When I moved to Paris from Los Angeles last year, one of the upsides was a welcome respite from the never-ending onslaught of trashy celebrity culture. In L.A., if you don't Tivo The Hills and check TMZ twice a day (as I did, I admit), you often have nothing to contribute to a dinner party conversation. In Paris, however, being seen buying a tabloid like Gala is still more embarrassing than being caught chain-smoking in a maternity ward.
In truth, I always suspected that the relative paucity of gossip rags here was due not just to the time-honored Gallic respect for la vie privee, but also to the lack of interesting French celebrities.
And then Nicolas Sarkozy came along. In recent months the president (who appeared on Gala's cover seven times in 2007) has overturned decades of social and political protocol, and the ever-discreet French have been trying to figure out how they got tricked into electing Donald Trump. From his scandalous October divorce from Cecilia to his all-media globetrotting with ex-supermodel Carla Bruni to last weekend's release of three new biographies revealing Cecilia's true opinion of her ex—as an unstable egomaniac—the talk here is all Sarko all the time, which seems to suit the president just fine.
Alas, the hyperkinetic Sarkozy moves so fast that it's almost impossible to cover him in a monthly magazine like W. A few weeks from now, when our next issue hits the newsstands, who knows? Sarkozy may already have confirmed the latest rumors that he and Carla are expecting a child, or he may have dumped her for Angelina Jolie.
The French themselves, meanwhile, are watching the drama unfold with that mix of horror and fascination that we Americans know so well. At a dinner party the other night, a wealthy and elegant Frenchwoman declared that Sarkozy was the first plouc (a notorious Gallic put-down meaning something like a peasant or a hick) to ever occupy the Elysee Palace. After trashing his flashy clothes, his bad grammar and his unfathomable lack of discretion, she admitted that he does have attractive, muscular legs, which she knew from seeing his jogging photos in magazines like Gala. Then, when pressed, the woman admitted that she finds Sarkozy kind of hot. "He's a plouc," she said, "but a plouc with a certain charm."
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