May 21, 201211:38 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Remembering a French President with New Orleans Connections
Now that France has elected a new President, former President Jacques Chirac is now twice removed from the big job. Before he totally disappears from public view, or goes to jail, here is one last grasp at Jacques Chirac stories, which are relevant to us because some trace back to New Orleans.
When Chirac was a graduate student he spent time in this city doing a study on the Port of New Orleans. One story has it that in 1954 he became seriously ill with pneumonia while here so a French- speaking doctor was called on. That was New Orleanian Homer Dupuy who nursed young Chirac back to good health. For the rest of his life Dupuy would tell about maintaining a correspondence with Chirac as he ascended to Mayor of Paris and then President.
Dupuy would achieve his own throne. He was Rex in 1963 and continued to be a passionate member of the organization.
New Orleans native Tom Sancton once served as Paris Bureau Chief for Time magazine. In that capacity he met Chirac several times. While on a panel a couple of years ago at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, Sancton recalled that each time he met Chirac the President was delighted to hear that Sancton was from New Orleans. Chirac told about his experience as an exchange student here, a selection that was reported in the local media. According to Sancton, Chirac liked to say that the Times-Picayune was the first newspaper in which his name was ever published.
Some of his memories were confused. According to Sancton, Chirac would tell about going to New Orleans Jazz clubs and hearing Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway perform, neither of whom lived or worked here. Chirac also said that Ellington became his mentor and the two had dinner at Galatoire's, an improbable pairing racially in the 1950s.
Now that Chirac is retired maybe he can come back to New Orleans and re-visit his old haunts. He could tour the Joan of Arc statue and take a drive down DeGaulle Drive, maybe have dinner at Galatoire's. He might even get his name in the Times-Picayune again.