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Postcards from Paris


Contact Loulou de la Paumardiere

I swore I would not do this. Nevertheless, I push the shutters open and look out onto the rolling lawn and the three hundred-year-old trees of La Paumardiere as the Eurocopter EC 135 sets down and starts up Christmas Eve.

A few minutes later, as we fly over the forests and woods of southern Normandy and the Yvelines, heading towards Versailles, I stretch out in the sleek, spartan Hermes interior, I'm wearing the black Chanel patent and suede stilettos and black tights with little red and green king Charles cavaliers on them (my design, made by John Galliano's little fairy-fingered seamstresses in one of his sweatshops), a bit corny I know but I find them darling and have never met a woman who didn't drop dead for them; men don't care, so long as they come off, and I start thinking about how I know next to nothing about this American and I'm so trying not to panic or jump to conclusions the way Carla did that time we were having a very late lunch at L'Arpege a few doors down from my house in Paris and she was wearing the cutest little sleeveless black cashmere turtleneck dress and I had on the gold silk sleeveless cocktail dress with the wide, rounded A-line skirt intersected with a black velvet half-moon at the midriff and all of a sudden she whispered frantically "Oh my God, Loulou, don't turn around. At the table right behind us: Arab terrorists wearing those towel things with the big black silk napkin rings on top of their heads and they're carrying rifles!" And I swiveled and saw a vase of lilies and some breadsticks and told her to put her contacts in and she was like "My bad." I call Carla and tell her that I am going to kill her if her American kills me. I've sometimes thought of the people I would least and most enjoy being killed by, and the former include that man disguised as a nurse in the episode of "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" called "An Unlocked Window," where he takes off his wig and says "Yes, you forgot about Sam, didn't you Stella?", Carol Channing and a female evangelist named Joyce Myers, who is for some reason on CNBC in Paris on Sunday mornings when all I'm trying to see is whether I'm still worth only 30% of what I was before the sky started falling a few months ago, while the latter would have to include the Fernandel of Le Spountz, James Stewart and Annette Funicello (when still a Mousketeer) and the more I think about the American the more I think of Carol Channing and I am really just so so scared that I find myself no longer sipping but gulping champagne.

And this relaxes me somewhat so I start sort of comparing him to other American men and thinking how when American men are cool they're Steve McQueen in The Blob-Clint Eastwood-Jim Jarmusch-Barack Obama cool, i.e., as cool as a man can possibly be. But then I think what if he turns out to be not like them but nutty a l'americaine, i.e., as nutty as a man can possibly be, because when Americans are insane they are crazy insane. Not that we can't be bonkers in France. We love and even worship our voice-hearing loonies, from transvestite murderess (and Blue Beard's bitch) Joan of Arc to Napoleon Bonaparte and Bernadette of Lourdes and Nicolas, who told me he has actually heard voices telling him about "la vraie France," the true France that has never taken part in the judicial history of "France." And we cherish our lunatic superstitions. Our French forefathers used to believe (and by used to, I mean until a few years ago in places like the Bearn region) that you could clear a field of weeds by burying a cat alive. Had a nasty spill? Chop a tomcat's tail off and suck the blood out. Got pneumonia? Drink blood from a cat's ear in some red wine. Colic? Mix some cat shit into your wine. Want to become invisible? Easy-peasy, at least in Brittany: just eat the brain of a freshly killed cat. (It only works if the brain is still hot, though.) And my personal fave: Want to get pregnant? Eat a cat.

But, as the simple Americans say, I axe you, in France have we really ever had people as totally, utterly bananas as Albert Fish who kill and eat your children and write you letters to tell you how they tasted or Ed Gein who kidnap you and remove your face and wear it as a mask and who've killed enough people to have been able to make an entire belt out of nipples and have shoeboxes and jars around the house filled with vaginas omigod and then I remember that both Al and Ed were red-blooded American boys just like my date or whatever you want to call Carla's American friend tonight and omigod omigod omigod I don't want anyone else to wear my face and I like my nipples and my vagina right where they are please God don't let him make earmuffs out of them or put them in a jar and now I've scared myself so much I have to pee only one can't in this little helicopter, but we'll be landing shortly.

And I remember seeing those interviews with Charles Manson where the interviewer goes "Like some coffee, Charles?"

And Charles goes "It's not a matter of 'like' or 'dislike': I am the coffee, don't you see?"

And the interviewer says "So is that a yes or a no?"

And Charles says "There's no such thing as 'yes' or 'no'; you people try to wall things off into your neat little categories. I am yes, I am no! I am the question and I am the answer and the answer is you are just so blind, man."

And I think about what hard work it must be being mad, what with your having to focus on sounding like a lunatic 24/7. On the other hand, you would just love to see him paroled so he would try that shit on some little Starbucks barista who would so scald him with boiling hot latte that he'd be lucid for life.

Anyway, it would wear me out. And so I'm thinking what if this American turns out to be like that, Carla hasn't really ever said what they spend all their time talking about, other than me, and Carla, bless her little Italian heart, is just so naïve. In France, we often say that it is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the American people (two words: Carrot Top), and although we tend to think of Americans as friendly, stupid, non-smoking, money-obsessed workaholics who speak louder than their clothes (Americans who listen to what the rest of the world is saying about them are as unhappy-and as dangerous-as poor people who think), just as they tend to think of us as well-dressed bathless overeating alcoholics whom an almighty but unjust God makes thin instead of fat and witty instead of drunk, nevertheless our two hundred-year-old alliance means that beyond some shady economic interests we have nothing in common.

I prefer Frenchmen in general if only because you don't have to tell them how to dress (last Sunday, I saw the American ambassador and his wife out wearing matching sweats in the rue de Grenelle),although Hubert Vedrine, who is as French as a frog fart, once showed up at my door wearing a camel cashmere overcoat with a mink collar and I said "Hubert, how unspeakably vulgar," and closed the door.

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© 2008 Louise de la Paumardiere

About LOUISE DE LA PAUMARDIERE It would be difficult to imagine anyone more purely French or a better embodiment of France and French values than polyglamorous Louise de la Paumardiere. Loulou's paternal great grandfather Andre Le Troquer, unfairly removed from office as President of the French Senate in 1958 for having run a pedophile network, and her maternal grandfather General Paul Ausseresses, unfairly stripped of his rank and thrown out of the Legion d'Honneur because of his role as a torturer in the Franco-Algerian war, are but two of her many famous ancestors. Author of From Foreign to French: 100 Makeovers in Stories and Pictures (New York and London: PLB Books, 2006), multi-talented and multilingual Loulou de la Paumardiere first came to public attention when several of the high-profile Paris-based foreign women on whom she performed makeovers committed suicide. Her family operates the majority of the uniquely French institutions known as Centres d'aide par le travail, or CATS, factories in which handicapped French citizens are employed at less than minimum wage because, as Loulou puts it with her typical Cartesian clarity, "they are handicapped." Her ancestral home, Château de la Paumardiere in Boilly-sur-Gui, an hour from Paris in Normandy, has hosted every head of state since Louis XIV and was a favorite haunt of Lully the Sodomite. She continues that great tradition of French hospitality on weekends in Boilly and during the week at her luxurious mansion at 60, rue de Varenne in Paris.