Friday, December 4, 2009

Goodbye Haynes, Hello Again Miles

Paris has lost its first and its last African-American landmark. When GI Leroy Haynes and his French wife opened a soul food restaurant in 1949, it was a lifesaver for Black GIs hankering for some homestyle fatback and sausages. In the 50s and 60s, within its pale yellow walls it gathered together the famous – Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison; the stars – Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot; and the locals. And right up until its closing in April 2009, visitors to Paris came looking to sample that last taste of African-American history in Paris.

Were you one of many who had your picture taken outside against its odd log cabin exterior on narrow rue Clauzel in the 9th district? Or could be you gawked at the glamorous gallery of autographed photos that decorated every inch of the inside. Or if you were lucky, you got a glimpse an original Beauford Delaney painting of James Baldwin that used to hang above the hallway to the kitchen.

Memphis Slim                                                          Marianne Faithfull                                                      Cab Calloway

With its closing, we’ve lost a real brick and mortar place where you could plant your feet and say: this was created by a Black American in this cosmopolitan city. It outlived any other African-American owned businesses that followed. What we’ve lost also is a concrete I-can-touch-it sense of continuation. Its location in Lower Montmartre dovetailed neatly into history already engraved in this area by Bricktop, Eugene Bullard, Sidney Bechet and Josephine Baker during the 1920s & 30s. After the numerous black-run/owned clubs shut their doors in the face of Nazi occupation, GI Haynes returned and planted the flag for African-American culture once again.

It wasn’t the only place to get authentic soul food in Paris. Anybody still smacking their lips over the ribs at Randy & Jays Rib Joint from the mid-1990s?  And more recently, Percy’s Place, in the bourgeois 16th district served up a refined blend of soul and French cuisine (as did Chez Josephine in 1927).

For those of us in the tourism biz, it’s sad not to guide visitors down the street and say voila, we’re still here. That said, since manager Benny Luke left the house around 2000, the spirit has been fading. Haynes’ 3rd wife, Maria Dos Santos, did make an effort to keep the black focus but in the end, even adopting the trendy Brazilian theme couldn’t keep the pots on the stoves, nor the bottoms in the chairs.

A bit of history on Haynes: Kentucky-born GI, Leroy Howard Milton Haynes, and his French wife, Gabby, opened Gabby & Haynes in 1949 on rue Manuel, just off rue des Martyrs. Although the relationship and partnership broke up in 1960, Gabby and their son Richard continued offering tradition cuisine.

 Then in 1964, a stone’s throw on the other side of rue des Martyrs, Morehouse grad Leroy H. opened his own Chez Haynes.  How popular was he? Years ago, I came across some wonderful news footage in the archives of French Television where the journalist literally drooled over Haynes’ exotic food prep. By then bon vivant Haynes was also known for his small parts in French movies. His celebrity status and his big laugh had them lined up at the bar waiting for a coveted place at the table. But he was just plain comfort to Americans. Louis Armstrong himself once left his own concert early to scoot over where a plate of red beans and rice were waiting for him.

If you’ve got stories to share about your own experiences at Chez Haynes, we’d love to hear them.

Otherwise, grab a hankie and enjoy these great nostalgic pictures graciously made accessible by journalist Jean Segura.



Lenox Ave said...

It's great to see the site updated, even if there's sad news. I'm sorry I never got a chance to visit Haynes.

I'll be visiting Paris in October and will make sure to sign up for a tour.

Black Women in Europe said...

Thanks for the update Julia! I can't believe I didn't dine at Haynes on my visits to Paris.

I'll put the infor about your tour to Baker's chateau on the Black Women in Europe blog.

ammonmoore said...

Thanks Julia for your tours of Paris, for your passion about Paris and for being so informative. We met many years ago here in Paris and the fact that we seemed to have lost the foot prints of one another is proof that paris is a big village.

Ammon Hall Moore, Paris 4e

Kiratiana said...

I had an incredible time eating at Hayne's when a black opera production was in town...Saint Antoine! We had that joint ROCKING!!!

great article and thanks for the update!

Joyce The Writer said...

fantastic post. I was referred to it by writer-colleague Miles Marshall Lewis via twitter. I wish I'd known about Haynes when I was in Paris 10 years ago. I would have loved to visit. I'm enjoying your voice and will follow your blog. Good writing and great info is a winning combination. Peace

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Wow! This was great to read. I was saddened to hear that the restaurant was closed however felt a sense of pride and privilege to have had the chance to eat at both Haynes and Gabby's. At the age of 12 (1977), my Dad took me on vacation to Paris. My Dad a military man was a long time friend of both Gabby and Haynes. I recently lost my Dad but always thanked him for the memories and experience. Not many little Black girls were vacationing in Paris during those days and I realized that. I plan to take my sons one day, too bad they won’t get to experience the Spirit of Black Paris as I remember it. Thanks for the post!

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Anonymous said...

I have SO many wonderful memories of Gaby & Hayne's restaurant. I used to go there really often in the late 50'ies /early 60'ies with my american musician friend . He was always talking about their "black eye peas and hawk heads". It was a very nice place with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Benjamin Palmer said...

My wife and I lived in the quartier in 1969-70 and met Haynes in a laundromat and we saw him shopping for the restaurant in the stores of la rue des Martyrs. He explained to us how he had to instruct French butchers on how to cut ribs. Some of the items on the menu were not available in any store I've ever seen in France, however!