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DANCING WITH LESLIE CARON

by..... Fred Melnick

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On one of our trips we had decided to spend five days in Burgundy before heading for Paris. I had read a few years ago that Leslie Caron was opening an inn, Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne which is at the northern end of Burgundy, about two hours from Charles de Gaulle Airport. When I read about the inn in a France newspaper I decided this would be a perfect place for our first night; I don't like to drive too far the first day in case I'm wiped out from the plane ride. I sent them a deposit and had a reservation for that night.

We arrived at the Auberge around noon on a beautiful, sunny Saturday. We had talked about the possibility of meeting Leslie which would have been a big thrill for me since I'm a great fan of the Hollywood musicals; we always watch "An American in Paris" several times starting about a month before we leave for France. We had heard that she is very rarely there and so didn't expect it to happen.

We walked in the front door of the Auberge and were met by a gentleman who told us our rooms wouldn't be ready until after lunch. As I talked to him, I noticed a woman, her back to me, arranging owl figurines in a cabinet. She turned and I caught her eye. I thought it might be Leslie but she looked too young. Then my wife Bobbi looked at her and said "Leslie Caron!" and she said "yes". We stood in the lobby area and talked for quite awhile. She is as sweet and charming a person as I've ever met. Being a Fred Astaire nut, I first asked her about him and she told me about making "Daddy Longs Legs" with him and how wonderful he was. His wife had just died and he would sit and cry in between takes.

I asked about Gene Kelly - he was very athletic - there were always ball games, volleyball games, tennis going on at his house. She said his door was never locked; you could just walk in at any time, make yourself a drink and relax there whether he was there or not.

Cyd Charisse? Leslie said she was, and is, a beautiful, wonderful woman. They're good friends. And, she said, those legs - they came up to here, motioning with her hand just under her chin.

We talked about her Auberge, her children, our children, what she was presently doing, how all her excercising is done only on a rowing machine. She feels running is terrible for the knees and legs and rowing exercises the whole body.

Then Bobbi asked if she could take a picture of the two of us. She said "of course", and we walked out on the porch to do it. She said "let's stand here - the light is better "- then said "look at me, I'm directing." I stood with her and Bobbi took a picture.

Then I said to her, "I have one more favor to ask of you."

She said "yes?"

I took her hand, started singing "Our Love is Here to Stay" like Gene Kelly did in "An American in Paris," took her around and started dancing, and we danced as I sang the song. She danced and laughed and it was a very wonderful moment. As we finished with a flourish, I thanked her and told her that this will make my trip to France complete. She thanked me and told me how sweet this had been. This was truly a moment I shall always remember and cherish.

 
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