Guide Tour of Moulin-Rouge, Paris, France

Le Moulin-Rouge is a Parisian cabaret, best known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Founded in 1889 by the Catalan Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler. It is located on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, at the foot of the Montmartre hill, it is marked by the red windmill on its roof. Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. The club’s decor still contains much of the romance of fin de siècle France.

Throughout the past 120 years or so, Le Moulin Rouge has striven to meet the ever changing demands of popular culture, by playing the role of extravagant host to many of the most infamous and prestigious singers, dancers and entertainers to have ever graced the world with their presence. Integrating some of these acts into the cabaret show itself culminates in a glamorous collaboration of music, drama, humor and, of course, shock value.

The Moulin-Rouge displays “Dance ball, entertainment, varieties”, very different from the other mills of the Butte Montmartre, had the essential vocation of being the sign of the establishment. Designed by Adolphe Willette, it was the first electrified building in Paris. Its immediately recognizable shape and color have made it one of the emblems of Paris.

Le Moulin-Rouge is a revolutionary room architecture that allowed rapid changes of scenery and where all the audiences mixed. Festive evenings, with champagne, where you dance and laugh a lot thanks to humorous attractions that change regularly, such as the Pétomane. Seated in the vast auditorium (redesigned by the fashionable architect Henri Mahe in the late ’50s), and the renowned troupe of captivating dancers, recruited from around the globe, exhibit a stunning display of choreography.

Since its inauguration in 1889, the revolutionary Bal du Moulin Rouge has continued to attract the acclaim of local, global, celebrity and, even royal, audiences, not least because it is the birthplace of the French Cancan. This notoriously raunchy and highly energetic style of dancing still remains an iconic feature of its cabaret today. The Moulin-Rouge is a place loved by artists, the most emblematic of which is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. His posters and his paintings ensured the Moulin-Rouge a rapid and international notoriety.

Montmartre’s famous cabaret became a place where everyone could have their taste of entertainment. The Moulin Rouge was France’s very first popular ballroom where partygoers could eat, drink, dance, watch operettas and shows, all without any regard for social class or standing. Fun champagne-filled evenings in front of the performers in Féerie are guaranteed to delight and amaze.

The Moulin Rouge was also where theatre arts and night-time pleasures combined. You may well see the shadow of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, who found inspiration in both the audiences and the performers of the Moulin Rouge. Whilst in-keeping with the styles of the original creators of the Moulin Rouge Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, the cabaret still keeps a fresh and modern take on the original music hall style.

The inventiveness of this legendary Parisian institution, attributed to its consistent success at expanding services, like the addition of a pre-show dinner from 1959 that is currently prepared by the prominent Maison Dalloyau, which offers a wide choice of champagnes and themed menus such as the Toulouse-Lautrec or Belle Epoque. Major corporate functions, fashion shows, product launches, music videos, charity events and Le Moulin Rouge’s very own store have also been introduced.

The Belle Époque was a period of peace and optimism marked by industrial progress and a particularly rich cultural abundance. The Universal Exhibitions of 1889 (celebration of the centenary of the French Revolution and presentation of the Eiffel Tower) and 1900 are its symbols. Japonism, artistic current of Eastern inspiration with for brilliant disciple Toulouse-Lautrec, is with its apogee. Montmartre, in the middle of an increasingly gigantic and depersonalized Paris, has managed to retain the atmosphere of a bucolic village.

Insouciance, Lightness and Joie de Vivre… Here are three words that could best characterize this unique period in the history of France. A moment of respite between two wars, a period of transition between two centuries, where social barriers are erased, where industrial progress gives everyone the hope of living better, in a particularly rich cultural abundance and where one have a lot of fun.

The bourgeois slum, popular culture is honored in a joyful disorder full of gaiety and vitality. In this context conducive to artistic creation, literary circles come and go through encounters, while painters and illustrators are particularly inspired by this cheerful atmosphere, sometimes outrageous but full of fantasy, breaking with the rigidity of classicism. in force.

At the heart of this effervescence, the Butte-Montmarte is an emblematic place. In the middle of an increasingly gigantic and depersonalized city, Montmartre cultivates its village spirit, a large family bucolic aspect with the harvest. At the end of the 19th century, there were two kind of people who came to montmartres: those seeking a festive mood and a brief escape from the hustle, bustle and pollution of the city center; and the artists who came there to seek the quality and the moderate rents.

In 1891, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was inaugurated with great fanfare. Covering the Butte Montmartre, the cohabitation between this holy place and its more sulphurous flanks gives an additional cachet to this high place of Parisian life. Marginals, artists and acrobats continued to frequent cabarets, music halls and ever-increasing numbers of cafés, while bourgeois, aristocrats and demi-mondaines, attracted by nocturnal pleasures, took up their habits there.

The café-concerts became the very symbol of this social and cultural mix. workers, artists, bourgeois and aristocrats meet at the same table in a joyful atmosphere of celebration and frivolity. Among these artistic cabarets, some will remain famous: the Chat Noir, with its rich decorations made by Caran d’Ache, the Mirliton, the Folies-Bergère, the Moulin Rouge… We listen to the anti-conformist songs of Aristide Bruand, cantor of marginality, prostitutes, the unemployed and a whole “little people” hitherto despised by artists.

October 6, 1889, the Moulin-Rouge is inaugurated at the foot of the Montmartre hill on the site of the former Bal de la Reine Blanche, a date judiciously scheduled the day after the last night party before the annual closing of the Jardin de Paris on the Champs-Élysées operated by the same owners and whose regulars will meet in the new establishment at place Blanche.

Its creator Joseph Oller and its director and partner Charles Zidler are formidable businessmen, who know the tastes of the public. The objective is to allow the richest to come and slum in a fashionable district, Montmartre. The extravagant place – the garden is decorated with a gigantic elephant – allows all populations to mingle. Small employees, residents of the Place Blanche, artists, bourgeois, businessmen, elegant women and passing foreigners rub shoulders there. Nicknamed “The First Palace of Women” by Oller and Zidler, the cabaret quickly became a great success.

Early years
The first years of the Moulin-Rouge were marked by extravagant shows, inspired by the circus, and attractions that have remained famous such as the Pétomane. Moulin-Rouge organize concerts balls every day at 10 p.m. Laughter is an integral part of the Moulin-Rouge, a hilarious laugh with spasms, which put the room in “convulsions”.

In 1900, from the 5 continents, foreigners were attracted by the Universal Exhibitionand flock to the “Moulin rouch”. The same, returned home, made Paris the modern Babylon, the capital of pleasures and “little ladies of Paris”. In all the capitals then sprouted like mushrooms “Moulins Rouges” and “Montmartre” that imitation and free interpretation made resemble not Babylon but rather Sodom and Gomorrah. The last ball at the Moulin-Rouge takes place on November 29, 1902. After that it turns into a concert theatre.

19 April 1890: 1st review, “Circassiens et Circassiennes”.
26 October 1890: the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, who on a private visit to Paris, booked a table to see this quadrille whose reputation had already crossed the Channel. Recognising him, La Goulue, with her leg in the air and her head in her skirts, spontaneously called out “Hey, Wales, the champagne’s on you!”.
1891: La Goulue: Toulouse-Lautrec’s first poster for the Moulin Rouge.
1893: The “Bal des Quat’z’Arts” caused a scandal with its procession of a nude Cleopatra surrounded by young naked women.
12 November 1897: The Moulin Rouge closed its doors for the first time for the funeral of its manager and cofounder, Charles Zidler. Yvette Guilbert paid him homage saying, “You have the knack of creating popular pleasure, in the finest sense of the word, of entertaining crowds with subtlety, according to the status of those to be entertained”.
1900: visitors from around the world, attracted by the Universal Exhibition, flock to the “Moulin Rouch”. This gave Paris a reputation as a city of decadent pleasure. In many other countries imitation “Moulin Rouges” and “Montmartres” sprang up.

January 1903, the Moulin-Rouge reopens its doors after renovation and development work carried out by Édouard-Jean Niermans, the most Parisian of the architects of the Belle Époque. First aperitif concert, where the elite of the elegant world meet for a dinner show in a setting even more beautiful and more comfortable than anything that exists.

Until the First World War, the Moulin-Rouge was transformed into a veritable temple of operetta. The shows follow one another: “Voluptata”, “La Feuille de Vigne”, “Le Rêve d’Egypte”, “Shut up, you’re maddening me”… and many other magazines with titles each more evocative than the other. The Moulin-Rouge was destroyed in a fire on February 27, 1915. It was not until 1921 that reconstruction work on the Moulin-Rouge began.

3 January 1907: during the show le Rêve d’Egypte, Colette exchanged kisses that showed her links with the Duchess of Morny. Deemed to be scandalous, the show was banned.
29 July 1907: first appearance of Mistinguett on stage at the Moulin Rouge in the Revue de la Femme. Her talent was immediately obvious. The following year she had a huge success with Max Dearly in la Valse chaloupée.
Mistinguett was born in poverty and had an undeniably quick wit. She wanted to build her own life and said “the poor suburbs, it’s not enough just to want to get out. I had a talent: life. All the rest remains to be done, to be thought about. I couldn’t allow myself just to be a beautiful animal, I had to think of everything”. A peerless businesswoman, she first listened carefully then captivated. She lived wholly for her art, and toured Europe and the United States.
9 April 1910: A former lady-in-waiting to the Empress Eugénie attended a showing of the Revue Amoureuse at the Moulin Rouge. She was so enchanted by the faithful recreation of the ceremony for the return of the troops from Italy that she could not stop herself from calling out “Long Live the Empress!”
27 February 1915: the Moulin Rouge was destroyed by fire.
1921: The rebuilt Moulin Rouge reopened.

“Mistinguett” years
After the war, it was Francis Salabert who took charge of the Moulin-Rouge. A businessman more than a showman, he entrusts Jacques-Charles, the number one reviewer of the time, with the task of reviving the colors of the cabaret. The Moulin-Rouge then took on new impetus, thanks to stars such as Gina Palerme, Mistinguett, Jeanne Aubert and Maurice Chevalier, as well as the presentation, for the first time in Paris, of American revues with the Hoffmann Girls.

In 1923, Raphaël Beretta, composer and conductor who directed the Folies Bergère, the Olympia and the Casino de Paris proposed to restore the music hall of the Moulin-Rouge in a large building. The Mill rises in the middle of the facade supported by a round part decorated in the upper part with oval skylights.

Gesmar, 20, becomes a decorator. His drawings and models will remain permanently associated with the image of the Moulin-Rouge. Jacques-Charles and Mistinguett are at the origin of creations that have become legendary: “la Revue Mistinguett” (1925), “Ça, c’est Paris” (1926) and “Paris qui tourne” (1928).

After Mistinguett
At the Moulin-Rouge, Mistinguett created many songs that have become eternal, including Valencia, Ça, c’est Paris, Il m’a vu nue, On m’suite, the latter with Jean Gabin. Pierre Fouchet becomes director of the establishment, he calls Jacques Charles who becomes artistic director and Mistinguett who becomes “co-director” with her partner Earl Leslie and director of the sewing workshop.

In 1929, Mistinguett retired from the stage and left the Moulin-Rouge, whose 1,500-seat theater became one of the largest cinemas in Europe with opening acts by Music Hall artists. The review of “Lew Leslie’s Black Birds”, performed by a troupe of one hundred artists of color, accompanied by the Jazz Plantation Orchestra, occurs at the Moulin-Rouge between June and August 1929.

The old ballroom survived and was transformed into an ultra-modern nightclub in 1937. That same year, the Cotton Club, which was all the rage in New York, performed at the Moulin-Rouge, as did Ray Ventura and his college students. Between 1939 and 1945, the Second World War interrupted the effervescence of the Moulin-Rouge, which became a dance hall, the Robinson Moulin-Rouge.

1929: Mistinguett retires from the stage and leaves the Moulin Rouge.After her departure, the ballroom is transformed into the most ultra-modern Night Club of the time.
June – August 1929: the revue Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds, starring jazz singer and Broadway star Adelaide Hall, with a troop of a hundred black artists accompanied by the Jazz Plantation Orchestra, opens at the Moulin Rouge and becomes the hit of the season.
1937: the Cotton Club, all the rage in New York, is put on at the Moulin Rouge; Ray Ventura and his Collegians also appear.
1939–1945 Second World War. The German Occupation Guide aryien counts the Moulin Rouge among the must visits in Paris. Its famous stage shows continued for the occupation troops, which are mentioned in various autobiographies of German officers, such as Ernst Jünger, Gerhard Heller and others.
1944: a few days after the liberation of Paris, Edith Piaf, who had been a frequent performer at German Forces social and bordello gatherings during the Second World War, and had been considered a traitor by many, performs again at the Moulin Rouge, with Yves Montand, a newcomer chosen to appear with her.

Post war
June 22, 1951, Georges France, known as Jo France, founder of the Balajo, acquires the Moulin-Rouge and undertakes considerable renovation work. He entrusted Henri Mahé, one of the most fashionable decorators, and the architects Bernard de La Tour d’Auvergne and Marion Tournon-Branly with the layout of the new room. Dance evenings, attractions and the famous French cancan are back at the Moulin-Rouge.

Between 1951 and 1960, famous artists followed one another including Luis Mariano, Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, Line Renaud, Bourvil, Fernand Raynaud and Lena Horne. The famous French Cancan, always present, was soon choreographed by Ruggero Angeletti in 1955. Doris Haugfounded the “Doriss Girls” troupe at the Moulin-Rouge in 1957; initially 4 in number, there are now 100, including 40 on stage.

Two years later, the Moulin-Rouge is being transformed with the creation and fitting out of a new kitchen area to offer an increasingly international clientele a “dinner-show” with a gastronomic menu and magazines that will acquire a worldwide reputation. At the beginning of 1960, the “Japanese Review” created the event. Entirely composed of Japanese artists, the magazine launched kabuki in Montmartre.

In 1962, Jacki Clérico succeeded his father by taking over the management of the Moulin-Rouge. It’s the beginning of a new era: enlargement of the hall, installation of a giant aquarium and the first aquatic ballet. The “Cancan” magazine was designed by Doris Haug and Ruggero Angeletti in the same year. The music for the revues performed from 1963 to 1983 was composed by Henri Betti.

22 June 1951: Georges France, called Jo France, founder of the Balajo (rue de Lappe, Paris), acquires the Moulin Rouge and starts major renovation work. He gives architects Pierre Devinoy, Bernard de La Tour d’Auvergne and Marion Tournon-Branly the task of improving and fitting out the new auditorium. The décor envisaged by Jo France and largely realized by Henri Mahé, one of the most fashionable designers of the day, has lasted and is still in place.
The evening dances, the acts, and the famous French cancan are back at the Moulin Rouge.
19 May 1953: the 25th “Bal des Petits Lits Blancs”, organised by the novelist Guy des Cars, takes place at the Moulin Rouge in the presence of the French President, Vincent Auriol, and it includes, for the first time on a European stage, Bing Crosby. The evening attracts 1,200 artists and stars from around the world, including Josephine Baker who sings “J’ai deux amours”.
Between 1951 and 1960, a succession of famous artists appears: Luis Mariano, Charles Trénet, Charles Aznavour, Line Renaud, Bourvil, Fernand Raynaud, Lena Horne.
1955: Jo France transfers the Moulin Rouge to the brothers Joseph and Louis Clérico who already own Le Lido. Jean Bauchet becomes Manager. The famous French cancan is still performed, soon to be choreographed by Ruggero Angeletti.
1957: Doris Haug creates the “Doriss Girls” troop at the Moulin Rouge. Initially four girls, the troop has eventually grown to sixty.
1959: the Moulin Rouge is transformed with new kitchens.
1960 The Revue Japonaise, entirely composed of Japanese artists, launches the Kabuki in Montmartre.
1962: Jacki Clérico, son of Joseph Clérico, takes control of the Moulin Rouge. It is the start of a new era: Enlargement of the auditorium, installation of a giant aquarium, and the first aquatic ballet
1962: Revue Cancan, devised by Doris Haug and Ruggero Angeletti.
Since 1963 and the success of the Frou-Frou revue, out of superstition Jacki Clérico chooses only revue titles that start with the letter F. Naturally, the famous French cancan is performed at every revue.
7 September 1979: the Moulin Rouge, again the centre of Paris night life, celebrates its 90th birthday. On stage, for the first time in Paris, Ginger Rogers is surrounded by various stars including Thierry Le Luron, Dalida, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Claude Brialy, George Chakiris, the Village People, Zizi Jeanmaire.
23 November 1981: the Moulin Rouge closes for one evening to present its show to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
4 February 1982: one-off show with Liza Minnelli.
3 July 1984: gala with Dean Martin.
25 September 1984: gala with Frank Sinatra.
1 December 1986: the world’s most famous classical dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov, created an original ballet by Maurice Béjart at the Moulin Rouge.
20 February 1988: Although the original building had burned down in 1915, the Moulin Rouge turns 100. The premier of the revue Formidable is a “Royal Variety Performance in Paris”, a prestigious official event in Britain attended each year in London by a member of the Royal Family. For the second time, the show took place in France, at the Moulin Rouge. Presided over in 1983 by Princess Anne, on 20 February 1988 Prince Edward was the guest of honour.
Spring 1989: one-off performance by the Moulin Rouge in London before the Prince and Princess of Wales.
6 October 1989: Centenary gala with Charles Aznavour, Lauren Bacall, Ray Charles, Tony Curtis, Ella Fitzgerald, Gipsy Kings, Margaux Hemingway, Barbara Hendricks, Dorothy Lamour, Jerry Lewis, Jane Russell, Charles Trénet, and Esther Williams.
1994: Cartier gala in aid of the Artists’ Foundation against AIDS with a private concert by Elton John.
1995: Lancôme gala – launch of the perfume “Poème” with Juliette Binoche. Private concert with Charles Aznavour and Jessye Norman.
14 November 1999: last showing of the Centenary revue Formidable, seen by more than 4.5 million spectators between 1988 and 1999.
23 December 1999: first showing of the new revue Féerie.
24 May 2008: soloist dancer Aleksandar Josipović was master of ceremonies at the 53rd Eurovision Song Contest
February 2009: for the Year of France in Brazil, and as part of the Rio Carnival, the Moulin Rouge is produced on Copacabana Beach.
13 January 2013: Moulin Rouge owner Jacki Clérico dies.
10 August 2014: Mistress du ballet Moulin Rouge since 1957, founder of the Doriss girls (Doris Haug) dies.
6 October 2014: Moulin Rouge celebrates its 125th anniversary.

In Popular culture
Laurent Ruquier recorded until June 2014 at the Moulin-Rouge his programs “We tried everything, We didn’t lie down, We didn’t say everything and We only ask to laugh about it”. Other TV shows have also been recorded there: Panic in the headset by Frédéric Lopez for France 2 and The night belongs to us by Mustapha El Atrassi for Comédie! and NRJ. Mystery at the Moulin Rouge is a French television movie directed by Stéphane Kappes and broadcast for the first time onJune 10, 2011on France 2.

The construction of the Moulin-Rouge is re-written by Jean Renoir in French Cancan (1954). A 1964 Italian musical starring Franco and Ciccio, titled Due mattacchioni al Moulin Rouge, was set there. A scene from the film Coco (2009) is shot at the Moulin Rouge and Moulin Rouge is an American-Australian musical film released in 2001. The Moulin-Rouge is represented in the American cartoon Anastasia (1997).

The Moulin Rouge is a recurring landmark in songs about Paris. It has been sung by André Claveau, Percy Faith, Juliette Gréco, Les Compagnons de la chanson and many others. He is the central subject of the musical Moulin Rouge! The Musical directed by Baz Luhrmann with a libretto by John Logan. The first presentation took place on July 10, 2018. In 2001, the Moulin Rouge was mentioned in the single Lady Marmalade by the quartet Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mýa, and Pink, when the title was used as the soundtrack of the homonymous film.