Johnny Halliday on the Dakar in 2002. – AP / SIPA
The memory remains alive in all lovers of Dakar . deceased in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday after a cancer, Johnny Hallyday had embarked on the great adventure of the rally-raid, in 2002. An edition that its only presence had made mythical.
>> After the death of Johnny Hallyday, follow our live here … These memories go back every morning to André Dessoude, when he enjoys from his desk a view that would incite the fiercest fans of Johnny to empty their PEL to sit at his side. We are in Normandy, on the edge of the city of Saint-Lô, in the car park of a Nissan dealership far away studios of the biggest star of French song. Through the window, the boss of the garage admires the only car he has always refused to sell: the one driven by the rocker during this famous Dakar .
Johnny Halliday at the audits in Arras in December 2001. – PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP Finally at the time, the rally-raid was still called Paris-Dakar and still saw some people parade on its roads. Fifteen years later, no one really remembers what motivated Johnny to hit the road, except that he would have found the cool thing on an invitation to the rally of Tunisia in 2001 . It is then recommended to turn to André Dessoude to provide him with a vehicle.
“A month later, the day of my 61 years, he tumbles into my tent with two bottles of champagne in full rally of Morocco to wish me a happy birthday, remembers the boss of the team. Of course, it’s weird at the moment. The singer explains his plan to him: to benefit from a car solid enough to rally Senegal and to find an experienced co-pilot to make up for his shortcomings: René Metge, triple winner of the race .
Johnny on the podium in Arras, it inevitably attracts crowds. – AFP “André called me and said,” I’m going to ask you something, but promise me before you say yes, “says Metge. And that’s how I ended up preparing for the Dakar with Johnny. The prospect excites the organizers, who see very quickly the huge publicity stunt coming. And in December, it’s the riot in Arras, from where the big departure takes place.
“He was constantly walking around with six bodyguards. On the day of the scrutineering, the place was black and we were escorted by the CRS to the parc fermé. I clung to his belt to reach the car. The frenzy Johnny calms down once the foot in Africa where the singer applies to live the same Dakar as the others.
Coffee, you burn my gorgeuuuu. – PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP “In the evening, he sat cross-legged around the campfire and let out” but that’s good “in front of his food, describes Roger Kalmanovitz, then director of the external relations of the race. It was more Johnny, but a Dakar guy. Who from time to time enjoys a few nights at the hotel, receives the visit to Ouarzazate from his big friend Jean Reno, is accompanied by a bodyguard and is constantly invited to share a beer to the right.
“The others made him booze, it pissed me off”
“When I was there, he drank his Coke only if I gave him permission but as soon as I had my back turned … The others were making booze, it pissed me off and I pushed a gueulante,” s still annoys René Metge. But beware, alcohol has played no role in the most legendary sequence of the singer on the Dakar, recorded by a camera of France 2 at the arrival of an eventful stage in the dunes of the Sahara. But if, its magic “Do you realize that if we had not lost an hour and a quarter, we would have been there for an hour and a quarter? ” .
Fifteen years after this release recycled thousands of times in the zappings of the end of the year, André Dessoude continues to defend the reasoning of his star. “It’s not shocking. All the pilots get back on track just over the line. But here, as it was Johnny … ”
“The cops came to interrupt the evening”
Out of time and in the last, the rocker still meets the Lac Rose. Metge: “By having almost all the time driving, except once he had a sore arm” – and tears, as promised, his gypsy pack on the set of Gerard Holtz. “Ten minutes later, he was asking me to shoot him a cigarette,” Metge laughs.
Back in France, Johnny invites all his team in its Parisian restaurant, closed since , Rue Balzac. “He had made a scene and he resumed his most famous songs by incorporating our names, recalls André Dessoude. It was a beautiful evening. So much so that the cops came to interrupt him … ”
Johnny with André Dessoude, the boss of his stable. – PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP Fifteen years later, all his former rally partners say they have no more news of the living myth. Nighttime phone calls at the end of his concerts, some behind-the-scenes invitations to his shows, and the myth left to live in the United States.
“It was after this adventure that we realized the significance of what we had lived with him,” says Dessoude. One day, we took his car to a car show in Caen. I saw guys picking up grains of sand that trailed under the pedals for a souvenir. He did not have the heart to tell them that the cabin had been washed many times since January 13, 2002 and the arrival of Johnny in Dakar.