Friday, 14 January 2011

Les Bains Douches - the sad and faintly ridiculous story of our local nightclub

Ah, the night is a fickle mistress. Whereas once the aura of Paris made it a centre of nightclubbing as hot as New York, those days are long gone. The heyday was probably during the 1980s, first with Le Palace, the Studio 54 of Paris with stars lining up to get in (Andy Warhol, Grace Jones), and a notoriously nasty door policy that involved humiliation and sometimes even begging. When that closed in 1982, the second temple of clubbing - Les Bain Douches, just 30 seconds from the Great Apartment - stepped in. With an upstairs restaurant and a downstairs dancefloor, the club soon became the place to be, and a stylish semi-private concert space for people like Prince, and Joy Division.

Believe it or not, I even mixed there a couple of times, in the restaurant! At the time it was run by Claude Challe, who went on to build a reputation at the Buddha Bar. "Take them on a journey," he would tell me, as everyone around me just ate and talked, far more interested in themselves than the music. I had to beg for a drink during my five-hour mix, and they paid really badly.

After the hedonistic 80s, the Bains Douches came back into fashion during the nineties when David Guetta and his wife Cathy took over. I (vaguely) remember a number of great nights out there, and some extremely decadent after parties. When the Guettas moved on in 2003, it was the beginning of the end. Worst of all, the owner of the place had a falling out with the management company, and a tug of war began with one not paying the rent, the other starting legal proceedings to get them off the premises... the club regularly opened and closed for months at a time, Tuesdays became student night (no more supermodels and Hollywood stars), the rest of the week was almost exclusively gay... no-one really knew what the club was like any more. And people stopped coming.

Then in June 2010, things came to a head, disastrously. The management company decided to do some demolition/renovation/soundproofing work (depending on which story you believe) inside the basement club. Unfortunately (or stupidly), they didn't check with the owner, and they didn't worry about removing some load-bearing walls. Cracks started appearing on the building, and the club was immediately closed by the police for "grave and imminent danger". Idiots!

Interviewed at the time, the manager said that they would reopen no later than September after doing the required structural work. It's now January 2011 and they are still closed. A poster on the door says "Club night cancelled," and there's no news on when they'll be back.

In the meantime, the clubbers amongst you can 'dance to the beat' just a short walk from the Great Apartment; the Social Club (here) has a great line-up (at time of writing, they're expecting Fatboy Slim, Andy Weatherall, Trevor Jackson, Kenny Dope, The Glimmers...) and the Rex Club and its amazing sound system (probably the best in Paris) is not much further (here).  More techno-based, their line-up in the next couple of months includes Kenny Larkin, DJ Deep, Caribou, Radio Slave, Jeff Mills and Grandmaster Flash! And it's much more fun going out when you know that home is just a few minutes away on foot.

(And if all those names mean nothing to you, don't worry: there's more to life than clubbing)

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