“Expect snake women and stunt dwarves”
Caf? de Paris New Year’s Eve 2003 invitation
And that was a promise we just couldn’t pass up. The usual confusion reigned at the end of December – who’s having a party, who’s going to it, and will anyone cancel – and eventually Michelle and I decided to play safe and go somewhere neutral. Handily, Tony H phoned up and casually mentioned a knees-up in Caf? de Paris, and so it was decided. But then where would we stay, we wondered aloud to Tony. Quick as a flash, he came back with the Lowndes Hotel, just off Sloane Street, with a special deal off lastminute.com. “Oh,” added Tony, “would you like to come to dinner too?” “Hell yes,” we countered, and as he read off the menu for us to select our choices, it seemed for all the world like I’d acquired my own Personal Assistant.
December 31st came, and as Michelle finished work at 6pm, we faced a rush to get the Caf? by 7.45pm. Sticking strictly to the speed limits, needless to say, we arrived at the hotel at 7pm, and were at Leicester Square by 7.35. Tony was arriving at eight, so we breezed through the door and down into the wonders of Caf? de Paris.
You’ve heard me talk of this place before. My superlatives and clich?s in that post reeled off nineteen to the dozen, and I’d only be repeating myself. Suffice to say that the experience is almost worth the ?10 for a shot and mixer.
Which is precisely what Michelle paid for a vodka and coke – I suppose you could say it?s the price you pay for arriving before Tony (boom boom tischhhhh). I sat down with Oli A and his delightful girlfriend, and waited. Not long, mind you, and as Tony went around glad-handing furiously, I looked around. The theme for the night was Moulin Rouge, and all the sparkly dresses and feather boas (Michelle’s one was a particular favourite) fitted in perfectly with the surroundings. Down below, a man in a white suit was crooning away, with a simple jazz band behind. On the dancefloor, there were tables and chairs, covered with rose petals and bathed in candlelight. Several others joined, and down to the tables we went. As I should have expected, we headed straight for the huge table right in front of the stage and set about our 3 course dinner. Wine and champagne flowed freely (with much of it flowing freely down my freshly ironed shirt). The crooner was replaced at intervals by a trumpet-blowing tap dancer (the one from Robbie Williams Live at the Albert Hall, no less) and a mind bogglingly flexible contortionist, leading many people to mutter carnal suggestions about his abilities. My stomach close to bursting (and that’s an unusual sight, I can assure you), we finally tottered upstairs to the sofas.
And there we stayed for the rest of the night. We were interrupted (but in a good way) at several intervals by many things. One was the promised snake women. These turned out to be scantily-clad women wielding live pythons. “Don’t worry, they can’t bite,” she informed me, before explaining that they could in fact squeeze you to death quite easily. Reassuring, I thought, as I stroked the snake repeatedly.
Other welcome interruptions were dancing men on stilts, Theirry Henry and the trumpet-blowing tap-dancer, who proceeded to work his way around the women. And last but not least, my IT boss Jon B rocked up at about 10.30, explaining that he hadn’t been out partying on New Year’s Eve for years. We took pity on him and his housemate, and they joined us as the New Year approached. At the stroke of 12, and after an incredible musical buildup, the large clock in the centre of the club exploded, and showered everyone with confetti. It was a great moment, and one that I still clearly remember despite all that woozy alcohol.
We slumped into bed at 3.45 having spent a grand total of ?18.90, and after a brief visit to Harrods (closed) and a nearby pub (open), we went home. It was a party that I won’t forget in a while. Thank you again, Tony – partyman extraordinaire.