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French-American Ties: From Paris to New York City

Just as Paris was getting sunny and bright, the Airport Shuttle dropped me off at the new (and well designed) Terminal 2E to board the Air France flight to JFK. The light was bouncing so brightly off the plane parked outside that it was almost blinding. Every seat in the waiting lounge has its own plug for all of us electronically-addicted people (which these days seems to be almost everyone).

It’s been a while since I was in The Big Apple, so it has been a treat to take in the energy of the American city, see friends, take in a play (I got cheap tickets to see “The Perfect Crime”) and an art exhibit or two. In fact, Robert Capa’s color photos are on view at the International Centre of Photography (ICP) titled “Capa in Color,” and it was particularly special to see these little-known images.

Capa was one of the world’s greatest photojournalists, known as the “war photographer” who lost his life prematurely at the age of 40 when he stepped on a landmine in Indochina. His work in color has been sadly overlooked until now, in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth (October 22, 1913) — with over 100 prints and personal documents in this retrospective.

It’s particularly synchronistic to see this exhibition as I’m currently reading John G. Morris’ personal history of 50 years of photojournalism, “Get the Picture.” John Morris is a longtime resident of Paris and active member of Democrats Abroad. He’s held numerous events in his Marais atelier-style apartment and is in attendance of many community functions…even now at the young age of 98! I saw him most recently at Benny Luke’s commemoration at the American Embassy.

Morris and Capa have a profound history together. Morris was editor at Life Magazine when Capa was sent to photograph D-Day — the June 6, 1944 Normandy beach invasion during World War II. He was responsible for ensuring the precious film reached the magazine ahead of any others’ and experienced first hand the darkroom accident that led to a loss of all but 11 images. He successively became the Picture Editor of the U.S. monthly Ladies’ Home Journal, Executive Editor of Magnum Photos, Assistant Managing Editor for Graphics of The Washington Post and Picture Editor of The New York Times, and later in 1983 he moved to Paris as the European correspondent of National Geographic. We’ve been blessed with him ever since.

The first thing I did in New York was head for a good sushi restaurant where my daughter and I overate and loved every minute. Sushi is still one thing in Paris that one must pay way too much for for anything that comes close to U.S. style raw fish concoctions. There is one that is exceptional, however, and not too expensive in Paris that I frequent: Icho, at 3, rue des Tournelles (4th) near Place de la Bastille.

For more great sushi, we reserved for dinner tonight at Nobu (105 Hudson). Not to ‘name drop,’ but I met Nobu Matsuhisa when he was the chef (and owner) at a tiny spot at 903 North La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles all on his own. The wait was always at least 45 minutes to get a seat at the bar or at a table. Then he expanded and took over the restaurant next door.

There were always celebrities there — like Linda Evans and Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner and a host of others. It was a ‘happenin” place. Once he got backing by Robert De Niro, Meir Teper and others, he became THE NOBU. Now there are 30 Nobus all over the world! So…it’s been a long time for me and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into just about any of his creations.

Last night in New York I hosted a party for friends at Mekong Restaurant and Bar for great Vietnamese food at 16-18 King Street (at 6th) in the West Village. About 25 of us seated at one long table turned the back room into a total party of Francophiles who had more in common than just us hosts — because of which we all made fast friends. Almost every person there had some sort of French connection with us — people I had met in Paris for one reason or another, who had lived there at one time and were now living in New York.

James Navé was there who we will see in Paris as Guest Speaker at our next Parler Paris Après Midi. Lisa Anselmo, a recent ‘contributor’ to a House Hunters International (an episode we filmed together that has not yet aired) came and made lots of new friends. Gay Marshall hit it off with The Fabulous Lulu Lolo and Bonnie Loren, all three performers who have strong Paris ties.

It was simply perfect to connect New York and Paris with so many old friends who still travel back and forth between the two cities to get their ‘fix’ of the two towns that energize them…for different reasons.

At lunch yesterday in a small German/Czech/Hungarian spot low-key coffeehouse and restaurant, Doma Na Rahun on Morton Street at 7th Avenue, we were surrounded by French speakers…the young French living in New York City. “In 2010, the French Consulate listed about 27,875 French nationals locally, up about 2,000 from 2006. But, says a spokesperson, that figure only reflects those who register, a small fraction of the actual population. A closer estimate is about 70,000 in the greater New York area, with the vast majority living in the city, she says.” (nypost.com/2011/08/25/baguette-me-to-new-york/)

These statistics are already well out of date and the French population is growing by leaps and bounds. According to FrenchDistrict.com, the French move to the U.S for better employment opportunities and more money as well as the freedom to do what they want. “What I have done here I couldn’t have done in France. When I arrived, I taught French to business people, which I couldn’t have done in France without qualifications,” said a consultant in Florida.

I am not surprised — as anyone living in France knows what a struggle it is to prosper under the heavy burdens of the French administration. It’s fascinating to see why Americans who grew up in the ‘land of opportunity’ choose to spend their time in France where they feel enriched by the profound history and culture, while the French are seeking what America offers, unburdened by just that history and culture.

Tomorrow morning my daughter and I fly south to The Big Easy, in preparation for the annual Mardi Gras and a visits with family and friends. There’s another city entrenched in French roots — and I’m sure we’ll discover them along the way.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - The Adrian Leeds Group, LLCAdrian Leeds

Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

(in New York City)

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Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut - Paris, FranceP.S. 
Straight from a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut is coming to Paris for 11 performances only from April 17-26, 2014. This play is a lovingly disrespectful homage to this classic film, with a “superb multi-tasking cast” whisking you back to Morocco 1941. Théâtre Déjazet, 41, boulevard du Temple, 75003 Paris, Métro: République. Tickets 25€ and 30€, Group bookings 20€, Students 18€. For dates and times visit dejazet.com. Bookings call 01.48.87.52.55.

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