In the archives of Paris Match
For Jean-Roch, owner of the VIP Room nightclub, the Voile Rouge was “a holy place for Saint-Tropez, but also for the whole world”. Since the sixties, the famous beach club has been a must for Hollywood celebrities vacationing in the legendary Var port. Madonna, Bruce Willis, Puff Daddy, all let themselves be carried away by the festive spirit of this funny private beach, a UFO which, in summer, turns into an open-air nightclub from the end of the afternoon. Eden of jet-setters, the Voile Rouge forges its reputation on its extravagances as much as on its excesses.
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Bling-bling, vulgar or even immoral for some, flamboyant for others
However, when Paul Tomaselli, water ski instructor from the neighboring beach of Tahiti, took over this naturist spot in 1963 to set up his club there, the atmosphere was rather family and quiet. Lucie, Paul’s mother, is in the kitchen and welcomes people casually. So much so that Romy Schneider sometimes does the washing up there… Rockefeller installs mattresses there while Liz Taylor sips burgundy. The stars are already getting used to the tunes of gypsy music by the still unknown Gipsy Kings. Like Margie Sudre, who will become Secretary of State for La Francophonie, summer vacationers free themselves from conveniences and drop the top of the jersey, sometimes the bottom. This earned Paul Tomaselli two convictions for indecency. The law prohibits the use of the monokini on many beaches. The atmosphere is bohemian, liberated, “it’s the time when Keith Haring comes to draw on the telephone counter of the Sail”, confided to us the gallerist Enrico Navarra in 2003.
Over time, the Voile Rouge changes and turns into a paradise of excess. Bling-bling, vulgar or even immoral for some, flamboyant for others. In the 1980s, Sylvester Stallone organized a gigantic binge there that ended in the throwing of chocolate cakes. But the club’s trademark remains the showers of champagne at several thousand euros a bottle. Paris Hilton would have spent 300,000 euros to drown in the bubbles, an Indian businessman would have left 450,000 euros there in one afternoon. Because at La Voile Rouge, which can accommodate up to 500 people a day, it’s not just the party that is full-bodied. The bills, which it is considered elegant to pay in cash, are also. The magnum of champagne and the 125 grams of caviar then revolve around 1,000 euros.
The temple of the party collapses under the onslaught of backhoe loaders
The ballet of helicopters, decibels, cries and other noise pollution as much as violations of the town planning code, irritate the neighbors, who multiply petitions and complaints. In 2000, the socialist mayor of Ramatuelle, Albert Raphaël, abolished the “operating subcontract” for the beach, which must be returned to the public domain. From then on, the champagne battles were coupled with another battle, a legal one this time, which was to last twelve years. Meanwhile, at the Voile Rouge, we continue to fight illegally with bottles. Until the ax fell in November 2011: the prefect ordered the destruction of the Red Sail. The temple of the fiesta collapses under the onslaught of backhoe loaders.
In a final act of resistance, Antoine Tomaselli, 22, the son of Paul, who died in 2005, tried in June 2012 to reassemble the club in the car park of the old establishment, which belongs to a private condominium and is located beyond the strip of 100 meters from the beach, distance after which it is, in principle, allowed to build. But the war is not over, and the town hall of Ramatuelle prohibits the work. The boxer’s family is knocked out, the party is over. The Sail has fallen, remains the legend.
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