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Thread: edith piaf

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    edith piaf

    Edith Piaf was born on 19th December 1915 as legend tells it "under a gas light on the night streets of Paris." In reality she was born in a local hospital. Her real name was Edith Giovanna Gassion. Her Father was an acrobat, performing the streets of Paris, her Mother a street singer with no care for her new born child.

    For years she struggled making a living entertaining passers-by, for some time she worked with her Father, until she was spotted by an impresario who offered her a contract.

    With many problems throughout her career, Edith eventually became the most highly paid star in the world. She made many recordings dating from 1936 until her last recorded song, L'homme de Berlin, which she taped in early 1963.

    Edith did not die a rich woman. In fact she left many debts to her second husband, Theo Sarapo, a man many years her junior, but she lived her short life to the full, living only to entertain her public in the only way she knew how.

    I can only appreciate this woman through her recording and biographies of her life, I wish she could have hung on a little longer !



    Her father went off to the war shortly after her birth and returned two years later to find a dirty, ill child who had been in the 'care' of her alcoholic maternal grandparents for most of that time. He took Edith to stay with his own mother - a cook in a Normandy brothel, where she remained until the age of six. They then spent several years travelling around France entertaining people with their acrobatic side-show until they returned to Paris, renting a room at a hotel on the Rue de Belleville not far from her birthplace.



    At the age of fifteen, Edith met Simone Berteaut; possibly her half-sister, definitely a companion for most of her life, and between them toured the streets singing and earning money for themselves for the first time. With the money Edith also earned as part of an acrobatic trio Edith and Simone (Mômone) were able to rent a room at the Hôtel de l'Avenir on Rue Orfila.

    In 1932 she met and fell in love with Louis Dupont - within a very short time he moved into their small room; the three of them lived together despite Louis and Mômone's dislike for each other. Louis was never happy with the idea of Edith roaming the streets and continually persuaded her to take jobs he found for her. She resisted whenever possible however until she became pregnant and worked for a short while making wreaths in a factory.

    Baby Marcelle was born in the Hôpital Tenon in February 1933. Edith had little maternal instinct nor domestic ability and rapidly returned to street singing until the Summer of 1933 when she opened at Juan -les-Pins, Rue Pigalle. Louis was incensed - they quarrelled and Edith left taking Mômone and Marcelle. The three of them stayed at the Hôtel Au Clair de Lune, Rue André-Antoine. Marcelle was often left alone in the room whilst Edith and Mômone were out on the streets or at the club singing.



    During this time Edith encountered a young man by the name of Albert who was a pimp for several prostitutes and even tried to persuade Edith to work for him. She refused, so he demanded large proportions of her money earned by singing and this continued until one of her friends, a girl named Nadia, forced into working for Albert, killed herself. On learning the relationship was over Albert attempted to shoot Edith; luckily without success.

    In August 1935 Louis Dupont surprisingly contacted Edith. Marcelle; who at some point Louis had collected to care for himself, was gravely ill in hospital suffering from meningitis. Edith rushed to the Hôpital Tenon - Marcelle died just over a week later.

    here was little that Louis wanted to change when it came to her singing voice, but her name, Edith Gassion was considered totally unsuitable. After considering - and rejecting - several names, he hit upon the idea of using the Parisian argot name for sparrow; Edith Piaf was created !
    Her opening night was a nerve wracking affair for young Edith. In a black, hand knitted dress, a borrowed scarf hiding a missing sleeve, she faced an initially cold, indifferent audience, but left the stage to riotous applause and cheering.

    Her new -found popularity brought with it new friends; Maurice Chevalier, Mistinguett - a contemporary of hers and Jacques Borgeat the poet with whom she maintained life long contact.

    Things were going from strength to strength until the 6th April 1936. Louis 'Papa' Leplée was murdered in his apartment at 83 Avenue de la Grande Armée and Edith, by her long association with the more dubious characters of Paris, was a prime suspect in the organisation of his death, if not the act itself.



    Raymond and Edith's relationship lasted for three years during which time her fortunes began to improve. By the middle of 1939 she was commanding sell out performances and sharing star billing with established stars such as Marie Dubas. Raymond received his call-up papers in the August of that year - Edith met and moved in with a young singer, Paul Meurisse very shortly afterwards. They rented an apartment on Rue Anatole-de-la-Forge, a far more salubrious area than Edith's usual haunts, however, despite Meurisse's apparent classiness their relationship was decidedly tempestuous and violent arguments were commonplace.

    During this time she also met a new friend who was to have a special place in her life: Jean Cocteau. As a result, she regularly began visiting a private club in the cellar of the Palais Royal, Rue de Beaujolais, where he lived. There she met many artists and intellectuals of the day and Cocteau himself wrote the play "Le Bel Indifferent" especially for her from her tales of her relationship with Meurisse. With great difficulty she was persuaded to accept the lead role - the play was a huge



    "Le Bel Indifferent", Cocteau's play written for and starring Edith, opened at the Bouffes Parisians in the Spring of 1940. Her first performance in support of the war effort was on the 9th May 1940 at the Bobino for the Red Cross in the company of other stars such as Maurice Chevalier and Johnny Hess. By the time "Le Bel Indifferent" had closed Meurisse had been called up and then rejected on medical grounds, Edith discovered that Mômone's husband had been killed fighting so moved her back to their apartment, and German troops were advancing towards France through Belgium. Edith left Paris for Toulouse for a tour of the unoccupied areas with Meurisse.

    German occupied Paris was a very different place to Edith's previous home. All artists were forced to register at the Propagandastaffel and have their songs vetted in order to be able to work. Edith fared better than most - she may have hated them but they liked her, and her use of Parisian argot enabled her to voice her opinions without reprisal. She was in great demand not only to perform benefit concerts for prisoners of war but also for the Germans themselves. Her association with the French Resistance is now well known and many owed their lives to her as a result.

    Professionally, the period 1940 - 1945 was a very successful one for Edith; privately however it was one containing many changes...

    Michel Emer, a young Jewish man, arrived at her door one Spring evening in 1940. She was rehearsing for her new season at the Bobino at the time - the last thing she wanted was to be bothered by a struggling composer pestering to be heard ! His insistence, however, paid off and Edith eventually found herself listening to an inspirational piece of music - L'Accordéoniste. Unfortunately, Edith had to part with her new-found friend; she paid his way into the unoccupied zone of France in order to "wait out" the war. He was unable to return until after the Liberation.

    Edith and Meurisse, although still together, were no longer the lovers they once were. The film Montmartre-sur-Seine was offered to them in 1941 and it was probably this alone that kept them together a few more months. Edith threw herself into learning her lines for her leading role and writing the lyrics for the music provided by Marguerite Monnot.



    Bar, a favoured drinking establishment. Henri did not follow her as expected however; he was already involved with someone else and Edith resorted to flirting with other men in order to make him jealous. Her tactics were partly successful; they became lovers and Contet introduced her to a brothel proprietress named Madame Billy; Edith, running short of money, had to leave her apartment near the Bidou so rented the third floor above the brothel on the now rue Paul-Valéry, accompanied by Mômone. Contet visited regularly but still did not move in. Friends old and new were noisily entertained regularly; as were also the Gestapo, much to the annoyance of her neighbours. Her father also reappeared and started visiting weekly to Edith's delight, but her mother's demands were less welcome. There was at least one occasion when she turned up at Edith's apartment; there were several where Edith was called to the police station because of her mother's drunken behaviour, the last time being on her death. Edith did not mourn her passing.



    Shortly after she opened at the Versailles, she received a phone call from Marcel Cerdan,inviting her to dinner. It was not quite what she had been expecting - pastrami, salt beef and beer at a corner drugstore, but it heralded the start of a romance lasting almost two years;and a grief which haunted her for most of the remainder of her life. His situation did not make life easy for either of them. He was married; his wife and three children lived in Casablanca where he visited them regularly,and his work commitments were such that she was forbidden to see him whilst he was in training; rumour has it that she resorted to being smuggled into the training camp to be with him, risking his disqualification if caught.America was not France - their relationship was frowned upon by the boxing fraternity, press and public alike.Even Momone, Edith's alleged half-sister tried to sabotage the romance by offering Cerdan's wife a bundle of letters she had purloined - but only at a price, then threatened to tell the press the truth behind the facade of the "just good friends" image they tried to project. Edith adored him.In mid 1948 she bought a house, 5 rue Gambetta, Bois de Boulogne, so they could spend more time together and ensured it had a room big enough to fit a gymnasium. She attempted to bring him into her world - introducing him to serious literature, and decking him out in expensive clothes and jewellery,but was also eager to involve herself in his. Whenever possible; her own bookings aside, she would go to his fights - cheering him on, terrified he would lose and praying for miracles.She described her experience of praying to St Therese before Cerdan's fight against the American Tony Zale for the World Championship in September 1948. She said she knew her prayer had been heard when the briefly overwhelming perfume of roses filled her room - a sign she recognised from her childhood in Normandy. In March 1949 Cerdan fought at Earl's Court. Edith came with him. They stayed at the Mayfair Hotel, but sadly she never sang in the United Kingdom. Despite Edith being considered to be bad luck for him, Cerdan's career seemed to be flying higher and higher - so was her's. One memorable experience for her was singing for the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip at Carrere's, Champs Elysees. She was performing at the A.B.C. during the time of their visit to Paris in 1948,and was specially invited to sing for them. It was memorable to her more as an ordeal than a pleasure - she was petrified of making a blunder! Booking after booking followed. She was working almost constantly between Paris and New York, yet still had the time and energy to promote new talent such as Charles Aznavour who was responsible for the songs Il Pleut and "Il y Avait",amongst others. Little did she realise that, once again, at the height of her fame, more tragedy was around the corner.



    On the 27th October 1949, Marcel Cerdan died in an aeroplane crash in the Azores - on the way from Paris to join Edith in New York - along with the other passengers; one of whom was Ginette Neveu, the violinist and friend of Edith.Why he decided to fly when both he and Edith were mistrustful and afraid of it, we will never know,but one possibility suggested was that Edith may have persuaded him to do so to avoid a long wait for him to arrive by boat; another, that he wanted to surprise her. Whatever the reason, when wakened by Louis Barrier to be told he was gone, her grief was completely overwhelming but she insisted on singing that evening as planned, on her opening night at the Versailles. It was a tragic sight. Edith announced she was dedicating the night's performance to Marcel; she was so distraught that she even fainted during the show, but nothing would stop her - this was her farewell to the man she loved.



    some of the stuff was cut and pasted from Edith Piaf

  2. #2
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    Thanks Teddy for this nice thread...

    The lady was great and quite hot, was told that if she found a nice boy in the back stage before a show, it was a go...

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    Edith Piaf was a poof.

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    She never sung "Don't cry for me Argentina. She must be a poof.

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    Non, je ne regrette rien: One of the great love songs.

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    Good read , my Mom player her songs all the time when I was kid.

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    Great thread teddy, a hell of a life she had, both charmed and ill fated.
    G

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    I thought she was really goog in Allo Allo.

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    For many years the French Foreign Legion marched in to battle singing her songs. It stirred their hearts.

    I was introduced to Piaf by my Dad. He was a British paratrooper during the 1950s and was at Suez in 1956 when France, Israel and Britain took the canal back from that upstart Nasser. He met many French Foreign Legion soldiers while he was in the canal zone. Many were Germans from the 2nd WW. However, he discovered Piaf from drinking beer and singing with the legionnaires.

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    Great article. Brings back memories. The little sparrow. I remember her songs when I was young. Milord became a worldwide hit among others.

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