How many takes would the average person need to wordlessly walk across a set without looking at the camera? An amateur would be nervous, sure, and would be forgiven for a few make mistakes. Three takes? Ten? Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the glamorous French First Lady, needed 35 takes to accomplish that task for Woody Allen last week. But it’s understandable. How could she not look at the camera? Surely some part of her was checking to make sure it was still there.
Carla rose to fame as the girlfriend of the rich and famous. She’s dated many older men—and broken up a handful of their marriages—but most of them later felt the twinge of regret. Her romance with Eric Clapton was doomed the day she asked him to take her to a Rolling Stones concert. After the show, Clapton took Carla backstage to meet his old friends. He begged Jagger, “Please Mick, don’t take this one. I think I’m in love.” They started their affair days later. Clapton was angry with Jagger for a while, but slowly mellowed. “Later on, of course, I quietly felt both gratitude and compassion toward him, first for delivering me from certain doom, and second for apparently suffering such prolonged agony in her service.” Could Sarkozy be the latest afflicted with buyer’s remorse?
To this day Carla waves off her actions as sexual adventurism, and those who find offense as prudes. But it’s not the sex that’s offensive. Feeling bored by monogamy hasn’t come at a very high social price for a long time. It’s the creepy climbing. Every boyfriend has been a step up the ladder of cultural significance. Fawning profiles of her breathlessly list her many famous lovers, and next to mentions of Clapton and Jagger is another famous name: Donald Trump. It seems odd to be proud of, or impressed by, sleeping with Donald Trump. In no universe is it imaginable that Trump is a good lay.
Having successfully conquered the bomber rock world, Carla, by Trump’s account, had her eyes set on the business world. In a 1992 profile of Carla in Vanity Fair, she denied dating the ridiculously-coiffed real estate mogul. Trump responded with a letter to the editor offering plenty of details. She called “incessantly from Atlanta, where she was holed up in Mr. Jagger’s hotel room,” Trump wrote. “Carla wanted me to break up with Marla Maples, whereupon she would leave Mick, a man she was desperately stuck on. I thought this was ridiculous… She was trying to get me to leave Marla, something I had in mind anyway, and she was using every psychological trick in the book. In the end, Carla became a woman who is very difficult to even like.”
What next but to boost her intellectual bona fides? Bruni moved on to the philosopher Raphaël Enthoven, after dating his dad. Enthoven, however, was married, and his wife Justine Lévy had to be dispensed of. Lévy did not let go so easily, penning a best-selling roman à clef in which the Carla Bruni character is a fembot dubbed the Terminator. “If I see her, I kill her,” Lévy said in 2005. “But, um… she’s afraid of me, I think.”
Of course, this spring the Sarkozys had to beat back reports that they were both having affairs. “He would never have affairs,” Carla said. “Have you ever seen a picture of him having an affair?” An affair on her part would be uncharacteristic at this point. There’s no one higher on the food chain, save Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.
(She will, however, be making an appearance on a two-hour episode of CSI.)
When Carla married Sarkozy, she defiantly told the press that she would not keep quiet and transform into a prim political wife. That’s a noble sentiment, if you have something interesting to say. The French First Lady’s most lasting statements so far have been about her recent romance and sex. “I’m monogamous occasionally, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry,” she said a few months before she began dating Sarkozy. “Love lasts a long time, but burning desire, two to three weeks.” This was a provocative statement—40 years ago. After their marriage, Carla discussed her new husband’s masculinity. “A man can have feminine values, he can be super-sensitive, without being feminine.” And: “My husband, poor thing, doesn’t have an easy job–he’s got a whole country on his shoulders and what’s more, he has to put up with me.” And: “Feelings are the most important thing in his life.” Profound.
Carla, on the other hand, perhaps should have taken a page from fellow supermodel Kate Moss. Moss has been able to retain her aura of mystery for almost two decades, thanks to one shrewd decision: never give interviews. If you don’t talk, no one will know how stupid you are.
Sarkozy may have already had second thoughts. A French website reported that eight days before his wedding to Bruni, Sarkozy sent his ex-wife a text message: “If you come back, I will cancel everything.” (Sarkozy filed suit, then dropped it after extracting an apology to Carla. But the reporter didn’t retract his story.) On the other hand, perhaps their union will last, as the Sarkozys appear to have so much in common. The pair was vacationing in the South of France this week when some fans approached Carla and asked to have their picture taken with her. The French president desperately craned his neck to get in the shot, but first lady held him at arm’s length. Surely, like few other husbands and wives, these two understand each other. The camera’s flash gives both of them more pleasure than any tryst could provide.
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