Paris Terrorist Attacks: Agent Nancy Smith on the History of Bataclan Theater

Nancy Smith

Dallas agent Nancy Smith knows just about everything about everything, including Paris.  She was a journalist, for eons, the Society Editor for the Dallas Morning News and the last society editor at the Dallas Times HeraldShe covered the Reagan Republican convention, the Reagan, Bush, and Carter inaugurations in Washington, D.C., as well as interviewed celebrities from Cary Grant to Gregory Peck to Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, to Barbara Bush (five times). And she covered every society party in Dallas 17 times — everything from the Crystal Charity Ball to Idlewild. She had more ball gowns in her closet than day clothes, she says. Between 1999 and 2004, she went to Europe six times and started research on the lost palaces of Paris. That led her toward five years of research on France’s ultra-glamorous Second Empire that influenced America’s Gilded Age. She has published two books, Imperial Wedding of Old Paris and Imperial Triangle: Love, Power and Revenge in Old Paris and Madrid. Although they read like romance novels, they are true history books, totally non-fiction.

Married to Lawrence Becker, Nancy Smith Becker is a 4th generation Dallasite and 6th generation Texan. She has chaired two Greer Garson Galas for Parkinson’s research; the Northwood University Ball; co-chaired the March of Dimes Star-Studded Stomp; been assistant chairman of five TACA balls; and chaired the 2007 Rotary District 5810 Gala starring Marvin Hamlisch which raised about $100,000 to build water wells in Asia and Africa. Since 2008, she has been president of the Trippers and Argyle Clubs. She graduated with a B.A. degree in French and history from SMU and attended the SMU Graduate School in history. As a teenager, she spent a summer studying at l’Ecole Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The author of several books, Nancy is also a certified, licensed appraiser of decorative arts. I keep meaning to get her profiled on here, we will soon.


Meantime, as all of us watch the aftermath of the unthinkable tragedy that struck Paris, city of beauty and grace, Nancy tells us the theatre where Friday’s terrorist attack took place was one of the theaters built during the Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie era.

Knowing this somehow makes it even more painful:

The Bataclan is a theatre located at 50 boulevard Voltaire in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.
Built in 1864 by the architect Charles Duval, its name refers to Ba-Ta-Clan, an operetta by Offenbach, but it is also a pun on the expression le tout bataclan (the whole caboodle), the oldest written use of which predates Offenbach in a journal entry of 11 Nov 1761 by Favart. The nearest Métro stations are Oberkampf on Line 5 and Line 9 and Filles du Calvaire on Line 8.

When I was studying the Paris Commune for my 3 books on Paris, the majority of revolutionaries were from Belleville in the east part of Paris beyond the Marais and the Place de la Bastille. Most tourists never go to the east part of Paris unless they go to Pere Lachaise cemetery. The attacks in Paris tonight were in the 11th arrondissement, which is in that east part of Paris right before Belleville. It’s where people moved in the 1850s when Haussmann’s renovations in Paris displaced people who could no longer afford the rents in central Paris. In Belleville, just to the east of where this happened, this is a description: The demographics of the neighbourhood have undergone many changes throughout the decades. While Armenians, Greeks, and Ashkenazi Jews were once the predominant ethnic groups, North Africans, and more recently, sub-Saharan Africans have been displacing these others. Just to the left of this was rue Saint-Antoine and that’s where most of the furniture factories and artisans were who made the French decorative arts. So I wonder if the people who committed this lived around that area and how many others are there ready to commit more acts. During the Paris Commune, 25,000 Parisians died in one week in 1871, and there was even a battle in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.