le mouchoir de monsieur
"Here's an interesting story, and an important detail, both of which seem to make Tabu somehow still more bewitching. While it is not at all probable Jean Carles was in reality asked to create a perfume for Ladies of the Evening, as goes the fable, according to all and sundry, he most definitely did not fail to achieve something remarkable, and lasting: "Un Parfum Eternel." My experience with Tabu is limited to the following story: My mother took a young girl under her wing when this poor orphan had lost her own mother in a very sudden and tragic accident. This young girl had not had an easy life, having been sexually abused by her older brother since she was 6, and on top of all this misfortune was not exactly "Spoiled by Nature" as the French would say. (She was not, externally, a Beautiful Girl.) This girl, who by happenstance came to be a kind of zany, unpredictable sister to me, ever the buttoned up scholar, grew into the fiercest of rebels, and not at all in the usual manner popular at the time. She was very much her own creation, and followed no form of eccentricity previously known. She was, and deserved to be, an Individualist: A whilwind force to be reckoned with. For all the years I knew her, which were many, she only ever wore Tabu, and professed an undying love for it: I would buy her huge, screw-cap bottles of it for Christmas. My memories of the scent have the universal theme of: Incense. Everything about this girl smelled like incense. After my mother passed away, we remained staunch friends and allies. Naturally, my true blood sister detested her, and many in my family found her odd, to say the least. True only unto herself, she continued to have a strange life. For 22 years, I lived in Paris, and she lived in California. We would write each other letters, as people did back then, and I would always know I had one in my post box from her before even opening it because I could smell it through the grate of the metallic compartment. She visited me several times in Paris. The first time, she made a sweaty, trembling entrance into my apartment, which is a kind of penthouse on the 8th floor (7th per French standards) and declared herself to have been so traumatized by the journey that she barely left the apartment for her entire sojourn, which, if I recall, was a lengthy one, over the course of which she would sit for hours, entire days, on my rooftop terrace, entertain my dogs, let my canaries out of their cages, scour and clean every inch of the interior, and read. All kinds of strange things happened to her. Another time she visited, we got locked into Pere Lachaise Cemetery and had to spend the night hiding in one of the vandalized crypts for fear of being attacked by the vicious guard dogs who roam the vast terrain after hours, ready to kill. She only enjoyed things that were tainted with tragedy or sadness. She was blessed with the analytical mind of a true intellectual. At one point, near the end of our relationship, she had been living in a ramshackle shanty town type clapboard house in the hills outside of Los Angeles, not far from where the Manson Family famously converged. Upon moving in to this house, which was a weekly rental, she found in the kitchen cupboard on an uppermost shelf a box of ziplock bags left behind by the previous tenant, which she left undisturbed and had been using off and on for quite some time, straining each time to reach it and swipe out a bag as It was one of those heavy and enormous "supersized" 1000 count ones that you can find in the US, until one fateful day, she reached up to grab a plastic bag, and found that there were none, yet the box was still heavy. Removing it from the shelf she found it to be tightly packed full of bank stacks of $100.00 bills, totaling close to $50,000.00. Very diligently she made inquiries to find the previous tenant, who had been evicted, and never succeeded. After two years, with this money, she bought a small plot of land in the desolate, dry hills outside of Los Angeles, and built a kind of tree house on it, where, to my knowledge, she still lives, unless she finally drank herself to death, or committed suicide; two gestures that had been veritable plots over the course of her life. When I think of Tabu, I think of her, and how, wherever she went, or whatever she touched, would afterwards smell of incense. The interesting detail about Tabu that nobody here has thus far pointed out is the French play on words inherent in it's title. Jean Carles, Dana, and the entire context of this perfume is French, so we must assume that the choice of this piquant, cheeky title, now legendary for all the wrong reasons, was then lost on no one, as it appears to be today, which surprises me. The word "Tabu" in French is spelled "Tabou." The pronunciation of this word is very distinctly different and not at all subtle when compared with the French pronunciation of the written title of this perfume, which, in the spirit of Emile Zola, has become so tainted by phantasms of drunken, smoky debauchery. When spoken in French, the title "Tabu" sounds perfectly identical to an accusation, equally salacious and befitting of it's dark reputation: It means, very simply, "You've been drinking!"
This is a wonderfully touching story, feel like I know the person this was written about. Enjoy the wordplay on Tabu's name at the end and how it relate to our "heroine".
I also enjoy anything by Hillaire, as previously mentioned by others. She is a very thoughtful and insightful writer.