dimanche 4 février 2007

4 - André TAHON, biography of the creator of the famous "Marottes" : Papotin, Ploom, Sourissimo, etc...


Well... André TAHON (his real name) was born in France, in the outskirts of Paris. As neither of André's parents or relatives were ever associated with the theatre world, no one in his family (nor even himself) ever presumed that he would some day be involved in a most extraordinary and unusual occupation : show business!

Mr. Tahon received his early education at Lycée Louis-le-Grand, in Paris. After graduation, he entered the School of Arts and Crafts Applied to Industry, studying various fields such as wood and stone sculpture, ceramics, furniture and letter design, printed fabrics and the like. He received the Diploma of Decorative Artist.

As a boy, André was fairly studious but also found time to be very active in the Boy Scouts and other youth activities, singing groups, dramatic art, folk dancing (which he was to develop as one of his most unequaled specialty with the "Marottes" in the Fifites), handicrafts, etc.

This is how, to acquire money to finance a camping trip, his Boy Scouts troop put on a neighbourhood show. André made some unusual characters and improvised an act. He did not realize at the time that it was the beginning of a career that was to bring him fame and success as well as take him around the world.

One afternoon, while performing in an amateur show, Mr. Tahon was spotted by the French talent scout Léo NOEL, who also owned the L'Ecluse nightclub in Paris: that's where André did his first professional appearance which was immediately acclaimed by the press.

Rapidly after this engagement André appeared in other Parisian nightclubs and music-halls, creating and changing characters, costumes and numbers for each new place. This is when he met with Michel BRANDT, a young musician from the Paris Conservatory of Music, who has been Mr. Tahon's musical director ever since. Combining their ideas and talents, they started to produce an important repertoire for André's "marottes", with folk dance tunes from various countries, classical music and original compositions. In 1958, they were awarded the Grand Prix du Disque for their first commercial recording Les Chansons de Papotin (Papotin being the witty fellow who introduces most of André's shows: as a mater of fact, he is the "stand-by" for the Master himself, in the Marottes World). That same year, André was awarded First Prize and Gold Medal at the First Worldwide Festival of Puppets Theatres in Bucharest (Romania).

At the same time, Mr. Tahon and his team began doing guest appearances on all major TV and variety shows throughtout Europe plus making commercial films in France, England, Germany and Italy (for soft drinks, candies, instant coffee, yogurt, mustard, biscuits, etc.).

In June 1959, André joined the Lido de Paris Show and went to Las Vegas, appearing at the Stardust for six months. He was also booked on the Ed SULLIVAN Show and the Dinah SHORE Chevy Show: that was Mr. Tahon's first trip to the United States.

André was then signed as a guest star to Victor BORGE's TV special Pontiac Star Parade, and shortly after to Johnny MATHIS, who gave him the opportunity to appear on stage throughout the States, Canada and the Orient.

Then Walt DISNEY himself became interested in entrusting André to put on a stage show at Disneyland (California) during the Summer of 1963: Papotin's Revue delighted thousands of spectators through 518 performances. The Radio City Music Hall called Mr. Tahon to New York for the Summer of 1964. It turned out to be a ten week run with PLOOM, the caterpillar, breaking all records of laughter and enthusiasm ever established by a guest artist since the theatre opened in the Thirties! While in the States, André taped nine shows with the Hollywood Palace, others with Steve ALLEN, and took part in big hotel shows in Las Vegas, Reno, Miami, Chicago, etc.

In 1967, Mr. Tahon came back to France to found his "company", putting together his own stage show, a kind of musical comedy, variety program linked with humour: he then toured Europe extensively (including Russia) and was a favorite of the Tivoli Summer season, in Copenhagen (Denmark), three years in a row, sharing the bill with no less than Ella FITZGERALD or Josephine BAKER !

Between tours, and always with Michel Brandt conducting the orchestra or writing new scores, André started a whole line of television co-productions, whether with the French National Network or private companies in France, Italy and Germany: adaptation of fairy tales as musical comedies, classical music specials for home video cassettes and DVD (such as Ploom, Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals, Nutcracker, Sourissimo, etc.) and many other comedy plots, always lavishly costumed and designed... for his principal motto is "entertainment" for all ages, an appeal to the "whole family" audiences.

Now Mr. Tahon is an active teacher in puppetry, conducting international workshops: his knowledge of four languages (French, of course, but also English, German and Italian) allows him to deal with a variety of audiences. He also gives lectures about his favorite subject, the "marottes", about which he is quite unfailing, relating professional anecdotes in his peerless sense of humour.

Moreover André has a hobby : cooking. He is hard to stop when explaining the subtleties of French cuisine, and even when he only gives the recipe of the "mayonnaise"... it's a show in itself !