Camille Dubois was a star of the European underground cabaret scene for many years. Her performances were beautiful but daring and, consequently, very shocking to the conservative, buttoned-up generation of her day. She had an incredible rags-to-riches life story. Abandoned as a small child in the 1920's, she managed to survive a life on the streets in the bohemian quarters of Paris to become a hugely popular cabaret performer, albeit in the type of establishments that her elite, high society admirers would never admit to frequenting.
Her career was cut short by the German occupation of France during the Second World War. Rather than taking the easy choice that some entertainers took of collaborating and being allowed to continue their work, she became a major figure in the French Resistance until she was eventually arrested, tortured, raped and imprisoned. She was freed after the Liberation of Paris in August 1944. She was still only 20 years old.
After the war, she continued her risque cabaret career and became the toast of the nightclubs in the red-light districts of the major cities of Europe. Contrary to the meaning of her name (virgin of unblemished character), Camille had many lovers and broke many hearts. Perhaps because of her troubled start in life, she trusted no one and never married or had any long-lasting or meaningful relationships. She is often quoted as saying, "I was born without love, so I have none to give".
After being forced to retire through ill-health, she drifted into total obscurity and dedicated her time to helping the poor in the slums of Paris where she found little had changed. She'd now traveled full circle and her extraordinary life ended where it had so humbly began. However, it's clear from her charity work that Camille had love in abundance and gave it to those she felt needed it the most.
"I can hardly think of words to describe Camille. She was just an incredible lady and what a privilege and honour to have known her and to have appeared on stage with her at a very fitting tribute on her 90th birthday. By then, her health was failing badly, but she still had such a compelling charm and attractiveness that inspired devotion in everyone who met her. Such enthusiasm, personality and strength of character. A truly rare individual. The world has lost someone very special."
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