Margaux Hemingway, granddaughter of Nobel laureate Ernest, actress, and the first model to be awarded a million dollar contract (Fabergé) . . . visited our Café du Nord in the company of her father Jack in the 1970s. More than that she signed a poster of herself with the message
“René Ribot, to the man who saved the life of my father. Much love and happiness XOXOX ”
What was the story behind her visit and this message? For the full story see our longer history on the war time exploits of her father Jack but, in short, her father parachuted into France in the middle of the night in 1944 to join the French resistance. On landing, as was prearranged with the coded message “the pilot has disappeared”, he was met by René Ribot, the then manager of the Grand Café du Bousquet-d'Orb (renamed Hôtel du Nord in 1968). The next day he drove Hemingway the 75km to Clapiers (just north of Montpellier) to join up with the French resistance leader Colonel Leroy. [Who was Leroy? We can find no other trace of him.]
Sadly Margaux’s life, which reached such stellar heights so early, ended tragically with her committing suicide with an overdose of barbiturates in 1996 at the age of 42. She had long suffered from depression and she alleged (though it was strenuously denied by both her parents) that her father had molested her as a child.
What else do we know about Margaux? She was originally named Margot but when she learned that she was named after the wine, Château Margaux, which her parents drank on the night of her conception, she changed the spelling of her name to match. And when did she visit the café? It has been speculated that it was “about 1970”, when Margaux would have been 16, but the poster in question seems more likely to date from 1977.
But can we be 100% certain she actually visited? After all the poster could have been brought as a gift to René by her proud father? Does anyone recall seeing her? At 1.8m tall and with her famous tresses, she would likely have stood out from the café’s usual crowd . . .