Editor's Note: Gil Markle, whose face is a familiar one on the local music scene, has just returned from Cannes, France, after an apparently successful business week at the M.I.D.E.M. music festival. Here, appearing exclusively in Musician's Magazine, are his observations.
March 1, 1981
It was now late in the afternoon on Friday, and there were fresh indications that M.I.D.E.M. was in fact over. The corridors of the convention hall, once crowded with record producers and publishers hustling from one company booth to the next, were nearly empty. A few first-year people could be seen wandering about-dazed, feet hurting — most of them without any deals to show for their week's work. They were now ready to stop in any booth that looked open for business, and to recite a desperate pitch for their music demo, hoping for success at the eleventh hour. They had not yet realized that M.I.D.E.M. was over, and that the deal makers had all gone home.
One of these hopefuls was actually running, looking frantically into first one booth, then the next, and not at all where he was going. Seemed like an somewhat ethnic American from New York City with a lot of bad tapes to play for you if you'd listen.
He was going to run straight into me — this frantic-looking guy I didn't want to know, so I took a quick right-hand turn at the New Zealand pavilion and into the relative calm of the Phillips digital compact disk display stand. I had to, in order to avoid a collision, and a possible encounter. Aghast, I realized what I had done. I was smack in front of Disques Bonjour— the French company I'd also been avoiding for days, and for reasons I cannot now divulge without considerable heartache, and renewed longing.
Disques Bonjour is a record and publishing company based in Paris, and run by an ordinary-looking fellow about my age named René Astoux. Ordinary-looking, I want to say once again. But René has a twenty-five year old wife named Cristalle who is arguably the most beautiful woman in the world. I mean, a real knock-out. She wears lipstick applied with a fine brush to a mouth which is God-like. Her eyes are large, and wide, and seem to stare right through you, full of understanding, sympathy, and, I found myself thinking, possible adoration for the right man.
I imagined myself touching her silken, blond hair. I had similar thoughts about her skin-tight jeans, which reached down and under tops of her calf-hugging, calfskin, high-heel boots. I was standing just under the bigger-than-life-sized poster of Pia Zadora with my New York attorney when I first laid eyes on her.
"Good God, Rick!" I said. "Look over there."
Rick looked where I was pointing, and sucked a lot of air into his mouth, quickly.
"Jesus," he said, "she's perfect!"
Rick was right. Cristalle was perfect, and that fact would dog my steps each of the remaining days I was in attendance at M.I.D.E.M. I would see her face in front of me when I was hyping the South Africans. I would be pressing flesh with the Swedes, concluding my distribution deal for Scandinavia, but I would be in the midst of a fantasy involving Cristalle — a fantasy which you have no right to know about, but which you could guess at easily enough.
"You've got a hit record, Gil!" I heard from my German friend, Klaus. Klaus was talking about our Joanne Barnard cover of the single Substitute, first recorded by the South African band Clout. Klaus then offered me a large advance. But my thoughts were of Cristalle.
Paralysis. That's what it was. There I was, Gil Markle, doing cash deals with the South Africans, and the Swedes, and the Germans — the envy of my colleagues, and the toast of the Carlton Hotel — totally immobilized by the thought of another man's wife. A Frenchman's wife named Cristalle.
Avoidance was the only remedy. Somehow I had to distract myself. For a start, I went nowhere near Disques Bonjour. Next, I found myself avoiding all other French companies as well. Too close to Disques Bonjour. The French wouldn't like the record anyway, I told myself. Better to sublimate this strange energy, and sell my record to the Japanese, or the Poles, or the Argentines instead. At least they didn't speak French. Better I allow this Cristalle to remain a possibility for me — a mere possibility which I would steadfastly refuse to investigate. That's one deal I didn't even want to try to make. Rejection at her hands would turn me into a frog — a real frog. I had to face it. Cristalle was out of reach, and Disques Bonjour was one company I wouldn't go near. No matter what.
But there I was, on this last day of M.I.D.E.M., smack in front of Disques Bonjour and within an arm's reach of my Cristalle.
Vous êtes Gil Markle, non?
Now that was a very easy question — was I or was I not Gil Markle — and I speak very good French. I should have had no difficulty answering her. I knew who I was, and I knew the language. But, surprise of surprises. I couldn't talk! I tried to, but my mouth wouldn't move. Paralysis! I just stood there, staring at young Mme. Astoux, and getting dizzy. My eyes began to blur. Things were getting fuzzy around the periphery of my field of vision. Gray creeping in, from around the edges. I was soon aware only of her mouth, her lipstick, her white teeth, and a magic scent in the air which must have been perfume — French perfume.
Cristalle broke the awkward silence I had created, and began to speak again. This time I'll translate for you.
"Well," she said, "I know you're Gil Markle. They pointed you out to me the other day in front of the poster of Pia Zadora. Also, I can read your name tag. My name is Cristalle. Cristalle Astoux."
I still couldn't talk. Vision worsening. More and more gray around the edges. I was losing it. Cristalle continued in her dancing, delicate, sing-song French, and moved a terrifying step closer to me. I could now feel her breath in my face. It was warm, and sweet. I was preparing to swoon.
"Here," she said. "Take this. It's a cassette my husband made in Paris. He's got a band, you know, and these are the songs I like best. You'll hear at least two hit singles on Side A, and another on Side B, first cut."
My vision began to clear.
"Listen to it," she said. "Maybe you'll like it, and you'll help René. He's so good, you know."
More clarity. I felt the cassette go plunk into my flight bag. Cristalle's eyes were wide and beseeching, and her eyelashes flapped at me. Her mouth was partly open. Suddenly, I felt great clarity of vision, and realized to my horror what had happened.
Reverse hype, with Cupid-spin.
I knew the technique well from my early years at M.I.D.E.M. Size up the emotional needs of the buyer; then prostitute yourself. It's the seller-as-person they buy, and then almost always the record, too.
I'd been reverse-hyped by Cristalle.
"O.K.," I said, in my best French, which was now fully restored, "I'll listen to it. What if I like it?"
"Then we work something out, non?"
Cristalle seemed satisfied, smiled, and turned on her tiny leather boots and disappeared back into the temporary offices of Disques Bonjour. I could still smell her perfume.
M.I.D.E.M. was over.
Author's note: Terry Kahn at Boston Magazine has contributed his own impressions of these few days in Cannes, and of other then-current events.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.