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

Anecdote : The Cage aux Folles, Michel Serrault, Jean Poiret and Pierre Mondy

Anecdote : The Cage aux Folles, Michel Serrault, Jean Poiret and Pierre Mondy
In early 1973, a phenomenon began to take shape. An incredible triumph for the Parisian theatre world.

One night in January, around half past 11, three huge names of the theatre paid a visit to the Coupe-Chou. These were Jean Poiret, Michel Serrault and Pierre Mondy. They were accompanied by Jean-Michel Rouzière, who was the manager of the Palais-Royal back then. Poiret, Serrault and Mondy were regular visitors to the Coupe-Chou… but that night they would be staying until six o'clock in the morning!

They were busily rehearsing a play which would mark the return of this famous duo. The play in question was of course "La Cage aux Folles", which went on to enjoy an unprecedented level of success, and which has never since been rivalled. "La Cage" would run for five consecutive years at the Palais Royal followed by two years at the variety theatres.

Back then of course, no one could have guessed that such overwhelming success was just around the corner. Not even the theatre manager, who had already scheduled another play for the following season. What's more, the masterpiece was far from finished at this stage. There were still a number of problems to be sorted out and "La Cage" wasn't ready for the big time just yet.

The team continued to hold their working sessions at the Coupe-Chou.

Poiret requested "a back room, where we can get some peace and quiet". Naturally, we gave them the Bibliothèque (the library) to use. After all, where better to get on with some serious work than in a library! They still needed to fine tune the final act for the play.

Combining work with their meal, Poiret and Serrault improvised the now famous rapid-fire wisecracks that left countless audiences in stitches over the next seven years.

Jean Poiret
Jean Poiret
What's more, Serrault rehearsed his role in the restaurant, gradually slipping into the character of Zaza Napoli, as he developed those languid looks and fluttering eyelashes as he made eyes at the man seated at the next table, who naturally began to get worried. The unfortunate client finally whispered to the restaurant managers, Christian Azzopardi and Francis Nani:

"Has Serrault gone gay?"
"No, he's working"
"Oh. Well that's some weird job he's got!"

And the client turned back to his meal, while Serrault continued winking at him provocatively.

Pierre Mondy
Pierre Mondy
For his part, Mondy was often deep in thought. He would discuss costume design with Jean-Michel Rouzière.

"Serrault's dresses just aren't right… nor the wigs. Sorry, Michel, but you're just too attractive. You almost look like Edwige Feuillère. It's back to the drawing board I'm afraid".
"Will who do you want to look like… Yvette Horner?" asked Serrault, feigning indignation.
"Don't worry, you won't need to take accordion lessons!"

Over in his corner, Rouzière was not a big eater. A manager down to the last, he was busily calculating how much this dress incident was going to cost him. What he didn't know however, was just how much all of this was going to bring in. Such are the highs and lows of the artistic world! The manager also had other concerns:

"Look folks", he said, "the title just isn't right!"
Poiret looked worried: "what's wrong with La Cage aux Folles?"
"It's vulgar! And what's more we'll have all the gay community up in arms over this. We need something funnier but also a little more elegant".

Michel Serrault
Michel Serrault
"Any ideas?"
Rouzière's eyes lit up. He was clearly expecting this question. With a little smile of self contentment, he finally exclaimed:
"Yes, we should call it… "Fart"!

Mondy, who was in the process of bringing his fork up to his mouth stopped dead in his tracks. Poiret's eyes bulged and Serrault was speechless. No one was quite sure what to say next.

But Rouzière was not done yet: "Fart! That's hilarious isn't it? But with an exclamation mark of course!"
"With an exclamation mark?"
"Oh well, of course with an exclamation mark, that changes everything!"
"It's funny isn't it? Isn't it? Well it was just an idea…."
"And what were you saying about Michel's dress, Pierrot?…" interjected Poiret.

Theater Director
Theater Director
In short, Rouzière's idea wasn't adopted. In fact the title is still free today if there are any takers!

That evening, the working session went on until six o'clock in the morning. Alone in the restaurant, they put the finishing touches to "La Cage aux Folles". Christian Azzopardi and Francis Nani didn't get to bed until the following morning, but then again it's not every night that legends are created…. and it's not in any old restaurant either!