Is it any surprise that the Moulin Rouge opened the same year as the Eiffel Tower was constructed?
On October 6, 1889, the Moulin Rouge opened with instant success and ever since then, it’s been re-inventing itself a perpetual Parisian icon, in many ways as permanent a fixture as the Eiffel Tower.
The Moulin Rouge first became internationally famous for its wild, bawdy can-can girls who audaciously kicked up their heels – leaving little to the imagination.
It was an exciting era – with the Universal Exhibition of 1889 followed by the first screening by the Lumiere brothers of the 7th Art – Motion pictures in 1895. This was the new era of technology and the euphoria of a new decade.
The Belle Epoque, champagne and frivolity – that’s the image of Parisian society – that we refuse to let fade. Even after the darkest years World War I and followed by World War II ‘s occupied Paris, the Moulin Rouge made its comeback with gusto.
By 1955, the Moulin Rouge was back in business as a dinner cabaret – with French and American singers finding it hard to stay away from this extravaganza – a profusion of feathers and powdered flesh.
From Aznavour to Trenet and Elvis Presley and Sinatra, they all came to Moulin Rouge and lingered.
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They followed in the footsteps of earlier fans of the Doriss Girls like Toulouse Lautrec who painted the most famous of the can-can performers – Jane Avril and La Goulue.
How does the present-day Moulin Rouge compare with the the Moulin Rouge of the 1890s the 1920s or even the 1960s?
To begin with, it’s doesn’t come cheap. If you want to attend a Moulin Rouge show, it will cost approximately 90 Euros (which includes half a bottle of champagne) or you can reserve for dinner and show starting at 145 Euros (which also includes champagne).
In 1988, the Moulin Rouge celebrated it’s 100th year with the show Formidable, and this year 2007 it’s ‘Les Feeries’. Ever since 1962, each new show begins with the letter ‘F’ (out of sheer superstition or fetish).
Some may be disappointed by the Moulin Rouge’s ‘flossiness’. One of our visitors was expecting to see sawdust floors, but in reality, the Moulin Rouge was always meant to be a place where upper class Parisians could pretend to go slumming without really getting themselves mussed up.
In spite of this, Toulouse Lautrec amazingly captured the ‘sawdust’ esprit’, the grime, the oppressiveness of this so-called ‘bubbly and carefree’ era. He saw the scene with microscopic clarity where the tired flesh of overexposed women didn’t hold up well under the close scrutiny of the artist’s brush and pallette.
In direct contrast, the show you’re likely to see today will resemble Las Vegas more closely than Lautrec – but normally at least one nod is made to the can-can. You will get to see the famous feathers and costumes that have been designed by local talents throughout the eras . . . that in itself may be worth the price of admission.
The Moulin Rouge is one of a number of ‘feather shows’ in Paris. You can also go to the Lido on the Champs Elysees, Folies Bergeres, and the Crazy Horse (in my opinion, the Crazy Horse may be the most aesthetic and least kitschy).
What I love best about the Moulin Rouge is the famous Red Windmill which you can see as soon as you exit the Blanche Metro stop. You can look at the Moulin Rouge or the Red Windmill and even take a picture – and it won’t cost you a centime.
I recently talked to a Parisian who told me she had gone to the Moulin Rouge for the first time in her life – and she’s lived in Paris for well over fifty years.
“You know I always thought of it as a tourist place – but I really liked it!”
Bal du Moulin Rouge ®
82 boulevard de Clichy
75018 Paris – France
Téléphone / Phone : +33 (0) 153.098.282
Fax administration : +33 (0) 146.064.006
Fax réservation : +33 (0) 142.230.200