The costume designer Zig was the pen-name of one of the great artists for the Paris music hall in the Jazz Age. Prolific as an illustrator, creating artwork for posters, programme covers and sheet music, Zig also created stunning sets and costumes with a tremendous flair and originality from the mid to late 1920s and early 1930s, before dying at an early age in 1936. He must not to be confused with another illustrator called Zig Brunner.
Zig was born Louis Gaudin on 22ndDecember 1900 in the 10th arrondissement of Paris (his birth is often erroneously listed as 1882 by many) but details of his family and early life is elusive. He did study at the famous Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he mostly likely studied drawing and painting and developed his skill as an illustrator.
At some point in the early 1920s, Zig began performing in Montmartre cabaret. Since it was noted that these were ‘certain cabarets of a special kind’ the implication is that they may have been gay venues. He would dress up in absurd costume, most likely in drag and disguised himself as a chaisiere (chair attendant) and sang, danced, told stories and heckled customers with an inexhaustible patter. This was a genre of performance that his friend and performer O’dett would later adopt and develop.
In 1934, the French journalist Rene Guetta indicated that Zig’s performance name had been Zigouigoui. As it happens Zigouigoui was a well-known minor celebrity and star of the little cabaret called La Petite Chaumiere, owned by M. Marie, where he held sway from about 1922 to 1928. Located at 2 Rue Berthe in Montmartre, it was a picturesque small cottage-like-building with a rustic front and windows covered in turkey red cotton. It was a well-known haunt for homosexuals. Inside the walls were decorated with cubist paintings and a pianist played alongside a range of entertainers. Because of the large number of men in drag, it became known to tourists who sought a thrilling view of the Parisian underworld.
In one press article in 1926, Zigouigoui was described as a ‘pretty young man’ who lived from his painting and his charms, although much better from his charms than his painting. He usually surprised the clientele of La Petite Chaumiere with his bright and flambouyant costume. One of his paintings called la Vierge aux lilas (the Virgin in lilac) was given to a priest and was hung in the local church. But the reporter, on good authority, (probably from Zig himself) said that that it was in fact a likeness of the music hall star Mistinguett.
It is not known with certainty when Zig first provided designs for the Paris music hall, but the author Angelo Luerti suggests that this was for the revue Ca Chante at the Cigale Theatre in 1922. But it took another 3-4 years before his work appeared more regularly. Another report says he started his career providing designs for Broadway shows including Keep Kool in 1924.However, Zig is not mentioned in the programme for Keep Kool or in any press reports and Kiviette is listed as the sole costume designer.
Eventually, the costume designer Zig worked and mixed with most of the leading personalities of the Paris Music Hall including Mistinguett, Josephine Baker, the Dolly Sisters, Maurice Chevalier, Harry Pilcer, Earl Leslie and Jane Marnac.
It was noted that he was a friend of Charles Gesmar, another great artist and costume designer, who tragically died in 1928. Zig held Gesmar in high esteem and had ‘infinite admiration’ for him. Perhaps Gesmar encouraged Zig and certainly after 1928 many thought that Zig emulated Gesmar and had effectively taken his place. Indeed in 1934 it was observed that Gesmar had been Mistinquett’s ‘crazy boy’ and that now his place had been taken by Zig. He had well and truly become part of Mistinguett’s inner circle. (See the post about Charles Gesmar by clicking here).
The costume designer Zig’s first clear credit was providing the designs for the costumes in the Prologue (called Paris Boulevards) for the Palace Theatre show, Paris Voyeur in 1925.
He also created the curtains and advertising material for Paris En Fleurs at the Casino de Paris (also 1925) that starred Maurice Chevalier and the Dolly Sisters.
In 1927 he created a stunning piece of artwork of the Dolly Sisters to advertise Paris-New York at the Casino de Paris.
The costume designer Zig also dressed at least two scenes with one featuring a range of dances that included the Cancan, the Valse, Cake walk, matchiche, rag time, buck dance, the shimmy, the charleston and the black bottom.
For Les Ailes de Paris at the Casino de Paris in 1927, Zig created some of the curtains and provided some costume designs, which cannot be identified. He also designed the costumes for a series of tableaux for the Folies Bergere show Un Vent de Folie in 1927 that included L’Horlage de Fetes (the holiday clock) and Poissons d’Avril (April fish).
In 1928 Zig provided curtains for Paris Sans Voile at the Casino de Paris , provided costume designs for La Grande Folie at the Folies Bergere and advertising material for Paris Qui Tourne at the Moulin Rouge, which was Gesmar’s last stage credit.
The costume designer Zig also provided the designs for a curious tableaux within the revue Bordeaux-New York at the Casino des Quinconces in Bordeaux, 1928 that was for Les Fees – broadly translated as Fairies but more akin to Genies or perhaps even the spirit. The designs featured les Fees modern, de la danse, de la revue, de la science, de L’extricite, de la Monde, de la Couture, de la nouveaute, de la Musique, de la Litterature, de La Sculpture, de la Medicine , des decoutvertes and des Fleurs.
During 1929 Zig’s work was seen in the show de la Folie Pure at the Folies Bergere with les Belles de Paris, Le Bain de la Parisienne, Un pierre pour chaque robe and Les Etes se Suivent (summers follow one another) with Le Soleil de 1927 and Le Soliel de 1928.
Once again the costume designer Zig contributed to the Casino des Quinconces in Bordeaux for the show Pour Vous with the tableaux Les Plus Beaux Ponts du Monde or the most beautiful bridges in the world that included Le Pont Gothique, Chinois, Japonias, Venitien maudit, Pont De Or, Pont Fleuri and Ponts de Pierre . There were also designs for Le Matins Triomphants or Triumphant Mornings with Matin d’automne, Le Matin d’hiver, Matin du Printemps, Matin L’Ete and Le Matins de Paris.
Zig also contributed to the revue Allo Ici at the Moulin Rouge with Delle in 1929 but it is not known which scenes, similarly for Paris-Miss at the Casino de Paris. Zig also contributed to Edmund Sayag’s revue at the Ambassadeurs Theatre-restaurant, Ernst Rolf’s Revue (Rolf’s Revy) at the China Theatre in Stockholm and the costumes and décor for Un Frisson de Paris at the Theatre des Menus-Plaisirs, music hall in Paris.
More costume designs were used in Un Coup de Folie at the Folies Bergere in 1930 (including the scene Chin Chin girls), Paris Qui Remue at the Casino de Paris (L’Automne- Le Golf) and unidentified scenes in the show Nudist Bar at the Palace Theatre. He also provided numerous sketches for La Revue Quinconces at the Casino des Quinconces in Bordeaux. For the latter this included La Coupe de Fruits with Peches, apricots, oranges, citrons, raisin blanc, raisin noir, poires, pommes, grenades , bananas, prunes, fraises, cerises and ananas.
For the finale of the first act he costumes Clare de Lune with La Lune Rousse, La demi-Lune, La Lune Cachee, La Lune d’argent, La Lune voile, La Reflet de Lune, La Pliene Lune, La Lune qui rient, ls Lune de Miel, La Lune Rouge and La Lune Indiscrete. In 1931 he contributed to Paris qui Brille at the Casino de Paris, L’Usine a Folie at the Folies Bergere, La Revue Resquillons at the Casino des Quinconces in Bordeaux and Ernst Rolf’s revue at the China Theatre in Stockholm, where it was announced he had been signed for a two year contract.
Zig also costumed Jane Marnac in the film Paris-Beguin (the Darling of Paris).
Zig was regarded by his friends and colleagues as a charming companion with a heart of gold, who was good, tender and gentle and mixed a little mischeviousness into his humor. Indeed, this sense of humour sometimes got himself in trouble. David Brett suggested this was brilliantly observed once in Stockholm in 1931 when Miss performed in the Ernst Rolf Revue that Zig had helped costume. At the time he had been allegedly in jail for failing to attend his two-week annual military service but on release had gone to Stockholm to see Mistinguett. He marched onto the stage at the end of her performance and gave her a big bouquet of flowers in which was concealed spoons. When she took the flowers the spoons fell out onto the stage with a clatter and caused raucous laughter from the audience. She was not amused. This incident in Stockholm relates to Mistinguett’s European tour in 1931 where she visited the Hague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Spain (Barcelona), Italy, Berlin, Hamburg, Holland, Sweden and Norway with Earl Leslie. Mistinguett’s costumes for this tour may have been created by Zig.
During 1932, Zig contributed to the show La Joie de Paris starring Josephine Baker at the Casino de Paris and designed the interior décor of the night-club La Cage aux Poules that opened in July 1932 in Jean-Le-Pin. The club had been bought by Mistinguett and the local entrepreneur Michel George-Michel and presented a show with the dancing of Harry Pilcer and Earl Leslie. Mistinguett with her entourage that included Harry Pilcer, Marcelle Fraisette, Rene Fradoy, Earl Leslie and Zig spent the summer on the Cap d’Antibes where she had a villa at Antibes and no doubt not only enjoyed the pleasures of the plage but also night-times at the La Cage aux Poules.
For the rest of the 1930s, Zig’s output appeared to decline. In 1933 he contributed to the show Folies en Folie at the Folies Bergere and in 1934 to the show On En Parle! at the Theatre de Dix Francs, here various Paris music hall stars were impersonated on the stage so Simone Lambert imitated Mistinguett, Cecile Sorel, was represented by Mad Rolley and Jane Marnac by Mlle Pradyll.
In 1935 Zig contributed to Jusqu’ aux etoiles? at the Casino des Quinconces in Bordeaux (with Dany) and finally in June 1936 to Un Soir d’ouble at the Alhambra (with Freddy Wittop and Dany). It was also noted that in late 1935 he was busy designing the costumes for Mistinquett to wear in Christian-Jacque’s film Rigolboche, which was finally released in 1936. Interestingly, Jenny Carre was credited with the costume design so perhaps she created the modern clothes and Zig the more extravagant costumes.
Interestingly, in October 1934 it was announced that Zig had left France aboard the Ile-de-France for New York where he would stay for two years with a contract from the Shubert Brothers to design sets and costumes for their revues. However, Zig was not listed on the incoming passenger list for the Ile-de-France in October 1936, and further the Shubert Archive in New York have no reference to Zig being employed. Clearly the report was either erroneous or the trip was cancelled.
In the early to mid 1930s Zig had an apartment at 46 Rue Notre Dame de Lorette and this links into his association with the growing prominence of the performer know as O’dett (Rene Goupil). O’dett was born in 1903 and started to rise to prominence in 1932 as a performer in Montmartre cabarets at Liberty’s and then Moliere. At first a singer, he then followed in Zig’s footsteps with the same kind of routine and patter – fooling around, chatting with the audience, making fun of them and impersonating other famous artists in costume that included female impersonation. O’dett did not conceal his sexuality but revelled in it and was openly gay. It is clear that Zig and O’dett were friends and it is not too much of a stretch of thought that Zig may have influenced O’dett in his performance.
In 1933 O’dett, with Raoul Favier, took over the management of the cabaret Le Fiacre at 46 Rue Notre Dame de Lorette – which happened to be the same address as Zig’s apartment. An intriguing coincidence! The venue had one successful season and O’dett, as artistic director became a sensation and was ‘applauded and celebrated throughout Paris.’ It is likely that Zig created the décor.
O’dett had also become part of Mistinguett’s inner circle, no doubt through his connections with Zig, and in the summer of 1934 they spent a whole month in the South of France at Miss’s villa in Antibes before returning to stay with her at her home in Bougival, west of Paris on the Seine.
Next, O’dett and Favier took over the famous Montmartre night-spot of l’Abbaye de Theleme at 1 Place Pigalle, that had been closed for some time. It re-opened on 22ndSeptember 1934 with a new name – La Noce (translated to the Wedding) and later in 1935 it was renamed Le Trone (The Throne). Zig was celebrated for creating the interior décor that was regarded as an attraction itself and he must have designed O’dett’s costumes. O’dett, described as being ‘witty’ and ‘lively’, once again became the ‘great cabaret host’ of the evening’s festivities. Various artistes were presented including Lyne Clevers and Frehel, Jean Marsac, George Andre Marin, Odette Moulin, Linsette and Pardies and Spadolini. O’dett and Favier kept La Noce going through 1935 and 1936 and later the cabaret changed its name to simply Chez O’dett.
In April 1936, O’dett became the triumphant star of the show Plaisirs de Paris at the Casino de Paris. Zig was given prominence for providing some of the décor or sets and he designed all the embroidered curtains. He was also responsible for designing all the décor and costumes for the scenes with O’dett. This must have been a marvelous collaboration between the two friends. Through the genius of Zig, O’dett showed off his taste for 1900 costumes adapted to a modern style and he also performed with Pierre Dac in burlesque and in drag. Their parody of Phèdre delighted the audience. In the later 1930s O’dett caused a sensation in a sketch in which he caricatured Adolf Hitler surrounded by nude women.
Seemingly in early May 1936, Zig accompanying the actor Maurice Lagrenee (who was at the time being seen in the film The Enigmatic Gentleman with Maurice de Canonge) was on a car journey when they were involved in a serious accident. It would appear that Zig was uninjured but Lagrenee was taken to the hospital at Beaujon.
On the night of the 18thMay 1936, Zig spent the evening at Le Trone cabaret and returned home to 46 Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette at 8am on the morning of the 19th May and went to bed, but allegedly took sleeping pills to sleep. At 12 noon, the concierge, entered his room but was unable to awaken him and so she summoned either the police, firefighters or emergency services. They tried to resuscitate Zig and he was rushed to Bichat hospital where, a few hours later he died. It was also announced that Zig’s death was on the eve of his departure for America ‘where, perhaps, fortune awaited him.’
His death was reported widely and Paris was in complete shock. His death was immediately regarded as very suspicious and all the notices made it clear that ‘drug abuse was undoubtedly at the root of this death.’ While some believed he took too many sleeping pills, Paris Soir said ‘his heart could not resist a too massive dose of white powder’ suggesting cocaine. What really happened is therefore not clear. Because of the mysterious circumstances of Zig’s death the police mounted an investigation and Mr. Maurice, police commissioner of the Saint-Georges district, interviewed various witnesses and many of Zig’s friends.
The police were keen to locate the supplier who had provided the ill-fated artist with the drugs but it was a coincidence that put them on the trail to the suspects who were subsequently arrested. Chief commissioner M. Lefevre was in charge of the investigation with inspectors Metra and Malvoisin. They had been notified by the Saint-Lazare prison that an inmate named Charlotte Delinieres, (born 1902) was receiving narcotics cleverly concealed in tubes of toothpaste, in the lining clothes or in heels of shoes. However, it was not revealed why Charlotte was in prison. The police decided to place her under discreet surveillance and on her release from prison on 20th May, the day after Zig’s death she was followed. They soon confirmed that her supplier of drugs was a young man of 20 named Lucien Peytour of no fixed abode and rather oddly nicknamed Lulu-le-Marin. Presumably this rather ‘gay’ sounding name suggests another layer to the conspiracy.
Peytour or ‘Lulu’ was brought to the Quai de Orfevres police station for questioning along with Charlotte. He admitted to supplying Charlotte with drugs and also to being Zig’s supplier. Both were arrested, charged and sent to prison.
Zig died very young, but his life had been picturesque and eventful. Zig‘s funeral was celebrated at 3:30 p.m on 26thMay 1936 at the church of Saint-Antoine des Quinze-Vingts, 66 Ave Ledru-Rollin.
Images featuring Zig’s work from the internet
l’Abbaye de Theleme: A Retrospective
Not Only Erte: Costume design for the Paris Music Hall 1918 1940 by Angelo Luerti
The Mistinguett Legend by David Brett
Queen of the Paris Night by Mistinguett
Milton’s Paradise Mislaid by Billy Milton
Café-Concert et Music-Hall; Les Paris a Bordeaux
Paris Music Hall Programmes and brochures from the Folies Bergere and Casino de Paris
L’expression homosexuelle dans les chansons françaises de l’entre-deux-guerres : entre dérision et ambiguïté by Martin Pénet
Chicago Tribune 4/6/31
Le Matin 16/6/31
Le Carnet de la Semaine 21/8/32
L’Echo de Paris 11/2/34
Paris Soir 15/2/34
Aux Ecoutes 18/8/34
Paris Soir 22/9/34
Journal des debats politiques et Litteraires 22/10/34
La Liberte 17/7/35
Le Quotidien 20/12/35
Paris Soir 3/1/36
Paris Soir 21/5/36
Le Jour 12/6/36