Paramount Club was the hippest dancing hall in old Shanghai. The main hall had a big orchestra playing jazz and twist tunes for the enjoyment of the dancing crowd. Taxi girls, romance and gangsters in the corners, Paramount had it all. Fortunately, the building survived until today, having kept it’s tower and a big part of its style. It is still a landmark of Shanghai. The top floor or the building still hosts a broadway style musical. It is far from broadway’s quality but one can have diner in style there, while watching a live musical. It’s not what it used to be, but the old lady still manages to keep up appareances. Going to the paramount show is one of those old Shanghai moments that I affectionate so much.
The outside of the building has more or less kept it’s original shape and inside was also preserved in original state… until recently. This is the much talked about renovation of the Paramount. I had heard about it and ended up one night there. Having seen the original I was expecting the worse… and the worse it is. Some Taiwanese investor spread a large amount of money on this venerable old lady and just turned it into a disaster. The entrance has been transformed with bad design, not to mention the chandeliers (cheap copies Philippe Starck’s Bar Rouge ones). This is supposed to impress… it probably does impress peasants from the countryside, but Paramount’s lobby is very far to be the most elegant or the most original of Shanghai’s bars. The entrance is bad enough, but the main room is the worst. If you like nightclubs in second and third tiers cities in China… you will feel right at home in the new Paramount. There is not one single fixture from the old room that can be recognized. Everything has been done to destroy or cover the old walls. The same club in any brand new shopping center or 1970’s concrete building could have been built the same way. Forget the original parquet, the balconies and the charm of this old lady.
The worst is not even there. Where Bar Rouge designers managed to hide the age and create a hype and highly original place without the old colonial atmosphere of places like Glamour Bar, Face or Lounge 18. Muse or Muse2 (ex Wynn’s win) designers did the same in another genre, and all those places definitely have an originality and an atmosphere. One may not like them all, but they are memorable. Paramount is memorable for it’s dullness. I am sure that the new owner spent millions to redecorate it, but it does not get anywhere near the fine establishments mentioned above. Paramount clearly remind me of clubs I visited in Chengdu or in Guilin… not of Shanghai’s cream of the crop. The worst is probably the sound that was so bad in the building. Please somebody teach them how to set their sound system properly.
I have read a number of articles flattering this new club… we must not have been to the same place… or the articles were written after a few free boozes generously offered by the club owner. The saddest part of the story is not that some Taiwanese entrepreneur spent a lot of money on creating something that is just bad. This could have been done anywhere, without destroying one of the few remaining Shanghai’s old icons. At the time when parts of the old Shanghai are used to create a great mix of the old and the new, Paramount’s owners just did not get anywhere near that.