The Galliano Dossier
Dickey, Christopher, McNicoll, Tracy, Newsweek
Byline: Christopher Dickey and Tracy McNicoll; With Jacob Bernstein and Tom Sykes
Fashion's enfant terrible is about to have his day in court on charges that he hurled anti-Semitic insults in a Paris cafe. What made him snap?
As John Galliano remembers the fateful February evening in Paris that destroyed his career, it began when the stranger at the sidewalk table next to him at La Perle cafe asked Dior's star designer, "Why don't you dress women like me?" As the woman herself remembers it, she had no idea who the longhaired man with the buccaneer look was. She thought he was homeless.
The scene turned very nasty very quickly. For the better part of an hour, Galliano allegedly tossed off anti-Semitic slurs and racist insults, as the cafe's other clientele tried not to hear. La Perle draws an arty crowd, but it has never gotten fancy: the counter is zinc, the decor has orange Formica accents, and the men's room offers only a bare hole in the floor, a squat toilet. To the extent it's chic, that's because the neighborhood around it--the Marais--has become so trendy. Galliano clearly felt he could say or do just about anything he wanted there.
But when the cops hauled him away that night and the world's media picked up on the story, an ugly history of just what he'd been saying and doing at that cafe began to surface. Another woman came forward to claim Galliano had called her a "f--king dirty Jew bitch" at La Perle four months earlier. Then someone sold a cell-phone video to a British tabloid showing Galliano, at his favorite battered table at La Perle, telling a couple of women he apparently thought were Jewish, "I love Hitler" and "People like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f--king gassed."
In the eyes of his bosses at Christian Dior and the luxury conglomerate LVMH, Galliano might as well have plunged down the hole in La Perle's men's room. They fired him forthwith. When Dior CEO Sidney Toledano presented the house's pret-a-porter collection--Galliano's collection--a few days later, he didn't even mention Galliano's name. The designer also lost the right to work for the Galliano clothing and accessories line, of which Dior owns 92 percent.
In the court of public opinion, Galliano was convicted without appeal. But this week, the tremulous 50-year-old from Gibraltar will have his day in a court of law. Making anti-Semitic or racist insults in France is a crime punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of [euro]22,500. A judge in Paris will be ruling on the facts of the case as laid out by investigators in a dossier that, under the French system, is shared by both the prosecution and the defense. NEWSWEEK has examined that confidential file in detail, and the story that emerges from it is not just a tale of hate, but also of fear and madness, compulsive self-indulgence and moral self-immolation. It's a tragedy that everyone around Galliano saw coming, but nobody could--or would--prevent.
The key event in the case isn't the scene in the vaguely sourced video, the origins and date of which are not well established, but the confrontation under La Perle's outdoor heat lamps the evening of Feb. 24. In the dossier, Galliano denies telling the woman at the next table, a 35-year-old art curator at the Arab World Institute in Paris named Geraldine Bloch, that she was "a dirty whore" with a "dirty Jewish face" and should die. For her part, the petite, pretty brunette alleges that Galliano pulled at her hair, made fun of her "revolting" eyebrows, and derided her "low-end boots and low-end thighs." And when the man with her, a 41-year-old receptionist named Philippe Virgitti, came to her defense, Galliano supposedly called him a "f--king Asian bastard" and "a dirty Asian s--t." (Another customer, a fashion student from Germany who was subsequently interviewed by police, said she heard Galliano ask the French-born Virgitti whether he had his papers, implying he might be an illegal immigrant. …