January 30, 1929 - The Queen of Montmartre died on this day. Her real name was Louise Weber.
Weber grew up in a working class family that ran a laundry business. As a young girl she would often put on the fancy dresses that customers brought in and perform impromptu dance revues. By the time she was 16, Weber had taken her act to the Paris stage.
With an audacious spirit and a ribald sense of humor, Weber quickly became a popular attraction. One of her trademark moves was to flash the crowd with her heart-embroidered panties. She was also famous for grabbing drinks out of the audience and chugging them. That's where she got the nickname La Goulue (the Glutton).
At the height of her fame she was the headliner at the Moulin Rouge. Her legendary mastery of the Cancan combined with her wild and unrestrained antics made her the toast of Paris! In addition to fame and fortune, she had the eye of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The painter included the Queen of Montmartre in many of his works.
The good times wouldn't last forever. When Weber tried to strike out on her own, she lost her fortune in an ill-conceived road show that never caught on with her fans. Demoralized by the fall from grace, Weber sank into a deep depression.
Years later she could be found hawking peanuts and cigarettes as a street vendor not far from the Moulin Rouge. It was hard to believe that this was the same woman whose portraits hang in the Louvre.
Extremely overweight and plagued with alcoholism, she died at age 66. Her last words were whispered to a priest, "Father, will God forgive me? I am La Goulue."