One of the world’s most famous upscale cabarets, the Moulin Rouge is a Paris must for visitors
around the world seeking to be entertained by dancing, humor and incredible acrobatics.
It’s no surprise that this venue is quite a draw and it packs in large crowds for both of the
shows every night. What is a surprising for these large audiences is their first glimpse of the
neighborhood surrounding the Moulin Rouge as they exit the Metro at Blanche station or as
their taxi turns onto Boulevard de Clichy.
Moulin Rouge and its famous windmill sit in the center of Pigalle, the Red Light District of Paris, which is ironically positioned down the hill from Montmartre, the famous art district and the Sacre Coeur, the famous Roman Catholic church which sits upon the highest point of the city. The vibe of Pigalle couldn’t be more different from that of the upscale Saint Germain neighborhood or the world renowned Champs Elysees.
Pigalle has an unsettling feel to it and in fall of 2000, I got to experience a dark side of Pigalle first hand. Late on a Sunday evening / Monday morning, an hour or so after the Moulin Rouge had closed; my former girlfriend and I were having a conversation with two of the show’s performers just outside the venue’s main entrance. Shortly after the conversation began, we were approached by two men acting overly friendly and desperate to engage us in conversation. We declined their several attempts and chose to ignore them. Strangely, they did not leave. Though these two strangers maintained their position about ten feet directly behind us, we continued to focus our attention on our conversation with the two Moulin Rouge dancers. Watch this video to see what happened…….
Extremely mad and embarrassed, I’ve played this situation out in my head many times that night and dozens more over the past ten plus years. I can still picture both of their faces, their builds and the facial expressions. I spoke to them, fell into their trap and became their victim. How could I let this happen? What could I have done?
Why Was I Targeted?
1. Proximity & Timing - It was late and there were few if any other targets for them.
2. Distraction - I was overwhelmed by Paris and the Moulin Rouge performance and I foolishly let my guard down. When we experience excitement and highs, our focus is usually far from sobering, serious issues which include crime, assaults and muggings.
3. I Failed The Test – Unaware, I did not acknowledge the warning sign of these two men continuing to stand directly behind us after I rejected their attempts to engage. If you don’t acknowledge the warning signs, you are destined for trouble as it becomes impossible to take preventative actions. What if any positives could have came out of these two refusing to leave? I clearly was not thinking! Remember the four T’s? They targeted me, tested me. I failed and the trauma and take off ensued. I am extremely lucky the trauma wasn’t physical as the situation could have become far more serious.
4. A Very Bad Assumption - I foolishly carried my wallet in my back pocket in an international city crawling with pick pocketing criminals. I assumed since I was going to an upscale venue that my wallet would be safe. Hhmmm, as if criminals don’t work areas where they can target people with money? I made some poor decisions that night.
5 Tips to Avoid Pick Pocketing?
1. Safeguard your possession. Women – Carry a purse with the straps over your shoulder and the purse between your body and arm to protect it. Men –Leave your wallet at home and carry only what you’ll need for the day / evening in a money clip carried in your front pocket.
2. Keep a Low Profile – Unless you’re in the presence of a Secret Service Special Agent, it’s best to leave the “bling” at home.
3. Keep a Safe Distance – Always keep a safe distance between you and strangers. I recommend 12 feet or more to give yourself a chance to react.
4. Get Away Strategy – When a stranger or strangers (they often work in pairs) approach and attempt to distract you with questions, signs, strange behavior, etc, protect your possessions and get away from them immediately. If they follow you go into a safe building where others are present.
5. Extra Caution in Red Zones – I refer to red zones as areas where you are most likely to be targeted. Red zone areas include subways or any form of public transportation, atms, touristy areas and cafes and other areas where you wait in line or sit close to strangers.
Other Lessons Learned:
I should have left Pigalle upon leaving the Moulin Rouge. Many venues, particularly older ones, are in tough or less safe neighborhoods of urban areas throughout the world. It’s best to leave these areas when the show ends, especially when you are not in a group.
These were determined criminals and my initial declines to their attempts did not deter them in the least. They waited for the right opportunity and struck effectively. We were in Pigalle and it was late which was mistake number one. Having put myself in that bad situation, an option at that point would have been to jump in a cab, if one had been available, or to have gone immediately into a bar or restaurant. We were sitting ducks and they may have made their attempted snatch prior to our entrance into a questionable open venue at that hour. The best advice is to think ahead and not put yourself in vulnerable situations.