Moulin Rouge, or the Red Mill, is the most famous cabaret on earth. Founded in the heat of La Belle Époque, it scandalised Paris with its frivolous shows and boisterous can-can. Needless to say, Paris was delighted to be scandalised. Today, it upholds its tradition with revues featuring topless dancers, during which you can enjoy a stylised meal.
Moulin Rouge was opened in 1889 by Joseph Oller. He envisioned an establishment where bourgeoisie could slum in the bohemian Montmarte – and he succeeded beyond belief. His music-hall presented shows, many of which featured performers in the nude, and of course the can-can. This unique atmosphere was immortalised by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe.
The Moulin Rouge in Paris was a source of inspiration for the Moulin Rouge Hotel in Las Vegas.
The music video for Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil’ Kim and Mýa’s ‘Lady Marmalade’ was set at the Moulin Rouge.
In the course of its long and colourful history, the cabaret has seen many ups and downs. Can-can itself was scandalous enough, but there was much more to the Moulin Rouge. Nude women paraded, boisterous partying and various shenanigans ensued throughout its history, and it was only relatively recently that the cabaret acquired some respectability.
The Moulin Rouge has long drawn universal attention and attracted interesting guests, including some celebrities. Notable people to visit or perform at the cabaret included the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII; his great-granddaughter Elizabeth II; Ginger Rogers; Frank Sinatra; Liza Minelli; Mikhail Baryshnikov; Ray Charles; Elton John.
Mistinguett, born Jeanne Bourgeois (1875–1956) was an actress and singer, at one time the best-paid female entertainer in the world. Talented and with a good head for business, she performed at the Moulin Rouge for many years. Her hit song “Mon Homme” has been popularised by Fanny Brice as the English-language “My Man” and is known throughout the world to this day.