The Jean Paul Goude Parade
by Jean-Pierre Jumez
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.
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.
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!