Monday, February 11, 2013

Hotel Ritz Ladies' Bar

Fifty Million Frenchmen (1931)
Hotel Ritz Ladies' Bar 

Location: 15 Place Vendome, Paris, France 

Opened: The Hotel Ritz opened in 1898, the Hotel's first bar (the male-only bar known as Bar Cambon) opened in 1921. When the Ritz Ladies' Bar opened is not real clear, but it apparently began its life as the ladies waiting room next to to the Bar Cambon.

Closed: What is now known as the Ritz Bar (the bar that was formerly the male-only Bar Cambon) went coed in 1936.  The Ladies' Bar then became Le Petit Bar, and then Bar Hemingway. The Hotel Ritz (along with all its bars) closed for a two-year renovation project in 2012. 

This is yet another case of pure serendipity. I stumbled upon this story about the Hotel Ritz Ladies' Bar in an old newspaper article published in the Oelwein [Iowa] Daily Register, May 9, 1931. The context was the opening of a new movie, Fifty Million Frenchmen. This is some of what it said: 

When "steam room" is mentioned it brings to the average mind a picture of a Turkish Bath with sheeted figures wiping dripping brows in a dense fog. But to a Parisian, the steam room spells something entirely different--the ladies' bar!

Jed Kiley, prominent figure in Paris night life, owner of Cafe Boulevardier, and more recently technical director on Warner Bros. production "Fifty Million Frenchmen," showing at the Galaxy Theatre, Sunday and Monday, coined the phrase. He called the ladies' bar a steam room because at the cocktail hour in Paris, it is so hot and bothered with cigarette smoke that it resembles a steam room. The name stuck and from then on the women's salon of the bar was the "steam room."

An exact duplicate of the Ritz bar in Paris with its accompanying steam room was built on the Warner Bros. lot for the making of this rollicking farce adapted from the stage play of the same name.

Bar Hemingway, the former Hotel Ritz Ladies Bar
From what I can tell, the men's bar began in 1921. It was initially known as the Cambon Bar because the entrance was just inside the Hotel's Rue Cambon entrance.

Colin Peter Field explains the rest:

Just opposite the bar was a very small 'salon de correspondance' with lovely wooden walls. This became the ladies' waiting room, where ladies waiting for their husbands would while away the 'minutes'. (Ladies, at this time, were not allowed in the bars.) In 1936 the principal bar was transformed to receive both sexes, and at the same time a second bar was created. This was 'Le Petit Bar', over which Bernard 'Bertin' Azimont was to preside until his retirement in 1975. The little bar was to become Ernest Hemingway's favourite haunt. He had discovered the Ritz Paris in 1925 after meeting Scott Fitzgerald in the 'Dixies Bar', a drinking hole for ex-patriot American artists and writers. The Dixies no longer exists, but Le Petit Bar, now known as the Bar Hemingway, continues to thrive.

A Frenchwoman invades the male-only Ritz Hotel Bar (1931)
If you watch the first few minutes of 50 Million Frenchmen, you get a rare glimpse into how these various male and female spaces functioned within a high-class hotel of that era. I'm not going to summarize the whole film, but it begins with an American man managing to steal a Frenchwoman's money. She tracks him down to the Ritz Hotel bar, which is obviously male only. She barges in anyway in order to confront the man. The men within the bar treat her with utter derision and contempt. We later see a small sign by the entrance which states that ladies are not admitted. However, we see gentlemen passing in and out of the so-called Ladies Bar with no problems at all. In fact, there are at least as many men in the Ladies Bar as ladies. 

This conforms with what many women observed during that time period. And it's the same double standard regarding boundary enforcement that we still see around womyn's spaces today. 

1 comment:

  1. So Ian Somerhalder!!! He should definetly play Mr.Grey in Fifty Shades Of Grey.
    50 shades of grey movie


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