The Secret World of Serge Gainsbourg

An older Vanity Fair piece from Lisa Robinson entitled “The Secret World of Serge Gainsbourg“. Definitely worth a read. Here is an excerpt on the house he lived in until his death:

Except for two pianos which have been removed, the house remains exactly the way it was on the day he died. The walls are covered with black fabric. The floor of the main drawing room is black and white marble. “Cluttered” is an understatement, but each thing is precisely in the place that Serge put it—and there are hundreds of things. Every surface is covered with ashtrays, photographs, and collections: toy monkeys, medals from various branches of the armed services, cameras, guns, bullets, police badges from all over France, pictures of the women who sang his songs—Brigitte Bardot, Anna Karina, Petula Clark, Juliette Gréco, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Marianne Faithfull, Françoise Hardy, Vanessa Paradis—and, most prominently, his lover of 13 years and Charlotte’s mother, the British actress Jane Birkin. There is a larger-than-life-size poster of international sex kitten Bardot, whom Serge first met on the set of a movie in 1959. Later, they carried on a clandestine affair while she was married to playboy Gunther Sachs, and recorded the steamy duet, written by Gainsbourg, “Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus.” Framed gold records—for albums featuring songs such as “La Javanaise,” “Ballade de Melody Nelson,” and “Love on the Beat”—are on the walls and the mantel above the fireplace. There is a bronze sculpture of a headless nude that Charlotte tells me was modeled on her mother, a statue of the Man with a Cabbage Head (the title of one of Gainsbourg’s greatest albums), Gainsbourg puppet dolls, tape recorders, a black lacquered bar with a cocktail shaker and glasses, a Jimi Hendrix cassette, framed newspaper stories, and empty red jewelry boxes from Cartier—”He loved the boxes,” says Charlotte. There are photos of Serge with Ray Charles, with Dirk Bogarde, with his last girlfriend, Bambou, and their son, Lulu. The small kitchen at the back of the first floor has a 15-inch black-and-white television set, candy bars and two cans of tomato juice in the refrigerator, opened wine bottles, and, in the cupboard, cans of food from 1991—except, says Charlotte, “the ones that exploded.”

Upstairs, on the second floor, in Serge’s skylit study, there is an IBM electric typewriter even though he never typed, books about Chopin, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Fra Angelico, and Velázquez, and a copy of Robinson Crusoe. Photos of Marilyn Monroe line the dark, narrow hallway, including one of the star dead, in the morgue. There is the room Jane Birkin called her “boudoir” and what Serge called “La Chambre de Poupée” (the doll room) after Jane left him, in 1980. The bathroom has a very low bathtub, modeled after one Serge saw in Salvador Dalí’s apartment, and bottles of Guerlain, Roger & Gallet colognes, and soap from Santa Maria Novella. His toothbrush is still there. The master bedroom has blackout curtains, a mirrored wall, and twin gold female heads with pearls around their necks at the foot of the black, mink-covered double bed. Chewing gum and mints are next to the bed, and on the bed are dried flowers that have been there since he died. In the large hallway closet: his white Repetto jazz shoes, ties, and pin-striped suits. The house is a shrine, but it’s not creepy, and one can imagine how stylish, even decadent this all must have seemed in 1970 when Serge and Jane moved into what was their family home and later would become the solitary lair of Gainsbourg—singer, songwriter, musician, painter, actor, director, smoker, alcoholic, romantic, ladies’ man, and revered national figure.

For the rest of the article, click here

And here is Serge performing “L’homme a Tete de Chou” live in ’88.


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