He was the father of modern imitation. Comedian and actor Claude Véga died on Monday April 11 in Paris at the age of 91. He was the first man to embody female celebrities on stage, crunching with talent Barbara, La Callas, Jacqueline Maillan and the comedian Zouc.
“It is enough for me to think of them to transform myself into them. A detail, a defect, a way of speaking and I caught them“, confided the one who, in the 1970s and 1980s, was the unmissable guest on the television programs of Maritie and Gilbert Carpentier, Danièle Gilbert and Patrick Sébastien.
On stage, the resemblance to his “victims” was bluffing. He slipped into the skin of his muses, without aping, and became himself a diva. Never mean -“I could only imitate the people I loved“- he evoked them saying “my Maillan” Where “my sheet“. Women were not his only targets: he also imitated Aznavour, De Funès, Montand or even Dutronc.
Born Claude Thibaudat on June 2, 1930 to a Parisian father and a Provençal mother, he never left the 9th arrondissement of the capital where he grew up. Under the Occupation, he made the 400 blows with his childhood friend, a certain François Truffaut.
“His mother didn’t take much care of him, mine had taken a liking to him. He was a half-brother and I was going to see if he had had dinner, if he had slept or if he had not taken refuge in a cinema in the neighborhood as he was used to.“, he confided in 2012 to the weekly Point. Truffaut will also offer him a role, that of a disturbing strangler, in his film Marital home (1970).
He quickly dropped his business studies for drama lessons and worked in the evenings at the Liberty’s cabaret. “I wanted to become an actor. I started with imitations to survive and pay for my lessons at the Conservatoire. I recited La Fontaine’s Fables, like The oak and the reed by alternating about ten voices“. Tobacco assured.
One evening, Maria Callas is in the room and hears him imitate her. She immediately becomes infatuated with him and wants to have him with her on the shows. Same for the actress Edwige Feuillère. Claude Véga also performs at Bobino and opens for several great artists such as Edith Piaf, Joséphine Baker and Charles Trénet.
He, the modest and discreet man, meets with immense success. We only swear by him. “He is small in size (1m65) but he’s a giant in humor“, writes the daily Dawn in 1973. The following year, the show “Top to Claude Vega” is followed by 70% of viewers. At the age of 60, in 1990, he gave up imitation to devote himself exclusively to his other passions, theater and drawing.
We find it in particular at the Comédie de Paris in Funny snack, based on texts by Boris Vian. He is also successful with Piaf, I love you at the Cirque d’hiver (1996), qyu earned him two nominations for the Molières, then in the play Silvia, directed by Lars Schmidt. Also endowed with a nice pencil stroke, he regularly published almanacs illustrated with naive and fresh drawings à la Jacques Faizant.