Magazine article The Spectator

Joining the Jet Set

Magazine article The Spectator

Joining the Jet Set

Article excerpt

There is a fascinating article in the August issue of Tatler. I never sneer at glossy magazines, including Hello!, because they are the social chronicle de nos jours, the Goncourt brothers of the late 20th century. In 300 years time, historians will get more out of Tatler than Hansard, if Tony Blair doesn't abolish it soon - Hansard that is.

Anyway, the article is entitled `Lady Lay' (no rhyme unintended). It goes on by way of a preamble, 'her husband left her for another woman. There was only one thing for New York socialite Martha Taylor to do. Learn how to be a whore in the bedroom. And there was only one woman to teach her; Paris's celebrated Madame Claude.'

Oh? One might have thought that when Mrs Taylor's husband left her for another woman the one thing for her to do was to take the bastard to the cleaners. But forget this digression. Mrs Taylor had heard gossip about Madame Claude at the couture shows in Paris. `Her girls were extraordinary. They often married members of the international jet set.'

Madame Claude, whose real name is Fernande Grudet, ran France's largest callgirl ring in the Sixties and Seventies. In her memoirs, which were published in 1986, she described how she had found chorus line girls and runaways, selected their lingerie and frocks, dictated their hairstyles and make-up and hired tutors to teach them about art, politics and philosophy. Then she matched them up with wealthy and well-born men.

So Mrs Taylor was bound to learn a thing or two. Madame Claude decided she already had enough culture so it was on to the main course. Mrs Taylor was road tested, as it were, by Frenchmen. They told her what was what. For instance, what to do if you are having a drink. You turn your full attention on him. Maybe touch him and breathe in his ear. Take your finger and rub it across his lips with a little wine on it. Then look at your watch and say, `Oh, I must leave you. This has been so nice. Will you call me tomorrow at ten o'clock?'

If he takes you to a restaurant you don't immediately yell, `The chargrilled beef for me.' You sit down and ask, `What do you suggest we have?' Learn from Marlene Dietrich, the courtesan's courtesan. When she went to a restaurant with a man she wouldn't take a menu for herself; she and the man looked at it together and she'd lean towards him and they'd discuss what they were going to order. …

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