Remembering Normandy 1944

As May slips into June, the beaches and apple orchards of Normandy will play host to a kinder, gentler invasion than the Big One five decades ago that landed it a rock-solid place in the pages of world history. This time around, the tourists are coming, and the Normans are prepared for them: over 600 events are planned to commemorate the liberation of a war-ravaged Europe, which struck the shore like lightning on the morning of June 6, 1944.

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Dining out in Paris with the Lizard King

Jim Morrison ate his last meal at Le Beautreillis, a little restaurant near the Place de la Bastille in Paris.  What killed him remains murky but the authorities ruled out dinner, so cult followers have flocked to the place ever since.  A shrine it may be, but the restaurant serves up more than warmed-over memories.  The blini are terrific.  And so is the host, a genial Croatian named Verian.  He bought the place two years ago, serves honest Slav food, and says he doesn’t much care about the legend of “Jeem.”  But his black leather pants tell a different story.  So do the the luvmobile up the street and the heaps of Morrison memorabilia threatening to avalanche the restaurant’s side room.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .

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Paris Fashion… a Yen for Style

Grunge, pauperism, minimalism, hip hop and recoup’ (recycled salvaged looks), the styles most popular among young people today, all have one thing in common: their roots can be traced to the Japanese movement of the 1980s. With their strong, innovative shapes, high-tech fabrics and radically different fashion philosophy, Japan’s leading avant-garde designers are responsible for shaping the way an entire generation perceives modern style today.

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Camille Claudel Revisited

Why would the Musée Rodin have another Camille Claudel show just seven years after they hosted her retrospective? Consider what followed on the heels of that exhibition – biographies, TV programs, traveling shows of Claudel’s work in the U.S., Japan and Germany, a 1988 film by Bruno Nuytten (now on videocassette), even a book of poetry written in Claudel’s voice and reprinted five times by Louisiana State University Press. Add to that the countless articles in which the Claudel/Rodin dispute has been tossed about by critics and scholars of nearly every persuasion. Continue reading “Camille Claudel Revisited”

Screaming Ice Cream in French

Two little things happened recently in Paris that peaked my American glands: 1) Haagen Dazs infiltrated my local Prisunic and 2) I “dined” for the first time at Pizza Hut on the rue de Rivoli. Seemingly innocuous events, they nonetheless lent themselves to larger cultural scrutiny and psycho-existential re-positioning. The entrepreneur in me spotted the need for a culinary guide for the French, on American Popular Eats. The purist in me wretched. The menu of details before me read with the cultural differences of our two lands. Continue reading “Screaming Ice Cream in French”

Dollars from Good Scents

On the inside cover of a popular women’s magazine is a picture of a corked perfume bottle bearing Yves Saint Laurent’s name and a slogan, “Its name was forbidden, but women will know to ask for it.” The ad is for the controversial perfume “Champagne,” which after a lawsuit won by the wine producers of one of France’s most famous regions, was forced to change its marketing strategy as well as its label. However, by the time the smoke had cleared from the court battlegrounds, the fragrance appeared to be somewhat a winner, racking up 200 million francs in sales in just three months of existence. In an industry built around dreams, fantasies and image, nothing beats a little scandal to stir up interest and sales.

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