Monday, July 22, 2013

CASSE-TOI BRIGITTE by Peter Nolan Smith

Working at a nightclubs I met a lot of people; famous, infamous, and nobodies. Sometimes I had no idea who was who. One night at Hurrah I tried to stop a bearded man tried to enter the club for free. His bodyguard Tony steered me right.

"It's Mick Jagger."

My bad

A year later at the Mudd Club Steve Mass called down from his apartment, as Meryl Streep approached the ropes. The quirky owner had seen the actress on his CCTV and shouted over the intercom, “Don’t let her in?”

“Why not?” The blonde actress had won an Oscar for KRAMER VS. KRAMER in 1979.


“Me too.” Especially her scene where she turns her head on the quai and I turned to the Hollywood star to say, “Sorry, but you can’t come in.”

“Don’t you know who I am?” Her voice threatened me with contempt.

“Yes, but tonight’s not your night.” I didn’t have to explained why, for in the 1970s doormen ruled the night and that privilege followed me to Paris in 1982.

“Here you are not a doorman, but a physionomiste.” The manager of the Rex was a socialist. He wanted an eclectic crowd based on fun.

“No, problem, but I don’t know how to speak French.” Two years of grammar school French from a nun with a lisp had taught me how to ask, “Ou est le Bibliotechque?”

“Pas de problem,” Olivier shrugged with ease and said, “You only have to say two words. ‘Ouais’ or ‘Non.'”

“Okay” I had learned that trick at CBGBs, Hurrah, and Studio 54. “But I don’t know anyone in Paris. Not the famous people. Not the people who go to nightclubs.”

“Pas de problem.” His partner and he were tired of everyone getting in for free. “Make everyone pay and I don’t care if it’s Brigitte Bardot.”

“But how shall I treat them?”

“Like shit.”

“Like shit?” I didn’t think that I had heard him right.

“Comme le merde.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Treating Parisians like shit was a dream job for an American and I followed his orders to the tee, except I favored my friends with glory and I built a new clientele of rockers, punks, models, gangsters, pop stars, and normal people too.

For the most part the owners liked the mix and I was called ‘le ras-de-ped’ or ‘homo’, which was Verlaine or slang for pederast, by the rejectees.

My French was getting good and the owners of Les Bains-Douches hired me to replace of Farida. The Algerian Amazon was leaving her post to pursue a career in modeling with Claude Montana. She was that beautiful.

The owners of the club off Rue Sebastopol were a little more deferential about their upscale clientele, but also concurred with treating their regulars 'comme le merde'. I liked to throw them a curve ball and one night a decrepit clouchard approached the entrance.

The bouncers moved to prevent the derelict’s climbing the stairs.

“Leave him alone.”

"Pour quoi?" My security were off-duty Legionnaires and shouldn't have been questioning my orders.

"Because I said so."

They shrugged and went back to smoking Gitanes.

“Why do you want to enter the club?” I asked the grizzled drunk in Boston-accented French.

“Because I’m a good friend of Moses. He told me to meet him here.”

“Come on in.”

“Are you serious?”

“Mais ouais.” I had heard plenty of excuses from people seeking to enter the Bains-Douches. None of them were as good as that offered by this ‘friend of Moses’.

“I have no money.” The clouchard patted his pockets.

“A friend of Moses doesn’t need money. Here are two drink tickets. Have a good time.”

His raison d’etre granted him entry to the elite boite de nuit. I went inside from time to time to check, if he was having a good time. The clientele of the Bains-Douches opened their hearts to the Friend of Moses.

He wasn’t one of them. They liked different and I considered him harmless, until my boss stormed up to the front door.

“Are you fou?” Americans were crazy estrangers to the French.

“What’s wrong?” I didn’t have an idea about what was amiss, but I was sure about the ‘who’.

“That clouchard drank a bottle of wine from Thierry Mugler’s table.” My boss had a sweet spot for the fashion czars of Paris.

“Really?” I laughed at the audacity of 'le Ami de Moises'.

“You think it’s funny?”

“Just a little, but if you want him to leave, then I’ll show him out.”

“Why did you let him in?”

“Because he’s a friend of Moses.” The excuse meant nothing to the patron, but he had never seen Charlton Heston part the Red Sea in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

I know 'the Parting of the Red Sea' was special effects, but the God of the Israelis killed their enemies with unforgettable style.

I signaled the bouncers or ‘videurs’ to escort out the clouchard and he cried out, “You can’t treat the friend of Moses like this. Just wait till I talk to Moses. He has more plagues up his sleeves than I have fleas.”

Nothing as evil as the killing of the first-born ever visited the Bains-Douches.

Several weeks later I spotted the friend of Moses in Les Halles. He cursed everyone with damnation at the very popular Cafe Pere Tranquille. The junkie and drunks laughed at his predictions of doom. I looked to the sky. The madman pointed a finger at me.

“That Amerlot loves God.”

And I wish it were true, but I had been a non-believer since 1960>

I gave him 20 francs, for it’s not a bad idea to have the friend of Moses saying good to the Grand Seigneur, even if the drunk is completely mad, for while their Lord moves in strange ways, so do the mad and this episode led to my being let go at the Bains-Douches.

I wasn’t unemployed for long.

Albert and Serge opened a dance club near the Paris Opera 1984 and offered me the doorman job. Le Reve’s plush décor harkened to the glorious 50s. The young rich loved to dance to the soul and classic French hits stitched together Albert's skill on the turntables.

They hired a young black bouncer to handle the voyous or thugs.

Jacques had run with several gangs from the outer suburbs. A two-year stint in prison had not ruined his smile. The young girls from the good neighborhoods found the muscular Martiniquean handsome and came in droves to try their luck with the ex-con.

These beauties in turn attracted men who brought them drinks.

A glass of champagne cost $20 and Le Reve coined money.

My job was filter out the uncool.

A week after the opening an older man entered with two dowdy women in fluffy down coats.

One of the blondes might have been attractive in her youth, but she had let her blonde hair gather streaks of gray and she wore no make-up to mask her age. Her unfashionable clothing dated back to the early 70s and her feet were clad in tennis shoes.

I figured the old man for a boxer.

His nose was splayed across his upper lip like a wet sox.

An argument ensued with the cashier about the cover charge.

"What's the problem?" I asked the cashier. She was very strict with the guest list.

"They don't want to pay."

"We never pay." The fighter scowled at the cashier without acknowledging me. His damaged pride revealed that he had been someone once.

“Excusez-moi, mssr. Give one reason you don’t have to pay and you can come in for free.” Any excuse would work, even that he was a cousin of Moses.

“We never pay,” the ex-middleweight rasped in a punished voice. He had won more fight than he had lost, but not by much.

"That's not a reason."

"I do not have to give a reason to un putain Amerlot.”

“Fucking American?”

His insult was rewarded with an immediate response.

“Jacques, chuck this old man out of the club and have him take the two old pallisons with him.”

""Pallisons' was the French word for doormat. My French was getting better every year, but puzzlement muddied Jacques’ face and the fiftyish blonde woman glared with dazzling blue sapphire eyes. They had belonged to a younger woman once. One who would have ignored me as beneath her.

"Salud." She had said that to more than one man, but I wasn't not a bastard and countered, “Casse-toi.”

The three of them left without further argument and my boss approached to the door.

"Is there a problem?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle."

“Then explain to me why you threw out Brigitte Bardot,” Serge demanded with blase curiosity.

“Brigitte Bardot?”

The boxer’s companion re-assembled into the legendary sex symbol as would any woman who was Brigitte Bardot.

AND GOD CREATE WOMAN and CONTEMPT were two of my favorite films of all time.

I had dreamed about the blonde sex goddess as a boy.

“That’s wasn’t her?”

“Ouais, c’est elle.”

“Merde.” I ran out to apologize for my faux-pas, except they had reached the boulevard and a taxi stopped for the trio. I returned to nightclub expecting a reprimand, instead Serge suggested that I act with more tact in the future.

“We will be old one day too.”

"I know."

The story of Bardot's rejection from the Nouvelle Eve hit the morning papers and I expected the Paris Police to institute deportation proceedings against me for having insulted a national treasure, however the passage of time had rendered the animal lover’s beauty passé to today’s youth and our business doubled with their appreciation of my indiscretion.

A week later Mickey Rourke showed up at the club with ten friends, who were mostly young junkies from the Bains-Douches. We never let them in for free. I made an exception this time and Serge came up to me.

“No Brigitte Bardot, but hello to Mssr. Rourke.” He never let me forget this error in judgment and it remained a joke between us till this day, even more so now that the American actor slipped down the ranks from his heyday, although we both agreed on his best line.

“Drinks for my friends.” Mickey Rourke had called out in the same voice from Barbet Schroeder’s BARFLY.

It seemed to be a line he must have said in real life more than once.

“A guy like me changes hard, I didn’t want to change, but I had to change.”

Same as the rest of us.

We all get old some day.

Desole Brigitte, for je suis con, which is not a nice word in French.

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