The whole life of San Antonio finally told by Fred Hidalgo, from Dreux

Dreux has the honors of Frédéric Dard’s last novel, Céréales tueur, released in 2001, one after his death. “The city is mentioned when he writes his ‘Dreux chapter’…”, explains Fred Hidalgo. This anecdote is one of the many contents in the biography he has just devoted to a popular author (300 million copies) who was decisive in his career as a journalist. “It is thanks to him that I became a journalist. Frédéric Dard opened me up to the world of the arts, cinema, theatre,…”

“I was supposed to see him the day he hanged himself…”

His biography is an 800-page pad divided into two volumes (San Antonio pushed open the door and Frédéric Dard entered and San Antonio without an alter ego). This is not too much for anyone who is not only the father of this crazy inspector and a little anar named San Antonio, a name directly inspired by the American city of San Antonio. Between the character and its creator, the link is very strong, both being the same person.

prime San Antonio seen by his Drouais friend

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This filiation was hidden for a long time before it came to light when Frédéric Dard attempted suicide on September 29, 1965, at his home in Meulan. “That day, I had to have lunch at his house. Passing in front of the press house, in Grande-Rue, I discovered the headline of France Soir: “Frédéric Dard, the father of San Antonio hanged himself”, confides Fred Hidalgo.

His two works combine both chronological markers (with all of his novels, his plays, his writings, etc.) anecdotes and rare documents from an author “who has always made fun of human bullshit, no human specie. He was a brilliant humanist, beyond being a brilliant writer, prince of neologisms. »

The first letter sent by Frédéric Dard Sans Antonio to a young fan named Fred Hidalgo.

“I discovered these books when I was bedridden, sick with mumps”

Fred Hidalgo speaks of a style “which breaks the codes in the padlocked society of the De Gaulle years. His activism opened windows for me. »

Fred Hidalgo gives a large place to the chapter “San Antonio in Dreux”, revealing dedications, personal letters, the best sheets of the little San Antonien. For the creator of numerous publications including Words and Music and Chorus, this title “was my first journal. We also discover photos and manuscripts of the San Antonio national club created in Dreux on August 4, 1964, with prestigious members such as Jean Richard, Gérard Barret – who played the inspector in the cinema -, Paul Préboist, Raymond Devos, etc. . more moving are the photos of Frédéric Dard’s first visit to Dreux, at Fred Hidalgo’s, then a 15-year-old teenager and San Antonio’s number one fan.

prime Fred Hidalgo in The Rose of the Winds

“I discovered these books when I was bedridden, sick with mumps. His asides to the reader, his way of philosophizing, of talking about idiots, caused a shock. I felt like he was only talking to me.”

As one throws a bottle into the sea, Fred Hidalgo “feels the need” to write, in October 1964, to “Monsieur San Antonio to tell him of my admiration, his style, his sense of fun which opened up new horizons for me. At the time, I did not know it was Frédéric Dard. »

An evening at the San Antonio club at the Dreux theater hosted by Gilles Dreu. Fred Hidalgo Archives.
His room on a Sunday in Dreux, rue des Caves

A few weeks later, the author answers him. Then began an exchange of letters which materialized with the arrival in Drouais of San Antonio-Frédéric Dard, on a Sunday in 1965. “When I told my parents, they did not believe me. At the time, the writer enjoyed a strong notoriety thanks to his book, The History of France seen by San Antonio, a bestseller that sold 1.5 million copies. »

At the wheel of his powerful gray Mercedes, the author, coming straight from his home in Les Mureaux, arrives at Fred Hidalgo’s, rue des Caves. San Antonio, rue des Caves… It sounds like the title of a novel by Dard or San Antonio!

The book almost didn’t see the light of day…

Frédéric Dard would have been 100 years old in 2021. Fred Hidalgo had chosen this year to release his two volumes on San Antonio, but he had to face obstacles. Through his official works on Jacques Brel, Jean-Jacques Goldman and many others, Fred Hidalgo is a name in publishing. Nevertheless, his pavement project on San Antonio could not arouse the enthusiasm of the main publishers, affirms the interested party. “After several steps, I abandoned the official circuit to start a subscription. »
The formula paid off since the sum of €16,000 was indicated. As a result, 500 copies of the new San Antonio were printed on the principle of self-publishing. The subscribers have all received their books. For the others, Fred Hidalgo hopes that a publisher can take over so that a maximum of San Antonians

rediscover the itinerary of a writer who, after having been for a time classified as an author of station novels, “he is now considered in faculty, at La Sorbonne in particular. »

Olivier Bohin