Paris people

A medal for Mireille

Don’t expect me being impartial today: I used to be a huge fan of Mireille Mathieu. Why? There are probably some explanations. I was only six, seven, eight years old and the love for the French singer was somehow whispered to me by my mother, I suppose. But still. Why did she put such a spell on me to the point that, for years, I had the same hairdo as she had? To tell you the truth: I only had a few records: the Rolling Stones and Mireille Mathieu.

120 million records sold

They call her “the sparrow of Avignon”. She was born there, the eldest of a family of thirteen. But for more than four decades now, Mireille has lived in Paris. Well, not exactly Paris. She lives in Neuilly, the posh suburb with neighbours like Liliane Bettencourt and Rolando Vilazón. Nicolas Sarkozy was her mayor. The day he was elected, Mireille sang on the Place de la Concorde. She was not the only one. There were other singers, Enrico Macias for example, but the selection and the age of the stars made the whole evening look a bit like a five-o’clock tea dance on a pleasure steamer, not like an election-party. Well, he wasn’t with Carla Bruni back then.

Strangely, Mireille Mathieu doesn't perform often in France. The rumour goes that her sister, who since Johnny Starck's death has also been also her manager, doesn’t have such a knack for managing. Anyhow, she feels more loved by Germans and Russians. Actually, out of the 120 million records sold, Mireille sold 40 million in Germany. Dmitry Medvedev loves her. He awarded her the Russian Medal of Friendship at a State Dinner. And she accepted, I have to say.

In her footsteps in Paris

If you want to discover the Paris of Mireille Mathieu you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket. She loves the hotel Le Bristol and its three star restaurant, which, strangely, I don't like at all. But she also is fan of Le Chansonnier, a bistrot close to the canal Saint-Martin.

Don’t miss the Olympia on your Mireille-Mathieu-tour. That’s where she started her career in 1965 singing three songs together with Sacha Distel. Do you know what Time Life magazine wrote some months later, after her first TV performance? “Her face was unknown. But her voice sent a quiver of recognition through millions of viewers. Its sad-sweet, earthly quality of her voice reminded them vividly of the great Edith Piaf.”

I feel catapulted back into my childhood viewing this video where Mireille is singing like a sparrow, but moving like a board. Here you can see the hidden hip factor of Mireille Mathieu, don't you?

It was back then, when one day on stage at the Philharmonie in Berlin a young girl was handing her over a red rose. The lady sitting close to my mother said: “Look at her, she looks exactly like a "petite" Mireille.” This was the day when my love for Mireille Mathieu not only reached its climax, but also its end.Photos:
AFP, Lionel Bonaventure