From the late 1970s through the 1990s, Les Bains Douches was a nightclub in Paris located at 7 rue du Bourg l’Abbé in the 3rd arrondissement. What made it distinctive from most other nightclubs were the availability—as the club’s very name promised—of large baths for its patrons to cool off or generally frolic in. It was originally built in 1885 by the Guerbois family and soon became one of the most famous thermal baths in Paris. Originally it was used by workers in the area who would come there after an arduous night shift for a shower and a coffee. At the same time Les Bains Douches also a more affluent clientele massage as well as sulphur and steam baths.
In 1978 it was re-conceived by famed designer Philippe Starck as a nightclub. Starck cannily chose to retain the baths and the original tiles. Fans of postpunk music may recognize the name from the title of an excellent Joy Division live album that saw an official release in 2001; the album is simply called Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979. For the next couple of decades Les Bains Douches would become a magnet for the rich and famous to rival only Studio 54 and the Chateau Marmont. Of course, its location in Paris guaranteed that its selection of celebrities would have a more European cast, but that did not prevent many of the ultra famous from dropping in, including Jack Nicholson, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, alongside such European figures as Roman Polanski, Brigitte Nielsen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julie Delpy, and so on.
By the 2000s, the heady era of fame and excess was rapidly becoming a memory. French DJ David Guetta and his wife bought the club but soon encountered management problems. In 2010 the club finally shut its doors for good. In 2013 it was the site of a street art exhibition, and it is expected to reopen later this year.
These pictures were taken by the nightclub’s resident photographer, Foc Kan. They are true unadorned documents of the moment in all their smeary splendor. You can practically smell the cocaine, can’t you, and there’s plenty of libido to go around too (a good many of Kan’s pictures were taken before AIDS had exerted its check on promiscuity). It’s worth clicking through to see many more vintage pics of the goings on at Les Bains Douches.
Iman and David Bowie
Emmanuelle Seigner and Roman Polanski
Robert De Niro
Nicolas Cage and Grace Jones
More pics after the jump….