THE SALON AT 20 RUE JACOB
As I have written in the past I have been trying for several years to gain access into 20 Rue Jacob, the location of Natalie Clifford Barney’s apartment and the staging ground for her famous Friday night salons, which she held for decades. The only time I was partially successful was three years ago when I followed a workman in through the door and managed to get three quick photos of her apartment house in the back of the courtyard before being thrown unceremoniously out by an unsympathetic and angry resident. I still continue to check the door from time to time whenever I pass by, but am resigned to the fact that I will have to be very lucky or very vigilant to get in again. This morning as I was walking down the Rue Jacob I came upon two very scruffy looking and strangely dressed Englishmen who were trying to gain entry at number 20, pushing on the door, ringing various bells, all without success. Both gents were unshaven, gave a rather unwashed appearance and had an assortment of brightly coloured ill fitting clothes on. They looked like they’d just purchased their wardrobe at the flea market. One of them was short, dark and thin, the other tall, lanky and smiling. I observed them for a while as they tried various neighbouring doors and entrances, all to no avail.
I finally approached them and told them that if they were trying to gain access to Barney’s former residence they probably weren’t going to meet with much success. I explained to them about my efforts over the last four years and how, should they indeed gain access, they still might meet with the same difficulties I encountered. They were quite interested and grateful for the information. The tall lanky fellow explained that a French actor friend of theirs had suggested that they see if they could gain entrance and try to see both the rear apartment building and if perhaps the Greek temple was still standing in the garden behind the house. He then, looking rather disappointed, said that they would only be here for another day and probably wouldn’t have the time to pursue the issue further. They thanked me for the help and then sauntered further on down the sidewalk, leaving me wondering if they were going to turn up at Gertrude Stein’s address next. Well, at least they should have more luck in getting in there. I’ve gotten in there a number of times. The residents are more friendly and obliging.
Photo of the entrance to Natalie Clifford Barney’s apartment house at 20 Rue Jacob taken in Paris in May 2011.
One of the three quick photos of the apartment building that Natalie Clifford Barney lived in that I was able to take before being escorted out. She lived in the building in the rear center of the photo, which has scaffolding in front of it as it was being renovated at the time. Photo taken in Paris in May 2011.
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