Friday, March 19, 2021

‘C’est Le Far West’ In Paris, Land Of Ponchos

 The Robesonian

Lumberton, North Carolina

By Warren Trabant

June 7, 1970


PARIS (WNS) – A fashiuon designer here sat through the film “Once Upon a Time in the West” three times. With the aid of a flashlight she sketched the long leather “Duster” coats worn by the actors.

     Two days later Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda and Monica Viti were sporting them and the rush was on.

     A stroll along the Boulevard St. Germaine in Pris this spring is more like a visit to the old MGM lot during the simultaneous production of three Westerns than a visit to the fashion center of the world. More Mexican, cowboy and Indians boots tramp the streets than were ever seen in Tombstone, Arizona. Fringed leather coats. Vests and shirts are as common as miniskirts on “Madison Avenue. Flaired jean and ponchos in every color and material create the effect of hundred electric circuses. String ties are standard. C’est le Far West.

     Just when the Texas influence slipped in to shove aside the hippie look is hard to pin-point. A French boot merchant, Maurice Chorenslub (cq) saw the possibilities six years ago, went to America and came back with a Trading Post of things Western. Including such items as guns, saddles, bridles, spurs and Indian heads for the natives. He rented a store near the Arce de Triomphe and piled it all haphazardly to get the “real Western flavor.” He called in Western House. His business has improved every year, he now boasts 15,000 customers, many from show business. About 80 percent of his wares are still from America, the rest are designed in France exclusively for him. He also does a brisk trade in western saddles, an unusual item in Europe.

     The saddles are sold to members of about 30 clubs in France that are devoted to riding “Western Style” garbed in cowboy outfits. The first such club was formed early in the century by the man who brought the first western saddle to Europe. He was Hoe Hamman, an actor film director and producer, amateur cowboy, adventurer, artist and presently the presidentif “le Club Lasso.”

    In 1904, at the age of 21, Joe Hamman went to America, “I put on a cowboy reached the Far West and I’ve had it on ever since,” he explains. On that trip he met Buffalo Bill whom he has seen in a Wild West show in Paris when he was six years old. As an apprentice cowboy he hunted horse thieves, lived with Indians and rode the range. So many of his friends were interested in his strange saddle they formed club and to the horror of the French Riding Association imported the saddles.

     In 1907, when one-reel western films were being made in New Jersey woods and along the Hudson Palisades. Hamman and his friends bought a motion picture camera. They wrote, directed, produced and acted in a dozen oaters; the first one was called “Les Desperado,” another “Un Cowboy a Paris.” By 1909 they were well enough established to do a series called “The Adventures of Buffalo Bill” for the Bioscope Company in London.

Still Rides

     Joe Hamman still rides. He can be found on the range just outside of Paris any fine weekend – wearing his ten gallon-hat. In Paris movie houses are running and rerunning American, Italian and French “westerns” at the rate of two dozen a week.

     The French Western craze has reached a point where it has become an exportable item. Another Frenchman who says he “saw too many Universal Studio Westerns” was fascinated not with the cowboys, but with the drinking emporiums of the era.

     Nineteen years ago, in a small cellar on the fashionable Avenue George V. Alain Bernadin built a version of a frontier barroom. He called it the Crazy Horse Saloon. His opening show was an all-American girlie revue in English. Since then he has tripled his space and introduced what he believes is the replacement of Burlesque, a declining art in America. He believes there is something worth salvaging from the idea.

     Early in the game he changed the system. Rather than hire girls with routines he wrote what he calls “little plays,” and would then find the right “actress” to play the part. His success was immediate.      

     Since he opened he has written and directed more than 100 acts. He has had to interview literally thousands of girls to get the right ones.

     Bernadin thinks he has an exportable item. He is preparing a second show that will soon open in a new Crazy Horse Saloon in New York.

     Where will it all end no one knows, but when the first shipment of French cowboys goes west it would seem that someone should be getting a few cases of American wine ready for a tryout in Paris.

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