Chez Paulette

Chez Paulette brings a splash of stardom to the Plymouth International Book Festival

The replica of a café frequented by Hollywood’s finest in the 1950s and 60s will be greeting audiences at the 2015 Plymouth International Book Festival.

The Chez Paulette is a new feature for the fourth annual festival, and will be open for business at Plymouth University at several points during its run from October 15-22.

It will be complemented by a functioning bar in the University’s performing arts building, The House, as part of a drive to increase the social side of the event.

Organised through a partnership of Plymouth University, Peninsula Arts, Literature Works and Plymouth City Council, and supported by Arts Council England, the Festival aims to unite local and global authors and audiences.

The 2015 festival will feature bestselling authors Judy Finnigan, Simon Scarrow and Matt Haig. They will be joined by writer and musician John Hegley, Thurston Moore, co-founder of experimental rock band Sonic Youth, comedian and actress Helen Lederer, broadcaster and journalist Bidisha and whisky connoisseur Ian Buxton.

Bertel Martin, director of the Plymouth International Book Festival, said: “Writing and reading might be considered by many to be solitary pursuits, but meeting like-minded people and having the chance to chat about something that inspires you only heightens the enjoyment. The Chez Paulette will be an amazing and atmospheric place to do that, and we are hoping it will be a great meeting place for people to mull over their literary passions.”

The original Chez Paulette was based on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip and was renowned as a bohemian hangout for actors, directors, writers and flamenco guitarists.

It was run by Max Lewin, whose daughter Dr Anya Lewin is an Associate Professor in Art and Moving Image at the University, and this is the second time the model of it will have wowed city audiences having been built for an artist film and exhibition in 2013.

Max emigrated with his family from Berlin just before the Second World War, but his cafe was so popular with the stars that it was chosen to appear in hit detective show 77 Sunset Strip, with Max playing himself as the genial owner.

Its celebrity clientele included screen icons Jack Nicholson, James Dean, Rita Heyworth, Marlene Dietrich, Dennis Hopper, Bobby Darin, and Marlon Brando, who helped keep the place open in 1958 by constantly coming in until it was known as the hip place to be.

Dr Lewin said: “My father was a great story-teller, and while I grew up hearing about the Chez Paulette, you could never be sure about all the tales he told. My father said he first met Marlon Brando while working in the art department at Paramount Studios, and that he (Brando) persuaded him to keep the café open. But it wasn’t until I saw it printed in a newspaper column of the time that I realised it was actually true.”

For more information about this year’s Plymouth International Book Festival, visit


(from a press release)