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Postcards from Paris

Contact Loulou de la Paumardiere


"And Nicolas says that imagining a French magistrate with a sexual perversion that can only express itself in horrific violence against the helpless is as difficult as imagining Jesus without lederhosen, but that I must never tell people that when the FBI shut down some child pornography sites in the Landslide affair and credit card information led them to pedophiles in four countries and their judicial authorities turned over figures to let Interpol know how many lunatics they had, Switzerland had 1300, England 1300, Canada 2300 and France 0. And I asked Nicolas how come we don't get to have pedophiles like everybody else and he said there's no room because we've taken in all of Iran's non-existent homosexuals, but then he said just kidding and told me that when Operation Achilles arrested a couple of hundred buyers of child snuff films a few years back, 71 of them were French judges and prosecutors, and recently a judge of the Versailles court of appeals and former president of the magistrates' trade union, was caught running a pedophile ring; four judges in Burgundy were found to be involved in the disappearance, torture and murder of eight mentally retarded girls; and three judges in the south of France protected serial killer Patrice Alegre in exchange for the pleasure of torturing and killing the child prostitutes he provided. But Nicolas said it's unfair to single out judges Constantin, Leleux, Lempereur, Renard, Carle, Meyer, Marchais, Wolfrom-Perron, Croissant and Robineau for torturing children or just innocently violating their basic human rights because so many of France's 7,000 judges are authentic criminals that we were the first country to require an ethics commission to protect children from the judges who were protecting them (2003) or to have to impose, as of May 2008, psychiatric evaluations on all the future ones even if they will be evaluated by Valeri Pichard and Bertrand Glose, the same state contract psychiatrists who usually just falsify reports on human rights activists. And Nicolas says that none of these grown-up things are taught in either French or foreign schools, because if they were then Johnny Depp wouldn't live here or have married that giant forehead with the girl hanging down from it so it's better for everybody to limit serious study of France to The Image of the Squid in Jules Verne and Its Relation to the Frankfurt School and that sort of crap."

Nicolas tried to change the subject and told the Queen rather loudly that he is writing a memoir about his first term, and Carla whispered "Loulou,what's a memoir?" and I said "A memoir, darling, is a fictional account of someone's life told by the liar himself," and she took out her Mont Blanc and wrote it down on one of the menus that was wedged between the ketchup and mustard squeeze bottles. But then she started in again and Nicolas was glaring at me with bug-eyed desperation and I kicked Carla under the table and the Queen glared at me because that was her shin not Carla's but the Queen was very gracious about that just as she was gracious about (because I'm sure she saw him) Nicolas scooping all of his cutlery into his napkin and then into my bag.

"Carla?" Nicolas said again.

"Nicolas!" Carla shouted. "Carla is talking!

"Please?" he implored.

"Oh, all right then," she huffed, "but you must play it quietly," and she opened her purse and handed him his kazoo and he was happy for the rest of the evening and after dinner our hosts showed us that, even in Windsor, England truly is "Cool Britannia" and when "Mr. Lucky" by Elliot Easton's Tiki Gods came on, my word, I haven't seen people watusi like that since I was eight and maman and the chauffeur danced it only lying down in the flowerbed and with no music. But the evening was wearing on, and Nicolas nodded to Carla and me that it was time to leave and we were neither the first nor last to go, but Her Majesty, unfailingly polite, asked Nicolas if we really did have to leave so early, and Nicolas was so happy to be able to show off his English one last time and said "Your Majesty, it is with regret that we leave, but you know what they say: Early to bed and up with the cock!" and we adjourned to our lovely rooms and then returned to Paris the next day.

So sue me: as far as I'm concerned, 60, rue de Varenne is the center of the civilized world. God, it is so good to be back home with my lilies and roses and carnations and harpsichord and piano and books and electronics and wine cellar and gym and my bilingual cavalier King Charles. From my bedroom I can see George Vanderbilt's mansion at 58, next door, in which his neighbor from across the street, Edith Wharton, used to lease rooms for Henry James once James had retired from professional alligator wrestling in the Florida Everlades and moved permanently to Europe. It was here in my house that James read, for a gathering that included previous owner Robert de Montesquiou, Rilke, Rodin, Cocteau, Paul Morand and Proust, the first draft of the lyrics to "It Must Be Jelly (Cause Jam Don't Shake Like That)," and it was at the grand second story window through which I am looking now that they would stand and take turns spitting on pedestrians and a plaque on the façade of 60, rue de Varenne commemorates Ms. Wharton's invention of the water balloon.

Ah, the ghosts in this place! Sometimes it is all I can do to fall asleep when I think that my bedroom is the very room in which Marcel Proust would often spend the night when Robert's lavish parties would end late, and how he must have looked at these high white curtains which hid from the eyes the bed placed as if in the rear of a sanctuary; the scattering of light silk counterpanes, of quilts with flowers, of embroidered bedspreads, of linen pillowcases, this scattering under which it disappeared in the daytime, as an altar in the month of Mary under festoons and flowers, and which, in the evening, in order to go to bed, he would place cautiously on an armchair where they consented to spend the night; by the bed, the trinity of the glass with blue patterns, the matching sugar bowl, and the decanter; that very white guipure tablecloth which, thrown as an altar runner across the chest of drawers adorned with two vases, a picture of the Savior, and a twig of blessed boxwood made it resemble the Lord's Table (of which a priedieu, placed there every day, when the room was "done," finished evoking the idea), but whose frayings always catching in the chinks of the drawers stopped their movement so completely that he could never take out a handkerchief without at once knocking down the picture of the Savior, the sacred vases, the twig of blessed boxwood, and without stumbling and catching hold of the priedieu; so that this operation, in appearance so simple, of opening or closing the window, he never succeeded in doing and, doubtless moved by what, in his feelings very personal could not be described as melancholy and yet partook of that sadness so wistful whose companionship is almost sweet, seemed to be the church in which he lay, found himself praying that in the future those who would claim to love his sentences so insanely long that normal people just want to fucking hang themselves about a third of the way through, would form an elite club of physically and morally repellant snobs who could only date each other, and I remember reading how Marcel had sprung up from this very same bed in the middle of the night on January 26, 1919 and had got one of his pedicureless feet (ask me sometime about the horror stories my great-grandmother told me about the ethereal Marcel's little piggies) caught in the sheets and had smashed his face into the hardwood floor with a sound so loud that people at 56, rue de Varenne two doors down awoke with a start thinking it was German cannon in Paris again, and how the following night Robert de Montesquiou had invited neighbours Edith and Henry, who had only made things worse for poor, sensitive Marcel by short-sheeting his bed and then while he was remaking the bed and spewing convoluted invective, had stood in the corridor and placed a new tube of toothpaste on the floor with the capless tip under Marcel's door and Edith Wharton had jumped on it and that's when Marcel had the famous nervous breakdown.

I fell asleep, then awoke to the beautiful sound of blackbirds at the crack of dawn the next day around noon, put on a tight black asymmetrical skirt and a white organza see-through blouse and added a pair of eight-inch brass cuffs so that mistaking me for a waitress would be out of the question. Every year since our great friend Rudolph Nureyev's death in 1993, Carla and I and half a dozen friends drive out to the Russian cemetery at Sainte Genevieve des Bois in Fontainebleau Forest to commemorate not Rudolph's death but his life, and this year Nicolas wanted to come along. Nicolas' chauffeur pulled into the courtyard and out hopped Carla, looking lovely as ever but wearing jeans, and she came in and I looked in the mirror and said I'm not wearing what I'm wearing, took everything off and Carla, who is very impressionable, put her hand on the back of my neck, pressed her forehead to mine, said "Loulou, we're not women. We're super-vixens, built for sin," placed her lips against mine, and I said "Not now, darling," threw on a plum-coloured alpaca turtleneck and chocolate cashmere zoave pants with chocolate suede boots and we got back in the SUV and roared out onto the rue de Varenne, up to the Invalides, over the Alexandre III Bridge, across the Champs-Élysées and down to the presidential palace on the rue du faubourg Saint Honoré, 7 minutes door to door, with the sirens.

We went straight to see Nicolas in his wonderful office and before we'd even knocked we could hear Nicolas laughing through the door. I smiled at Carla and said "What's so funny?"

"Oh, Nicolas is alone with his pinwheel again," she explained.

We knocked and went in and there was my darling old friend, the President of France, the very picture of that otium cum dignitatem, or dignified relaxation, that we so love in France, sitting by the fireplace in a Louis XV armchair wearing a green tie with his grey suit, swim fins and sombrero and I said "Darling, you're in Prozac colours!"

And he said "Loulou! I've given it up!"

So I said "And how are we feeling this morning? Any desire to do harm to ourself or to others?"

And he said "Not any more! At my Friday morning session, my psychiatrist asked me if my thoughts sometimes assume the form of a large insect, and I had to laugh because I knew then that he could read my mind, so I strangled him, and now I'm happy all the time."

In the car on the way out to Fontainebleau, Carla was saying how exciting it was to be with a man who has nuclear power www.timesonline.co.uk whose every gesture says Almighty! She watched lovingly as Nicolas used his Blackberry, no doubt, she whispered, to send emails to Medvedev and Bush and that Chinese guy to tell them that France does not intend to do their bidding and they'd better watch out. About twenty minutes later, Nicolas held up his Blackberry and said "Look! I got Arceus! He's the hardest Pokemon to get!"

We arrived in Sainte Genevieve, where once again we found ourselves standing by Nureyev's grave, exquisitely covered by a trompe-l'oeil mosaic kilim /www.nureyev.org/tombeau.php and we tearfully shared our favourite recollections of Rudolph: of the time he had vandalized Franco Zeffirelli's villa, defecating as he went and Franco following him around screaming "Terrorist!"; or how he'd broken the jaw of a teacher at the Paris Opera Ballet; how he'd simply dropped and injured a ballerina when he realized she'd gained half a pound; and dragged another across the floor by her hair. We toasted him as always, using Jerome Robbins' famous phrase "To an artist, an animal, and a cunt," knocked back our Grey Goose and said in unison "Good Fucking Riddance," as we smashed our glasses against his tomb and I felt like I do when I hear Mahler's heart-rending adaggieto, but I was taught to be strong and, however emotional soundtracks and weddings and funerals may be, to try my best not to laugh. Then we had lunch on the grounds of the château de Fontainebleau and we had lovely oysters and a nice little Entre Deux Mers we had picked up for peanuts in Barbizon and Carla turned to me and said with her mouth full of oysters: "Loulou, izhn't eating oyshterzh like French kishing the ocean?" and I went "Carla, gross me out."

That evening, the three of us drove out to the Bois de Boulogne, took the little barge over to the island where the Chalet des Iles sits on the edge of the water and sat by the fire, with peacocks leaping up to the window sill and peering in at us as we enjoyed venison and duck à l'orange with caramelized leeks and carrots with a case of 1999 Tuileries-Pagès followed by a chocolate tart, coffee and more chocolate. There were artists and writers and actors and four French cabinet ministers, and everyone tittered at the bons mots of writer and child killer Gabriel Matzneff; actor Patrick Timsit telling Down Syndrome jokes; star of stage and screen Michel Leeb doing his hilarious number about what black people look like, and comedian Dieudonné treated us to his Heil Israel! sketch. What an evening it was!

But then the tone changed as Nicolas wandered off to speak with his ministers and Carla huddled next to me. "Loulou," she said, "I've been wondering: do you think Nicolas really loves me?"

"Is the Pope Catholic?" I asked. "Is every 2-dimensional surface which is both compact and simply connected topologically a sphere? Did France actively sponsor the Rwanda genocide? Do Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom intentionally bankrupt their own clients? Hello? Of course he loves you, for now. Darling, you and Nicolas go together like diamonds and pearls, like fine wine and domestic violence, like Lamborghinis and foolish parenting!"

"Like loin cloths and Double Bubble!" added Carla, clapping her hands excitedly. "I'm so proud to be known as Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy. I mean, it's not like I had married General Pinochet or Mussolini!" (www.express.co.uk/posts/view/2706) But then her eyes filled with sadness, and she said softly "Loulou, when Nicolas asked me to marry him, I thought, you know what I've wanted ever since I was a little girl is to be loved by someone powerful, even if that means having to wake up every morning with Nicolas oinking "You are so beautiful" an inch away from my mouth. But now that I have his love, I feel like I've run to the car in the downpour in the dark and barely made it and locked all the doors and as you watch me all blurry through the windshield you just know he's going to start banging on the windows even though I just cut his head off with a chainsaw but then slowly he rises from the back seat and we realize that I've locked myself into the car with him!!"

Carla's crescendo turned several heads our way and the waiter came and asked if everything was all right and I said "No, everything isn't: champagne, and don't dawdle." I leaned towards Carla and said "It's like in "The Fly," when the mutating scientist's stupid wife asks him, 'Where has the cat gone?' Carla, a smart woman wouldn't wait for the answer. She'd get out fast and find someone with no calypters or scutellum."

"Oh, Loulou. I don't know what to do. We've made progress in our relationship. This morning, I finally convinced Nicolas to wear boxers and he said okay, but only Spiderman or Simpsons, no more Sponge Bob, and I still believe that I can turn Nicolas into a tantric sex god. But whenever we make love, and I'm lying back on the pillows looking at him with my half-closed, thank-you-in-advance eyes and all moaning and everything, Nicolas climbs on top of me and goes "Welcome to Galeries Lafayette. Goooowing up! Next stop maternity wear!" and then he just falls over sideways giggling and kicking on the bed.

"What? He does it every time?"

"Yes, both times. Oh Loulou, let's face it, I've never been lucky with men."

It was all too true, too. Carla was only seventeen when her first fiancé had perished in a freak accident in which, after his having commented that "you're not really all that tall, you know," Carla had pointed a shotgun at his face and pulled the trigger and he had somehow been fatally injured in the mishap. Then, at eighteen, she had followed another dashing young fiancé with long flowing hair and eyes like the night, Bela, to Hungary to study the black arts. Bela's parents loved Carla and she loved them and even though Bela's father was a werewolf and his mother a large barrel of bikini wax they spent many carefree, wonderful hours together in the family castle outside of Kiskunfélegyháza. Carla was present on that tragic night when Bela, his naked body gleaming with flammable oil, was lighting candles in a pentagram during an impressive ceremony to call forth the Prince of Darkness, and he'd set his membrum virile on fire and the real tragedy is that he could have been saved if only his benighted minions had not extinguished the flames by resorting to an ancient but wholly inappropriate Hungarian folk remedy known as "stomping it out." I remember having taken frail, trembling young Carla in my arms and telling her "Maybe Bela's death is a sign that you weren't intended to be that kind of witch," but the experience had marked her nonetheless. And as if that hadn't been enough, Carla would later lose a third young fiancé, a promising French deputy minister of culture whom she had accompanied to the opening of the Gay Board Games in Menton. Accosted by a hoodlum as they walked home one evening, Jean-Claude had astonished Carla when, far from panicking, he had calmly pointed a Magnum right at the so-called tough guy's face and then smashed the hard, cold chocolate coating all over his nose, so the guy had of course killed him immediately and then had taken Carla, and even though Carla had begged him to just go ahead and kill her, too, and people half a mile away had heard her screams, the fiend had, for one entire, gruesome night, forced her to wear British clothing.

"Loulou, why do we fall in love with men who are no good for us?" asked Carla.

"Why do flowers bloom?" I asked. "Why do birds sing? Why do the accretion discs surrounding the nuclei of active galaxies emit relativistic jets along their polar axes? It's Nature! Carla darling, a relationship is based on trust; believing that someone else truly loves you is a matter of faith, like believing that God exists or that all nontrivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function have a real part of ½."

"Oh, Loulou, you always make everything sound so simple, and I guess it really all does just boil down, as you say, to secretions and Polish hatchets and Catherine Zeta Jones."

"Tell me, Carla darling, could it be that Nicolas has a problem with your having slept with over 40,000 different men?"

"Not since he had a microbiology lab set up next to the bedroom. And he told me we have to practice safe sex, and I asked him what safe sex is and Nicolas said it's fantasizing about real sex. But Loulou, here's my real question: when the image of Nicolas stepping out of the shower seeps into my brain before I have time to get out of the way, is it normal for me to taste vomit in my mouth?"

"That's nothing, darling," I said, "it simply means that you hate him."

"But maybe it's not even hatred. Maybe it's just morning sickness."

"Oh, speaking of which, how's the baby?" I asked.

Carla lifted her blouse to show me a slightly larger pillow than the one she had belted around her waist last month, and with a new pattern by Pierre Frey.

"Loulou darling," said Carla, caressing the pillow with her hand, "I've learned things recently about my own love for my husband and his love for me, and now I am just so grateful and so relieved and I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with Nicolas Sarkozy."

I was stunned, and I said "Carla, what made you change your mind? Why relieved? Relieved about what?"

And Carla said "I am so relieved that Nicolas is gay."

And she put her forehead against mine and I said "Christ, Carla, life goes by prestissimo: one minute you're in your highchair, the next you're having to learn the Kama Sutra, then you're spending eighteen years warping your own children, then getting Alzheimer's and then working the night shift as a worm feeder. Carpe thingem, I say. Kiss me."


© 2008 Louise de la Paumardiere





About LOUISE DE LA PAUMARDIERE It would be difficult to imagine anyone more purely French or a better embodiment of France and French values than polyglamorous Louise de la Paumardiere. Loulou's paternal great grandfather Andre Le Troquer, unfairly removed from office as President of the French Senate in 1958 for having run a pedophile network, and her maternal grandfather General Paul Ausseresses, unfairly stripped of his rank and thrown out of the Legion d'Honneur because of his role as a torturer in the Franco-Algerian war, are but two of her many famous ancestors. Author of From Foreign to French: 100 Makeovers in Stories and Pictures (New York and London: PLB Books, 2006), multi-talented and multilingual Loulou de la Paumardiere first came to public attention when several of the high-profile Paris-based foreign women on whom she performed makeovers committed suicide. Her family operates the majority of the uniquely French institutions known as Centres d'aide par le travail, or CATS, factories in which handicapped French citizens are employed at less than minimum wage because, as Loulou puts it with her typical Cartesian clarity, "they are handicapped." Her ancestral home, Château de la Paumardiere in Boilly-sur-Gui, an hour from Paris in Normandy, has hosted every head of state since Louis XIV and was a favorite haunt of Lully the Sodomite. She continues that great tradition of French hospitality on weekends in Boilly and during the week at her luxurious mansion at 60, rue de Varenne in Paris.