Each year since 1927, TIME Magazine names its “Man of the Year” (now called “Person of the Year”). Individual women have been named five times (e.g., Wallis Simpson, Soong Mei-ling, Queen Elizabeth II, Corazon Aquino, and Angela Merkel), thirteen groups have been named (e.g., “U.S. Scientists,” “American Women,” and “The Whistleblowers”), an inanimate object once (the computer), and in several instances, very controversial selections were made (e.g., Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin). The editorial board uses the following criteria for making its decision: the selection must profile a person, group, an idea, or an object that “for better or worse . . . has done the most to influence the events of the year.”
Although some of their selections ultimately met their end by assassination (e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Anwar Sadat), I’m not aware of anyone who was executed. That is, except for Pierre Laval the 1931 ”Man of the Year”.
On the morning of his scheduled execution at Fresnes Prison south of Paris, Pierre Laval (1883−15 October 1945) laid down on his prison cot, pulled the sheets over his head, and bit down on a cyanide capsule. The poison was too old to finish him off. The doctors pumped his stomach along with other efforts to keep him alive. Charles de Gaulle declared that Laval would have to be shot while laying on a stretcher but his orders were refused because French code would not allow it. Laval had to be standing on his own in order to be executed by a firing squad. By 11:30 A.M., Laval regained consciousness and the process began. After being dressed, he was escorted to the police car which drove him to the execution site. Tied to the stake but not blindfolded, Laval stood straight. His body was deposited in a graveyard reserved for disgraced individuals. Eventually, his family was allowed to remove his remains and bury him at Montparnasse Cemetery (we will visit his grave in my future book Where Did They Bury Jim Morrison, the LizardKing? A Walking Tour of Curious Paris Cemeteries. Read More TIME Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ is Executed
Those buildings and sites are only bricks and mortar or dirt and grass unless you know the stories behind them. Once the stories are told, the buildings and sites jump to life and not coincidentally, they are usually centered around some very interesting people.
The subject of today’s blog is one of those buildings. Although much younger than the buildings in our prior books, the Hotel Ritz Paris has hundreds of stories with a cast of legendary characters, not the least of which are the hotel’s occupants—both Germans and civilians—during the Nazi occupation of Paris between 1940 and 1944.
Squeezed into the Paris newspaper headlines but subordinate to the daily updates on the Dreyfus Affair, the much anticipated “glittering reception” on 1 June 1898 formally announced the opening of César Ritz’s new hotel located at 15 Place Vendôme on the fashionable Right Bank in Paris. Invited guests to the Belle Époque event at the Hotel Ritz Paris included the writer Marcel Proust (1871−1922) who spent much of the evening watching the wealthy and internationally known guests, many of whom he would later feature (albeit under different names) in his books.
César Ritz (1850−1918) was already well known by 1898 for his premier hotels in Rome, Frankfurt, Monte Carlo, and other European locations. Every need of his guests was fulfilled. Despite owning and operating multiple hotels, The Hotel Ritz Paris would ultimately become his legacy. Unfortunately, Mr. Ritz passed away in 1918 leaving control of the hotel to his wife, Marie-Louise Ritz (1867−1961). After Mr. Ritz’s death, his wife (with assistance of the hotel’s managing director) would run the hotel with her son, Charles (Charley), who reluctantly joined the management team in the 1930s. Charley would manage the hotel after her death but never shared his father’s passion or sense of perfection when it came to “the old ways” of creating a perfect client experience. Read More Puttin’ On The Ritz
Stew takes you on a walking tour of buildings, places, and sites significant to the theme of each of his books. But most importantly, you will learn the intricate stories of the people and places that many other tours do not.
Mr. Ross brings the streets of Paris to life, making it possible for you to stand on the very spots where the grand and tragic events of the French Revolution took place. If you are looking for more than just the typical tourist experience in Paris, then this book is must reading!
Dan Carpenter | Historian & Author
Stewart Ross’ book is full of interesting documents and research, it put you well on the tracks of Marie Antoinette, Danton, Robespierre and many more, whether in Paris or in Versailles, extremely interesting and easy to read!
Raphaelle Crevet | Certified Tour Guide, Paris, France