The Mecca of Fakers in French Capital

Toronto Star Weekly/March 25, 1922

Paris—Paris is the Mecca of the bluffers and fakers in every line of endeavor from music to prizefighting. You find more famous American dancers who have never been heard of in America; more renowned Russian dancers who are disclaimed by the Russians; and more champion prizefighters who were preliminary boys before they crossed the ocean, per square yard in Paris than anywhere else in the world.

This state of affairs exists because of the extreme provinciality of the French people, and because of the gullibility of the French press. Everyone in Canada knows the names of half a dozen French soldiers and statesmen, but no one in France could give you the name of a Canadian general or statesman or tell you who was the present head of the Canadian government. By no one I mean none of the ordinary people; shop keepers, hotel owners and general bourgeois class. For example, my femme de manege was horrified yesterday when I told her there was a Prohibition in Canada and the States. “Why have we never heard of it?” she asked. “Has it just been a law? What then does a man drink?”

An American girl was recently billed at the Paris music halls as “America’s best known and best loved dancer.” None of the recent arrivals in Paris from the States had ever heard of her, but Parisians flocked to see the American “Star.” Later it came out that she had a small part in a U.S. musical show some years ago.

Russians have inundated the city. They can get away with almost anything, because it is easy for a Russian to claim that he was anything he may want to say, in Russia; there is no way to check up on Russian reputations at present. So we have great Russian dancers, great Russian pianists, flutists, composers, and organists—all equally bad.

Jack Clifford, who styled himself the colored light-heavyweight champion of the United States and Canada, was a recent nine-days’ wonder in France. He avoided meeting any fighters and demanded tremendous sums to box, but announced his willingness to meet Carpentier if a suitable purse was offered. No American had ever heard of him—but the Europeans swallowed him whole.

(Source: William White, ed. Ernest Hemingway: Dateline: Toronto. Simon and Schuster, 2002.)