vrijdag 18 juli 2014

Day 9. Josephine Baker

Today we visted Château des Milandes.
The castle where Josephine Baker lived from 1947 till 1968.
Black Venus was the name she got when she arrived in Paris at the age of 20.
It was 1925. The time of the Charleston.
She became an instant succes dancing in the famous "Revue Negre" in a theatre at the Champs Elysées.


A very liberated woman of that time. 
Barely dressed when she got on stage,
Only feathers.
Or that famous " banana skirt".
Sensual and sexual.
No taboo's

Everybody loved her.
She became the star of famous "Cabarets" as the "Folies Bergere" 
Earning a lot of money she started her own "Cabaret".

Her desire was to become more than a nude dancer.
She takes lessons in singing, acting and French.
Her first film was: La sirène des Tropiques".
Her most famous song: "j'ai deux amours" was first sung by her at the Casino de Paris.
She was at that time 24.

An independent woman. Strong opinions on racism.
Elegant, fashionable and a style icon.
Dressed by Christian Dior. And using the famous perfumes from him: "Miss Dior" and "Diorama".

But also very active in the anti racism movement.
She was very close with Martin Luther King.
Once she visited a Club in New York together with Princess Gracia from Monaco. She wasn't allowed to go in as a dark woman. As a statement Gracia left the Club immediately.
They became friends for life.

Married 4 times.
Divorced 4 times.
Affaires also with women. They say with Frida Kahlo and Collette.

Very active as a "Secret Agent" during World War II.
After the war she becomes the "Légion d'Honneur" more important medailles.
She was praised for het courage, intuition and intelligence.

One of her dreams was to unite children from different nationalities.
She founded "Tribu Arc en Ciel", also known as the "Rainbow children".
She adopted 10 boys and 2 girls.
From Korea, Japan, Finland, Colombia, North-Afrika, Ivory Coast, Venezuela, Marokko and a French Jewish boy. 
The all lived in the Château.
Her intensions must have been right, but I am not very sure about the idea of uniting children.
Uniting children this way -as a star- means in my opinion that the children also became a curiosity and had to behave as an outcome from her idea.

In a way her life was a happy life, but also very tragic too.
Her financial situation became critical in the 1950's.
Money problems. Dark clouds over "Des Milandes".
She had to go back on stage despite the fact that she had stopped at the age of 50.
In 1958 she had to sell all her belongings.
Her -at that time husband- Joe Bouillon leaves her.
In 1964 the Château was almost sold.
It was saved by an announcement.
Brigitte Bardot was one of them.
Des Milandes was saved.
In 1968 it was sold for 1/10 of the real value.
She has to leave her beloved Château.
But because of a French law she can stay another year.
Her children stayed with her sister in Paris.
She locks herself up in the kitchen.
No water, no electricity.
When she goes out to get water, the door to the kitchen was locked.
She spends the night outside in front of the kitchendoor.
Her dream was gone.
Very tragic and sad.
They brought her in schock to the hospital in Périgueux.
There was no attention for this tragedy in the newspapers. 
1968. The year of the "Student movement" in Paris.

At the age of 62 she starts living in Roque Brune at the Côte d'Azur.
She has to go back on stage to pay her depts.
In 1975 the Star was back on stage.
Only 2 performances in Bobino in Paris.
She was found unconcious in her appartment.
Followed by a stroke the next day.
She dies at April 12, 1975 at 5.30 hrs in the Hospital Sapetrière.
The ceremony of the funeral took place in the Madeleine at March 15.

I didn't know that much about her.
It was an interesting visit.
Beautiful bathrooms.

Great gowns.

But a little criticism is needed too.
The way it is presented is not very elegant.
Different dolls for the costumes.
The war scene is weird. A war-tent placed on the wooden top floor. Very silly.
I don't like the wax figures from her.
The garden needs attention.
You are not allowed to take pictures. 
I can understand that if you use flash and if there is a good book for sale with loads of images, which is not. 
It felt a little "poor" and maybe money is needed to get it right.

But we have enjoyed it too.
An insight in an interesting life of a very interesting woman.

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