Coluche, Les Restos du Coeur, Les Enfoirés


As time passes, life in Paris evolves from that of a simple observer to what it is: Life in my new city, in my new country – without renouncing the quality of observer of course which is some kind of a second nature.
That impression of “belonging”, though not complete yet, satisfies my wish and my tries to be part of the place I love.
Under this state of mind, pieces of information and of everyday life come together and form a larger picture and a frame which is consistent both to one’s whole life as much as to the new environment and conditions.

It’s been several months since I visited an exposition at L’Hôtel de Ville, The (Paris) Town-Hall, dedicated to Coluche.

Michel Gérard Joseph Colucci, as was his full name, lived between 1944 and 1986 which means he died too early, too young. And yet, it is safe to say that he lived several full lives.

He has been an important actor, musician, comedian, persona, “intense”, gifted and sensitive personality, humanist and a man socially and politically involved – presidential candidacy in 1980, which he withdrew before elections of 1981.

We know Coluche the clown and him who provokes, Coluche of the scene, the radio and the TV. And also Coluche the comitted, the humanist, the one of the presidential elections and of Restos du Coeur. These that Coluche himself gave to see. But who was he really? Beyond the artist, the topics covered by this tribute have thereby as an ambition to reveal the different aspects of his personality, to understand what he loved, how he functioned. His sensitivity, his passion for life, his playfulness, his instinct of belonging to small people, his sophistication which he made a way of living, his willingness to seize the mechanism of everything, reveal along this course an evidence….Up to politics, his supreme requirement.

I had no knowledge of him and the exposition has been my first source.
The single fact that the presentation made me adore and admire that person and to feel a bit “non-privileged” for not having knowledge of him while he was alive, means that the expo-tribute succeeded its purpose.
After all these months and the information which followed, I have to say that I feel lucky to have visited the expo-tribute which has been “eye opening”.

“I fight against pedants, assholes and hypocrites.”
“I have gone further than anyone would go with me. I have been taken for a fool and I was put on the scene in these conditions in front of the public.” “The art of comedy is to give the impression that you do ‘whatever’ when you have worked ten hours on a mimic or a phrase.” ” I am rather one of those who want to learn than to know. I’m more interested in the period of becoming a star of the music-hall than the fact of keeping it.” “In order to mock someone you must love them.” “I know very well the persons about whom I speak. That’s because I am similar.”

Personal and professional objects, costumes, music intruments, posters, publications, clips of shows etc., formed the storytelling of a distinctive, “politically incorrect” person with an iconoclastic humour and a strong will to live to the edge – omnipresent throughout his life and till his death.

“Impose your luck, squeeze your happiness and go towards your risk. By looking at you they will get used to you”, wrote René Char. Mantra which suits so well to Coluche, him who has upset the humour, the language, the thought, who turned mad the politicians, who found solutions which them had not even imagined in order to feed millions of persons. The numerous and varied audiences but also the artists, the intellectuals and not the least, have joined unconditionally to his irreverence, to his “politically incorrect”, ready to follow him for a long time. Char was right. By looking at him they got used to him. But on 19 June 1986, a “fucking truck”, as wrote it so well Renaud, deprived them from him who had been their voice and who remains to this day the preferred historical personality of French, classified 4th behind Napoleon, Charles de Gaulle, Jeanne D’Arc and before Louis XIVth”. Fabienne Bilal – Exhibiton Comissioner

Beyond his memory and in full compliance with his personality and his broader initiatives, Coluche left behind an enormous trust: Les Restos du Coeur, The Restaurants of the Heart (Love).

POLITICS “Politicians are men who do the same job with me, only that they put less red make-up on their nose…” “If voting served anything, it would have been prohibited long ago.” “Why in a left government still exist syndicates if their intention is not to live through the government?” During his election campaign of 1981 Coluche has been trapped by the system: not allowed at his tv shows under the pretext that he was “in election campaign”, he had neither access to political shows on the grounds that “he was a clown”. Disappointed that he could not be able to realise his high idea of democracy, Coluche thought in a different way and created the Restos du Coeur in 1985. LES RESTOS DU COEUR “When I was candidate for president, I was afraid of politicians: when I made the Restos, I felt shame for them.”

A year before his death Coluche proposed the idea of Les Restos du Coeur which initially were meant to offer food to those in need. For the purpose of collecting money from private and institutional donors he endured a four-hour TV show.

Monday 27 January 1986: Front page of Libération referring to the four-hour TV show of Coluche for the support of Restos du Coeur.

The first of the Restos opened on 21 December 1985 and Coluche crashed with his motorcycle on 19 June 1986.

Poster with the names of the famous supporters of Restos du Coeur

His legacy expanded and at present is a respected institution in France.
Part of the funds for the Restos come from Les Enfoirés, “The Tossers” or “The Bastards” in English an annual concert of artists who (like everyone who offers) participate voluntarily.
The number of volunteers is now 75.000 and that of the “shops”/ reception centers is 6.000, all over France.
The help they provide is food offer, support in finding and maintaining a residence, help to those living in the street, consulting in finding a job, psychological support and many more.

I encourage you to get a deeper look in that triptych Coluche-Les Restos du Coeur-Les Enfoirés and, why not, offer to the cause, while enjoying the 2017 song.

Juste Une P’tite chanson, Just a Small Song.

Photos: EliP©

Official sites:
Les Restos du Coeur
Les Enfoirés (English)
Les Enfoirés (French)


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