Brothel raised to singing icon
Her public-performance heritage came from her alcoholic, drug addict mother, a café singer, who abandoned her soon after giving birth in 1915 in the working-class neighbourhood of Belleville. I remember when I arrived penniless in Paris 39 years ago, I made every effort to avoid living in Belleville. It’s the immigrant district; Greeks, Jews and Armenians came in 1920s, then North and Sub-Saharan Africans and Chinese. I could have saved a lot of money holing up there with struggling artists and illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. But having escaped a refugee colony in India, I totally shunned landing in another neglected, crowded locale. Fighting poverty initially, I somehow always lived in Paris 14th district. Even visiting Belleville upto 1990 was a cultural shock from typical Parisian life.
Her father snatched away this Belleville born from her maternal grandmother who rarely fed or washed her, instead put her to sleep with wine whenever she cried. He sent his daughter to be raised by his mother. This paternal grandmother ran a brothel in Normandy, northern France. So
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