My Life is a Novel

Princesse Brigitte Beauharnais-Romanovsky

Here I am, wearing one of the Princess’ hats – a faint dove under a gauze net. She gave me my first hat, something round and pierced, with ribbons: « When you feel some morning that you are ugly, you wear a hat, so people will look at the hat, not at your face. And as you become older, you have to choose an ever bigger hat…». Brigitte, Chantoutou (photographer Chantal Regnault) and I were staying in this lovely home of Jolicoeur’s in Haiti.

At the edge of the swimming pool at Hotel Olofsson, she sermonized : : « You really must paint your toes, my dear, everything is in the pin! » I discovered, little by little, a generous and imperious artist, radiating in her very presence burlesque poetry, abhorring reality, with a magnificent collection of Haitian paintings and wistful négligés. I saw her at the peak of her seductive powers, with her delicate head at the hat lime, her nice giggle, her hands and feet fringed by brocade. Also, I saw her in obnoxious fits wafting about, just to see the consequences, like a kid breaking her toys to make them deliver their springs and porcelain eyes - much more exciting than the painted faces or spinning tops. She offered to herself the Trans-Siberian journey. She offered to my daughter the hugest white toy elephant in the world and a cast iron cooking-pot shaped like a heart. She offered to me perfumes hidden among “rosespread” on a pink tissue paper. Princess, come back, we are waiting for you and your violet mink…

Mathilda Beauvoir

Cité Véron in Paris, not far from Pigalle, in a mews celebrated by brothers Prévert (one being a poet, the other an actor), the select few of the Parisian Nights were trembling with beauty or/and something else, at the Voodoo Club n° 7, if I remember well. There, one of the youngest and most talented dancers discovered by the Theatre of Nations, officiated in a ritual show. Mathilda radiated power, talent, passion for dance, a kind of flirting with the world-beyond, but, above all, a great control over the forces that she happened to arouse. It was my second encounter with Haiti, after Maud. Claude Planson, Mathilda’s husband, wrote a book on Voodoo, and I was, for several months, his Press attaché.

André Bercoff

I was one of the first people whom our well-known journalist and writer (in the photo, he was at the Voodoo Club of Mathilda Beauvoir,) discovered, when arriving from his paper L’Orient Le Jour in Beyrouth at l’Express rue de Berri in Paris. The hijo de su madre, « prince of his mother », entered the fray with a huge appetite, a good mood and an approachability which has always touched me. An acute observer, “politically incorrect” but cautious enough, Bercoff currently manages a legendary daily newspaper in France, and writes lampoons under the pen name of Cato. Once, during my historical research on the track of my grandfather, I happened to find a photo of his own grandfather, born in Beyrouth, but living then in Zikhron-Jacob, not far from Haifa, and supported by the Rothschild administration.

Klaus von Bismarck

During the Spring 1976, I represented Pierre Schaeffer and French Television in a meeting at Cracow, in Polen, organised by the Ford Foundation, to prepare the conference of Belgrade between the countries of East and West Europe, that followed up the conference of Helsinki. At that time, the Soviet authorities, having been boycotted during an International Meeting of Psychiatry in Honolulu, needed to loosen its grip. The heads of the main Western broadcasters and some journalists, among them Canadian Denise Bombardier, were invited to Cracow. Bismarck, great-nephew of the founder of Germany, was president of one of the German TV channels at Koeln. I was representing nobody, just Schaeffer, who, aware of my interest in these questions and my redaction of a book on Mental Hospitals for dissidents, sent me there. On one side of the table, the West; on the other side, the countries of the East, with, at the head, the representative of the Novosti Agency, Comrade Uglov. At dinner, I was sitting between my two future friends, a charming Yugoslav Ivo Lederer, who was there for the Ford Foundation, and Klaus von Bismarck, to whom all the delegation of East Germany went to salute, snapping their heels, standing to attention, bowing with a very unCommunist « Herr Graf », My Lord.

I cleared the way for my journey, blaming the Soviets for blocking my investigation for French TV at Akademgorodok, the city of the scientists, and asking the delegation for an official authorization to go to the Soviet Union for an interview with Professor Snejnevski and all the big names of Soviet Psychiatry. In the evening, we were, with Uglov and Klaus von Bismarck, drinking and dancing at the only strip-tease club in Cracow. Uglov sketched a bed on a piece of paper, and said to me: « You see how misunderstandings happen between people : a foreigner in a city showed a drawing like this to a young girl, and she slapped him in the face. Yet, he just wanted to know the address of a furniture shop. » And he slapped my thighs in laughter, but his glance was piercing with intelligence. Later on, he called my room at the University Jagellon, where we were staying: « Golouba, dove, I have pepper vodka, lemon vodka, come to my room, we will drink it all together. » I thought immediately that it was the best occasion to obtain my authorizations and jumped at the chance. Nevertheless, I knocked on Klaus’ door, and asked him to chaperone me. We drank three nights and three days long. Klaus was careful that I should not say anything too personal or anything that might incriminate others. At the conference, we got tipsy, and the on last day, I fell asleep on Klaus’ coat. But… some months later, when I went to the Soviet Union on a Student trip, I was received, indeed, in Moscow, by Professor Snejnevski, head of Kashshenko hospital, and had a long interview with Professor Vartanian.
Klaus von Bismarck, became, later, President of the Goethe Institute in Munich – and a very dear friend, till the end. Men like that, with such moral fibre, reckless and wise, affectionate and lucid, unequalled rider, unrivalled dance partner, loyal and gentle husband and father (of nine children, I believe), are they still among us? I really hope so. Below, one of the drawings he was always sending me during conferences.

Jacques Boedels

With Jacques Boedels, an unusual and exceptionally learned lawyer, we won the “Artistic and Literary Prize of the Law Courts”, and are very proud of it. It was for the magnificent and very well written book on Power Dress: Justice, with Art Director Tillmann Eichhorn. Unofficial godfather of my daughter, irreplaceable friend, who hates rain and seafood, he is concocting another superb book on the European wardrobe of Justice and what it says about the institutions of the different countries.

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