The Man Who Invited 150,000 People to Dinner

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The Man Who Invited 150,000 People to Dinner
The death of James Almand Haynes on January 6th ended not only the life of an extraordinary man, but also the weekly tradition of inviting the world to dinner at his atelier at 83, rue de la Tombe-Issoire in Montparnasse. In the late 1970s — following his lifelong philosophy that the more people who meet each other, the better the world would be — and believing profoundly that it was his “duty to introduce everyone” around him, Jim Haynes began his open-house policy every Sunday evening, where anyone and everyone were welcome. As many as 120 people would turn up and be fed. There was only one stipulation; they must all talk to each other. A phone call was all that was required to have your name added to the list; in later years, an email would suffice, although in the early years people would just turn up and some of them even stayed on. Haynes’ son, Jesper, as a young boy, recalls bodies in sleeping bags all over the floors. Haynes loved people, and he loved even more being surrounded by them. Invitation. © Flickr, Public Domain His glass-fronted atelier was down a secluded courtyard, and it is a testament to Haynes’ genuine love of people that his neighbors loved him right back, and never complained about the dozens of strangers congregating outside his atelier on summer nights eating, drinking and above all talking. Haynes’ dinner guests were exactly as he’d desired, a disparate group that could include local people from the neighborhood, old friends, immigrants, travelers of every nationality and age, intellectuals, Buddhists and even, famously, a Greek terrorist. Which was exactly the point. Jim Haynes was the rarest of beings. He lived his life exactly as he wanted to live it. His ideologies, tempered during the “swinging 60s,” never wavered, but he was never a relic. He believed in them as implicitly as he had 50 years earlier, and no one who ever met him came away unaffected by his warmth and genuine interest. He continued to attract young and old, making new friends all over the world and determined that others would too. Parisian courtyard. © Florian Olivo. Unsplash Haynes was the original social networker. He had traveled extensively and was fascinated by countries that were, in the late 1980s, still behind the Iron Curtain.

Lead photo credit : Dinner table. © Nadia Valkko. Unsplash

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After some dreary years in the Civil Service, Marilyn realized her dream of living in Paris. She arrived in Paris in December 1967 and left in July 1969. From there she lived in Mallorca, London, Oman, and Dubai, where she moved with her husband and young son and worked for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and freelanced for Emirates Woman magazine. During this time she was also a ground stewardess for Middle East Airlines. For the past 18 years they've lived on the Isle of Wight.


  • Barnaby Conrad
    2021-03-25 07:09:21
    Barnaby Conrad
    Dear Marilyn Brouwer, What a wonderful article on Jim Haynes. I lived in Paris from 1982-87 and was drawn into Jim’s surprising dinners several times by Stewart McBride, if I recall correctly, and all sorts of people, many whom I knew from elsewhere and others became new friends. “Only in Paris.” I was saddened to hear of Jim’s death as I’d been planning a long-overdue trip to Paris this summer to celebrate the publication of my biography or Jacques Villeglé, the poster-snatching artist who turns 95 this year. Merci! Barnaby Conrad


    • Marilyn Brouwer
      2021-03-27 09:05:10
      Marilyn Brouwer
      Thank you so much for replying Barnaby and how wonderful that you experienced some of Jim Haynes' dinners. What wonderful memories you must have. I hope your planned trip to Paris comes off in these still difficult times. Very good luck and congratulations for your biography on Jacques Villeglé. Kind regards Marilyn