This seven-story building, as sober as it looks today, used to be one of the centers of hedonistic delirium in post-WWI and occupied Paris.
The One-Two-Two was named after its address, 122 Rue de Provence. The numbers were translated into English to ensure that tourists would be able to find the brothel.
Opened in 1924 by Marcel Jamet and his wife Doriane— who herself was an erstwhile courtesan of Le Chabanais, the most popular and posh bordello in Paris until the advent of the One-Two-Two. Jamet and his wife designed their brothel as a sort of trip around the world. Based on a Kama Sutra-esque exploration, sexual wonderment and expression where inspired by travel through rooms decorated to evoke both world geography and history - with nods to various fetishes becoming more emphatic the more stairs patrons were willing to climb. While it boasted a deceptively austere exterior, The One-Two-Two was, on the inside, something of an X-rated theme park.
Each of the 22 rooms was designed as a moment in history, a scene in which courtesans became characters willing to complete the illusion of living—and fornicating—in another time and place. In addition to the perhaps unsurprising medieval tableaux that were available to the modern penitent, One-Two-Two also boasted:
~ The Pirate Room, which included a four-poster bed that would mechanically swing like a boat in a tempest while jets of water hidden in the wall would drench the occupants, for the ultimate experience in leaky boat sex.
~ The Orient Express Room, an exact replica of a cabin in the famous locomotive. This included the shaking and bouncing effect of being on a train and included a railway soundtrack. As an option, you could demand an intrusive conductor to enter in the room, and join in the festivities. Sorry, no simulated murder mysteries or stout Belgian detectives.
~ An Egyptian Hall—Feeling like one of the two most powerful Roman men to live in the first century, BCE? The Cleopatra in this room would be thrilled to make you feel like a Roman consul. Leave the asps at home.
In addition to these fabulous options for historical debauchery, there were also plenty of other unusual accommodations—a barn full of straw (for when wool just wasn’t itchy enough), an Inuit igloo, a Native American tipi, a Provencal cottage, and more.
The One-Two-Two was also coupled with Le Boeuf à la Ficelle, a gastronomic restaurant frequented by the upper crust of international Bohemia, enjoyed regularly by such figures as Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Edith Piaf and Mistinguett. The servers at the restaurant were clad only in aprons and high heels.
However, despite the caliber of its clientele on both sides of the business, the One-Two-Two was not nearly as elitist as the aforementioned Le Chabanais. In fact, the establishment offered its services for free every Thursday for “broken faces”: the soldiers and other heavily wounded victims of WWI.
In 1939 Doriane ran away with a wealthy diplomat, leaving a space open for another young, ambitious courtesan. Georgette Pelagie, aka Fabienne, became the new mistress of both brothel and Jamet. They married in 1942, celebrating their union with an epicurean feast during which 176 bottles and 34 magnums of champagne were consumed.
The Nazi occupation contributed a great deal to the ultimate failure of the One-Two-Two. The establishment was popular among Nazi officers, and Jamet and his courtesans were later criticized and accused of being collaborators. When the war ended, the women perceived as such were persecuted by the French, who shaved their heads. The bordello closed its doors when brothels became illegal in 1946. The building is now a home for business and law offices.