Revellers run amok at Paris hotel's 'demolition party'
New owner of the Royal Monceau, Alexandre Allard, says good bye to this Paris landmark in an unusual way, with sledge hammers and protective gear, before getting ready to create the ultimate boutique hotel.
27 June 2008
FRANCE - The dress code was strict for this season's most happening party in Paris: white paper overalls, rubber boats and gloves, safety goggles, dust mask, orange hard hat. Oh, and the sledge hammer, essential for smashing up the room of your choice on the fourth floor of the Royal Monceau.
Well over 1,200 revellers ran amok into the wee hours of Friday in the five-star hotel, a stately 265-room pile near the Arc de Triomphe that's been a favoured haunt of the global glitterati since 1928. Its new owner, Alexandre Allard, 39, who made his fortune in IT, is shutting its doors for 15 months for a roof-to-cellar refit in collaboration with celebrated designer Philippe Starck, 59.
The concept is to create, in the shell of a Roaring Twenties landmark, the ultimate boutique hotel with a strong artistic bent. "We're talking about a new luxury based on intelligence," said Starck on Thursday evening as the guests started to line up outside on Avenue Hoche. He went on to state, "intelligence is sexy."
The affable Allard -- who gushed memories of his first power breakfast at the Royal Monceau at the tender age of 18, envisioned "a hotel that will be a crossroads of encounters. For that you need artists, people who show the way forward" he said. He invited plenty to his "Demolition Party" -- US indy rockers Gossip, Belgian electronic punk band 2 Many DJs and French rapper MC Solaar, to name just some of the musicians.
Virtually all the Royal Monceau's contents -- the beds, the cutlery, the minibars, you name it -- had been sold off days before, in an auction that raked in 3.35 million EUR (5.27 USD). On the ground floor, transvestites pranced by the ballroom-turned-disco, and Madonna's steamy "Justify My Love" video -- filmed in the Royal Monceau in 1990 -- played over and over on in one of the many Champagne and vodka bars. Upstairs, several rooms were turned over to about a dozen contemporary artists from France and beyond, such as China's Wang Du who fixed a working outboard motor onto a bathtub. The room was thick with exhaust fumes.
Down the corridor, the Iraqi-Finnish artist Adel Abidin unspooled a video depicting a bomb blast inside the hotel. The room itself was a deliberate mess -- prompting one American guest to remark: "Looks like Amy Winehouse's room." Best by far was Belgian burlesque artist Caroline Lemaire, alias Creamy Caro, in black torsolette and four-inch red heels, lounging in her room, oblivious to the giggling gawkers peering through a hole in the wall. Brilliantly voyeuristic, it captured the essential seediness that lurks within the soul of every luxury hotel.
Upstairs, however, is where things really got down and dirty. Leggy young things in skimpy outfits and their argumentative alpha-male companions crowded the marble staircase for their turn to don safety gear and have a go at the gypsum walls in rooms that once cost up to 650 EUR a night.
Hotels were certainly well built in Paris in 1928 -- it took a good five minutes for this AFP reporter to punch a fist-sized hole between rooms 427 and 429. The wallpaper proved especially resilient. The night's must-have souvenir was a chunk of Royal Monceau masonry, though some crafty guests made off with hard hats, sledge hammers, even white bathrobes that somehow missed the auction. Bemused by the goings-on were T-shirted labourers from the contractor that will professionally finish gutting the hotel. Supervising the amateurs, one of them sniffed: "We're the one who get to pick up this mess."
By Robert MacPherson