at 4 Rue Daunou. Small and intimate it is nevertheless luxurious and caters for a very ‘Daunou’ smart crowd. Tonight the cabaret features the dancing of a rather wonderful English couple called Sielle and Mills. I have heard of them but Millie knows a little more.

Robert Sielle & Annette Mills

“Robert Sielle is rather fun and cheeky. He had been in the Royal Flying Corps during the war and had also entertained the troops. After being demobbed he found he could dance, met Annette Mills and they formed an act. One of their first sets was at the Criterion Roof Garden in 1921 but since then they have performed on the continent as well as in London. Their great strength is that they can do the usual dances exceptionally well but they introduce an element of humour by clowning around.”

They are very polished and accomplished and their novelty numbers that included a golliwog dance were wonderfully funny. They introduced little bits of fantasy by wearing extra items of clothing over their evening clothes, which was particular effective. They remind me of Fred and Adele Astaire, but actually I think they are better.

Wednesday 4th July

Monty and Dolly Tree are in town and we meet at Fouquet’s. Dolly is very animated and orders champagne “we need to celebrate. I have become sole designer for Peron Couture. My first collection will be unveiled later in the year. I am so excited.”

She kisses both of us and we congratulate her effusively.

I have got tickets for Harry Pilcer’s Independence day fete at the new Champs-Elysees restaurant which opened a few weeks ago on 63 Avenue des Champs-Elysees. An array of French and American stars will appear as the entertainment with the proceeds going to blinded war veterans. So we continue our celebrations. We have drinks first in the bar in the basement which is the largest in Paris, and the most comfortable, before moving upstairs to our table.

The restaurant is owned and run by an American called Jules Ansaldi. Monty tells us “He was well known in New York and was considered to be one of the originators of the cabaret on Broadway. He first operated Louis Martin’s club then the Sans Souci and launched the careers of the dancers Maurice Mouvet, Joan Sawyer, Florence Walton and the Castles. After the First World War he ran the Grande Bretagne Hotel on the Rue Caumartin and in 1920 changed the restaurant into Maurice’s club.”

Dolly Sisters in Paris Sans Viole (Paris, 1923)

We have an amazing dinner and the cabaret is superb, the highlight of which was the dancing of Harry Pilcer and the gorgeous Dolly Sisters, who are still appearing in Paris Sans Viole at the Ambasadeurs. It is delightful to cause such a stir with onlookers when both of them take turns to dance with me afterward. I am indeed very lucky.

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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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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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Le Train Bleu, Hotel de Paris, The Carlton, the International Sporting Club and the Café de Paris.

Wednesday 27th December

We have Christmas at home but we then escape the dreary winter for a visit to the Riviera. Most of the family go south each year but I have not always been allowed to join the migration for a variety of reasons so I am thrilled to be able to go again this year. Mama executes our transfer with military precision given that the entire extended family relocate. We get the train from London to Dover and then the ferry to Calais.

Mama is very chatty on the train and takes the opportunity to interrogate me about the status of my affairs of the heart.

“So how are you getting on with Eva?”

“She is very pretty and fun and dances well too… but…”

“hmm I think I understand the but bit…. She is decorative but not too bright is she?”

“Even so she has many admirers” I say.

“That is because she is quite a catch Fynes and comes from a very well connected and wealthy family. Just so you know I have other suitable introductions to make when we reach the Riviera”

Mama pauses as I roll my eyes in despair.

“Less of that look young man” she says reprovingly “And, I gather Cecile has proven popular?”

“Yes, Cecile is more appropriate Mama.”

“And, I am told you have been seeing that Dolly Tree woman? What of that?”

“Oh she is a friend Mama and she is close to Monty remember” I say rather too defensively.

“And I know about Jessica Brown too.”

I blush furiously “Mama….”

“I know everything Fynes. do remember. Nothing escapes my attention. You might like to know that Miss Brown has been seen under the wing of Lord Northesk. There are whispers of an engagement.”

My heart sinks. I rather enjoyed my lunches and afternoon rendezvous with Jessica.

At Calais we are terribly excited because we are catching the new Calais-Mediterranee Express called Le Train Bleu that only started service on the 8th December. It is called the Blue train because the cars are painted a beautiful blue but they also have a very attractive decorative gold trim! We leave at 1pm and pick up Mimi, Millie and Henri at the Gare du Nord in Paris and then speed off toward the Riviera.

During cocktails in the dining car, Aunt Mimi tells us all about her romantic encounters in London, and how she has several eligible suitors who will all be visiting her on the Riviera.

“Do excuse me this winter” she says “I am going to be a little busy.”

We have a jolly 5-course dinner in the dining car before retiring to our respective sleeping compartments. In the morning we reach Marseilles and then stop at St Raphael, Juan les Pins, Antibes, Cannes and Nice before arriving in Monaco.

Thursday 28th December

It was blissful to leave a cold and grey London one morning and arrive to the sight of mimosa and orange trees and the blue waters of the Mediterranean glittering in the sun the next.

We transfer to the large and ornate Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo and immediately feel relaxed and suitably refreshed. The smart footmen in plush breeches and silk stockings and buckled shoes make life here effortless.I take a stroll onto the Place du Casino, an amazing area at the back of the casino and framed by the hotel, the Café de Paris and gardens to one side. Even more lush gardens extend beyond the place near the Palais des Beaux Arts.

Monte Carlo - Place du Casino

Monte Carlo - Place du Casino

This is the most perfect place in the world. From the Casino terrace on the sea front the panorama surpasses all expectations. To the southwest is the Bay with its white yachts and the white walls of the castle of Monaco gleaming in the sun. To the Northeast the wide sweep of the wooded slopes and the white shores of the coastline into Italy. Landward are the mountain peaks rising into the blue of a cloudless sky.

“The beauty is so perfect it is almost painful” says Millie who has crept up behind me and admires the view and ambiance with me.

“Aunt Mimi has already darted off” she says “this one is a rich French industrialist.”

Monte Carlo - terrace and promenade to the sea

Monte Carlo - terrace and promenade to the sea

As we take a leisurely and relaxed lunch in the restaurant terrace that extends onto the Place du Casino of the Hotel de Paris I am reminded by Papa of the weekly schedule and established order of gala nights. Monday is spent at the Ambassadeurs Restaurant at the Hotel Metropole which is daintily decorated like its London counterpart. Tuesday is reserved for the famous Casino balls that take place in the beautiful and sumptuous Salle de Musique. Wednesdays and Saturdays are for the Café de Paris which are perhaps the most successful of all. The Park Palace is the select place for Thursday night and Friday is devoted to the Carlton.

Monte Carlo - Casino gardens

Monte Carlo - Casino gardens

We are immediately thrown into a frantic round of socialising and attend the gala night at the Park Palace which has a fine ballroom and perfect flooring frequented by the cream Riviera Society. It is renowned for dance lovers and suits me perfectly. I am however, feeling a little lost without any of my chums. Monty and Dolly for example are only coming down later in January and meeting me in Cannes. Eva is busy. Aubrey is busy. And Cécile will arrive in a few weeks too. However, I do make my mark with my dancing and after several twirls with Millie I am in great demand and not short of attention.

I notice a very smart man about my age smiling. I am sure at me. If I were to be bold I would say he looks like a very suave gigolo since he is tall, dark and extremely well presented. In fact he looks like an even more sophisticated version of Monty!

To my surprise Millie knows him and we are introduced.

“Fynes, this is Lorenzo Del Drago. He is Italian as you might have guessed and his father is a Count. He has been admiring your dancing and the effect you are having on the ladies!”

“Good to meet you Fynes. Your dancing is amazing.” He says in perfect English. Millie leaves us. It turns out he is the same age and in exactly the same position as me: he is here with his family; at a loose end; and being introduced to suitable ladies by his mother. We talk for ages, interspersed with more dancing.

Friday 29th December

I arrive for breakfast and I am reproached by Mama for being late. To my delight Lorenzo and some of his family are also taking breakfast at a nearby table. To my further delight Mama knows the family.

“I have been allowed to rent an automobile” says Lorenzo. “Would you care to come with me and see the sights?”

We set off and within 30 minutes emerge into the lovely, deserted countryside beyond Monaco. We make frequent stops, park the car and explore. First we visit the charming La Turbie with amazing views, then Eze which is a cluster of ancient buildings with equally dramatic views. Dropping down to the coast we take a leisurely lunch at the exclusive Reserve restaurant in the very English Beaulieu. This is one of the warmest resorts and home to the wonderful Belle Epoque Rotunda. We then visit Villefranche and its beautiful natural harbour.

Lorenzo is charming, intelligent and fun and I warm to him immensely.

That night we have a delightful dinner at Ciro’s regarded as the smartest restaurant in Monte Carlo on the Galerie Charles III with Lorenzo and his family. We then visit the Carlton to see a big event for dance lovers. I laugh to myself when Aunt Mimi reminds me that this is regarded as one of the premier temples of ‘Terpsichore’ on the Riviera. I can’t help but thinking what Eva would make of that word.

George Henry and Maud Rosy had attracted such large crowds at the Cafe de Paris during November with their exhibition dancing that they wereappointed ‘directeurs artistiques’ for the Carlton for the coming Season. They presented a superb entertainment that started with a troupe of English dancing girls called the Oswald’s who give dance after dance with a quick change of costumes. They were backed by a lively dance band called “The Five Its”

“They have been called ‘endiablee’” says Mimi.

“What on earth does that mean?” I ask.

“Oh simply wild or full of life” she replies “a little like you my darling.”

The last act is the clever and beautiful Caryatis who appeared ‘sans voile’ just as mother Eve appeared to Adam. She is called ‘La Thäis de la Danse’and is a statue of grace, charm and beauty.

Papa suggests that the men go to the International Sporting Club, so we leave the ladies for a while. We circumnavigate the elevators, lifts and tunnels to arrive in the club which is the most prestigious gambling salon in the Riviera. Lorenzo’s father Count Luis is a member like Papa of course and it takes little to get us membership. There are no windows visible and you have the sensation of being in some subterranean cavern but you are in fact on the first floor of a building not far from the actual Casino. Papa explains that third class gamblers play the public rooms in the Casino. Second class gamblers inhabit the salles privees of the Casino. But first class gamblers reside where we are.

We watch our fathers play each room dedicated to Chemin de Fer, Trente-et-Quarante and Roulette. They win and they lose but finally both come out heads up. I am not sure I understand it all and I am relieved when we return to the Carlton for more dancing. Lorenzo and I are in great demand as dancing partners.

“How do I learn to dance as well as you?” he asks as we smoke outside on the terrace.

“Well I guess I can show you” I say eagerly.

Saturday 30th December.

We spend the day exploring again but this time end up in a wonderful area just beyond Beaulieu called the Cap-Ferrat peninsula. The little fishing village of St Jean is exquisite. We snoop around and get glimpses of some amazing villas such as Beatrice de Rothschild’s Villa Ile-de-France and King Leopold 11 of Belgium’s Villa des Cedres before having lunch in the rather wonderful Grand-Hotel de Cap Ferrat.

“Ah I forgot to mention. We have a villa near Cannes” Lorenzo says with delight “I have a feeling you might come and visit.”

We spend a late afternoon on a deserted beach.

“I don’t understand why these places are not popular” says Lorenzo “look lovely beaches, wide open space. The sea, the sky, the air. It is wonderful.”

Lorenzo has come prepared and we take a nap on rugs in the sunshine.I wake up to find him snuggled up against me and looking in my eyes.

That night we are part of a large party that includes my family and Lorenzo’s family. We go to to the Café de Paris. Here cosmopolitan Riviera society is at its best during the Saturday gala nights and it is the place to be seen.At the bar and terrace we take an aperitif before dinner. Aunt Mimi joins us with one of her suitors who comes from London and is a business associate of Papa.

The cabaret here is exceptional and holds the record attraction of three couples of exhibition dancers. I finally get to see Dina Harris and Ted Trevor. I am not sure that Eva is right to describe them as the best dancing act in London but they are exquisitely smart and select and their dancing perfect and beautifully rhythmical

Once again I see the marvellous Lily Fontaine and Billy Revel whose act is still amazing. Their apache dance is so realistic and clever that it is a poem in itself.Their imitation dances are too funny for words as they take off English French American and Italian dancers to perfection. Billy Revel is so eccentric he draws roars of laughter and Fontaine is so sweet and charming and a perfect foil for his antics. They are given encore after encore.The entertainment ends with the Spanish dancers Maris de Villars and Escudero who have been successful in Paris but simply do not shine as much as their predecessors.

Sunday 31st December

It is New Years Eve. I spend the day with Lorenzo near the hotel – exploring the wonderful gardens and terraces, playing tennis at the exclusive tennis club and clay pigeon shooting. We spend the evening in at a special party at the Café de Paris. We continue dancing into the small hours as the rest of our family drift off to bed. We literally carry each other back to the hotel.

I wake up in his room. “Blimey” I say thinking of Monty’s word of wisdom.

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Frascati’s and the Grafton Galleries (The Midnight Revels)

Wednesday 29th November

Father decides to have a quiet word. “What is this?” he asks indicating a range of newspapers and magazines opened at particular pages on a table in his office.

“Oh that” I say sheepishly “well… I meant to tell you… but you were so busy and I forgot.”  There in black and white were my debut pieces as a restaurant critic. I explain all. Papa is patient and seemingly intrigued.

“Well, they are jolly good Fynes” he says approvingly “but it has got me thinking about your future again. I have decided that you will come into the business a few days a week to learn the ropes.”

My heart sinks. Work. How am I going to cope with my busy social life?

He clearly knows what I am thinking “Don’t worry it will not be too arduous dear boy. You can start at 10am and only do 3 days a week. And you will be away on the Riviera for several weeks early next year so you can build up to full time after that. You will get used to it.”

“Eva” I say on the telephone “I have had a fright. I need a night out. I will pick you up at 7pm and we will go to dinner at Frascati’s and then a cabaret.” Frascati’s is one of Eva’s favourite places. She can never say no.

Frascati’s at 32 Oxford Street is celebrated for its cosmopolitanism, which Eva still does not understand because it contains an ism. The façade comprises a handsome gold portico and gold metalwork frames the large windows. One enters via a yellow and gold revolving door into what Eva calls rather charmingly “fairyland.” There is simply nothing like it in London and the architect built one other in Amsterdam. Apart from the magnificent décor in gold and silver the proprietors of Frascati pride themselves on their flowers and floral decorations are everywhere.

Frascati's Restaurant

Frascati's Restaurant

We enter the spacious vestibule or lounge area with thick red pile carpets in futurist patterns, vividly coloured brocade settees, brocade curtains and large gilt chandeliers. Eva is looking ravishing tonight. She truly is a beauty and is noticed immediately by dozens of admiring eyes. It makes me feel good.

On the right of the lounge is the Grill Room with large open charcoal grills. The central space is the actual restaurant which is a spectacular and immense room called the Winter Garden that rises to a huge glass dome and also has a wide balcony that overlooks the space below.

We take an extensive repast that includes a bottle of Chablis and Les Pérles de Whitstable, La Crème Souveraine, La Ruche Financiere, Les Supremes de Perdreau Sans nom la Salade Lelia, La Parfait de Foie Gras et La Durprise Frascat Mignardises.

The Chef Jules Matagne, who was chef to late King Leopold of Belgians, maintains his touch and I send my compliments.

“So what fright have you had Fynes?” asks Eva sweetly. I tell her the story of my conversation with Papa.

“Yikes” she says “work” and carries on eating.

There is a wonderful orchestra and we dance on a dance floor that is shaped like a banjo following the curve of the balcony and extending into one of the restaurant wings and continue our conversation about nothing in particular.

Later, we take a cab around to the Grafton Galleries at 7 Grafton Street to meet Dolly and Monty to see the launch of a brand new cabaret show. The Grafton club has 5,000 members and it is regarded as the place you come onto from somewhere else. Its chief attraction is the vast ballroom, with a beautifully expansive high ceiling, that is perfect for dancing.

When we arrive Dolly and Monty are part of a big group that includes Dorothy Dickson and Carl Hyson.“Fynes, I want a dance later please” says Dorothy with a big smile.

“This place has been the Valhalla of dancing for more years than one cares to remember” Dolly tells me as I have only just joined the club “and I have been here countless times…you will love it here.”

“It is rather marvellous” I say “and certainly not like those postage sized dance floors that are seemingly popular in the more intimate smaller night clubs or restaurants.”

“I have been here many times before” says Eva “but I really do not think it is cosy.”

The general conversation is about the show. “It has been staged by fellow yanks Ted Trevor and Jack Haskell” says a rather puffed-up Monty “and we have been promised the largest cabaret spectacle yet produced in this country. When war broke out Ted Trevor was too young to join the American forces and so joined the British Royal Flying Corps. He stayed here and to took to his next love dancing. Jack is a fascinating chap. He was originally a dancer and before the war worked in Australia before coming to London. He actually staged the first edition of the Midnight Follies at the Hotel Metropole last year and has been working for George Grossmith.”

“Ah well” interrupts Dolly “You haven’t heard the latest developments Monty. You see they are both rather temperamental and had a tiff and Trevor stormed out. That means we are also denied the blissful dancing of Mr Trevor and his partner Dina Harris.”

“That’s a shame they are one of the best dancing duos in London” says Eva.

“Oh you need to see my dancing with Peggy Harris” says Carl “Peggy is Dina’s sister by the way.”

“Oh what fun” squawks Eva.

“Incidentally…” says Dorothy “Haskell might be fascinating but do remember he also had a tiff with the management over The Cabaret Girl and withdrew his services.”

The cabaret is called The Midnight Revels and it is in two parts with special lighting, quick change costumes and effects and a full chorus of twenty gorgeous girls. The star is the American cabaret artiste Jessica Brown, who had previously appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies and the Century Revue in New York and is a beautiful dancer.We particularly liked the quirky Operatic Tango provided by Lola Krasavina and Gilbert Stacey. However, the sensation of the night was provided by Evon Pinard as ‘The Lady in Bronze’ who danced around the tables just before the finale, wearing a tiny loin cloth and breast plates with her body totally bronzed. There were gasps from the audience and two ladies actually walked out!

Jessica Brown

Jessica Brown

Dorothy interjects “of course this might be new here but Evan Burrows Fontaine gave a similar semi-naked dance at the Palais Royal in New York some time ago and caused a similar furore.”

After the show Haskell comes over to our table with Jessica Brown and talks to us.

“Hello Dorothy. Hello Carl. Hello everybody. I hope you enjoyed the show.”

“Oh yes it was superb Jack” says Dorothy.

“… you were divine” says Dolly to Jessica.

“I will be changing the show every week so do come again!” Jack says.

“So you started our cabaret craze Jack” I ask “with the Midnight Follies?”

“Well sort of…. actually I did stage a show with the wonderful Odette Myrtil at Ciro’s in early 1917 but because of the war the government closed it down!”

I am beginning to think like a journalist and an idea for a story begins. I will write something about the origins of cabaret. I can talk to Mama and Papa about what they did before and after the war.

I have a delightful time dancing with Eva, Dolly and Dorothy. Jessica is a wiz too. She says she loves London but because of rehearsals has not been out much.

“I do like lunch. That is usually my breakfast” she laughs.

“Would you like me to take you for lunch?” I ask holding her tight.

“Oh yes Fynes. That would be terrific.

As we prepare to leave Carl tells us all “Oh don’t forget we launch the new Midnight Follies next week. Please do come along.”

Thursday 30th November

I meet Jessica for lunch at Ciro’s. We eat lightly and talk hugely. She is very entertaining and very sociable. We walk around London in the afternoon and I show her the sights. She is most appreciative.

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Claridge’s, Clover Club, Grandy Teddy, Zelli’s, El Garron, Abbaye de Theleme, Washington Palace.

Friday 20th October

The next morning Mimi’s housekeeper makes a delightful English breakfast. Millie joins Monty and I. I have to tell you that Millie and Henri have their own family house in Paris but sometimes stay here.

“Do you really have to map out our nocturnal fun so precisely Millie?” I enquire nicely.

“Look” she says in a very matter-of-fact way “I am only doing what Mama has asked by keeping an eye on you. As long as you come to the gala at Claridge’s tonight I can report back that we had a good evening. What you do afterward is fine by me.”

“Oh you are an egg Millie” I squawk rather too delightedly. At least we do not have implement plan B which Monty and I hatched last night.

“Oh good’ says Monty “you see I interviewed a rather wonderful Spanish lady yesterday afternoon.” He says enthusiastically “… and I have been asked to see her performance tonight.”

“Oh we must come too. Who is it?” says Millie.

“It is the Spanish singer Raquel Meller. But alas, unusually they are ticketing her performances. I have only been given two tickets. Her shows are so popular she is sold out for the entire week.”

“I really want to experience La Tournée des Grands Ducs if we can too.”

“hmm” Millie replies “I guess you will be coming home as we serve breakfast tomorrow then?”

“Yes, I think we probably will” I admit.

Feeling much more relaxed, Monty and I take a stroll along the river Seine and around Le Jardin Tuilléres, have coffee and croissant and idle away the day talking.

That evening we go to Claridge’s for one of their popular Soirée de Gala dinner-dances. Millie has organised everything to perfection. Costumes arrive at 4pm. We change and then assemble for cocktails as our escorts also assigned by Millie arrive. Since I told Millie that Gabrielle is dull she has matched her up with Monty to his utmost chagrin. But I have the delightful company of Odette, who is an amazing dancer.

There are over 300 people assembled in the sumptuous restaurant and ballroom appropriately decorated to carry out the idea of Une Féte Chez Mephisto. We are all dressed in red and black or white and look very sinister and spooky. Dinner is a treat with equally spooky treats and Sherbo’s band played the latest Broadway music but focus on the foxtrots.

“They have the happy knack of keeping up with the times and are every bit as good as when they played in London at Ciro’s” says Monty.

There was also an Argentine orchestra led by Del Horno who dispensed the tango and a further jazz band. The cabaret is provided by the exquisite exhibition dancing of Jack Gavin and June Day and they were terrific receiving a standing ovation.

Millie tells us “this is Jack Gavin’s fourth season here. He crossed the Atlantic with Joan Sawyer in 1919 and created a great stir with the introduction of the Shimmy. They appeared at a benefit given in Paris by Mme Poincare and were personally congratulated by the first lady of France. They were immediately signed by Claridge’s.”

Monty adds “Last fall he was at the Embassy Club in London and then danced at the Negresco Hotel during the Riviera season. He has quite a following here and London. And I have to say June matches him perfectly”

June brings Jack over and introduces us. He is delightful, if a little full of himself, but then he is the star of the show I guess!

We dance for a while and after an hour or so, as the room begins to thin a little, Monty looks at his watch and announces “Millie I am afraid that Fynes and I will have to leave shortly.” We rush back to change at Mimi’s and get a cab to the Clover Club. We have good seats despite the crush and the atmosphere is electric in anticipation of Miss Meller’s performance.

Monty tells me a little about her. “She came from a poor family in Southern Spain and made her debut as a singer of risqué songs at the Arnao Theatre in the Parabello red-light district of Barcelona. She became an instant hit and appeared all over Spain. She made her Parisian debut in late 1919 at the Olympia and was brought to London by Albert de Courville to appear in Joy Bells at the Hippodrome in the summer of 1920. But although she got rave reviews she did not draw the anticipated large audiences.”

Raquel Meller

Raquel Meller

Suddenly the lights dim and Miss Meller walks onto the empty dance floor wearing a typical Spanish costume. She is incredible with a beautiful pale face, a tempting mouth and smouldering dark eyes. She begins to sing with a frail and delicate voice that is so emotive and haunting. She is mesmerising even though she sings in Spanish, and she is given a standing ovation. Before she sings her next song called El Relicario she has a slight hiccup with the backing orchestra and her temper flares.

“She is rather spoilt I think and I am told she can be quite temperamental as you can see…” whispers Monty with a titter.

We leave and pop over to the Grand Teddy or The So Different at 24 Rue Caumartin. Monty tells me that it is partly owned by the society party fixer Elsa Maxwell.  Here, Jenny Golder from the Folies Bergere is the star turn. Her performance well timed to follow Miss Meller across the street!

“She is English you know although born in Australia. For some reason everyone is confused about her origins” Monty tells me “probably because she swears in Italian, sings in English, gossips in German, drinks in Russian, behaves in French and explains it all in Spanish.”

Jenny Golder

Jenny Golder

She is an all round entertainer with a vibrant personality who can sing and dance, give impersonations and mingles a wonderful sense of humour with sex appeal. She is very clever and very funny.

We get into conversation with a gentleman who tells us where we ought to go on our tour. Monty agrees with everything he says. He is nothing short of polite but since he knows Paris like the back of his hand because of his job I think I trust him more! And, as I thought Monty turns out to be the perfect guide.

Just after midnight we head off up to Montmartre and our first stop is at Zelli’s bar, 16 Rue Fontaine which is a big raffish cavernous room lined with tables and packed to overflowing. “Joe Zelli is a rather happy, good-time Italian” says Monty “and since I am half Italian I should know all about Italians! He got his start running a restaurant in New York and then moved to London. He fought in the Italian artillery during the war and after the armistice catered to US officers at the original American bar at Tours. He made Paris his home and migrated from a nightspot on the Rue Caumartin to here. Some people think he is one of the most popular characters in Montmartre, while others think he is dubious and has a bad reputation.”

“Well it has got a great atmosphere but if you ask me I think this place is a little sleazy.” I say  “let’s face it the room is populated with a great many suspicious looking characters.”

“That is nothing out of the ordinary for places like this Fynes. The secret of Zelli’s success is due to his enormous stable of hostesses and gigolo’s. He has already made a fortune because he knows how Americans like to have their name remembered and his wife is French and she looks after the cash and the books!”

I am not that impressed by the band and the impossible crush prohibits good dancing. I cannot really believe why this place is regarded as one of the gayest places in Montmartre.

“Of course all us Yankees gravitate here”  says Monty “usually there is a good cabaret show in the typical international Parisian style. But not tonight seemingly.”

We move on down the street to the more palatable El Garron at 6 Rue Fontaine. This is a stuffy but smart place and is the lair of the Tango in Paris.

“This is owned and run by one of the Volterra brothers, who have their fingers in so many Parisian music halls and cabarets” says Monty “it is hugely popular with Argentines and South Americans.”

I prefer this place and we have a great time dancing to the excellent band.

At La Gaité Montmartroise or Chez Mariétte, formerly le Grand Vatel in the Rue Pigalle, we watch the dancing of the American Solange with the slogan Joy Jazz and Jollity. But we move on to the definitely rather jolly Pigalle’s on the Place Pigalle, which is a very smart establishment with two orchestras that play excellent music.

An advert for Pigalle's

An advert for Pigalle's

Our last port of call is the extremely popular and very fashionable at 1 Place Pigalle. “The Abbaye is the oldest of all the Montmartre supper places and was formerly a church. Do you know that before the war the waiters were garbed as monks?” Monty tells me.  We climb a stairway and enter a large hall brilliantly lit with lights and lanterns and decorated with flags in vivid spots of colour. The central dance floor was surrounded by horde of little tables all placed terribly close together. It was heaving with people even as we left at 5am.

Saturday 21st October

I forgot to tell you” says Monty at 4pm the next day as we had lunch nursing severe hangovers “the French call all the cabarets where you can dance ‘dancings’. Isn’t that kind of cute?”

“Lovely. In fact Millie told me about a super ‘dancing’ close by. We ought to go tonight.”

We take Millie and Henri and stroll to the Washington Palace at  14 Rue Magellan off the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe for a dinner-dance in a rather large and handsome ballroom that very clearly rivals that of Claridge’s. Fusella’s Orchestra is furnishing the music for the tangos and the Melody Six play the jazz numbers and it was marvellous. I am in great demand and dance for hours.

The entertainment between the dances was essentially Parisian in quality and excellent. But of all the acts the best was the comic dancers Billy Revel and the Parisian Lily Floriane were costumed as Apaches and danced a Valse Chaloupee (or in fact an Apache dance) and then did an amusing imitation of the American Camel Walk. Billy is English with an eccentric clownish style not lacking in character and has just started making a name for himself.

“He possess the art of being extremely funny without being coarse as only English mimics know” says Monty perfectly.

No more dancings tonight. I think we overdid it last night. 

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