Edmund White, Edmund White recalls a night at the opera with Michel Foucault in 1981, The Telegraph, 28 Feb 2014
Author Edmund White looks back at his friendship with the late Michel Foucault
By the time this photo was taken in Paris in 1981 I knew Foucault fairly well. In the late Seventies I had been director of the New York Institute – a think tank involved with the university – where Foucault had lectured. I had taken him out for dinner while he was there, which was a pretty terrifying prospect. Although I had a grand title, I was really just making the coffee. But he was very friendly. He didn’t like to talk about his ideas unless he was in seminars; he talked about everyday life as anyone else would.
He was attracted to tough guys and liked young and effeminate gay boys as friends. I was neither young nor especially effeminate but somehow he liked me. I remember on this occasion in Paris he was very gracious. That evening he took me to the opera – something by Rameau, I think, and a very modern production with a lot of rubber on stage. It was a pretty big deal for him to take me. Sitting in the orchestra at the Paris opera house was terribly expensive. I do recall I made rather a faux pas: during the intermission I ordered a white wine, and Foucault told me you could order a white wine anytime in France except at the Paris opera bar. It wasn’t the done thing.