When Edith Piaf died in 1963, at the age of forty-seven, she was the most famous singer in France. But Bernard Marchois, founder and docent of the Musée d’Edith Piaf, was afraid the petite songstress, whose extraordinary voice elevated her from the street corners of working-class Belleville to the stages of the world’s largest music halls, would fall into oblivion after her death. “Her public will never forget her, but the media can. Piaf must not die a second death,” he told me, in French, sitting on an ornate Victorian couch once owned by Piaf herself.
Paris is filled with strange museums—from the museum of absinthe to the museum of carnival equipment—but the Musée d’Edith Piaf is among the strangest. Marchois has kept the same hours since its founding fifty years ago, in 1967: Monday through Wednesday, one P.M. to six P.M., strictly by appointment only. He pointedly speaks no English (“Juste une,” he corrected a prospective American visitor, “Une, pas un, parce que vous êtes une jeune femme.”) To those who call, he dictates the address and door codes to a residential building in Belleville. The museum occupies two small rooms of a fourth-floor apartment that adjoins Marchois’s own. Read More