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French Ban Smoking

Mon Dieu! Can it be true? Have the frogs really banned smoking? Well, yes and no. Smoking is already supposed to be interdit in the workplace and on public transport but like other bans (notably the anti-dog shit) it doesn't seem to be enforced. And of course French restaurants and bars are notorious for smoking. Indeed, in some French bars you can almost cut the air the smoke is so thick.

But....from February next year smoking will be prohibited in schools, colleges, offices and factories. (At the moment 60% of French high schools allow smoking in the schoolyard). Then...and this is a real revolution, in January 2008, smoking will be banned in bars, restaurants and clubs. With a fine of €75 for the smoker and €150 for the business if caught contravening.

This is amazing. And I really can't see it working. The French love to smoke. And they think it their right to smoke where and whenever they like and Fuck you if you don't like it.

Probably the most famous French smoker was Serge Gainsbourg who chainsmoked those filthy Gauloises. That's his mug up top - in his younger days when he was shagging Bridget Bardot and other famous beauties (And God doesn't she look a horror-show now!).

Serge was an original. He didn't give a fig what people thought of him. He loved to shock...to be the provocateur. "There's a trilogy in my life," said Gainsbourg, "an equilateral triangle, shall we say, of Gitanes, alcoholism and girls - and I didn't say isosceles, I said equilateral.

Have a look at one of the girls he was smitten with - Serge says "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?"

Late one winter's night in 1967, Gainsbourg and Bardot went into a studio in Paris and recorded Je T'Aime in a two-hour session. The two singers were squashed into a small, steamy glass booth; the engineer witnessed what he described as "heavy petting". Word leaked to the press that it was an "audio vérité" recording - "four minutes and 35 seconds of groans, sighs, and Bardot's little cries of pleasure" set to organ music giving the impression of two people making love.

Bardot's husband Gunter Sachs, wasn't impressed and demanded the song be withdrawn. Gainsbourg protested: "The music is very pure. For the first time in my life, I write a love song and it's taken badly." But he put the tapes in a drawer until 1986 when Bardot finally gave permission for it to be released.

For the 1969 film Slogan, in which Gainsbourg starred, it was decided that an English actress was needed. Jane Birkin - "a young actress with that perfect 1960s Swinging London look: long, ironed hair, big eyes and coltish body shoehorned into a belt-sized mini-skirt" - got the part. Initially, the two did not get on. An evening out in Paris was planned to break the ice.

"We were at Regine's nightclub for a long time," Birkin recalled, "and I asked Gainsbourg to dance. And he stepped on my feet! I was so surprised. I thought, 'So this sophisticated, arrogant, seemingly confident man doesn't know how to dance' - and I realised it was because he's in fact shy. He seemed so worldly-wise, but at the same time he was very childlike".

"From there he took me to another nightclub - to every nightclub in Paris until six in the morning. We went to Madame Arthur, where his father used to play the piano for the transvestites, who all came up kissing Gainsbourg and saying 'Ooh cheri, how are you?' And he took me to the Russian nightclubs where the Russian violin players played until we got into the taxi on the street and Gainsbourg stuffed 100 franc notes into their violins. He loved them and they loved him, and he told them ' Nous sommes des putes ' ('We're all prostitutes') and asked them to play the Valse Triste, that terribly melancholic slow waltz by Sibelius, which they played right up to the taxi, and which he afterwards always called 'Jane's song'. Then I thought he was going to take me to his parents' house [where Gainsbourg still lived], like all good boys do, but no, he took me straight to the Hilton, where they asked him if he wanted his usual room!"

Birkin was horrified. The evening had started out, quite successfully all things considered, as a quest for an entente cordiale but she was about to become another notch on his rented bedpost. "In the lift as we were going up, I was pulling faces to myself, thinking, gosh, how could I have got myself into such a mess? I had only known John Barry in all my life, and suddenly here I was with someone who had only taken me out for one night." Once in his room she said she wanted to use the bathroom, where she hid out as long as she could - "and tried to tidy myself up and try to look as if I was used to this sort of thing. By the time I got back into the bedroom, he was asleep. There he was, he'd drunk so much that he was out cold. And I was so relieved! It meant I could nip out to the drugstore and pick up a little 45 record of this song we had been listening to all evening which was 'Yummy yummy yummy I've got love in my tummy' by God knows who. I stuck it between his toes - still he didn't move - and went back to my hotel."

The pair became inseparable. Shortly after filming, Gainsbourg asked Jane to record a new version of Je T'Aime. Which went on to become a worldwide hit.

"I don't know how he got Jane to do it because she was such a lovely English upper-class schoolgirl," said Marianne Faithfull. "But of course, he would have got her to do it by fucking her brains out! And Je T'Aime was perfect for Jane. She was born for it."

BTW....surprisingly Gainsbourg didn't die of lung cancer. He had heart, liver and eye problems which I guess weren't helped by his chain-smoking. And thank God they don't make those filthy unfiltered dark tobacco Gauloises (blue packet)in France anymore. They come from Spain now.

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Reader Comments (1)

Oh for fark's sake. Surely this is a joke. Babies are born sucking on cigarettes in France. Christ.
October 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJD

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