Chez des Nudistes
On 20th December 1932, the famous American cabaret owner, Joe Zelli, seemingly inaugurated a rather racy two hour cabaret show entitled ‘Chez les Nudistes’ at his venue called The Royal Box at 16 bis Rue Fontaine in Paris.
At first the show was called ‘Chez les Nudistes’ but soon the venue itself took that name replacing the Royal Box and a series of spectacular shows were staged through the period 1933-1939 – usually two shows per year.
Charles Tutelier was the artistic director of Chez Les Nudiste but the venue was run by Henry Darcet, director of the Scala Theatre. One cannot help but wonder whether Joe Zelli was still involved in the running of his venue or if he had given a lease to his Royal Box to Darcet or indeed sold out to Darcet. Certainly, at first, Chez Les Nudistes was described as being at Zelli’s but later by 1934 there was no mention of Zelli.
Since Joe Zelli had been criss-crossing the Atlantic from 1929, he had more or less decided to remain in New York by the early 1930s. At some point he was also divorced from his wife who remained in Paris. In early 1936 press rumours suggested that the Zelli family was still connected with the original nightclub and that Mme Zelli had ‘a big finger in this club pot.’ The suggestion was that Joe Zelli, now residing in New York, had left the club to his wife and that presumably she had leased the club to Henry Darcet or a deal had been done between the two of them.
For Chez Les Nudistes, the interior of Zelli’s Royal Box nightclub was completely transformed with salacious murals of famous Parisian personalities, all in the nude, painted by Jean-Dominique van Caulaert. In fact one of the murals showed a naked Henry Bernstein, the playwright, running off with the actress Gaby Morlay, also naked. She objected in court and the image had to be covered up by a satin veil.
The first show featured Leardy and Verly, Stephen Weber, the fantasist Lucien Rainier, the comic Devere, the singer Guy Berry, Belle Mourie, La Jolie Jickis, Suzanne Chatellier, Odette Coeur, the dancer Oreme, and, a range of mannequins with Paulette Duvernet all assisted by the jazz of Carlito and 16 nude beauties.
By April 1933 the show was called Au Deal… Des Reins – but whether this was a new edition or rather the subsequent title of the initial show, is not clear. Various new acts were introduced including that of a Miss Naiad described as the Venus of the Water. By June 1933 the show featured the celebrated American star Zaidee Jackson and the beautiful Kadra, who was described as the Siren of the Tropics, and a new number was inserted into the show entitled the ballet of the birds.
After 7 months of success with Au Dela … Des Reins a new show was launched on 29th September 1933 called La Folie Nudiste, with 35 tableaux, 16 ballerines, 24 beautiful nudes and 60 artistes. It was staged once again by Charles Tutelier, with costumes by Gaston Zanel, choreography by Samy Bell and jazz music by Carlito. The stars of the show included Liliane Lucey, Roger Ricard, Suzy Guise, Mlle Florence, Rene Bardy, Jimmy Giggs, Phyllis Fallet, Juana, Blanche and Cognacq and Ludy and Chiquita
Tableaux included Montmartre (prologue), Les Vedettes Nudistes, La Danse du Ballon, Les Chemises, La Légende du Faune, Sous le Ciel de La Riviera, Les Paniers, La Chaloupee, Les Dentelles, Virginie, Lesbos, Les Sports, Un Envoys du Paridis, Vision d’Orient, L’Armee du Music Hall and La Folie Nudiste. At the beginning of November 1933 Arabelle and Kiess along with the acrobatic dancers Les Worteps were added to the cast.
A new show was staged in early January 1934 called Les Nus de Paris. Once again it was staged by Charles Tutelier, with costumes by Gaston Zanel, English dances by Miss Fallet and ballets by Sammy-Bel. The stars were Jenny Gossen, E. Rouget, Kievs, Odette Ghuzel, Clarita and Joana and Phyllis Fallet. There were also the 16 London Girls, 24 nude beauties and 8 ballerina’s. The principal tableaux were: Le nu habile, L’Amour en Espagne, Vienne en Folies, Wamp, L’Idole d’or, En Chine, Eve impudique, Les Heures, Le Film nu, une nuit e 1880 and les singes nu. The show ran until early April 1934.
Thereafter, there were numerous shows all with the same format: about 6 principals, at least 20 nude beauties and upto 20 tableaux. The premiere of Vive le Nu was on 11th April 1934 with Chamira?, Jenny-Glossen, Roger Ricard, Jane Holder, La Belle Juana and D’Alal. A second edition was launched 17th June 1934 with the debut of Miss Billy Carlton and 12 new tableaux that included Les Pastels, Danse Etheree, Au Pays des Tulips, Samba, Shanghai Lill, Boboule Chez les Nudistes, La Carioca, Viva La France and Visons d’orient.
Paris-Vienne replaced Vive le Nu on 14th September 1934 with Princes Bartira, Inge Carena and Les Venus du Danube and ran through the end of 1934 and perhaps the early part of 1935. Subsequently, A Nu… la Femme Paris ran from April – September 1935.
The premiere of Nus.. de Montmartre took place at the end of September 1935 with the cuban singer and dancer Ines Garcia,
Georgette Tansey, Rolly, Stavor, Yvonne Andre, Helene Petit and Roger Pregor and ran through the early part of 1936. Volupte was staged from mid-February 1936 to May 1936 with with Barbara La May, Lily Darlay, the comic Drean, Carl Helene and Dill Regis, Felix, Yanar Bella, Paquet, Renee-Daniel, Malaria, Anacoana, France Aubert and Roland Dorsay.
Broadway Nu Follies was premiered at the end of May 1936 and ran until October 1936. Paris Nu Burlesques ran from October – April 1937. Allo! Ici Paris Nu…York ran from 9th April 1937 to November 1937 and was described as an international revue with staggering 40 tableaux with the comic Frank Pichel, the American comic dancer Mister Louis, the fantaisiste Miss Phylis, Colette Fleuriot, De Kervan, Danielle Vigneau and Odette Fervrier.
The premiere of Femmes Nues Folies was on 25th November 1937 and ran trough June 1938 and was followed by Printemps nue-Folies from 1st July 1938 through 1939. Oddly, before the German occupation of Paris in June 1940, Chez les Nudistes reopened in early 1940 as Paradise (the Paradise Club) with adverts in German. One can only wonder if Mrs Zelli, who was German, still had her hand in the running of the venue.
Programme Chez les Nudistes
Paris Soir 18/10/32
Le Journal Amusant 3/1/33
Le Journal 20/1/33
Chicago Tribune 14/2/33
Le Matin 18/4/33
Chicago Tribune 12/6/33
Chicago Tribune 16/6/33
Le Journal 23/9/33
Le Journal 7/10/33
Le Journal 27/10/33
Le Journal 1/11/33
le Journal 12/1/34
Le Matin 11/4/34
Le Matin 12/9/34
Paris Soir 15/2/36
Reading Times 3/2/36
Le Journal 26/5/36
Paris Soir 28/8/40