Thursday, December 10, 2015


The birthday-party-naked-Nazi-woman-film fiasco had repercussions.

Psychology was very fashionable that year in France. B.F. Skinner had been featured in Paris Match and my mother knew everything about free will being an illusion. She’d been particularly taken by the notion that actions depended on the outcome of other actions.  My father was tasked with finding out what I’d seen and how it had affected me, psychologically speaking.

What I had seen was two naked people, one whom may or may not have looked like the father of a  the kids at the party. The naked people had fought briefly and without much skill, and ended up on the floor where they’d wrestled without much passion. That was when my mom came in and tipped over the projector.  

How did I feel about it? Well, to quote Babette, it certainly wasn’t Fantasia. I bought Mickey Magazine every week from the newspaper kiosk lady on the corner, and for months there’d been scenes from the movie featured in the magazine.  Fantasia had dancing brooms, cascading waters, hippos in tutus and other wonders. The only thing the naked Nazi woman had was a riding crop. Plus, as Babette had aptly noted, there wasn’t any music. In fact there hadn’t been any sound at all.  

I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. My parents had a book of photographs of jolly naked Rubenesque ladies. It was hidden behind other books in the living room bookshelf, and I’d discovered it a year earlier. The ladies in the book looked a lot happier than the naked Nazi woman. Plus, I was around unclothed women almost daily in my mother’s dressmaking atelier. The two young women hired to model were half-naked most of the time. We played cards, and I admired their roundness, which they made no effort to hide.

Babette, visiting a few days later with her mother, who had a fitting appointment for a dress, said it had to do with the naked man and probably the swastika on the woman’s hat. This was post-war Paris. The city had barely recovered from the German occupation and the wounds were far from healed. “If we’d seen the rest of the film, I’m sure the French man would have won the fight. He was already on top of the woman when your maman came in.”

I tried to parlay the experience into an outing to see the latest American Western at the neighborhood theatre, but my mother said, “No more movies!” My father attempted to appeal her decision. He wanted to see the Western too but she was adamant. “God knows what ordure they might show!”

The amateur film-maker responsible for the debacle sent a note explaining that he had mistakenly picked out Fantasies Nazis rather than Fantasia from his film library. It could have happened to anyone. He begged her forgiveness. He never got it, and months later his wife left him. The man, she would confide to my mother, had hidden his dreadful proclivities from her, though she whispered that in bed he had made unnatural demands that she had, of course, rebuffed. Luckily, they’d never had children. My mother re-admitted her into the circle of friends, but never into the inner circle. Unsubstantiated rumors circulated that the poor woman had herself been coerced into appearing in her husband’s filmes risqués; she became quite an object of interest to the men when their wives weren’t looking.

Babette was briefly obsessed with the experience. One day when we were at the Parc Monceau she said, “You remember the naked people film?”

I did, of course.

“Well,” she looked around to see whether anyone might overhear her, then, with a smug look, told me, “The naked people weren’t fighting!







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