Les Milandes is a place apart, emblematic for Joséphine Baker. A chateau made up of 24 rooms overlooking the Dordogne, flanked by two towers, a keep and an extravagant bathroom. “She wants gold on some tiles, on the taps, says Angélique de Labarre, the owner of the castle. “You can see the eccentric side of the artist, the sumptuous side. She liked very beautiful things.” Tuesday, November 30, Josephine Baker will be the sixth woman to enter the Pantheon. The artist, who died in 1975, spent a large part of her life between 1938 and 1969 in the Dordogne, in this castle located in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, about twenty kilometers from Sarlat. Georgette Malaury, 87 years old, three quarters as she says, remembers this neighbor who modernized the village and turned the lives of the inhabitants upside down. “She had running water run to the sink in every house.”
“She helped people who didn’t have electricity to get it.”Georgette Malaury
Aux Milandes Joséphine Baker welcomes her 12 adopted children all over the world. The artist nicknames the siblings: the rainbow tribe. “She said: ‘Look at all the colors, all the religions, all the nationalities'”, continues Angélique de Labarre. “They get along. It’s a real family.” For children, her own and those of visitors, Joséphine Baker is also creating an amusement park below the estate. “There was the swimming pool with the tavern. It had put pedal boats, the aviaries”, list Georgette Malaury. “There were greyhound races. It was the place to go out. People came from far away.”
Georges Pasquet remained Joséphine Baker’s butler for 6 years. At 83 years old today, he remembers life in Milandes, alongside a sometimes whimsical Josephine Baker. “In the evening, she rehearsed her songs and we were in the kitchen, to see if that was what she was singing,remembers the butler. She brought us once to the Olympia, with the driver (…), the two elders and two housekeepers. We came back around 5 or 6 in the morning and half an hour later, she called me, she said ‘Georges, I need you’ when we had just come back from Paris. She wanted people next to her, she liked it “.
Georges Pasquet, Joséphine Baker’s butler for six years, talks about his past in the service of the artist
But in her castle, Josephine Baker does not forget her fight against the Nazis. In the maze of rooms, the cellar, the towers shelter secrets. “We do not imagine for a moment that the great international star Joséphine Baker, who seems to be a frivolous and light girl, could hide weapons and be in the resistance”, insists Angélique de Labarre. “No one suspects his action in the resistance.”
Akio, 69 years old today, is the eldest son of Josephine Baker, the eldest of the famous Rainbow Tribe. For him, it was in the Dordogne that his mother lived her best years. “Les Milandes is his whole life, he explains. “VS‘was his dream, our Madeleine de Proust. Life is Beautiful”. Life was good until 1969 when, abused by creditors and undoubtedly too generous, Josephine Baker found herself ruined. The dream ends. The domain is sold, transformed today into a place of memory. In Périgord, people call it Joséphine Baker’s mini pantheon.
The Château des Milandes, Joséphine Baker’s little paradise – Sébastien Baer’s report