Thursday, September 24, 2009

La Fille Kiki

Well so far today I've sent my portfolio, CV and letter about how great I am to about ten design companies, had a scrap with the hoover (don't let Henry's seemingly friendly smile fool you, he's actually an uncooperative asshole) and nearly fell backwards down the stairs while trying to hoover it. It's official. Housework is hazardous to my health. Since I'm clearly in such a productive mood today, I'm actually going to post about another deadly bird from history, the third in my much neglected series of sorts.

This time, it's Kiki de Montparnasse. Which, apart from being the sexy, fun embodiment of doing whatever the flip you like in 1920s Paris, is also the name of a rather saucy knickers and things-to-have-sex-in website that temporarily distracted me from my Googling. They also have the most bloody expensive french maid's outfit I've ever come across. (Oh there's certainly a filthy joke in there somewhere.)

But back to Kiki. She was born as Alice Ernestine Prin, surely a name that just screams "NO CRAIC AT ALL!" and moved to Paris aged twelve to find work, which she did in bakeries and shops and the like. By the time she was fourteen though, the little minx was posing nude for sculptors and soon became Kiki, a regular of the Montparnasse social scene, entertaining nightclub crowds by singing dirty songs and wearing black garters. Pretty soon she was a very popular artist's model across Paris and friends with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, very good friends with Man Ray, who made hundreds of portraits of her and she appeared in nine short experimental films. One of Man Ray's most iconic images, Le Violin d'Ingres is actually of her.

Kiki was also a painter and had a sold out exhibition in a Paris gallery, wrote her autobiography at the age of 28, with Hemingway providing the introduction, a year later it was translated and published in America, immediately banned by the squares in the US Government and remained so up to the late seventies. She was called the Queen of Montparnasse and was renowned for being mighty craic and happily optimistic, even if things went a bit shite, as she famously said "all I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red and I will always find somebody to offer me that." With her signature flapper girl bob and fun personality she became a symbol for the carefree, bohemian, outspoken and creative attitude of Paris in the 20s and owned her own cabaret in Montparnasse in the 1930s. In 1989, the biographers Billy Klüver and Julie Martin called her "one of the century's first truly independent women."

However, when the bastard Nazis occupied Paris in 1940, she hightailed it out of there and only returned when she sadly died, aged fifty one, to be buried in Montparnasse where her tomb reads "Kiki, 1901-1953, singer, actress, painter, Queen of Montparnasse."


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