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 The Champs Elysées at Midnight

Monday, January 1, 2020 • Paris, France

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Dear Parler Paris Reader,

 Cirque d'Hiver, ParisCirque d'Hiver, Paris

Cirque d'Hiver - Paris, France

Circus Photo by Richard Avedon Dovima with Elephants Evening Dress by DiorCircus Photo by Richard Avedon - Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior


Théâtre du ChâteletThéâtre du Châtelet

An American in Paris vintage movie poster

An Empty Rue Vieille du TempleAn Empty Rue Vieille du Temple

Two years ago, a group of my close friends and I made the Cirque d'Hiver our activity of choice on New Year's Eve. Located only a short walk from my apartment, it was an ideal venue for a really nutty, but fun thing to do on the last night of the year.

If you're thinking that this circus is for kids, think again. It's a traditional European-style circus that dates back to 1852. The circular structure was built by architect Jacques Ignace Hittorf, who also designed the Gare du Nord. It was here that Toulouse-based Jules Léotard invented the flying trapeze and was the first to jump into the air, from one trapeze to another (hence the song, "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze," and yes, we have him to thank for what we wear today for gymnastic activities, "leotards"). It was also here in 1955 that Richard Avedon took some of his most famous photos. (Read more about our evening two years ago in Parler Paris) 

This year, an old friend and I opted for a slightly different "spectacle" — Un Américain à Paris (An American in Paris) at the Théâtre du Châtelet. Yes, it was in English and you know the story: American GI, Jerry, stays on in Paris after the war to become a painter. He and his two friends, all aspiring artists of some kind, all fall in love with a dancer named Lise. It was a 1951 film first, directed by Vincente Minnelli, written by Alan Jay Lerner, with music by George Gershwin and starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guétary and Nina Foch. How many times have you seen it? Me? At least a dozen, but never the musical.

The musical was inspired by the film, but adapted for the stage by Christopher Wheeldon. It first opened at the Théâtre du Châtelet in December 2014 (with a limited run through January 4, 2015) before it went on to Broadway at the Palace Theatre in April 2015. Meanwhile, the Théâtre du Châtelet, which has a seating capacity of 2,500, underwent $34.7 million of renovation over the course of 2.5 years, re-opening this past September. The musical relaunched here at the end of November of this past year and will ran only until today.

There weren't a lot of seats left, but there were two all by themselves way up high and dead center at a fair price, so I grabbed them. Little did I realize that so high up (5th floor) meant very little connection with the performance and that the tall (but very handsome) man in front of me would block my view entirely. With jet lag, wedged into the seats with no room for movement, my friend and I both nodded off a few times in spite of the excellent performance below. It's not that we didn't enjoy's that we would have enjoyed it more if we had been able to score better seats — so, that's my word of advice to you! Spend a bit more and turn your vantage point into an advantage.

One reason we chose the venue was because walking home was "du gâteau" (a piece of cake). With the transportation strikes, I'd heard nightmare stories from friends who ventured too far from home and couldn't get back without a big ordeal. That's not what we had in mind, so we strolled home leisurely, hoping for somewhere interesting to land for a drink. What was really strange is that Le Marais was a ghost town. Café Beaubourg was set up for a fancy-schmancy New Year's Eve dinner, but no one was there — it was virtually empty. Etoile Manquante on rue Vieille du Temple had only a few seats taken. The streets were deserted. It was so strange — even a normal weeknight would have been 20 times busier. Where was everyone?

In my building a big party was in full bloom in the apartment below me. That was the most revelry we had seen since the theater. Then, when we turned on TV, we understood where everyone was. An estimated 300,000 people showed up on the Champs Elysées, in spite of the strikes, for the special light show comprised of 3D images projected on the Arc de Triomphe which came to a climax with fireworks. While it looked like an amazing experience and loads of fun, we watched it all from the comfort of my warm bedroom on BFM TV (with the booming from the party below). (See it in its entirety

With 2019 under our belts, we look forward to "twenty-twenty," but what I am hoping for is "20-20" clear vision by the people who have the power, to see and tell the truth, and to improve our world with some serious wisdom.

Happy New Year!

A la prochaine...

Adrian Leeds - by Karen Segal

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