daughter of a card playing jam maker

Regine Choukroun’s mother left her 5 year old daughter and younger brother in the care of their father Joseph and never returned. Joseph was a card playing jam maker whose fortunes came and went like the fox cape and jewels he gave and took back from his many wives and girlfriends.

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That little five year old girl grew up to be the entrepreneurial owner of 25 nightclubs in more than a dozen cities.

In the early eighties, you could party at one of her clubs on three continents for 17 hours out of every 24. That is, if you could get in. Regine has always cultivated her life story carefully. Spend an hour with her and she will regale you with tales of the twelve-foot pet boa constrictor given to her by Federico Fellini, the weeklong fasts she undertakes before opening a club, her abilities as a judo master and turbojet pilot.

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“Once, I flew with her to Paris on the Concorde, and she was the only person I ever saw who didn’t have to show her passport at Customs,” says Diane Von Furstenberg. “It was just, Bonjour, Madame Regine.”

Her first club, Chez Regine, which opened in Paris in 1958, was certainly an original: it was the spot where customers like Brigitte Bardot and Rudolf Nureyev first danced to recorded music instead of live bands; where they first bought bottles of liquor instead of cocktails; where they first did the twist to imported Chubby Checker records. “One night, I got a call at home from the Duke of Windsor,” she recalls. “He wanted me to come to his house, to teach him the twist. I told him, ‘No. You come to my club — I teach you there.’ “

Nureyev by Avedon

Regine specialized in “happenings,” like the Jean Harlow night where the women wore white satin dresses and painted their Rollses white for the night, stepping out of them onto a white carpet that covered the sidewalk — Dalí turned heads by arriving on the arm of his lover, Amanda Lear, rumored to have once been named Alan.

Keith Moon and Amanda Lear by Richard Young

In 1975 Regine decided to move to Manhattan. She packed 200 pounds of Vuitton luggage and 800 pairs of shoes into a steamboat and moved into the eleventh floor of the Delmonico Hotel, which she decorated just like her clubs, all Art Deco mirrors, brocade couches and snake-wrapped lamps.

The club was so exclusive and exclusionary that the State Liquor Authority considered suing her for social discrimination. Expelled by Regine for knocking over a table of wineglasses with her hoop skirt, Dewi Sukarno, the wife of the former Indonesian president, filed a $4 million lawsuit against the nightclub. She ended up winning one franc.

Dewi

But by the end of the decade, the party began to wind down. “You didn’t feel like you could start doing cocaine on the tables at Regine’s, although it did happen once,” says society chronicler Bob Colacello, who accompanied Warhol on a tour of her clubs around the world. “She wasn’t giving out quaaludes to movie stars, she didn’t have bartenders with their shirts off. She didn’t have what people wanted when the times changed.”

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33 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You can’t have a club without qualudes and topless bartenders… what was she thinking?

    • Um… can I come to your club Alex?

      • Yes… but there is a strict dress code and a very high drink minimum. But thats just for the ladies.

  2. The art of bartending would have been lost if the automatic bartender ever became popular….

    • So no waiting for slow bartenders or ones too busy flirting and no bartenders stealing alcohol. Not so bad I think.

  3. Well, golly gee, that was quite a way to start my morning! (And I’m not referring to Regine and her clubs – although that too was of interest…)
    I’m wide awake now.

  4. You *KNOW* how I feel about hot ballet dancers. You’re a bad, bad, bad woman!

    • Yes, I’m evil. Aren’t you glad you’re gonna be hanging out with me and daisyfae in Greece next month?

  5. i was reading a rather fascinating article here, but then something happened in my brain… i’ll finish after i return from the ballet…

  6. Who knew that Nureyev had such tiny legs and an itsy-bitsy torso?

    Dan Glingdown

  7. What was the dress code for Regine’s clubs? Please don’t refer me to Nureyev’s photo for an example.

    • I believe glamourous casual was acceptable. No thongs

  8. Where did you get that terrifying image of the boy in the python!? And the image of the other terrifying python just below that one!? I hope those were altered in Photoshop.

  9. Too busy prancing about on stage to shave????

    I do love the man though….

    • Are you suggesting he should shave his pubes? I like that manly look he’s sporting

  10. I must say that Nureyev’s twizzle stick is very impressive ……

    • Yes, he can stir my martini any day

  11. Hmm makes Stringfellows look tacky.. Hold on it IS tacky!

    As for Rudolf.. I feel inadequate all of a sudden

  12. The automated bartender could only be a British inventionwhere drinking is usually about achieving an end result and the social aspects a mere side show.

  13. I wish I hadn’t been so busy being slutty during the 80s. I would have liked to have hung with these folks.

    I ❤ Moonie.

    xo

  14. I was always fascinated by this woman – good to have some more stories

  15. A robot bartender. That would be really cool. Hmm… I wonder if I could build one of those. Might be a good project for the cub scouts!

    • Way to get yourself kicked out of the scouts 😉

  16. Did he have to tape that thing to his leg before he took to the ballet stage? Even still, I don’t think you could hide that beast in tights.

    • Tape???

      [imagines peeling sound…]

  17. Thank you for Rudolph! No wonder he was so popular leaping into the air.

    • ‘specially for you queenie xx

  18. I like the kinds of clubs that have spikes sticking out of them

  19. I always that dude danced like he had an extra leg . . .

  20. Who knew the jam making business was so good? My Spanish friend just started a jam making business last week, I shit you not!


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