Paris' motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur (tossed but not sunk)
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
Part III: 1962 and after, 22, rue Vavin (map) and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45 (map)
Le Carrousel reopened less than a year later at 22, rue Vavin, which is a prestigious address between Montparnasse and the Jardin de Luxembourg, but it was a smaller place and with an orchestra of only four musicians.
Police regulations were less enforced, and artists were allowed to mingle with the customers. There was no longer space for organized acts such as had been done before. There were now several numbers interrupted by dancing, but no finale. The costumes were less impressive, and striptease acts were introduced, and eventually became the majority of the program. This approach was successful, but 15 years later it was becoming tired.
|Madame Arthur, Amsterdam by Jon Lister|
Oudjman also opened a lesbian/FTM cabaret, Elle et Lui, next door on rue Vavin, where even the waiters dressed as men, and women stripped for a female audience. They had a common backstage with Le Carrousel. Le Carrousel artists appeared at Elle et Lui , but rarely the opposite, except that star male impersonator Micky Mercer played both clubs.
The general practice was that a performer started at Madame Arthur where Madame Germaine made the selection, and only the best performers moved on to the Le Carrousel. An exception was Manon (Jacquie Sarduy) who worked at Madame Arthur from 1959, but had a bad reputation at Le Carrousel, and did not work there until meeting Monsieur Marcel personally in 1969. Exceptions were also made for foreign performers who arrived with a reputation.
The exchange of artists between Madame Arthur and Le Carrousel, and the proximity of Elle et Lui, enabled a community that shared advice and support, and exchanged addresses of doctors and electrolysists. Hormones were available in pharmacies without a prescription at that time. Although of course there were also jealousies and rivalries among the performers.
They also shared information with some customers: Renée Richards visited Le Carrousel in the mid 1960s and requested to speak with Bambi:
"She was touched, but she played her role without apology and with a clear sense of style. When I explained that I wanted to have the operation, she didn't bat an eyelash in spite of my unpromising appearance. On the contrary, she was supportive. After looking me up and down she commented that my body seemed plastic enough to accept the change and provide me with an acceptable vehicle in which to live out my life as a woman. This was encouraging since she had been through the experience and her word stood for something. At least I felt that I was talking to someone who knew something. She provided me with the names of people who could provide the hormones for the long process of chemical preparation necessary before surgery could be possible. She stressed the necessity of electrolysis ... . Finally, she confirmed that the necessary surgery was being done regularly at a facility in Casablanca. Our conversation lasted for about twenty minutes and was packed with information. I was left with the feeling that it was all within reach, that it could be done if I wanted it badly enough." (Second Serve: 148)Le Carrousel also toured five continents, bringing an inconceivable example to countries where transgender surgery was not at all available.
Coccinelle, Bambi and Capucine were in various French and Italian movies in the 1960s, most noticably Alessandro Blasetti's Europa di notte, 1959, which includes a segment of Coccinelle performing at Le Carrousel.
Europa di notte led to Le Carrousel being invited to do a Japanese tour in 1963, and again in 1964 and 1965. The discussions in the Japanese media where the performers were referred to as "buru boi" (blue boys) led to a break with traditional Japanese female impersonation, kabuki and gei boi, and Japanese Buru boi started taking hormones and considering surgery. The atmosphere is captured in Taiwanese author Wu Jiwen's "Rose is the past tense of rise" where Seikei, working as a gei boi in an Osaka bar, sees the Carrousel show and then visits a member of the troupe in her hotel room where she is given Dr Burou's card, and commits to gender transformation.
Unfortunately in 1966 Sonne Teal and four other members of the Le Carrousel Japanese tour died in a freak accident flying over Mount Fujiyama.
In the 1970s international stars such as Rogéria (who had met Coccinelle when she was on tour in Rio de Janeiro) and Yeda Brown were contracted to appear at Le Carrousel.
Le Carrousel closed in 1985 when Marcel Oudjman retired.
Madame Arthur closed as such in 1994, but re-opened under different management. It shared the address with Le Divan du Monde, which features world music. A recent listing for Madame Arthur from ParisInfo was “Spectacle de transformistes (Mylène Farmer, Betty Boop...) dîner-spectacle à 20h30 = 85€, 125€ et 195€ (boissons comprises) spectacle seul : 36€ (avec une consommation)”. It has recently closed, and the entrance is covered with fly-posting and grafitti.
The original Carrousel de Paris at 40, rue Pierre Fontaine is still in business, although may be closing soon.
40, rue du Colisée is now a jeweller's.
22, rue Vavin is now a real estate agency.
Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45, Amsterdam is now the Heineken Music Hall.
Bambi writes: On ne peut nommer tout le monde. Je n’y parviens même pas dans mon livre «Carrousel, ou J’inventais ma Vie 3». A partial list of the performers is:
Coccinelle (Jacqueline Dufresnoy), April Ashley, Bambi (Marie-Pierre Pruvot), Peki d'Oslo (Amanda Lear), Guilda, Sonne Teal, Holly White, Rogéria, Les Lee, Zaza, Bettina, Rita del Oro, Capucine, Fetiche, Dolly, Caprice, Karina, Miriame, Wanda Paris, Hulla, Fifi Pervenche, Violetta, Rubis, Kiki Moustic, Zarah, Pussy Katt, Dominot, Yeda Brown, Colette Berends, Poppy Cooper, Tommy Osborne, Tobi Marsh, Manon (Jacquie Sarduy), Chery Parker, Gina Ginn, Ricky Renée, Barbara Buick, Chantal Chambord, Wanda, Claude Carol, Lucrèce, Lola Chanel, Zambella, Tanya, Rita del Ora, Micky Mercer, Nanny (Aaïcha Bergamin), Wanda Paris, Fifi Pervenche.
Major films featuring Le Carrousel/Madame Arthur performers:
- Vittorio Sala (dir). Costa Azzurra. With Alberto Sordi as Alberto, and Bambi in one of the four tales. Italy/France 84 mins 1959.
- Federico Fellini (dir) La Dolce Vita. With Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg and Dominot. Italy/France 174 mins 1960.
- Alessandro Blasetti (dir) Europa di notte, 1959, which includes a segment of Coccinelle performing at Le Carrousel. Italy/France 102 mins 1962.
- Vittorio Sala (dir). I don giovanni della Costa Azzurra. With Curd Jurgens, Coccinelle and Capucine. Italy 98 mins 1962.
- Norman Panama (dir). The Road to Hong Kong. With Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Joan Collins and an uncredited cameo by April Ashley. UK 91 mins 1962
- Mino Loy (dir). 90 notti in giro per il mondo. Scr: Guido Castaldo & Nico Rienzi, narrated by Nico Rienzi, documenting Bambi’s show, amongst others. Italy 88 mins 1963.
- Antonio Margheriti (dir) Il pelo nel mondo. With Coccinelle. Italy 1964.
- Enrique carreras (dir) Los viciosos. With Coccinelle. Argentina 1964.
- Day of a stripper. With Bambi. US 1964.
- Jacques Baratier (dir). La Poupée. With Sonne Teal as Marion Moren / La Poupée. Italy/France 95 mins 1962.
- Pedro Olea (dir) Días de viejo color. With Coccinelle. Spain 1968.
- Adolfo Arrieta (dir). Les intrigues de Sylvia Couski. With Hélène Hazéra, Jacquie Sarduy. France 90 mins 1975.
- Adolfo Arrieta (dir). Tam Tam. with Jacquie Sarduy. France 85 mins 1976.
- José Jara (dir). El Transexual. With Eva Robin's, Yeda Brown. Inspired by the story of Lorena Capelli who died of peritonitis after an illegal sex change (the only kind in Spain at that time). Spain 1977.
- Michiel van Erp (dir). I Am a Woman Now. With April Ashley, Marie-Pierre Pruvot, Colette Berends, Jean Lessenich, Corinne van Tongerloo. Netherlands 80 mins 2011.
- Clara Vuillermoz (dir). Le sexe de mon identité. With Bambi, Maxime Foerster. France 52 mins 2012.
- Sébastien Lifshitz (dir). Bambi. With Bambi. France 58 mins 2013.
The incidents recounted by Kirk (England) and McLelland (Japan) are not found in either Foerster or Bambi.
Accounts of the 1966 air crash usually mention Sonne Teale, but I could not find the names of the others.
The teenage me got to Paris in 1964 on a school trip. However at that time, I had never heard of Le Carrousel or Madame Arthur, and for some reason the teachers did not suggest it. Perhaps just as well in that I don't think that I could have afforded a visit.