Café de Paris (London)

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Café de Paris
Café de Paris - London - 08.JPG
The club's entrance in September 2013
Address 3–4 Coventry Street
Coordinates 51°30′37″N 0°07′56″W / 51.51039°N 0.13215°W / 51.51039; -0.13215
Type Nightclub
Opened 1924 (1924)
Reopened 1948

Café de Paris is a London nightclub, located in the West End, beside Leicester Square on Coventry Street, Piccadilly.

It opened in 1924 and subsequently featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Marlene Dietrich, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson and Maxine Cooper Gomberg.[1] Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston (dance) to London.

Much of the early success of the Cafe de Paris was due to the visit of the then Prince of Wales who became a regular guest, often dining with notables from high society across Europe.[2] Cole Porter was a regular, as was the Aga Khan.[3]

During World War II, on 8 March 1941, the cafe was bombed soon after the start of a performance[4] and at least thirty four people were killed[5] and around eighty injured[6] Two bombs fell into the basement ballroom down a ventilation shaft and exploded in front of the stage.[5] The victims included 26-year-old bandleader Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson,[7] his saxophonist Dave "Baba" Williams,[8] other band members, staff and diners.[5] One survivor was cheered by the crowd outside, when, on being carried out on a stretcher, he shouted to them "At least I didn't have to pay for dinner".[5]

The venue did not reopen until 1948[2] but re-established itself as one of the leading theatre clubs in London, playing host to Frank Sinatra, Tony Hancock and Grace Kelly. In the 1950s Noël Coward often performed cabaret seasons at the Cafe de Paris[2] as did Marlene Dietrich. It was also used in the 2006 music video for I Think We're Alone Now by Girls Aloud.

In the 1980s the venue experienced a revived popularity, hosting scene locations for films including Absolute Beginners and The Krays.[3] Today the venue is used regularly for film location, and has been used for scenes in The Queen's Sister (based on the life of Princess Margaret) and in The Edge of Love (based on the life of Dylan Thomas).[3]

The Cafe de Paris plays host to regular cabaret shows. "Cabaret Des Distractions" runs on Fridays, created and hosted by renowned Cabaret performer Reuben Kaye featuring a variety lineup that features the likes of Bettsie Bon Bon, Stephen Williams, Anna The Hulagan, Sammy Dineen, Snake Fervor and Chrisalys.

In fiction[edit]

The 1941 bombing of the Café de Paris is described in a chapter of "The Attenbury Emeralds" by Jill Paton Walsh. The bombing and its aftermath have a considerable bearing on the investigation carried out by Lord Peter Wimsey in that book.

The Cafe, and the 1941 bombing, are major plot devices in the 2011 novel "Moon Over Soho" by Ben Aaronovitch.


  1. ^ "Maxine Cooper". The Daily Telegraph. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Cafe de Paris Shady Old Lady's Guide To London, retrieved 6 February 2011
  3. ^ a b c The Independent Film-makers resurrect love affair with the Cafe de Paris, retrieved 6 February 2011
  4. ^ Andrew Janes, "The bombing of the Café de Paris", Records and research. The National Archives.
  5. ^ a b c d Rennell, Tony (9 April 2010). "The blitz 70 years on: Carnage at the Café de Paris". Mail Online. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Ken "Snakehips" Johnson at Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  7. ^ CWGC Casualty Record.
  8. ^ Black History Month - Black British Swing: Caribbean Contribution to British Jazz in the 1930s and 1940s at

External links[edit]