“We are here to do something beautiful, to create dreams.” While reciting his monologue, Charly Vodoo fleetingly adjusts his basque, which he only wears, with thong and tights, under a large beige raincoat with a thick fur collar. The audience follows him in a rare moment of silence until he kicks off the dance party with a burst of laughter. “Music, maestro!” The atmosphere immediately heats up to the rhythm of a piece of electro. The artist wiggles with aplomb, eying the crowd with her eyes hemmed in heavy makeup and sensually rolling her hips on her dizzying sequined heels.
The evening has only just begun at Madame Arthur, the dean of transvestite cabarets in Paris, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. A historic address, set on the slopes of Montmartre, a stone’s throw from the Moulin-Rouge. Her name comes from a song by Yvette Guilbert, who in one of her songs was about a woman who, “behind the twist, promised a je-ne-sais-quoi”.
In what was once the pleasure district, frequented by artists and men of letters, which has now become a tourist trap, the establishment resists time and fashions. On its stage, queer icons such as Ladybug and Bambi in the 1950s and 1960s were among the first transgender artists in history. But Madame Arthur’s spotlights also saw a very young Serge Gainsbourg pass by, when he replaced his father, the cabaret’s regular pianist. An important heritage, highlighted today in accordance with the canons of the genre, but brought up to date in manners and style by a new generation of transvestite, drag-queen and transsexual artists.
The evening of equality
Irreverent artists, with rebellious irony, against a background of veiled social criticism, sprinkled with obscenities, but always without vulgarity. Like La Biche, whose real name is Colin Melquiond, who, in a long bright red dress studded with