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Preventing Death by Paris Lifestyle

PART I: ALL THAT JAZZ

Bethany Bultman is one of those New Orleans residents everyone knows or need to know…at least that’s what one of my New Orleans childhood friends said when she introduced us years ago.

Bethany’s husband, Johann, is a member of an illustrious New Orleans family famous for many things, but most outstanding is their history of ownership of a funeral home founded in 1883 where the remains of Confederate President Jefferson Davis were prepared for burial. In 1920, the firm moved to St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District where they purchased two adjacent houses — one of them was the former home of actress/singer Kitty Carlisle.

The funeral home has since become a Borders Bookstore and then later became a Fresh Market as it is today. The other home, a three-story raised plantation house on Louisiana Avenue behind the former funeral home, is where Bethany and Johann are the ‘beau’ and ‘belle’ of the Garden District, hosting party after party.

When you enter, you feel as though you have been dropped into another place and time, feeling like Scarlet O-Hara or Rhett Butler. In the solarium, an enclosed garden on one wing of the home, is where I have spent many a pleasant evening including a party where Bethany allowed me to host my own affair, serving up fresh boiled crawfish and pot luck goodies made by my childhood friends. It’s a spot of heaven in a sultry sinful city.

 Bethany Bultman in her solarium - Photo by Ted Jackson/The Times-PicayuneBethany Bultman in her solarium – Photo by Ted Jackson/The Times-PicayuneWalter Wolfman Washington at the Jazz Club EtoileWalter Wolfman Washington at the Jazz Club EtoileThe Théâtre de la VilleThe Théâtre de la Villekathleen Spivackkathleen SpivackWith Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz & OthersThe Old Woman setThe Old Woman setMikhail Baryshnikov and Willem DafoeMikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe

Bethany is the co-founder of the New Orleans Musican’s Clinic (NOMC) that cares for more than 1,600 musicians, tradition bearers and their families. It’s “a full-scale provider of medical care for New Orleans musicians with services ranging from primary care to specialized surgeries and payments for chemotherapy bills.” An article posted in 2009 in The Examiner claims about Bethany, “Many people talk a good game when it comes to supporting New Orleans’ musicians, but few back it up,” and quoted Bethany as saying “We must help prevent death by lifestyle…and keep the music alive.”

She and Johann come to Paris often and by sheer coincidence, stay in an apartment that was the very first property I purchased on behalf of a client, renovated, decorated and prepared for rental. When Bethany suggested we meet to hear Walter “Wolfman” Washington & The Roadmasters play at the Jazz Club Etoile at the Le Méridien Hotel Friday night, I jumped at the chance. He’s been an icon on the New Orleans music scene for decades. “His searing guitar work and soulful vocals have defined the Crescent City’s unique musical hybrid of R&B, funk and the blues since he formed his first band in the 1970s.”

The room was filled with jazz enthusiasts, including one lone woman who had everyone watching as she gyrated in her seat to every beat. And I can tell you that there is nothing quite like REAL jazz. No offense to accomplished French musicians, but they simply can’t touch the sound of real jazz, R&B or funk that comes from the soul of New Orleans and a veteran like Wolfman. The musicians move on stage differently — they play their instruments in a more instinctive, spontaneous and uncontrolled way, and you hear it in their voices so peppered with real life experience. Wolfman was the REAL THING.

Wouldn’t we all like to see more New Orleans musicians sharing their talents with France and perhaps in collaboration with French musicians — so that we can “prevent death by lifestyle…and keep the music alive?”

PART II: THE OLD WOMAN

There wasn’t a woman in it…just a couple of old guys we have all come to admire: Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe.

Again, it was someone I admire greatly to have invited me to witness Robert Wilson’s play at the Théâtre de la Ville — Kathleen Spivack, teacher, writer, poet, author and brilliant thinker.

While Kathleen is quite formidable in her own right, she also hails from an illustrious family — her father, Peter Drucker was “an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation. He was also a leader in the development of management education, and he invented the concept known as management by objectives.” (Wikipedia.org) Her mother, Doris, at the age of 101, made the opening address at the 5th Global Peter Drucker Forum just 10 days ago in Vienna.

So, Kathleen comes from ‘good stock’ and with a host of books of which she can be proud, a new book out everyone is talking about (“With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz & Others“) and another (this one a novel) just getting the green light from the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, she’s well on her way to stardom herself.

Kathleen was able to score the last two tickets to the Saturday matinee of the last day of the performance, so when she said “I’d love for you to join me,” I jumped at the chance!

This Paris theater has no bad seats, unlike others where you could easily end up behind a pole or a stage spotlight and see nothing of the performance. We had no idea what to expect of the play…what would one think of a play entitled “The Old Woman” performed by two male actors?

At the end, Kathleen and I didn’t know what to think. We, and the rest of the audience sat mesmerized, so still in their seats one could hear a pin drop through the entire performance. She and I spoke not one word between us throughout and each wondered what the other was thinking. At the end, some stood in ovation while we looked at one another inquisitively.

“What was that?” I asked Kathleen. “Something the French will all think is incredibly intellectual and spend days thinking about, while we just ‘don’t get it,'” she responded. How true is that?…we laughed! Some reviewers have called it “Another theatre of the absurd.” Another wrote “You’ll either love or loathe this visually-stunning production.”

Yes, it was visually stunning. We neither loathed or loved it, but we were both dumbstruck by the simple, but striking sets and clever use of graphics, color and light. Both actors were amazing in their coordinated and synchronic performances, elaborately masked to look like comic bookends.

The play is an adaptation of the work of the same name by Russian author, Daniil Kharms. It was “an obscure, brilliant and slyly political novella written in the 1930s. Carrying echoes of Beckett and Ionesco in its deadpan narrative, which follows the story of a struggling writer who cannot find peace with himself, The Old Woman is perhaps the finest work by one of the great avant-garde Russian authors.”

One part of the dialog went like this:

“An old lady is standing in the courtyard and holding a wall clock in her hands. I walk past the old woman, stop and ask her, ‘What time is it?’

‘You look,’ the old woman says to me. I look and see that the clock has no hands.

‘There are no hands,’ I say.

The old woman looks at the face of the clock and says to me, ‘It’s a quarter to three.’”

The true test is: Do you ‘get it?’ I didn’t, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it, nonetheless.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - Photo by Phil MashAdrian Leeds

Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

(Photo by Phil Mash)

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P.S. Wednesday I’ll be writing from Provence…where I am headed for a very Provençal kind of Thanksgiving! Happy T-day to all.

HHI-Karin StorlienP.P.S. Watch the newest House Hunter’s International episode on November 27 at 10:30 p.m. E/P and November 28 at 1:30 a.m. E/P “Living a Teenage Dream in Paris, France.” Can a former Paris exchange student who has long dreamed of living in France find a Parisian apartment when she hasn’t given much thought to what she wants in her new home? Tune in and find out!

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