I Love Paris June 2011

Dear Rowley,

I read the most amusing thing in the Daily Mail on the Eurostar back from Paris today. It seems that when a gang of fifty year olds were polled as to their favourite activity, sex came third after gardening and dining out. When the same number of thirty year olds were polled sex didn’t even make the top ten. Watching television and Facebook were well up there as you’d surmise. Thrilled I am heading for 50 not 30, aren’t you? I don’t think you can beat a an al-fresco with your significant other.

How was Paris? You might well ask! I’ve had good times and bum times in Paris. When there on a University jolly with my delicious friend Columbine Strickland twenty years ago, it was simply magic to end the night in a Pigalle boite hosted by an utterly chic transsexual in Chanel Couture. When I was there reporting on the runway shows for the FT it was tough, vicious and nasty. But of late Paris has transformed into a city of dreams and friends.

I adore the fact that it is compulsory for all Parisians to smoke. I find Napoleon IIIs beautification of the city charming. I love the rudeness of the French malapert lady on the Eurostar who practically set the entire carriage’s nerves on end with a nasty bleepy device that when asked if she could press ‘silent’ replied with a definitive ‘Non’ as if we’d asked whether she would paint her bosoms blue and parade naked down the Champs Elysees.

But what I love most of all about Paris is that ladies of a certain age will not leave the house without an immaculate hairdo, perfectly pressed formal day dress and an enigmatic smile playing on their Jungle Red lips as they sip a sour cafe noir while smoking a Gitaine and petting a pooch at a cafe table on the boulevard. What’s not to like? Also, I find it truly remarkable that after a bottle of champagne, one can speak French fluently.

I was in Paris for The Rake – a magazine dedicated to male sartorial excellence – to launch my Fashion at Royal Ascot book at an event with Sotheby’s Monaco Real Estate’s newly inaugurated VIP Club. I blew into town on the morning Eurostar, parked the Vuitton trunk at the Hotel Bedford then decided to have a walk down the avenues. I passed the Polish church behind the Rue de Rivoli and decided to light a candle for those I hold most dear – you included darling – and went for a mooch around the 6th Arrondisement antique shops.

Well, I was walking down the Rue de Bac when someone catcalled ‘James? Is that you?’ ¬†You’ll never believe it but it was one of your old flames Richard. We reminisced about you a little so I hope your ears were burning before I was on my way to get my glad rags on for the Sotheby’s party. It was hosted by a hottie called Alexander Kraft who has quite the most charming wife and the cutest dog in Paris: two benchmarks for a truly decent chap. Paris knows how to throw a party. Banks of orchids were displayed outside Sotheby’s in huge Grecian urns and a vintage Rolls Royce had been shipped over and parked outside for maximum posing potential.

The party was ostensibly for Sotheby’s Monaco’s high rolling clients but really it was an excuse for le tout Paris to dress in their best and meet craftsmen and women who work with luxury goods houses such as Rolex, Ralph Lauren, Cifonelli and Edward Green. Thames & Hudson had very sweetly sent out copies of Fashion at Royal Ascot and Savile Row: The Master Tailors of British Bespoke for me to sign and a jolly night was had by all…not least because my friend Hugo Jacomet pitched up as did Lorenzo Cifonelli who is arguably one of the greatest cutters in Paris. I couldn’t have liked it more.

It has become something of a tradition when I am in Paris that I end the evening with a seat at the bar of The Lido cabaret spectacular on the Champs Elysees for the 11.30pm show. I was fortunate last time I was in Paris to launch Savile Row that my parents’ friends the Edes knew the dance captain at The Lido, Stuart, and booked me a seat at the bar. I spent a magical evening with Stuart whereby the champagne glass was never empty and the cabaret was simply superb. Imagine a nightclub stage with about four storeys of hydraulic wizardry that allows the stage to turn into an Inca temple, an ice rink, a dressage ring and an Imperial Indian palace.

Well, I snuck in at the back last night only for one of the bar boys to say ‘how nice to see you again Sir. I’ll ring Stuart’. Stuart came front of house and uttered the immortal words ‘sweetheart, champagne is something that we never run dry of at The Lido’. We spent a gorgeous few hours discussing the history of the Lido, the legacy of Madame Bluebell who I met when my parents took me to the club for the first time aged thirteen and the hazards of being a Lido Boy Dancer as Stuart was.

The most amusing anecdote was about the ice skating couple who turn on a pin-head with a death defying routine involving the lady being swung by the skates in a death spiral. Had he ever let go? Apparently, once the male partner did and the poor Svetlana flew like a cannonball into the audience presumably sheering off the heads of Japanese tourists with her blades. I am now seriously thinking about putting together a proposal for Thames & Hudson for Spectacular: The Golden Age of Paris Cabaret. It could be an absolute cracker fizzing with tits, glitz and feathers.