About: Mistinguett was a widely, and wildly, famous French chanteuse. I’m not sure how well her appeal translates from French to American culture, but she was a first-class oddity. She had a tempestuous relationship with Maurice Chevalier and was noted for her version of My Man well before Fanny Brice. She rose from a poor and broken background to become a DIVA, although one known to be exceedingly generous and loyal. I think the best way to understand her allure would be to travel back to her heyday in the early decades of the 20th century. Author David Bret does his best to give immediacy and vibrancy to her attractions, and has obvious affection for his subject. The fan boy occasionally obstructs the biographer; this is most obvious in his obscene over-use of the exclamation point. For the most part, though, he does not shirk from letting us see her flaws. It’s an interesting study, if occasionally a pedestrian one. Maybe she will receive the La vieen rose treatment like Edith Piaf did a few years ago. Until then, this book is the next best thing.
Motivation: My mom has always understood my love for books about weirdos, misfits, unusual women and the forgotten or never known.
Times Read: 3
Random Excerpt/Page 148: “During her stay in Barcelona, Mistinguett was invited to the bullfight. No one had told her that the matador killed the bull…it was assumed that she already knew. She did not, and caused such a rumpus that she had to be escorted from the stadium in tears. Later she wrote to her friend Alfonso XIII, asking him to ban the sport. It was a nice gesture, which of course could never have been taken seriously.”