Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Be free and play jazz

The French Academy
Franck Bauer (1918 - 2018) was a 30-something year old French man, a jazz musician, who visited New York City in the 1950s partly for the purpose of learning about public relations.  France did not have any advertising and public relations agencies then, so he had to go to Madison Avenue to learn from the "Mad Men" themselves.

Back in France, he established Franck Bauer & Associés, the first French PR firm.  It was later absorbed into Hill & Knowlton, an American consulting agency.

I consider advertising and PR to be a part of the broader field of communications.  How did a young man from Troyes, the son of an architect, become interested in communications?

I am convinced that that happened because of his interest in music.  As a teenager, Franck thought he'd become an architect like his dad.  But Franck was interested in jazz, and he learned to play piano and drums well.  He played so well that he was asked to perform with Django Reinhardt, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker.

"The French talk to the French," title of Franck's broadcast on Radio Londres.
Franck worked briefly for the German architect, Adolphe Speer, in designing a pavilion for Germany for the 1937 World's Fair in Paris.  Then his father ordered him to quit working for the Germans.

So Franck then went to study architecture at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris.  When the occupation came, Franck and his sister fled Paris by bicycle.  Eventually, he made it to Bordeaux where he boarded a Polish ship bound for Liverpool.

In Britain, Franck joined the Free French, who sent him on a couple secret missions in Brittany.  Then he was sent to New York to do counter-intelligence work.  That's also where he met up with Armstrong, Gillespie, and Parker.

He returned to London to become a famous broadcaster on Radio Londres, a station that was established by De Gaulle in 1940.  It was then illegal to listen to Radio Londres in France, but people did anyway.  The station countered the propaganda spewed by both the Germans (via Radio Paris) and the French Vichy government.

When he wasn't working at Radio Londres, Franck played jazz piano at a SoHo club.  He said he learned to "live in the moment" in London during the blitz. After more than 500 radio shows, Franck resigned from Radio Londres because he did not like DeGaulle's communicating with a pro-Vichy admiral.

So Franck was sent to Madagascar, Algiers, and Scotland to start new radio broadcasts.  In 1944, he returned to France to work for French radio.   After the war, he became a correspondant with AFP (Agence France Presse) and then as secretary general of the Comédie Française, where he met Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin.
Poster for the Gontelli's circus in Square Dupleix, now Jardin Franck Bauer.
After Franck died in a nursing home last year at age 99, the City of Paris decided to name the park in Square Dupleix after him.  We pass by and through this park frequently because I like seeing this charming neighborhood on my way to and from the Champ de Mars.

Every summer, a miniature circus run by the Gontelli's sets up in part of this park.  I think Franck would approve of that.

Now we'll think of Franck and his joie de vivre as we walk through Dupleix.

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