Perhaps it began as tall tales told by GI's who painted a picture of France as a den of iniquity, a land of beautiful women with no inhibitions (not like these prudish gals in the States). According to our young servicemen, France was an entire country of enchanting prostitutes, burlesque beauties and saucy exhibitionists.
How this all began is anyone's guess. France has always been associated with love & lust, so I guess a transition into a mythical Pleasuredome wasn't a far stretch. Certainly, places like the Weimar Republic were more worthy of being called bastions of debauchery; however, they had long since lost their luster, whereas France still retained its titillating allure.
If France was ground zero for vice, then it is only natural that the playboys and swingin' bachelors would gravitate in that direction. Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find a men's magazine that didn't hop on that French bandwagon in at least a few pages - if not the entire issue. I'd like to share with you some covers of men's rags that illustrate my point.
Also, I simply have to share this epic piece of poetry from a 1956 issue of Escapade (v01 n06). Emily Dickinson be damned, this is beatnik tomfoolery at its finest. I don't know who this Harry Roskolenko is, but I nonetheless pronounce him King Beatnik. No doubt he smelled of cloves, wore shades and played the bongos. Viva la France!
PARIS, CITY OF LIGHT
By Harry Roskolenko
Cafes dance their bastard images
Sculpting pallid diversions of flesh;
A complex nightmare, darker, perverse,
Superintends these alleys of tension.
At any hour's emotional chart,
The cafes whine their fleshy desolations;
So many architects have built this dream.
So many arts enhanced this innocence ...
These streets, ancient in depravity, carve
Analogies in darkness..
Brutal as truth, as depth to black,
They glow erotically.
Midnight's exotic aspects embrace
The escalator line of women; like barber poles
They motor on thin ankles
Bulging the fat authority of whores.