The Café de la Gare
1rst version : Passage d’Odessa (quartier Montparnasse)
2nd version and at present : 41, rue du Temple (quartier le Marais)
In 1968, in Paris, a bunch of pals, actors and builders, began to do up an old fans factory into a “café-théâtre”. Among these young artists, was Coluche, Miou Miou, Patrick Dewaere, Romain Bouteille, Henri Guybet, Martin Lamotte and Catherine Sigaux (aka Sotha). According to Coluche, the relations within the group were a mix of friendliness and cohabitation.
A gentle feeling of freedom and of craziness was then wandering all over France. In order to arrange the Café de la Gare, the group needed money. Some patrons helped so that the project could see the light. Amongst the most famous of them were Jacques Brel, Pierre Perret, Raymond Devos, Georges Moustaki, Jean Yanne, Hara-Kiri.
After the renovation works, the Café de la Gare opened its doors in 1969. The actors took charge of everything by themselves: handling the ticket office, placing the spectators, serving drinks, give them a pillow so that their butts don’t hurt, and of course do their real job, acting on stage.
At this time, Renaud is not part of the troupe yet, but as a neighbor and as the “separatist of the 14th arrondissement”, he likes to wander around the Café. He likes the atmosphere and the good words of Coluche. One night, at around 10pm, as Renaud is at home in pyjamas, ready to go to bed, the phone rings in Séchan’s apartment. On the other side of the phone, Sotha (Catherine Sigaux) explains to Renaud that he has to come to the Café de la Gare as quickly as possible in order to replace Gérard Lefèvre on his role in “Robin des quoi?”. To hell with the pyjamas, Renaud puts on his jean’s and gets on his moped to go to the Café de la Gare. When he arrives, he finds the atmosphere of the Café again. Behind the cash desk, the comedians are drawing lots with a wheel, just like the Wheel of Fortune, to determine the price of the tickets. It goes from 1 to 20 francs.
Renaud will replace Gérard Lefèvre on stage for 3 months, until the day when another Gérard takes his place: this time, it’s Gérard Depardieu. Renaud will then have to get back to the street and beg for money, but he will still meet the group often. Besides, little by little, this company will grow bigger: Gérard Lanvin, Thierry Lhermitte, Coline Serreau, Josiane Balasco, Gérard Jugnot, Anémone will all do at least one appearance at the Café de la Gare.
In 1972, the company will move to the Marais. This time, the comedians will transform an old coaching inn from the 17th century (the Auberge de l’Aigle d’or) into another “café-théâtre”, the bigger in Paris, but they will keep the name of Café de la Gare for this second version.
Renaud, still friend with these actors and builders, will follow them with his guitar and his accordionist buddy Michel Pons. Every night, they will beg for money along the queue in front of the café-théâtre and sing old hits from Paris, with its java and its stories about louts. Besides, this is where Renaud will meet for the first time the girl who will become his girlfriend, Dominique.
Today, the Café de la Gare is one of the most prestigious cafés-théâtre in Paris. Benoît Poelvoorde, Éric and Ramzi, Élie Semoun and Dieudonné have made some remarkable appearances in this theatre room.