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[On The Radar]: Paramount
One of Shanghai's iconic nightclubs of yore gets a new lease on wealth. Here's a look inside the Paramount in the 21st century.
By May 11, 2017 Nightlife
On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.


Quick Take:The latest iteration of the storied Shanghai dance hall, Paramount is an unsettlingly authentic recreation of the original in spirit, if not in exact detail...

They've got portraits in the lobby of some of the original investors, the original architect Yang Xiliu, and some famous people who visited the place in its early, early days. Also, chandeliers brought in from Egypt. Just 'cause.

What It Is: The re-re-re-resurrected version of the original Bailemen, this one hews closer to the original mold than some of the previous iterations. Paramount is two floors of dance floors and about a dozen private rooms decked out in just the most Art Deco Art Deco-ness you've ever seen. This place is a surprisingly authentic ode to the original. The real original. The very first "Paramount".

A tumultuous history starts in 1933 with a bunch of Chinese bankers hiring a Chinese architect to build them a club -- one that would cater to the elite of Shanghai society. And so they did. They kept it veep. Very, very veep. Apparently, you couldn't get in unless you showed up in a chauffeured car.

Fast forward a few decades (and revolutions) later, after being a few other things, in its last incarnation a few years back, Paramount was renovated by a multi-millionaire benefactor who turned it into a "Chinese-style" club. That was called the "Paramount Party Room" and by all accounts, it sucked. It closed down.

Then Paramount was bought and renovated by yet another multi-millionaire benefactor who wanted to turn it into a club. But a club like how it was at the start, instead of how Babyface was in 2007, which was what that other version was. It's called Paramount, and it opened like two weeks ago. They told us they spent three years and 130 million renminbinbirinos on this baby, with historical consultants and help from the municipal government, working off photographs and the original blueprints.

The second floor is the main dance space. They've got seating around the edges, and a big bar, planning to serve up signature cocktails and old classics like Mint Juleps and Shanghai Bucks. Absolutely no beer, though they do have Paramount-branded champagne (and Paramount-branded just about everything else). It looks like this.

There's a private room in honor of Charlie Chaplin's visit in 1936.

The tramp looks upon your revelry...

The third floor (called "2M") is a mezzanine where the bulk of the historical-celebrity-themed private rooms are. This is where the famous lit-up dance floor moved to, except now its in a private room they call "Shaoshuai". It all looks like this.

The fourth floor (called the "3rd floor") is a restaurant wrapped around another dance floor. This is where they're going to be doing afternoon tea sets and dinner, with dancing and dancing lessons and dance shows.

They said that's gold filigree in the ceiling. It doesn't actually matter if that's true.

They said they expect their clientele to behave themselves. No bottle wars, no obnoxious behavior, no "too how." No slippers, no flip-flops, no miniskirts. Collared shirts for guys, probably no jeans shorts for ladies. They said that if they run into someone with more money than appropriate threads, they can recommend them a couple of decent tailors around the corner.

First Impressions: I ended up writing an essay about this place. Maybe there will be a place for that. Some day. Somewhere else. It's... more complicated than you'd think. Some weird nuances to this ridiculous glitzy phallus on the corner of Huashan Lu and Yuyuan Lu.

But in usable summary, it's kitschy. It's ostentatious. It's got high expectations of its clients. It almost looks like it's the vanity HQ for a Paramount brand empire, with the amount of Paramount-branded stuff they're planning to launch. So it's the most authentic Paramount you've ever seen. History nuts might decry (again) the addition of plasma-screen TVs and the colored light arrays, but hey guy, read up on the original. Basically, it was exactly the same thing, just in the '30s. So yeah. More authentic than ever, Paramount is back.

Time is a flat circle. Bringing a bottle of champagne to a private room.



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