Serge the charmer

Capture d’écran 2014-04-04 à 15.40.22

Serge was the last child born into a family that had made its fortune in the “Village Suisse”, part of the Universal Exposition of 1900 that went on to become a neighbourhood of antique shops. Serge’s father, Monsieur Delteil, was a talented antiques dealer specialised in reselling old coins. Much of his stock was bought when a rich country-dweller died prematurely and his estate sold off. Apparently, his wife had not been told of the coin collection’s real value.


Now comfortably wealthy, M. Delteil bought a large townhouse and opened an antique shop on rue Jacob. Now a neighbour of Nathalie Clifford Barney, Serge met Colette there, as she often visited for Madame Clifford Barney’s salons. Monsieur Delteil’s modest origins made him persona non grata with most of the local bigwigs, but he couldn’t have cared less. Only his son Serge felt saddened by the situation, and even he soon found that his charm and elegance would open most doors.

Despite hating studying, Serge tried his best to be at least an average student so as not to sadden his parents, but his nights on the town (which started when he was only 17) did not help, and it was evident he would never by the lawyer, as his father would have liked.


It is said that opposites attract, and Serge found himself charmed by the rather timid Henri, and tried his best to woo him, but although strong, their relationship was strictly platonic – neither man dared to express his true feelings.

Having met them in the Luxembourg Gardens, Serge became great friends with Odette, Suzanne, Claudine, Charles and Henri. Skipping school, they spent entire afternoons together at the Closerie des Lilas where they would chat with illustrious strangers like Hemingway, Miller and Fitzgerald.

Odette adored Serge, and he became her chaperone for many a wild night on the town. People definitely noticed this opulent blond accompanied by two extremely elegant young men, arriving at the Coupole in a Delahaye for a night of dancing.

La Coupole is where Serge was introduced to Joséphine Baker by a friend of his father, Paul Colin. Despite his youth, Serge participated in creating the famous Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, aided by the huge fortune that his father proved without counting.


However, it was the grand Bal Nègre of 11th February 1927 that was to seal Serge Delteil’s fate. Invited by Paul Colin, Serge attended this wild night, where anything was permitted, with all his friends except Claudine, who had left for the States and rarely sent news. A few people there saw Serge with a man in his forties of impeccable taste and style. One month later, Serge announced to his friends that he was leaving to work in Shanghai as personal secretary to Mr. Frank Taylor, an American industrialist.

Henri was despondent to see Serge leave without being able to speak to him. Odette however was so busy with Charles that she barely realised her best friend had abandoned her.

A short film about Paris in the Golden Twenties, in which Serge can be seen briefly.




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