Sunday, April 15, 2012

The "Zou Bisou Bisou" Tangent

I'm surprised that Lionsgate or AMC, in a fit of copyrighteousness, hasn't quashed this high-quality clip of Megan Draper (Jessica Paré) dancing to "Zou Bisou Bisou," which was a high point of Mad Men's season premiere in late March. Who knows, maybe they've figured out that clips like this will inspire people to seek out the entire episode. You know, as a kind of marketing.

Like most of the audience, I'd never heard of "Zou Bisou Bisou" before seeing the episode, not being as interested in mid-century French pop culture as Matthew Weiner seems to be. But it's a charming song, light and sweet as meringue. Also, it took me on a tangent. I'm often willing to be taken on tangents, which can be little trips from the routine of settled life. First, I went to the Gillian Hills version of the song, the video of which must have been made for the French Scopitones.

Proceeding from that, I learned that nearly 10 years later Gillian Hills was one of the girls with the ice lollies in A Clockwork Orange, and that her father was Denis Hills. They don't make 'em like him any more. Once I started reading about the elder Hills, I remembered where I'd heard of him before.

In 1975, he ran afoul of Idi Amin, who threatened to execute Hills for writing disparaging things about the Conqueror of the British Empire -- foolishly writing them, as Hills was still in Uganda at the time. A wrangle between the UK and Uganda followed, and eventually a message from Queen Elizabeth herself, which presumably stoked the dictator's vanity, persuaded Amin to spring Hills. All of this played out in news reports that year, which I remember hearing (that was also the year Franco died so slowly).

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