This Must Be the Place (1937)

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Sun Nov 12 02:19:11 UTC 2000

(James Charters)
As told to Morrill Cody
With an introduction by Ernest Hemingway
Lee Furman, Inc., New York, 1937

   Paris in the 1920s.
   That must be the place.  Jimmy Charters worked Le Dingo at
Montparnasse...I yesterday posted information from a book about Cuba in the
   This book contains "homos," but not "gay."

Pg. 21---...the writer Sam Putnam calls my "Liverpool grin," a perpetual
expression of my desire to be sympathetic.

Pg. 80--The French workmen called it _lait de tigre_--tiger milk!  It
(Pernod--ed.) is really the same sort of thing as the imitation absinthe
which is made in New Orleans.  It is a clear, pale green liquid as you pour
it in the glass, but when you add water to it, it turns a milky, greenish
color.  The taste is that of licorice.

pg. 89--One of the mystery men of those days was an American named Leaming,
who claimed to have been a monk in Russia and was in Paris simply for a rest
from "monking."

Pg. 96--Hilaire Hiler, who has made a collection of Western songs, was very
much interested in Les's comments on them.  For instance, Les insisted that
the original name of "Frankie and Johnnie" was "Frankie and Albert."
   "Kansas city," he said, "had a district known as the Bottoms, full of
railroad yards, packing houses, tanneries, factories, with a big colored
population and a famous tenderloin or red-light district.  Frankie was a real
girl who lived there.  Albert was her sweetheart, well known in the
underworld, a celebrity as it were, and a sensationalist to the extent of
driving spotted polo ponies, tandem style, to a high trap, with two
thoroughbred bulldogs beside him.  Always conspicuous, he had quite a
following amongst the fair sex, and being constantly overcome by temptation,
was unfaithful to the girl friend.  The result was that he stopped a couple
of slugs.  The tragedy is explained in the song.
   "In singing the song today so many people speak of Frankie's 'gorty-four
gun.'  It should be 'forty-one gun,' because in those days Colt manufactured
(Pg. 97--ed.) something between a thirty-eight and a forty-four.  A forty-one
is just about the kind of gun a gal _would_ carry."
   In reference to the "Engineer's Song," Les said, "This was originally sung
by the colored brakeman and fireman on the old K.C. Railroad, now part of the
Frisco system, running between Birmingham, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee.
The song later became known as 'Casey Jones.'"
   Regarding the song "Stackerlee," the late Palmer Jones once told Hiler
that this song originated in Memphis shortly after the murder of the
notorious gambler, Billy Lyons, by his best friend and comrade, William
"Stacker" Lee.  The word "stacker" doubtless refers to his habits when
playing cards.  Les, in commenting on the same song, said, "Stackerlee was no
doubt a real bad man.  This is a song about a levee gambler in St. Louis who
had a heart as hard as granite and was so tough you couldn't manicure him
with an emery wheel.  He carried razors for social purposes and his glance
was like an automatic drill."
   Les also said that "Willie the Weeper" came from the "Hop Song," the first
character song of the underworld that he ever heard.  It was composed by an
entertainer in Cripple Creek, Colorado, by the name of Guy Hallie."  (Sic,
with just end quote--ed.)

Pg. 98--Then I would hear a soft voice say, "Jimmie, when nobody's looking,
slip me a century!"  A century was a hundred francs.  Or sometimes he would
ask for a "sawbuck," five hundred francs.

Pg. 100--They can write their own tickets.

Pg. 103--..."Jimmie, pour out my bread-and-butter, please," and this would
mean a brandy and soda.

Pg. 158--"This must be the place!"

Pg. 210--They were always proud of their _maquereau_, or pimps, each of whom
often had three or four girls working for him at once.

Pg. 221--A great place for friends to gather in the days when I first went to
Montparnasse was the _bougnat_ (shop selling wine, coal and wood, usually
with a zinc bar but no tables) on the corner of the rue Campagne-Premiere,
owned and run by an old Auvergnat, Pere Londiche.

Pg. 248--Another group that formed an important part of Montparnasse life
were the homosexuals.  When I first went to Paris I had never heard of such
people, and thought they must be a recent invention!  Everyone told me
differently, of course, but (Pg. 249--ed.) I don't think they had any in
Manchester, where I was brought up.
   As homos go, I prefer the women to the men--it seems more natural.  In a
bar the women are more quiet and reserved than the men, even though they wear
mannish clothes.

Pg. 251--The fairies particularly, have a hard life among the normal men, who
often resent them, especially after a few drinks.  I always watched for
fights between two such groups--watched to protect the normal men, for the
pansies were usually excellent fighters, despite their effeminate ways.

Pg. 277--Another client here was Mrs. Nell Henry, wife of the jockey Milton
Henry who founded the New York Bar in 1911.

Pg. 294--Fabresse published an entire volume of sketches of me entitled _La
Vie Fantaisiste d'un Barman de Montparnasse_ (The Strange Life of a Barman in

Pg. 297--The _croix de vache_ is a cross cut on the face with a knife by a
man to whom the woman has done wrong.

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