Madame Claude, a French madam who reportedly had the likes of John Kennedy, Marlon Brando, and Muammar Qaddafi on her client list, has died. She was 92.
Claude managed a brothel close to Paris’s Champs-Élysées and was famously reticent to reveal any names from her fabled client list. However in a 2014 Vanity Fair profile, by William Stadiem, she did drop hints as part of a planned book proposal.
We spent a month of lunches together. She told me little about her past, other than the fact that she had gotten her start in business by selling Bibles door-to-door. For a book sale, her past didn’t matter as much as her present, and Bibles counted for far less than sin. In time she was comfortable enough to drop names for the proposal. There was the airborne joyride of Elie de Rothschild and Lord Mountbatten in the Rothschild jet, cavorting with Claudettes in the skies above Paris. There was John Kennedy requesting a Jackie look-alike “but hot.” There were Aristotle Onassis and Maria Callas showing up with depraved requests that made Claude blush. There was Marc Chagall giving the girls priceless sketches of their nude selves, Gianni Agnelli taking a post-orgy group to Mass, the Shah and his gifts of jewels. There were such disparate bedfellows on the client list as Moshe Dayan and Muammar Qaddafi, Marlon Brando and Rex Harrison. There was even a story about how the C.I.A. hired Claude’s charges to help keep up morale during the Paris peace talks.
She was born Fernande Grudent and was prosecuted for “tax-related issues” in the 70s, at which point she escaped to L.A.. (Later she was imprisoned, when she returned to France). She was also found guilty of pimping in the 90s she did not have to serve any time since she had just spent six months in prison. Claude moved to Nice, where, according to the French media, she died in a hospital.
According to the BBC, she is claimed to have once said:
“There are two things that people will always pay for, food and sex. . . . I wasn’t any good at cooking.”
What a life! Can't you see Helen Mirren playing her in a Netflix biopic? (via Vanity Fair; top right, Jessica Antola; left, Christophe Mourthé)