Regine, who claimed to have invented the term “discotheque” as she ran a nightclub empire that stretched from Paris to Los Angeles, died Sunday at 92, according to her granddaughter. No cause was given.
Born Regina Zylberberg in Belgium, Regine opened her first nightclub in Paris’s Latin Quarter in the 1950s, installing turntables and disc jockeys instead of the usual juke boxes. Thus was born a new format, she claimed, the “discotheque.”
“If you can’t dance, you can’t make love,” she said by way of explanation. She apparently was right, as celebrities, royalty and the business elite flocked to her establishments, earning her the nicknme as the “queen of the night,” as her name became synonymous with the elite’s good times.
Her venues included “Regine’s” in New York in the 1970s, and others in Miami, Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles. At its height, her nightlife empire had 22 venues.
In a statement sent on behalf of Regine’s family, her friend, comic Pierre Palmade, said: “The queen of the night has left. Closing time following a long and great career.”
Regine “had the stars of the whole world dancing in her nightclubs”, he added.
.While most famous internationally as a nightclub entrepreneur, in France Regine was known for her contribution to French songwriting. French singer Renaud called her the last historic representative of the French chanson, inspiring an entire generation of singer songwriters, including Serge Gainsbourg and Barbara.
After performing in the legendary Olympia venue in the French capital in the 1960s, Regine sang in New York’s Carnegie Hall.
“It would make me very happy if people still listened to my songs 50 years from now,” she told AFP in 2020, adding that she was “very proud” that some of them had become part of France’s standard repertoire.
“My first profession was discotheques,” she said. “For a long time, songs were just a hobby. But now I realise that the stage has been the most important part of my life.”
She also acted in several films, including by star directors Claude Lelouch and Claude Zidi.