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Posts Tagged ‘1920s’

9 March

Where Do You Pee In The Palace?

 

 

 

WHERE DO YOU PEE IN THE PALACE?

 

Much to my disappointment my fairytale night was winding down, but I was determined to savor every last moment before I was forced to exit St. James Palace and turned back into a pumpkin.  

Since dinner, an army of servants had been busy distributing bottle after bottle of the finest Champagne in sparkling crystal flutes till we were all quite tipsy. At the Prince’s insistence, Bob and I performed a few numbers, then I danced with the Duke of This and the Lord of That – getting my toes frequently stepped on in the process. Bob was also in high demand as the female leaders of England’s high society giggled like schoolgirls as my charming and very handsome husband twirled them around the dance floor.

Bob & Muriel taking a walk in Paris in 1925

Finally, I found myself dancing with Fred Astaire. We had recently seen him and his sister, Adele, in the popular play,“ Lady Be Good,” and knew they were wonderful actors, singers and tap dancers, but I had no idea what a remarkable ball room dancer Fred was. He guided me around the room with such grace and ease, I felt like I was floating. I was almost disappointed when the Prince cut in – almost. I had recently taught HRH some new Charleston steps and the Prince kept me on the dance floor till my feet felt like they were going to explode. Feigning thirst, I requested a break. The Prince summoned drinks and led me to a quiet corner where we began chatting.

So far during all my encounters with HRH, he was usually quite proper and formal, much to my disappointment. To my surprise, the Prince began asking several personal questions about my life. He also wanted to know what it felt like to be on stage and hear the applause and appreciation. The Prince seemed envious of our carefree existence and life style. I think in another life he would have ended up on stage too. He even flirted a bit – not that I was interested – but still, to have the future King of England take an interest was quite thrilling. Besides, his current girlfriend is a close friend of mine.

 I glanced over and saw General Trotter glaring at me. He is the Prince’s aide and bodyguard who had lectured me several times to stop asking him questions and being so informal with HRH. The Prince hadn’t complained, so I took a chance. I was just getting him to relax and open up a little, when Adele walked up.

 “Have either of you seen Fred and Bob? They disappeared some ago and I can’t find them anywhere.”

 The Prince, who sometimes surprised us with his rather bizarre sense of humor, said with the most serious of faces, “This is very disturbing news, Adele. People have been disappearing in this castle for centuries never to be heard from again.” Adele’s eyes widened, not sure what to make of his comment.

Turning to the crowd the Prince announced loudly, “Two of our own have disappeared. We must form a search party and discover their whereabouts immediately!”

The Prince took our arms and marched Adele and me out of the drawing room. The other guests looked very confused, but when the future King of England gives a royal command, what is left to do but obey? They all dutifully followed us out into the hallway and down a wide, winding staircase not sure of where they were going or why. The poor servants, not prepared for the sudden exodus of all the guests, scrambled about quickly grabbing trays of Champagne and hurried after the mob in case any of the royal search party got thirsty.  

The Prince guided us through a maze of rooms and hallways, each more spectacular that the last, with no sign of Bob and Fred. I would have preferred lingering in each room taking in the splendor and history than looking for my husband, whom I was quite sure was perfectly okay, but the Prince was on a mission.

After 15 minutes of looking with no success, the Prince held up his hand stopping us in our tracks. He said he heard singing coming from somewhere. Suddenly, from around the far corner, Bob and Fred appeared, arm-in-arm, doing a hop-tap-skip dance in syncopated rhythm down the hallowed halls of St. James Palace and singing a song they had obviously just made up at the top of their lungs.   All I could make out was something about “Tinkling on the royal throne.” As they came closer, the words became clearer and we heard all too clearly a drunken verse of, “Where do you pee in the Palace?”

They were in the height of their idiocy when they looked up and saw the Prince and his startled posse of Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Duchesses, Lords and Ladies staring at them in stunned bewilderment. Bob and Fred froze mid-hop and stared back, equally startled and exceedingly chagrined. There was dead silence for the longest time, until I was absolutely shaking with silent laughter. One look at the dancing duo’s faces and I simply couldn’t hold it in any longer…I burst out in wild, gasping laughter that bounced and echoed off the Palace walls.   The rest of the search party kept their silence until the Prince started laughing so hard his eyes watered. By then, everyone was in hysterics—except General Trotter, of course! Bob and Fred looked greatly relieved as they walked sedately up to join us.  

“Marvelous,” the Prince announced, still grinning and clapping. “Bob, you and Muriel must include that song in your next performance at the Night Light Club. I insist!”  

I had hoped the night would never end, but it was 3:00am and I guess even royals have to get up in the morning and do what ever it is they do, so it was time to say goodnight. The Prince insisted that his personal driver take us back to our hotel. I was hoping our ride would be the Royal Carriage pulled by six beautiful, white stallions, a fitting end to my fairytale night—but alas, it was just in his personal limousine.

During the ride home, I cuddled up next to Bob trying to recall every moment of the magical evening so I could permanently etch them into my mind never to be forgotten. Hard to believe that less than a year ago we were wandering the streets of Paris broke and hungry having no idea what the future had in store for us. Then it suddenly occurred to me. ..

 “Bob?”

“Yes, darling.”

“Where does one pee in the Palace?”

Bob chuckled, “Not sure. Fred and I never did find a damn bathroom, but there is a ficus plant in one of the bedrooms that won’t need watered for quite some time!”

1 March

Dinner at St. James Palace

 

 

DINNER AT ST. JAMES PALACE

 

Muriel and Bob first met the Prince of Wales in 1925 when he attended their performance at the cabaret Le Boeuf Sur le Toit in Paris. He immediately became a fan and when they began headlining at the Night Lite Club in London in 1926, he often came to see them.

Click here to see Muriel's diary

Click here to read Muriel’s actual diary

The Prince invited them to be the guests of honor to what he described a “small, intimate dinner party” at his residence, St. James Palace in London. Below is Muriel’s diary entry for December 8, 1926, the day after the party. Following is a transcription for ease of reading. We have transcribed it exactly, so you can read first hand Muriel’s exuberant spirit as she recalls the events of the night before. It includes the misspellings, an army of dashes, and with no periods, commas or other clues as to where sentences start and stop! So jump in…you’ll figure it out…and enjoy this highly entertaining journey with Muriel and her own unique take on this remarkable dinner party!  Grab a cup of tea and enjoy!

 

 

A description of the dinner party at St James Palace

with H.R.H. (Prince of Wales) as our Host – Dec. 7th 1926.

Bob and I drove through the gate, in the old taxi, with our hearts in our throats – Little did we dream we would ever be driving into this lovely old courtyard of St James Palace, to attend a party as guests of the Prince of Wales – Our taxi came to a halt at a huge door and a servant came slowly up to the cab and with much bowing escorted us into the large reception hall of the Palace – Here he helped us with our (wraps) and with a knowing smile beckoned us to follow. 

Muriel in the dress Coco Chanel designed for her and she wore to the dinner at St. James Palace

Muriel in the silver lame dress Coco Chanel designed for her and that she wore to the dinner at St. James Palace

 Finally we came to two large doors – these were swung open by another butler – dressed in – red coat, black bloomers pants, and low shoes. I felt exactly like “Alice in Wonderland” and expected any minute to waken with a start to find it all a dream – When the doors opened – there before our eyes was a long table – filled with faces all looking our way – glittering jewels on the heads of the elegant woman – and polite smiles on the faces of the “elegant” gentleman. A huge chandelier of brilliant crystals was hanging over the dining table – and this was set into gold – “everything”.

HRH The Prince of Wales

HRH The Prince of Wales

All this I saw as we stood in the doorway waiting for His Royal Highness to come to us and at last he arrived. I curtsied and Bob bowed low. The Prince said things like – “he was delighted we could come” and “hoped we wouldn’t think them too rude for having started before we arrived” – etc etc – (We had to be a little late because of doing a show before this party) So we were seated – Bob at the Prince’s left and I at his right – at the head of this long impressive table. The guests were all of the nobility – with the exception of two – and these were millionaire playboys. Next to Bob sat the Duke and Duchess of York and by me was the Hon. Mrs. Crighten – a charming woman who is one of the leaders in London’s social set. 

I can’t recall what we had to eat but one thing- this was a large, angry looking lobster brought to me on a golden tray. His great “Feelers” or whatever they are – claws I guess – daring me to touch – I did – with golden spoon and fork – and tried to look at ease through it all. (The only place one should eat this wild thing is in your own bathtub completely nude)

Fred Astaire

Fred Astaire

After the “supper” was over the Prince pushed back his chair and we followed him to the doors – there we stood on either side of him as each guest filed by and was formally introduced to us – after much bowing – curtsying – The last in line were Fred and Adele Astaire – We all but fell in each others arms – It was so good to shake a hand & say a simple “Hello”. On up the great stairs we all went to gather in the drawing room for an evening of “plain” fun – There was music – songs and the things that happen at any party at home. But I couldn’t keep from looking around every now and then at all this lovely old splendor – and think of all the history that had been made right in this very room – It was hard to believe that I – Muriel Taylor – was perhaps sitting in the same chair used by one Ann Bolen. (Boleyn)

Adele Astaire

Adele Astaire

 This was an adventure I will keep with me all the rest of my life – It was a most thrilling and beautiful experience – The Prince is a sad little chap – and I believe he would give anything in this world to get out of all the pomp and restrictions – He wants to be a simple human being – His brother the Duke of York – a tall gaunt fellow- who stutters dreadfully trying all the time to make you like him – He wanted to talk with me all evening and at times it was difficult – he would tell me stories – and it would take him so long to get them told – Poor chap – His Duchess – is very charming – a plain looking dumpy little soul – and if you took off all her finery she would be plain Mrs. Brown or Smith from any little town at home – She wanted to know all about my home & life in California. Seemed so interested in things – 

Bob & Muriel

Bob & Muriel

 This evening I will keep in my memories forever and ever – It was something that doesn’t happen to many people in a lifetime – I am a very lucky girl –

 

Be sure to join us next Monday when we will share another  of the stories from that evening that Muriel didn’t include in her diary, after all all, everyone should know the answer to the age old question, “Where do you pee in the Palace?” 

17 March

And All That Jazz

And All That Jazz

Paris Style

 

 

It has been said that the American south gave birth to jazz, but it was Paris who nourished it, made it grow and hailed it as art. Jazz became unique to each country that welcomed it, and Paris was the first in Europe to embrace it and make it her own.

This must have been an unpleasant jolt to wealthy Paris society who, before the advent of WW I, flourished in the era known as the Belle Epoque, or “Beautiful Era.” It overlapped the Victorian Era in England and the Gilded Age in America, all sharing the same sense of “noblesse oblige,” thus perpetuating the established class system. Their life style was reflected in elaborate homes, romantic literature, music and high fashion.

France’s Belle Epoque Age ended abruptly with the outbreak of WW I, crushed by the reality and horror of war. In 1918, Paris was still reeling from the ravages of war, which the French had believed would quickly end with a glorious victory. Instead, at the end of the four year struggle, they saw only devastation, loss and poverty.  People were angry, disillusioned and felt betrayed by their leaders and the arrogant politics of war.

French writers and artists led a revolt in literary, art and musical satire, rebelling against the insanity, horror and stupidity of war. They held spirited public meetings and seminars. Finally, the French government forbade them to hold secret meetings or even meet secretly among themselves since they always seemed to stir up trouble. The creative artists solved that problem by openly meeting in little sidewalk cafes, a move that served them well and became a tradition for future generations of writers and artists.

During the Belle Epoque’s final years, European literature, music and art began to undergo a major transformation, introducing stark realism that developed into modernism.  Romantic operettas and Strauss waltzes gave way to the unfamiliar, discordant sounds of Stravinsky. The elegant, corseted high fashion gowns were replaced with the unencumbered, boyish dress designs of Coco Chanel, including (gasp!) trousers for women! Romantic adventure novels were nudged aside by the in-your-face realism of Joseph Conrad, Proust, Kafka, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot and James Joyce.

Out of their discontent grew one of the strangest, most controversial artistic protests yet seen. In 1919, Darius Milhaud, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Poulenc and Picasso were among the prominent artists and writers in Paris who joined the Dada movement, an informal international anti-war movement launching a protest against everything traditional. They declared that everything was nonsense: literature, art, morality, and civilization. They ridiculed the lack of purpose and shallowness of the modern world.

The word, “dada” is baby talk for the French word “hobbyhorse,” the kind with a horse’s head on a stick that a child pretends to ride but goes nowhere! The Dada movement spread into other countries, including the United States. Dadaism began to fade into surrealism by 1924, and some theorists argue that Dada was the beginning of postmodern art.

Speaking of surreal—I had my own crazy Dada moment a few years ago while driving home from work tuned into PBS. The narrator discussed the 1920’s Dadaist movement and its meaning (or lack thereof), then played a CD of a woman reading a Dada poem—two full minutes of this woman’s melodious voice reading nothing but “dada-dada-dada” over and over again. The word never changed, only the emotion and cadence of her voice changed, as if she was reading something very deep and meaningful.  I grinned through the first minute, gritted my teeth through the second and almost ran off the road at the heart wrenching dadas that ended the saga!

Guess what the most amazing part was? The woman reading the Dada poem was (drum roll, please) Marie Osmond!  Honest! I grinned the rest of the way home. The Dadaists would have loved it. I mean, how damn surreal can you get?  Here was this little Mormon girl from Utah, almost one hundred years later, reading the iconic Dada poem about nothing!

This leads us back to why Paris was so quick to embrace the Jazz Age and its hordes of artists, writers, musicians, entertainers and other “expats” who were eager to make Paris their home. Jazz in Paris, as well as America, represented not only an anti-war sentiment, but a rebellion against the stuffiness and rigidity of the Belle Epoque, Victorian era and old fashioned classicism. Jazz flourished among the rich and poor alike, and became a musical language all could understand regardless of class.

Paris was introduced to jazz during the difficult days of WW I, when American soldiers came with their marching bands and jazzy music. War weary Parisians jumped on the jazz bandwagon like starving people looking for life support. The happy, syncopated music boosted moral and helped them forget for awhile the ravages of war.

Word of the artistic and racial freedom in Paris (and their love of jazz)  spread quickly and, after the war, African-American jazz musicians flocked to Paris for work and the racial equality and freedom they were denied in their own country. The music became a cultural tidal wave that had the power to cross racial barriers. Soon, Paris boasted the top names in jazz musicians as well as the best known African-American cabaret stars in the world. In addition, many American soldiers remained in Paris after the war, which prompted the popular 1918 song, “How Ya’ Gonna’ Keep Them Down on the Farm, After They’ve Seen Paree?”

Paris already boasted its own impressive community of avant-garde artists. Leaders in the fields of literature, music, dance and theatre were an integral part of Paris culture before WW I. They were the artistic hub, the beacon that drew other artists to Paris after the war. However, sometimes Paris could be a devious, sexy Lorelie whose entrancing song lures and distracts the creative muses, as F. Scott Fitzgerald and others discovered when they failed to heed the danger hidden in her siren song.

Among these expatriates were the cream of America’s writers, musicians and artists: F. Scott Fitzgerald, who coined the words “Jazz Age,” Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach and her Shakespeare Co., Ezra Pound, Henry James, Sherwood Anderson, Charles McArthur, Langston Hughes, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Aaron Copeland, Rogers and Hart, Man Ray and so many others. They became an integral part of the burgeoning American expatriate community who had moved to Paris for the artistic freedom it nourished.

Others came to Paris just because they loved the life style. Among these were Gerald and Sara Murphy, wealthy Americans who befriended many of America’s artists and writers at their home in Cap d’ Antibes. Their biography is titled, “Living Well is the Best Revenge.”

Living in Paris was cheaper and there was no Prohibition!  They could drink, enjoy wild dancing, visit brothels and other dens of iniquity without fearing arrest. Socialites, adventurers, artists and tourists from around the world converged upon the famous Parisian nightclubs and cabarets, like Café du Dome, Chez Florence, le Boeuf Sur le Toit, le Grand Duc, the Moulin Rouge, Maxims and others. The back ally cabarets, bordellos and opium parlors existed in tandem with the more sophisticated clubs, whose patrons were not shy about visiting both.

Perhaps composer, George Antheil put it best when he said “Jazz was a marvelous antidote to 20th Century boredom and nervous tension—a subtle combination of narcotic and stimulant!”

The Jazz Age reigned until it came crashing down with America’s Wall Street, and all the American expatriates had to rush back home to pick up the pieces. Some mourned the end of the Jazz Age, others said good riddance!

The Jazz age was over, but jazz was here to stay! Over the years, jazz has given birth to the blues, rock and roll, ragtime, folk, bluegrass, scat, rhythm and blues and a host of other genres.

This came home to me a few years ago, when I was spent the night in Carcassonne, a small 14th century medieval city in southern France. The ancient, walled city had a sad Cather/Crusader history that permeated the old stone walls. I felt its pervasive sadness as I walked along the ancient cobbled, narrow streets. Suddenly, I heard live music. The jazzy sound was so out of context with my medieval musings, I was momentarily disoriented.

I rounded a corner and was astonished to see three young musicians wailing away on trumpet, bass and tenor sax. Jazz! Right here in Medieval City! I listened until the sun went down, and hoped the joyful vibes bouncing off the old walls helped chase away the centuries old sorrow lingering in the shadows. I thanked the musicians and headed back to my eight hundred year old room, which felt just as surreal as the jazz in the ancient courtyard!

Yes, Jazz is here to stay and can be found in the most surprising places!

Ernest Hemingway captured the feelings of many of the expatriates in 1920’s Paris with his famous quote:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris in the 1920’s as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

A feast that continues to intrigue and fascinate us today!

16 March

Cousin Sheldon

Cousin Sheldon

August, 1925, Paris, France

I started to laugh, but the rigid expression on Mr. Sheldon’s face made it clear he was being very serious.  He’s an older, occasionally charming, American businessman with a lot more money than hair. During the past few weeks, he’s made frequent appearances at the Boeuf, usually alone, and always wanting to chat with us. Well, really just me. Like so many of the men with more money than hair, I think he is quite taken with me, which is always fun regardless of the source.

When we first met, I asked him if we might be related as he and my mother share the Sheldon surname.  It didn’t take long to discover we were, as our ancestors trace back to John Alden and the Mayflower. His line of the Sheldon family remained in Boston, while mine chose to seek out adventure and fortune in 1850’s California. I really hadn’t given him, or our family connection, much thought until this moment.

“I’m sorry?” I said, sure I had misunderstood him. “Did you say you want to loan us the money to buy le Boeuf sur le Toit?”

“Not the entire Boeuf, just this side of it.  Louis Moyses would retain ownership of the formal dining room and kitchen, and you and Bob would own and manage the bar.”

Evidently, the Boston Sheldons suffer from delusions as well as receding hairlines.  He talked like he was buying a used car.  It was all quite unsettling.       

“Louis wouldn’t part with any of it.  This place is like his child,” I insisted.

“I hope you don’t mind, but Louis and I have already discussed it and agreed to terms.”

Shocked, I took a closer look at this Mr. Sheldon wanting to believe him and wishing I could remember his first name.    

“Look, Moyses has some financial problems and I made him an offer that makes those go away. All that is missing is for you and Bob to agree.”

Breaking eye contact with Mr. Sheldon, I glanced around the room hoping to buy time to allow my head to clear.  The notion of owning our own nightclub, especially the Boeuf, instantly generated a thousand conflicting thoughts that got jumbled into a tangled mess that made my head hurt.  I spotted Bob at a table across the room having a discussion with Sinclair Louis – about writing, no doubt. I glanced around for Moyses, but he was nowhere to be seen. 

Turning my attention back to Mr. Sheldon, “Why would you do this?  You hardly know us.”

“After all, we are family.” He smiled for the first time.  “Muriel, over the years I have made a lot of money recognizing good investments.  You and Bob are a very attractive and talented young couple who have, in a very short period of time, built up an impressive and loyal group of adoring fans.  The Boeuf has a reputation as the place to be in Paris.  Put the two together and I see money waiting to be made.”

“And what’s in it for us?”

“If it is managed and marketed correctly, more money than the two of you can spend.”

“I think you underestimate my ability when it comes to shopping.”

 Mr. Sheldon was all business and ignored my joke. “Do you think Bob will like the idea?”

 “He will love it!”  I lied. “I’ll discuss it with him tonight and let you know tomorrow, if that’s okay.”

“Till tomorrow then.”

The rest of the night on stage passed in a conflicting fog, one second thinking about the excitement of owning part of the Boeuf and the next dreading Bob’s reaction. He had been talking a lot more lately about how the demands of performing didn’t give him a lot of time to write. Hanging out with all the writers that came around the club had reignited his desire to tell stories and get a book published.

After our last number, I came up behind him and planted a kiss on his neck. “How about you and I go to Mitchell’s for breakfast.  Just the two of us.”

“But Scott and Zelda have invited us to a party.”

“I know, but let’s skip it tonight.  We go to parties with them all the time.”  I reached around his waist and gave him a hug.

“Okay,” Bob said, turning around and giving me the look he always does when he gets suspicious.  “What are you up to?”

“Why must I be up to anything?  Maybe I just want to spend time alone with my husband.”

“I know something is on your mind as you forgot your lyrics twice tonight and during our last tune, you added a few notes that weren’t there the last twenty times we’ve performed it.”

I thought I had done an excellent job covering my mistakes, but Bob knows my tricks well – much too well. I shall have to invent new ones.

Frustrated, I blurted out, “Never mind then.  Let’s just go to the stupid party!  Who gives a damn about what I want?”

When I saw Bob’s shoulders drop like a scolded schoolboy, I knew I had said too much, too harshly.  He does try so hard to please me and I feel awful that I hurt him.

“Let me tell Scott to go ahead without us and I’ll meet you out front.”   

“Darling no,” I said in as tender a voice as I could muster.  “I’m sorry. It’s been a difficult evening.  Let’s go to the party and have a grand time.”

“No,” Bob insisted. “Tonight I am all yours.”

As the bright lights of Paris flashed by the taxi’s windows, I explained Mr. Sheldon’s offer to my husband.  I tried to sound neutral on the matter, but felt like I was failing miserably.  Bob’s response was not what I expected.

“How wonderful!  How much are we going to make?”

“I have no idea.  I guess that depends on how much business we do,” I said, completely shocked.  “But what about our dream to travel the world and your writing?”

“We are young and there will be plenty of time for travel.  I will write when we are not at the club and where better to gather inspiration and characters than Paris and le Boeuf sur le Toit?”

“But Bob, we don’t know a damn thing about managing a nightclub.” 

I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.  My husband had stolen the words I’d been rehearsing all night, and here I was uttering what I expected to be his arguments.

“How hard can it be?  You make sure there is plenty of booze behind the bar and great entertainment on the stage.  And you, my darling, are the greatest entertainment in the world.”

As we exited the taxi, I felt as if I was in the midst of an emotional whirlpool, being sucked lower and lower. I had just gotten what I wanted, but in a way that left me strangely unsettled.  I thought I knew every aspect of my husband’s mind – that I could anticipate what he would think, long before he thought about thinking it.

Before entering Mitchell’s, Bob pulled me close.  “Minkling, this will be a great adventure, a lark like no other.  We’ll save enough money to explore the world in grand style.  Then, when we tire of the grind, we’ll sell our interest and move on to the next chapter. Let’s do this!”

“If you insist, darling.”

We sat in Mitchell’s sipping coffee till dawn, happily chatting about our grand plans for the Boeuf. Our future seemed so bright and gay, it’s hard to believe that less than six months ago we were roaming the streets of Paris broke and hungry.

Thank God those days are over forever!

13 March

Bewildered

Bewildered

July, 1925, le Boeuf sur le Toit, Paris, France

The audience was laughing hysterically. The lyrics to the number were quite clever and Bob and I added the appropriate shocked, loving and, sometimes, lustful facial expressions, which drove the crowd wild. In the middle of the tune, I glanced up and saw the lovesick, puppy expression on Bob’s face that made me laugh so much I forgot my next line, which made everyone else laugh even harder.

I love singing a heart-felt ballad and a snappy jazz number is always fun to perform.  People always compliment my deep, soulful voice, and how Bob and I harmonize so well. But I think I enjoy doing comedy numbers the most. Sometimes, the song was written by the composer to be funny but, most of the time, we take a standard everyone knows and change the lyrics to words that have double meanings, one very innocent and the other very naughty – and our Parisian audience always loves naughty.

I guess being a clown is in my nature as even when I was a little girl, I was always trying to get a laugh. In some ways, le Boeuf sur le Toit reminds me of my grandpa James Taylor’s house in California, always full of wonderful music and interesting, creative and passionate people with ideas they weren’t shy about sharing. I guess there are Bohemians in every corner of the globe, but their leaders reside at the Boeuf and tonight, they adore us.

In the month we have been appearing here, the club has become home and my personal slice of heaven.  It was hard leaving Mr. Varounis and the Chateau Caucasian.  He had been so kind to us and given us our first break, but the moment we informed him of the job offer, he said he understood completely and wished us much success. He even sent me roses opening night which made me cry.

Bob also cried on opening night, but with joy.  One of his literary heroes, Somerset Maugham, came in to catch our act and Bob spent every break happily chatting with him. Bob had read every thing he could get his hands on by Maugham and, even in college, raved about his talent and forward thinking ideas.  Bob got me to read his novel, Of Human Bondage, which, although a bit depressing, I thoroughly enjoyed. I adore his strong, English accent and very dry sense of humor.  His occasional, slight stammer only adds to his charm.

Maugham seemed to enjoy our company as well, as he always asked how Bob’s writing was coming and never seem to tire of listening about where we grew up and our plans to see the world.

After one long conversation with Maugham, Louis pulled us aside and said, “Don’t tell him anything you don’t want the world to know.  His friends seem to end up as the characters in one of his stories, sometimes in an unflattering way.”

We looked over at the distinguished Englishman who was sitting by himself, busily making notes.  I immediately started recalling every word I had ever said to him.

I can’t wait to write Mother about him and all the other interesting people we have been meeting. Celebrities from around the world drop by the Boeuf in droves.  Most ask to meet us and, during our breaks, we join them for a brief chat.  It we hit it off, they often invite us to another club or breakfast after work.

It is all rather wild, as we never know if we are going to sit down and have a conversation about writing, art, music, politics, acting, philosophy, history, social issues – or just gossip about who else is in the club.  Whatever the subject, we are usually discussing it with very passionate, intelligent people who define their field of expertise.  Bob couldn’t be more thrilled but, lately, he seems to resent us having to return to the stage.

I, too, am very pleased, but bewildered a bit as to why they have embraced us. It’s thrilling that they treat us as one of their own, full partners in this exciting and exclusive club that gathers at the Boeuf.  Many profess a determination to change the world, yet all they seem to do is complain about it, drink and howl at the moon at every opportunity.

But I still feel like an outsider. This has nothing to do with lack of self-confidence or the fear we aren’t good enough to join the pack. I am finding that most of these “”stars of the world” are pretty insecure and have their own demons to battle. It just doesn’t seem real – like it is all an illusion that will vanish as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared.  But, on the other hand, I am having the time of my life.

As we finish the number, some of the audience is almost rolling on the floor in laughter. After a great deal of applause, a couple bows and the spotlight shut off, we head off the dark stage, our last session for the night done.

“Bob, how about tonight we go directly home?”

My husband looked at me curiously, as he was usually the one making that suggestion to my objections.

“Great. Maybe we can…..”

Before he could finish, an attractive young French woman grabbed Bob’s hand.  I had seen her around the club before, but couldn’t recall her name or who the hell she was.  “Come, you two,” she said, giggling in a very unattractive way.  “There’s some people here you just have to meet!”

I started to decline for us, but she was already pulling Bob through the throngs of people in the packed club.  Before she disappeared completely with my husband, I followed along. It took a while, as people stopped our progress every five feet to shower us with compliments and invite us for a drink. We finally came to a booth where an attractive couple sat chatting with one of the most gorgeous men I had ever seen. Their discussion stopped mid-sentence and all eyes were on us.

Still giggling for no apparent reason, the girl said,  “Bob and Muriel, this is Scott and Zelda… and I’m sorry, what was your name again?”

“Ernest,” Scott said, loudly, and with a dramatic flare. “His name is Ernest Hemingway. Remember that name for one day soon, the whole world will repeat it often and always with reverence and awe.”

Everybody laughed but Ernest. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald I had heard of before. I think Bob mentioned he was a writer of some sort, but Paris society constantly gossiped about their crazy antics as if they were its unofficial, yet revered Prince and Princess, of all that is fun.

Ernest I hadn’t heard of, but I instantly wanted to learn everything about him.  His obvious, chiseled, good looks were certainly alluring, but it was the unsettling intensity in his dark eyes that made him mysterious and irresistible.  The giggling girl and Bob slid in the booth next to Scott, while I grabbed a seat next to Ernest. It looked like it was going to be another late night