My date with a French artist that ended with me falling in love – with a staircase

In 1963 naive American singer D'yan Forest arrived in Paris determined to make it as a cabaret act. Then she discovered the city's dating scene

My date with a French artist that ended with me falling in love - with a staircase
A walk down some stairs ended on true love. Photo: AFP

I first moved to Paris in 1963 following a messy divorce (in short – my husband didn't know how to please a woman).

It was my dream to become a star of the Parisian cabaret – I spent most of my time perfecting my craft, studying pantomime and singing wherever anyone would listen. However, I also had a hidden agenda . . . I wanted to be romanced by Frenchmen!


D'yan in the 1960s in Paris. Photo: D'yan Forest

One evening a group of friends and I went to a restaurant in the Marais.

In those days there were communal tables and we all spoke to the strangers that were sitting at the same table.

One young, cute fellow sitting next to me said he was an artist in Montmartre. When he said his name, I realised that I had bought a watercolor painting from him only a few days before. I was so impressed and charmed.

After dinner he suggested that we go back to his studio at the top of Montmartre. Ready for an adventure at my young age, I, of course, said yes. A real live artist – we don’t really have those in Boston!

We took a taxi to his studio which was on a beautiful French street, in an old French building, and a very small room on the very top of Montmartre near Sacre Coeur.

However, away from the conviviality of the restaurant, he didn’t seem as charming. The rest of the evening turned out to be a disaster. Well my ex-husband was great compared to him.

I couldn’t wait to leave but of course the Paris Metro stops at 1am and doesn’t start running again until 5am. So I was now stuck at the top of Montmartre with a man who had no idea what he was doing!

At the break of dawn, I slipped out quietly and started walking down the beautiful stairs of Montmartre.

The sun was just rising, there was nobody around, and it was so beautiful and quiet, and romantic that I immediately thought of the famous 1956 film The Red Balloon. In this short film, a little boy was followed all over Paris by a red balloon.

I felt like I was descending the stairs in this film and wished that this moment would last forever.  

Oddly enough, this wasn’t the end of the story. 

READ ALSO The battle of Montmartre: Painters v bistros

At the age of 84, D'yan Forest is still performing cabaret and stand-up in Paris. Photo: D'yan Forest

Over the years, I have developed a true love affair (pun intended) with Montmartre.  I am friends with many of the artists that currently work on Place du Tertre.

One lazy afternoon, I was telling this adventure of my youth to some artist friends, and they asked his name. When I finally remembered it, they laughed and said, “Oh no,” he’s here now in his studio. I was hugely surprised.

They told me he had had a stroke and is very sick and asked if I would like to see him. I was astounded and said “okay,” and was led by my friend Kikie to the small courtyard and up the stairs to his studio.

There sat an old, frail man, who of course couldn’t remember me from 50 years ago.

I’m guessing he had invited many many young Americans to his studio. I wasn’t even sure myself that this was the same guy but after looking at his photographs on the wall from past eras from trips around the world, I knew it was him.

It was, for me, very poignant. I guess I really wanted to remember the young artist I had met in my youth.

It shows that you can’t go back. However, nothing will take away my memory of my descent down the stairway of Parisian Montmartre …  Paradise.


At the age of 84, D'yan is still performing. Her next show Swinging on The Seine – looking back at her remarkable life – is in Paris on Saturday, May 4th at 5.15pm at La Nouvelle Seine, quai Montebello, Paris. Find out more and book tickets here.


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‘You’re better off sleeping in your car’: How Paris is plagued by scourge of bed bugs

The bed bug infestation that is worsening across France has left hoteliers and residents in Paris struggling to find a remedy to a problem that leaves them often out of pocket and out of home.

'You're better off sleeping in your car': How Paris is plagued by scourge of bed bugs
Photos: AFP

If the last thing on your mind when staying at a glitzy Paris hotel is having to worry about getting bitten by critters, think again. 

A Paris hotel group head has admitted that even high-end hotels in the French capital are affected by a pest infestation that’s getting worse across France. 

France’s bed bug problem has seen the number of cases go from 180,000 to 400,000 in just two years.

In 2018 alone, there were 100,000 bed bug infestations in Paris, according to the French Union for Pest Control (CS3D), a scourge that is now also affecting the capital's hotel industry. 

As one TripAdvisor user commented about their stay in a Paris hotel last November: “Bed bugs, no handling of the matter and no treatment. You’re better off sleeping in your car”.

“It’s traumatizing hotel managers, we talk about it among ourselves, but timidly” Jean-Marc D'Orx, general president of Ile-de-France’s Hotel Union, told Le Parisien.

“The hotelier is a victim in this kind of case. It's not that the hotel is dirty, but it has welcomed people who have brought the bed bugs with them.

“When a room is infested, you have to change all the bedding, the mattress, the bed frame, it can cost anywhere from €300 to €10,000 depending on the category of the hotel.

Aside from these big financial losses (not fully covered by insurance according to D’Orx) and the effect bed bugs can have on a hotel’s reputation, hotel managers also have to close their establishment until new beds have been delivered and pest controls carried out.

In fact, since 2018 any landlord with a rental property in France that’s found to have bed bugs or any other parasite infestation (cockroaches, rats etc), has to cease letting it out, or face a fine of €50,000 to €100,000 for not doing so.

“In Canada, pest control treatments are mandatory when a tenant departs, but unfortunately this is not the case in France,” French housing and social inclusion group Si Toit Lien told Le Monde.

This has resulted in countless unwitting tenants in France having to deal with a serious health and housing problem from the moment they move into their new home.

According to the French Union for Pest Control, 92 percent of French people have at some point found pests in their homes. 

But bed bugs – called ‘punaises de lit’ in French – aren’t just being found in beds.

“It’s horrible, even when you’re sure they’re gone you see them everywhere,” a north American reader in Paris who asked to remain anonymous told The Local.

“The cinemas have a problem with them so you start avoiding places.

“You throw out everything that’s part of your bed including the mattress, even though they say all you need to do is wash beddings at 90degrees and it should be fine.

“The pest control guy I got was great. It cost €450 for him to come three times to fumigate. The main problem at my place was the carpet.

“So on top of the cost of fumigation there’s also the expense of staying a night or several nights at a hotel, which often has to happen.

“The fumigator told me bed bugs were by far his biggest business, way above cockroaches and mites, and that he couldn’t keep up with demand despite not advertising.

“The French blame Americans for bringing them over…I got them from an American friend who travels a lot. Bastard.”

The Local's Paris based editor Ben McPartland said: “A neighbour in my block just dumped their mattress in the street after realising it was teaming with bed bugs. They were everywhere. It was stomach-churning.”

Bed bugs are 7mm-long insects that feed on human blood, usually at night. Their bites can result in skin rashes, allergic reactions and psychological trauma for the person trying to sleep.

After having almost disappeared in the 1950s, bed bugs (Latin name Cimex lectularius) have proliferated in France in recent years.

READ MORE: Are American's really behind the bed bug explosion in Paris?