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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Caret’

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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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 Negresco, the Rhul, Casino

Friday 19th January

After an eventful time in Monte Carlo we move on down ‘The Diamond Coast’ to spend a few days in Nice at the large and ornate Negresco Hotel. Built for the Romanian hotelier Henri Negrescu and opened in 1913, this beautiful neo-Louis XVI style building was designed by the Dutch architect Edouard-Jean Niermans who was famous for creating the Moulin Rouge in Paris. It has a striking frontage flanked by two lateral rotundas and a dusky pink tiled roof that can be seen from afar. After the war, the hotel was taken over by George Marquet, a magnet in the European hotel trade and director of the Claridge Hotel in Paris.

The Negresco Hotel, Nice

The Negresco Hotel, Nice

Aunt Mimi arrived ahead of us and is being escorted by a London socialite and artist called Sir Oliver Beacham. They meet us in the foyer of the hotel and the first thing we do is take a stroll outside along the fashionable and very busy Promenade des Anglais on which the Negresco is perched. This vast expansive avenue is lined with luxurious hotels and palm surrounded villas on one side and the sea on the other. The Mediterranean coastline extends alluringly from the distant lighthouse of Antibes in the West to the Chateau set in green in the foreground to the east

The Promenade de Anglais with the Ruhl Hotel in the distance on the left

The Promenade de Anglais with the Ruhl Hotel in the distance on the left

It is a breathtaking landscape of the sea, the city climbing up the hill to Cimiez and the white-capped mountains beyond. However, as much as the city charms, it also repels and there are some rather noxious odours that permeate the air!

We meet Cécile and her family for lunch at their equally fashionable hotel called the Ruhl further along the Promenade before it becomes the Quai du Midi and just before the Jardin Public. Cécile is looking radiant and stunningly beautiful in a white and green crepe du chine frock with a silver belt studded with silk flowers from Calvayrac.

The Ruhl Hotel, Nice

The Ruhl Hotel, Nice

“It is so good to see you Fynes” says Cécile kissing me on both cheeks “I am so sorry we did not get to see each other when you visited Paris last. I wanted to take you to a new dancing that opened called Le Perroquet. You will love it. Perhaps we can have a night out on your return journey?”

“Oh yes that would be wonderful.”

After lunch we take coffee and have a fascinating discussion about Nice started by Cécile’s observations.

“ I do so like Nice. It is so beautiful, so intoxicating. The sky is always blue and the sea glistens in the bright sky.”

“It is also one perpetual round of balls, horse-races, regattas, concerts, parties and fetes,” adds Millie.

Henri says “ Did you know that Nice boasts more tourists than anywhere else in France? You can hear every language spoken here!”

Mama suggests “Nice stands the test of cosmopolitanism. It is a melting pot of cultures with the French, English, Italians, Russians and now Americans.”

Mimi reminds us “Do remember that little over 60 years ago Nice was Italian. It is not really French.”

Cecile’s mother adds “You are right Mimi. A large portion of the Nicoises are actually Italian by blood, culture and instincts.”

Papa remarks “Well the Russians patronised Nice for decades but since the revolution they have evaporated. It is now flooded with Americans instead. And, I am told that it is the only place in Europe where Americans can honestly say that they feel at home because it was made for and by everybody and caters to everybody.”

After lunch we visit the ballroom to partake of their daily tea dances from 4.30-6.30pm and watch the exhibition dancing of Tina and Giherady. We do indeed have some fun.

After a splendid dinner at the Negresco, Cécile and I with Millie and Henri visit the Casino Municipal on the Place Massena. It has a well managed and daintily decorated salon de thé on the first floor, which is laid out like a winter garden with tropical plants. They are having a Spanish fete and all of smart Nice is in attendance to watch a series of wonderful dancing attractions including Filiberto and Anita.

Exterior of the Casino, Nice

Exterior of the Casino, Nice

Interior of the Casino, Nice

Interior of the Casino, Nice

Cécile is very impressed with my dancing.

“Fynes you are incredible. I have to tell you that half of the room are watching us. You could become a professional dancer you know.”

“Oh don’t be silly Cécile I cannot be that good.”

Saturday 20th January

We spend the late morning exploring the old Italian city set back from the Quai de Midi and then a relaxing hour or so listening to the band in the gardens. After an aperitif on the terrace of the Savoy Hotel we take a light lunch at the Ruhl and then spend the afternoon at the Casino de la Jetée-Promenade. This curious pier was the brain child of the Marquis d’Espouy de Saint-Paul who wanted Nice to have a replica of London’s Crystal Palace. Instead it was built with a more oriental or Moorish style and opened in 1891. At the summit of the 35 metres high dome is a gold-plated mermaid holding a three-pronged fork amidst turrets and minarets standing out against the skyline. The interior contains a vast concert and restaurant hall, a theatre, ball and gambling rooms and open-air terraces for refreshments.

Tonight is the special gala held in the large hall of the Negresco, which is a splendid affair with the added bonus of Prince George and party amongst the 400 covers. Cécile is wearing another stunning creation from Calyayrac, this time a ball dress of ibis georgette with flounced panels and a bodice of ribbon trellis work in ibis and gold and flounced 1830 like sleeves. Mama and Mimi wear their usual Lucile finery and Millie is in a more avant-garde creation from Paul Caret. Mimi is looking rather enamoured with Sir Oliver.
Cécile is not feeling too well and believes she is developing a cold. We eat a sumptuous dinner, but before we can actually dance ourselves, I am thrilled when June Day and Jack Gavin provide an entertainment. They are given a rapturous reception and present a marvellous array of dances.

A legion of men of various ages are fluttering over June after her performance and an equal number of women besiege the slightly haughty Jack. June comes over to our table and I stand up to kiss her as Millie introduces her to everyone.

“This is my friend June.” Millie says “We had the great pleasure of her company in Paris before Christmas when she was the attraction at Claridge’s.”

“Hey Fynes, good to see you. I am here for the season” She explains “So I hope we will see each other more during your stay. Are you here long?”

“We are only here for a week June and then moving onto Cannes.” I say.

“ I want to see how your dancing has progressed since Paris Fynes. Would you dance with me?”

I look at Cécile who nods approvingly.

“Of course June. I would be delighted.”

When we return to our table June says “Your dancing is really exceptional Fynes. I think you are ready to take on a new career!”

I blush. “I have told him the same June” says Cécile.

Sunday 21st January

I get a message from the Ruhl Hotel to say that unfortunately Cécile is unwell and will stay in her room. I am moping around after breakfast and bump into June in the foyer of the hotel.

“Hey Fynes. What are you up to?”

“Ah nothing much June. Cécile is ill.”

“Well that is interesting as Jack is not feeling too well either. Would you like to accompany me today?”

“Oh June that would be my pleasure.”

We walk out onto the Promenade des Anglais and head toward the Ruhl Hotel.

“Do you know that it is a shame that the beach is so stony. We could dip our feet in the water if there was some sand.” June says with a giggle “Instead I think it is almost time for an apertif.”

The bar of the Ruhl hotel is the meeting place for cocktails just like the Ritz bar in Paris and we end up having a few cocktails, followed by a long lunch before we return to the Negresco.

“There is nowhere to dance now” says June. “Why don’t you come to my room? I have a gramophone and we can dance and I can show you a thing or two.”

Thursday 25th January

We have had an amazing week of fun and frolics. Cecile’s illness was over quickly and we resumed our daily activities. Cecile is charmin g and in no way hampers my social life to the extent that one night I went out with June to visit the New York Bar favoured by Americans and the two fashionable cabaret clubs Le Perroquet and Maxime’s.

Although Cécile is adorable and June is fun and I am not short of attention, I am missing Lorenzo, who is still in Monte Carlo.

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The Normandy Hotel, Ciro’s and the Casino

Wednesday 9th August 1922

I am over the moon. Mother and Father decided I could accompany them on their annual two-week soujourn in Deauville. We arrive from London via Southampton and Le Havre. My friend Monty says it is ‘the city of spectacular sin’ and he should know since he is a journalist and American to boot. He says I am going to have a whale of a time and that he will pop over and see me to ensure that I do. But, I have been told that I must behave, act sensibly and entertain. In return I have my own room adjacent to my parents’ suite at the rather stuffy Normandy hotel and they are organizing a special 21st birthday party for me at the Ambassadeurs restaurant.

The Normandy Hotel, Deauville

“It does have a rather quaint charm” I tell father with a sly smile as he shows me around the hotel and introduces me to everyone that matters, including the manager, a M. Wesssinger, who had been a Blue Devil during the war.

“Deauville has been the resort of the wealthy since the Second Empire, dear boy” Papa said as we wandered around “but this place was built by our dear friend Eugene Cornuche in 1913. He’s the one who put Maxim’s in Paris on the map and he always had a thing for your mother you know.’

Gosh, the things you learn about your parents when you least suspect.

The Normandy Hotel, Deauville

Monty warned me this place is infectious and that you swiftly get caught up in a delightful social whirl of nothingness. “Deauville is a true butterfly, a phenomenon of whirling colour, social high lights and unparalleled gaiety for a brief breathless period out of the heart of the summertime.” That was a piece Monty wrote for the Chicago Tribune last year. He is quite right. It is wild.

I was taken to the Potiniére café at the foot of the rue Désiré le Hoc by Mama. Apparently it is THE place to be at this hour (11am). We are sitting on the distinctive little green chairs in a big group on the terrace in the cool shade of a tiny grove of trees just behind the casino having tea and biscuits. Everyone is gossiping. My head is abuzz with all the endless chat. My, oh my, women do go on. And, why is it that they all talk at once.

Le Potiniere Cafe, Deauville

“…. Oh it is such a shame that the dapper Maurice has been taken ill with a bad lung attack… he is immensely becoming” said the Duchess of Sutherland at our table.

“Do remember dear…” said Mrs Reggie Fellowes “… he will be cited as correspondent by Thomas Furness when he divorces that dreadful Elizabeth…”

“I have never cared for her at all” added Lady Rocksavage “she gave Tommy a black eye you know.”

“Well, she is American, what do you expect!” replied Mrs FitzGibbon.

“Oh really” scolded the Comtess de Maza “Maurice is technically American and you adore him so not all Americans are hideous!”

They all giggle and then Mama says “Don’t believe a word of all this nonsense ladies… I know Maurice. He simply isn’t THAT kind of man.” She leans over and whispers to me “Maurice is the amazingly handsome and clever dancer who has been performing in the casino with his new partner Leonara Hughes – everyone is devastated. He is a darling! Take no notice…”

Hmmm, I think I would like to become “immensely becoming” especially since all the ladies swoon at the thought of him. Although I can dance of course, I am going to take lessons and become dapper too.

I am amazed at the cosmopolitan crowd – every rank and nationality from royalty to mannequins. My parents know everyone and everyone knows my parents. For example, father arrives deep in conversation with Lord Beaverbook, the newspaper magnate and Baron James Henri Rothschild. I just hope he isn’t trying to get me a job.

“Oh there is Lady Diana Duff Cooper…” squeals mother as she waves furiously and beckons her to our table with her companion the French actress Polinaire.

Suddenly, there are gasps as a delicate young man turned the corner and walked past the cafe leading a very fine and perfectly well trained Persian cat on a string with a diamante collar. Puss walked along in a stately manner oblivious to the scowls and barks of the assorted nearby doggies. Polinaire, declared with an indignant wiff “Tomorrow I am going to bring a nice fresh, pink pig… I simply cannot be upstaged. Oink, oink.”

We changed for luncheon to be taken on the edge of the open terrace of the Normandy Hotel. As Papa took me to our rather large table I could see that Mama had clearly invited three debs to join us along with their equally snooty mothers. I smell a rat. I am being set up. As I bristled Papa held my arm and whispered “Fynes, this is in your best interest you know. One of them could be your future bride. Please be charming.”

“Hello ladies.” I say; as I know where my bread is buttered and let’s face it I knew they would try and marry me off. We have a delightfully boring lunch in the shade and breeze of the trees with dappled sunlight my only consolation. I quickly decide that of the three Evangaline Lampton is the best bet. At least she smiles and is pretty.

That afternoon papa takes me to the horse racing and then we move on to watch the lithe and agile tennis star Suzanne Lenglen delighting huge crowds and proving once again that she is totally invincible. Papa gives me the full background of each eligible girl and her family. I listen but I am getting weary it is time for a nap.

Cing et Sept. I love it. We are all spick and span and dressed up. Cocktails are served in our suite. The three snooty debs and their mothers are there again. Yawn. Mama is wearing a beautiful Lucile conncoction. She hates the idea that she likes Lucile because Lucile is English and not French. Hmm, perhaps I haven’t told you yet that Mama is French? Our other guests are mostly French too, including my aunt Mimi (Mama’s sister).

“I hear you have been doing the rounds today dear boy” she says affectionately “You will swiftly get used to t,he routine of all these gay-hued care free birds and their migratory flight patterns from one pleasure pasturage to another.”

Then she whispers in my ear “Eva est la meilleure” and gives me a big grin and pats me on the head!

At the door of Ciro’s Papa introduces me to the rather affable manager Julian, who sweeps us toward our table. To my surprise there is my elder sister, Millicent and her husband the Marquis de Cazes.

“Darling” she squeals “Surprise….”

She runs up and kisses me on both cheeks and hugs and kisses Mama and Papa as Henri, her husband, shakes our hands warmly in turn.

“Oh my Millie you look gorgeous and that is simply a divine frock” I say.

According to Mimi when Millie was courting she was regarded by her numerous suitors to have the narrowest hips, the reddest lips, the shortest hair and the most life of any girl in London. She is looking resplendent in a silver gown embroidered with pink and white flowers and with a startling décolletage. She is decorated with a string of pearls, some delicate matching diamond and silver earings and bracelets. Henri has clearly been taken on an expensive spending spree. She acquired him at a hunt ball and it was love at first sight, especially when she discovered he was a Marquis and heir to small fortune.

“Hmm, it is the newest thing from Paul Caret and look” she turned “… it is completely backless.”

“Divine my dear…” says Mama “but far too risqué for me I am sure” as she sat at our table, glaring at Lady Ludlow who is pouting disapprovingly and looks like she has just seen a naked harem dancer.

Millie is a darling but also a bit of a minx. I often think that she must be like Mama at that age. Her husband is a bore but very handsome and very well connected. He is also very French of course. You see it is surely no surprise that Mama encourages Anglo-French relations. I am surprised there are no French beauties for me to examine. I suspect that she may have that up her elegant Lucile sleeve.

“I’ve decided to become a dapper dancer” I say to Millie in one of our more private conversations.

“But you are a wiz already Fynes.” she says kissing me on the cheek leaving a big red mark.

“I need to brush up. I have heard all about Maurice and I have decided that I need his allure.” I laugh.

“Well…” Millie says “You have given me the perfect idea for THE most superb birthday present… Leave it with me” she giggles.

We leave Ciro’s early and miss the dancing. We approach the vast Casino, a huge white stone building with a façade reminiscent of Versailles fronted by a wide formal park, green lawns and flower-patterned terraces. It was all lit up and glittering like a magnificent jewellery box and you could hear the music of Billy Arnold’s American band.

The Casino at Deauville

We headed straight toward the music in the crowded ballroom adjacent to the Ambassadeurs restaurant, the only other smart place to be beside Ciro’s. Places had been reserved for us on the edge of the dance floor and we were surrounded by a plethora of familiar faces that we had to greet. We drank champagne and enjoy the music, conversation and the lively dancing. The fashions are astounding.

Mama sniffs and says to Millie “Our cousins from over the herring pond are trying to prove that the American woman is the smartest in the world; but there is no comparison with Parisian chic and English distinction.”

Then, to my great surprise, Eva runs up and grabs me. “Come and dance” she instructed. She led me to the densely packed dance floor.

I have to say she is looking quite ravishing. Her pale skin, bright blue eyes and short wavy blond hair was framed by an amazing dress of pale green chiffon covered in a flutter of bright pink and blue butterflies. It had a gentle simplicity of line that belied the frivolity of the butterflies and made it appear quite appropriate. And, more to the point, I rather like her brashness. I think she may well do.

Millie talks to a rather demure yet beautiful blue-eyed blonde lady who is immaculately dressed and has the most radiant smile I have ever seen. They keep looking at me. Their conversation is short and the blonde is whisked off to dance. Boy oh boy is she a dancer. Who on earth could she be I wonder? Eva has no idea and is a little annoyed that I am looking at her looking at me. But the blonde is causing a sensation.

I sit down next to Millie. “That was Leonara Hughes, Maurice’s dance partner” she says with a grin knowing that I was miffed. “… and more to the point she is going to give you dancing lessons at 2pm for the next few days as your birthday present. How’s that!”

My sister is well and truly adorable and as I kiss her on both cheeks, the orchestra stops playing, trumpets blare, the dance floor empties and a hush falls over the crowd. A spotlight appears on an extremely smart gentleman who says “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the Casino! Our night of frivolity begins with the dancing of the extremely elegant Fay Harcourt with her dashing partner Harry Cahill. They have very graciously stepped in at the last minute due the indisposition of poor Maurice.”

I guess this is the cabaret. The elegant looking programme says Miss Harcourt is British and Mr Cahill, American. They enter with a flourish causing gasps of delight from the audience as she is wearing a most extraordinary gown. A faintly flesh pink bodice had a bouffant skirt of massed mauve and purple flowers over a filmy fullness of tulle frills, shading from mauve to pink accentuated with silver sparkling diamanté and silver accessories.

Next up is the dancing of Mitty and Tillio. I remembered seeing them in the production of the Golden Moth at the Adelphi late last year. However, this time, I was unprepared for Mitty’s brief, nay almost non-existent outfit, which caused a ripple of excitement throughout the room. She certainly wore more on her hair than on all of the rest of her combined. And, what infinitesimal cobweb she wore, was perforated, cut out and ventilated almost out of existence.

Mitty and Tillio

These remarkable acrobats are described as the premier dancers of France and I am really not surprised. The man appears to do just what he likes with her and tosses her around without a care in the world. But it is not so much what they do but the remarkably neat and clean way in which it is done.

Harcourt and Cahill give another two performances with two more stunning dress creations, designed I am told by Miss Dolly Tree. A name that is familiar to me since Monty has recently made her acquaintance in London, although we have not met. She is supposed to be quite a gal!

Needless to say the rest of the evening was spent in a haze of music and dancing. I am pleased that beside Eva, I know I caught the eye of several other rather interesting gals. I crawl into bed at 2am my mind buzzing with excitement.

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