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In Here, It's Always 1950
French Political Journalist Lets Off Steam By Playing Lounge Lizard

Listen Listen to Lisa Simeone's conversation with Karl Zéro.

Video Watch Karl Zéro's "Rico Vacilon" video.

Video Watch Karl Zéro's "Inoui" video.

Karl Zero

An avatar of the 1950s greets visitors to KarlZéro.com. Image: KarlZero.com

Jan. 12, 2002 -- What would Official Washington say if Sam Donaldson put out a foreign-language cocktail party CD?

Like that would ever happen.

But Weekend All Things Considered host Lisa Simeone found that none of that "credibility stuff" concerns French political talk show host Marc Telenne. In his off hours, he sings classics from the 1940s and 1950s under the stage name Karl Zéro. His stage moniker has nothing to do with that era. "It comes from punk rock. I was a punk." He discovered lounge music in old Paris record shops, and confesses to stumbling upon Dean Martin a scant four years ago.

"What people think -- is it serious, is it not serious, I don't care. We have only one life. We have to do what we want to do."

Karl Zéro

One song on Zéro's new album, Songs for Cabriolets is "Ponciana" by Mexican songwriter Julio Cesar Oliva. Yet, Karl Zéro credits the song as "traditional" on his album. Was he trying to deny Oliva a songwriting credit? As it turns out, his intentions weren't sinister. Zéro had the the song on a tape and had no idea who wrote it. So when it came time to write liner notes, he just put down 'traditional.' "That's the French way to do those things," he says.

The translations on Songs for Cabriolets weren't closely researched, either. Zéro doesn't claim to be a world-class translator. He sings in French, English, Spanish, Italian and Greek, but most of it is done phonetically, which Zéro finds much more amusing. He has special place in his heart for the song "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons." Why? "Because I don't understand what I'm saying."

Simeone asked Zéro if he is afraid that his musical exploits might detract from his journalistic credibility. "What people think -- is it serious, is it not serious, I don't care," he replied. "We have only one life. We have to do what we want to do."

Other Resources

Karl Zéro.com (Note: Site is entirely in French.)