Seeing that I will never work with John Galliano, there’s no point in waiting until we get my play Hatter up and going in London later this year to tell my story about how I caused him to be spanked.
For those of you just catching up with this blog, Hatter the play is based on a screenplay of mine, about which one of Galliano’s own people, who I imagine is no longer one of his people, once said, “is the only script ever written that is truly about the fashion business.”
When Hatter was still a film, I approached Galliano to design the costumes via the aforementioned colleague of his. We sent the script off to Paris, but despite the strength of our personal connections, I didn’t hear back from him for months. That’s okay, screenplays aren’t easy to read, and someone like Galliano has a lot on his plate. Finally it was decided that the best strategy would be for me to go to Paris for the January 2004 couture collections, attend his show and then worm-charm my way into getting him to attach himself to the project.
At the time I was dating a German kid I’d met online, a young tattooist from Aachen near Cologne. We’d had this virtual romance for about four months before we actually met in person. This was before web cams, so all I had was pictures of him and lots of phone calls. Sometimes virtual love can seem so much more profound than the real thing, and that was certainly true in this case for me, even though I still have the deepest affection for this guy. When I finally did meet him on a side trip I took to Aachen — quaint medieval city, Charlemagne’s old capital — he was neither 6’2”, as he had described himself online, nor was he twenty-five; he was 6’5″ and twenty-one. He was also a bit heavier, but still quite good-looking, and above all very smart, which is something you can’t hide even online.
I rented an apartment on the Île Saint-Louis for nine days over the couture shows and the men’s collection; Galliano was to premiere his own label of men’s clothes that season. The German kid was to meet me there.
The day before I boarded the train, I got a letter from Galliano stating that he wouldn’t be doing the project because, among other things, he had his own film aspirations over which he wanted complete creative control. Fair enough. In 2004, Galliano was arguably the greatest living fashion designer. At least he’d considered my work.
I went to Paris anyway. I’d already paid for the ticket and the apartment, and there was still a small spark of hope that I could convince Galliano to change his mind. And if not, I’d have a romantic week nestled in a super charming garret apartment on the Île Saint-Louis with a handsome 21-year-old, with passes to the men’s collections and some of the couture shows. Life is tough.
I want to change the German kid’s name to Dieter, but I can see him wrinkling his nose at that. Gunther? Nah, too Wagnerian. Let’s just call him by his real name. If nothing else, Daniel was very cool, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me telling this story.
The day of the Dior couture show was dreary, as Januarys are wont to be most places in the northern hemisphere. It was not one of Galliano’s best; it was just too theatrical, and I was a huge admirer of his theatricality, so this is saying a lot. But it retrospect, it looks wicked in pictures:
If you can’t tell, the theme of the show was Ancient Egypt, and the clothes were unwearable even on the runway; you could see beads popping off the dresses and bouncing all over the catwalk. After five minutes, I could have cared less about the clothes; I was holding my breath in case one of the girls skidded on a bead and broke her neck with one of those headpieces. The girls, already skin-and-bones crypto-zombies without help from these “gowns” (although I’m not sure properly speaking they were that), looked appropriately mummified, and strutted like the walking dead. The real stars of the show were the accessories, the hair and the astounding make-up by Pat McGrath. Daniel and I went backstage briefly before the show and saw Pat touching up the late Isabella Blow’s lips. Issie was sporting something that looked like a large lick of bacon on her head.
Afterwards, a couple of members of his entourage, who were responsible for my being there in the first place and were trying to get John attached to the project, invited us for drinks at the bar of the Plaza Athénée Hotel with Galliano and everyone involved with his team and the show.
Once we got there, Daniel and I decided that the best strategy to seduce John into reconsidering the costumes for Hatter was for me to take a back seat and do what I do best, which is to drink expensive cocktails and try to make small talk with Galliano’s Irish PR gal, who was stuck in some kind of conversational loop about how wonderful it was to work for John and how it had changed her life. That’s all she talked about. I think she must have been on junkets all day and her mind was stuck in press release mode. But I had to humor her. It was this woman, you see, who would help make the decision for John to participate in the film. When a fashion designer does costumes for a movie, it is often considered product placement, especially in a film like Hatter, which features clothes so prominently and is, well, about a hedonistic fashion designer who makes Keith Richards look like Mary Poppins. Not too far from Galliano himself, even though I had no idea about that when I wrote it.
While I was schmoozing PR Chick, Daniel was in charge of buttering up John, and dutifully made a bee-line for him when we reached the Galliano group’s area of the bar.
It was clear everyone was doing coke. It certainly didn’t bother me. I wasn’t doing it, and nor was Daniel; he was an epileptic. No sense being all coked-up if your lover can’t be.
At a certain point, half the group disappeared downstairs. Daniel was with them. I could see he was doing his job perfectly and enjoying it. He had long been a fan of Galliano’s, so to be out partying with him after the show, which Daniel thought was genius, was definitely something he could write about extensively in his beloved journal the next day.
At a certain point, the group began to drift back, minus Daniel and John. One of our friends sat beside me and said, “Listen, James. I don’t want to make a stink or anything, but we really like you and Daniel. You should know that he’s in the bathroom alone with John doing cocaine.”
I chuckled and told my friend not to worry, that Daniel barely drank, and would never risk having a grand mal seizure in Paris’s chicest bar in front of the world’s greatest fashion designer just for a line of coke. Plus, for God’s sake, Galliano is a little thing. Daniel is six-foot-five and a strapping lad. Literally. (I just can’t help the puns, sorry.)
A few minutes later, Daniel and John came back up and joined us again. Daniel had been stuck to Galliano all evening trying to accomplish his mission. Now he sat next to me and wrapped himself around me like an affectionate anaconda. John stared daggers at me, his mouth grinding from the recent cocaine dosing like a kamikaze pilot on meth. Who knows, maybe he was picturing me as a Jew and was carving a swastika in my forehead. (I do consider myself an honorary Jew; I was born in New York City at Beth Israel hospital into a Jewish obstetrician’s hands. This is a self-conferred honorific, however; no one from the Tribe has ever offered it to me officially.) At any rate, I didn’t mind at that moment that John might be upset with either me or Daniel. I was drunk, and it was pretty obvious the costuming deal would never happen. There was always Alexander McQueen.
“Let’s get out of here,” Daniel hissed in my ear. So we left and went to the grand lobby of the hotel to get away from the smoke of the bar. Then Daniel told me what had happened.
The group had gone downstairs to a private bathroom, which apparently was some sort of suite in itself in order to accommodate a half-dozen or so people. Lines were laid out, lines were snorted. Then Galliano told everyone to leave him and Daniel alone.
“He vanted to have sex viz me,” Daniel said.
“And what did you say?”
“I say, ‘Take off all your clothes.’” Apparently John complied, and stripped to his jockstrap, which is really uncanny because the title character in Hatter spends much of the first part of the play in a jockstrap (as a result, it hasn’t been easy casting the role with a suitable star who is willing to do that). Life was already imitating art.
Daniel went on. “Then I say to him, ‘Get on your knees.’ Und he get on his knees und he say, ‘[words redacted — too raunchy]’. So I say to him, ‘Vat makes you sink I vould ever have sex in a toilet?’”
Let me break here to point out to you what a good boy Daniel was. Despite being a young giant tattoo artist, he had boundaries. He did not feel it appropriate to have sex in a toilet with a famous stranger, no matter how opulent the toilet. In John’s defense, most gay men, including yours truly, wouldn’t think twice about having sex in a toilet like that, provided we could keep the soap and shampoo as souvenirs. I think most straight people I know wouldn’t, either.
“So then,” Daniel said, “I make him stand up und I turn him und I push him against the vall. Galliano say, ‘[words redacted — too raunchy].’ So I do like he ask, und I smacked his ass — once, twice, three times really hard und I say, ‘That is for not doing my boyfriend’s film!’”
God bless you, Daniel, wherever you are. That was true genius.
What John Galliano said the other night in Paris wasn’t at all funny. We have all gotten very drunk before and said and done things that we regret. I have drunk entire breweries in my life, done enough drugs to support villages in Afghanistan and keep chemical labs in Mexico in business. But I have never behaved like that.
I am by no means a militant homo, but I mean the following sincerely:
John, it pays to remember that as gay people, we are still persecuted and are victims of extreme prejudice around the world. It is still considered okay to beat us to death in Uganda, or even right here in the United States. Gay teens in love are lynched in Iran. Your beloved Hitler not only gassed thousands of gay men, but it was better to have worn a yellow star in the camps than a pink triangle; you were treated better as a Jew, and that is fucking scary.
There is no excuse for what you did. You will always have your genius, you will always be a master, you will no doubt never go hungry because of this. I’m sure nobody in the world regrets what has happened more than you, now that you have sobered up and are facing the shit storm that must be raining down on you. Maybe this is what will shake you out of that sloppy drunk, jaw-grinding witchery-bitchery you tend to get into once and for all.
Still, shame on you, John.
22 responses to “Spanking Galliano”
great story, do you know I have part of the blog called fashion fiction, I wish you would write something on it. ALthough truth is far more fantastic than fiction could ever be. xxx
Thanks, Diane. You know that for you I would write anything. Not sure how much fashion fiction I have other than Hatter. Stand by for casting news on that, by the way. Sean Mathias is directing the play, he’s great. We’ve finally moved away from trying to cast the major movie stars and are settling on more realistic choices.
if only this were an isolated incident – way too many celebrities do exactly what John G did in the hotel bathroom and unfortunately we hear so little of them. But you are right, a talent that once was is no longer.
At the risk of sounding like the moralist I am not, I do believe responsibility comes with celebrity, which someone like Bono exercises beautifully. I’m not referring to being responsible in the bathroom; I happened to have a humorous anecdote that was newsworthy and could lead me to a point I really wanted to make, which was the wrong of what John did as a gay man in particular by praising Hilter and the atrocities of the Holocaust. All consenting adults have the right to do as they please, even in the privacy of luxurious private bathrooms. I’ve got a few more cocaine-in-toilets celebrity stories, in which I was even directly involved, but it would be gratuitous to post them. I would just be “ouch my foot” name-dropping, as my friend Yvonne says, with no purpose.
Hysterical! I also really appreciated your moment of real-talk for Galliano at the end. When historically oppressed groups go about oppressing other marginalized groups, it almost hurts more than a regular hate crime.
On a side note, Hatter sounds delightfully juicy, and I sincerely hope to see it someday soon!
Thanks. Hatter is indeed juicy, and it should be dazzling in the hands of director Sean Mathias. After I posted about that, I thought, Christ, we’ve been in development with that for so long, nobody’s going to take me seriously about it. But that’s how long it takes, especially with a piece that edgy; another far more commercial director friend of mine was moaning the other day how finally his broad comedy film is being released 14 years after he first wrote it.
Hatter does rip the lid off what really goes on in that world, but does it in the same way I write in general, which is hopefully with a bit of humor. At any rate, I had a great time writing the play/screenplay, so hopefully that will come across to the audience.
I’ll continue to blog about Hatter as it progresses. There have been some worthy stories connected to it, both past and present. Thanks for reading my blog.
Nice to read your story and sad to know this life of Galliano. He is a great talent and hope that he will find help. These kind of parties, I don’t know, but can be a sample of the stress or pressure of the fashion industry or people in any kind of industry seeking for profit. They can celebrate success in other way. Hope he will recover cause he’s one of the most important artist of our time.
Luck with your film,
Thanks for leaving a comment.
People will always party and there’s nothing wrong with it, provided nobody is hurt physically or emotionally. I can’t comment on John’s addictions, I know nothing of them, not even through his friends and colleagues; It’s not the kind of subject I’m particularly interested in. I’m fully aware that I live in a glass house in that respect, and I can’t bear hypocrisy, so I would never pass judgment other than to decide what cocktail to mix next. But, yes, from my experience with myself, excessive intoxication is often the result of trying to smother the demon of poor self-esteem, insecurity, or just plain nervousness and fear. Other times it’s just a social thing. In my case, I don’t hydrate properly when I drink sometimes, so I keep drinking more alcohol and the next thing you know I’m very drunk. But as I’ve said, I’m lucky that I never get sloppy. The danger of mixing cocaine with alcohol is you do the cocaine to sober you up from the booze and keep you going, then keep drinking to cut the edge of the cocaine, and the next thing you know it’s 8 a.m. and you’re about to meet a hangover that looks and feels like the monster from the “Alien” series.
Hilarious ! Have just this Facebooked this to all my fashionista pals in Melbourne, Australia.
Good luck with the play, it sounds great !
My Galliano story: (It’s not much but it adds to the general context): A friend from Berlin was living in Paris in the early 90’s. She was at her favourite little restaurant (she was good friends with the owner), – sorry can’t remember name or location, but anyway Galliano swooped in with his entourage and the whole party proceeded to behave appallingly, so much so in fact that the owner (knowing full well who he was) threw the whole lot of them out into the street.
Agree that Mr. Galliano does not seem to be a very nice chap. The cliche ‘bitter and twisted’ comes to mind… not that I am into schedenfreude (who am I kidding) , but I am curious to see what will happen next (a public apology, volunteer work as a tour guide at Belsen?….)
Thanks for the comment, and for the Facebook posting. I used to know quite a few fashionistas when I lived in Melbourne for a year when I was 20. My mum’s form there, so I went to discover my roots, so to speak. I was actually thinking about maybe coming down for a few months to do some writing in peace, stay with my friend Julie Harris, whom I haven’t seen in yonks.
@ James – if you do make it down to Melbourne make sure to get in touch, I know some fun people.
Will do, Kara. Cheers.
Thanks for posting this, James. I think we would all agree that John Galliano’s conduct was beyond the pale, but as you say, who are we to pass judgement? We all have our demons and some of us handle it better than others. I personally have nothing to do with the fashion world – indeed, I find that milieu shallow and irritating – but Galliano, whatever the kind of person he is, is extremely talented. I don’t enjoy seeing someone down. Let’s hope that this is a lesson learned and that something good comes of it. All the best, pj.
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This was well written .
Cheers, Jay. Keep me posted on the doc.
James – I think what you are doing is brilliant. Gymbox isn’t the same without you. Anytime, you are in London, pop in for a workout. Keep up the good work – always puts a smile on my face. Richard
High praise indeed coming from a man who has built a successful business on good design and not a little bit of cheek. You inspire me, Richard. And I do miss Gymbox. I blogged about it a bit once, I believe I said it was the best gym I’ve ever belonged to.
Buonasera Mr Killough, what “this cretin” – Mr Galliano – said was creepy and I know it will not be forgotten nor forgiven by many people.
“This cretin” while posing for this Dietrich-like picture was also still recovering from the loss of his great friend and collegue Steven Robinson (he’s still devastated today).
He’s stripped of his pants so why not stripping him of his humanity, too?
He’s a fallen idol so now it’s open season, right?
Mr Galliano is somewhat Italian like me and like Milan Vogue Editor Ms Sozzani who has been supporting him till day one, maybe because we know that sometimes alcohol talks and it’s easier for us to “burn“; we love drama and overacting.
We all make mistakes and outstanding people make outstanding mistakes.
And no I don’t want to know what this flamboyant talented bitter guy likes in sex, I don’t want to know how much he likes blow and I don’t like seeing him portrayed as a slut – even if he’s a big one just like many others – simply because now he has lost his power and position.
It’s not fair, it’s bitchy and – like some homophobic friends of mine would tell – it’s so gay.
Enrico from Milan
Caro Enrico da Milano:
Non so cosa dirti, “bello.” The story is the story, and that is what we do at PFC, we tell stories. If you think it’s bitchy, fair enough, that’s your opinion. I prefer the word “caustic.” Most people think it’s funny. I certainly did at the time, and I had every reason to be pissed off with John for other reasons. The article was also topical at the time it was published, and that is one of the three rules of this blog: it must be funny, personal and topical. That it should also be well written is subjective, but we assume that as well.
I do mention in the article that Galliano is a genius and that he will always have that. I believe I am also somewhat self-depricating by admitting that John didn’t want to work with me. So stop being sensitive for someone else. All is fair in the war zone John and I both live in. If John wants to respond to me, he knows how to do it.
Comunque, grazie per il commento e per aver letto,
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