Louise Weber was born in Paris’ northern suburbs in 1866. Young Louise began dancing at the age of 6 in Montmartre’s Élysée ballroom, then under the presidency of Victor Hugo. Later, in 1882, when she was 16 years old, she took to the stage at another Montmartre institution, the Moulin de la Gallete.,
After moving to Montmartre she began modelling for photographs and Auguste Renoir’s portraits. Building a reputation as both a model and a dancer in the area, Weber made her professional dancing debut in the Élysée, and later at the Bal Bulier and La Closerie des Lilas .
Gaining a reputation for her dancing skills and a particularly provocative routine. Teasing the male audience and showing them her underwear, Louise would finish her routines by flipping men’s hatred off with her toes. Her habit of drinking patron’s drinks earned her a nickname that would last a lifetime, La Goulue (the glutton).
In 1889, when the world famous Moulin Rouge first opened its doors, Louise was hand picked to dance by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller. In partnership with Valentin le désossé, La Goulue became a permanent headliner at the cabaret, becoming synonymous with the cancan.
At the height of her fame at the Moulin Rouge, La Goulue was the toast of the city and the highest paid entertainer of the day. She was also the muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who painted her into history. Featuring her in his famous Moulin Rouge posters. Toulouse-Lautrec also painted many portraits of La Goulue dancing at the club.
In 1895, La Goulue decided to leave the Moulin Rouge and take her celebrity and wealth in a new direction. Becoming a lion tamer at a travelling carnival, she would perform her new act at fairs and circuses for the next decade.After her being attacked by her animals, she gave up taming and became an actress, appearing at small theatres.
However, post dancing life would not prove to be fruitful for Weber. Her husband would die in the first World War and her only son passed a few years later in 1923. The former La Goulue would then move into in a caravan and take in sick circus animals and strays. In her later years, she supported herself by selling peanuts and matches in front of the Moulin Rouge. Signing photographs for whoever recognised her at the local cafes, Weber would make an occasional appearance at the cabaret, in homage to her legacy.
In January 1929, Louise Weber passed away after suffering a stroke. Buried in the Pantin cemetery, she was exhumed and transferred to the Montmartre cemetery. Today, she rests merely metres from the cabaret that her dancing helped put on the map.
The Moulin Rouge and the Montmartre cemetery are just minutes away from our hostel. Book with us now and discover Montmartre on your doorstep!