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Posts Tagged ‘Fouquet’s’

The Ritz Hotel, Ouistiti Roof Garden, New York Bar, L’Ours and Champs Elysees Restaurant

Sunday 1st July

Like any good visitor to Paris who is in the know, the only place to be on a Sunday night at this time of the year is the Ritz. Well, this is the official statement from Papa, hence his insistance that we all go. Instead of Fouquet’s all the family, along with Cecile, meet up in the Ritz bar for cocktails situated on the discreet side of the Ritz Hotel on the Rue Cambon. However, the ladies are not admitted into the main the bar, and have to sip their drinks in an adjoining annex. This of course is not appreciated by our lady-folk who are of the more strident kind. Without doubt, the bar we are in is one of the most select watering holes in the world and Frank Meyer who is in charge is the best-known drink shaker anywhere.

We collect the disgruntled ladies. “It is the last time I do that” says Mama indignantly.

We make our way into the stupendous Grill Room with its restaurant, gallery and dance floor for over 400 covers. The world that counts gathers here and it is regarded as the place for diplomats, foreign princes, newspaper proprietors, great dressmakers and American millionaires. Indeed, tonight there is a reigning King and Queen, the heir to a famous throne, the richest banker in the world, a once famous beauty who has just divorced a steel magnate, the head of the greatest jewellery house in the world, a dowdy old dowager, a French newspaper baron and a string of American woman who have married into French artistocracy including Princess de Polignac.

Papa tells Cecile “this is the habitat of international society. They talk a common language, wear a common livery, and they are as much at home here in Paris as in London or New York. But, they will only gather here together under this roof.” Cecile is looking a little uncomfortable. I do not blame her and squeeze her hand under the table.

It is a rarified atmosphere of polite extremes that I find very tedious. In fact it is rather stuffy. But our dinner is exceptional. Under M. Elles, the manager, the chefs have gained a great reputation and the cuisine features the best French dishes that include Poularde sauté au champagne, Caneton la bigarade (a succulent duck served cold with orange and porto jelly), Poularde Vendome (a stuffed bird with foie gras served with tarragon jelly) and vol-au-vont de sole Marquise.

Between courses we dance but there is no real excitement. I am relieved when we retire for coffee and cognac in the long narrow lounge. Afterward, Cecile and I, along with Millie and Henri, pop into the Ouistiti Roof Garden above the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees. This is our second visit to see the elegant dancing of Florence Walton and her husband Leo Leitrim, who have been dancing here for what seems like a long season. Their popularity is undiminished. Equally, this is a lovely venue and we have a marvellous time in an atmosphere much more to our liking.

Monday 2nd July

In light of poor Cecile’s ordeal at the Ritz, Millie and Henri and I decide to take her out to the Rue Daunou for a lighter, more enjoyable evening. We start by having a delightful informal dinner at Ciro’s (6 Rue Daunou). Like the Ritz this is also a society rendezvous but Millie says “this is the place where anybody who is anybody goes to see what everybody who is anybody is wearing. Far more interesting than the Ritz.”

Between the end of dinner and 11.30 when the supper-dancing establishments open there is only one thing doing in Paris and that is the cabaret underneath the famous the New York bar at 5 Rue Daunou.

Henri, who is a regular, tells us “It was first opened by Mrs Milton Henry wife of a well known jockey in 1911 but she sold out. During the war the bar became a favourite meeting place for war correspondents. In 1920 Mrs Henry returned, re-purchased the bar and installed Les Copeland at the piano as the cabaret.”

“Ah, we saw Les Copeland only the other night at the Jockey Club”
says Cecile.

“He is amazing and I used to come and listen to his singing all the time” continues Henri “anyway, in 1922 Maurice and Leonara Hughes arrived and opened the now defunct Clover Club in the Rue Caumartin. They brought with them two singers from New York’s East side – Tommy Lyman and Roy Barton. Lyman was not happy with his treatment by Maurice and so moved to the New York bar when Les Copeland quit. The boxer Jack Dempsey and Damon Runyon, who knew Lyman were then in town and made the place famous.”

“One particular night last year” says Millie “Irving Berlin was playing at the piano and Jenny Dolly was asked to dance. She persuaded Dempsey to join her and they performed a rather spirited jazz dance that they called Chicago’ on top of the piano.”

“I believe Mrs Henry has now sold the bar to a Scottish gentleman called Harry McElthone, who used to be head bartender at Ciro’s in London. I guess it may well be renamed Harry’s Bar.” Says Henri.

Moving on we visit L’Ours cabaret at 4 Rue Daunou. Small and intimate it is nevertheless luxurious and caters for a very ‘Daunou’ smart crowd. Tonight the cabaret features the dancing of a rather wonderful English couple called Sielle and Mills. I have heard of them but Millie knows a little more.

Robert Sielle & Annette Mills

“Robert Sielle is rather fun and cheeky. He had been in the Royal Flying Corps during the war and had also entertained the troops. After being demobbed he found he could dance, met Annette Mills and they formed an act. One of their first sets was at the Criterion Roof Garden in 1921 but since then they have performed on the continent as well as in London. Their great strength is that they can do the usual dances exceptionally well but they introduce an element of humour by clowning around.”

They are very polished and accomplished and their novelty numbers that included a golliwog dance were wonderfully funny. They introduced little bits of fantasy by wearing extra items of clothing over their evening clothes, which was particular effective. They remind me of Fred and Adele Astaire, but actually I think they are better.

Wednesday 4th July

Monty and Dolly Tree are in town and we meet at Fouquet’s. Dolly is very animated and orders champagne “we need to celebrate. I have become sole designer for Peron Couture. My first collection will be unveiled later in the year. I am so excited.”

She kisses both of us and we congratulate her effusively.

I have got tickets for Harry Pilcer’s Independence day fete at the new Champs-Elysees restaurant which opened a few weeks ago on 63 Avenue des Champs-Elysees. An array of French and American stars will appear as the entertainment with the proceeds going to blinded war veterans. So we continue our celebrations. We have drinks first in the bar in the basement which is the largest in Paris, and the most comfortable, before moving upstairs to our table.

The restaurant is owned and run by an American called Jules Ansaldi. Monty tells us “He was well known in New York and was considered to be one of the originators of the cabaret on Broadway. He first operated Louis Martin’s club then the Sans Souci and launched the careers of the dancers Maurice Mouvet, Joan Sawyer, Florence Walton and the Castles. After the First World War he ran the Grande Bretagne Hotel on the Rue Caumartin and in 1920 changed the restaurant into Maurice’s club.”

Dolly Sisters in Paris Sans Viole (Paris, 1923)

We have an amazing dinner and the cabaret is superb, the highlight of which was the dancing of Harry Pilcer and the gorgeous Dolly Sisters, who are still appearing in Paris Sans Viole at the Ambasadeurs. It is delightful to cause such a stir with onlookers when both of them take turns to dance with me afterward. I am indeed very lucky.

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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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