Café de Paris (London)

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Café de Paris is a London nightclub, located in the West End, beside Leicester Square on Coventry Street, Piccadilly.

It opened in 1924 and subsequently featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Marlene Dietrich, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson and Maxine Cooper Gomberg.<ref name=telegraph>Template:Cite news</ref> Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston (dance) to London.

Much of the early success of the Cafe de Paris was due to the visit of the then Prince of Wales who became a regular guest, often dining with notables from high society across Europe.<ref name="Shady Old Lady's Guide To London">Cafe de Paris Shady Old Lady's Guide To London, retrieved 6 February 2011</ref> Cole Porter was a regular, as was the Aga Khan.<ref name="The Independent">The Independent Film-makers resurrect love affair with the Cafe de Paris, retrieved 6 February 2011</ref>

During World War II, on 8 March 1941, the cafe was bombed soon after the start of a performance and at least thirty four people were killed<ref name="Rennell">Template:Cite news</ref> and around eighty injured Two bombs fell into the basement ballroom down a ventilation shaft and exploded in front of the stage.<ref name="Rennell" /> The victims included 26-year-old bandleader Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson,<ref name=cwgc>CWGC Casualty Record.</ref> his saxophonist Dave "Baba" Williams, other band members, staff and diners.<ref name="Rennell" /> One survivor was cheered by the crowd outside, when, on being carried out on a stretcher, he shouted to them "At least I didn't have to pay for dinner".<ref name="Rennell" />

The venue did not reopen until 1948<ref name="Shady Old Lady's Guide To London"/> but re-established itself as one of the leading theatre clubs in London, playing host to Frank Sinatra, Tony Hancock and Grace Kelly. In the 1950s Noël Coward often performed cabaret seasons at the Cafe de Paris<ref name="Shady Old Lady's Guide To London"/> as did Marlene Dietrich. It was also used in the 2006 music video for I Think We're Alone Now by Girls Aloud.

In the 1980s the venue experienced a revived popularity, hosting scene locations for films including Absolute Beginners and The Krays.<ref name="The Independent"/> Today the venue is used regularly for film location, and has been used for scenes in The Queen's Sister (based on the life of Princess Margaret) and in The Edge of Love (based on the life of Dylan Thomas).<ref name="The Independent"/>

The Cafe de Paris plays host to regular cabaret shows. "The Black Cat" runs on Fridays, hosted by Dusty Limits featuring a variety lineup that regularly features the likes of Piff the Magic Dragon, Barry and Stuart and EastEnd Cabaret. Every Saturday is The Wam Bam Club, a night which has provided a London springboard for the renaissance of burlesque. As well as host Lady Alex and resident acts Cabaret Rouge and Bunny Galore, contemporary cabaret performers who have appeared there have included Abandoman, Sarah Louise Young, Pippa Evans, Wilfredo, and Josh Howie.

In fiction

The 1941 bombing of the Café de Paris is described in a chapter of "The Attenbury Emeralds" by Jill Paton Walsh. The bombing and its aftermath have a considerable bearing on the investigation carried out by Lord Peter Wimsey in that book.

The Cafe, and the 1941 bombing, are major plot devices in the 2011 novel "Moon Over Soho" by Ben Aaronovitch.



External links

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