10 Surprising Facts About Moulin Rouge – Yes, You Can-Can!

There's a hidden side to the historic Moulin Rouge cabaret in Paris. Sure, it's the birthplace of the famous high-kicking cancan dance but it's also a family business that employs 1,500 people and has been a magnet in the entertainment business for over one hundred years

On the recent evening we attended the popular Féerie cabaret show we marvelled at the feathers, sequins, showgirls and show guys, and the history of the famous red mill, which opened its doors in 1889. If the walls could talk, these are 10 surprising facts you'd learn to inspire you to cancan your way to the Moulin Rouge on your next trip to Paris.

line

The Best Evenings at the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge Dinner, Show & Hotel Return
Dine at the Moulin Rouge, still the number-one rated nightclub in Europe, then take in the amazing cabaret show. Hotel transportation included.
More information…

Eiffel Tower Dinner, River Cruise & Moulin Rouge Show
Experience the best of Paris in one fun-filled evening with dinner on the Eiffel Tower, an illuminated river cruise, and the amazing Moulin Rouge cabaret.
More information…

line

Moulin Rouge

1. The Moulin Rouge is a Family Business

Current CEO Jean-Jacques Clerico's grandfather bought it in 1955, the year Jean-Jacques was born. After studying economics, Jean-Jacques was lured into the family show business with the aim of updating the revue. He traveled the world seeking inspiration from top shows in Las Vegas, including the Cirque du Soleil.

2. The French Also Love It

Although we think of Moulin Rouge as a tourist magnet, in fact, about fifty percent of the audience is from France.

3. It's Been A Rocky Road

Moulin Rouge has had its ups and downs since it opened in 1889. In 1906, French writer Colette performed with the Marquise de Morny, ending with the two women holding a long kiss. The next day the Chief of Police threatened to close the show if it was performed again.

In 1915, the famous red mill was almost destroyed by fire. In 1997, the Moulin Rouge was near bankruptcy. The Clerico family raised €8 million and relaunched the Belle Époque cabaret with a new show called Féerie. When the show opened in 1999, the crowds returned in record numbers. The lavish extravaganza features pirates, Arabian princesses, circus performers, Asian queens, and 1,000 flamboyant costumes in each show.

line

4. Moulin Rouge is a Big Employer

Today the Moulin Rouge employs 1,500 people including eighty artists and sixty Doriss Girls and dancers (named for Mlle. Doriss, a German choreographer who formed the troupe in 1957). Its front of house team includes 120 maître-d's, headwaiters, and waiters to serve the nightly audience of 900 guests.

line

Edith Piaf

5. Everybody's Been Seen Here

Days after the Liberation of Paris in 1944, Edith Piaf performed at the Moulin Rouge. She introduced a new talent, Yves Montand, who performed with her. Over the years celebrities and VIPS like Liza Minelli, Tom Jones, and Frank Sinatra have gathered here. The biggest celebrity of them all, QE II (that's Queen Elizabeth II to you), has attended the show. In November 1981, the Moulin Rouge closed for one evening to present a private viewing to Her Majesty.

6. A Star of Stage… and Screen

There have been at least a dozen films made about Moulin Rouge. The first, a silent film, was made in 1898. The most famous, the 2001 Moulin Rouge! starring Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, has inspired a a new Broadway version, which premiered in 2018.

7. The Feather Maker

Since 1929, the famous feathers that adorn the dancer's costumes have been made at Maison Février, a family business based in Montmartre. The walls of the workshop are covered with ostrich and pheasant feathers. Untreated feathers from around the world are brushed, washed, boiled and dyed. Before being sent to Moulin Rouge, the treated feathers are tested to ensure they are light and heat resistant.

line

Moulin Rouge Shoesff

8. The Shoemaker

The dancer's shoes are also made by hand. Since 1945, Maison Clairvoy has been hand making the shoes and boots for the Moulin Rouge performers. In 2006, the shoemaker was purchased by the Clerico family. But the change of ownership hasn't changed the craft. They still operate from the workshop where it all started, at 17 Rue Fontaine, just minutes away from the cabaret. On the walls of the shoemaking atelier are signed photos of past performers as well as a preserved cancan costume permanently on display. A well-worn piece of red carpet is where dancers test the shoes.

Nicolas Maistriaux, the head cobbler, oversees the complicated process necessary to make one pair of shoes. Five cobblers must follow about 250 steps in the production of each shoe. A pair of shoes takes between twenty and sixty hours of work to complete.

line

The Best Ways to Visit the Champagne Region from Paris

A Day in the Champagne Region, with Hotel Pick-up & Lunch
A small-group tour led by an expert guide to the Land of Champagne for a day-long tasting of the bubbly. Inclues lunch & pick-up at your Paris hotel.
More information…

Champagne Tour from Paris: Moet & Chandon, Hautvillers, and the House of Mumm
Taste champagne at three of the top producers on a day trip from Paris. The small-group tour also visits Reims, the capital of Champagne country.
More information…

9. Celebrating the Belle Époque

The theatre has a thousand Belle Époque touches, including thousands of tiny, red, firefly lights, authentic mural paintings, vintage Morris columns, and original posters of the artists who performed on this historic stage. In case you're wondering, Morris columns are iconic green structures used to promote concerts, theatre, and nightclub shows. There are still something like 200 Morris columns found throughout Paris.

10. Toulouse-Lautrec

French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was in love with Montmartre. Lautrec suffered from a disease that stunted the growth of his legs. He immersed himself in art and found relief in the cafes of Montmartre. It was there he met his muse, Moulin Rouge dancer La Goulue. He attended the cabaret every evening, drawing the dancers and patrons from a corner table, always with a glass of absinthe at his side. He soon became a favorite of the cancan dancers, who gave him a nickname, the little guy. In 1891, he drew the first poster for the Moulin Rouge, which is now , the best known image of the Moulin Rouge.

The Best Ways to Visit Moulin Rouge

Best Ways to Visit Moulin Roug

We've also written about our favourite ways to visit Moulin Rouge. (Hint — our top pick return transportation from your Paris address.)

Five Free Paris Planning Guides

Get Our Paris Planning Guides.
A Gift from Us to You.
Bon Voyage !