MADE IN FRANCE INTERNATIONAL: The French luxury magazine

Jessye Norman

 

1989 Bastille Day:
The Jean Paul Goude Parade
by Jean-Pierre Jumez

Now, I know: there are two kinds of Parisians. Of course, you are going to say: in France, we know them, rightists and leftists never really cohabitate. No, I don't mean that. I’m just making a distinction between the Parisians who stayed in Paris during "les Fêtes du Bicentenaire" and the others, too frightened for their comfort or their routine. Well, I am glad so many left, making some room for the wise ones.
First things first: Bastille day on the Champs Elysées, the Jean Paul Goude parade. I was standing in the middle section: Champs Elysées Clémenceau, next to the Elysée, the presidential palace. The crowd became larger with lime. Obviously some people felt uncomfortable: there was a lot of beer, and a soccer game ambiance. The recent incidents in Europe were still on everybody's mind. After a while. I began regretting having snubbed an invitation to sit in the official tribune on the Place de la Concorde. My decision was simple: on the Place de la Concorde, where the cream of the cream was sitting enthroned, the parade was to come to a hall and so all the swish and flow of the show would be missed there.

The hours ticked by and my neighbors began Io jostle and jabber loudly. At last almost half an hour late, the first floats came by with French musicians from every region, playing all kinds of typical instruments and the Chinese with their bicycles, conveying a clear political message. There was a tide of excitement, with much cheering and whistling. More beer was drunk. More people became anxious. More regrets came to my mind.
But all of a sudden the heavenly giant "danseuses" went by, gracefully revolving thanks to some mysterious mechanism, holding children in their arms as if they were mythical partners, evoking different parts of the world. Instantly, there was silence. These dreamy figures gradually turned a seamless and rowdy gathering into an enchanted community. A spell had been cast over the Champs Elysées. United in one huge communion, il was obvious that we were taking part in a major historical event.

Indeed, as I was told later, these dancers symbolized another aspect of the French revolution: the abolition of privileges. The 16,000 official guests (well: 15.999) were perhaps watching the same show, but in a static form as the parade had to stop there. The VIP's were static while we, the ordinary people, went ecstatic.
For hours, there was an emotional crescendo. Jessye Norman's Marseillaise confirmed the message of the celebration: good taste and ideas do not know borders or races. When the American float closed the parade, mounted by its cheerful youth dancing away, I joined the millions of people who spontaneously flooded the ChampsElysées, forming the last part of the show. We were treated to the most amazing display of fireworks from the Place de la Concorde (well, VIP's at least had that privilege). Each new figure drew an immense clamor from the incredulous crowd. And when, just on the tail of the previous firework, another starburst shot up from the Arc de Triomphe, I felt "c'est trop!".
Well, there was more. "Bals populaires" were prepared to funnel all the excitement. Those clever Parisians I was referring to were in for a free foreign language lesson in every part of the city, as an impressive amount of private teachers made themselves available that night!

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