Those dark, soulful eyes
May 29, 2004
Melbourne writer Carole Browne remembers a charmed moment with
The promoter was horrified at the question. “No, he won’t agree.”
“But surely I can ask him?” I replied.
“It’s a waste of time. You know he never touches women in public.”
It was 1976 in Melbourne. The man we were talking about interrupted
the exchange, which involved an introduction to a TV interview. He
was short, craggy and dressed in brown; brown jacket, brown trousers
and brown-striped shirt.
Even his thinning hair and long sideburns were brown.
An ordinary-looking man, until he smiled and spoke. The voice was
soft and accented, his face crinkled in an elfin grin.
Quickly I asked: “Monsieur, before the interview, I’d like us to
slowly dance for the camera. What do you think?”
A pause, a frown, a Gallic shrug and then a smile as he agreed. I
gently turned his back to the camera and danced, in a fashion, with
the man adored by millions of women, Charles Aznavour.
As we were the same height, around 162cm, it was easy to address the
camera across his shoulder. He then turned to thefront on the final
words, so ladies eat your hearts out.
Aznavour was then 52 and had that undeniable something, a
sexiness. During the interview, it was more than pleasant looking
into dark, soulful eyes or being aware of his sensuous mouth. His eyes
widened under bushy raised eyebrows when confiding that away from the
stage he loved simple things: shopping, cooking or just doing nothing
at home. Coyly he said he had learned to work with his hands. So
he was a handyman? He chuckled that, well, he could change a fuse.
Those expressive hands were never still, pointing or emphasising words.
Discussing early struggles, his censored songs and connection with
Edith Piaf, he became sombre. More than once he stressed that even
having known poverty as a child, his family had been very loving;
very different to Piaf’s life. Two years later, Charles Aznavour was
again in Melbourne. He looked happier and younger than before. His hair
was short and thicker, with just a hint of grey. No brown clothes ths
time. Instead, he wore a navy sweater with sailing pennants. He said
was going to be a sailor. He waxed lyrical about riding motorcycles
with his children down to a harbour and cruising in a small motorboat
he intended to buy. They lived close to Lake Geneva and he wanted to
visit cafes around the lake to sit, drink coffee and meet people.
When complimented on how healthy he looked, he was animated, raving
about his new saltwater spa bath.
>>From his mid-20s he had had arthritis and rheumatism. For years
he had felt like an old man. Grinning again, he sat back relaxed,
arms out wide, saying he had been cured and felt great.
Talking about his composition, Yesterday When I Was Young, I asked
if he would like his youth back again. No, he felt that life was not
long enough for him and it would not be interesting to step back and
do it again. No, he would much prefer to have a longer life with 20
more years to live.
Then he was only 54. Recently he turned 80. Happy Birthday – Bon
Anniversaire – Charles Aznavour.
Carole Browne worked for channels Nine and Ten in the 1970s.
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