SEDRO-WOOLLEY—A long-standing controversy erupted into acrimonious debate today when an anonymous source revealed that the world’s first high five occurred in Paris, France in 1959.
The origin of the universally recognized and widely copied gesture connoting “we just kicked your ass,” had long been attributed to various American athletes. The list includes the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke celebrating a home run on October 2, 1977; the late-1970s Louisville Cardinals “Doctors of Dunk” basketball teams; and various women’s volleyball players in the 1960s.
There was even a hoax claim, involving Lamont Sleets Jr., who allegedly named the high five after his father’s 5th Infantry Battalion, which served in Vietnam.
Americans have been celebrating National High Five Day on the third Thursday in April, since 2002.
The slap heard round the world
With so much at stake, it’s not surprising that this new discovery has raised heated emotions on every side.
The movie in question is an obscure French “art” film called Breathless. It was filmed in Paris in 1959. The high fivers were a couple of Franco-Italian gangsters played by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Henri-Jacques Huet. Belmondo needs to get a bad check cashed, so he meets Huet outside a café where he is busy taking blackmail photographs. They set up a rendezvous for the next day, and that’s when the high five occurs. It’s shoulder height with pretty good form, as the palms make full contact. However, Huet’s thrust clearly overpowers that of the shorter Belmondo.
International repercussions expected
U.S. President Barack Obama placed a phone call to French President Francois Hollande after hearing outrage from numerous special interest groups. Sources say that he demanded that Hollande “retract that movie, Breathless.”
When asked, Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest said that, while he didn’t participate in the actual conversation, he understood that President Hollande professed to be confused over how it was possible to retract a movie that had been released more than half-a-century ago and seen by millions of people.
Obama retorted that he had many close friends in the film industry who doubted that more than “a handful” of people could have lasted past the “endless bedroom scene” without falling asleep—or leaving.
“Then what is the problem?” Hollande asked, allegedly.
A red line in the sand?
“Ze probleme,” said Obama, addressing his counterpart in his native tongue, “is that we’ve already let Winston Churchill appropriate our peace sign, and we’re not gonna let this one go so easy. I’ve been high fivin’ since I got back from Jakarta. The high five is as American as barbecued dogs—Michelle got these special, healthy hot dogs, stuffed with lobster and organic chard, for 4th of July.”
President Hollande is said to have then floated an offer to give up the high five, provided the U.S. was willing to take the quenelle along with it. The quenelle is also a controversial gesture. Critics say it is anti-semitic because it is an inverted Nazi salute; defenders argue that it is merely a comic, “recognizable signal of French resistance to Jewish power.”
Mr. Obama is reported to be discussing the French offer with his closest advisors.
Will he take the deal? Josh Earnest said he didn’t want to speculate. “If it’s really just something a comedian cooked up, then why not? As you know, the President has always been a ‘truth-to-power’ kind of guy,” Earnest speculated.
Many Americans are understandably concerned about the possible consequences of a conflict with a long-time ally, even an undependable one like France. “Did the President draw a red line?” Earnest was asked repeatedly.
“Do you even need to ask?” replied Earnest. “Practically the first thing President Obama did when taking office was to send the bust of Winston Churchill back to the British. Today, we are absolutely prepared to send the Statue of Liberty back to Paris if necessary.”