Sober and austere as its exterior looks today, this seven-story building, located at 122 Rue de Provence, used to stand as one of the centers of hedonistic delirium in post-WWI and occupied Paris - the One-Two-Two bordello. The numbers were translated into English to ensure that tourists would be able to find it.
Originally a three-story townhouse, the building was purchased in the 1924 by Marcel Jamat who then immediately set out on a large-scale rebuild, adding an extra four floors and an extravagant interior. Jamet wanted a place that would fulfill almost any fantasy or fetish, with each room decorated according to a particular theme. Based on a Kama Sutra-esque exploration, there was a lavish Rome-themed room, a pirate room, an orient express room, a mysterious African room, a luxurious yacht room, Indian colonial scenes and even a rural countryside room complete with straw – a true X-rated theme park!
The One-Two-Two offered its services for free every Thursday for “broken faces”: the soldiers and other heavily wounded victims of WWI. The establishment was also coupled with Le Boeuf à la Ficelle, a gastronomic restaurant frequented by the upper crust of international Bohemia, enjoyed regularly by such figures as Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant and Edith Piaf.
However, these were just the more mainstream areas. Nods to a variety of fetishes became more emphatic the more stairs patrons were willing to climb. As Fabienne Jamet, wife of Marcel and Maitresse of the establishment (and herself an erstwhile courtesan of Le Chabanais, the most popular and posh bordello in Paris until the advent of the One-Two-Two), said, “Plus on allait vers le ciel, plus on se rapprochait de l'enfer“ (The closer one got to the sky, the closer one got to hell).
On these higher levels were the torture rooms full of carcans, whips, handcuffs, and various other tools... even a cross with hanging-up bracelets. According to an article written by a Madame Choisy, mostly high-ranking gentlemen were flagellated there: "More important they are, more they love being humiliated; a powerful and rich senator, many times minister, was said to come three times a week to get his trashing. He stood on all fours, yelling like a young dog. And don't spare the horses!” All this took place behind firmly closed shutters, creating a world where natural night was banished.
While there is no surviving physical evidence of the torture chambers at number 122, this rare sadomasochist crop cane came from the famous bordello. We may read the name “Flora”, engraved on the shaft.
The Nazi occupation contributed a great deal to the ultimate demise of the One-Two-Two. The establishment was popular among Nazi officers, and Jamet and her courtesans were later criticized and accused of being collaborators. When the war ended, the women perceived as such were persecuted by the French, who shaved their heads. The bordello closed its doors when bordellos became illegal in 1946. Today, 122 Rue de Provence accommodates business and law offices.