When I was a kid we were only allowed to have pets that lived in cages. After hearing about Annie Butor’s childhood living with anarchist singer/poet Léo Ferré, I feel very lucky indeed.
According to Ms. Butor (from her new autobiography), as a youth she had to compete with a pet chimpanzee named Pépée for her mother’s and stepfather’s attention. And this wasn’t just some “My dad loves this smart-ass scary wooden puppet better than me” Candice Bergen/Charlie McCarthy rivalry; judging by the news that Candice is making a biopic of her father from the point of view of Charlie, it seems that those two seem to have buried the hatchet, so to speak. No, this was some cut-throat competition, and it ended very badly. Pépée attacked houseguests and ripped off their clothes. She stole jewelry. She once kidnapped a baby and dragged it up to the roof of the chateau. And still, Pépée was the one who got to drive the car. Pépée.
At some point, Léo himself realized shit was crazy and he moved out of the chateau… by himself. Annie and her mother Madelaine had to deal with Pépée on their own. Following Léo’s departure, Pépée had a very serious fall (I’m thinking some sort of drunken William Holden-esque headfirst crash into a bedside table, but don’t quote me on that) and she refused to let anybody near her to help out. Madelaine finally asked a nearby hunter to shoot Pépée to put her out of her misery… or according to some sources, she just got pissed that Léo abandoned them, and had all the animals at the chateau exterminated.
Anyway, Leo never forgave Madelaine, they got divorced, and he wrote this weepy song about Pépée that as far as I can tell noted that Pépée had ears like Serge Gainsbourg and was so great that Léo didn’t have to drink scotch around her. My french isn’t very good, but I think I got the gist of it.
Ugh. Let’s not talk about these horrible people anymore. Let’s share a song from Nino Ferrer, who as far as I can tell never owned a chimp.