Restaurant Le Coupe-Chou
Restaurant Le Coupe-Chou - Société La Chartière - 9 & 11, rue de Lanneau 75005 Paris

Anecdote : Marlene Dietrich, the Coupe-Chou and the bombing...

Anecdote : Marlene Dietrich, the Coupe-Chou and the bombing...
The Coupe-Chou hasn't always been what it is today, a huge building with small, steep corridors leading on to a multitude of small rooms brimming with history. Back in 1962 when the restaurant was first opened, it had only a single room known as the "Barbier" and which is today situated in the very heart of the establishment.

Work continued after the restaurant was opened, and although the single restaurant area already had the charm for which it is now so famous, where the other aspects of the establishment were concerned, all kinds of improvisation went on back then.

Clients who had not booked in advance had got into the habit of waiting for a table in a cellar, which was no more than one metre sixty in height. Thus, they patiently waited their turn there, half stooping, and this despite the fact that the restaurant never refunded physiotherapy costs! It seems that half of Paris beat a track to the restaurant's door, for the pleasure of waiting for a table doubled up in one of the capital's oldest cellars. This alone was one of the early signs of the restaurant's success.

One evening, with the cellar full to capacity with future back-trouble victims, a gaggle of regular customers came into the Coupe-Chou including our long-standing friend Francis Joffo, Jean Le Poulain and Robert Hirsch. These great stars of the French theatre scene had decided to introduce none other than Marlene Dietrich to the fine fare to be enjoyed in our restaurant!

Anecdote : Marlene Dietrich, the Coupe-Chou and the bombing...
The Coupe-Chou was in a state of panic: we needed to provide a fitting welcome for this great lady and international star. More than a success, we wanted this to be a triumph! But first we had to find them a table. Sending her to stoop in the cellar was absolutely out of the question! Fortunately, a table became free and we seated our national and international stars next to the fireplace, keen to ensure that everything was perfect right down to the last detail for the great actress.

Anecdote : Marlene Dietrich, the Coupe-Chou and the bombing...
But suddenly, just to prove that this happens to great stars too, she asked where the toilets were. At which point the three previously ecstatic managers Francis Nani, Francis Lemonnier and Christian Azzopardi literally turned pale. They tried to gain time. Someone gave her an aperitif. Once again she asked for the toilets, so instead they brought over some appetisers. She now asked a third time and obviously this time there was no getting out of it. Fearing the worst, the three managers of the Coupe-Chou (who had now suddenly become very silent) pointed the way to the toilets.

As I mentioned, work on the restaurant wasn't really finished and improvisation was the order of the day. Marlene Dietrich was about to discover an example of such improvisation at first hand.

You see, the restaurant didn't really have any toilets as such. Instead we used those in the building. Back then, the apartments in working-class areas didn't have all mod cons by any stretch of the imagination, and in 1962 the Latin Quarter was definitely not the middle-class area it is today.

Anecdote : Marlene Dietrich, the Coupe-Chou and the bombing...
To get to the toilets, you had to go out into a small inner courtyard. It was pouring with rain, and the "Blue Angel" got her wings wet trying to reach a worm-eaten old door, which didn't reach right down to the ground, meaning that the lower part of the occupant's legs were on display for the whole world to admire. She looked like Causette.

The great Marlene opened the door and discovered the "must have" feature of all great establishments: Turkish-style toilets! Oh yes, for some reason those communal toilets were always horrible "hole in the floor" affairs.

Meanwhile, the three managers (Francis, Francis and Christian) had now turned whiter than the napkins on the tables. Moments later, the door from the courtyard opened and Marlene Dietrich proclaimed loudly in her inimitable German accent: "It's fantastic. That reminds me of the bombing during the war!" She found the whole experience amusing, and the evening was saved, with the three managers slowly recovering their normal complexion.

Despite this, Marlene came back again, although it always seemed that she had taken her precautions beforehand!