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Postcards from Paris

Contact Loulou de la Paumardiere


Exciting news. I have to tell you that Carla and I have been making lists of smart, sexy (or, in Parisian shorthand, bcbg, or bon chic bon genre which means elegant or beau cul belle gueule which means easy on the eye), and high profile potential BGF material together since we were schoolgirls. And we’ve always rejected all of the BGF candidates for one reason or another. Recently, we even had a look at Seerapeelin, simply because Elle called her “the worst enemy of woman” and Mod Squad relic Julia Kristeva said that she’s worse than the Nazis, and even if there’s something about autumn and back to school that makes French women lose all perspective on the march of history and we agreed that they are probably momentarily blinded by the always astonishing return of tartan mini-kilts, we were intrigued.  But with her colourful tundra-and-lightning expressions (she praised Michelle Obama’s smile as “so generous and warm” that it would “thaw the snot in a grizzlie bear.” When Ms. Palin met the Afghan president at the U.N., she shook hands and said “Seerapeelin, pleeztameecha!” And he said “Hamid Karzai!” And she said “Gesundheit! You know, I really thought you’d have longer fur.”) she struck us as ready for the international stage but not for Carla and Loulou. And that girl who was in the papers the other day beneath the headline “Woman beheads man, parades it through streets” http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf seemed promising (I said to Carla “Now there’s a girl I could like. What kind of man would see an obviously fit and outdoorsy type woman  mowing grass with a razor-sharp sickle and think ‘now she looks like a good rape victim’?  She’s a true ecologist: that man needed beheading and she’s just culling the herd.”), but we deemed her circumstances unsuitable for her to become a viable BGF.

And that’s when we started to take a closer look at the sublime Michele Obama, a girl who has everything, and she has now become, by mutual consent, our first and probably last BGF.  Of course, even Michelle has flaws,  and you can take the girl out of the ghetto but when she met with Native American Obama supporters  and her husband had trouble pronouncing the name of the tribe, and one of the women introduced herself and said “My name is Mary Greyhawk and I am an Arapaho,” and her friend said “My name is Betty Silvercloud and I am a Navaho.” And Michelle said “My name is Michelle Obama and I am a Chicago ho,” and Barack just had a fit when they got back in the car and Michelle stared out the window and was, like, there’s always something. But neither Carla nor I consider anything we know about Michelle Obama to be a deal-breaker.

And above all, Michelle wants Carla and me to help her “to become French” and she has already flown back twice from Chicago to La Paumardiere because she really wanted her exquisite little girls about whom Vice President Joe Biden famously said “they are the cleanest and most non-violent pickaninnies I’ve ever seen—I mean they don’t even carry guns!”http://www.youtube.com/watch to learn to ride “English” as she called it, meaning French, and to speak French, meaning the whitest English possible.

And when Michelle arrived, Carla was there and she said “How darling! Old school jodhpurs!”

And Michelle said “No, these are actually stretch riding breeches, and those are my thighs.

”And Carla said “I am so sorry.”

And Michelle said “That’s okay. I didn’t take it seriously.”

And Carla said “I am so glad you don’t take it personally!”

And Michelle said “I didn’t say I didn’t take it personally, I said I didn’t take it seriously, coming as it does from someone who makes Paris Hilton sound like Susan Sontag.”

And Carla said “You are just so adorable comparing me to that person you just said!” and she hugged Michelle really tight around the esophagus, and then Michelle grabbed her by the hair and they were sprayed with mud from these fire hoses and everyone moved out of the way and formed this huge circle so they could continue to discuss Franco-American relations.

Well, no sooner had Michelle left than we had to help Nicolas with his son Jean’s wedding. I’ve known Jean since he was a baby, and at 21 he is already as talented and duplicitous as his father and a successful politician, and an actor (he played Julia Roberts in Charlie Wilson’s War), with all kinds of MySpace pages devoted to him by teenage girls who were distraught seeing him marry his childhood sweetheart, appliance chain store heiress Jessica Sebaoun. Shortly before the wedding, Jean and Jessica went to Israel and rumor had it that Jean was going to convert to Judaism even though a few months earlier to thank Jesus for having helped him to be illegally cleared of all charges in a hit and run incident involving his motorbike and the car of an Algerian immigrant’s son (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news) and it had looked as if the Arab driver might actually win in court (Jean was naïf at the time), Jean dropped to his knees and accepted Jesus Christ into his heart, but that same night, against all odds, Jessica, too, took Jesus Christ into her heart and spit him back out on the sidewalk and went yewee, so not the real Messiah.

Anyway, it was a traditional Jewish wedding and after the signing of the Ketubah, or what the Good Book calls “the blessed concealment of assets,” came the Badeken, where the Rabbi helps the groom to lower the veil over the bride’s face. We were told that this represents the story of Jacob and Rachel, when, after their wedding, Jacob found that he had actually married not Rachel but Leah, an eleven-foot manatee who, even by the fairly undemanding standards of the Sireniae, was not what one would have called a looker, yet who, the Bible says, kept Jacob happy by feeding him a steady diet of water hyacinths and turtle grass. So now, to make sure the groom has the right bride, he lowers the bride’s veil and then the rabbi tapes it shut. Then Jessica placed a wedding kippah, or rather a herring because no fresh kippahs were available, on Jean’s head. Then, following the age-old tradition, Jean and Jessica smashed their wine glasses on the floor and then the bride and groom knelt before the bride’s parents and Jessica looked at her mother with those big, almost biblically indecent eyes of hers and told her in Hebrew what girls have been telling their mothers in ceremonies like this from the beginning of time and which the Rabbi translated as: You’ve ruined my life.

And Madame Sebaoun looked at the rabbi and then at the whole crowd and said “So, my daughter is taking a shower, washing her ladies only and all when suddenly she calls me and says remember those grapes we forgot about in the fridge for an entire summer that time, well someone has grafted them onto my word I cannot say in public, and so I said those aren’t grapes those are hemorrhoids and would everyone here please tell my daughter that she is crazy not to disinfect the toilet seats in public restrooms, which, along with Gentile lips, is where you get hemorrhoids and that this is a medical fact and no I’ll not keep my voice down I’m your mother,” and like a lot of brides on their wedding day, Jessica was so overcome with joy that she couldn’t stop laughing and crying hysterically until her bridesmaids took turns slapping her. And then Nicolas, who takes special pride in the fact that he has always had man-to-man talks with his sons—his dating advice, according to ex-wife Cecilia’s book, included such gems as “Never punch a girl in the face on the first date,” later modified to “If you punch a girl in the face on the first date, get her to sign something saying she hit you and if she refuses then call me” and other important legal counsel that only a caring father would actually take the time to bill for—spoke and he congratulated the young couple and told Jean that his destiny is to lead France to fulfill her own destiny, which is to become an amusement park for the Chinese.

And then the very next day we received His Holiness Benedict VI who was here for a few days of course, and I have to say what a gorgeous and fascinating man he is. The Pope speaks fifty languages, none of them perfectly except German of course, but if there’s one thing we Parisians find irresistible it’s French spoken with a thick German accent. Forget about his Nazi soldier past, Nicolas told us. Hey, weren’t Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler and Dietrich Bonhoffer once Nazi soldiers, too? I didn’t think so, but they could have been if they were.

We walked through one of the grand reception rooms of the Elysee and the mirrors showed our colourful retinue:  inexplicably, the mirrors failed to reflect the Pope as we passed by.  We presented the Holy Father with an official gift from France (that had been specially made for Louis XIV himself for his 35th birthday) and he amused us by riding the sculpted gilt stick-horse  around the room a couple of times (I’m not making this up) and then handed it to one of his young aides.

And Nicolas and Carla showed him Napoleon’s sword and St Joan of Arc’s shroud and Ste Marie-Marguerite Allacoque’s eggholder and St Theresa of Lisieux’s boxing gloves and two days later he’d be going, Nicolas reminded him, to Lourdes, the other capital of “True France,” and Nicolas spoke wistfully of “the famous shrine of Bernadette Soubirou, Shaggy and Velma and the others.” And then the Holy Father was shown something not even most other heads of state get to see: the Elysee toy room where he viewed Nicolas’ Bionicle collection and an impressive array of video games and Nicolas said “My mom says that if I can get my popularity ratings up to 50% then I can definitely count on an Xbox for Christmas.”

Carla told Nicolas not long ago that she hopes he never loses his childlike sense of fun, and it was on display during the papal visit, and the Pope hadn’t been here for an hour when Nicolas goes “Holy Father, would you care for some salted peanuts?”

And the Pope goes “Right, I open the can and a “snake” springs out,” and Nicolas said “Why no, Your Holiness, not at all,” and then the bottom of the can dropped open and a live cobra flew out and up the Pope’s cassock and you know that high F sung by the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute? Well, most of us agreed that the Holy Father nailed the G just above it, although the little dance he did looked more like something you’d want to do to “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate.”

Turning his back on a state dinner in his honour with the archbishop and the President, and more astonishly still, on the scheduled Friday night mass at Notre Dame, the Holy Father stated quietly that his place was with the poor and the oppressed he’d seen in the seedy area surrounding Notre Dame and although Nicolas tried to dissuade him, he went and visited these poorest of Parisians, most of whom did not even seem to recognize him. He gave his exquisite white cassock with the coveted Annibale Gamarelli Ecclesiastical Tailors Piazza Minerva, Roma, Italia label to a homeless man who lived under the Pont Neuf; he knelt and comforted a ravaged-looking immigrant on the uriniferous quai that runs along Notre Dame, and then knelt and blessed a group of rats as they ate bread crumbs some tourist had left, while unbeknownst to him, a group of handsome young priests stood in the shadows beneath the bridge, admiring the Holy Father and whispering about how good-looking he—

I shit on God, on the goddamn cross, on the fucking carpenter who made it and on the son of a whore who planted the pine!  This colourful, gnarled oath, spewed in accented French with a sort of vaudevillian drunkard’s slur, had risen up through the ventilation ducts and startled the Holy Father from his reverie at the altar in Notre Dame, whose crypt shares corridors and walls with the city’s biggest loony bin, the Hotel Dieu, or God Hotel, God being the police (http://www.mehrnews.com/EN/News), and the Hotel being the medico-judicial hospital’s salles fermees (“locked wards”), and with the world’s largest conglomeration of holding cells, which are in turn built right above some of the 1300 miles of sewers that meander beneath the city of slights. So after having let out a little scream, the Holy Father proceeded to celebrate Mass while Nicolas stood in the shadows at the back of the cathedral with Carla and me and at five-minute intervals during the Pope’s homily bellowed  “Boring!” then pretended to be studying the amazing labyrinth on the cathedral floor only that’s at Chartres.

At 8 a.m. the following morning, the Holy Father was still not even dressed. “You know,” he said, his red satin shorty bathrobe with the black dragon on it hanging open, revealing way too much information in the shape of a black satin thong with a red dragon on it, “I don’t really feel like going. Can’t we just hang today, maybe watch some wrestling on TV, shoot some pool?”

And Nicolas said “Your Holiness, about one million people are standing outside waiting for you at the Invalides.”

And the Pope said “Why is it called that?”

And Nicolas said “That’s where Napoleon’s defeated officers returning from war, or who had in some other way displeased the Emperor, got their dicks chopped off.”

But the Pope was no longer there; he was fully dressed and standing in the Popemobile.

The outdoor mass was marred by a small incident that was caught by dozens of cell phone cameras and immediately uploaded to YouTube and, mercifully, yanked down by our government within an hour. The steep plywood steps leading to the elevated stage and the altar were only a few feet away from the altar itself and as the Pope was speaking he kept inching back from the microphone for some reason; I was sitting just behind him and to his left and could practically hear the hideous pulsations of the Rite of Spring/Jaws – something-terrible-is-about-to-happen theme song, ““France is the Church’s oldest daughter, and what Pope John Paul II called ‘The Teacher of Nations, the City of Lights is the secular lux mundi, the cultural light of the world, and your civilizing mission must nev— ”  By now he had inched his scarlet leather slippered-right foot halfway over the step at the top of the tribune; he slipped, faltered and then fell backwards, his head cracking on the top step and then on the splinter-filled edge of each successive step, as if some invisible incarnation of virtue were pulling him by his snow-white over-the-calf silk socks, one clunk at a time,—if he had been a cartoon,  a xylophonist would have been required for the soundtrack of this descent into hell,—down, down the steps until he suddenly stopped, crumpled and bruised. All of us were stunned, but Nicolas thinks on his feet and when he saw the Pope lying motionless at the bottom of the steps, he was desperate to save him and he recalled as best he could his CPR training acquired from watching ER when it first came on and without wasting a second, made sure the Holy Father’s  air passage was free of obstruction, then jumped up and down on his throat three times, waited and then jumped again repeating the pattern until he thought he saw colour return to the Holy Father’s beloved face and he kneeled beside him and Nicolas said later how he would never forget how the Holy Father had looked at him, speechless with gratitude.

That evening, we sat out in the garden of the Elysee palace, Nicolas and his advisers, Carla and I, the papal nuncio in France (the papal nuncio in Paris solicits, kidnaps and provides children for “donors,” and serves as a liaison with the Paris American Church’s Uruguayan child trafficking agent Ramos Ramos-Quintoz), the archbishop of Paris Msgr Vingt-Trois, Benedict XVI, and. the Pope’s supercilious priest assistant who had spent the day at the Druout auction house where he’d bought some “pediatric gynecology illustrations by Robert Mapplethorpe and Nan Goldstein,” which the Holy Father found to be “exquisite.”

The Pope is a brilliant linguist. Most foreigners on their first try stumble on the ting tang walla walla bing bang part, but His Holiness just totally nailed it right off the bat and we were all like high fiving him and you could tell that he was happy and he said “You know what” with this kind of quivering voice, and we all went “No, what?” and he said “This is the happiest I’ve been since my student days at Gregorian learning patristics, homiletics, drunken stepfather euphemisms for sex with minors, apologetics and systematic theology and then seminary initiation when we took turns using the hot cattle prod on this little Filipino novice and skinned him alive and then sat around drinking this wonderful chilled white wine from Ravello and nibbling on Girl Scout cookies, the kind with real Girl Scout bits in them and”—here he choked up—“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I guess all I’m trying to say is: I love you guys!” and he just totally lost it, and we were all like “Awww. We love you too, Your Holiness.”


© 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.