Sunday, June 21, 2009


As part of our goings-on this week in Paris, Mr. Muscato and I carried out a long-time resolution.

We started by fortifying ourselves, having taken the Metro up, up, up to the further end of Montmartre, with a little something for luncheon at a very nice little neighborhood spot called, charmingly, Ginette de la Côte d'Azur.

Having polished off an excellent terrine de lapin and assorted other goodies, we proceeded through the hilly, leafy streets of the quartier, up a flight of vaguely baroque stairs, and reached:

Yes, it's true: we had embarked on one of the lesser, but more intense pilgrimages known to music lovers, the Tour de Dalida. We started in the lovely square that has been named in her honor, an irregularly shaped space of dignified apartment buildings, venerable trees, and, in the center:

This lovely sculpture, with, it must be admitted, more emphasis on the bust than most busts.

It's a popular spot. We weren't alone with our thoughts for five mintes before tourist groups started coming by. The ones who lingered were, I can't deny, more on the elderhostel end of the traveling scale, but they were having a wonderful time.

I was especially taken with this dear lady, who dutifully took notes in her little red notebook. I admire how she has so sensibly stashed her handbag under her very practical spring coat. Either that or that's one hell of a sanitary appliance.

Then it was on to the nearby Rue d'Orchampt, a tiny lane with a sharp elbow turn, at the very corner of which you find:

Chez Dalida itself, commemorated with this touching plaque. It really is a marvelous house:

Called, for reasons I have not discovered, the House of the Sleeping Beauty. It's currently, it seems, having some kind of overhaul but appears to be in private hands. We thought about trying to talk ourselves into its vestpocket garden, but instead decided to move on, through the narrow streets filled with odd shops, desultory galleries, and dark bars, down to our final stop - and hers.

The Cimetière de Montmartre is a densely packed necropolis, chockablock with mausoleums, marble slabs, obelisks, and other funerary monuments. It has a distinguished roll-call of residents, ranging from the original Lady of the Camellias and Dumas, who immortalized her, to the fabulous painter Gustave Moreaue, the great Taglioni, the playwright Feydeau, Truffaut, and even (although I'm ashamed to say I didn't seek her out), the inimitable Musidora.

Of course, we had but one goal in mind:

I'd only ever seen head-on photos of the Diva's magnificent tomb, which make it seem as if set to itself, in some pastoral setting. Much more fitting for this quintessential girl of the city is the reality, which has the tomb at the very edge of the cemetery, with views of Montmartre.

She is surrounded by ordinary Parisian families, whose relatives must wonder - even if they themselves do not - at all the hullabaloo she has brought to their quiet little corner. The grave itself is beautifully planted, and it is surrounded, to the point of spilling over to its neighbors, with flowers, plants, and all sorts of tributes and memorials.

I was especially taken with this little china book, placed now on the nearest flat slab next to Dalida's tomb. I think I will do all possible to popularize the cordial use of "Dalidamicalement."

So it's in this spirit of Dalidaffection that I offer a final image of the great lady herself - depicted as the Apotheosis of Cabaret, Our Lady of the Music Halls, a diva in its truest meaning: goddess.

The rest of our day (and night) was rather in the same spirit, albeit carried out in the district that today is as louche as Montmartre was once, the divine Marais. But more of that anon...


  1. I stumbled upon the tomb during my trip to Paris some 12 years ago. I had never heard of Dalida (sad but true - my education was lacking in so very many key areas). I was sufficiently inspired by her tomb & the tributes around it to make sure I found out just who this Diva was when I got home.

    Some other marvelous residents whose final resting places I recall seeing in this cramped necropolis: Foucalt (disappointed to find no pendulum on his marker), Nijinsky (no Faun), & Degas.

  2. I will one day make this tour. I'm certain I will cry.

    "House of the Sleeping Beauty"--Perhaps because that's where she took her final sleep?