The Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge is one of Paris’ premier night time attractions. Established in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller this cabaret house is the birthplace of the modern can-can.

The idea behind the Moulin Rouge was to allow people from all classes to come together in the much loved Montmarte area of Paris to experience the decadent entertainment. The original garden area was filled with gigantic elephants. The early shows were inspired by the circus and were very lavish affairs where concert dances were held every night at 10pm.

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The Moulin Rouge, much like the design agency mentioned above, knew how to appeal to their target audiences and the shows ran every night with the doors never closing. The first time the doors closed was in November 1897 for the funeral of Charles Zidler. In 1890 HRH the Prince of Wales, the soon to be King Edward VII visited Paris and attended one of the shows where La Goulue (a famous dancer) recognised him and apparently called out (mid dance) “Hey, Wales, the champagne’s on you!”.

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Inside the Moulin Rouge is equally as flamboyant as the outside with many of the decorations using red as their main colour. The Moulin Rouge has a past littered with stars and renovation. Here is a potted snapshot of some of the important periods in the cabaret houses’ past:

  • 1889 – First established
  • 1900- Visitors were attending from all over the world
  • 1903 – Reopened after renovations carried out by Edouard Niermans
  • 1907 – The first time Mistinguett stepped on stage. She was to become one of the Rouge’s main performers and was a very successful business woman
  • 1915 – The building was completely destroyed by a fire
  • 1921 – The Moulin Rouge was completely rebuilt and re-opened in this year
  • After WW1 – Francis Salabert took over and revitalised the shows
  • 1929 – Mistinguett retires from stage work and leaves the cabaret house and the ballroom is transformed into a Night Club.
  • 1939-1945 – The shows continued with the audiences primarily being made up of German officers.
  • 1959 – New kitchens are added
  • 1979 – The 90th Birthday of the Moulin Rouge
  • 1981 – The doors close for one evening to put on a show for HRM Queen Elizabeth II
  • In the 1980s a variety of famous performers take to stage including Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin
  • 2014 – The Moulin Rouge is 125 years old

The Moulin Rouge has truly stood the test of time and although there have been many renovations and additions to the building and the acts performing have changed over the years at its core the Rouge offered entertainment for the masses where your social standing was left at the door. It has undoubtedly left its mark on French history and culture.