Meeting Mister Goude

En tête à tête avec JEAN-PAUL GOUDE pour le magazine 1814 magazine

J’

ai rencontré Jean-Paul Goude quelques jours avant Noël. Le magazine 1814 avait prévu de lui consacrer la couverture de son numéro 8, en plus d’un sujet de 18 pages et Michael Thomas, le rédacteur en chef, m’avait chargée de réaliser l’interview. J’étais doublement ravie: rencontrer Mister Goude et participer à cette magnifique revue. 2014 finissait en beauté.

L’EMPREINTE DE JEAN-PAUL GOUDE

À l’heure dite, j’ai donc escaladé les hauteurs de Ménilmontant pour retrouver Jean-Paul Goude chez lui et me caller au fond d’un fauteuil Le Corbusier, dans son nid d’aigle, un bureau entièrement vitré, posé sur les toits de Paris. Pour être tout à fait honnête, j’étais très impressionnée. Les images de Jean-Paul Goude ont bercé mon adolescence et son très probablement à l’origine de mon intérêt pour la mode et pour l’image. Des pubs Kodak et Chanel au défilé du 14 Juillet 1989 en passant par les vidéos de Grace Jones… Autant de souvenirs visuels quasi indélébiles! J’en avais mesuré l’impression lors de la rétrospective qui lui avait été consacrée au Musée des Arts Décoratifs en 2012 tant l’émotion avait été vive de retrouver tous ces trésors des années 80…

UNE BRASSÉE DE SOUVENIRS

On m’a donc installée dans son bureau, le vent y battaient les stores, je l’attendais, le ventre un tantinet noué. Et il est arrivé. Marinière rayée, pantalon noir bouffant et chaussures blanches. Et il a commencé à se raconter…Jean-Paul Goude est incroyablement bavard. Il se raconte sans détour et, en quelques minutes, j’avais l’impression que nous étions liés d’une longue amitié. Cela paraissait d’autant plus probable que son personnage m’était depuis longtemps familier. Jean-Paul Goude livre facilement des anecdotes de son enfance, l’histoire de ses parents, son amitié avec Jacques Prévert, ses débuts en tant qu’illustrateur, sa rencontre avec Howard Hayes, et son départ pour New York… Il a l’esprit d’escalier et très souvent, ni lui, ni moi, ne nous rappelions la question initiale… mais qu’importe. Le temps passe vite, trop vite, et lorsque Virginie, son assistante, vient nous signifier qu’il est écoulé, ni lui, ni moi, ne souhaitons y mettre fin. Nous venions à peine de commencer!

TROP PRÈS DE L’INTIME

Alors on reprend rendez-vous pour une seconde rencontre et je le retrouve entre Noël et le nouvel an, un étage au-dessous, parce qu’il fait trop froid sous les toits. Encore une fois, l’impression de retrouver un ami. Impression d’autant plus palpable que nous ne nous sommes quittés que moins d’une semaine auparavant. Les confessions vont plus loin. Au point que je prends rapidement conscience que je ne pourrais pas utiliser ses confidences pour mon article. J’ai été prévenue qu’il souhaite relire avant parution et je comprends maintenant le pourquoi de cette précaution. Je n’ai donc pas écrit tout ce qu’il a bien voulu partager avec moi de sa vie de famille, de ses relations avec Grace Jones, complexes et encore douloureuses, ni de son projet de long métrage dont le story board était posé contre le mur, juste à côté de moi, et qu’il détaillait sans réserve avec enthousiasme…

Parce que les vraies stars ont besoin de s’entourer de mystère, tout n’est donc pas dit dans l’interview que publie 1814 mais, il y a quand même plein de très jolies choses, et surtout, des images… inoubliables.

La voici en anglais telle que parue :

SO GOUDE / MUSE, SPECTACLE & THE FRENCH CORRECTION

1814In your book ‘So Far So Goude’ you write that as a child you lived near the Vincennes Zoo and that you could hear the roars of the menagerie as you slept… Can you tell us a bit about your early influences and their impact on your work?

 Jean-Paul Goude – Indeed, I was born in Saint Mandé, a little town near Paris right across the street from the zoo – which explains “the roars of the menagerie” – and around the corner from the Palais de la Porte Dorée, a magnificent museum dedicated to the past glories of the French colonial empire. I started to make a living as an illustrator at the beginning of the 60’s, while I was still in Art school. I was about 20. A few years later, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Harold Hayes, the Editor of Esquire magazine who asked me to come to New York and work for him as his Art director. We were in 1969 and Esquire’s prestige at the time was at its zenith. All the stars of American literature – from Tom Wolfe to Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, you name it. If Harold Hayes had hired me to bring a fresh visual approach to his magazine, he had also encouraged me to pursue and develop some of my most improbable ideas. After one year, and to my relief, I was promoted to the position of Art editor of the magazine. No more layouts, I was in charge of finding visual ideas for the magazine as well as executing them, which enabled me to concentrate on subject matters that personally inspired me. I wanted to involve more of myself in various projects and to produce work that reflected my own values. After all, even if I am half American on my mother’s side, I had been born and raised in France, and carried with me a very French sensibility, to which I was very much attached and had no intention of losing. I remember seeing Federico Fellini being interviewed in NY on late night TV who was explaining why the idea of working in the US didn’t appeal to him. How, even if he loved the idea of Hollywood, he felt he would be lost, and that American culture was too far from his own. He felt that his inspiration, his ideas, could only grow in the context of his own Italian roots. His answer made an impression on me. It raised a question: What is my culture? And as the cliché says, « who am I?”, “where am I going? ». I had never seriously thought about it. I loved the Arts, the theatre, the cinema and girls; exotic girls in particular. And when a black girlfriend of mine told me I had jungle fever, it gave me the idea for a book that would go to the root of what she was suggesting. Had I caught a new disease? This made me realize that I had a real story to tell, that to my knowledge, no one had ever told before. Choosing myself and my itinerary as parameters, I decided to develop my own mythology and started to write an autobiographical book that I quite naturally entitled Jungle Fever.

1814When did you first recognize your gift as an illustrator?

 JPG – Like all children, I drew pictures. Naïve, charming, and contrary to my little friends, who eventually went on to other things, I kept on drawing. The fact that I could do it better than others motivated me, gave me an identity, and most important, made me popular with girls. Following my parent’s decision to send me to Art school, I finally got admitted to the Arts Deco, which made me feel like a real artist. Sitting at the terrace of the “Select” in Montparnasse, I took myself very seriously and hung out at the Cinémathèque of the rue d’Ulm almost every night. This is where I discovered American musical films. What a shock! What a revelation! Busby Berkley, Funny Face, Pajama Game, The band Wagon, Singin’in the Rain, Guys and dolls, dancing gangsters, boxers, sailors, I was mesmerized! It had nothing to do with ballet school and the dancing my mother taught to the little girls in Saint Mandé. It was much more, let’s say…virile. Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd, the dancing GI’s in It’s always fair weather, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall; I wanted to be just like them, so much so that I finally decided to study dance. My mother introduced me to her old friend Marcel Berger, who had been Anna Pavlova’s partner and whose teachings had more to do with the circus than the Art of ballet. Which of course appealed to me tremendously. I took dance classes for three years. First twice a week, then every day, until the third year when during the summer holidays, I managed to follow classes at Robert Joffrey’s American Ballet Center on a scholarship in NY. My job consisted to clean the studios and dressing rooms in exchange of classes. To say the truth, I never truly appreciated the esthetics of ballet. Aside from athletic tricks like jumps and pirouettes, I found it obsolete, not modern enough. West Side Story, Jerome Robbins, the Jets, the Sharks, that was my kind of dancing. One day after class, Robert Joffrey took me aside and told me “You’ll never be a dancer, you’re too small, you’re not strong enough, you have a hard time lifting the girls…If you really want to be a dancer, you could try Broadway or Hollywood, but frankly, if I were you, I’d go on doing little drawings like the ones you carry with you all the time.” I hurried back to Paris.

1814Your work uniquely combines various mediums… Illustration, photography, graphic design, painting, theater. When did you first begin to combine these various ingredients and would you also tell us a bit about your process of the ‘French Correction’?

JPG – After five years at Esquire, I felt that my career as an artist wasn’t going anywhere. Sure I was very busy and learning a lot but it seemed that I was only using my skills to illustrate other people’s concepts, when in fact I was only interested to illustrate my own, to be myself and make a living at it. One day, during lunch with Harold Hayes, I told him that I wore lift in my shoes. For an American from the deep South, the puritanical son of a protestant minister, such a confession seemed outrageous to him, especially when I explained that not only did I feel better with a few more inches to compensate for my short legs, but that I also wore shoulder pads in my tee-shirt, like he wore shoulder pads in his jacket, to appear more broad shouldered. And when – as a pay-off – I told him I wore an Op Art bathing suit – à la Bridget Riley – which gave the impression of volume on a flat surface, he decided to give me 8 pages in the magazine to develop the story which we called “The French Correction” in homage to “The French Connection”, the famous movie. It was the first time that I was the author of my own improbable fantasies. The story that ran in our March issue was such a success that I was invited on the Mike Douglas Show, the famous TV program of the seventies.  Since my childhood, I’ve regularly been accused of being a Jack of all trades and I don’t like it. When I was fourteen, a friend of my mother’s warned me: “Never forget that a Jack of all trades is the master of none”. A remark to which, after consideration, I answered with the presumption that often characterize adolescents: “Ok, fine, I might be a Jack of all trades for the moment, but wait and see: someday I’ll become master of all!”. I know this sounds unbelievably pretentious but I really did say that. To me, Jack of all trades is a derogatory expression that suggest superficiality. Even if I often take frivolity as a parameter to my work, I never do it superficially, I don’t brush on things. I try to invest myself in projects with all the energy that I’m capable of.  I’m basically a graphic artist, a draftsman, a dessinateur. Yet, I’ve never been afraid of using all possible means of expressions like drawing – of course – photography, collage, film, sets, costumes, you name it… any technique that I feel I can master.

1814Can you discuss the role of the ‘muse’ in your work? 

JPG – I always liked to work with girls. When I was a teenager, I was systematically attracted by girls who had style, the ones who fixed themselves up better than others, and I’d go as far as advise them on what they should wear or not. Much later, when I lived in New York, I went on doing the same thing, this time with Toukie Smith’s with whom I lived and whose close-cropped Masai-inspired hair style represented to me the only alternative to those elaborate “Pompadour” hair-styles that were so popular with women of color in the late 60’s. All this to say that Toukie was to me at the time the perfect incarnation of African-American femininity. Same thing with the shape of black women’s bodies, whose long legs and generous backsides I chose to celebrate by exaggerating them.  In 1973, I made a reduced version from a cast of Toukie that I judged not dramatic enough. Cutting-up the twelve inches statue into pieces, I elongated its legs, arms, neck, and considerably exaggerated its posterior; but my Toukie doll was a flop. Toukie hated it.  Grace Jones on the other hand, was very receptive to my ideas. I think that’s what she liked about me. When we met, in the 70’s, she was a struggling model and budding disco singer. As I said earlier, I was the Artistic Editor of Esquire, which in her eyes gave me a special aura, and when we met, I was already working on different projects that included Afro Americans. Grace and I were at the time extremely infatuated with each other. This is why the partnership worked so well. And if I created this fiction character based on my vision of her, which didn’t necessarily correspond to her reality, I had no idea that 30 years later it would still be popular. The end of our story in 1982 was difficult. We hated each other by that time. Yet we had to stick together in order to allow the show to go on (show for which I had worked my ass off for three whole years). But too much fighting, too much lying, I couldn’t take it anymore. As soon as Jungle Fever, my first book, came out, I went back to Europe and fell in love with Farida, which enabled me to forget the mess I had left behind me and started a new life. A page had been turned. Farida is somebody that I respect tremendously and I’ll probably stay friends with her all my life.  But Karen is the one and only muse I married. She still fascinates and inspires me, though, since we’ve been together for twenty years, the relationship has quite naturally taken another dimension; Karen who is a designer in her own right, is the woman of my life, my accomplice and she’s my all time muse. Style is definitely in the family’s DNA. At my mother’s death in 2010, I found out that my father’s parents had been in the fashion business at the turn of the Century. They owned a store right near the Galeries Lafayette and had been involved with the glamorous world of sparkles, spangles and beads before they tragically died at the age of 30. All this to say that I’m starting to understand why my work has always been so style-oriented. It’s about time. I sometimes ask myself if my children will follow us in what seems to be a family tradition. Loreleï, our daughter, is also talented for fashion; she’s 18 and studies fashion at the Parsons School of design in New York and her brother Theo who just turned 16 is starting to be very style conscious. He has grown and lost his baby fat and frankly, I’m not saying this because he is my son, but he looks really good! And if he has inherited his daddy’s short legs, it’s good enough a reason to suggest to him to have pants made to order with a higher waist. He seems to like the idea and I can’t wait to get started.

 1814 – 1970’s New York, CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City was a pivotal moment in art, music and fashion for so many of our contributors including Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, Anton Perich, Robert Maplethorpe… can you describe your experience in New York City at the time and its influence on your work?

JPG – As I said earlier, I started my introspection in NY at the beginning of the 70’. By sheer accident I lived right across the street from Andy Warhol’s Factory on the same block as Max’s Kansas City, which gave me the opportunity to mingle with New York’s hippest and most colorful characters of the American counter-culture.  A breeding ground, which was not foreign to what had happened in Paris in the 30’s. When Harold Hayes quit Esquire, I also quit and my first project was a series of pictures and words that I undertook with Nick Cohn, the author of Rock Dreams (an illustrated book which was the reference in the world of Rock & Roll of the period). Like myself, Nick was under the trashy charm of 42nd street and peepshows that we covered for New York magazine. Needless to say we had lots of fun. Soon, we were writing a musical movie for Andy Warhol about a young Puerto-Rican fighter he had a crush on. We dreamed a lot. We had tons of projects, all potentially more “spectacular” one than the other. That they were ever made or not wasn’t the point; we were involved in what we liked!

1814What got you involved in photography and which photographers inspire you the most?

JPG – Esquire was in the Look building on Madison Avenue and as the conscientious Art director that I was, I took the habit of observing magazine’s readers browsing in front of the newsstand located in the hallway. Nearly nobody ever stopped to look at drawn or painted images and almost always in front of photographs. I started thinking that if most of my illustrations were already extremely realistic – painted from photographs – why not paint directly on photographs to achieve this hyperrealism I was looking for. Which is what I did for years until I started using a computer. Let me explain: first, I would sketch my idea, then the sets and costumes, then we’d start casting, and stage the future picture like one would do for the theatre. And finally we’d shoot the whole thing. I would then “deconstruct” the image, cutting-up transparencies and finally had a print made of the “deconstructed” image, on the surface of which, I oiled painted directly. What a job! A very intricate and laborious process, but this is the way I worked! Nowadays, the computer allows me to not only be more precise, but make my job much easier. Photography always interested me when I was young but I didn’t feel directly concerned. And even if I thought that fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar were very inspiring, the world of fashion appeared too feminine for the macho adolescent that I was, even though I was definitely more than in awe with Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, before discovering Guy Bourdin whose work I worshiped. He was the first photographer to use surrealistic ideas without being corny and the first to bring humor in fashion photography. To this day, I still consider him as the greatest. I was going to forget Doisneau whose work I adored since I was in Art school. Nowadays, I like Tim Walker very much, he’s much more than a fashion photographer, he’s in his own little world, like the artist that he is.

 1814 – Is there a project you have imagined but never created that calls to you?

JPG – Without any doubt, the feature film I wrote in 1998. A producer with whom I had done lots of work in advertising decided that it was time for me to move on to bigger projects. Since I was on a roll, I had the presumption to agree. I signed a contract and I went to work, even though I didn’t have the faintest idea of what to write about. The screenwriters that had been hired seemed to systematically focus on Jungle Fever – my old autobiographic book- and the idea of myself for inspiration, thus, turning me – the author of the book – into not only a fiction character but the parameter to their screenplay. But when twice in succession they failed to write anything satisfying, I decided to try to write the script myself, since this whole thing was about me anyhow. It took me about 2 years to write my first draft but for whatever reason, my producer got cold feet and dropped the project.

1814What is the project that has had the greatest impact on the way you work… and what is the one that had the greatest influence on culture?

JPG – As far as culture is concerned, I really don’t know, I’d say the Bicentennial parade of the French Revolution in 1989, was probably the biggest and most ambitious project that I have ever tackled.  I also did a couple of commercials for Chanel in the 90’s that I still like, and my Retrospective at The Arts Décos, a few years ago, helped me to forget about the disappointment of not making my feature film. What I do find kind of amazing – if I may say so myself – is the eclecticism of my career. From a literary magazine geared to an American intellectual elite to the tacky world of disco, I’ve done or tried to do a lot. I guess it’s the mixture of naïve presumption and determination, that give me the strength to push on and make me want to do things, to build a world of my own and share it with the largest possible audience.

1814What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

JPG – “Be yourself”. That’s what all mothers say to their kids and that’s what Harold Hayes at Esquire used to tell me.

Le magazine 1814 est disponible à New York chez Rizzoli Bookstore, à Los Angeles et à Santa Monica chez Hennessey+Ingalls, à Dallas chez Grange Hall et à la Goss Michael Foundation, à Londres chez Foyles, Chez Wardour News et au Tate Modern Shop, à Malmo chez Hamrelius Bokhandel, à Sao Paulo chez Livaria Freebook, à Taiwan chez Artland Book Company, à Osaka au Standard Bookstore, à Copenhague au Fotografisk Center et chez Storm, à Berlin chez Doyoureadme et à Paris à la Library of Arts.

 

 

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