By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
Gail heard about a house in the village for sale, and took the Crumbs over to look at it. "It was a beautiful old house with statues of Christ everywhere, all these old armoires and furniture from the ’30s. It was gorgeous. It was just their dream house. They walked in and the room that was going to be Robert’s studio was obvious, the room that was going to be Aline’s studio was obvious, the whole thing was so obvious it was unbelievable."
There was only one problem: It was the wrong house. The house for sale was at the other end of the street. In the south of France, however, business tends to proceed — when it does proceed — with a dream logic. Confronted by two strangers wanting to look at her house, the woman who owned it thought: Well, why not let them look at it? And when it turned out that the two strangers wanted to buy her house, she thought: Well, why not sell it? So Crumb sold some of his notebooks to pay for the house, he and Aline went back to California and packed up their stuff, and — voilà — they were in Cache.
Fortunately, Crumb’s presence here does not seem to have changed anything. Although a poster for a 1992 exhibition of Crumb’s work in Cache is on sale in the village’s tourist bureau ("L’affiche du célèbre Crumb est vendu ici 20 Francs," says a notice by the door), most of the locals are only vaguely aware of what "le célèbre Crumb" looks like and what, exactly, his celebrity might consist of. In any case, it seems that many of the villagers can’t distinguish one foreigner from another. When I ask the guy behind the counter at the grocery store if he knows who "Monsieur Crumb" is, he says yes, and then proceeds to describe a stocky American with black hair and a pencil mustache who lives in the village and walks around dressed up as Zorro.
Any notion that the villagers might be suffering from some odd ocular defect caused by centuries of inbreeding is soon laid to rest, however. "Ah, yes, the tall thin gentleman with glasses," says the lady at the bakery, peering at me sensibly through her own specs when I mention Crumb’s name. And then, lowering her voice confidentially, she informs me that though he likes just about everything in her store, Crumb shows a marked preference for her miniature pizzas.
Out in the street I see the jogger again. He’s still running. Or hopping. Or limping. It’s impossible to tell.
On my second morning in Cache, I bump into Aline, who’s out shopping. She nods hello, but coolly. Obviously, it’s not time to call on Crumb yet. Later in the day, when I drop in on Pete Poplaski, editor of The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book, I meet her again. She’s sitting in the kitchen over coffee and cigarettes with Pete and one of the locals. This time, she’s friendlier. Pete turns out to be the man who likes to dress up as Zorro (he is the world’s "leading" Zorro expert), but when I meet him he’s wearing stonewashed jeans and a Green Bay Packers T-shirt.
I’m beginning to get a sense of what it must be like to live in Cache. Pete’s house is a brisk 45 seconds’ walk from Crumb’s, and Tony Baldwin, another of Crumb’s friends, lives about 30 seconds away from Pete. Ian McAmy, a musician from New York who plays in a band with Crumb, also lives nearby. (Crumb’s own band, the Cheap Suit Serenaders, will be appearing in Holland and Belgium in June.) "It’s a little community," Gail Wagman told me over dinner the night before. "They spend hours talking, listening to records, arguing different points of view about religion and stuff like that. Robert thrives on that kind of thing. He definitely likes to have these male friends that he shares a lot with."
Like Devil Girls. A few years ago, Crumb decided to make a life-size wooden sculpture of the evil temptress, and enlisted Gail’s husband, theater director Alain Schons, and another Frenchman, named Yves, to help him. Scouring the land for a model, Alain finally found the perfect specimen in La Rochelle, a town on France’s Atlantic coast. The girl was a cross between a bodybuilder and a contortionist, and according to Gail, once they’d persuaded her to pose for them, the three "dirty old men" could barely contain their glee. Crumb ended up spending four months on the statue ("Jeezis, that was a lot of work!" he writes in The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book. "It was fun though"), and had hoped to sell it. But so far there have been no takers. For the time being it sits — or rather, contorts — in the guest bedroom of Crumb’s house.
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