Thursday, 30 June 2016

Chapter 2 “This is, I take it, some kind of private club.”: Chapter Notes


The French brothel Le Chabanais,  the inspiration for the Babylon Exploration Society


Bath at Le Chabanais


This Post provides notes on Chapter 2 of The Lust World: A Sexual Odyssey, an erotic adventure story.




Back at the Reform Club Britten refers to Molloy's 'bagpiping' episode.  This was a not uncommon slang term for fellatio at the time.


The Moorish bedroom at Le Chabanais, the Parisian brothel


The Babylon Exploration Society, the high class bordello which features in this and subsequent chapters, is entirely Triple P's invention and there is no evidence of such an establishment in London at the time.  We have based it more on the Parisian model (hence our French Madame) of the  maisons de tolérance of which there were at least forty major brothels in Paris at this time (and up to 80 smaller establishments).  Prostitution was legal and regulated in France and brothels (but not prostitution) were only made illegal in 1946.


Margot in Le Chabanais


In Britain, the number of brothels in London had made it the European centre of prostitution in the eighteenth century with some brothels even being owned by the Church of England!  In 1860 Britain moved to a system of licensed prostitution, mainly as a method to control veneral diseases (the French system required very regular medical checks).  The estimate of the number of prostitutes operating in London in the nineteenth century vary between around 10,000 and 80,000!  Gradually, campaigners sought to ban them and in the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 the age of consent was raised from 12 to 16 which undercut the supply of young prostitutes and meant that men were much more worried about getting caught with an underage girl.  Prostitution was banned outright a year later.


The Pompeian Salon at Le Chabanais


So we have framed our bordello as a private member's club which is not open to all and have chosen to decorate it it in a florid international style, which would have appealed at the time.  The themed rooms are based on the famous brothel Le Chabanais in Paris, the opulence of which was simply staggering.


One of Toulose-Lautrec's interiors of Le Chabanais


A favourite of high society, from Toulouse-Lautrec (who painted a number of pictures there which were then displayed on the walls) to regular Parisian visitor the Prince of Wales  (later King Edward VII) it was even included as a destination on official state visits to France and was considered a national treasure.


The Prince of Wales' favourite: the Hindi Room




This copper Sphinx bath in Le Chabanais was a favourite of the Prince of Wales and was located in the Hindi Room. He often used it for Champagne baths with his selected ladies (only using Mumm Cordon Rouge!).  It was eventually bought by Salvador Dali in the nineteen seventies, who installed it in his suite at the Hotel Meurice.  Triple enjoyed a Champagne bath once (in Rome not Paris) which a lady gave us for our birthday.  We can confirm it takes about 12 cases to fill a bath!


The salon Louis XV at Le Chabanais


Some of Le Chabanais' ladies, ready for action in the Salon Louis XV


Founded by an Irish born woman known as Madame Kelly, Le Chabanais was opened in 1878 and cost a staggering 1.2 million Francs (the equivalent of $12.5 million) to decorate.  It was paid for by wealthy investors who bought shares in the project.




In our Babylon Exploration Society the clients make their choice from a menu of photographs but this was nothing compared with some of the top Parisian establishments who gave their clients stereoscopic viewers so they could look at their potential choices in 3D images!


Oriental bedroom at Le Chabaanais


Le Chabenais did a roaring trade during World War 1 but in World War 2 it, like the other brothels, served the occupying Germans and this was a good part of the reason that all brothels were made illegal and closed down in 1946.  Many of the girls had their heads forcibly shaved as collaborators.




The choice of the name Babylon Exploration Society gives it a respectable sounding name and reflects its international girls.  Most, if not quite all the names of the girls who work at the Babylon Exploration Society are those of foreign ex-girlfriends of Triple P's, such as our German friend Bettina, who wanted a cameo role in the story!


Mirrors everywhere, even on the ceiling, at Le Chabanais


Molloy's choice, the Japanese girl Hoshimi, is a little reference to the fact that the Japanese room at Le Chabanais actually won a design prize at the 1900 Paris Universal Expo!  The French had no problem awarding a gold medal to a brothel interior!


The location of the fictional Hotel Babylon on King Street


We have located the Babylon Exploration Society in King Street which is not far from The Reform Club or the Ritz hotel, which features in some subsequent chapters.  Primarily, though, this a nod to one of Triple P's favourite trashy TV series of a few years ago, Hotel Babylon.  The external location for the fictional hotel in the series was in King Street!



St James Theatre (1896)


Although King Street still has some old buildings, it has seen a lot of redevelopment recently (such as the 'Hotel Babylon' office block); the most significant change was the demolishing of the St James' Theatre (built in 1835) which features in our chapter heading and is, in our story, close to the Babylon Exploration Society building.  Despite a campaign led by Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh it was demolished in 1957, although it did lead to a direction from London County Council that no other theatres could be demolished in London without a replacement being built.




At the Babylon Exploration Society Molloy and Britten drink Château Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande, which is another of Triple P's favourite clarets.  They are lucky to be able to drink the 1900, one of the most fabulous vintages on record.  Bordeaux from this vintage is still drinkable today (Triple P has had one!).  The average price of the current vintages is about £125 a bottle. 

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