Today’s topics is: Visiting Paris March 2023.
These are The Magic Memories 116, gone online Sunday, March 19th, 2023, at 0:07h sharp.
All The Magic Memories from 2021, 2022, including the Magic Advent Calendar from 2020 can be found HERE.
For earlier information on Paris, check The Magic Memories 94 of OCT 16th 2022.
Following are a few impressions from my most recent visit two weeks ago, which was a short-term decision: My friend Robert Jägerhorn from Finland called and stayed with us for a few days.
Robert is a magic pro, and you might have seen him at a magic convention years ago with his act performing as an airline pilot. However, like many successful professionals, you don’t see him a lot at magic functions… You can learn more about him HERE.
Since Robert had booked his flight back to Finland from Paris, I decided to join him for a few days in my favorite city, Paris, which is a mere 3-hour fast-train-ride from Basel: Leave Basel at 08:34, have lunch in Paris! An artists’s life…
Session With Bebel
We arrived on time on March 1st, at Gare de Lyon, and left our luggage at the hotel. I always take a hotel near the train station, so at arrival and return I can just walk over without having to take the Metro (the subway in Paris) or a taxi, as traffic problems are omnipresent in Paris, let alone when they go on strike, a favorite occupation in France… (they had announced a General Strike on Tuesday, fortunately I left on Sunday).
With beautiful weather we took an almost one-hour walk to Bebel’s favorite restaurant in the 18th arrondissement – Paris is organized in 20 districts, called “arrondissements”. The 18th, “the Montmartre quarter”, is famous for its Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré-Coeur). It is quite touristy, but the Parisians have made a real effort in the past years to upgrade it for the locals, and it is now quite attractive.
When we arrived at the restaurant – “Café Bruant” in rue des Abbesses 59, an unassuming little bistro – I told the waitress we were friends of Bebel waiting for him, and immediately were assigned a larger table for five in a cosy corner, rather than a tiny table of two for tourists 🙂
And there I had a “tartare coupé au couteau”, invariably my first dish when I arrive in Paris; “coupé au couteau” means the meat is cut with a knife rather than letting it through a grinder, a world of difference, like a card trick done by a beginner and an expert.
When Bebel arrived, we immediately started a session that for me lasted until late afternoon, when I had to leave to see my publisher Georges Proust at the “Musé de la magie et curiosité” (see below).
If you are reading this blog, you’ll probably be familiar with Bebel’s work.
He’s a real model for many of us, not just for his talent in magic, which is over-abundant, but also for his modesty, humbleness and kindness.
When I first met him on my first visit to Paris, over thirty years ago, he was a poor and sick kid. But through sheer perseverance and love for magic, he made it, a French version of the American Dream you might say, now being world-famous among magicians, and being able to lead a life with great dignity.
Although he got work on TV and also had his theatre shows, he still goes back to his roots, and on any night with good weather, you can find him performing sitting at a table, under a lamp post near the Metro Mabillon on the sidewalk, next to Boulevard Saint-Germain, from about 9 pm to late into the night.
If you want to see a video of Bebel in his element, early in his career, CLICK HERE.
Bebel and his magic deserve a book, but suffice it here to say that his magic is original, inspired and immaculately performed, without braggadocio, just kind and humble – and his audiences, magicians and laymen alike, love him for that.
If you study his work you’ll find it very visual, organized in short sequences, often redundant in the sense that the same effect is reapeated with variations. I’m not much of a musician, but I can see analogies in the composition of certain musical pieces. (My musician friend Roland Heuer could express this in learned terms.)
This is due to the fact that performing in the street entails an audience which comes and goes, and at any moment should be able to grasp the plot of a trick and its effect. Bebel’s style of performance and the construction of his pieces are designed to satisfy the requirements of this situation at a high artistic level.
All who perform in similar situations, or who do bar or table magic, would greatly benefit from studying his work.
Bebel is working on a book, and we discussed the ins and outs of it, too. He was especially interested to hear how I organize my material and information using Evernote, and I gave him a quick lecture on it – I made a note to come back and offer my know-how and experience for a larger group who seems to be interested in the matter.
The rest of the session was spent with Bebel showing us his latest findings, which are all truly remarkable, and we did a few things for him, too.
To see Bebel perform more, simply go to YouTube and enter “bebel magie”, and you’ll be able to spend the rest of the day (or night) watching him 🙂
Musé de la magie et curiosité
The “Marais”, in the 3rd arrondissement, also called the “Jewish Quarter”, is one of the most attractive for tourists. There you find George Proust’s museum of magic in the rue St. Paul 11, and Dominique Duvivier’s “Double Fond” cafe and magic cabaret (see below).
While Robert and Bebel continued playing the cards, I made my way to George Proust’s museum, a great walk through the boulevards and small streets of Paris, still full of small privately owned shops, although many have been replaced by run-of-the-mill and absolutely uninteresting shops that offer fashion, shoes and other unnecessary things, shops that you find in any big city…
Proust is another who deserves a HUGE book, being one of the important collectors, owner of the “Academie de magie”, a big and innovative magic shop, a publisher of some of the most important books in French, and, and , and…
Together with the late Christian Fechner, he was also responsible for the exhibits on Robert-Houdin in the Robert-Houdin Museum in Blois, always worth a visit (ca. 90 minutes by train from Paris).
Proust is also the publisher of hundreds of books in French, and even two of my books in French (I collected my yearly royalties, which paid for a meal in Paris… no comment).
His latest publication is a 500-plus-pages book, magnificently illustrated with many colored photos on the history of French magic dealers called MARCHANDS DE RÊVES, written by Proust and Philippe Saint-Laurent. This is only volume 1, and several more are in the works.
If you come to Paris, this place is a must-see.
For more information on the opening hours of the museum, the many publications etc. CLICK HERE.
Show at the Double Fond
I had been at Duvivier’s Double Fond before, many years ago, shortly after its opening. I still remember it because I was the only spectator!
Still, they put on the full 75-minute show, and being the only spectator I had to pick cards, shuffle, and eventually work almost as much as the performer, who on that particular night was “Le Nain”.
As you will see, if you go to their webpage, they have several performers, and different shows going on, and it’s not easy to find out who does what and when, and if you do, it might change… so the best thing is to call or write in and ask if you want to see a particular performer or show.
If you are lucky you get to see Gaetan Bloom, David Stone, or the Master himself, the Great Duvivier, possibly together with his daughter Alexandra, who keeps reminding everyone that she fooled P & T, as have hundreds of others.
As for Duvivier, he’s quite a controversial person, and among the Parisian magicians it is not easy to find one who likes him. Nonetheless, it has to be said, that he’s quite a character, does what he does in a unique way, and is certainly what you’d call a “mover and shaker”: He owns Mayette magie, one of France’s first magic shops, has been the editor and publisher of its magic magazine LE MAGICIEN from N°127 to 158, together with Gaetan Bloom and Jean-Jacques Sanvert (the webshop says you can still buy them for € 360,19), owns and runs the Double Fond, and recently has put up a video channel on Internet, as well as a magic school that receives a grant from the state- as the French say: “Il faut le faire – you’ve got to do it.”
Since Robert had never been at the Double Fond, and we only had one evening off, we simply got there before 9 pm, had an acceptable quick dinner at the bistro next door, and easily got in without reservation.
To our surprise the evening’s performer was our friend Boris Wild, who did a double-take when he saw me in the audience – surprise, surprise 🙂
Boris had done this hundreds of times before, so walked through the performance with the consummate ease of a professional, and the 27 spectators in the audience went along splendidly. As part of the show he did his “Kiss Act”, as well as his “Butterfly Act”, both of which you can see if you enter “boris wild kiss act” in YouTube.
It amused me that Boris was using a headset-microphone to speak to the 27 people of whom the one farthest away was less than three meters, but it seems to be one of the theatre’s “policies”. Another such strange “policy” is to have a monitor behind and above the head of the performer, which shows the latter, only smaller than you can see him anyway live.
This said, if you are in Paris, I recommend visiting the Double Fond and see the show, BUT make sure to check their homepage to see if the show is on, and who is performing – if you want to play it safe, call (all info online).
Playing Card Museum
Whatever you do in Paris, make sure to visit the French Playing Card Museum in Issy-les-Moulineaux. Simply take the Metro line 12 to the end station “Marie d’Issy”; try to arrive around noon, so you can have lunch at “Les Colonnes”, a French type Brasserie serving excellent traditional dishes. Robert and I had “Ragout de Joue de boeuf”, similar to “Boeuf Bourguignon”, but with beef cheek, and “Quenelles de chocolat noir aves crème anglaise de pistache”, the latter being worthy of a Michelin-star restaurant. A “café serré” (Espresso) and a “petit Calva” (Calvados, Tamariz’s favorite when he lived in Paris), and we were ready for the museum visit.
I said this before, and will repeat it here: This museum will be interesting to any intelligent person, i.e., a magician’s wife, partner etc. (you’ve got to be very smart to live with a magician…). The place is absolutely enthralling, from the architecture, from the exhibits, and from the didactical manner the exhibits are presented – this is the ultimate challenge for any museum. You’ll need ca. 90 minutes to visit the museum, for me the ideal time, plus 10 minutes for the shop… (never forget the museum shop, as there is ALWAYS something of interest).
BTW: The poster you see in the photo below was designed for the inauguration of the museum by world-famous actor, clown-magician-director Pierre Etaix, a phenomenal talent. Check him out HERE. Speaking of cards: Etaix designed and produced a very attractive deck of cards, not so easy to get – glad I have one 🙂 His biographical work C’EST CA PIERRE ETAIX will be interesting even for those who do not read French, as it is full of photographs and reproductions of his work.
In 2004, when we taped part of the documentary “Il Giardino dei giochi segreti” he came to see my show at the “Musée de la curiosité”, and we had a short conversation afterwards, where he graciously gave me a few ideas for my performance.
At that time I was not aware of what an important person he was, and I wish I had spent more time with him, a truly great artist.
The museum has a small museum shop that used to have a larger offering, but is now quite reduced – what a pity! – nonetheless, I made a find in form of a book about the history of the Joker. Some of the essays contained are truly interesting for us magicians, as they give a deeper insight into the history and symbolism of the Joker. However, it is in French…eh, oui!
Session With Bernard Bilis
A visit to Paris wouldn’t be complete without seeing my good friend Bernard Bilis, who always surprises me with his enthusiasm, his novel findings and his out-worldly skill.
His book is still in the works, as I have already mentioned, and nobody knows better than me what it means to go through all the work before a book hits the market. Bilis’ magic is quite astonishing, original, complex, and full of technical finesse. However, it is not for the faint-hearted…
I sessioned with Bernard after Robert had left for the airport to take his flight back to Finland, but before we fortunately had a copious lunch at one of the Parisian classics, “Le pied de cochon”, literally the pig’s foot, near Les Halles, and after the oysters, which are de rigueur if you eat in Paris, I had a pig’s foot stuffed with foie gras, black truffles and some other mysterious ingredients… I maintain that gastronomy is the perfect analogy for magic… I keep promising to write about it… I will… sometime 🙂
Among the many things, Bernard showed me a wonderful move that has great potential, as it can solve many technical problems of card magic, and when it will be published, it should take the magic world by storm – until then, shhh, it’s a secret 🙂
Another unavoidable appointment when in Paris is having dinner at Yves’, a friend of many years, sharing magic, bread, wine and cigars. I spent the last evening at his home with his charming wife Véronique, we had a fine dinner (Yves is a great chef!), and talked lots of magic.
If you read French, or want to learn it, Yves’ book called Grand livre de cartomagie published a few years ago by Marchand de Trucs and obtainable HERE, will enthrall you.
There would be a few more things to tell, but I have taxed your patience already to the limit, so will stop here.
In the next The Magic Memories 117, I will tell you about my adventures in Rome, the 2Eternal City”, the magic I saw there, the unique meeting with the legendary Silvan, and of course give some hints at how to get around Rome as the Romans do 🙂
Wish you all a very successful week!