Nineteen sixty nine - L'air Barbès - Eau de Parfum
We´re in a car, chasing through the rainy, dark streets of Paris. My new friend Jacques is tripping on something he clearly wants more of, and he is on a mission. Glancing at the rear mirror, he obsessively combs his sweaty hair, paying extra attention to the bushy sideburns. We are heading to The Professor – the notorious dealer and god knows what. I’m desperately holding onto the car seat as he speeds through the red traffic lights. This is not what I had in mind when accepting his invitation for dinner.
The Professor’s whereabouts is known as the funhouse: a run down theater in the badlands somewhere west of Barbès – Rochechouart. We enter through the heavily guarded door down the alleyway. Dark red velvet covers the walls, it is hot and sweaty. The two drag queens, Sushi and Missy, are hosts for the evening, voguing away to Grace Jones´ “La Vie En Rose”. Working girls are perched on the chaise lounges dressed in corsets and heels while balancing glasses of Taittinger and cigarettes. The rooms are dimly lit and candles burn in chandeliers. Apparently this is a quiet night but more johns are still about to arrive.
In a private chambre I get introduced to a short statured man from Central Africa in full swag. Paisley patterned silk robe, knee-high socks and tassel loafers by Weston, true Iceberg Slim style. He is freshly groomed, oozing a musky fragrance. So I’ve finally met The Professor, king of Sapeurs. With the impeccable manners of a colonial dandy he speaks to me in English with a heavy, French accent. “How may I help you? Can I offer you anything, on the house?”
In the dim light provided by a single bare bulb, it looks like two bags of flour have been emptied on the round glass table. Two mountains of pure, white, Colombian coke. His compadres are cutting and dividing their evening loads, most likely to be distributed before dawn.
The funhouse is just too much for me. I look at the Professor and utter “I guess I could do with a ride to Les Bain Douche”. The Professor shrugs but grins. “You sure? We are in the most vibrant area of Paris. Aren’t you interested in some of my L’air Barbès?”
aldehyds, fresh lemon, bergamot, concrete, ylang ylang extract oil, tuberose, ambrox, orris, cumin seeds, ink, leather, dry woods, white musk
Anne-Sophie Behaghel and Amelie Bourgeois with Johan Bergelin