“I’m going to see the little women of Pigalle, It’s my sin, my drug, my carnal,” Serge Lama sang in 1973. It is likely that a walk on Boulevard de Clichy today would inspire him to say quite different words. Certainly, Pigalle still evokes a fantasy universe of eroticism, prostitution, with the smell of sulfur (mafia, settlements of accounts). But on the streets of the 9th arrondissement, renamed SoPi, short for South Pigalle (based on the New York SoHo), the hostess bars, which occupied most of the shops, have almost completely disappeared. In their place, trendy bars or bobo shops. A change that has accelerated in recent years: while the police still had 84 such establishments in Pigalle in 2005, there are now only 19, four of which are subject to a request for closure. But who killed the hostess bar? A few protagonists of this (now very small) theatre of sexuality testify.
The new manager
On Rue Frochot, there is little left than the F’Exhib to recall the history of the place. The “old school” bars that have closed are waiting for a buyer, or are already being turned into hipster bars. Among them, the Glass, taken over by Carina Soto, who also runs the Candelaria in the Marais, and who bought the sign of a sick owner who wanted to leave Paris as soon as possible. On the street, the others also left, most of them retired, sometimes anticipated by an administrative closure. Instead, we find the Dirty Dick (who did not consider it useful to change the name), The Crowd or the Calamity Joe, held by Johanne, who in his establishment certainly new wave defends with fervor the old colorful spirit of Pigalle. In addition to the bobos, her clientele consists of the freaks we have always met here and former regulars of the Moune, the former lesbian bar where she officiated, then taken over by the Band of the Baron. She preaches good dress with a traditionalist speech: “If you don’t stand up, you go out.” And laments the lack of dress of the new revelers: “The storefront of the organic store at the corner of Frochot Street and Pigalle Square has become the unofficial pissotière of the poorly run bars, which have two toilets for a capacity of 400 people. And the gates serve as a shelter to sniff lines of coke…”
The old school
It is through Johanne that we meet the managers of a hostess bar on Pigalle Street. They are reluctant to describe their activity, especially when it is made into beer. If they have agreed to an interview, it is first to draw a portrait for the new regulars of the neighborhood. Behind the counter of their overheated and padded space, next to a young girl from Eastern Europe in her underwear and looking perfectly indifferent, Maurice and Monique get angry: “Young people put up the mess and shoot all the shops.” In fact, “young people” are a good part of society. For, settled for forty years in Pigalle, the owners put in the same bag “the bobos that come to the eyes of all, the little scum, the baltringues who do not know how to manage their bars”, all responsible for a “degradation of the neighborhood”, and especially the flight of “respectable customers”. As Maurice likes to point out, “You have to have stuff to run your business. With this bunch of jerks, in two years, we’re all putting the key under the door.” Now, the strip clubs moved to the Internet. The new strip clubs are websites and the strippers are now called camgirls.