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.
"Springtime For Hitler in Gay Paree!" As a German woman who threw the weight of her fame against Hitler, Marlene Dietrich must be turning in her grave knowing she inspired this cretin.
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 île Saint-Louis, the oldest part of Paris, an island in the middle of the Seine. Like living in a postcard, even in the dead of January.
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:
It wasn't easy being Cleopatra, clearly. Some of the frocks from the Dior Couture 2004 collection, designed by John Galliano.
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.
Le Bar at the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Paris
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.
A bathroom in the Plaza Athénée. When Daniel was stuck in Galliano's den, it wasn't this bathroom exactly, but it was probably much like this.
“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's next for John Galliano? Maybe he can just keep having more plastic surgery and hit the art scene in New York, hang with Jocelyn Wildenstein. There are a few Jews in New York, though. He might want to think about Moscow?
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.