an afternoon on the Pigalle – YARS

In 1982 I was in Paris with two friends for a couple days, a side trip from rugby tour in England. We saw the Jeu De Paume, the Louvre and napped in the Tuileries near an organ grinder with his monkey. The last afternoon we went through the Pigalle, the red-light district and home of some famous theatres and galleries. Even then it was much as you might expect – though sunlight reveals much that evening hides.

As we walked along, there were hawkers, like at a traveling carnival – bellowing out at every entrance, enticing us in – though we didn’t speak the language, we understood the terms. In front of one – three rough looking men saw us and exclaiming “show, show” rushed us in.

It was an old theatre, once grand, now showing wear and tear of time – and they sat us down and offered us drinks. As they went off, we realized our risk – alone in the old theatre – we quickly drew straws to see who’d drink first in case the drinks were drugged, and planned a mad dash out in case this was a robbery or worse – but the beer was just beer – and they guys kept saying – show, wait, drink – and we’d already paid.

After a while, an older lady, probably the cleaning crew hustled past us toward the stage, and then the lights went on, and the music began and the curtain opened and there was our cleaning lady, in a bright red corset and heels dancing a can-can for us.

We gave her a standing ovation, and at the end we left, poorer, entertained and wiser.

YARS – Yet Another Rugby Story