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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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But it soon became obvious that we three were the only ones in the house who ever took a bath.

The landlady was very, very fat and an equally fat lady was her assistant. The two of them looked like the kind of characters who might have sat around when Sidney Carton was executed (in The Tale of Two Cities). My first morning, I wanted to have breakfast somewhere. And in my very best schoolboy French I asked them to recommend a place. They looked at each other in astonishment, burst out laughing, slapped their fat knees, and asked me to please repeat my question, which I did very indignantly. Again they went into hysterics.

So we struck a quick deal. If I would talk to them in French, they would give me breakfast. By the third day, I was such a success I demanded eggs. The first two days all I got was a croissant and coffee. But the third day I said, “If I'm going to be this funny, eggs!”


Did you ever go back there on subsequent visits to Paris?


No, but it was wonderful living there then. I stayed about a month. That's when I first learned about French prices. You know, I would go in and buy something. They'd tell me what it cost and then when I'd give my address, they'd say, “Oh” and cut the price immediately. No longer was I a rich American sucker from the Ritz. When they found I lived in this little street, I was one of them.

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