This morning a producer friend sent me the below video (shot in September 2019) of Cafe Deux Magots. I watched, frowned and sent her the following:
In early October 1987, my ex-wife Maggie and I (plus my parents, her brother Andy and his girlfriend and three or four others) went to Cafe Deux Magots for a post-wedding reception after we exchanged vows at St. Julien Le Pauvre. The song in the air was Sting’s “We’ll Be Together.” Mild, warmish weather. Nearly 33 years ago.
I haven’t been to Cafe Deux Magots since then. It’s been around since 1884, and particularly since Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Paris heyday in the ‘20s (although Hemingway preferred Cafe de Flore), and I seem to recall it being a fairly cool Left Bank haunt when I first visited Paris in June of ‘76.
But 11 years later this storied place and in fact the whole neighborhood had begun to transition into an aggressive tourist destination, all but swamped with Americans, Germans, Brits and the like. In the same category as Cafe de la Paix near the old Opera house.
Now it seems to have been scrubbed of that old vibe and atmosphere. Still the same place, of course, but at the same time too new and gleaming and renovated. And swarming with Middle Eastern conspicuous consumption types along with all the other rubes. They kill da coolness.
A truly great Paris cafe has to radiate a certain present-tense hum (locals enjoying a slight edge over tourists) and be well maintained, but at the same time it needs to feel a tiny bit musty and tainted by history — pleasantly odorous (strong coffee, unfiltered Galouises, fresh and fragrant croissants) and faintly haunted. Today’s Cafe Deux Magots looks and feels like a Disneyworid recreation.