Au Lapin Agile

Au Lapin Agile (64)

One of the best-known cabarets in Paris and one of those that has preserved its charm is Au Lapin Agile. Formerly known as Cabaret des Assassins, it is situated in the picturesque district of Montmartre, at the junction between Rue des Saules and Rue Sant Vincent.

Its current name comes from a poster painted by the humorist André Gill which represented the scene of a rabbit fleeing from a casserole. It became known as “Le lapin agile”, the speedy rabbit. The club was very popular among intellectuals and artists in the early 20th century.

It was a very popular character in the period of the Montmartre, called Frédé, who gave a big boost to the venue where he appeared regularly playing the guitar so that the guests could sing popular songs. It was frequented by Picasso, Braque, Modigliani and Apollinaire.

In 1905 Picasso painted his work “Au lapin agile” in which he himself appeared as a harlequin while behind him Frédé played the guitar. The painting belonged to the cabaret until 1912, when the owner sold it for the equivalent of about fifteen euros. In 1989 it was auctioned by Sotheby’s for 41 million dollars.

The most famous anecdote of this venue refers to the novelist Roland Dorgelès. This writer had a deep hatred of the modern art that was projecting artists such as Picasso and other painters established in the Bateu-Lavoir, so he decided to play a practical joke on one of the clients, above all on Apollinaire, poet and art critic. Dorgelès exhibited a painting in the Salón des Refusés with the title “Dawn over the Adriatic” and which with pleasurable surprise was a big hit amongst the venue’s clients, and he burst out laughing when he explained to them that the painting had been done by tying a brush to the tail of the owner’s donkey.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the venue was bought by the cabaret businessman Aristide Bruand, to stop it being demolished. In the 1920s it was sold on to Paulo, the son of Frédé, the original owner. Under his drive and that of his wife, the singer Yvonne Darle, Au Lapin Agile came back to life by becoming the venue that gave opportunities to new talent. Singers such as George Brassens first performed here. Even today it offers the chance to appear to new artists, poets, musicians, comedians, singers... everyone has their chance.

And over the years it has continued to be a meeting place for artists. Charles Chaplin once played the violin on stage here. And among its evening cabaret clients have featured Ernest Hemingway, Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Mitchum, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall and Henry Miller, regulars at the Au Lapin Agile. Even the actor Steve Martin wrote a play titled “Picasso in the Lapin Agile”, very successful in the United States.

Who knows? Perhaps it is time you join this illustrious list of guests.

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