Days of Wine and Ice Cream

Dim Memories of Olden Times 1015 Weeks Ago

Paris:- Tuesday, 9. April 1996:- In June of 1976, a small classified ad appeared in the local edition of the International Herald Tribune, asking writers, photographers, illustrators, to contact a certain Tom Moore, about a new magazine.
Metro 2 Cover (18k)
Metro Vol 1 No 2
I went to see Tom, who had an office in a slum in the Marais. He seemed to like my illustrations, but like a lot of these interviews it ended with the usual: don't call us, we'll call you.

What I didn't know until last Friday night, was that Tom Moore had expected the response to the ad to be about six - but 60 of us hopefuls trooped through his office at 15-minute intervals, in one of the hottest Junes ever recorded. That whole summer was a furnace in Paris and throughout Europe.

Sometime after I had forgotten the ad and the interview, I was called, and I did the cover for the second issue, the issue of July 7. I did many inside drawings and quite a few covers after that - but I was not on staff; I was a 'pigiste,' as freelance journalists are called in French. At the time, I had only been in Paris since the end of March and I was already doing fairly well, working for a handful of publications. Altogether, Paris was being good to me and working for Metro was like the icing on the cake.

The Paris Metro crew were mainly Americans, with a sprinkling of other nationalities: Irish, English, a few native French, and some rare birds like Wouter, the energetic but haywire printer from Holland, who was Advertising Director in the 'zero' and Business Manager in the number one.

It was... strange to work for Americans, especially after working in Germany for seven years. I had eaten only Italian ice cream there, and seldom at that - and I couldn't fit into their other passion - baseball in the Bois de Boulogne - because I hadn't seen a game in 15 years and had never been able to play it, inasmuch as I would have liked to. I had seen very few American movies in Hamburg and of course, next to no TV, certainly none in English - so aside from the work at hand, we had not much in common.

The art director, Jean Levy, who was French, and I got along well - even if I did not agree with his taking scissors to original drawings - those were real cut and paste operations rather than the virtual ones of today.

After a while, I got to work directly with some of the editors, making the cartoons 'fit' their texts. This work usually involved receiving some ill-typed text, or merely a five-word sum-up of a column idea - to which I would be permitted to reel off five ideas off the top of my head, get an agreement to do one, and squeeze out past the next contributor coming in the door.

Raundry Cartoon (25k)
Harry Stein's columns were the subject
of many cartoons.
The same thing went on the French editorial offices too, so I am not saying anything against the Paris Metro people - I am just hinting that I did not become 'American' by working with them for two and a half years. The Paris Metro - 'Speaks Your Language' - was a bi-weekly paper and that limited my participation in the editorial process to about 15 minutes every two weeks.

As with every fine and upstanding publishing venture, there was a bar across the street, and I spent more time with the crew there than in their shabby and chaotic offices. But this wasn't much extra, as we were all busy and on the move.

The first issue of The Paris Metro had a cover date of June 23, 1976. After two and a half hectic years, in November 1978, the Metro had its collective neck placed in the guillotine and the accountants dropped the blade. The crew scattered, leaving few forwarding addresses behind - but from time to time over the following years there would be an occasional chance encounter.

But that was not the end.

On July 3rd of 1979, The Paris Metro reappeared, refinanced, re-staffed, and as a weekly. The new co-editors, Neil Offen and Jack Monet in their first editorial said, in effect, 'Metro is dead; Metro lives!' And I did the second cover of the new Metro as well.

The Paris Metro was now a French company with money in its pockets; but the Metro eventually outspent it and it too failed - I forget after how many issues. When Metro III came along I was right there - but the new boss was a dress salesman from California - and I figured that if two crews of reasonably experienced newspaper people couldn't do it, this guy's chances were slim - so I gave it a pass.

Hotel Albret 1996 (14k)
Entry to L'Hôtel d' Albret,
In 1996.
The Reunion

A flyer dropped out of an envelope at home some weeks ago. At the top, above the Paris Metro logo, it said, 'Former Metro Workers of the World Unite!' It was dated March 4th, with a sub-head, 'Every 20 Years.' The headline: 20th Reunion April 5-6-7, and went on to list activities for the Easter weekend - starting with 'Courtyard Cocktail Hour' at 31, rue des Francs Bourgeois, in the Marais - the old Metro offices, L'Hôtel d' Albret, ordered built in 1550 by Anne de Montmorency for her son, Guillaume, and now a Ville de Paris Cultural office; protected site and spiffed up.

I signed up for the fête and turned up not knowing what to expect. It was too cold for the courtyard, so the party was inside - and the room was full of strangers, some on whom seemed familiar. bill butt, one of Metro's art directors, had forgotten to make name tags - he hadn't forgotten, he was a little behind - and I thought that some people, who I had seen as recently as five years ago, were not themselves. If only we were in the bar across the way, I could've - but no, it was changed too.

Thomas Moore had come from Australia, many had come from America, but a surprising number - came from Paris - why don't I bump into them? I guess I do, but if they're not in the 'bar across the street' then I can't 'place' them.

There were kids and champagne - 'bring hip flasks' the flyer said - and short speeches and many re-acquaintances. After we had thoroughly despoiled the historic site we all moved off to dinner to El Cheapo Mexicano-Paris-style nearby, and had many interesting conversations, parts of which we could even hear over the racket. The program was lunch at Joe Allen's the following day, a 'cocktail' at bill butt's in Pigalle - no noise! - and a picnic on Sunday at Stan's ranch out towards Normandy. I passed on the lunch and the cocktail, and blew the manifold out of my car at the autoroute exit to the ranch. So yet again I did not get to play baseball.

If bill butt can get the name tags ready for the 40th reunion, I'll go in my wheelchair, if they promise to let me play right outfield.

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