National Geographic : 1972 Jul
unmatched tradition of Parisian art, but, alas, only the ghosts of the old masters are left wandering the crooked alleys of Montmartre, where Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Utrillo, and Picasso once lived and worked. They fre quented the cafes along the narrow, winding streets and the Place du Tertre, which, with its trees, would still look like a quiet village square if you could keep out all the tourists and aspiring artists and the forest of easels that crowd the little place. For devout pilgrims the biggest attraction of Montmartre is Sacre Coeur, the bulbous white basilica crowning the highest hill in Paris and visible from almost anywhere in the city (preceding pages). From the basilica's sacred site you can look down into the pro fane pitfalls of Pigalle, hotbed of some of the gayest and gaudiest night life in town. Where "Evening" Begins After Midnight The French penchant for social invention and style has contributed yet another insti tution to modern Western culture-the dis cotheque. An early one-Whiskey a Gogo began in 1950 as a private club for people who couldn't afford more expensive places. Reasonable drinks, music by jukebox, and self-entertainment were the basis of the genre. So entertaining were some of the selves that other people soon came to watch and also to get into the act. One of the most exclusive "in" places in Paris today, Le New Jimmy's, still maintains the aura of a private club. It hides behind a speakeasy door. A small hinged wooden trap lets the guardian scrutinize you. If in doubt, she calls Regine. Entrance is a sure thing for her personal friends only. Regine herself will welcome you. "You are here too early," she will say. "We have only just opened. It's barely half past minuit." The music is loud enough to make you feel trapped inside a giant speaker. The closeness of the shiny black walls and ceiling illustrates the French word for nightclub: boite, box. Sometime after two there is a stir and the Whisper of satin and cloud of veil mark the traditional bridal-gown finale of a fashion preview at the house of Nina Ricci. Owner Robert Ricci, seated at center, ap plauds the work of head designer Gerard Pipart, on his right. With the decline of custom-made creations, Parisian designers now turn to ready-to-wear clothing.