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08 November 2015

Le Carrousel and Madame Arthur: Part I: before 1945.

Part I: before 1945. 75, rue des Martyres et 40, rue Pierre Fontaine
Part II: 1945 – 1961. 40, rue du Colisée  et Juan-les-Pins
Part III: 1962 and after.  22, rue Vavin, and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45

75, rue des Martyres (map) et 40, rue Pierre Fontaine (map)

In 1861 the ballroom Sant-Flour Musette at 75, rue des Martyres, Paris was turned into the Brasserie des Martyrs which was patronized by the poet Charles Baudelaire. In 1871 it became the concert-café Divan Japonais. The painters Toulouse-Lautrec and later Pablo Picasso were frequent visitors, and the cabaret singer Yvette Guilbert became famous there, where she was sketched by Toulouse-Lautrec. One of her best known songs was "Madame Arthur" (a name that would later become that of the nightclub). In 1901 it became the Théâtre de la Comédie Mondaine.

In the 1920s and 1930s Parisian travestis were found at La Petite Chaumière, 2, rue Berthe beneath Sacré-Coeur, (run by Monsieur Tagada and where one could find Zigouigoui) and at Chez Bob et Jean where one could find the transformiste Jean D'Albret, and of course at the balls at "Magic City", 188, rue de l'Université, that were photographed by Brassaï in 1933.

The nightclub Chez Josephine, at 40, rue Pierre Fontaine, near the Moulin Rouge, was founded in 1926 by Giuseppe Pepito Abatino, a Sicilian former stone mason who passed himself off as a count, for his wife, the US dancer, Josephine Baker, and some years later the nightclub was renamed Carrousel de Paris. Through the 1930s it was a fashionable restaurant-nightclub and the likes of Baker, her sometime lover Violette Morris, Jean Cocteau, Colette, and later Edith Piaf were frequently seen there.

For masculine women there was the Monocle on Edgar-Quinet Boulevard in Montparnasse, and from 1938 Chez Frede (which managed to stay open during the German occupation).

Also in 1938 there was the club Le Binocle (named in homage to the Monocle), down a bleak alley close to the Moulin Rouge. Marcel Oudjman (sometimes Ouissmann or Wutsman), a Jewish pied noir from Algeria, was the owner; Floridor was the host; Zambelli was the featured performer. Le Binocle was known for its black musicians and female dancers, but the men preferred to dance together. Every month there was a big transvestite night when contestants dressed according to an announced theme: la Belle Epoque, 1880, and so on.  A jury, chaired by the popular singer, Mistinguett, elected the most beautiful transvestite, to acclaim from the audience. However the police closed the club after a year and a half, in the austerity period that preceded the coming war.

Oudjman survived the war working as a bartender.  He managed to avoid the mass roundups and deportation of Jews from Paris, especially that of 16-17 July 1942.


Part of this information is from Jacques-Louis Delpal's Les travestis, 1970, which is quoted in Foerster's Histoire des transsexuels en France. Apparently Delpal's book was quickly banned (see the FR.Wikipedia page). The book was translated into Spanish, but no other language, and has become a rarity. Foerster describes his book as "well informed but curious".

There are inconsistencies. Foerster quotes Delpal on Le Binocle but Delpal does not mention Oudjman by name. Foerster simply says that Oudjman arrived in Paris before the war and worked as a barman. Which raises questions about how he ended up as the owner of Madame Arthur as we will see in Part II. However Bambi (2012) specifies that he was the owner of Le Binocle.

Other Madame Arthurs:
  • There was Madame Arthur(Modesto Mangas), the major Spanish female impersonator during Franco's dictatorship.
  • Eduardo Gion made a documentary about Modesto Mangas in 2011 called Madame Arthur.
  • There was a 1967 Spanish film called Madame Arthur, directed by Carlos Serrano..
  • The Italian musical-comedy film, Totò di notte n. 1, 1962 lists a Madame Arthur as an actor (this is probably Modesto Mangas)
  • There was a male-run lesbian bar in Montréal called Chez Madame Arthur at 2170 rue Bishop, in the 1970s. There was a call for a boycott in 1974.  It is probably the bar featured in Marie-Claire Blais' 1978 novel Les nuits de l'Underground
  • There is a band called Madame Arthur
  • There is a play by Isabelle Sojfer, Le voyage de Madame Arthur, which features Yvette Guilbert. Trailer
  • Aaïcha Bergamin ran a short-lived club in Amsterdam in the 1980s.

The song by Yvette Guilbert (1865 - 1944) IMDB.
Madame Arthur est une femme
Qui fit parler, parler, parler, parler d'elle longtemps,
Sans journaux, sans rien, sans réclame
Elle eut une foule d'amants,
Chacun voulait être aimé d'elle,
Chacun la courtisait, pourquoi ?
C'est que sans être vraiment belle,
Elle avait un je ne sais quoi !
(Madame Arthur is a woman
That one talks  talks, talks, talks, talks about for a long time,
Without newspapers, without anything, without advertising
She had many lovers,
Everyone wanted to be her friend,
Everyone courting her, why?
It's that without being really beautiful,
She had a special something!)

Full text    YouTube

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