Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brian Scott Bagley - the First Burlesque Show Man of Paris

The irrepressible Brian Scott Bagley heats up the stage every Wednesday night at the chic Très Honoré Bar* (also known as THB) in the 1st arrondissement.

Brian Scott Bagley
Image courtesy of Nicolas Mougenot

He partners with THB's artistic director, Rocco de Robien, to host an open mike show for amateurs and professionals in this plush nightspot that reproduces the atmosphere of a 1920s speakeasy. It is called The Buzz and audiences are sure to be buzzing when they leave Brian's electrifying productions.

Flier for the January 22 production of The Buzz
Image courtesy of Brian Scott Bagley

Brian is perhaps best known around town for his choreography and dancing in Jérôme Savary's Looking for Josephine. He also played Josephine Baker in the burlesque show La Gentry de Paris Revue with Dita von Teese. Brian is somewhat fanatical about Baker, as his 2013 Christmas video shows!

These days, Brian is not only performing at THB, but also producing his fellow Baltimore native Marvin Parks at Paris nightspots.

Parks' music is heavily influenced by singing greats such as Nat King Cole, Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, and Sarah Vaughan. He has performed at Café Universel, L'Entrepôt, and the Duc des Lombards over the past several weeks. His most recent performance was at the Café de Paris on January 28th.

Click HERE to listen to Parks' rendition of "Summertime" from his current release The Very Thought of You. Then catch him performing live at

Le Bistro 92
92 rue de Turenne
75003 Paris
March 15 at 8 PM


Le Chat Noir
76, rue Jean Pierre Timbaud
75011 Paris
March 18 at 8 PM

Brian is still doing theater, with most of his shows playing in Germany and Nantes at present. He continues to do one-nighters in Paris and his risqué performances have not gone unnoticed by the press. Click HERE to see an article about his shows at THB in Le Figaro (in French).

Très Honoré Bar
35 Place du Marché St-Honoré
75001 Paris
Metro: Tuileries (Line 1)
Hours: Daily from 6:30 PM until 2 AM

*THB is associated with a restaurant and salon, both of which are at the same address and are sumptuously and fancifully decorated.


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Thursday, January 23, 2014

African Americans in Paris: The 1960s

Sherard Van Dyke has been living, painting and exhibiting in Amsterdam for the past 45 years. She was inspired to write to me after having read Ellery Washington's New York Times article on James Baldwin's Paris. She sent such a stirring account of her recollections of African-American Paris in the 1960s that I immediately asked her to allow me to publish it. Find it below.

Sherard Van Dyke and Sarah Vaughn
Image courtesy of Sherard Van Dyke

Yesterday, after reading the Sunday New York Times article on James Baldwin's Paris era, I began reminiscing about my own youthful years living in that beautiful city. And how the color of my skin impacted the beginning of my 50-year-long painting career.

Due to my fear of flying, I was constantly traveling from Brooklyn to Saint Germain and back again on the SS France, Cunard, & Holland-American ocean liners. On my first transatlantic voyage, Alexander Calder was among the passengers and spent many a night hanging out with us – a group of young French & American kids whom the captain had introduced, and who loved dancing as much as I did. Seems like we never slept during those five days and nights – The Supremes hits were on a loop, the champagne was a-flowing, and each of us was showing off our latest dance moves – all while enjoying every minute of Calder's fascinating anecdotes about his mobiles and stabiles that we had just been studying in college.

Josephine Baker IV
ca. 1928 Alexander Calder
Centre Georges Pompidou
© Discover Paris!

Looking back, I guess this was an omen of many magical, artistic adventures to come.

Although the Times article is full of names and places of years gone by, I remember many others that were not mentioned. Like Johnny Romero and Les Nuages. I hadn't thought about Johnny in decades, so I Googled him. That's how I found your informative site – what a wonderful treasure!

Photo of Johnny Romero
© Discover Paris!

For me, the Paris of the mid-and-late-Sixties conjures up wonderful visions of the amazing Dexter Gordon, living and practicing in the Hotel la Louisiane on rue de Seine, as so many other great jazz musicians did in the day. Bud Powell had sadly passed away shortly before I arrived, but his wife Buttercup was still living at the hotel. She also had a little eatery called Buttercup's Chicken Shack in Montparnasse, known for her late-night fried chicken and ribs.

Up in Pigalle, Leroy Haynes had a most delicious restaurant with the best soul food on this side of the Atlantic. Filled with celebrities, expats, and framed, signed portraits on the wall, it had the most appetizing home-cooking imaginable. Quite a special delight! Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, among others, were often seen there. Haynes was an impeccable chef, a nice gentle man with a terrific sense of humor. We spent many memorable evenings there enjoying all the special dishes on the menu. Even his Greasy Pig Salad (mixed greens, herbs, crispy bacon & secret dressing) was a feast in itself - with hot cornbread from the oven and deep-dish cobbler for dessert.

Drummer Kenny Clarke was always on the scene and the Living Room was one of the most happening places. Through a friend of my mother's in New York, I had met saxophonist Nathan Davis and his wife Uschi, close friends of Eric Dolphy. This exceptionally nice couple lived nearby on rue St Jacques – just a few minutes from rue de la Huchette, which was chock full of amazing clubs in which we heard the best jazz on this planet until well after dawn each morning.

Painters Ed Clark and Bill Hutson, among others, were working and exhibiting in town. Bill was so helpful when we all signed petitions to aid Beauford Delaney in trying to keep ownership of his magnificent paintings after he had been institutionalized due to illness. My very close French friend, Ecole de Nice artist Robert Malaval, also had a studio in Cité Internationale des Arts, where I met a number of American artists.

Ed Clark and Beauford Delaney
Image courtesy of Ed Clark

Miles Davis and Juliette Greco were an item and an ubiquitous vision in Saint Germain's Cafe de Flore, along with their dearest ami, the esteemed Jean-Paul Sartre. Artist Keith de Carlo and his wife Maria were always the nicest and most engaging hosts in their home facing Gare d'Orsay (long before it became a museum).

My studio was on rue de la Bucherie, right across from Notre Dame and two minutes away from George Whitman's iconic Shakespeare and Company bookstore. The original venue had been opened by Sylvia Beach. Shakespeare and Company has always been the perfect home-away-from-home for many a gifted writer. Both Langston Hughes and Ted Joans were among the many who gave memorable readings in this historic meeting place with its wishing-well and a gazillion books.

Shakespeare and Company
© Discover Paris!

Huge, photographic closeups of Hazel Scott, Mabel Mercer, Nina Simone could often be seen in les affiches all around the city announcing their latest gigs. Not one or two poster-sized photos, but a dozen at a time! Repetition characterized the French way of advertising.

Donyale Luna was THE model of the 60's in Paris. Born in Detroit, her extraordinary beauty mesmerized all who encountered her. Federico Fellini took one look at her and signed her up for his fantasy film Satyricon. A few years later Pat Cleveland came to town and changed modeling for ever.

Designer Donald Hubbard from Gary, Indiana worked in Paris, as well as in Milan and Florence. His beautiful apartment on the quay faced the Eiffel Tower...what a view that was from his grand, living-room French doors!

In Johnny Romero's Les Nuages, one would be in the midst of the most eloquent, African-American who's-who gathering of literary and artistic worlds. Romero was very handsome, the perfectly charming host, and evenings there were always exciting.

At Gordon Heath and Lee Payant's club l'Abbaye, I remember how audiences snapped their fingers instead of clapping in appreciation for Heath and Payant's folk song performances.

Gordon Heath and Lee Payant
Image from Gordon Heath and Lee Payant Discography

Sometimes, at La Coupole – the world-renowned, huge, sumptuous restaurant on the Boulevard Montparnasse – we would spot Josephine Baker somewhere in the room, bedecked with jewels and furs, looking like a million dollars. Tout Paris adored her beauty, talent, and exuberance, as did the expats who applauded her tenacity, grace and fortitude.

These are just a few of the many African Americans who made Paris so terribly exciting in the Sixties.

Memories from those days are so rich, and thanks to the City of Light – my Jazz Art evolved there, and I've been painting and exhibiting ever since. Paris will always have a special place in my heart.

C'était FORMIDABLE!!!!


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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rougui Dia Rules the Kitchen at Le Vraymonde

I first brought you news of Rougui Dia when I launched the Entrée to Black Paris blog in September 2010. At that time, Chef Dia was head chef at Petrossian, an exclusive restaurant in the tony 7th arrondissement. She had recently published her story in a book called Le Chef est une Femme and was already thinking about moving on to a place where she would have complete creative control over the dishes emerging from the kitchen.

Chef Rougui Dia

Fast forward to February 2013. The press announced that Chef Dia was indeed moving onward and upward. She had accepted the position of head chef at the restaurant of the soon-to-be-opened Buddha Bar Hotel in an even more posh neighborhood - that of the fashion district of the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in the 8th arrondissement. Neighboring institutions and establishments include the U.S. Embassy, the British Embassy, and numerous fashion boutiques such as Hermès, Lancôme, Valentino, and Yves Saint Laurent.

The restaurant is called Le Vraymonde. In operation since June 2013, its name is a play on the French words le vrai monde ("the real world"). It is a trendy place with a seating capacity of 85, and it showcases a series of lounges in which customers can drink and dine. The walls are adorned with shades of imperial gold yellow, crimson red, and dark orange under a black lacquered ceiling lit by clusters of hand-made glass Chinese lanterns. Oversized round mirrors create subtle illusions of perspective. Each salon opens onto a beautiful and peaceful courtyard that is open for lunch and dinner from April to October.

Le Vraymonde dining room

Chef Dia's accomplishments stem from her attention to detail, her emphasis on fresh, high quality local and international products, and her constant reinvention of traditional dishes through her quest for new flavors. She describes her menu as follows:

Each dish is conceived as a new destination; a desire to share and discover. My first priority is to showcase each ingredient without denaturing or distorting it, while offering a voyage filled with flavors and aromas to the diner.

The menu evolves constantly. Chef Dia proposes eight first courses, eight main dishes, and eight desserts each day.

Tom and I dined at Le Vraymonde last Friday evening and we found that the descriptions of the sumptuous decor did not prepare us adequately for the atmosphere that we were invited to enter. Huge round mirrors on either side of the room projected the tables and walls into infinity - we felt as though we were dining in a never ending cavern of luxury.

For the starter, Tom ordered a Salade de papaye verte et mangue façon Thaï, which was a generous portion of julienned carrot and green papaya in a slightly sour sauce. I ordered Soupe carotte au lait de coco - a creamy carrot and coconut-milk soup drizzled with lime oil.

Gambas de Madagascar, cromesquis de champignons, riz vénéré

Tom chose Gambas de Madagascar, cromesquis de champignons, riz vénéré as his main course and received five jumbo shrimp and a mushroom croquette resting on a bed of black rice cooked al dente. I selected Poulet au caramel et carottes sautées à la menthe, a plate of caramelized chicken in a slightly sweet sauce served with baby carrots and turnips cooked soft, a small hot pepper, and portions of fresh lime. We both selected white wine to accompany our dishes and were thoroughly satisfied with our choices.

Desserts at Le Vraymonde are the realm of pastry chef Guy Darcel. From the eight choices on the menu, Tom ordered Baba au chocolate et whisky japonais, lait de coco aux perles du Japon. Flavored with dark chocolate and doused with Japanese whisky, it was a unique take on the traditional baba (yeast cake). I did not order dessert, but because our server could not bear to see me with an empty plate, he brought me two complimentary canelés – a classic mini-cake from Bordeaux (not on the menu).

We were greeted warmly by everyone that we encountered, including the doorman at the entrance to the hotel, and the service was outstanding from the moment that we entered the restaurant to the time that we claimed our coats to leave. The prices on the menu reflect the restaurant's location in the upscale neighborhood near La Madeleine church, but we felt that the food and the experience were worth it. We will definitely return!

Read a complete review of our dining experience on Monday, January 20 in the Paris Insights restaurant review.

All images courtesy of Laurent Guyot Communications.


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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Christian Bordey - Part 2

Last week, I introduced you to Christian Bordey, portrait photographer. In the second part of my interview with him, Christian discusses his favorite photography project and his life in the City of Light.

Christian Bordey
© Cécile Renaud

Though he lives and works in Paris, Christian feels more at home in Guadeloupe and more widely in countries with a black majority population. There are several reasons for this: he cites culture first and foremost, then “way of life” and “sense of fun.” “It's a bit cliché,” he says, but the sun is also an important reason that he prefers Guadeloupe. He describes himself as a “photo addict” and because he prefers images with bright sun and blue sky, he can take pictures all the time there. Also, he still has family in Guadeloupe and wants to spend more time with them.

He began to take pictures of his home island Terre-de-Bas in October 2012. Not having visited there for six years, the trip was like a rediscovery for him. Because there are few distractions on the island, he took photos to combat boredom. Then he came up with the idea of creating a book of these photos to show to his mother. He is working on photo books for two additional Guadeloupian islands – Marie-Galante and La Désirade – at the suggestion of Los Angeles gallery owner Michelle Joan Papillion.

At present, the "Terre de Bas" book is Christian’s preferred project. This is because it is intensely personal. He calls Terre de Bas his holiday paradise because this is where his mother comes from and where he spent all his holidays as a child. During his last stay in Guadeloupe, his brother introduced him to the neighborhood where his father grew up. Because he grew up without his father, he plans to focus his lens on this area in future photo shoots.

The Way to the Beach
© Christian Bordey

Photography has taken Christian many places in the world. When he was a photo assistant – taking care of equipment lists and managing the lighting for photography sessions – he traveled Spain, England and Italy for magazines such as Madame Figaro, Elle, and Vanity Fair. For photo shoots for English catalogs, he traveled to Brazil, California, and some islands in the Anglophone Caribbean (Bahamas, Barbados). He prefers sunny locations (especially Guadeloupe) and is now thinking of traveling to take pictures on the African continent.

One of the most unusual shoots that Christian worked on was in Qatar. He went there with Maher Attar, a Lebanese photographer based in Paris who works for the royal family. At the time, Christian was Attar’s light assistant. They took photos of the king's daughter and the images were printed on porcelain and offered to guests. During his free time, he took the opportunity to show another side of life in Qatar, the harsh reality of immigrants working on construction sites in stifling heat.

When the conversation turned to life in France, Christian had lots to say. He moved to Paris with his mother when he was three years old. Some of his most vivid memories of his early days there were of going to the discount clothing store Tati. He recalls that the store was often full and because he was small, it impressed him “a lot.” He also remembers that people from all backgrounds frequented Tati in those days, and he commented that this has not changed.

He currently lives in the Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine and he likes his neighborhood because it is close to all the conveniences of everyday life and provides a neighborhood life of its own. It is the first place that he lived when he arrived in France and he says that it “is a bit of a nod to my story.”

His favorite area in Paris is Châtelet les Halles because of the shopping, recreational activities such as cinema, and the huge mix of people that you find in the quarter because of the efflux from the suburbs at Châtelet Les Halles RER station. Only a few meters away, you can find a more “bobo” atmosphere with rue Montorgueil and trendy restaurants and cafés.

Christian rides a scooter – a popular means of transportation in Paris. He likes this because it gives him a sense of freedom and saves him time. But he doesn’t shun other ways of getting around. When he worked at Studio Astre, he took the metro to work because it was the most direct way to get from his home to the studio. He prefers taking a car when going long distances, particularly when the sun goes down.

When asked about the Guadeloupian community in Paris, Christian said that because of the history between France and the Caribbean and because Guadeloupe is still French, “forty years of immigration and homecoming are still valid.” Among the places that he meets people in the community is in the hair salon, “a place of passage of the black community.” He says that jazz clubs provide a very active scene for Caribbean. Occasionally, he’ll eat at La Kaz, a casual restaurant near Châtelet that serves Caribbean specialties.

Christian has the following advice for young photographers who are considering moving to Paris and establish a career there:

The best advice is quite simple: work, patience, and above all, perseverance. And maximize your social connections – get out and be seen in the right places.

Fogo de Deus
© Christian Bordey


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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Christian Bordey - Part 1

My friend Kathie Foley-Meyer introduced to Guadeloupe-native Christian Bordey less than two weeks ago, when she and her husband Irv swung through Paris as part of their extended Christmas holiday travels. We had a fascinating conversation over coffee and I knew that I had to bring Christian’s story to you via the Entrée to Black Paris blog!

Christian Bordey
© Cécile Renaud

Christian is a photographer who specializes in portraits. He started taking photos at the age of twenty-one with a camera that belonged to his father. He recalls asking if he could borrow his dad’s camera equipment, to which his father replied, "Of course." He then began doing portraits in a neighborhood studio and taking photos at his school in Paris’ 14th arrondissement.

He began his career by working in a traditional black and white photo lab, where he discovered what he calls “the magic of developing and photo printing.” He worked alongside acclaimed photographers Jeanloup Sieff (portraitist) and Peter Lindbergh (fashion photographer), drying their contact sheets by using an old process called “glazing.”

Christian worked at the fashion photo studio Astre for six years, where he served as the set assistant and the liaison between the team and the studio. He learned to deal with the photographer, makeup artist, hairdresser, indeed, everyone involved in the shoots. It was a grueling task but very rewarding, because that's where he learned how to build a light, manage a team, and create a relationship of trust with the person photographed.

Next, he worked with fashion photographer Fred Pinet – it was with Pinet that he learned to photograph in daylight. He went on to launch his solo career in fashion photography but now favors doing portraits. To his knowledge, no other Guadeloupian photographer does the kind of work that he does.

Christian has built quite a name and reputation for himself and works quite a bit from referrals. Because the relationship between photographer and subject is built on trust, the referrals indicate that his current and past clients trust him enough to recommend him. Clients have even come to him without even having seen his work, based on these referrals.

I asked Christian what distinguishes portraiture from fashion photography for him. He responded:

Fashion photography highlights the clothing, makeup, etc. of the time, using the best of each of these elements to create an image. For the portrait, the attitude is much the same, but in the service of a personality. Portraits are more timeless because they reflect an emotion.

In looking at Christian’s portfolio, I observed dozens of striking, sometimes even haunting, B&W portraits. But I also saw lots of color photos – of ad campaigns, music events, and particularly, of landscapes. Christian told me that when he travels, he prefers photographing in color because he prefers authenticity and wants to do only minimal retouches. For many of his portraits, however, he uses B&W for classicism.

Among the most expressive and enchanting portraits in the portfolio are those of several reggae artists. They are inspired by the classic portraits of jazzmen in black and white.

Earl China Smith
© Christian Bordey

Christian recounted the following about how he began photographing these artists:

I've always loved music and reggae in particular. My first CD purchase was UB40’s Labour of Love II. A few years later I began my recreational photography and then worked for a professional photo studio.

Then I had the idea to mix what I can do with what I like. This “clicker” emerged with a photo portrait of Bob Marley taken by Annie Lebovitz, with whom I worked. Annie had set up a mobile studio close to Marley’s concert and had waited three days to get his picture. So I thought, “Why not me?”

In July 2009, I contacted a reggae festival in the south of France and presented my project. It worked!

Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian’s favorite hobby is to go to live music concerts. He loves listening to the voices of the singers and hearing the musicians' work “because without them, music does not exist.” The height of his enjoyment comes when he attends music festivals – he loves the excitement, the encounters, the photo opportunities...

…which led to the topic of OneOneOne Exclusive Conscious Wear, a fair trade, ecologically-conscious French clothing line supported by “Reggae Artists, Musicians, Dancers, & Lovers.” Christian is among their supporters:

I have met many artists who wear OneOneOne creations at concerts and festivals and as soon as I could, I sent them pictures to promote their creations. I made this picture at Terre de Bas, with a tripod that my father bought in New Caledonia 40 years ago. My brother gave it to me last year. The name “OneOneOne” comes from Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a black prophet glorified by some reggae artists who said, "One Aim, One God, One Destiny."

Christian Bordey wearing OneOneOne apparel
© Christian Bordey

Now Christian is thinking of making a series of portraits of dance hall singers originating from the French Caribbean, this time in color.

Next week, read about Christian's preferred photo project and his life in Paris.


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