We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light

We'll Always Have Paris: Sex and Love in the City of Light

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by John Baxter

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For more than a century, pilgrims from all over the world seeking romance and passion have made their way to the City of Light. The seductive lure of Paris has long been irresistible to lovers, artists, epicureans, and connoisseurs of the good life. Globe-trotting film critic and writer John Baxter heard her siren song and was bewitched. Now he offers readers a

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For more than a century, pilgrims from all over the world seeking romance and passion have made their way to the City of Light. The seductive lure of Paris has long been irresistible to lovers, artists, epicureans, and connoisseurs of the good life. Globe-trotting film critic and writer John Baxter heard her siren song and was bewitched. Now he offers readers a witty, audacious, scandalous behind-the-scenes excursion into the colorful all-night show that is Paris — interweaving his own experience of falling in love, with a delightfully salacious tour of the sultry Parisian corners most guidebooks ignore: from the literary cafés of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and de Beauvoir to the brothels where Dietrich and Duke Ellington held court, where Salvador Dali sated his fantasies, and Edward VII kept a sumptuous champagne bath for his favorite girls.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Perhaps no city has been more lustfully romanticized than Paris, and this cavorting collection of bons mots will do nothing to quell its erotic reputation. Baxter (A Pound of Paper), a cineast and biographer (of Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg and others), is an Australian in love with a French woman. After moving into her Parisian apartment in 1990, he subsequently becomes her baby's father, her husband and eventually, in his own way, French. He loosely arranges his narrative in themed chapters, lobbing little-known facts, references to favorite films, and gossip about the inglorious past of certain addresses into stories about the affairs of the heart of famous Parisians and expats. He peppers tales of his quotidian life with bemused observations of Gallic quirks and offhanded recommendations of tucked-away shops and obscure cafes, resulting in a book that is part guidebook, part memoir. Some chapters are bawdy and some hilarious, such as "Invaders," about uncouth, ingrate houseguests. Anyone who appreciates Paris and its myths, likes the meandering storytelling of good conversation and enjoys the mildly salacious will relish reading this book, curled up with a glass of full-bodied red and a box of chocolates. Photos. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Baxter (A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict), a film historian, biographer, and journalist living as an expatriate in Paris, wends his way between autobiographical insights of life abroad and the gossipy goings-on of a Paris that never was and always will be, blending together fact and fiction to reveal the interesting stories that have crisscrossed the French capital over the years. The entertainment factor reaches its high as the author digs up dirt on Paris's seedier side. He produces long lists of historical whorehouses (les maisons closes), partouze clubs, bondage shows, and gay bars to create a romantic ideal of a city that dared to be different. Whether revealing the surrealist movement's penchant for porn, His Majesty Edward VII's champagne fetishes, or the clandestine chapels dedicated to repentant pimps and prostitutes, Baxter's insights keep the pages turning. The book's only weakness is its lack of continuity. As he spins his yarns, Baxter fails to weave together this clever collection of decadent details with his own personal experiences, so that a book of fantastic parts does not in the end form a satisfying whole. For more extensive travel collections.-Matthew Loving, Texas A&M International Univ. Lib., Laredo Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sparkling dispatches about Parisian culture and history from an Australian biographer and film critic who is a longtime City of Light resident. "All Paris stories are to some extent stories of love," writes Baxter (A Pound of Paper, 2003, etc.), who combines chapters featuring the city's golden modern age (the 1920s and '30s) with material about his permanent move to Paris in 1990 with wife-to-be Marie-Dominique. Twenty-seven brief chapters chart his diverse, erratic interests and the progression of his deepening love affair with the city. In the '60s, "French" meant "sexy" to the youthful author, as he recalls in "Why Paris?" By 1969, he had sailed for Europe, turning his back on the modest Australian success of his film After Proust because, he jokes, "I just couldn't bear listening one more time to someone pronounce 'Proust' as 'Prowst.' " Living in France, he learned how to drink and eat, or at least how to order in style ("The Food of Love"). But sex occupies more of the text than cuisine, beginning with "The Market in Meat," which notes that brothels and the gratification of curious fetishes became an important attraction of Paris during the modern era, then lists some of the more infamous clubs that catered to "special tastes." French voyeurism is the subject of "The Sexual Restaurant," and "Sacred Monsters" provides a loose-rolling overview of the sexual revolution sparked by the 1959 publication of the erotic paperback Emmanuelle. Baxter's acquaintance with an American expatriate writer he calls Hugo ("The Man Who Knew") allowed him access to thrilling archives and personalities that unlocked the city of vice. Meanwhile, Marie-Do got pregnant and gave birth; the couple acquired afamily dwelling in the provinces; and the author could finally call his adoptive country home. Captivated readers will hope that Baxter's "long conversation" with Paris, still going strong after 14 years, never ends.

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We'll Always Have Paris

Sex and Love in the City of Light
By John Baxter

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 John Baxter
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060832886

Chapter One

A Love Story

No amount of fire and freshness can challenge what a man can store up in his ghostly heart.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

For me, the 1920s and 1930s radiate a glamour they can only possess for someone who didn't live through them.

Shorn of grim features such as the Great Depression, the 1919 influenza epidemic, the Russian revolution and the Holocaust, Europe between the two world wars appears to blaze. Or at least it did to someone growing up in an Australian country town in the 1960s. But like the Hawaiian tsunamis that petered out on Bondi Beach as modest swells, the upheavals that revolutionized art and culture on the other side of the world were ripples by the time they reached us.

I could see the ghost of a new philosphy of design in the streamlining of our Bakelite mantel radio, and recognize Surrealism in the two-dimensional landscape and amputated torsos of a poster for brassieres by Hestia (popularly thought to be an acronym for Holds Every Size Tit In Australia), but both looked ill at ease in a country that still based its architecture and its ideas on the English home counties, and where thecutting edge of automobile design was represented by the boxy, underpowered Triumph Mayflower.

Australia, I quickly decided, held nothing for me. Notwithstanding our national song, 'Advance, Australia Fair', the country seemed to be not advancing at all but devolving, the people patiently retracing their steps down the evolutionary line, heading back to the Triassic and a way of life you could depend on. In my jaded view, Australians swam like fish and thought like sheep. I wanted out.

My life entered a phase of dual existence. Sitting in the Koala Milk Bar drinking a milkshake, I could squint my eyes and transport myself in imagination to the Cafe Radio on Place Blanche in Montmartre where, dawdling over a corrosively black cafe express, I watched covertly as a succession of chain-smoking, driven-looking individuals arrived, some with female companions as taut and pale as lilies, to find seats in the huddle that radiated out from a burly man in a green tweed suit, complacently drawing on a pipe -- the sage of Surrealism, Andre Breton, possessor of, it was said in awe, 'the most haunted mind in Europe'.

Another day, while I might be pushing my bicycle along a cracked concrete pavement under the pungent pepper trees of Junee, my world circumscribed by a horizon shimmering in 40-degree heat, in fantasy I stood rapt in the early summer of 1925 under blue skies in a light breeze on Place du Trocadero. Below me cascaded a hillside of terraces, stylized statuary and spouting fountains, a carpet of white that leapt the Seine to join, under the feet of the Eiffel Tower, the pavilions of the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs. Some of its buildings were sharp and white as sugar cubes, others voluptuously curved, but all dazzlingly announced the arrival of a style so new it had no name. Though the Americans would christen it 'streamlining', to the rest of the world it would always be, in honour of the Exposition, art deco.

That I would one day live in Paris, be part of a French family at the very heart of where these great movements were born and flourished; that I would live in the building where the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses was planned, and every day climb the stairs up which Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas once panted, sprinted or lumbered; this seemed a fantasy close to insanity.

But it doesn't do to minimize the power of love.

All Paris stories are to some extent stories of love -- love requited or unrequited, knowing or innocent, spiritual, intellectual, carnal, doomed. The love that brought me to Paris combined a little of them all, as a poorly written movie tries to cram in everything that might draw an audience. My story featured coincidence, the supernatural (or something very like it), Hollywood, and a long-lost love miraculously rekindled, only to be nearly snatched away . . . Cheap romantic nonsense, I would have said had I seen it on screen. But, as Noel Coward remarked in Private Lives, 'Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.'

Living in Los Angeles in 1989, on the rebound from a broken marriage, I'd become friendly with Suzy, a woman in mid-level movie management whose long-time lover, an irascible and addictive film-maker, had recently died. Though he'd treated her with casual cruelty, she felt bereft without him, particularly since she'd also lost most of her relatives to Hitler.

'If only I could be sure that we would be reunited someday,' she said tearfully, 'I think I could go on.'

As a practical woman in the movie business, Suzy put this concept into pre-production. With me as company, she began to audition systems of belief, looking for one that would guarantee reunion with her lover after death. We visited card readers and mediums, and a spiritist church in Encino, where the audience sat enthralled as an elderly lady, seated at a card table with her devoted husband holding her hand, gabbled in what we were told was the voice of the famous medium Edgar Cayce. At one point, the word 'Antichrist' surfaced from the babble. An instant later, a tiny earth tremor shook the hall. We exchanged significant glances with our neighbours. Aaah!

'Fuck this,' Suzy murmured. 'I feel like eating Mexican. How about you?'

The last candidate was a man in the remote suburb of Commerce, who needed subjects to be hypnotized as part of some ill-defined project. Suzy didn't feel like surrendering control of her mind unless somebody she trusted had done so before, so she despatched me into that wilderness of 24-hour poker clubs and used-car lots to check him out.


Excerpted from We'll Always Have Paris by John Baxter Copyright © 2006 by John Baxter. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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