Sunday, November 18, 2007

Le Chat Noir (18.11.1881)

Le Chat Noir (French for "The Black Cat") was a 19th-century cabaret
in the bohemian
Montmartre district of Paris.
It was opened on
18 November 1881 at 84 Boulevard Rouchechouart
by the artist
Rodolphe Salis,
and closed in 1897
(much to the disappointment of Picasso and others
who looked for it when they came to Paris for the Exposition in 1900).

Perhaps best known now by its iconic Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen poster art,
in its heyday it was a bustling nightclub — part artist salon,
part rowdy music hall, partially due to an illegal piano.
The cabaret published its own journal Le Chat Noir.
It began as a small, two room affair,
but within three and a half years its popularity forced it to move
into larger accommodations a few doors down.
Salis most often played, with exaggerated, ironic politeness,
the role of conférencier (post-performance lecturer, or MC).
It was here that the Salon des Arts Incohérents (Salon of Incoherent Arts),
the "shadow plays" and the comic monologues got their start.
According to Salis:
"The Chat Noir
is the most
extraordinary cabaret in the world.
You rub shoulders with the most famous men of Paris,
meeting there with foreigners from every corner
of the world."

Chat Noir, 1906

Famous patrons of the Chat Noir included
Adolphe Willette, Caran d'Ache,
Emile Cohl, Paul Verlaine,
Henri Rivière, Claude Debussy, Erik Satie,
Charles Cros, Jules Laforgue,
Charles Moréas, Albert Samain,
Emile Goudeau, Alphonse Allais,
Maurice Rollinat, Maurice Donnay, Armand Masson,
Aristide Bruant, Paul Signac,
Yvette Guilbert, August Strindberg,
George Auriol.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Black Cat

[...]Pluto --this was the cat's name --was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.

Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character --through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance --had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me --for what disease is like Alcohol! --and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish --even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.

One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fiber of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity. [...]