My Life as a Muse


As a new biopic on Serge Gainsbourg hits theaters, singer Jane Birkin remembers the great love of her life.

I first met Serge when I went to Paris to audition for Slogan, which he was starring in. I had just separated from the composer John Barry, so I was feeling miserable. I don't think Serge thought that I was particularly attractive or interesting, and he didn't seem to take much notice of me.

Pierre Grimblat, the director, organized a dinner for us. I was left with Serge, whom I expected to be very arrogant. I was so surprised when I pulled him onto the dance floor and he said, "No, I don't know how to dance!" Then he walked on my feet, and I thought it was so charming.

He took me to a Russian nightclub where he got all the musicians to play the violin for me on the sidewalk. We went off to another nightclub, and he played with Big Joe Turner. Later he took me off to the Hilton Hotel, and we went up to the top floor. When I came out of the bathroom he was fast asleep, which gave me enough time to go buy the record that we'd danced to. I pushed it between his toes and crept off back to my hotel. It was the most romantic of evenings.

After that we went off to Venice, and that's where I fell head over heels. He took away all the pain of it having not worked with John Barry, and I think I helped him get over Brigitte Bardot and her leaving him.

His face was so much more interesting than any other face I'd ever seen, with extraordinarily sad eyes and a beautiful mouth. He read me his poetry, and it was always a play on words. That was such an unusual trait--to be that romantic and funny. …

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