Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Sumptuously Private Privé; Thanks Dita

By Alwynne Gwilt.

I showed up in pearls. Black dress, pearls and a pair of brown crocodile pumps. I wanted to be brandishing a cigarette holder and wearing a big fur coat too, but I hadn't had a chance to go hunting (for one in a vintage shop, of course).

As soon as I heard about the exclusive pop-up Cointreau Privé on Piccadilly at the Pigalle Club - launched by the incredibly fabulous Dita Von Teese recently - I couldn't wait to go.

The pop-up will last only a brief three weeks, hidden below ground, away from Christmas shopping hoards and tourists. It is entrance by wristband only (gained by going to the Cointreau Privé) and all elements of the set-up have been duly overseen by the burlesque queen herself (Von Teese will also be performing once more during the pop-up and a host of other guests will carry on the burlesque tradition other nights).

I wandered down, down, down the stairs and into the heart of it all. Red, sexy red, splashed colour everywhere: red fez lanterns, red walls, red drapes. Hot jazz played across the speakers, candles flickered their sensuous dance and big brass pots housed fake palms. It was a boudoir to beat all boudoirs and I wanted to snuggle up for hours in its splendour.

The thing is, I love the 1920s. And the 1930s. With their garish charm, free-wheeling sexuality, sumptuous dining and never ending drinking, these decades represent to me what I wish could be replicated now. No iPhones, no distracting pop-idol shows, no boob tube or monotonous conversations about "celebrities" emerging from gutters of Essex, just jazz, glorious jazz; and men with slicked back hair, wearing tuxes, because they can, and women in furs and red lipstick, daring to cut their hair short, fearing no repercussions for dancing all night.

OK, so logically this was not the same story for everyone. Most of the US was in a state of abject poverty (more than today even) and gangsters ran the cities. But, still, I can't help getting a little glassy eyed about the idea of it all.

This speakeasy brings it all back. The only problem is that it's in England. Not to sound too down but, as I sat down and felt duly dressed up for the night, I looked around the room with dismay, wishing I were in Paris. If it were Paris, I thought, it would be all sex and mystique; people would have made an effort. Here it was mostly trainers, jeans and baggy tops. There were a few elegantly presented ladies and gents, tucked away in corners, sipping on glorious cocktails and donning sexy heels (well, the ladies at least) but I wanted there to be more; I wanted to go back to the days of dancing and glory and celebrate our freedom.

But, at least the venue had it right. It was, as my plus one suggested, "the kind of place I want to come to for the whole evening, where I can smoke and drink, get merry and stumble home without having to get up too early because I have only to carry on writing my novel".

So, dreams abounded for us both. As we sipped our cocktails - mine a dry vermouth, elderflower, Cointreau (obviously) and violet concoction; his a bitter lemon and Cointreau mix - and sat back to take in the splendour, we were both lost, transported to another era. And maybe that is what is should be all about.

The Cointreau Prive pop-up is located at 215 Piccadilly at the Pigalle Club and is open only until the 17th December. To get wristbands for entrance to the venue and details on who is performing when, register at the Cointreau Privé website.

To find more burlesque bars and clubs in London, follow this link


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