Posts Tagged ‘Arrigoni’

Arrigoni, Claire de Lune, La Petit Moulin Rouge, Chez Ma Cousine, La Petite Chaumiere

Friday 27nd April

After a long lie-in, I spend the afternoon with Lorenzo. In the evening we have, what I can only describe as a clandestine adventure into the shadowlands. It turns out that Lorenzo was educated partly in Rome and partly in Paris. He lived here for a while attending the Sorbonne and knows his way around the less obvious night spots frequented by what he calls the third sex. I am intrigued. We eat first in another Italian restaurant called Arrigoni located in the Passage des Princes in the middle of all the boulevards and not far from the Opera. An older establishment than Poccardi it is more distinguished because it is quieter and more refined and the food is just as good.

We start our excursion in Pigalle at the Claire de Lune in the Café Biard near Place Pigalle. I am astounded. Here in this modest little space are cramped dozens of men all in close proximity to other men. I notice a rather large sprinkling of military and naval types and a sprinkling of what Lorenzo calls ‘fairies’ or men dressed as women. At the back of the room sat sedately on a bench is an elderly matron who I gather is called variously Bijou or Mother and dispenses wisdom and jokes to anyone who listens.

Lorenzo says little but smiles and allows me to observe clutching me tightly as we drink glasses of wine together.

We move to a venue called Chez Ma Cousine, at the top of Rue Lepic (behind the Moulin Rouge). Here we have a rather raucous time drinking and dancing. It is full of a wide range of different people. But nothing is what it appears and it is difficult to deduce which of the bewildering array of glamorous women are real women. I am staring at one in particular sat opposite us who looks vaguely familiar and the recognition annoys me.

“What are you staring at?” He says in a loud feminine voice in English.
“You my dear. You are quite beautiful!”
“What do you expect mon cheri. I am the star of this place!” He says blowing me a kiss as he swivels around on the arms of a very dashing young man who winks at me with a big grin.
“You have no idea who I am do you?”
Suddenly the voice registers.
“Julian! Oh my oh my. Fancy seeing you here….”

We are soon introduced by Julian (who is called Lucile) to many of ‘her’ friends. All had women’s names and all were equally glamorous. Although I have to confess some had not perfected the illusion as well as Lucile, who was wearing an expensive white satin gown from Patou along with some stunning diamond accessories.

“These are real diamonds you know.” Says Lucile.
“My companion, Emile is heir to a fortune. Not that that is particularly an issue since I am too!!!”

Lorenzo and I dance together and to my surprise he kisses me. No-one butts an eyelid. It is a difficult thing to understand, but I feel really good about it.

We are swept up by Lucile and his troop and descend on another nightclub called La Petite Chaumiere on the slopes of Montmartre which is a picturesque small cottage-like-building with a rustic front and windows covered in turkey red cotton. Inside the walls are decorated with cubist paintings and a pianist plays. The place is packed but the crowd mixed like La Petit Moulin Rouge.

Lucile tells us. “This is a little like a zoo here. We are usually on display to sensation seeking foreigners.”

I can see his point. Lucile and his friends are surrounding by dozens of other ‘fairies’ all wearing a miss-match of outfits with in array of kimono’s, Oriental outfits, lame gowns and other bizarre creations. All are playing up for an audience. It is as if we are in a strange play where performers and spectators mingle and interact in an impromptu fashion.

Our last port of call is the larger and more salubrious La Petit Moulin Rouge also called La Feuillee Montmartre, somewhere in Montmartre, but the location of which I forget. It is a nightclub and dance hall but a very smart one with a large capacity and a very mixed and sophisticated crowd. This is more to my liking! Lorenzo and I immediately take to the dance floor where our dancing is clearly admired.

Another big troupe of glamourously dressed ‘ladies’ arrive and make a bee-line for Julian who is clearly adored. “Mon cheri!” Says the leader of the pack, kissing him on both cheeks.

“Bonsoir. Vous avez un air radieux.” Says Julian to the beautiful tall figure.

“Gesmar, je vous presente mes amis Lorenzo and Fynes. Boys this is the famous costume designer Gesmar – Charles Gesmar – who creates all of Mistinguett’s wardrobe and his own. We all marvel at his conconctions.”

“Enchante.” Says Gesmar “J’aime votre danse. aimez-vous danser ?” He asks me.

Later, Lucile and Lorenzo tell me all about the other favoured locations including the dance halls in Rue de Lappe (near Bastille), the drag balls at the Magic City (which I am told take place during Lent) and the less salubrious Turkish baths. This is an entirely new vision of Paris to me.

It is getting late and we retire to the more plush surroundings of Claridge’s my mind agog at the sights I have seen.

Saturday 28th April

I am up late. Aunt Mimi and Sir Oliver have gone to Morocco on honeymoon. My family are returning home but Father is despatching me to Cannes and the Cap d’Antibes for a week to inspect progress on the rebuilding and decorating of our villa. Lorenzo is coming with me to keep me company


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