Régine, popular singer and queen of the night, died at the age of 92

The night has just lost its queen. The singer Régine died this Sunday at the age of 92. She was known for her big pink boa, her red hair and her songs like “La grande Zoa”, “Azzurro”, “Les p’tits papiers” or “Patchouli Chinchilla”. The haunting, slightly hoarse-voiced artist was also a prominent businesswoman as she headed more than twenty establishments at the same time. It was his granddaughter Daphne Rotcajg who announced the news to AFP. “Régine left us peacefully on May 1 at 11 a.m.” in the Paris region, said Ms. Rotcajg.

“The Queen of the Night is leaving: closure due to a long and great career”indicates a press release written, at the request of the family, by comedian Pierre Palmade, a close friend of Régine for many years. “Left with his disco ball and his warm and reassuring banter”Regina “had danced for more than 30 years in its nightclubs the stars of the whole world”, continues this text sent to AFP.

A painful childhood

The artist, Régine Zylberberg by her real name, was born in Belgium in 1929 to Polish Jewish parents. When his father baked them in poker, his family decided to settle in the early 1930s in France, in Paris. She had a painful childhood, her mother leaving home to go to Argentina. During the Second World War, she was separated from her father and had to hide in the free zone.

At the Liberation, the family found themselves in Paris, where the father opened a bar in Belleville. His daughter takes a liking to outings in the clubs of the capital.

queen of the night

Régine discovers the first nightclubs in the 1950s. A friend entrusts her with the animation of a discotheque in the center of Paris, rue de Beaujolais, “le Whiskey à gogo”, where she meets a beginner named Serge Gainsbourg. The young girl knows how to set the mood, sometimes has fun dancing with a full glass on her head, but prides herself on never drinking alcohol.

She then decided to be called only by her first name and to open, in 1956, her own establishment, “Chez Régine”, near the Champs-Elysées, in the Latin quarter of Paris. The success of this sequined and felted box is immediate. It receives many personalities, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Françoise Sagan. The international jet-set crowd quickly into his nightclub. Will follow the opening in Montparnasse of “New Jimmy’s”, the club where you dance wild twists. “Time spent sleeping is time wasted”assured this tireless party girl.

The adventure has only just begun for Régine, who is opening more than twenty establishments all over the world: in Paris, Nez York and even Rio de Janeiro. His first name became like this “the emblem of crazy nights until dawn, dancing herself on the floor until closing time”, indicates the text of Pierre Palmade. Régine finally bid farewell to the world of the night in 2003, during the 30th anniversary of her Parisian club.

In 2009, she had to sell her nightclub “Chez Régine” on rue de Ponthieu. The one who said she spends a fortune every day then claims to be “ruined”.

An icon of French song

Régine also tries her hand at singing. Her career as a singer really took off in 1965. Her voice seduced the greatest composers. She owes her first success to Serge Gainsbourg who wrote her “Les Petits papiers”. The following year, she performed “La Grande Zoa”. Frédéric Botton had yet written this song for Jean-Claude Brialy, but he refused to sing it.

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Manage my choices

Régine has also sung texts by Charles Aznavour or Barbara. In 1979, she took over, in French, Gloria Gaynor’s single “I will Survive”, which became “Je survivrai”. If the cover of Régine met with great success, it was the original which in 1998 became the anthem of the French football team, during its victory in the 1998 World Cup.

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bitch of the scene

Régine, who discovered the music hall in the 60s, could never stay too far from the stage. She has performed all over the world: after passing through the Olympia, she sang at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1969, becoming – with Edith Piaf in particular – one of the rare French women to have conquered America. In Paris, she will then go on the stage of Bobino or La Cigale. In 2009, she released a new album, including duets with Pierre Palmade and Fanny Ardant. A few years later, at age 86, she released a triple compilation of her greatest hits and decided to go on tour, for the first time since 1969.

“My greatest joy would be that people still listen to my songs in fifty years”she told AFP in 2020. “I am very proud that some of them have become classics of variety. (…) My first job was in discotheques. For a long time, singing was just a hobby. Today, I realize that the scene was the most important in my life”, said the singer and businesswoman. Wrapped in her legendary boa, at 86, she was still singing in 2016 at the Folies-Bergères with her usual enthusiasm, “I will survive”.

The artist has also tried her hand at cinema and reality TV, appearing in the credits of a dozen films. She notably played in “Les Ripoux”, by Claude Zidi (1984), “Grosse Fatigue” by Michel Blanc (1993) or “Jeu de massacre” by Alain Jessua (1967) and “Robert et Robert” by Claude Lelouch. (1978).

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Great Causes and Great Sorrow

Beyond her career, Régine knows how to mobilize “celebrities” for causes that are important to her, such as the fight against drugs, launching the association “SOS Drogue international”. In 2008, his “friend”, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom she accompanies on a trip to Israel, raises her to the rank ofofficer of the Legion of Honor. Ironically, a search in 1996 caused the closure of the “Palace”, a legendary club that she had owned for four years, after the discovery of narcotics. In 2004, she separated from most of her clubs. And divorce from her husband, the businessman Roger Choukroun, married in 1969.

Two years later, she lost her son, the journalist Lionel Rotcajg, born from a first marriage.
“I am an exhibitionist. But I have always been unhappy with dignity”she lets go, anxious not to spread her pain in the public square.

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