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Monday, August 3, 2015

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Dr. Will Bashor, Author, Professor and Francophile Extraordinaire Our Coverage Sponsored by Stribling and Associates

Dr. Will Bashor

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Whom You Know Congratulates their new President, Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan:

Note from the Editor: Libba Stribling is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the French Heritage Society:


Little did Will Bashor know in the early 70’s—while he was wandering through the Château of Versailles with Frommer’s Europe on 5 Dollars a Day in his backpack—that his biography on Marie Antoinette’s hairdresser would one day vie for the 2014 Book Award at the renowned American Library of Paris.

A true Francophile with a doctorate from the American Graduate School in Paris and a master’s in French literature from Ohio University, Will teaches at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio. His interests have ranged from European history and international law to cultural anthropology, but his passion lies in the reign of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in the late 18th century.

Winner of the Adele Mellen Prize for distinguished scholarship, his latest biography, Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution, was pitched as “The Devil Wears Prada comes to Versailles.” (Peachy prefers it to The Devil Wears Prada.) Professor Aleksandra Gruzinska, School of International Letters, Arizona State University, wrote: “This is a new and riveting account, in a clear and attractive style, of significant historical events that lead to the French Revolution of 1789, as seen through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s ambitious hairdresser.”

Will began his writing career with the biography of Louis XVI’s servant, Jean-Baptiste Cléry and with the goal to illuminate the dreams, personalities, and motives of the actors in these turbulent times. His readers have often remarked that his works “read like novels” but they are, however, well-researched narratives based on period memoirs, newspapers, and archived documents.

The author also runs a blog about the martyred queen and her servants at and when he's not traveling in France (rare), he enjoys the company of his two canaries in his study overlooking downtown Columbus. He loves coffee, too.

Bien sur mes amies, we are absolutely thrilled to present Dr. Will Bashor as our newest Mover and Shaker. Previously, we highly recommended his book.

Peachy Deegan interviewed Will for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: Where is your strong interest in France derived from?
Will Bashor: From my first trip overseas many years ago, backpacking around Europe. I was overwhelmed with the history, the architecture, and the people of France.

Did you read the Madeline books?
No, but I do have a complete set of the Adventures of Tintin (Les Aventures de Tintin)!

What did you enjoy the most about your research for your book on Leonard Autie?
The challenge of discovering the real Leonard Autie. I began with a copy of his memoirs (of doubtful authenticity and written after his death) and reconstructed his life with more trustworthy sources.

What were the most challenging aspects about your research for your book on Leonard Autie and how were you able to address these challenges?
Little was known about the queen’s hairdresser and his brothers. He had two younger brothers who were also known as “Leonard” and who were also hairdressers at the royal court. When Leonard was guillotined in 1794, historians in the 19th century believed it was the famous creator of the poufs; however, I discovered, and was able to prove, that it was his brother Jean-Francois who was executed.

How did you track down so many details?
The staffs of the National Archives and the National Library of France (BNF) were incredibly helpful, but I didn’t limit my research to historical accounts alone. There were plays, newspapers stories, hairdressing manuals, and even receipts for hairdressing. Leonard was at one time a very wealthy man, charging up to $800 for one of his creations.

What was your initial impression of the Palace of Versailles?
I wanted to sneak away from the tour and explore all the secret hallways and rooms. In my mind, I populated them with the royals, the servants, and the gossiping aristocrats.

Have you been to the round room at The Met that shows this Palace?
Yes, and I just saw the film “A Little Chaos” that reminded me of the grandeur of the Met’s panorama.

What do you enjoy about teaching and how do France and Ohio intersect?
Teaching, to me, is the joy of helping students become more confident. It’s the first step: If they have confidence, they can get the competence. I earned a Master’s degree in French literature from Ohio University before working on my Ph.D. at the American Graduate School of Paris.

If you lived the life of Leonard Autie, would you have done anything differently? Why or why not?
Servants often found themselves in a precarious situation during the Revolution. If a valet was a revolutionary, for example, and he remained loyal to his aristocratic master, he might join his employer on the scaffold. On the other hand, if he left his master, he was out of work and unable to support his family.
Leonard may have supported the Revolution, but he remained loyal to the royal family—even lending the royals in exile money. If I had lived the life of Leonard, I would have immigrated to London, thus being able to keep my fame and fortune while supporting the royals who were then exiled in Germany.

If you lived the life of Marie Antoinette, would you have done anything differently? Why or why not?
I don’t believe there was much that could have been done. She was a young whimsical child when she became queen and her husband was certainly not king material. If I were her, I would have left France with the children at the onset of the Revolution.

Where did you "embroider" with "imagination", and expand the base of knowledge about the historical aspects?
I only had a limited supply of information to chart Leonard’s rise and fall, but I didn’t shy away from mentioning antics like “sleeping his way to the top.” However, I always reminded readers that Leonard was known to tell “big” tales. 

How did you choose Leonard Autie for a topic?
After seeing a lock of Marie Antoinette’s hair in the Carnavalet museum in Paris, I couldn’t resist finding out how the queen’s hairdresser constructed the yard-high poofs that often caught fire on the low hanging chandeliers at Versailles.

Please tell us about your canaries and their names and history. 
Billie and Binkie are two little birds that I saw in a pet shop or, rather, they saw me. When I was tapping on their window, they both came to the window and stared at me as if they knew me. Now they are happily looking out over the city from their fourth floor loft. They prefer I write early in the morning or later in the evening so I do not interrupt their singing in the afternoon.

Please tell us what coffee you like best, how you prepare it and how much you drank during the evolution of your Leonard Autie biography.
At home, I drank Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (K-cups) with fat-free vanilla cream and Splenda. For a break, I also had iced coffee with sugar-free caramel and milk from Starbucks a couple of times a week.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
That “part of me” who has always striven to please family, teachers, and friends.

What are you proudest of and why?
I’m most proud of my fishing skills. My brother has spent years trying to discover my secret.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
OK, you asked! I would like to be a conductor or a waiter on the Orient Express!

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
The DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française), a diploma in advanced French andcertified by the French government, is my most honored award.

What one word best describes you and why?

What do you take your sense of identity from?
My curiosity.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And France? And Ohio?
MoMA, Notre Dame, and walking to Short North

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? And France? And Ohio?
Superdry, Oliviers & Co., and Le Chocoholique

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Harvey Weinstein to bring Leonard’s story to the big screen.

What is your favorite drink?

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
When I met Lawrence Welk, I said, “It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Linkletter.” 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? And France? And Ohio?
Parigot, Les Mauvais Garçons, and Marcella’s Ristorante

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And France? And Ohio?
The Invisible Man, Germinal, and My One Square Inch of Alaska.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
I would like to be Michael Kors for a day so that I could plan a new wardrobe for Paris next April.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And France? And Ohio?
The Met, because I would own a Picasso; the Louvre, because I would own a Fragonard; and Schmidt’s because I could have the best cream puffs anytime I wanted.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And France? And Ohio?
Walking, walking and walking.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And France? And Ohio?
Have cassoulet at Parigot, breathe French air, and help in my mother’s garden.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
Reeve Carney so I could convince him to play Leonard on the big screen.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And France? And Ohio?
David Bowie’s “Thin White Duke Tour,” Lady Gaga at the Queen, and the Talking Heads.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? And France? And Ohio?
Manhattan: Pizza/Spider Man; France: Flunch/Hugo’s house; Ohio: White Castle/Wright Brothers.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Cuisine and Drinks—I have an uncontrollable sweet tooth!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I often dream of moving to the countryside near Bordeaux, or Sitges, or Valencia.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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