French writer and artist Jean Cocteau, 32, has planned this terrific grand opening for the cabaret he is fronting, Le Boeuf sur La Toit [The Ox on the Roof], on the Right Bank. He and his business partners took the name from a ballet Cocteau had written a few years ago, to a catchy tune by French composer Darius Milhaud, 29.
Le Boeuf sur le Toit
Cocteau’s own paintings are on the walls, along with others lent by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, 40. However the centerpiece is the stunning work behind the bar, L’oeil Cacodylate, by French painter Francis Picabia, about to turn 43.
L’oeil Cacodylate by Francis Picabia
It’s almost midnight and the party is going strong. Picasso is here with his young Russian ballerina wife, Olga, 30. Welsh painter Nina Hamnett, 31, has arrived late.
Cocteau looks for his friend, French writer Raymond Radiguet, 19, and finds him at the bar chatting with Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, 45. The two men aren’t enjoying the party and, to Cocteau’s dismay, grab Nina and take off to find a bouillabaisse.
To Hamnett’s dismay, Radiguet and Brancusi abandon her at the Gare de Lyon to continue their search by hopping a train to Marseilles.
Le Boeuf sur La Toit publicity card
Over on the Left Bank, American ex-pats Ernest Hemingway, 22, and his wife of four months Hadley, 30, are settling in to their cramped, fourth-floor apartment above a bal musette, a bar with a dance floor presided over by the chain-smoking, accordion-playing owner.
The Hemingways arrived in Paris just a few weeks ago and have been staying at the nearby Hotel Jacob. An American friend found this apartment for them, with a mattress on the floor, no running water, and a toilet on each landing that they can smell when they climb the stairs.
The Hemingways are astounded by how cheap it is to live in Paris. In little neighborhood restaurants you can get dinner for two for 12 francs (about $1) and a bottle of wine for 60 centimes (50 cents). Hadley’s trust fund gives them $3,000 a year, and Ernest is working as the foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. They can afford to hire a maid to clean and cook them meals and can even afford to go on skiing vacations.
Today they are off to Chamby sur Montreux, Switzerland, for two weeks so Ernest can research a piece about the Swiss tourist trade for the Star.
74 rue de Cardinal Lemoine
If you now have Milhaud’s catchy tune going through your head, you can hear the whole piece here.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On February 3, 2022, we will be celebrating the 148th birthday of my fellow Pittsburgher Gertrude Stein, at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill. You can register for this free event, or sign up to watch it via Zoom, here.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon in both print and e-book versions.
At the end of February I am talking about the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Osher Lifelong Learning program at Carnegie-Mellon University.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.