Cabarets and sex shows around Pigalle
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For many foreigners, entertainment in Paris is still synonymous with those mythical names the Moulin Rouge, Folies Bergères and Lido. These cabarets flash their presence from the Champs-Élysées to boulevard Montmartre but bear little resemblance to their bygone artistic patina. The evening (a very expensive one at around €90 and up) is comprised of dinner and a glitzy show full of special effects and bare-breasted women sporting large coloured feathers, and the audience is mainly made up of package-tourists whose holiday deal includes an evening at the cabaret.
The Lido (116bis av des Champs-Elysées, 8e, tel 01.40.76.56.10, www.lido.fr) intersperses multi-coloured plumage and illuminated distant flesh with conjurors playing tricks with the clothes and possessions of the audience. Then back come the computer-choreographed "Bluebell Girls", in a technical tour de force of light show, music and a moving stage transporting the thighs and breasts to more faraway exotica the sea, a volcano, arctic plain or Pacific island. Ever since the eponymous film came out, they've been taking bookings two months in advance at the Moulin Rouge (82 bd de Clichy, 18e tel 01.53.09.82.82, www.moulinrouge.fr) of the same ilk with its "Doriss Girls", and still trading on its Toulouse-Lautrec painted fame as the place for "the most celebrated can-can in the world". The oldest cabaret, the Folies Bergères, reopened in 1993 after a brief closure, and is now trying its hand as a night-club, while at the Crazy Horse (12 av George V, 8e, tel 01.47.23.32.32), the theatrical experience convinces the audience that they are watching art as well as the prettiest girls in Paris.
Although the whole spectacle of the cabaret is considered respectable, all things considered, it is related to the other "Live Shows" touted along the boulevard de Clichy. Moving from the glamour cabarets to the "Live Sex" venues is to leave the world of gloss and exportable Frenchness for a world of sealed-cover porn without cultural borders.