Following my stint at Univac, I followed my mentor Dr. Louis Rader to
Bull General Electric, as he had need of loyalty and technical competence
when GE purchased the components of both Compagnie Bull (Paris) and
Olivetti (Milan and surrounding). Italy was easier -- they had no Charles
de Gaulle to stir up dislike of Americans. So I was assigned to Paris,
under Brainerd Fancher, a GE manager's manager with scant knowledge of the
computer business, likeable though he was.
It proved to be a remarkable adventure and thorough re-education (not only
in the language spoken). These are some of the happenings.
Living Quarters for a Year
After taking my Berlitz French course, my wife and I flew to Paris (trip
1965 #5, Feb 26 to Mar 03) to pick out an apartment. Found a very nice
almost affordable one on the second floor of a 6-floor building.
Remember that in Europe this means 6 floors above ground, plus the
ground floor itself - the "rez chaussee" in France.
It was in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb just on the West side of the Bois de
Boulogne opposite Paris itself. We looked out on the park and its horse
chestnut trees just across the road. The address was 33 Blvd du
Commandant Charcot, and it was notable for the residents, the neighbors,
the decor, and the help.
Each floor (etage) had one apartment with two front windows, and a larger
one with three.
M. Guerlain used to hunt pheasants with Generalissimo Franco of Spain.
After one such trip he waved a trophy and offered it to my wife, as she
stood on the 2nd floor balcony. Refusal would have been rude (the maid
- Rez chaussee (ground floor) -- Raymond Guerlain, of the perfume family.
- First floor -- on the 2-side, a television producer; on the 3-side,
the Prince of Baroda, (nicknamed "Princie") who threw some wild
parties, was known as a rake all over Paris, and drove a yellow
Rolls-Royce that had elephants painted on the doors, their trunks
spouting hot-air balloons in many colors! A reader wrote to say
that it was the Rolls-Royce Phantom V limousine that the Maharani
purchased in 1963 to replace the 1956 Rolls that he now owns.
- Second floor -- on the 2-side, us; on the 3-side an Iraqi named
Munther Fattah (of whom I shall say much in what follows).
- Third floor -- the daughters of the Governor of Martinique.
- Floors four and five -- anonymous people so rich they came there
for only a few weeks in the year. We never saw them or knew their
names, which I am sure was exactly what they intended!
- Sixth floor -- the owner of the building.
The second-floor neighbor deserves a paragraph or two to himself. His
name was Munther N. Fattah, an Iraqi. He had graduated from M.I.T. in 1947
(although now listed as a lost alumnus), and his wife from Smith. I am
not sure, even today, what his business was, but he conducted it from an
office above the Crazy Horse Saloon, a most popular Paris night spot.
The refrigerator in his apartment was a small French one like ours, but
he augmented it with a another of American build -- very large -- and it
was always full of nothing but Dom Perignon champagne! Have you priced
- Down the street about two U.S. blocks, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor,
in a semi-palace called the Chateau de Madrid.
- In an apartment building in the opposite direction, the Maharani of
Baroda, the kid's mother, with two poorly-trained poodles her maid
had to walk and contend with. She managed to live on about $10
millions in jewels she had absconded with.
- Across the boulevard in the Bois, prostitutes that chased you around
through the trees if you dared venture in at nighttime. Turned out to
be good sorts when one got to talking with them. They liked Americans.
- And one early morning Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa died when
he crashed his Ferrari in the Bois de Boulogne near us. We had seen
him earlier the previous evening at a bar in the George V, and it was
At one of his parties I looked down to the street to see a Ford Mustang,
and commented to three Arab oil businessmen that I had read in Playboy
that James Bond's creator Ian Fleming had said that he always kept an
American car, in addition to the best British makes, so he could be
certain of having one that started in the morning. To which one of the
sheiks responded "Oh, do you know the Playboy people? We financed the
London Club for them."
The car turned out to belong to a Swiss general at the party. The only
comment was that he liked boys.
I can verify the Arabic thinking that women are chattels. Once, before
Munther and I could notice, one of them had swung my wife into the air
over his shoulders, and was heading to a bedroom wih her,
Of course, Munther himself wasn't averse to a little of that himself.
Once, while his wife was at a diet farm, he tried to give me a free trip
to Nice on the Riviera, with guaranteed dates with Playboy girls. This
was not a scam; he showed me pictures in Playboy magazines, then pictures
of himself on the beach with the same girls. I decided to stay in Paris
to protect my wife.
One Sunday morning Munther came over, whispering "Come see who's in my
bed". As he had a bottle of that Dom Perignon in hand, we did. A vision
in a black feather negligee stretched her arms and asked "What's going
on?" Surprisingly, in English, for it was the actress Claudine Longet.
She who costarred in the Peter Sellers film "The Party".
- Exterior -- reddish marble all over.
- Foyer -- Twin Herculite glass doors, etched in a split round ornate
design. And, in the foyer itself, a backlighted sculpture of colored
glass, every bit as magnificent as those one sees in the Paris
- Elevators -- stainless steel door facings, red carpet on floors and
- Stairs -- marble treads, with laminated wood railings.
- Walls -- small marble pieces, where not red carpet.
- Apartment doors -- stainless steel with a huge opal (ours was 7 inches
long) in an ornate bronze abstract.
- Apartment floors -- marble over radiant heating.
- Bidet -- operable, though my wife kept a toy frog in it.
- Garage -- small enough so they complained about our standard-sized
Buick. But they never carped about the yellow Rolls!
- Furniture -- much of our own, flown over so we felt at home! But we
had to buy a refrigerator, and all French models of that era were
We were pretty helpless as far as shopping went. It took a while to
identify horseradish at the markets ("raifort" - strong radish), as the
word was not in our French dictionary. And the kitchen facilities were
small and in a very tiny space. So we mentioned the problem to the
concierge. No problem at all. He mumbled something about a Cordon Bleu
graduate, and his wife cooked a superb dinner for us. So we hired her
sister, who definitely was not a Cordon Bleu graduate, even though the
wife of the concierge was.
This was 20 years after World War II, and Paris to our eyes looked very
prosperous and totally restored. Was I just a country boy dazzled by
the richness of the life? Or did I get placed automatically in a fancy
position because I was in charge (via some 1500 people) of most of the
software business in Europe that wasn't IBM's?
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