Friday, 23 November 2012

Barbara: 15 Years Passes So Quickly



She remains the singularly most influential figure in my life, the second-greatest love of my life. For twenty years almost I was her 'midnight confidant', time and time again I've been offered huge sums to tell our story, and I never will. She made, and still makes, taking all the flotsam life has to dredge up worthwhile. Always I ask myself, 'What would Barbara have done?' We had a mutual friend in Peggy Lee--well, she knew her much better than I did. When Peggy recorded 'Is That All There Is?' Barbara said, 'Death's not that big an issue--it comes to all of us, so when the time comes, just embrace it with open arms!' And when I received that phone call from Charley Marouani, two hours after the event and before it hit the press, I thought to myself, 'If she can do it, then there's nothing to be afraid of!' That was fifteen years ago this weekend. The fans always say the 24th, but it was actually one hour after midnight on the 25th. Freddie Mercury's anniversary--Barbara had chosen the title for my book about him. Nick Drake also died on the 25th--he was a big Barbara fan and his last 'concert'--just a couple of songs played for fun--was at the Ecluse, on the Left Bank. Exactly where Barbara started out. Joey Stefano, my other great inspiration, died on the 26th. We had dinner with him once, immediately after a Barbara concert. So many links and coincidences...
 
Yesterday was the anniversary of Pantin. It made Barbara laugh when we were talking to Melina Mercouri and I commented on how charming her grandson was--he was her lover! We roared with laughter at the antics of Alice Sapritch! So many good times were had with Barbara. November is such a good time, she said, for living and dying. I'll keep her up on that. She wrote Lily Passion and gave the Depardieu character my name--said I had the face of a perfect murderer! When I approached a couple of London producers on her behalf with the English version of the play about the man who knifes a woman each time he hears her sing, they would have nothing to do with it. Sensitive about the Yorkshire Ripper, who I'd known when younger. I told Barbara the whole story, the juxtaposition of which became the play. My reward, or one of them, came with Barbara arranging me to meet Garbo in 1986.
 
Fifteen years on, Barbara still earns millions--every penny of which goes to her children's and AIDS charities. She had a direct line to AIDS sufferers in prisons around France--she even went there and sang for them. In music, she received honours that even Piaf missed out on. The last time we talked was on our 25th wedding anniversary. She was very ill, but never in a million years did we think we were going to lose her. It's been a long road since she left. Nice people, nasty people. But she's in my thoughts every single day. The pictures I took hang above my desk, and our picture still hangs on the wall at Précy. People can say or write about me whatever they like, but they're never going to take away any of this. Who needs dung when they can close their eyes and see a diamond?

Charley called this morning, and he shares the same sentiments as I do regarding the anniversary. Everyone and his mother has released a book or a 'tribute' album. No one knows the real story because Barbara was so intensely private and trusted so few of us. I loathe people like Marie Chaix when they tell stories of drugs and bad tempers. I saw her lose her rag once at Marco, at the Mogador when he made a mistake with the lights--for some reason he chose to weep on my shoulder, which wasn't an unpleasant experience. Then he wept even more when she gave him a big hug later that night at dinner. Neither did she have a weight problem, as Chaix said. She was always slim as a reed! The singers--well, the less said about them the better. Barbara's songs were so personal, especially 'L'aigle noir' and 'Dis, quand reviendras-tu?' Eva, Mouloudji and Cora Vaucaire were given permission to do these while Barbara was lived and did them well--Martha Wainwright sounds like a cat in a blender. Everyone who knew Barbara cannot stomach her version of the song. I adapted 'Ma plus belle histoire d.amour' and she sang this with Barishnikov in New York.

Each time we go to Bagneux we clean the grave. She's buried with around ten members of her family, including her mother--Esther also died in November, and all of Barbara's studio albums were released on this date. We were present when all the others were recorded. In the Pantin video, I'm the man with the rose. Not only did she allow Jeanne to touch her costumes, she gave her one of them! Tomorrow, two of the French radio stations are playing every one of her songs over a period of twelve hours. That's what you call a star--but Barbara was much more than that.

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