Sunday, February 8, 2009

Le Chat Noir

Most people, even those dwelling in trailers in Tennessee or living under a rock in Utah, are at least peripherally aware of Le Chat Noir, thanks to the ubiquitousness of the poster designed for it by Art Nouveau printmaker Théophile Steinlen. The image appears on t-shirts, postcards, calendars, mugs, and posters at even the most unsophisticated shopping malls.

But what was it exactly?

Le Chat Noir was the ultimate French cabaret experience. Though not as depraved and decadent as the horrific events that took place on stages in Berlin, the acts at Le Chat Noir were reportedly wide-ranging in their variety. The list of names of those who frequented the joint make it sound like a hotbed of creativity: Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, Jane Avril, Aristide Bruant, Yvette Guilbert, August Strindberg, and many many more.

Located in the Montmartre district of Paris, Le Chat Noir had a relatively short but sweet existence: it opened its doors in 1881 and closed for good in 1897. In that time, all manner of entertainment graced its stage, some of which revolutionized Owner and master of ceremonies Rodolph Salis said of his establishment:

"The Chat Noir is the most extraordinary cabaret in the world. You rub shoulders with the most famous men of Paris, meeting there with foreigners from every corner of the world."

Many have borrowed the Le Chat Noir concept and tried to duplicate it today, but they're seemingly missing the point, and have taken on little more than the name. There's a Le Chat Noir in Augusta, GA, for instance, and in Washington, DC and in New Orleans. While we're sure they're all fine places to drink and see a show, they lack the prerequisite timelessness and taste-transcending "no limits" attitude that Catclaw and The Voraxium exude in spades.

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