Porte Saint Monty is so called because we lived up from the Porte Saint Denis in the tenth arrondisement in 2014, when I was on sabbatical. The image underneath the words “Porte Saint Monty” is the view from our window of our flat there. Through it I watched Paris turn from night to day while I wrote each morning. The "Monty" in Porte Saint Monty is in honour of our late cat Monty, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 20. Monty the cat was, in turn, named after Montgomery Clift, with whom I was mildly obsessed in my mid-20s—enough anyway to get his face and name tattooed on my right shoulder.
I’ve been told, free advice, that getting his name AND face was stupid and overkill—pick one or the other. On occasions numbering more than one, handsome men have used the Clift tattoo as a conversational ice breaker with me: Clift is a gay icon and I have learned that flashing his face in certain public spaces sends a saucy sort of invitation.
Clift’s education was unusual. Although born in Nebraska, Clift never attended school. Instead, he was educated by private tutors across Europe and the United States. He became fluent in French and German. His mom wanted Monty and siblings to be able to belong to the aristocracy. She sheltered her children from the horrors of disease, poverty and common people with their stupid, stupid minds. Monty was a misfit for life as a result of his mother’s pretensions and/or good intentions. His siblings didn’t feel it so much. Both of them went to university and got on with their lives. Monty went to Broadway and started acting. He was good at it. Hollywood noticed. In The Search (1948), his second film, released when he was 27 years old, Clift plays an American soldier, a regular everyday G.I. His performance was so convincing that Director Fred Zinnemann asked, “Where did you find a soldier who can act so well?”
Clift is reported to have considered this the greatest compliment he ever received. Acting like a normal, everyday guy was the hardest thing for him to do since he had never been a normal, everyday guy. Humans are herd animals and they can sense in a million unnamed ways when someone from outside the herd approaches. Passing as a local and a normal is almost impossible when you’ve been raised in too much isolation, deprived of both stability and community. People sense when something’s off. I don’t know how he did it. I mean, he didn’t, right? Clift died young of alcoholism, addiction and loneliness. At least he got to feel normal when he was acting.