Author: Cliff Simon, Loren Stephens
Publisher: Waldorf Publishing
Publishing Date: 2016
Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge opens with a bored twenty six year old Cliff Simon staring out at the ocean from his beachfront house, wishing he was somewhere else. Gavin Mills telephones him from Paris inviting him to join him at the iconic Moulin Rouge. Cliff sells everything he owns, leaving Johannesburg, South Africa for the City of Lights. He learns that his spot at the Moulin is not guaranteed, and is forced to audition. Making the grade, "he is put into can can" school before he is allowed into the company. His adrenaline is pumping from excitement and fear, both of which he has faced before. Taking a look back we see twelve year old Cliff helming a racing dinghy in the midst of a thunderstorm on the Vaal River. His father yells at him not to be a sissy, and he brings the boat back to shore alone. We then travel to London with his family escaping the tumult of Apartheid. He trains for the Olympics, but drops out, enrolling in the South African military where he subjected to harsh treatment and name calling - Fokken Jood. After a honorable discharge, he works in cabaret at seaside resorts, and is recruited as a gymnast in a cabaret, where he realizes that the stage is his destiny. The memoir fast forwards to Cliff's meteoric rise at the Moulin from swing dancer to principal in "Formidable." Off stage he gets into fights with street thugs, hangs out with diamond smugglers, and has his pick of gorgeous women. With a year at the Moulin to his credit, doors open for him internationally and back in South Africa. He earns a starring role in "Egoli: Place of Gold," and marries his long-time girlfriend, Colette. On their honeymoon to Paris, Cliff says, "Merci Paris for the best year of my life."
(From France Book Tours)
I'm sorry, but I didn't really get into the story as I should have. I have never been to Paris, although like others I heard plenty about Moulin Rouge and am curious about it. The memoir explores and decodes behind-the-scenes of late 1980s of Moulin Rouge and what it is like working there, which I've liked. However, the big negative in the story is the writing which falls more on tell rather than show. Although its a memoir, I didn't feel as if I got into or even understood Cliff Simon's personality and motivations. Even if fictionalized, I think I would have preferred to see the author more in the thick of things rather than just merely describing what has happened. What is also a bonus is the story of South Africa and of seeing what it is like being a religious minority in there.
This is for France Book Tours
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)