“That is the Can-can. The idea of it is to dance as wildly, as noisily, as furiously as you can; expose yourself as much as possible if you are a woman; and kick as high as you can, no matter which sex you belong to. There is no word of exaggeration in this. Any of the staid, respectable, aged people who were there that night can testify to the truth of that statement.” – Mark Twain – ‘The Innocents Abroad’
Between 1995 and 2000 I worked for a French company called Onyx UK (now Veolia Environmental Services) and they used to take us away frequently for management meetings and we stayed in expensive hotels and hung out in bars and nice restaurants.
Best of all was that once a year we all met up and assembled at Waterloo station and they put us on Eurostar train and took us through the tunnel to Paris for an annual conference.
Moulin Rouge in Paris…
One year when they were really showing off after buying out a competitor they took us to the Moulin Rouge for a special treat and we had champagne to drink and watched an extravagant stage show. Although they would have negotiated a group discount on account of there being about eighty of us someone told me later that this demonstration of extravagant folly cost the company over £8,000 which was about the equivalent of the annual salary of one of the street cleaners that it employed.
To his credit my friend Mike Jarvis refused to go because of this and because he considered it inappropriate to accompany female work colleagues to what he described as a strip-club. I did not share his lofty moral objections, satisfied myself that it was an up-market strip club, was not going to pass up the opportunity and happily sold my soul and accepted a ticket for the meal and the show.
The Moulin Rouge opened on 6th October 1889 in a building at the foot of the Montmartre hill. Its owners were visionary businessmen who understood perfectly what Parisian society wanted at that time and they created a nightclub on the precipice of sleeziness to allow the very rich to go legitimately to the fashionable but seedy district of Montmartre where they could demonstrate egalitarian virtues and mix with workers, artists, prostitutes, the middle classes, businessmen, elegant women and foreign tourists visiting Paris.
By day the exterior of the Moulin Rouge is rather disappointing and the red windmill looks rather out of place and almost quite absurd on this busy Paris Boulevard but by night it is something completely different with glitzy lights, the whiff of gauloise on the evening air and a sense of anticipation as people turn up for the show. We arrived in two buses and were ushered through the lines of people waiting behind barriers who would gladly buy our tickets from us if we were prepared to sell and past ladies of dubious employment who would willingly accompany anyone who had a spare.
Walking along the corridor and through the doors into the interior was an awesome experience, like stepping back to Belle Époque (French for Beautiful Era) turn of the century Paris into a room predominantly decorated in lavish scarlet with rows of table lamps flickering like glow worms in a forest and columns adorned with Toulouse Lautrec posters and other appropriate memorabilia.
My first open–mouthed impression was that this was a magnificent venue with authentic mural paintings and columns with the original posters of the big name stars that have appeared here, somewhere that epitomised the European golden age of peace, extravagance and optimism all perfectly captured here in a sort of time capsule. It isn’t especially big inside which gives it an intimate ambiance and this was emphasised when we squeezed into out allotted tables about half way back from the stage in between two rows of decorative gold barriers that separated the eight hundred and fifty diners into convenient corrals to make it easier for the waiters to serve tables.
The Galop from Jacques Offenbach’s ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’
is the tune most associated with the famous can-can dance and which is a prominent feature of the entertainment and as the room began to fill this played repeatedly in the background until the buzz of anticipation eventually drowned it out.
Once everyone was in their seats the lights went down, the music exploded into the auditorium and the dancers in lavish costumes opened the two hour show with the iconic high kicking dance. During the show there was an average three-course corporate entertainment meal and for our table of eight there was cheap champagne and a bottle of red and white wine which proved completely inadequate and was soon consumed. We considered buying more but it was prohibitively expensive because the management doesn’t want tables full of boozed-up louts acting inappropriately, leering and wolf whistling at the girls on stage so we stayed dry for the second half of the show with the intention of making up for it later back at our hotel.
After the show the room emptied quickly as guests were efficiently whisked away to the street for waiting taxis and transportation. Our coaches were there and took us directly back to the hotel where Mike was sitting in the bar and over a drink or two remained stubbornly uninterested in our tales of the evening’s entertainment, he didn’t want to know about the mime artist or the acrobat who balanced on chairs and he especially didn’t want to know about the half dressed dancers, and on reflection, although I confess that I enjoyed it, retrospectively I have to say that I agree with him – it was a scandalous waste of money.
More tales of incompetence, waste and extravagance:
Cory Environmental, Blunders and Bodger
First Weekend as a Refuse Collection Contract Manager
Cory Environmental at Southend on Sea
Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution
The Royal Ascot Clear Up Fiasco
An Unexpected Travel Opportunity
Good morning Andrew,
You and your erstwhile colleague Mike clearly descended from the Puritans!*
When I was selling Jever Pilsener, the St Pauli Brewery twice took me over to Hamburg. And it was not just tours of the breweries in Hamburg and Jever, that were on the menu.
We were taken to something very close to Live Sex Shows! I kid you not.
Beautiful women totally naked, embraced highly aroused male dancers: but stopped short (if you get my drift).
Then there was a strange cross-gender dancer who lives on in my memory: someone with the beautifully shaped breasts of a young Marilyn Monroe, and the penis of a stallion! And an androgynous face upon his/her shoulders.
Only in Bangkok, have I seen anything more explicit.
BTW, I thought this piece of descriptive writing amongst the best I have ever seen from you.
Marred only by the use if the word “disinterested” in the last paragraph.
Yes, I realise that The Shorter Oxford Dictionary will support you. After all, all dictionaries will eventually print mass mistakes as gospel. “Restauranteur” (sic) is now in most dictionaries. What’s the betting that before too long, dictionaries will print “poser” for “poseur” and “predeliction” for “predilection”!!?
But I bang my drum for “disinterested”. It is a great word. It means “having no vested interest”.
We must hang on to it, and not let it become a synonym for UN-interested.
Anyway, here endeth the sermon.
And let me stress again: this was seriously fine writing from you.
Thankyou for starting my day off so well.
* I am teasing you of course!
Thank you for your encouraging words
If you were to read it again you would see that I have changed disinterested to uninterested because I value your thoughts and opinions and accept them as contributions. In actual fact you are having a great influence on me because I am now forced to be a lot more careful and definitely less slip-shod. A single entry that I might previously have reviewed only once I am now returning to several times and I am finding this really useful and I am becoming more self critical because I know that I won’t get anything past you!
I read in Daigressing that the reason you don’t keep a website or a blog is because you don’t want to return to previous work and keep it under constant review. I am guessing here (and correct me if I am wrong) but I think that means that you prefer your work to be more spontaneous? This is where we are different because I like the security of going back to change, edit and hopefully improve.
A couple of years ago at Jonathan’s (my son) degree ceremony there was an address by the Nottingham crime writer John Harvey (who was receiving an honorary degree) who said that it had taken him several years to learn how to write while he churned out a lot of rubbish (his words) and I think I am beginning to understand what he meant.
Good morning Andrew,
Thankyou for your wonderful compliment.
I am not quite sure I am with your man John Harvey, though.
Is he implying that he has now LEARNED to write?
I certainly have not, and probably never will.
It is a perpetual learning process. It is NOT akin to learning to ride a bike or learning to swim.
But if he is adamant that he really HAS learned, he should remember the words of Pablo Picasso and perhaps find them somewhat sobering ones.
Picasso, learned to draw at an early age, and claimed to have spent the rest of his life trying to unlearn how to (!!!)
I love ya.
Didn’t I tell you that I was still learning to write?
I have now re-read my last-but-one contribution (above), and now note a typo of my own.
A two-letter word admittedly, but that makes my error all-the-greater: it is in the opening line of the fifth paragraph. I say “if”, instead of “of”.
That is a more serious offence than any of yours: after all, I have managed to get 50% of the word wrong!!
Don’t alter it on my behalf: I like showing the world that I have feet of clay!
PS You refer to the fundamental difference between our approaches: your blog vis-a-vis my instant mailing. I have no problems with you drawing that distinction.
However, please don’t then make the assumption that I do not correct mistakes in my own text! Trust me, over 30 man-hours go into every Daigressing!
Oh, what wonderful memories of Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge you brought back. Grand description. I wanted change in that neighborhood and was aghast at the $8 fee from a machine. We loved watching the artists in the square, better than the sidewalks near the Louvre. My husband posed on the stairs like Gene Kelly in the movie by the Church.. that I can’t remember the name of right now. Merci
Thanks for the comment.
Alas my daughter and I did not adventure in, there were so many blogs and reviews of disappointment. We only journeyed for the external viewing and photo op. Sounds like a lovely, and yes as you stated, grossly over cost evening 😉
Pingback: Top Five Searches 2009- 2012 | Have Bag, Will Travel
I’d like to think that I’d be with Mike Jarvis on this one. Big companies are entitled to their profits but not if they waste money and then pay the cleaners a pittance. I suspect that it must be very difficult, though, to refuse the offer of a free trip to Paris.
Mike stood by his principles so good for him.