Voyeurism, Sex Rituals and Women with Painted Bottoms. My Surreal Life with Salvador Dali, the Con Artist

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 11, 2000 | Go to article overview

Voyeurism, Sex Rituals and Women with Painted Bottoms. My Surreal Life with Salvador Dali, the Con Artist


Byline: CARLOS LOZANO

Carlos Lozano was a struggling actor when a chance encounter in Paris with the surrealist artist Salvador Dali changed his life. Suddenly, he was part of one of the most bizarre artistic households in Europe, where weird sex and outlandish behaviour were commonplace. Now, for the first time, he reveals the truth behind the painter's stormy marriage and how Dali's eccentric public image was an elaborate charade...

Whenever Salvador Dali asked a woman to pose for him she would be so flattered, so charmed to be asked by one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century that she could barely control her excitement.

Dali would fuss around, complimenting her on her looks, remarking on her beautiful eyes, noticing the glint of colour in her hair.

Those of us who knew him, the small coterie of friends he had gathered around him at his home in northern Spain, would smile knowingly at each other - we knew what was coming next.

After all that flattery the woman could hardly refuse when the artist asked her to take off all her clothes. Then a male 'model' would appear and before she knew what was happening the woman would find herself willingly having sex with a complete stranger while the great Salvador Dali watched every moment.

It happened countless times and illustrated two of the most dominant aspects of Dali's character: his obsessive determination to control everyone around him and his bizarre, voyeuristic sexual habits.

I knew Dali for the last 20 years of his life and in that time came to know him better than anyone else except, of course, Gala, his demonic wife of 47 years. But now, after millions of words, countless books and numerous TV documentaries about him, I can't help feeling that the world has been misled about the true nature of Dali.

He is portrayed as wildly eccentric and unpredictable yet at the same time a weak, vulnerable man so totally in thrall to his wife that he was constantly manipulated and ruthlessly exploited by her. But this bears no resemblance to the man I knew.

Far from being unpredictable and capricious, every aspect of Dali's daily life was carefully planned by him in advance, every public appearance choreographed to increase his reputation for the extraordinary and outlandish. Nothing was left to chance - supposedly impromptu speeches and remarks were scripted and learnt by heart; 'spontaneous' artistic happenings were rehearsed like a theatrical performance.

And who controlled it all? Dali himself.

Perhaps it's not surprising that my view of him is very different because as his model, sexual plaything (just once, a brief homosexual encounter), confidant, helper and dogsbody, I was one of a tiny group of people close to him. He regarded people as toys he would throw away as soon as he tired of them.

I think that's how he first looked upon me the day we met in Paris in 1969 when a friend of mine took me to one of Dali's afternoon tea parties at the Hotel Meurice.

I was a flower-child from San Francisco, just 23, with long hair: an actor with an androgynous look, but to Dali I was a fresh piece of meat. He wanted me to model for him. I was enthralled. He had this magnetism, charisma, and he was surrounded by an extraordinary entourage.

He got me a part in the musical, Hair!, and that was the beginning of our relationship (I hesitate to say friendship because Dali never truly let anyone get close to him), which took me to live beside his house in Port Lligat, north of Barcelona.

I soon learned he lived a very controlled, ordered life. The house was like an army camp. Every day he got up at the same time and had lunch at the same time. It was the same with his siesta and dinner. He hated chaos for himself, but loved inflicting it on others.

Whenever we went out for dinner, as soon as people had finished eating he would tell the waiters: 'no coffee, no coffee', pointing to each person around the table, partly because he thought it would be boring, but also because he liked to be home in bed by about 11pm. …

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