Ultra Violet (Isabelle Dufresne) visits Andy Warhol at the Factory in 1964
Piles of silk screens are stacked along the west wall of the loft. I spot a large screen, about six feet by twelve feet, that depicts in dark ink the background of two flowers side by side, each about six feet in diameter, one larger than the other, and barely touching. We unroll on the floor some virgin canvas, on top of which we lay the flower stencil.
“What color?” he asks.
“Make it violet, since that’s my name and I’m a flower myself.”
Using a can opener, he lifts the top of a gallon can of deep violet Benjamin Moore paint. He adds a dollop of white and with a roller, applies it to the screen over one of the flowers.
“What about the other flower?” he asks.
“Orange? That’s complementary to violet.”
He opens a premixed can of orange paint and rolls the color back and forth across the other flower. The whole process takes a few minutes. We remove the silk screen and see those two colourful flowers pop out at us from the canvas.
I feel my heart jump with the excitement of experiencing the creation of this large Pop Art painting. I ask him if he’ll give it to me. After all, he’s never paid me for the films we are doing together. No, he won’t give it to me, but he’ll sell it cheap, below his dealer’s price. We agree on $2,000. I write him a check on the spot for $1,000 and later give him another $1,000 that I scrounge together. I still have the two receipts, on each of which he scribbled, “Two flowers, sold to Isabel defraine, $1,000.”
In 1970 Gordon Locksley, a Minneapolis art dealer, offers me $40,000 for the Two Flowers. In 1975 I am offered $125,000 by Ivan Karp of the O.K. Harris Gallery. In 1980 Andy tells me the painting is worth $200,000. I don’t know how much the scribbled receipts are worth. The painting hangs in my living room. It costs me a fortune just to keep it insured.
My own introduction to foie gras was, in a way, my introduction to France, and to the rigor that sustained its apparent self-indulgence. On a visit to Paris in the 1970s, when Marie-Dominique was my girlfriend and not my wife, we lunched at one of the big brasseries near the Gare du Nord, where, she suggested I might enjoy foie gras as a starter.
Well, try anything once. And I didn’t want to appear gauche by admitting it was my first time.
The thin slices of liver, gleaming gold and beige with the slickness of fat, arrived, garnished with the gelée that gathers when it’s cooked. A metal dish contained slices of thin dry toast folded in a napkin.
“There’s no butter,” I said, scanning the table.
“Why do you need butter?”
“For the toast.”
“For foie gras, you don’t butter the toast.”
“Dry toast isn’t very inviting,” I protested. “Couldn’t we ask the waiter?”
Her vehemence was startling. I shut up and ate my toast dry – to find, of course, that she was perfectly right. Foie gras is as fatty as butter and to combine the two would have been absurd. Even worse, from the French point of view, it would have transgressed the spirit of comme il faut – the way things should be. In doing so, it would have also, which was worse, invited the derision of the waiting staff (“Can you believe, this plouc of a tourist wanted butter with foie gras!”) and thus made us look foolish. This had already happened on an earlier trip to Paris for the BBC. After a hard day of interviews, the producer and I returned to our hotel and, not realizing the French never drink cognac before dinner, ordered a reviving Courvoisier while we waited for Marie-Do, whom we were taking to dinner.
As she sat down, the waiter asked superciliously, “Mademoiselle also desires a digestif?”
The first person I see is a tall, distinguished-looking fellow in carpet slippers and what looks like a Noël Coward smoking jacket.
The only thing missing is a Sobranie being inhaled through a cigarette holder. He’s youthful-looking, but wonderfully casual, the kind of guy you want to be when you grow up. But if this is Peter Gabriel’s dad, how young is Gabriel?
Turns out it’s not his dad, it’s his band mate. Mike Rutherford, nineteen, is the bassist/guitarist with Genesis. Like my dad, his dad has a lot of experience with boats. Except his dad is a Royal Navy admiral.
A grand piano has been hauled on to the terrace, and hovering in the shadows, about to play it, is another chap. He introduces himself as Tony Banks, Genesis’ twenty-year-old keyboard player. My first impressions? I don’t really have any. Tony is reserved to the point of invisibiity, another politely spoken young man who won’t say boo to a goose – unless, I soon find out, that goose plays the wrong chord.
Finally I meet Peter Gabriel. He’s twenty and cut from the same fine cloth as his band mates. His demeanour can be summed up as hesitant, one hand clutching the other arm at the elbow, almost shy, very embarrassed, don’t-look-at-me-I’m-not-here. He’s in charge – well, his parents are, it being their house – but doesn’t want to be seen to be in charge.
‘Um,’ he begins, ‘maybe we should go indoors and listen to the album in the living room?’
Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Phil Collins
There didn’t seem to be any train lines in this part of the country, which might have been why it was relaxing to look at. But once I’d noticed that, I found myself almost subconsciously looking for one. There were villages and towns dotted around here and there, and I wondered how the people travelled without rail – perhaps they didn’t get around much. And further west, still no tracks! Then, as the countryside flattened out into farmlands, I finally came across a little blue symbol denoting a train station. I was attuned to looking for them, I was somehow relieved to find it, and I checked out the tiny wayside station, just a few buildings to the side of a reasonably major train line with several tracks. Out of habit, I started tracing the route as it wound south-west. I quickly came across another station, a bit bigger, again with a platform on only one side of the tracks but some areas of the township on either side. That explained the overpass, and was that . . . was that a water tower just nearby? Holding my breath, I zoomed in for a closer look. Sure enough, it was a municipal water tank just across from the platform, and not far from a large pedestrian overpass spanning the railway line. I scrolled over to the town side and saw something incredible – a horseshoe-shaped road around a square immediately outside the station. The ring road I used to be able to see from the platform. Might it be? I zoomed out, discovering that the train line skimmed the north-west of a really large town. I clicked on the blue train station symbol to reveal its name – it was called Burhanpur.
My heart nearly stopped. Burhanpur!
I didn’t recognise the town, but then I’d never been in it – I’d never left the platform. I zoomed back in and re-examined the ring road, the water tower, the overpass, and they were all positioned where I remembered them. That meant, not far away, just up the line, I should find my home town, Ginestlay.
Almost afraid to do so, I dragged the cursor to pull the image north along the train line. When I saw that the track crossed a gorge just on the edge of the built-up area, I was flooded with adrenalin – I remembered in a flash that the train I took with my brothers travelled on a small bridge over a gorge like that, before pulling in to the station, I pushed on more urgently, east then north-east, zooming in moments over seventy kilometres of green farms, some forested hills and small rivers. Then I passed across some dry flat land broken up by a patchwork of irrigated farmland and the occasional small village, before I hit a bridge over a substantial river and I could see the town’s outskirts ahead. The river’s flow was significantly reduced below the bridge by dam walls on either side. If this was the right place, this was the river I used to play in, and there should be a bigger concrete dam wall to my right a little further from the bridge.
And there it was, clearly visible as if on a sunny day, which it must have been when the satellite passed overhead and took the picture.
I sat staring at the screen for what seemed like an eternity. What I was looking at matched the picture in my head exactly. I couldn’t think straight, frozen with excitement and terrified to go on.
I respond to a card stuck on the wall at Virgin Records, and a paper trail leads me to Billy Duffy, a guitarist who lived with his mother in Wythenshawe. I no longer wanted to watch others do what I felt sure I could do so much better, so I present myself to Billy as ‘a singer’.
Could I now tell reality what to do? Should versus could? Would I continue to take no responsibility for my own life? Is the safe way the only way?
Billy was well turned out and had a voluptuously statuesque girlfriend named Karen Concannon. He was also an impressive guitarist, and he looked at me and listened to me with bemused interest. Inside my head a tape looped and looped itself around and around, and it repeatedly told me that I would not be good enough when the time came. It unfolds, and then it happens, and when it does, it seems like it had always been there … just waiting.
From Wythenshawe, back to Stretford, back to Wythenshawe, on dark nights of self-creation, each slab of construction happened quickly, although Billy and I will never be drunken co-confessors. Billy pulls in some random musicians, and I am there at his urging – suddenly in rehearsal rooms loaded with amps and wires and headphones, and the clock strikes.
Merging forces meet, and I, too deep to be rescued, sing. Against the command of everyone I had ever known, I sing!
My mouth meets the microphone and the tremolo quaver eats the room with acceptable pitch and … I am removed from the lifelong definition of others, and their opinions matter no more. I am singing the truth by myself, which might also be the truth of others … and give me a whole life … let the voice speak up for once and for all …
‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord …’
He says to me, “Let me draw you. Would you pose for me?” My clothes fall off. I recline in the warm mold of Venus. Dali approaches to rearrange my untamed hair. He gives me a quick kiss on my lips, briefly stinging my cheeks with the pomaded points of his stiff, upturned mustache.
Perched on the very edge of his chair, with one knee to the ground, he devours me with thunderous, fiery glances, and with the precision of a clockmaker – tic, tic, tic – he sketches me. A mirror on the back wall reflects our tableau vivant. He shows me the sketch. I admire the astonishing way, with a few strokes of an ordinary pencil, he has conveyed shadows, reflections of light, and has captured my whole personality. He says, “Born an impressionist, I refused my father’s advice to be taught how to draw.”
He slips to his knees at my side and says, “Jouons à nous toucher les langues. Let’s play tongue touching.” Under his spell, I let him again sting my cheeks as his beautifully curved lips meet mine. His tongue, tasting like jasmine, touches mine, sending me into a zone of bliss where flesh rejoices.
“Mon amour,” he says, “bonjour.”
We arrived back there in darkness. I was anxious to have a look at the Hotel de la Poste, where I had eaten lunch on my first visit to St. Jorioz. I sent Kiki ahead of me and told him to ask whether any of the organization were still there, as he brought important news from Paris. Kiki came back to me at once and said that apparently there were still some members of the organisation there. I put a cordon of Italian soldiers round the house immediately and was about to enter with the Italian officer when two men dashed out and into the darkness in headlong flight. It turned out that one of them was the wireless operator Arnaud for whom we had long searched. I did not attempt to follow them, as it seemed to me more important to apprehend the others in the house. I was right to do so. A surprise was in store for us beyond our wildest dreams.
It seems to have escaped the notice of Bleicher that the French Chief of Police in Annecy was aware of his movements, and at the risk of his own life sent a warning ahead of Bleicher to the St. Jorioz group. I am informed by Colonel Jacques Adam, Commander of the Jean-Marie resistance group, that this gallant French police officer was arrested, deported and died in Germany.
A second point to me made in regard to this narrative is that neither of the two men who vanished in headlong flight from the Hotel de la Poste was Arnaud, alias Captain A. Rabinovich, whose billet was not in St. Jorioz and who for some time managed to evade capture, having been sent away on the previous day by Captain Churchill.
There were still a few guests in the Hotel de la Poste whom I assembled in the hall of the hotel, together with the hôtelier and his staff. I was just putting the first question to them when down the stairs came a woman, whom I recognised as the energetic Englishwoman who had scolded Louis during my first visit to St. Jorioz.
So this was “Lise”, the renowned Odette! I had managed to find out something about her in the meantime. She played a prominent part in the Secret Service and had done signal services to the Allied war effort by obtaining plans of the dock installations and reconnoitring the port of Marseilles. It had been related to me by agents that Odette was the wife of Peter Churchill, a nephew of the British Prime Minister, and that she worked with him here. The version that he was a close relative of Winston Churchill was spread about to give him greater prestige in the French Resistance, as well as a safeguard if he fell into the hands of the Germans.
Odette was a Frenchwoman by birth, married first to a Frenchman, Sansom, and mother of three children. She received the order of the George Cross from King George VI and was decorated by the President of the French Republic with the Cross of the Legion of Honour. After the war the film “Odette” made her world famous.
I had little idea then what celebrity I was encountering on that night of April 16th, 1943. Wrapped in a dressing gown and personifying calmness itself, she came downstairs as if trouble in the hall was nothing to do with her. She had the intention, I think, of walking straight past us, and I was so taken aback that I only prevented her doing so at the last moment.
Peter Churchill could not be far away, it seemed to me, with Odette here.
I left the others in the guard of the Italians and asked Odette to show me her room. We walked upstairs, accompanied by the Italian officer. Odette showed no sign of distress. She had grasped the situation and was resigned to her fate.
Odette opened the door of her room without a word. I asked her to go ahead. It was a simple bedroom, such as you find in any country hotel. I ceased to watch Odette and looked into the room next door. There in bed lay a young man, perhaps thirty to thirty-five years old, in an elegant pair of pyjamas. He smiled quietly at me as he lay there. The book that he had apparently been reading was posed on the coverlet. He got slowly out of bed and stood before me, an athletic-looking fellow with pleasant features. I asked for his identity card. Without a sign of nervousness, he asked Odette to hand him his jacket, pulled the card out of a pocket and held it out to me. I read the name Pierre Chambrun. I felt that there could no longer be any doubt, and that this was Peter Churchill, known to us also as Pierre Chauvet and more frequently still as “Raoul”.