Sin city has gone the way of all flesh, says William Stadiem
Source: Tatler / Paris
The Crazy Horse Saloon on avenue George V is indisputably one of the most politically incorrect places on earth. every £75 seat is taken. An erotic Folies Bergère. the Crazy Horse is a spectacular sexual vaudeville whose troupe of dancers have stage names like Lova Moor and Trucula Bonbon. They all look like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, with even better bodies, and’have more moves than the Karmasutra.
Founded in 1951 by Alain Bernardin, an impresario very much in the Bob Fosse/All That Jazz mould. the Crazy Horse is a temple of sex where virtuallyl every famous male chauvinist pig, from JFK to Picasso to Eddie Murphy, has worshipped. Even designers like Lagerfeld and Alaïa adore the place. Only in Paris.
When l was recently there, the Crazy Horse was packed. not with the expected Japanese and Arab high-rollers, but with rich Frenchmen and their wives. Sadly enough, the voyeuristic fantasies of the Crazy Horse are about as close to naughty sex as you‘re going to get in Paris these days.
Paris, wicked Paris, has gone chaste. ll’s hard to believe. Paris was the city of night where a beautiful whore beckoned from beneath every streellamp, where the mother all procuresses Madame Claude dispatched Vogue models to heads of state, where the housewife hooker of Belle de Jour wasn’t merely a Catherine Deneuve movie but a piquant fact of life. Paris’s whores were its key leitmotif, pan of the charm, the frisson. No, they weren’t good for you, but neither was foie gras. Now the whores are gone, and their absence is a sign that nothing very exciting is going on here. There are no new Hemingways, no Gertrude Steins, just a lot of ‘garmentos’ and bankers. lt’s not quitc the Omaha of Europe, but it’s not the Paris of yore.
What happened? Well, on the sex front, Madame Claude went to jail and was never replaced. The Paris authorities went bluestocking, banning the countless solicitation ads in Pariscope and other journals and forcing the few remaining escort services to use London numbers in the International Herald Tribune classifieds. Because of the fear of discase (which never seemed to stop the French before). and more likely, the fcminisation of the white-collar workplace, a new generation of prostitutes never emerged.
On the fabled rue St Denis, which gave us Irma la Douce, the Irmas are pushing 60 and still pushing. The once glamorous motorised Amazones who used to prowl the avenuc Foch and rue de la Paix in their Mini Coopers and miniskirts are now matrons in cover-up minks driving Mercedes. Unless one is into autoeroticisrn, the cars can’t compensate for the wages of sin and age, for the drivers have gone the way of all flesh.
lf commercial sex in Paris has become a grandmotherly crying game. the state of free love can best be reflected in the revelation that the late Robert Doisneau used hired models for his celebratcd photograph Baiser, Hofel de Ville. To bc sure, nothing can stir the romantic heart like a stroll along the Seine in thc shadow of Notre-Dame, as long as you ignore the McDonald’s across the quay, but if you’re looking for action, Paris is tame, and lame.
From cinq à sept, everyone is now on their computers. Afterwards, the nightclub remains Les Bains, but do you really find teenage Finnish models all that exciting? The in restaurant, Café Indochine, validated by the presence of Roman Polanski, seems left over from Eighties New York. There are lots of models and lots of boring young BCBG (bon chic, bon genre) bankers from the 16th arrondissement. Yawn.
One night at the genuinely Tuscan ‘pasteria’ Casa Bim, where l was genuinely thrilled to be seated across from Marcello Masuotanni and Catherine Deneuve, l got a hot tip that gcnuinc ancien régime decadence was to be found at a partouse, or orgy, club at 41 rue Quincampoix, near Beaubourg, which supposedly rocked from two till dawn and was patronised by movie stars and avant-garde artists having group sex with beautiful strangers in the night.
Excited by the prospect of the real Paris, I took a long nap, went for a late supper at La Coupole, where I was served frozen French fries (fresh potatoes have gone the way of fresh hookers) and went to ‘The 41’ with a game American girlfriend who also wanted to see what we were missing in Los Angeles.
The answer was nothing. Maybe it was an off night, but all we saw was a cavernous disco, populated not by Depardieu and Adjani, but by a crowd of un-chic fat women and skinny men in from the suburbs who were thereto see what they were missing out in Boulogne and Bougival. All leers where they saw us, these French bridge-and-tunnel people thought we were the movie stars. Still, l had to give them credit for wanting Paris to be Paris. Paris needs its whores, it needs its orgies, it needs some original sin. Otherwise, we’re all going to be taking our wives to the Crazy Horse, and the capital of l’amour toujours will become nothing but a sanitized architectural ghost town.