Saturday, April 1, 2017

I Love Tonight

No regrets, that's the goal.

That applies to life, but it's also how I decide where I find my evening's adventure, and sometimes it's a song.

Another revolution of the sun meant that it was once again time for the French Film Festival, so I put on a navy and white striped dress over fishnets, tied a red scarf around my neck and looked about as French as I could hope for given my Irish ancestry.

As has been our standard for nearly a decade, the FFF begins for Pru and me at Secco, despite its move from Carytown to the Fan. From the secret stash, we chose Domaine du Dragon Rose from Provence to accompany a starter of grilled asparagus with a breaded egg (the yolk oozing decadently over our green veggies) and black garlic shoyu, a nearly perfect pairing that exuded Springtime.

I made a meal of spaghetti squash pancakes with peanuts, cilantro and harissa yogurt while Pru devoted herself to cheese, charcuterie and enough bon mots to have me falling off my stool in laughter.

About a woman we both know but can't find a reason to like, she casually summed up by saying, "She majored in marketing. That says it all."

Art history majors cut no quarter with sales types.

About a grown man still enthralled by sci-fi, she marveled, "This is a man who saw a million trailers for "Star Wars" and decided somehow it was going to be terrible. His father had to drag him to see it and of course he loved it."

Men, making bad calls since their youth.

Talking about the notion of a women-run world, Pru shared something she'd seen where men were caught in the wild, put into cages and taught how to be worthwhile members of a female-centric society before being set free as higher-functioning men. "Sort of a catch and release program," she said by way of summary.

Like what Jackson ward used to do with feral cats.

Properly sated and ready for culture, we moved on to the Byrd Theater - where I wished a happy French Film Festival to Todd, the Byrd's manager - only to be told that the previous movie had run late and the Q & A was just starting.

With 40 minutes to kill, we first browsed at Chop Suey Books and then headed to Sugar and Twine for chai (Pru) and a Little Debbie - squares of chocolate cake with whipped cream in between and chocolate ganache on top - (moi) a choice that had the cashier closing her head and nodding approvingly at my choice.

Once my chocolate addiction had been fed, it was on to see "Rock and Roll...of Corse" about Henry Padovani, the Corsican guitarist who'd formed the Police with Stewart Copeland and then Sting, but left when Andy Summers came on board and replaced him.

"If you don't learn anything after watching this documentary, you weren't paying attention," our host said from the stage before introducing the director and, I kid you not, Henry himself. Considering I hadn't known that the Police even had a guitarist for a year before Summers joined the band all but guaranteed I'd learn plenty.

Being the documentary dork that I am, I ate up all the vintage footage - the Clash, Kim Wilde, young R.E.M., the Bangles - while watching how this unlikely Corsican-born, Algerian and Corsican-raised bon vivant had moved from France to London at exactly the right moment to catch the wave of punk rock exploding there.

Small wonder it had taken 10 years to make the film given all the interviews done and footage dug up.

Henry, it seemed, was responsible for giving the Police the punk cred they so desperately sought despite Sting's obvious affinity for jazz and schoolteacher-deep lyrics.

With Police in his rearview mirror, he landed in Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, a band I'd never even heard of despite the band having been far bigger than the Police at the time and the interviews with their trans-gendered lead singer were not only hilarious, but revealing.

Apparently Henry is very well-endowed, in addition to being a fine guitarist and lover of life. Ahem.

I was amazed to learn that he'd been asked to be a VP at IRS records in '88 and he was the one who signed REM to their first major label deal (seeing a baby-faced Michael Stipe sing "South Central Rain" was nothing short of astounding). But he signed all kinds of talent: the Fleshtones, the Lords of the New Church, the Go Gos, the Damned.

Henry came across as a guy who'd always been thankful for the breaks that had come his way but everyone asked their opinion of him talked about what great energy he had, his enthusiasm for life and just what a decent person he was.

When the film ended, it got even better because Henry returned to the stage to take questions, his favorite being the guy who asked how he handled eating after moving from France to England. Answer: lots of fish and chips and beer.

And the evening would have been stellar if it had ended there, but instead, Henry took a seat on a dais in front of four light panels and proceeded to play two guitars and sing for us, alternating French and English.

Starting with English, he sang "I Love Today" clearly meaning every word. "Skeleton Blues," sung in French and written while he lived in a presbytery next to a cemetery, had him asking the audience how many were French and when a loud response followed, he was obviously surprised. "Jeezuzlord!" he exclaimed peering into the theater.

Sting's nickname for him had been Nature Boy, although at the time, Henry had no knowledge of the Nat King Cole song, but tonight he sang "Nature Boy" for us. He'd written "Time" as an explanation to a much younger girlfriend that age differences don't matter. So I've always believed.

I turned to Pru, asking her how old she thought that girlfriend might have been, 32? "If that!" she responded disdainfully. Oh, Henry.

"Highway" was an instrumental Lightnin' Hopkins-style dancey blues song, while he said the English-sung "Lean Love" was written when, "Men get the blues because they don't give us what we need." Works both ways, Henry. Don't you know even women get the blues?

After a tangent about how he knew all about Virginia and the Pilgrims and the boat coming over - "It's not far from you guys, right?" - he said he was going to do Lennon's "Jealous Guy."

Let me tell you, sitting in an 88-year old theater watching a 64-year old Corsican sing a John Lennon song with a Gibson guitar may just have been the most sublime Friday night I've had in some time. When he finished, he grinned and said, "I love that song!"

From the Police's first record "Outlandos d'Amour," Henry did "Next to You" in the simple acoustic style like when Sting had first played the song for the band all those years ago.

He closed with Edith Piaf's "Je ne Regrette Rien," about living life with no regrets, saying "It sums up the whole thing. Life." Amen, brother.

No matter how lean life or love gets, a bon vivant never regrets going to the French Film Festival.

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