First Person Singular: Tailor George de Paris
President Ford was buried with my suit. Three-piece vest, brown pinstriped. Very nice. I make a suit for almost all the presidents: LBJ, President Nixon, Reagan, Bill Clinton, President Bush 41, President Bush 43. Matter of fact, you see the suit on President Obama [at the State of the Union address]? That was my suit. It makes me happy.
Nobody else from my family is a tailor. Architects, lawyers, doctors. Except me. I started when I was 15 years old. I started because I wanted to wear nice clothes. That's all it was. I studied in Germany, in Japan, of course in my country, France, in Austria. Then I left my family for coming to America. I was homeless for nine months. I sleep in the Franklin Park, 14th and K. I look very hard for find somebody to employ me. I was immigrant. No shower, sleep in the street. I was 79 pounds. One big company, Bonds Co., look for tailors. When I go, the manager say, "Take out the bum from here." But a lady said, "Wait, wait, wait." She take me out in the street; she called her husband in the State Department and take me to her house, let me clean up.
I continue sleeping in the streets. I save $20 every week. I have $400, my ticket back to go home, say enough is enough. They said -- the company say -- no, we'll give you green card and handle everything.
Six-eighteen 12th Street was express restaurant. I help them, I help them for cleaning the shop. I say, "What's this over here?" They say, "It's free storage." He said if I clean it, can I have. I clean her up. I opened a tailor shop.
No machine! I cut with the razor blade. I sleep on the floor. One grandma bring me the machine for help. Another old lady give me old iron, iron board. I continue work. Petit a petit, how we say in France: Slowly, slowly I built it up, my business. Myself.
People say, "You are a personality, famous." No. I am a very simple tailor. I make my living, I pay my bills. I get more popular, my life no change. I'm very simple guy. I live alone. If I go out and people recognize me, do I say, "Oh, I'm George de Paris. Move away"? Hell, no. Hell, no. Not me. If you sleep in the street, you don't thank yourself; you thank the Lord, and you thank other people. And I do.
Interview by KK Ottesen