Régine was the queen of the night

the essential
Singer, actress, music hall artist, actress in television and cinema, entrepreneur, inventor of night clubs and DJs … Régine died on Sunday 1 May at the age of 92.

It will remain forever in the “postcards” of the French, all generations put together. Because Régine, who left us yesterday at the age of 92, knew better than any other artist to speak to everyone, young and old. Singer, actress, music hall and theater artist, actress in television and cinema, entrepreneur, inventor of discos and DJs … so many lives, so many talents, lots of breath, inventiveness, generosity, imagination and self-irony, between boa and glitter, who, from Paris to New York via Nîmes, undoubtedly drew their strength from an extraordinary destiny, a true French destiny which yesterday aroused unanimous emotion.

“Régine left us peacefully on May 1 at 11 am” in Paris, his niece, Daphné Rotcajg told AFP, while comedian Pierre Palmade, a dear friend of Régine for many years, summed up this incredible life in a tender pirouette. : “The queen of the night leaves: closing due to a long and great career. Left with her disco ball and her warm and reassuring jokes [elle] had danced stars from all over the world in its discos for more than 30 years “.

His great love deported in 1944

However, nothing predestined Régine to pursue such a career. Born on December 26, 1929 in Anderlecht, a municipality in the capital of Brussels, to Polish Ashkenazi Jewish parents who lived in Argentina for eight years, Régina Zylberberg and her family emigrated to Paris in 1932 after her father Joseph lost the family bakery. .. to poker. Her mother returned to South America, Regina and her brother Maurice were then placed in different boarding houses. During the Second World War they found refuge in Lyon or Aix-en-Provence. It is there that Regina, who will be baptized a Catholic, discovers a passion for singing and partying while she waits for her father who gambles at the casino. Refugee in Lyon, the teenager falls in love with Claude, grandson of the chief rabbi of Lyon, Bernard Schonberg. The happiness will be short-lived: when he is asked to marry, he is arrested by the Gestapo on 6 June 1944. He will die in deportation at the age of 17. “It will be my great love forever. will remain the most beautiful. He is one who watches over me, ”Régine confided years later.

At the Liberation, his father asked him to take care of “La Lumière de Belleville”, a Parisian café he had opened. Régine then discovered American dance, jazz, bebop … In 1947 she married an apprentice leather worker, Paul Rotcage, with whom she had a son, the journalist Lionel Rotcage, who died in 2006. In the early 1950s, we find her like a saleswoman in a shop in Juan-les-Pins. On the French Riviera she discovers the trendy clubs and their stars and, above all, her vocation: to animate dance parties.

The success of New York in Nîmes

Back in Paris, after a stint as a bartender and “record shop” at “Whiskey à Gogo” in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, she opened her first nightclub in 1956, “Chez Régine”. The first of a long series. You have replaced “jukeboxes” with turntables and disc jockeys. Success is immediate. Among her clientele are Françoise Sagan, Georges Pompidou, Brigitte Bardot, Rudolf Nureyev, etc. She has won the title of “Queen of the Night”, she has developed, managed up to twenty factories. Moving to Cannes, she opened new offices in the favorite cities of the jet-set: New York, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Saint-Tropez, Istanbul, Marbella, Montreal, Geneva, Dusseldorf …

An astute entrepreneur, she will create a membership card so that her clientele can access all of her clubs and diversify. Clothing, perfumes (Régine, Jimmy’z for men, Zoa), magazines, cruises on Queen Elizabeth II. In 1988 she bought the concession of the Ledoyen restaurant in Paris. Two years later we find her in Nîmes to manage with her second husband, Roger Choukroun, the Cheval Blanc Régine’s Hôtel, a 4-star hotel, where chef Thierry Marx will serve for five years. She “she was a wonderful, extraordinary woman. She made me meet the whole world ”, the latter will say.

To Gainsbourg: “It’s my song! “

Because behind the business woman there is obviously the one who has never forgotten her original passion for singing. In the 1960s she sang Charles Aznavour, with Nounours, Henri Salvador, with Oublie-moi. Serge Gainsbourg writes for him Les P’tits Papiers, a huge success.

At the “Palazzo” with Serge Gainsbourg in 1984.
AFP – PIERRE GUILLAUD

“Gainsbourg said: ‘I have something, but I don’t even know if it’s a song …’ He pulls out a sheet of sentence fragments and I hear the opening of Les P’tits papiers … At the moment, I say to myself:“ This is my song! “There was absolute silence,” said Régine. His name will follow is Reviens, Why pajamas ?, Women, it’s strange. With Frédéric Botton it will be La Grande Zoa, and with Barbara Gueule at night. Successes for which she performed from Bobino to Olympia, from Folies Bergère to the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York … In 1979, the one who had received the Pierre-Brive Consacration Prize from the Charles-Cros Academy in 1967, performed the French cover of Gloria Gaynor’s hit I Will Survive. Until 2015, when she embarked on a tour of La Grande Zoa at the age of 85, Régine will remain a popular singer, a source of inspiration for the new generations who push themselves to sing in duet with her.

Complete artist, Régine will also be an actress from 1962, appearing in the credits of a dozen films, such as “Jeu de massacres” by Alain Jessua, “Robert et Robert” by Claude Lelouch or “Les ripoux” by Claude Zidi. And in the 1990s and 2000s she conducted or participated in television programs such as the La Ferme Celebrities program to finance SOS Habitat and Care, the “sister” association of SOS Drugs International, which she founded in 1984.

Over the course of her 1,000 lifetimes, she has worn a tender, shiny look. “I am very proud that some [chansons] have become classics of the variety. My first job was discos. For a long time, singing was just a hobby. Today I realize that the scene was the most important of my life. My greatest joy would be that people still listen to my songs in fifty years. There is no doubt that we will let P’tits’ papiers speak for a long time …

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