Three years ago, our friend Beverly Walker, who was writing a book on Jack Nicholson (Anatomy of an actor, Phaidon, 2014), asked Pierre if he would jot down for her his souvenirs about Jack’s stay in Paris in April/May 1966. The commission landed on me but she never got my notes. She says she regrets not having them at the time.
First, the location : we were sharing a flat, Pierre and I, with my friend Tina Michelino, on rue Guénégaud, off the Pont-Neuf and the river, ten minutes’ walk from the café de Flore and Castel, the private discotheque on rue Princesse. It seems to me that Jack spent most of his days in this area where he could meet all our friends, but since I was working on the right bank, by the Champs-Elysées, and wasn’t home most of the day, I can’t tell for sure. My oldest friend, Jean-Claude, who was doing his internship in psychiatry that year at a nearby hospital, remembers visiting during the day and finding Jack on the balcony with bare feet. He was surprised, he says (I’m the one surprised ! He must have been seeing his share of bare feet at the hospital !) Certainly the scene was in April since a few weeks later, Jack and Pierre would leave for the Cannes Film Festival where P. had organized screenings of The Shooting and Ride in the whirlwind, the two films Jack had produced, directed by Monte Hellmann.
To end with the « bare feet », I suppose Jack had just got up after a late night at Castel’s; besides, he was sleeping in the living-room, on the couch, since we had only 2 bedrooms. This balcony meeting brings another memory : it seems Jack had made acquaintance with our upstairs neighbor, a known theater actress, Clotilde Joanno whom neither Tina, myself or Pierre knew... I suppose being from the same profession helped. About our being admitted to Jean Castel’s club Jean Castel’s club (very « fermé » at that time) : we had friends who were among « les habitués » and soon we became part of that group too. Huguette, the bouncer at the door, took a liking to Jack and he could come and go by himself without any problem. Of course, he wasn’t invited to sit down at Castel’s table, right when you got in. Here, Castel was having court with his buddies : Pierre Benichou (from Le Nouvel Observateur, a weekly of the past left), Jean-Pierre de Lucovitch, Alix Chevassus, Honoré Bostel, exceptionally Françoise Sagan (she was more a regular of Régine’s). Jack would go downstairs to the dance floor and the bar or next door to the pub Princesse (Castel and the pub are on rue Princesse), intended for Jean Castel’s rugby mates.
Fortunately, after maybe a week or so on the couch, my friend Vick Vance, « grand reporter » at Paris-Match where he specialized in the royals, agreed to let him stay in his private « garçonnière » on rue Dauphine, right behind Guenegaud. Jack would be indebted forever to Vick who had elected himself his number one groupie. Whenever our paths would cross, he would tell me how he had last seen Jack at the Plaza-Athénée or in Saint-Tropez, or wherever... Although Vick Vance had met everybody in his life, from Ali Khan and Rita Hayworth to Rubirosa and Anastasia, the never-elucidated surviving daughter of czar Nicolas II, I have no other word than « groupie » for him. Finally, my one and lasting memory of Jack at that time is his devastating smile, showing perfect, shining teeth. ».