Last Tango in Paris

A pile of newspapers and magazines with articles on the French sex scandal. Photo by Trisha Thomas, January 15, 2014
A pile of newspapers and magazines with articles on the French sex scandal. Photo by Trisha Thomas, January 15, 2014

I was tempted to title this blog post “Dump Him, Valérie!!,”  but I suppose I will leave that for the conclusion, instead I’ve borrowed the headline of an Italian gossip magazine “Oggi”.  I have become slightly obsessed in the past few days with the sordid sex and politics drama in Paris.  I think it is because Valerie Trierweiler, the “Première Dame” of France is a woman who is about my age, a former journalist with three children and at the moment “resting” in the hospital as the whole world chews on the details of the love affair of her companion, French President Francois Hollande, and a beautiful, young blond actress named Julie Gayet.

Photo in an Italian newspaper of Francois Hollande and Valerie Trielweiler
Photo in an Italian newspaper of Francois Hollande and Valerie Trielweiler

For those of you who missed the story, last week a French magazine called “Closer” revealed what was, as the Italian’s say,  Pulcinella’s Secret, something everyone knows but does not say out loud, that the French President is having an affair with a gorgeous young actress.  The magazine detailed how the President would emerge from the Élysée Palace, get in an official car, drive around the block, put on a full-head covering motorcycle helmet and go on a motor-scooter about 100 meters away to 20 Rue De Cirque, where his lover was waiting in a ‘Pied à Terre’ for him.  The magazine even had photos of this happening on December 30th and his body guard arriving the next morning, ringing the bell and delivering a bag with fresh croissants.

Hollande’s current companion 48-year-old Valérie Trierweiler, the ‘Première Dame’ of France was admitted to the hospital last Friday according to her aides “in shock” and there she remains.

At a press conference at the Élysée Palace yesterday Hollande faced some 600 journalists and cut off questions about the affair saying “private matters should be dealt with privately.”  When asked whether Trierweiler was still the ‘Première Dame’ of France he said he did not want to answer that while she was still in the hospital but he would make clear who was the ‘Première Dame’ before his visit to Washington on February 11th.  Nice guy.

A personal note here.  I once covered Hollande shortly after he became president of France when he held a press conference together with then Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in Rome.  I was expecting to like him, instead I found him to be smarmy, trying to ingratiate himself with journalists, agitated and not particularly attractive with his dyed hair and plump face.  He made the staid Mario Monti seem like Sean Connery by comparison, elegant and refined.  As far as I can tell Hollande is not a particularly good president either.  France is not thriving and his popularity is the lowest of any French president in history.  But as Henry Kissinger said, “power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

I think for as long as there have been male leaders in this world, there have been plenty of young women available to satisfy their desires.  Certainly Valérie Trierweiler is not the first woman to find herself in this situation.  In France alone there have been plenty of Presidents who cheated on their wives:  Giscard D’Estaing was a known womanizer, and Francois Mitterrand had a second family.  The tradition was that the wives did not complain and the press and public did not talk about it.  That was the same on the other side of the Atlantic.  Eleanor Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy did not publicly complain about the love affairs of their husbands, and the press did not touch the story.

Times have changed and now we have a long series of sleazy love affairs among prominent politicians.  Hillary Clinton stuck with Bill through the Monica Lewinsky affair.  I thought she should dump him, but Hillary is an astute politician, she probably calculated that her political ambitions would be better served by staying with Bill Clinton. She might have been right.  Despite her indisputable talents, would she have gone on to become Senator, Secretary of State and possibly the first woman President of the United States if she did not have Bill Clinton as her husband?  I am not sure.

So what’s in it for Valérie Trierweiler?  As ‘Première Dame’ she has an office at the Elysee Palace a five person staff, including secretaries, assistant, driver and body guard and reportedly a 20,000 euro month budget.  Although she officially entered the Elysee Palace in May 2012 as the ‘Première Dame’ of France, her status can easily be taken away given that she is not married to Hollande.  At his press conference yesterday Hollande did nothing to imply that he might be encouraging her to stay.

So Valérie Trierweiler does not feel alone, let me mention a few other women who have found themselves in a similarly difficult situation.   I already mentioned Hillary Clinton, then there was Silda Spitzer whose husband, Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, was discovered to be frequenting a high-class prostitution ring.  Or how about Elizabeth Edwards, struggling with cancer while campaigning for her husband, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, she discovered he had a child with is lover, or how about Jenny Sanford, former wife of Mark Sanford, ex-governor of  South Carolina, who disappeared on a “hike on the Appalachian trail” for a week and turned out to be with a lover in Argentina.  Then there is Veronica Lario, ex-wife of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who put up with endless humiliation from her philandering husband but in the end seems to have gotten the last laugh (See Blog Post : Veronica’s Revenge)

The latest gossip news making the rounds today is that Hollande’s lover Julie Gayet is four months pregnant.  I have no idea if it is true or not but either way, my advice to Valérie Trierweiler is leave the hospital, dump Hollande and get on with your life.  The sooner the better.

28 thoughts on “Last Tango in Paris”

  1. Craziest rumor I’ve heard so far is that Hollande leaked the affair himself.

    He wants to break up with Valerie but she likes the perks and won’t leave.

    The only person in France with a lower approval rating than the President is Valerie as we (French citizens) remember how she treated Segolene.

    1. Wow! That would be unbelievable if Hollande leaked it. I know Valerie is very unpopular in France and she has been unfair with Segolene. (I didn’t want to get into the whole tweet thing in the blog post). I remain a huge fan of Segolene Royal and think perhaps she is the one getting the last laugh in all of this. Still, I think Hollande has behaved like a sleaze-ball and it always seems that it is the women who get screwed. Thanks for your comment, I am very curious to hear how women in France view this whole thing.

  2. Interestingly, almost no press attention to this in the US. You will have to do another post on Segolene Royal as I have no clue who she is. Again, zero press coverage here.

    1. Gosh, I should have dedicated a paragraph in the post to Segolene Royal. She was Francois Hollande’s longtime partner (never married) and mother of their four children. She is a talented and beautiful woman who has served as a government Minister and in various other political roles. She was the socialist party candidate who ran against Sarkozy and lost. Hollande left Segolene Royal for Valerie Trierweiler. Trierweiler apparently has been fiercely jealous of Royal and as Premiere Dame tweeted against Royal’s candidacy in a local election, and on another occasion at some socialist party event when Hollande greeted Royal with a kiss on the cheek, Trierweiler apparently marched up on stage and domanded of Hollande (in a voice that was overheard) “now kiss me on the mouth”. Trierweiler is disliked by a lot of French people and has apparently earned the nickname “Rottweiler”. In my post I was not really defending her as a person (I would much rather defend Segolene Royal), but I was defending the category –middle-aged women married or companions of prominent politicians who get public humiliated and often professionally screwed over as well.

  3. Liberte, Egalite, Infidelite might be a bit of justice to have him staked out with his trousers down and a pile of stones nearby in one of the (former?) African territories that his mercenaries are devastating right now.

  4. From sinking cruise ships to affairs in high places, Mozzarella Mama is getting to be quite the racy blog. Lets see is it enhances your readership!!


    1. Hey Dad — well I did get a little boost out of yesterday’s politician and sleazy sex scandal post. Yes, it is true I’ve gone from writing about my dog throwing up to some more titillating topics!

  5. Trish, don’t forget his predecessor, Sarkozy, with his actress mistress; third one for him too!
    Adoring younger women seem to be an accessorize to power, rather than a life companion. How happier the Obamas seem!

    1. I am definitely not a fan of Sarkozy either. I think the best thing Cecile did was leave him, I am sure she is much happier. And I always thought the marriage with Carla Bruni was a farce. Are they still together now that he is not President anymore? I wonder.

      1. Sarkozy may not be attractive in terms of fidelity and courtesy, but his political star seems to be increasingly in the ascendant, as Hollande’s crashes dans la merde. Compared to the protracted train-crash of Hollande’s presidency, Sarkozy’s presidency is looking better and better in retrospect. It seems increasingly likely that Sarkozy may be the centre-right’s candidate for the presidency when Hollande’s first term comes to an end. On current indications he and Carla could be moving back to the Elysée.

        By the way, I totally agree with you about Mlle Royal.

        1. Yes, I’ve heard that Sarkozy’s star is rising again. Good grief, the idea of Carla Bruni being Premiere Dame again is not so appealing. She is not such a good example for women either, too many face lifts, botox or something.

  6. I’m so glad you wrote this post, as the US Press is concentrating so far only whether French people care, and most they show us don’t, they dislike Hollande for other reasons and think marriages and affairs are private. In a way I agree, but if the women involved are funded by the Mafia (JFK, and, they say, Hollande’s mistress) that is political. And I am not sure about separating lying and cheating on your spouse from lying and cheating on the electorate. But, I do think Bill and Hillary have some kind of understanding, that he only has sex in bed with her, and he doesn’t have affairs, he has sex with women he doesn’t care about, which means his true intimate relationship is with Hillary, or at least means their relationship is different and he protects it sort of. I think a lot of men make this kind of distinction, between the sex and intimacy they want with their wife and their children, and sex which fills some deep need in them – the Wolf of Wall Street kind of sex.
    Also, I think marriages are not sanctifiers, they are honorable only if the relationship of the two people is genuine and caring, and if not, as with Eisenhower, then survival was possible in an era when divorce was professional ruin, in an affair. Jackie Kennedy, according to recent PBS documentary, knew when she married Jack that he would do this, also knew he treated her differently and did love her. Anthropologists say only about 25% of men are monogamous by nature, and for women there is no statistic that I know of.
    I cannot believe the mistress really desires Hollande, he looks, besides unattractive, so self-centered – what could be fun about being with him? Valerie, though, may really want that role as First Lady. I think it is great that there are hospitals that will let her hole up in them while she negotiates with him. I doubt she can hang onto that role if he doesn’t want her in it, which will be a defeat for her, but he also may not hang onto his job for long, so they both move out of the Elysee Palace. I wish NC had not elected Sanford again, but they did, you tell me why? The last hurrah of the dominant white males?.
    Obama has been such a relief, actually GW’s marriage seemed pretty good, too, but he was a terrible president.
    Write something about Angela Merkel, no marriage scandal there, and she’s hard to figure because she is conservative I guess, doesn’t like Obama, but seems to be a good leader and — liked! That really is the role women should work for, Leader, not Leader’s Bedmate, whether married or not.

    1. So much to respond to here. Thanks for such a stimulating comment. Both the French and the Italians have this tendency to say “private lives should be left private” even in the case of politicians, but as you point out, it often does affect the country. As you said, the apartment where Hollande was meeting with Julie Gayet was linked to a member of the Corsican underworld, Clinton messing around with an intern in the Oval office could have been dangerous if Monica Lewinsky had been lifting papers off his desk. I am not so puritan that I expect all couples in marriages around the globe to be perfectly faithful, I am just tired of seeing political wives get screwed. I wanted to think of a different way to end the post and tried to think of possibilities for women to be the ones on top whether in the past or future. I thought perhaps someday Hillary might become President and then Bill might get a taste of his own medicine. Then I thought back in the past and the only example I could think of of a powerful woman who had the lovers she wished was Cleopatra with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Perhaps there were some others among the Russian Tsars and British Queens. I will have to look into it. What I do know for sure is that in my generation, there are a lot of women married or companions of politicians who have gotten a very public humiliation. You are right to suggest I take a closer look at Merkel (I find her boring, but she hasn’t stayed in her position as long as she has being boring so I must be wrong).

      1. Russian Tsars? Catherine II (“the Great”) had a succession of lovers, including some long-term relationships. She was the sovereign, not merely the consort. As for English/British queens, one has to go back to the 16th Century and Queen Elizabeth I to find any hint that a ruling queen may have had a sexual life outside marriage, but that is based only on rumours (the Earl of Leicester, for example); certainly there is no indication that Queen Mary II, Queen Anne or Queen Victoria had any such relationships. The current Queen is, of course, a complete saint, and Royal Mother to all her subjects.

        1. Well, good for Catherine the Great! I actually have a book about her sitting on my beside table which I intend to read after I finish the one I am on now. It is called “Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman” by Robert Massie, and I’ve been told it is excellent. Maybe I will become inspired by her.

      2. I do agree that Merkel is boring, which then boggles my mind because she gets reelected. And she seemed at first to be somewhat like Margaret Thatcher, but we are not given such detail of Merkel’s ruthlessness as we were of Thatcher, though at times she has seemed to be wanting to be ruthless, but then has pulled back. And, she is boring because she doesn’t bother about her looks, and we still live in a world where sex is the main power of women. I have little interest in her, actually, but compared to Hollande – or Berlusconi -she is thoughtful, and focused on her work, not her power. And you are SO RIGHT about the continual humiliations of public spouses, it is horrible to watch, and in the US the electorate wants to vote for all the celebrity stuff, rather than whatever got Merkel in.

        1. Merkel is definitely worth further consideration. I had forgotten about Margaret Thatcher — now she was an amazing and fascinating woman. Tough as nails. Have you ever listened to one of her “question time” in parliament. She was brilliant and ferocious — she could talk circles around anyone and often made an effort to humiliate them while she was at it. Interestingly I read somewhere that her husband was a big drinker – it could not have been easy to be married to Maggie. Still, I do admire Margaret — she turned the tables.

  7. wow… this guy is so so pathetic.. undermined the mother of his 4 children…in cohoots with this hospitalized climbing the food chain you must be kidding me.. first lady…. now moving onto a breast exposing baby. s momma….. bring back sarkozy… he looks sane….. these french make the italians look like holy saints…. praise jesus!

    1. I agree Hollande is a bit pathetic, but I am not a big fan of Sarkozy either, but I won’t get started on him today.

  8. What a story. There has been lots of talk about it on the air here in the U.S., but as yet I had not heard mention that Hollande himself might have leaked it. Surely that would rate as the greatest of all insults, almost Machiavellian. What a mess. I hope that Ms. Trierweiler is just hiding in the hospital as opposed to being truly ill, unhinged and in need of medical care. The world can be a cruel place. By the way, Silda Wall Spitzer and Eliot Spitzer have filed divorce papers.

    1. I am happy to hear Silda Wall Spitzer is getting out of her marriage. Do you remember when he came out and spoke to the press admitting he had been frequenting that prostitution ring and she stood by him stone-faced. It was awful. Also, Elizabeth Edwards stood by her husband for so long, I just ached for her.

  9. sorry did not intend to cheerlead for sarkozy.. he is exactly as appalling as francois… in some ways even more so… yes hurrah for his wife to get out.. perhaps the french cheese mold has become a psychotropic drug.. the french seem to be living in their own distorted dimenzione. wow! perhaps madame royal or madame le pen can manifest a brighter future.

  10. Well there’s a glaring difference between France & the US. In the US a non-wife would never be “first lady” in the first place! Nor would a man with a female “companion” become president either.
    However on second thought, I suppose it could happen ONLY if the man were a democrat.

    1. There are a lot of glaring differences with the US in this case. As you say, it would be difficult for a man to become president of the United States if he had a “companion” rather than a wife. The other big difference is that the French are more or less indifferent to the philandering of their leaders whereas Americans find it unacceptable. The French press has apparently showed less interest in criticizing Hollande over his love life than the British and American press. I was at a dinner party in Rome the other night where several married Italian men were saying on the topic of Hollande’s behavior “it is his private business, why should we care?” Obviously, I don’t agree. I think he behaved in an undignified manner for a President, he unnecessarily humiliated Valerie Trierweiler, and made mistakes related to security — to slip away from office on a motor-bike, and have your bodyguards deliver croissants to your lover’s apartment, which has been rented from some fishy character??

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