Friday, February 18, 2005

Now can't you see to look at me
That I'm a natural Camille
As Camille I just feel, I have so much to offer
(Hey listen kid I know I'd be divine because ...)
I'm a natural cougher [coughing sounds]
--"I'm The Greatest Star", Funny Girl
Lamenting a mournful day for the leftist intelligentsia everywhere, Ionarts ("Something other than politics in Washington, D.C.") reports on the recent interment of a willing expatriate:
In accordance with her final wishes, Susan Sontag was buried in Paris ... in the Cimetière de Montparnasse, where Baudelaire, Beckett, and Sartre (among many others) are also buried. ... Actresses Isabelle Huppert and Fiona Shaw read poems by Rimbaud, Beckett, and Baudelaire, and the Debussy flute solo Syrinx was played over the grave. ... Here is a photograph of Salman Rushdie placing a flower on Sontag's grave....
She was, of course, one of those who defended this blasphemer when The Ayatollah Of Peace issued a death threat that sent him into hiding. Those attending this ceremony, including Annie Leibovitz and the otherwise-forgotten Patti Smith, provoked El País to remark:
Los Estados Unidos de Bush quedan lejos, muy lejos.
Not very far away at all were the graves of more of the usual suspects Sontag was no doubt happy to lie near, including Pierre-Joseph Proudhon ("La propriété c'est le vol"), Tristan Tzara ("initiateur du mouvement dada"), Alfred Dreyfus ("accusé d'espionnage"), and Simone de Beauvoir (Le Deuxième Sexe). Just across this tomby town are buried still more of her late fellow travellers, including Charles Fourier ("théoricien socialiste"), Nijinski (danseur lavande), Emile Zola ("J'Accuse!"), and one forgotten woman who inspired writers long after her death:
Alexandre Dumas fils was abroad at the time of Marie Duplessis's fatal illness in February 1847 and, unlike his fictional alter-ego Armand Duval (and Armand's operatic counterpart, Alfredo Germont), did not return in time for a final deathbed reconciliation. He was, however, present ... when her corpse was later exhumed from its original grave to be reburied .... In his novel, Dumas made this ghastly scene both the prelude and the climax of his story.
The scene is even more Gothic than you might think from this excerpt:
Alors un des deux hommes étendit la main, se mit à découdre le linceul, et le prenant par le bout, découvrit brusquement le visage de Marguerite. ...

Les longs cheveux noirs et secs étaient collés sur les tempes et voilaient un peu les cavités vertes des joues, et cependant je reconnaissais dans ce visage le visage blanc, rose et joyeux que j'avais vu si souvent.

Armand, sans pouvoir détourner son regard de cette figure, avait porté son mouchoir à sa bouche et le mordait.
For some reason, they don't include this in the play, opera, or movie versions. The closest I've seen is the maddened Daredevil's digging up Electra's corpse in his comic book. Electra, like Sherlock Holmes, was later brought back to life for lucrative sequels. Poor Marie Duplessis was also reused under different names for many media. Dumas called her Marguerite Gautier in his book and his play, La Dame aux camélias, which for no good reason was renamed "Camille" in English, and Giuseppe Verdi changed her to Violetta Valery in his opera, La Traviata. The consumptive courtesan is about to be virtually unearthed again, this time with not only a name change but a sex change as well. Seeking one more chance to Blame The Republicans First, some evil souls are now proposing a revised and politicized version of that opera, set in our own capital with timely characters.

La Triviata (a synopsis)

Act I - A salon in Jacquot’s house.
Jacquot Bouledogue, a gay internet escort, is throwing a party at his home. A late arrival, Sullieman, brings with him a friend, a Texan wearing a Stetson and chaps (and nothing else). This is Scottie McGomery, the deputy White House press secretary, who has longed to meet Jacquot and declares love for him. To prove his devotion, he says that he can get Jacquot admitted to news conferences as an online reporter without a background check, if Jacquot will ask leading softball questions to help the administration. All he'll have to do is use a pixelnym, which he suggests: Geoffrey Garçon. Jacquot gives him a violet, telling him to return when the flower has wilted. Sullieman sulks jealously. The best song in this act is almost unchanged from the original opera, Scottie's profession of love: "Di quell'amor ch'é palpito" ("In that throbbing love").

Act II -
Scene 1 – A salon in Jacquot's house; several months later.
Scottie and Jacquot are now happily living together. Scottie has now been promoted to press secretary himself, and "Geoffrey Garçon" is tossing him easy questions based on GOP talking points. One day when Scottie leaves for work, Jacquot is visited by Scottie's mommy, Caroline Ketone S'égarercorne. She reminds him how much Scottie loves her, and says she has worked for years to get herself in a position to run for Governor of their home state, even divorcing Scottie's father when he planned to embarrass the establishment there. Now she is State Controller, and Jacquot's visible relationship with her son could hurt her, so she begs him to leave the press corps, break it off with Scottie, and say he doesn't love him any more. To help his lover's mother, Jacquot agrees. When Scottie comes home, Jacquot provokes a big fight, telling him that he could never really love a fighting keyboarder instead of a real military stud. Scottie storms out in a rage, swearing revenge.

Scene 2 – The White House Press Room.
There are two songs here by groups of reporters. In an effort to reach a broader audience, the original's "Noi siamo zingarelle" ("We are gipsy girls") has been replaced with "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves", and for the bull-fighters' number was substituted a modern version of Lerner and Loewe's "I Remember It Well".
(Sample stanza:)

Saddam had bombs
     We found not one
And nerve gas too
     No, there was none
Ah oui! I remember it well
The reporters then mill around, talking about how "Geoffrey" has resigned as a reporter. Sullieman slinks up to an anti-Bush reporter and urges him to ask Scottie how "Geoffrey" got daily passes by skipping the usual security clearances. Here the reporter gets to do a gender variant of Violetta's song from the original, "Questa donna conoscete?" ("Do you know this woman?"). Scottie blandly denies knowing anything about the bypass, or being familiar with the reporter at all. Sullieman smirks in the background. On a small side platform we see Jacquot watching this at home on TV, and bursting into hysterical sobs.

Act III – Jacquot's bedroom; several more months later.
Jacquot is now dying of AIDS, picked up in a desperate orgy trying to forget Scottie. Caroline, now the Governor of Texas, has finally told all to Scottie, who arrives, dressed in hat and chaps again, and carrying a fresh bouquet of violets, just in time to have Jacquot die in his arms. Of course, since this is a sort of opera, however twisted, before his last breath they sing several duets together, including "The Man I Love", "Someone To Watch Over Me", and a final cover of "Over The Rainbow" as Jacquot expires washed in a spectrum of spotlights. Scottie promises to fulfill his last wish, and bury him in the same Paris cemetery as Marie Duplessis, as close as possible to the monument there for the Egyptian-French singer Dalida.

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