Est-ce que tu aimes le sexe? Le sexe, je veux dire, l’activité physique…
Every year, 2,500 pairs of tights, 500 litres of body paint and 300 rolls of “Rouge Crazy” lipstick are used. In 1951, a titillating, clandestine mélange of avant-garde female expressionism and art du nu was birthed behind plush velvet drapes. Situated on the Avenue George 5, Le Crazy Horse (commonly known as Le Crazy) was brought to life by ultra-modern artiste Alain Bernardin. The Frenchman’s obsession with effeminate curves and American nightclubs propelled him to imagine a universe where desire reigns and womanhood gleams from beaming, grandiose spotlights. Bernardin’s shapely dancers (who included his wife) performed arousing routines, contorting their bodies like sinuous watercolours as patterned illuminations and designs brushed against their seemingly bare bodies.
The pioneering prince of male imagination was a stickler for perfection, he even chose the music and sketched the show’s costumes – but it was Bernardin’s illustrious collaborations with friends such as painter Pierre Restany and designer Paco Rabanne that surpassed sex and flirted with modernity. Attracting the likes of Salvador Dalì, Man Ray, and Andy Warhol, Le Crazy quickly shimmied its way to become the Studio 54 of Parisian burlesque.
63 years later, the luxurious red interior of Le Crazy Horse seduces men and woman alike: young dewy-eyed couples and veteran clientele swill champagne every night in posh banquets before the curtain peek-a-boos. In a time warp of temptation – we imagine Dalì’s long whiskers leaping with excitement as a dancer’s perfectly shaped calf teases the crowd. We imagine Warhol dipping his MILTZEN specs to get a closer look at the fluorescent body paints sweeping the dancers’ décolleté. While pop-art wigs coquettishly float on top of dancers’ heads; like weightless, colourful, hot-air balloons.
Since its creation, Le Crazy Horse maintains the magic of its past while continuing to reinvent itself. In 2006, under the leadership of the club’s Director, Andrée Deissenberg, a modern modus operandi was put into place. Deissenberg enlisted renowned sex symbols to guest star in the show, such as Dita Von Teese, Arielle Dombasle, Pamela Anderson, Clotilde Courau, and Noémie Lenoir.
Le Crazy also inspires an enormous amount of artists, who are attracted by the cabaret’s first-class prowess of glorifying the female figure. French choreographer Philippe Decouflé organised the Désirs show together with Ali Mahdavi, and, in 2012, sinful soles dominated the romantically lit space as Christian Louboutin became the cabaret’s first “Guest Creator”. Using the theme of fire, Louboutin’s explosive footwear literally ignited the stage.
Fashion, art, and music collaborations have continued to become a staple at Le Crazy Horse, and include projects with Roberto Cavalli, Azzedine Alaïa, Bob Sinclar, Swizz Beatz, Kylie Minogue, and Christina Aguilera. Most recently, Conchita Wurst, Eurovision’s bearded beauty, performed an exclusive revue at the cabaret in an obscurely divine ode to womanhood.
There is no question that Le Crazy Horse has redefined and artfully eroticised female sexuality. When the music starts and textured lights caress sensuous silhouettes, our fetishistic impulses drive us to a nude awakening: sex may sell, but Le Crazy’s larger-than-life history goes beyond the price of admission.
Words / Chloe Rash