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Posts Tagged ‘Abbaye de Theleme’

Bois de Boulogne: Auteuil, Cafe d’Armenonville, L’Hermitage, Pavillon Dauphine,  Pre-Catalan, Clover Club, Jardin de Ma Soeur, Chateau de Madrid, Abbaye de Theleme

Thursday 21st June

The entire family has decamped to Aunt Mimi’s house in Paris and we are living in organised chaos with Mama as usual in charge of exactly what we are doing each day. Even Sir Oliver, Mimi’s new husband has acquiesced to her will for a quiet life.

Paris in June is blissful and offers racing to the turf enthusiast nearly every day. Usually there is wonderful weather and relaxing outdoor fun. We have missed the Prix de Diane at Chantilly on the 7th June and the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly on 14th June but we are here today for a family outing at Auteuil for the Grand Steeple. Auteuil is set deep within the Bois de Bologne on the western fringe of the city and it does feel as if we are in the country.

We loiter in the pesage or paddock, the exclusive enclosure with the viewing stands. And alternate watching the races with strolls behind the stands over the luxurious green lawns with decorative flower beds, popping into a cafe where necessary.  Here the fashion parade unfolds with beautiful women showing off all the latest couture.

“There is an air of restful refinement about the races in France, in contrast to the noisy race-tracks of England and the United States.” Says Aunt Mimi as we take an early lunch.

“Yes, there is also an absence of the “horsy” type so prevalent at Sandown Park or Epsom Downs.”
Adds Sir Oliver with a smile.

During the summer the races have become an institution with practically every American in Paris attending. Papa remind us that racing in France owes much of its prosperity to American sportsman.

“American methods of training and riding are scrupulously followed by the French. Most of the well known jockeys are Americans and most of the prominent owners are American too.” Papa says authoritatively as he waves at a very smart gentleman wandering around with a huge entourage. “Ah, he is a case in point. That is A.K. Macomber of California who married into Standard Oil and purchased the entire Vanderbilt stud including the latter’s breeding establishment at St Louis de Poissy.”

After a delightful day we drift through the Bois de Bologne along the Alle de Longchamps towards Paris. As Mama constantly remarks. “The Parisians have succeeded in turning the beautiful Bois into a  paradise of artisitic artificiality.”

Map of the Bois de Boulogne

Map of the Bois de Boulogne

Through tangles of undergrowth run driveways and equestrian paths and scattered within its leafy interior are not just several race tracks but a dozen or so restaurants and cafes that become the centre of the Parisian social scene and nightlife in the summer.This time – 5pm – is the fashionable hour for the Bois and every inch of the avenue is taken up with luxurious automobiles and elegant strollers. We stop at the small, confined but terribly Parisian Cafe d’Armenonville on the Paris side of the Bois near the Porte Maillot which is the smartest place for tea and fashionable for luncheon too. It is owned by the Mouriers, who also own the Café de Paris, Fouquet’s bar and the Pre-Catalan.Parisians love the ‘intimite’ of d’Armenonville and marvel at the agility of the waiters as they slip between the tables so discreetly.

As Mama says “Put a Parisian in a large room with plenty of space and he perversely refuses to come again… they love crowds!”

The place is awash with the rich and famous and well-to-do folk like us. There is the princess who has eleven dogs of various hues to match each gown she wears. On our left is an actress who wears a coat made from the skin of her pet baboon and there is also a famous demi-mondaine who is brunette in the daytime and blonde at night.

Millie observes “One will notice that women are wearing long diamond necklaces many with a marvelous emerald pendant as dignified protest against the too great influx of artificial jewelry that one sees far too often these days.”

When I observe how warm it is, especially dressed in my evening suit, Millie tells us an amusing story “Last year, when it was really hot there was a bit of a scandal when two men arrived with some ladies in evening dresses but they were wearing pyjamas!”

Each of the Bois venues has its special gala night where tout Paris is to be seen. It is important to be at each place on each successive night. Famous dancers or the latest cabaret favourite usually supply the entertainment. We rush back to Paris, change and freshen up for a quick cocktail before darting back into the Bois to the l’Hermitage on the far fringe of the Bois on the banks of the Seine near the Longchamps race-course and the Porte de Suresnes.

L'Ermitage Nightspot, Bois de Boulogne, Paris

L’Ermitage has a paradoxical rusticity and gives a pleasant sense of escape from the city with the Siene lapping lazily by along the edges of the terraces and the green stretches of Longchamps not far way. The gardens here are immense and create the illusion of being completely in the country.  It is quite lovely sitting outside having dinner and drinks in the gardens where the warm nights make it a delight to linger under the trees in the soft glow of admirably planned lighting.

The entertainment tonight is superb with the fabulous singing and antics of the Trix Sisters and the dancing of Charlie Stuart, Barry Bernard and Joan Pickering, who are all doubling up at the Club Daunou later in the evening.

On our return to Paris we stop off very late at the salubrious Pavillon Dauphine for champagne and a little more dancing. Situated at the bottom of Avenue de L’Imperatrice, and just inside the confines of the Bois within its own luxurious gardens, this stately building was erected on the site of a Chinese Pavilion in 1913 by the city of Paris. One gets an amazing view from here of the Avenue as it rises toward the Arc de Triomphe. Its initial purpose was to serve as a place to receive official delegations arriving by train at the Porte Dauphine station before being taken to State buidlings such as the Elysee. It is now a famous summer rendezvous for drinks, dinner and this season they have a superb cabaret headed by the wonderfully eccentric American dancer Nina Payne, straight from her performance at the Folies Bergere and the Dorel Sisters. However, I am told that for some it is too close to Paris!

Friday 22nd June

Tonight we are off again to another gala in the Bois this time at the Pre-Catalan. Cecile is joining us. As usual all the ladies are gowned beautifully with Cecile and Millie in creations by Paul Caret and Mama and Mimi in Lucile concoctions. The Pre-Catalan used to be a dairy farm and now has a charm all of its own with its gardens and flowers and lights in the trees. It is situated in the middle of the Bois in its own grounds of several acres not far from Autueil and the Lac Inferieur.

The restaurant is a handsome domed hall with an excellent dance floor and we alternate between the restaurant and the gardens until the cabaret begins with Moss and Fontana. They have been dancing in Paris for a while and once again perform their amazing repertoire with astounding dexterity.

We leave in two cars and on the way back to Paris, Millie and Henri and Cecile and I drop into the  Clover Club in the Rue Caumartin to see the dancing of Dina Harris and Ted Trevor before making our way to the Jardin de Ma Soeur or the Embassy not far at no.17 Rue Caumartin. Here there is a so-called  ‘Plantation night’ with Maurice and Leonara Hughes and Harry Pilcer. We have a delightful end to our evening and once again Leonara insists on dancing with me. She is quite lovely.

Saturday 23rd June

Tonight is a gala night at the favourite society place of the Chateau de Madrid in Neuilly on the edge of the Bois and we are all there. It is a scene is of fairylike enchantment. We take dinner and dance in a large garden under the trees with fairy lights and the beautiful architectural background of the chateau. It is like a private garden party, with the soft strains of a perfect orchestra, the glistening of hundreds of immaculate shirt fronts and the flashing of jewels in the subdued lighting.

Chateau Madrid, Paris

We observe many well known personalities including Grand Duke Boris who keeps a suite overlooking the garden, the ex-film star Pearl White and various other well known actresses plus a sprinkling of  society. However,  despite the presence of many celebrities we deduce that the audience is composed one third Ritz, one third tourist and one third business.

“Have you noticed” says Aunt Mimi “that the Bois is becoming a little passé due to the vulgarisation of the automobile making it far too aceessible. It used to be just all Ritz types here.” We all laugh.

“Well I have noticed something else” says Cecile diplomatically “that the lights in the trees and on the tables are cleverly arranged so that the light and colour over the faces of the dancers changes with every hour?”

Sunday 24th June

We are back at Auteuil for further racing and spend the evening in and around Montmartre ending up at the Blue Room of the Abbaye de Theleme and once again marvel at the dancing of Fay Harcourt and Harry Cahill and others in a new show called The Midnight Blue Cabaret. I am sure that Fay’s exquisite costumes are created by Dolly Tree.

Friday 29th June

Today is the Grand Prix at Longchamps and the Bois is swamped. It is a glorious day followed by another visit to the Hermitage de Longchamps to watch the assorted pleasures of Carl Hyson and his company that includes Peggy and Betty Harris.

Our conversation returns to observations of the Bois and its night-time inhabitants and we discuss the rather rigid set gala nights that each venue in the Bois stages in rotation.

Millie pontificates “The crowd of spenders like us are referred to as ‘Tout Paris” but we might as well be called ‘Tout Etranger’ because Americans and English form the majority, followed by South Americans and Spanish. The French lag behind the Italians, Swiss and Germans in number. Although there is a lot of spendthrifts there are not enough and so the restaurants in the Bois take it in turn to entertain them with these set gala nights.”

Aunt Mimi offers “Well, last year at the Pre-Catalan on a Friday night, the telephone boy told the head waiter that there as a call for a Monsieur Gaston Francois. ‘Who?” he asked. And then realised – ‘Ah you mean the Frenchman!”

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Ambassadeurs (Paris Sans Viole), Weber’s, Ouisiti Roof Garden, Acacias, Ciro’s, Club Daunou, American Midnight Frolics and Abbeye Theleme.

Friday 31st May

We are in Paris again with Monty and Dolly. Lorenzo is on his way back home to Italy and we have all been given special preview seats to see the Dolly Sisters debut. We settle in at Claridge’s since Aunt Mimi has a houseful of guests and meet Cécile and Gabrielle at Fouquet’s for cocktails. They both look ravishing as always. Cecile had taken Gabrielle to Paul Caret’s and they were wearing their purchases: Cecile in a sleeveless dancing gown of lemon georgette, belted with double silver ribbon strewn with rococo roses and Gabrielle in a low cut, backless taffeta gown with shoulder straps of flowers in soft glazed red and silver. They immediately start talking frocks to Dolly.

We wander down the Champs-Elysees to the Ambassadeurs Theatre, tucked just off to one side. Here in this small yet perfectly appointed theatre Oscar Dufrenne, presents the Dolly Sisters in a show entitled Paris Sans Viole or Brighter Paris, a title clearly used as a reflection of the success Brighter London was having at the London Hippodrome.

Programme for Paris Sans Voiles at the Amabassadeurs, Paris, 1923

The show, also includes the home grown talents of Edmonde Guy and Ernest Van Duren, and our friend Eddie Dolly, fresh from his London triumphs for C.B. Cochran, arranged all the dances for a troupe of 8 ‘London Boys’. The Dollies first appeared as American roses in ‘Let us make a pretty bouquet’ and then danced a rollicking mazurka in a scene depicting the Grand Prix in 1883 contrasted with the Grand Prix of 1923. Oddly they became negresses in Plantation Days, where, surrounded by growers and planting machines, they danced and sang plantation songs. By far their most important scene was Destiny, a sketch in four acts, where the Dollies dressed by Jeanne Lanvin, performed a melodramatic depiction of the life of an actress, tragically terminated by an acrobatic dance in a seedy nightclub. This apparently had been a big success in New York. The sisters alternately held the role of an artist who was reduced to the lowest ebb of misfortune by the spirit of evil in the form of a tempting man about town played by Max Berger. We are led to believe that the same woman is playing the character throughout and marvel at the quick change in costume until the couple appear together in the last act where the dying dancer sees the image of her happy girlhood being a reproduction of the first scene revealed at the back of the stage.

The Dolly Sisters in their Mazurka costumes

Monty was effusive. “Wow the Dolly Sisters were enchanting and they will have a formidable triumph on their hands I am sure.”

We take a short walk and go around the corner for dinner at Weber’s, 21 Rue Royale, regarded as a very salubrious place. It was started many years ago by an Alsatian who made a speciality of Alsatian beer and food and originally the clientele was mainly English but now it is more mixed

This is regarded as the traditional place for posh Parisians to sup after the theatre and this vast café-restaurant is crowded with actors, politicians, writers and mere theatregoers like us. We particularly like their boullabaisse which is highly recommended.

Monty then tells us about his recent interview with Edmonde Guy. “She is simply the most ravishing creature and during the run of Oh Quel Nu at the Concert Mayol earlier in the year she posed for the great Dutch painter Van Dongen. At one of his soirees she was introduced to a certain Giovanni Dal Terroni from Palermo, Sciliy. A man of means, he convinced her that he was producing a movie of Mascagni’s masterpeice called Cavalleria Rusticana which was to be staged near Palermo and he wanted her to play the part of Santuzza and pay her $1,000 per week and all expenses for her and her maid. It was a great opportunity. The only way to get out of her obligations at the Concert Mayol was to feign illness and so she vanished.”

By now we are all sitting riveted to his words.

“Arriving at Terroni’s country villa in Sciliy, he informed her that preparations for the picture were not complete and there would be a delay. She was suspicious. The next morning her maid saw Terroni beating a young servant girl and Edmonde came to the conclusion she had been lured into a trap. She decided to play Terroni at his own game in order to escape. She had lunch with him dressed seductively and he admitted his plan to abduct her because of his infatuation. Later Edmonde lured into her bedroom and managed to lock him in, while the mad did the same with the caretaker. They found the girl that Terroni had been beating who claimed he was a monster and she took them to the French consul at Palermo. Edmonde returned to Paris but the shock forced her to bed for 2 weeks. Then a package arrived from Palermo containing a diamond sunburst and a card that said “you are very clever mademoiselle.’”

After coffee we visit the Ouistiti Roof Garden at the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees and delight in the dancing of the wonderfully dainty Florence Walton and Leo Leitrim backed by the famous Red Devils band. I know she is familiar and Monty reminds us that she is American and the ex-wife of Maurice Mouvet.

“She only married Leo last December, and although no-one can compare to Maurice, he is a good partner for her. She always presents class and style in both her dressing and her dancing. And in my opinion she is far superior to Irene Castle in both personality and skill.”

We soon dart off to the other side of Paris to visit the Acacias, which is in essence a glorified hall in the rear of the Hotel Acacias at 7 Rue des Acacias near the Bois de Bologne. There is also a delightful garden very useful for the hot weather in the summer.

Programme for the Acacias Nightclub, Paris

Cecile tells us the history. “It was originally opened in the summer of 1921 by the legendary singer and dancer Maurice Chevalier and the comedian Saint-Grenier. Last year it was taken over by that rather obnoxious society social fixer Elsa Maxwell and the charming English couturier Captain Edward Molyneux. They re-modelled it as a Southern plantation and had Jenny Dolly and Clifton Webb as the opening act.”

“This year it has been taken over again by that wonderful American dancer Harry Pilcer.”
Says Gabrielle. “And, he has had the good fortune to get that incredible dancing team of Moss and Fontana for a 6 week season.”

“We saw them in London at Ciro’s in March.” Dolly says. “And they are magnificent.”

Monty adds. “M. Andre de Fouquieres known everywhere as the Beau Brummel of Paris society and dictator of its amusements, paid them a handsome compliment saying ‘with them it is the art of dancing seen in all its beauty’.”

Saturday 1st June

Tonight is Lorenzo’s last night and we all decide to go out with a bang and visit lots of places. First stop is Ciro’s for a spot of dinner, followed by the Club Daunou where we watch the exquisite dancing of Joan Pickering and Charlie Stewart. Dolly is entranced as are the other girls with Joan’s frock by Ninette of London in ecru lace on powder blue faille over flesh pink georgette.

“Its absence of adornment is its greatest charm which lends its wearer that coveted jeaune fille appearance.” Dolly tells us. “It is a masterpiece.”

She is so generous in her praise of others.

We move onto to the new American Midnight Frolics at 30 Rue de Grammont which is a Souer-dansant de luxe and like so many places of the same ilk, hailed as the most chic location in Paris. It is of course no better and no worse. The cabaret produced by the English-Australian Dion Titheradge has two sittings from 12.30-1am and 1.30-2am. We catch the former show. Joyce Barbour and Max Rivers (the latter we saw in Carte Blanche at the Court Theatre in April) dance nimbly and Tex McLeod is amazing replicating his act that we also saw at the Midnight Follies. There is also a West End chorus and other acts that include the singing of Winifred Roma.

“It was bright and snappy and not bad but not good.”
I say afterward. “The girls were gorgeous though…”

“The place was opened in mid-May and I thought here we go again, another attempt to imitate Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolics. I also remember reading an odd comment somewhere that said ‘it had a real American atmosphere of intimicy so necessary to the proper expression of the artists talents’. What? The only American in the cast is Tex and the chorus is from the West End.”

Our last call is the Blue room on the first floor of L’Abbaye de Theleme. The Trix Sisters have now left and there is a new show with favourites Fay Harcourt and Harry Cahill, who dance amazingly, the American Goode Sisters, Rene Gagan, Barry Barnard and once again, the glorious singing of Dora Stroeva.

We all retire to my suite at Claridge’s and order breakfast. Lorenzo has had a great send-off before his departure for Rome.

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Casino de Paris (En Douce), Café de Paris, Perroquet, Palace Theatre (Toutes Les Femmes), Marguerry, Le Canari and Abbaye de Theleme.

Friday 2nd March

On route from the Riviera back to London we stop in Paris. I love springtime in Paris! The city always looks radiant, full of life and so glorious. We all settle into Mimi’s house with ease. Monty and Dolly have decamped to Claridge’s just down the road. Almost immediately we are off out, minus Mimi, who has already disappeared in a cloud of furs, diamonds and perfume with Sir Oliver.

We meet Cécile, Monty and Dolly for drinks at Fouquet’s and on Mama’s insistance we all go to see Mistinguett in the second version of En Douce at the Casino de Paris, 16 Rue de Clichy. ‘Miss’ as she is known affectionately is fast becoming a national institution, even more so since the demise of Gabys Deslys. She is a lithe dancer and is amazingly glamorous in her array of costumes designed by Gesmar and Zig. She wears some astounding hats and one is a mountainous affair composed entirely of flower petals.

Mistinguett

Mistinguett

“She might look delectable my dears.” Says Mama with some force. “But it is well known that she is obsessive and ruthless, has huge tantrums, and fights like a cat.”

“Yes, apparently Miss was not amused at the contest last week for the shapeliest legs in Paris.” Monty tells us. “She lost to one of the dancers in her show, an American called Marion Forde, who is delightful by the way. Marion won two pairs of stocking daily for a year.”

The show was magnificent and also featured the talent of Dorville, Magnard, Jane Myro, the Tiller Girls and the Polish dancer Jan Oyra who also acted as choreographer. Two spectacular scenes stood out including ‘Les Pierres Precieuses’ that featured showgirls dressed as Coral, Topaz, Pearl, Ruby, Turquiose, Sapphire and black diamond and the fancy ‘Le Palais du French Can Can.’ The finale was spectacular. It opened with a series of semi-naked girls made to represent ebony, onyx, marble and jade statues on a  revolve. When the theatre was plunged into darkness the figures lit up in the dark due to the application of an amazing luminous flesh paint that had come from New York. When the light came back up and they moved aside and a vast glass talk containing thousands of gallons of water rose up and Mistinguett and the troupe dived in!

We have booked a large table to have supper at the incomparable Café de Paris at 11 Avenue de L’Opera, underneath the Cecle Militaire. Rich and famous Parisians and foreign visitors come here not just to eat well but to be seen and amuse themselves. It is a place of the highest luxury, quality and price with one of the best wine cellars in the city.

Monty is thrilled since he has not eaten here before and says “What Delmonico’s once was to New York and America, the Café de Paris is to Paris and France. It is legendary.”

“ I am told that if you dine here regularly you must have been born with a golden spoon in your mouth, but not just any spoon, a spoon filled with caviare.” Says Papa. “And I love caviare.”

“You may be sure that nearly everyone here is interesting either on account of what he or she has done or what he or she possesses.” Says Henri.

We all laugh when Millie says “Of course this place is essentially the resort of men who think in millions or of women who have no need to think about such matters at all.”

At any rate, the most beautiful clothes, the loveliest arms and shoulders and the costliest diamonds vie with the expensive food and sparkling champagne to make the Café de Paris one of the most attractive places in the world. But it is not a big place. In fact it is quite small. When you enter, in front of you is a large table laden with a buffet of delicacies and guests are ushered into the soft velvet seats against the walls to the right or left. The very manners of the waiters are calculated to soften the asperities of life. We eat well and sample the famous cold Poularde de Café de Paris and Homard Thermidor. We send our appreciation to the notable chef and proprietor M.Mourier, who also owns the Armenonville, and Fouquet’s, before we dance on the tiny dance floor to an appropriately small group of musicians.

Mama and Papa retire, but we all dash back to the Casino de Paris to visit Le Perroquet the elaborate nightclub and cabaret de luxe which is over the foyer. Cecile has been determined to get me here and says “It opened almost two years ago and  is regarded as the smartest dancing in Paris now.” She  sniggers and adds “This is where  la Femme du Monde in jewels and wraps, like me like to be seen.”

Le Perroquet, above the foyer of the Casino de Paris

Le Perroquet, above the foyer of the Casino de Paris

Leon and  Albert Volterra have created a delightful palace with incredible décor executed by Paul Poiret featuring walls painted with brightly coloured parrots hence the name of the place and fabulous hanging lanterns. Two negro Jazz bands – Louis Mitchell’s Jazz Kings and the Brune orchestra – play and Cecile tells me there is usually an excellent cabaret show that  comprises international dancers.

“Louis Mitchell is a tour de force.” Says Monty. “He was famous before the war of course in New York and he even played at the Piccadilly hotel, London in the summer of 1914. He has been the resident band at the Casino since 1918 but there are rumours that he is going to open his own rendezvous.”

“Oh look is that Pearl White?” Says Millie pointing discretely.

“Oh yes so it is.” Monty replies. “I have just done a story on her.”

“Do you mean the serial queen, Perils of Pauline and all that?” I ask.

“Yes indeed. She spent part of last year in Paris and starred in the show La Revue des Etoiles at the Casino de Paris but only for a few weeks before the theatre was burnt down. She is now back in Paris after a trip back to America. It is rumoured that she is going into a convent, the purpose of which is not entirely devotional, but to contemplate studying the language and to acquire a cultural etiquette and polish. You see the gossip is that she is engaged to the recently divorced Duke of Valombrosa, one of the wealthiest and most blue-blooded Italians who is a banker in Paris.”

We stay very late and by 2am it became so unbearably crowded it was difficult to dance and we decided to call it a night. Each lady receives a beautifully dressed poupee (doll) as a souvenir which is a charming touch as we leave.

Saturday 3rd March

After a leisurely day we go to see Toutes Les Femmes at the Palace Theatre at 8 Rue Faubourg. The theatre had been the Eden but was renovated and expanded by Oscar Dufrenne and Henri Varna and is now sumptuously appointed. This was their first show and it was making a big noise in Paris and was as spectacular and impressive as the Casino de Paris show. It stars Harry Pilcer who dances with Marcelle Rahna and Wyn Richmond, Mlle Polaire, Peggy Vere (who is married to the cabaret proprietor Oscar Mouvet) and Nina Myral.

Programme for Toutes Les Femmes at the Palace Theatre, Paris

Programme for Toutes Les Femmes at the Palace Theatre, Paris

The costumes by Guy Arnoux, Aumond, Zinoview, Jose Zamora and Vilpelle are stunning and the scenes include L’Eventail Magique (the magic fan) with a magnificent display of showgirls with fans,  a Mexican scene, a Roof Garden in New York, the exquisite  Murano Collection and the quirky ‘A Fine Meal’ where two diners – Pilcer and Richmond- are fed by showgirls dressed in creations by Paul Poiret as oysters, crayfish, salad with truffles, Foie Gras, La Bombe glacee, fruits, coffee and Benedictine.

“It is interesting that since Cannes, Wyn Richmond is being described as the second Gaby Deslys. Her dresess by Jeanne Lanvin were delightful. I think Cecile, Dolly and I should go shopping.” Says Millie.

For dinner we decide to visit the nearby Marguery Restaurant at 34 Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle, sited beside the Theatre du Gymnase in one of the busiest parts of the boulevards where the Boulevard du Temple joins the Boulevard Poissoniere. Rich and elegant with a wealth of ornamentation, sculpture, ironwork and mosaics and a glass terrace flowered like a conservatory, Marguery is divine. The cuisine is perfect and the wine good.  Of course, the world-wide fame of the sole Marguery, which is the most famous way for serving this fish, attests to the prestige of this ancient place. Henri tells us that the real gourmets have never deserted this excellent house and they are frequenting it even more.  All good comment for my restaurant column.

Like the Casino de Paris, the Palace Theatre also hosts an elegant night club called Le Canari, which, since the finale of Toutes Les Femmes featured the establishment, we are persuaded to visit and have a pleasant time dancing to the Continental Six.

Advert for Canari night-spot

Advert for Canari night-spot

However, we are all keen to get to the Abbaye de Theleme in Montmartre. The  Trix Sisters have established themselves as ‘the Blues Room’ with a cabaret featuring them singing and a numerous other guests particularly dancers. They are as wonderful as they were in London in Jack Hylton’s Cabaret Follies and the dancing of Flora Lea and Simonne Mirat  was also good. We remember Flora Lea from the Cabaret Follies as well.
Interestingly, the entire place is full of Americans.

“My oh my Monty. What is going on?” I ask in jest.

“The exchange rate I guess Fynes. But it is also a well known fact that Paris has become a wet suburb of a dry New York. One has to ask: what would happen to Paris and Montmartre in particular, if it were not for the foreigners who patronise it nightly?”

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Claridge’s, Clover Club, Grandy Teddy, Zelli’s, El Garron, Abbaye de Theleme, Washington Palace.

Friday 20th October

The next morning Mimi’s housekeeper makes a delightful English breakfast. Millie joins Monty and I. I have to tell you that Millie and Henri have their own family house in Paris but sometimes stay here.

“Do you really have to map out our nocturnal fun so precisely Millie?” I enquire nicely.

“Look” she says in a very matter-of-fact way “I am only doing what Mama has asked by keeping an eye on you. As long as you come to the gala at Claridge’s tonight I can report back that we had a good evening. What you do afterward is fine by me.”

“Oh you are an egg Millie” I squawk rather too delightedly. At least we do not have implement plan B which Monty and I hatched last night.

“Oh good’ says Monty “you see I interviewed a rather wonderful Spanish lady yesterday afternoon.” He says enthusiastically “… and I have been asked to see her performance tonight.”

“Oh we must come too. Who is it?” says Millie.

“It is the Spanish singer Raquel Meller. But alas, unusually they are ticketing her performances. I have only been given two tickets. Her shows are so popular she is sold out for the entire week.”

“I really want to experience La Tournée des Grands Ducs if we can too.”

“hmm” Millie replies “I guess you will be coming home as we serve breakfast tomorrow then?”

“Yes, I think we probably will” I admit.

Feeling much more relaxed, Monty and I take a stroll along the river Seine and around Le Jardin Tuilléres, have coffee and croissant and idle away the day talking.

That evening we go to Claridge’s for one of their popular Soirée de Gala dinner-dances. Millie has organised everything to perfection. Costumes arrive at 4pm. We change and then assemble for cocktails as our escorts also assigned by Millie arrive. Since I told Millie that Gabrielle is dull she has matched her up with Monty to his utmost chagrin. But I have the delightful company of Odette, who is an amazing dancer.

There are over 300 people assembled in the sumptuous restaurant and ballroom appropriately decorated to carry out the idea of Une Féte Chez Mephisto. We are all dressed in red and black or white and look very sinister and spooky. Dinner is a treat with equally spooky treats and Sherbo’s band played the latest Broadway music but focus on the foxtrots.

“They have the happy knack of keeping up with the times and are every bit as good as when they played in London at Ciro’s” says Monty.

There was also an Argentine orchestra led by Del Horno who dispensed the tango and a further jazz band. The cabaret is provided by the exquisite exhibition dancing of Jack Gavin and June Day and they were terrific receiving a standing ovation.

Millie tells us “this is Jack Gavin’s fourth season here. He crossed the Atlantic with Joan Sawyer in 1919 and created a great stir with the introduction of the Shimmy. They appeared at a benefit given in Paris by Mme Poincare and were personally congratulated by the first lady of France. They were immediately signed by Claridge’s.”

Monty adds “Last fall he was at the Embassy Club in London and then danced at the Negresco Hotel during the Riviera season. He has quite a following here and London. And I have to say June matches him perfectly”

June brings Jack over and introduces us. He is delightful, if a little full of himself, but then he is the star of the show I guess!

We dance for a while and after an hour or so, as the room begins to thin a little, Monty looks at his watch and announces “Millie I am afraid that Fynes and I will have to leave shortly.” We rush back to change at Mimi’s and get a cab to the Clover Club. We have good seats despite the crush and the atmosphere is electric in anticipation of Miss Meller’s performance.

Monty tells me a little about her. “She came from a poor family in Southern Spain and made her debut as a singer of risqué songs at the Arnao Theatre in the Parabello red-light district of Barcelona. She became an instant hit and appeared all over Spain. She made her Parisian debut in late 1919 at the Olympia and was brought to London by Albert de Courville to appear in Joy Bells at the Hippodrome in the summer of 1920. But although she got rave reviews she did not draw the anticipated large audiences.”

Raquel Meller

Raquel Meller

Suddenly the lights dim and Miss Meller walks onto the empty dance floor wearing a typical Spanish costume. She is incredible with a beautiful pale face, a tempting mouth and smouldering dark eyes. She begins to sing with a frail and delicate voice that is so emotive and haunting. She is mesmerising even though she sings in Spanish, and she is given a standing ovation. Before she sings her next song called El Relicario she has a slight hiccup with the backing orchestra and her temper flares.

“She is rather spoilt I think and I am told she can be quite temperamental as you can see…” whispers Monty with a titter.

We leave and pop over to the Grand Teddy or The So Different at 24 Rue Caumartin. Monty tells me that it is partly owned by the society party fixer Elsa Maxwell.  Here, Jenny Golder from the Folies Bergere is the star turn. Her performance well timed to follow Miss Meller across the street!

“She is English you know although born in Australia. For some reason everyone is confused about her origins” Monty tells me “probably because she swears in Italian, sings in English, gossips in German, drinks in Russian, behaves in French and explains it all in Spanish.”

Jenny Golder

Jenny Golder

She is an all round entertainer with a vibrant personality who can sing and dance, give impersonations and mingles a wonderful sense of humour with sex appeal. She is very clever and very funny.

We get into conversation with a gentleman who tells us where we ought to go on our tour. Monty agrees with everything he says. He is nothing short of polite but since he knows Paris like the back of his hand because of his job I think I trust him more! And, as I thought Monty turns out to be the perfect guide.

Just after midnight we head off up to Montmartre and our first stop is at Zelli’s bar, 16 Rue Fontaine which is a big raffish cavernous room lined with tables and packed to overflowing. “Joe Zelli is a rather happy, good-time Italian” says Monty “and since I am half Italian I should know all about Italians! He got his start running a restaurant in New York and then moved to London. He fought in the Italian artillery during the war and after the armistice catered to US officers at the original American bar at Tours. He made Paris his home and migrated from a nightspot on the Rue Caumartin to here. Some people think he is one of the most popular characters in Montmartre, while others think he is dubious and has a bad reputation.”

“Well it has got a great atmosphere but if you ask me I think this place is a little sleazy.” I say  “let’s face it the room is populated with a great many suspicious looking characters.”

“That is nothing out of the ordinary for places like this Fynes. The secret of Zelli’s success is due to his enormous stable of hostesses and gigolo’s. He has already made a fortune because he knows how Americans like to have their name remembered and his wife is French and she looks after the cash and the books!”

I am not that impressed by the band and the impossible crush prohibits good dancing. I cannot really believe why this place is regarded as one of the gayest places in Montmartre.

“Of course all us Yankees gravitate here”  says Monty “usually there is a good cabaret show in the typical international Parisian style. But not tonight seemingly.”

We move on down the street to the more palatable El Garron at 6 Rue Fontaine. This is a stuffy but smart place and is the lair of the Tango in Paris.

“This is owned and run by one of the Volterra brothers, who have their fingers in so many Parisian music halls and cabarets” says Monty “it is hugely popular with Argentines and South Americans.”

I prefer this place and we have a great time dancing to the excellent band.

At La Gaité Montmartroise or Chez Mariétte, formerly le Grand Vatel in the Rue Pigalle, we watch the dancing of the American Solange with the slogan Joy Jazz and Jollity. But we move on to the definitely rather jolly Pigalle’s on the Place Pigalle, which is a very smart establishment with two orchestras that play excellent music.

An advert for Pigalle's

An advert for Pigalle's

Our last port of call is the extremely popular and very fashionable at 1 Place Pigalle. “The Abbaye is the oldest of all the Montmartre supper places and was formerly a church. Do you know that before the war the waiters were garbed as monks?” Monty tells me.  We climb a stairway and enter a large hall brilliantly lit with lights and lanterns and decorated with flags in vivid spots of colour. The central dance floor was surrounded by horde of little tables all placed terribly close together. It was heaving with people even as we left at 5am.

Saturday 21st October

I forgot to tell you” says Monty at 4pm the next day as we had lunch nursing severe hangovers “the French call all the cabarets where you can dance ‘dancings’. Isn’t that kind of cute?”

“Lovely. In fact Millie told me about a super ‘dancing’ close by. We ought to go tonight.”

We take Millie and Henri and stroll to the Washington Palace at  14 Rue Magellan off the Champs Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe for a dinner-dance in a rather large and handsome ballroom that very clearly rivals that of Claridge’s. Fusella’s Orchestra is furnishing the music for the tangos and the Melody Six play the jazz numbers and it was marvellous. I am in great demand and dance for hours.

The entertainment between the dances was essentially Parisian in quality and excellent. But of all the acts the best was the comic dancers Billy Revel and the Parisian Lily Floriane were costumed as Apaches and danced a Valse Chaloupee (or in fact an Apache dance) and then did an amusing imitation of the American Camel Walk. Billy is English with an eccentric clownish style not lacking in character and has just started making a name for himself.

“He possess the art of being extremely funny without being coarse as only English mimics know” says Monty perfectly.

No more dancings tonight. I think we overdid it last night. 

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