I have recently quit smoking (APPLAUSE). So, to be surrounded by great posters which celebrate tobacco, smoking, smokers, and smoke-filled rooms is a bit of a challenge… I joke that I used to think about sex in the way I now think about cigarettes (WANT IT, NEED IT, HAVE TO HAVE IT)… But I’ve been very good. Mostly.
Tobacco companies – then, as now – were well financed and could afford to hire some of the best artists of the Art Deco period to advertise their wares. Whether it was Cappiello’s Cachou Lajaunie, Yzay’s Pelican, or one of our favourite happy-go-lucky bonhommes from Rene Vincent, Paris was full of colorful (and convincing) ads
for tobacco companies of every shape and size. (OK, gotta tell you, just writing about cigarettes makes me reach for the Nicorette…)
In the 20’s and 30’s, Paris was also overtaken by an American dance craze called the Charleston. Most likely helped along by Josephine Baker’s interpretation, the Charleston was everywhere, all the time.
Naughty, cheeky, and slightly risqué, it is said that the Charleston permitted women to dance together (horrors) … There is a wonderful scene in the original Great Gatsby movie where a pair of flapper twins sashays through a party scene, completely oblivious to the world and anyone other than each other. Such was the power of the Charleston, both in the US and in Europe.
And for those who did not have the good fortune to wile away their time in dance halls (smoking … sigh), and listening to the Charleston, there was always the possibility of winning the lottery (or loterie, as it is written en francais). The French national lottery was ever-present, suggesting that you too could win – all you had to do was buy a ticket.
And, because I am writing this the week before the Oscars, I will leave you with a link to one of the loveliest odes to Paris I know, written by an old and dear friend.
14e Arrondissement from Paris, Je t’aime.
Good luck next week, Alexander – or as they say in Paris, “Merde”!