The big plans for tonight were to see a show at the Moulin Rouge, so everything was organized around that. After a rather late breakfast/lunch, we headed off to the Opéra Garnier to finally take a look at the interior. I called ahead to make sure that the main performance hall would be open (since it is sometimes closed for rehearsals), which they assured me it was.
In addition to the usual mind-boggling opulence that is the Garnier opera house, there was a special exhibition of Maria Callas’s stage jewelry, some of it “costume”, some of it very real and precious. Amusingly enough, my dad didn’t have any snarky comments about the luxury here. I don’t think he necessarily had any respect for the people that once (and still) populate these halls, but at least it didn’t offend him with pretenses of helping or representing the poor.
After having been surrounded by the most literal example of the term “encrusted capital,” we decided to look at more congealed wealth by walking down rue de la Paix and across place Vendôme, Paris’s poshest shopping area and where you’ll find all of the most high-end jewelry shops. We stopped in the Piaget shop to ask about the cost of services Piaget watches, because my mother inherited a small 1950s Piaget watch from her mother, which was no longer working. Apparently, it would cost hundreds of Euros just to open it up and give it a good cleaning, let alone fix it, so we smiled and took their business cards and pretended that we could afford it.
From there, we walked along rue St. Honoré, the other super-posh shopping area of Paris, and over to place Madeleine…yet another posh shopping area. We stopped in at La Durée to buy some réligieuses for my sister (and us) and then at the Maille store to get some fancy mustard.
By then it was mid-afternoon, so we dropped by the apartment to leave our tasty purchases and then took a walk around Le Marais to look for a place that would be open for an early dinner before the show. We saw that Chez Marianne was still open, a restaurant in the Jewish quarter that is popular for it’s reliably tasty middle-eastern food. In addition to a pile of olives and bread, we shared a plate with 10 different “elements” from their cold-prep bar, including a fantastic eggplant caviar, an artichoke-citrus salad, and some méchouia (roasted spicy vegetables). The chopped chicken livers with onions, however, was a bit much.
Although the restaurant is apparently run by a Sephardic Jewish family, there was this one guy working at the restaurant that was dressed like some sort of odd caricature of an Ashkenazi Hasidic superstar. How so? He was wearing a wide-and-flat-brimmed black hat that approximated Orthodox dress, along with a full-length black trenchcoat that he never took off while working inside the restaurant; underneath, he had a white woven shirt framed on both sides by a pale blue cashmere scarf (read: Israeli flag) and hanging from his neck was A STAR OF DAVID MADE ENTIRELY OF ICE-BLUE “SAPPHIRES.” I kid you not. If there had been a discreet way to do it, I would’ve snuck a picture of him just to show the world that Ashkenazi bling is possible.
It was time to get ready for the show, so I headed back home to change into a nice suit, while mom went about trying to get my dad into presentable clothes. I was worried that we would be running late, but in the end we got there well before the doors would open, so we walked around Pigalle for a while and amused ourselves by looking at the various porn and sex shops.
We finally got into the Moulin Rouge for the show and…well…it was pretty lame. We had been expecting something closer to perhaps a cabaret, with a charismatic emcee, various burlesque solo acts, some vaudeville acts, all interspersed with the occasional mass dance number. Instead, what we got was a pale imitation of Las Vegas showgirl shows. Now don’t get me wrong, Las Vegas girlie shows can be very impressive and a lot of fun, but the Moulin Rouge troupe wasn’t even copying the formula well. It was easily 70% mass dance numbers, all of which were sloppily performed. My understanding was that the difference between the Moulin Rouge and the strip joint across the street was production values, but the only difference I saw was one of budget. The dancing was never quite in sync, the choreography itself was jerky and inelegant, the music director mistook “upbeat” for “undanceably-fast techno”, the costumes were expensive-looking but unattractive, and so on. Don’t even get me started on the bizarre colonialist aesthetics of the “Oriental” portion of the show. Gah.
Also, as if to rob my father of the only possible upside of the show, most of the dancers were also anorectic and therefore rather cureve-less. And I was surprised to see so many fake boobs in France, a place somewhat known for retaining a preference for natural breasts.
Oh, and my mother and I would like to point out that it’s not fair that the male dancers kept their clothes on.
Anyway, the sideshow acts were still pretty good (tumblers, jugglers, ventriloquists), and the champagne was tasty, so it’s wasn’t a total wash. We left the show around 22h30 and headed out in search of something small to eat before bed. We tried Café Charbon in my neighborhood, but they had just closed the kitchen when we sat down. After that, we gave up and grabbed a crêpe from a nearby stand and wandered around my neighborhood until we were tired.