Joseph and Louis Clérico
They became devoted to their adventure... In order to provide the Lido with the means to become even more magical, they called upon the services of the impresario Pierre-Louis Guérin. This showman, well known for his rich imagination, was given free rein to transform the Lido.
From that point onwards, the Lido was turned into a haven of luxury which attracted people from all over the city with its new concept: the dinner show, which proved to be a huge success and which, very quickly, was copied around the world.
The very first show was held on June 20th 1946 and boasted the rather sober title “sans rimes ni raisons” (without rhyme or reason).
Passionate about all that was extraordinary, he travelled the world looking for exceptional attractions and moved heaven and earth in order to bring them to Paris.
He treated the Lido to many incredible shows which involved ice-skating rinks, swimming pools, water jets and even other crazy ideas such as helicopters flying around the room.
Pierre Louis Guérin
He opened his first cabaret “Le Club”on Rue de Charenton, where he welcomed many talented artists, such as Bourvil and Line Renaud.
Later, he joined the Clérico brothers at the Lido, bringing his personal creative spirit to this unique and magical venue.
In the 1930's, she lived in Germany before moving to France, where she started as a dancer at the Folies Bergère. At the age of just 22 years, she created her own company, with which she joined the Lido in 1948. It was here that the talent of these creatures with the impossibly long legs and legendary elegance dazzled the Parisian stage.
Today still, the Bluebell Girls are emblematic of the magic of the Lido’s variety shows.
An Emblematic Venue
The very first Lido dates back to 1928. An artificial beach was created in the basement of Monsieur Dufayel’s former townhouse. This was demolished and replaced by a shopping gallery called the “Arcades” at 78 Avenue des Champs-Elysées. The basement level became the “Lido, Paris beach”, the name given to it by a certain Monsieur Chaux. People went there for refreshments and children had fun in the 33m by 9m pool. But, it was once the theatres shut their doors for the night, at around midnight, that the establishment really came to life: casino, musical shows in the water, gondolas the same as in Venice, and more.
However, in 1933, the number of visitors declined and the venue was declared bankrupt.
In 1936, the legendary Léon Volterra came to the rescue and transformed the building from top to bottom. Gone were the pool and its beach, replaced by a temple, columns and shows !
FROM 1946 TO THE PRESENT DAY
After the War, Léon Volterra sold the lease for the Lido to two brothers : Joseph and Louis Clérico.
They immediately undertook major works and turned it into a temple for large-scale variety shows. On the 20th of June 1946, the stage glittered with the soon to become legendary beauty of the dancers, the radiant costumes and the elegant attractions. The cabaret was catapulted to the pinnacle of the world.
Recognised everywhere, always greeted with great fervour, the Lido’s variety shows were praised to the skies by critics. Some even went so far as to proclaim that “foreigners and French people visiting Paris firstly visited the Eiffel Tower and the Lido, where they were guaranteed to enjoy a prestigious show which was unique in the world”. The Lido became a legend.
A living legend which constantly reinvented itself. In 1977, the Lido took over the Normandie at 116 Avenue des Champs Élysées. Magnificently designed and decorated by the architects Peynet, Bartoccini and Veccia, the venue became the largest and most luxurious cabaret in Europe and even in the world.
At the Lido, the heady atmosphere among the spectators was all about feats: Human feats as well as technological feats. When the floor lowered and turned into the dance floor for a show, a thousand spectators found themselves transported. And, when, in turn, the ice-skating rink, the swimming pool and the incredible water screens appeared, the Lido ignited to the deepest darkest depths of its furthest alcoves. A range of machinery, prodigiously skilled technicians and talented artists turned the Lido into the most sensational show venue.
The former shows
1946 Sans rimes ni raisons
The dazzling legend of the Lido started on june 20th 1946 with the variety show Sans Rimes ni Raisons, which presented 12 dancers, 8 women and 4 men. The very first performances were already greatly acclaimed and marked a promising start to the careers of the tap dancer Jimmy Gaillard and the young Belgian actress and singer, Josette Daydé.
At the end of 1946, the company expanded with the arrival of male and female dancers in preparation for the next show. This was Mississippi, with its 18 performers. Word of the cabaret started to spread further afield.
1947 Made in Paris
Made in Paris, which started in June 1947 was marked by the participation of Laurel and Hardy. Here, the pair made their sole appearance on stage in France, a privilege for the show and its audience. Alongside them were the Bernards, two American mime artists who parodied opera. The company itself was led by the bewitching Daisy Daix.
1948 marked a turning point in the Lido’s history. With the arrival of the Bluebell Girls, Confetti was the first show created with Margaret Kelly, the illustrious Miss Bluebell. Attractions also started to become increasingly important with The Charlivels, acrobatic musicians from Broadway, and Chaz Chase, a striptease artist who ate his clothes down to his bathing costume.
Bravo went down in the history books. It was the first time that a show’s launch was accompanied by a gala evening. On that evening in 1949, it was possible to rub shoulders with Marlene Dietrich, Mistinguett and Georges Carpentier, who were among the guests. Spectators were particularly dazzled by one of the performances which recreated the Barnum Circus and in which clowns, athletes and intelligent animals could be enjoyed. And, of course, nobody forgot Dynamite Jefferson, unanimously acclaimed by the audience for his original dance act.
The Lido saw the launch of the careers of many great artists. When the curtain rose on May 31st 1950, the audience discovered the young Annie Cordy, spotted a few months earlier in Brussels by Miss Bluebell. Enchantement also offered the opportunity to take a new look at the French capital with two scenes: Paris seen by Hollywood and Paris seen by the French. The highlight was a replica reconstruction of Place de la Concorde with its fountains dominated by the reduced-scale model of a constellation.
Things moved up yet another notch in 1951 with the show Rendez-Vous, and its second version Gala. A breathtaking ballet in the rain, the release of pink birds which flew over the heads of the spectators from the back of the hall to the front of the stage, and, above all, the first ice-skating rink in the world to be installed in a cabaret, all of this confirmed, once and for all, the Lido’s reputation as an innovative venue.
Refinement and fantasy, the Versailles Hall of Mirrors took over the Lido. In its two-way mirrors, Voilà revealed a never-ending line of Bluebells. Taking advantage of the illusion, Georges Lafaye’s dolls put on a fantastical show and, far from a lacklustre performance, Ellen and Alice Kessler launched their dancing careers with style in the greatest variety show.
For the opening of Désirs on December 21st 1954, the Lido assembled its three orchestras. The show was an incredible concert of sound and colour. The breathtaking finale literally lifted the spectators’ eyes to the heavens. Just above their heads, they could admire swings hanging in the air before watching the “Silver Rain”, a fireworks show which provided a wonderful end to a show high in colour.
While the prestigious guests were enjoying the opening gala of Voulez-Vous, Baron de Rothschild was wondering where his watch and wallet had gone. Of course, it was the work of the mischievous magician Dominique! Hailed by the public, the skills of this gentleman pickpocket set the bar very high. The show was a gem of great delicacy. It brought together in dance luminous fountains and Bluebell Girls, led by the Kessler sisters, the lead dancers. The orchestra set the pace from a platform next to the room, above the spectators, a space which it continued to occupy over the following years.
1956 C'est Magnifique
Dancing, skating and now swimming on stage. C'est Magnifique marked the first appearance of a swimming pool in a show. The audience enjoyed a wonderful ambience, half-way between the Tyrol and ancient baths. It was also able to savour the return of the Bernards and the presence of the Nitwitts orchestra, the youngest musician of which was 75 years old. At the Lido, exclusive features were always centre stage.
Water had become a feature at the Lido. Argentinian, launched on december 12th 1957, Prestige revealed a scene inspired by Japan to the stunned spectators. Before them, stood a giant waterfall down which flowed fifty thousand litres of water per minute. Always inimitable and surprising, the attractions included Alfredo Allaria's Argentinean company and the ice-skater Margie Lee as Madame Butterfly. The show was also marked by the collaboration between the leading interior designers, Georges Wakhevitch and Raymond Frost, the first in a very long series.
1959 Avec Plaisir
Avec Plaisir proved to be a culture shock. The stage was occupied in turn by Scots with the Dagenham Girl Pipers, Russians with the performance by the skaters Parker and Powers, Gypsies and finally Cossacks with the sumptuous costumes designed by Folco. However, astride their horses, it was the Bluebell Girls who stole the show in the finale as they proudly brought the parade of nations to a close.
1961 Pour Vous
For Pour Vous, the Lido turned its attention on its audience. In order to widen their angle of vision, the hall was redesigned: the four large load-bearing pillars were replaced by steel tubes designed to support the building. In this new, unobstructed view, the show offered contrasting themes. Firstly travelling to Versailles before taking flight for Latin America with a Mexican scene inspired by the flower festival in Xochimilco, the journey continued with the Edwardos, an acrobatic trio, Senor Vendes, a ventriloquist with four voices, and a company of six coloured dancers managed by Victor Upshaw.
The Grand Canyon echoed with the footsteps of its pioneers. Ancient Rome was embodied by a true-life reconstruction of the Trevi Fountain. The Middle East was depicted by an eminent Sultan and his slaves. All the scenes and attractions in Suivez-Moi showed the spectator that another way was possible.
1964 Quelle Nuit
Night is day turned around. A tornado releasing floods of water before a stunning firework display, a white horse galloping along a hidden treadmill, a blaring tribute to silent movies, an illusionist who gets his tricks wrong, but with great skill, a company of acrobatic dancers from Australia, the country which is upside down... Quelle Nuit!
1966 Pourquoi Pas ?
For its 20th anniversary, the Lido did the splits. Pourquoi Pas? transported spectators to Hollywood, for an entertaining tribute to the adventure films of Pearl White. Then, direction Brazil, a stopover in Andalusia and, finally, in China, with a lantern festival which ended in a cascade of fire. But, although the show was focused on distant shores, it remained firmly rooted in Paris. The events of May 1968 were looming and rehearsals for the new show were compromised. Therefore, the show was prolonged with a second version, the Gala Revue. It was 5 December 1968.
1969 Grand Prix
Through its different scenes, Grand Prix celebrated those who persevere, those who rise up. When, on stage, two horse riders fall to the ground, they got up to fight again with swords. An ancient Aztec ceremony followed, in which the dancers attempted to reach the Sun. It also led spectators to Cape Kennedy, with a spaceship floating above their heads.
1971 Bonjour la Nuit
What is the point of greeting the night if you do not wake it up? Bonjour la Nuit started on a fairground ride with eight motorcycles and by the throbbing sound of the engines. A resounding way of preparing the track before releasing two horses which appeared to set out at a gallop towards the audience. Later, two elephants and eight panthers appeared suddenly on the stage. But, when people arrived, the animals gave way to them. In turn, the skaters Kiki and Clive, the Aguanitos acrobats and the tenor Gino Donatti greeted the night in their own manner.
1973 Grand Jeu
For the second show presented at 78 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, great means were employed. On a stage resembling the rooftops of Paris, the lead dancer, Jacqueline Douget, landed in a helicopter. From Paris to the Far West, there is just one step, which Grand Jeu took with a Western scene in which a heated fight breaks out in a saloon. The high feelings continued in the following scene. In the Sahara desert, dancers and camels stood at the foot of a huge waterfall. Then, it was time to gently calm things down with some laughter, with a Japanese woman, Lily Yokoi, on her bicycle, the Thuranos and the Nitwits burlesque orchestra.
1977 Allez LIDO
Allez Lido transported spectators on a disorientating journey around the world: from the island of Mykonos to an underwater town after a shipwreck, the theft of the Mona Lisa by helicopter in London, to Japan beneath the waters. 2 watchwords: onwards and upwards. Everything ended stunningly in Broadway with a finale inspired by the greatest musical comedies.
Cocorico transported its spectators to the four corners of the world, on a journey comprising 10 scenes, each one more amazing the last. French pride was visible everywhere in song and dance, from London to New York, via Rio, the Russia of the Czars and the Africa of elephants. Breathtaking scenes and special effects worthy of the greatest Hollywood movies joined forces in this French-style ode to joy.
During the 11 high energy scenes, Panache offered an explosive cocktail of music, song, dance, colours and frenzied rhythms. In the purest style of Broadway cabaret, with the addition of jazz, break dancing, tango and salsa, it was an exceptional show which was as amusing as it was moving. Figure skating on black ice and volcanic eruptions rounded it all off. The audience was left begging for more.
It all started with the deluge. The first scene was set at the time of the Aztecs who are preparing to flee. The show led spectators through a series of feats which made the audience cry out Bravissimo throughout. In a scene with a helicopter and a submarine, during a spectacular battle with a Maharajah for a diamond, there was a reference to the hero Indiana Jones. The tribute paid to several different styles of dance reminded the audience of the resounding title. Bravissimo!
1994 C’est Magique
In a completely redecorated and modernised establishment for one of its most legendary shows, the audience had wonder at their fingertips. As the scenes unfolded they discovered the different aspects of chance, in a Casino where the characters come together to form dice. They visited the sometimes hostile paths of Oriental illusion, where wild ninjas stood alongside a warrior fighting armoured creatures. Acrobats, panthers, tightrope walkers, water, fire, ice, every detail was skilfully refined to fill the hallucinatory phial administered to each spectator.
It was the dawn of a new millennium. The artistic director, Pierre Rambert worked on the leading theme of Bonheur around four scenes: Woman, Paris, India, Movies. Four expressions of the same idea which took shape on december 8th 2003 with the first representation. For 11 years, millions of spectators have been able to enjoy this splendid show. More than 600 costumes designed by the leading names in the world of high fashion, such as François Lesage and Lemarie, adorned the Bluebell Girls and the Lido Boys, in a surge of luxury, special effects and sets.