Theatre, Daily Racing Form, 1959-05-07


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T H E A T R E by w/»* ney Boiton NEW YORK, May 6.— Did you ever see Toulouse-Lautrec, live and breathing? I can show him to you. He is a tiny, puckish, in finitely brained young French comedian with tiny, slightly darkened glasses with silver frames and bows. He is named Pierre Olaf, he could so easily play Toulouse-Lautrec that three times in three different countries he has been asked to do so, and when he was three years old he embarrassed his mother to a point where she publicly ignored him. Olaf, who has a totally different real name, was the first actor I ever met who could clearly and concisely pin-point that exact day, hour and minute when the great decision to be an actor for life was made. We were sitting in a shrouded and shadowed 45th Street bistro, so dark it was hard to see your hand before your face, and I peered through the gloom and said: "Pierre, do you know, right now sitting there, when you decided to be an actor, thus horrifying your family, a long line of marine insurance specialists?" AAA "Of course," he said, "I was three years old in a park in afternoon and my mother stopped to talk to a friend. I heard music and went to the source. It was a blind man with an accordion. The music entranced me and I began to dance to it. In minutes I had a crowd. My mothers friend glimpsed me dancing in the distance and said to my mother: For Heavens sake, look at Pierre. Youd best to get him away from there." When he finishes and the crowd disappears, my mother said. It is too embarrassing to claim him in front of all those people. Later, she came and got me." AAA "But how do you know that was exactly the moment?" "Its very simple. I passed the hat. Instinctively, I wanted to be paid for my performance. Any child can dance to music — born actors expect to be paid for it. Later, when I was around five years old, we passed the summer at a noted beach resort on the Coast and I became disgustingly rich. I danced in front of the cabanas for the bathers and always, without fail, passed the hat. Youd be amazed how much money people stuff into their bathing suits. Naturally, suddenly rich, I became gross and could not hide my wealth. My parents wondered where all this money came from, since each night it tumbled in rain from my little pockets. They investigated and we left there. Precipitately." AAA "I know the vast success you have had here in New York in La Plume de Ma Tante," I said. "But did you ever go hungry to be an actor? Really hungry?" "Certainly. You are not really an actor until you have starved. I once went eight months without earning a penny. Not a cent. Then a movie producer got hold of me and said he might have a role for me in a picture to be made four months later. He would call me. I thought I could borrow and starve to last out. It didnt work. I was famished. Fortunately, he decided to formalize things by calling me in to sign a contract. In Fiance, a sensible nation in these fiscal matters, you get an advance on salary when you sign a contract to perform. I owed the American equivalent of 50 here and there among helpful friends. I left there with a check for exactly the sum, expressed in French money, of course. I was virtuous. I would go to the bank, get the cash and one by one pay what I owed. Did I do that? I ran into three friends on the way and I gave a sumptuous dinner for the four of us. With tips, it came to 42. You see what slipshod people actors are." AAA "And you starved again?" "Yes. But I did make the picture and get the rest of my salary and paid off my friends, now suffering from certain anxieties. Then starved again until I cudgeled a night club owner into accepting a dreadful little act I put together. One winter night, with snow falling, there were three j people in the club. Me, the performer, and j Robert Dhery and his wife, customers. I had to perform. It is tradition. If there is I only one customer, you perform. They liked what I did and asked me to join their company. Thats how I am with them now. A night in a Paris blizzard. We have been together in a series of revues for six years. I take a vacation for a month soon and will see what I can of the United States in 30 days. Why go back to Paris for that time? Ive seen it. If you worked in Paris for the first time and got a vacation would you fly back to New York? Naturally not. I want to see all I can of what you have here. All the way to California. But San Francisco, I think, not Los Angeles."

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