JOHNNY GUITAR

I met Johnny during my first radio show. I was told I would be singing on stage. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind that I’d be asked to perform so soon. I’d seen Paul Anka when I’d first arrived in Paris - that was the sum of my experience. I was shaking so I was given a stool to hold onto. Gilbert Bécaud, a singer I had fancied terribly along with my school friends in a film not that long before, introduced Johnny and me as young newcomers. He explained the reason for the stool. I was given an ovation.
  Johnny was tall with unusually long legs that would look good in a cowboy film, he was sort of really beautiful and quiet, the eyes were of the palest blue and he was taking everything in, cat-like.
  Soon we would get together again for a show at the Olympia, which was a big deal. It would be my second time on a stage. Living in a hotel at the time, it was impossible to figure out how to plan my stage moves in this tiny room. I arrived unprepared.
  The orchestra was hidden behind a curtain, a blessing, since they couldn’t see me, but all eyes out front would be zoomed on me, so the one good thing was my dress. Ted Lapidus had made me a glittering white sheath cut off on one shoulder, not quite a true décolleté.
  During rehearsals, beneath a brightly confident exterior was this terrified rabbit blinded by the stage lights, looking out for the mike… Johnny’s cousin Lee, spotted the glitch. He took me under his wing and choreographed a swift stage entrance that consisted of sexily slinking my way to the mike. I was sure I looked like a lost swimmer, arms slicing through air, hips following, but I arrived fast and safe, astounded that I had reached the mike without tripping. Bruno Coquatrix who owned the Olympia gave me his good old-fashioned solid advice: choose a face in the crowd and sing to that one person only, which I did throughout every show. Nothing could be more embarrassing for either singer or victim. Lee Hallyday was a kind and generous man; I guessed he was Johnny’s mentor. Johnny and I toured immediately afterwards. A month. A show just about every night, quite an experience. And then we worked in the same film, “Les Parisiennes”.
  This show at the Olympia would mark the real beginning of Johnny Hallyday’s career. The professionals who came to judge him on that first big night found a young man of 18 who knew exactly what he was doing. He had been preparing for this moment for a large part of his life. He was this new and shiny greyhound finally let loose, didn’t take one wrong turn, gave everything he had and got back what he gave: a new star was born.
  For a photo Johnny positioned my fingers on the strings of his guitar. The strings were tough and the guitar was surprisingly heavy. I was thrilled and curious. I filed Johnny’s guitar in my memory. A couple of years later I bought a guitar while working on a film in Brazil. It looked like everybody sang or danced and played instruments. From early sunrise you would hear them in the distance. By the time I leaned out of the window there was a line of kids jamming, then like the morning haze off the sea they floated by, as they’d come. It was during this trip that I read Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”. Her book clarified what I thought but had not formulated in words. She gave me some backbone. An inner stillness. I didn’t want to read anything else. But then I found Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Capricorn”. I was on the beach lazily flipping through the first pages only to have a woman march up, grab the book and waving it for all to see, rave that I was far too young to read such filth!!!
   I left Rio de Janeiro with my best friend. Johnny Guitar.