- ISSUE 2
- FANNY BY DAVID BELLEMERE
- ISSUE 3
- DIORA’S KEY STARRING DIORA BAIRD BY STEPHANIE VOVAS
- TOY STORY REDUX BY TONY KELLY
- ESTELLA WARREN
- SHE LOOKED THRU ME
- EMILY RATAJKOWSKI BY STEVE SHAW
- RITUAL BY SIGNE VILSTRUP
- HARRI PECCINOTTI
- AU LAIT BY BENEDICT REDGROVE
- IOAN GRUFFUDD
- 16 PELL STREET BY STEPHAN WÜRTH
- LE PREMIÈRE FEMME MODERNE
- JENNIFER WEST
- ISSUE 1
- BROOKE BONELLI BY STEVE SHAW
- TERRY O’NEILL
- TONY DURAN SHOOTS THE CASTING FOR TREATS ISSUE #1
- STEVE SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS JASON STATHAM, SPRING 2011
- ELSA HOSK BY ANDREAS KOCK
- RACHEL ROBERTS BY DEBORAH ANDERSON
- SAS BY TONY KELLY
- LAUREN, NIKKI, AMANDA, ABBY & FRANKI
- SHEPARD FAIREY
- KHOSI BY WARWICK SAINT
- DOWN IN THE FOREST SOMETHING STIRS
- THE GARDEN OF SIN & SEDUCTION
- ISSUE 4
- ALBERT MAYSLES
- SESSILEE LOPEZ BY MARK SELIGER
- FALLING BY GABRIELLE REVERE & JO BAKER
- MODERN ARTISANS BY TONY DURAN
- ANTHEA BY DAVID BELLEMERE
- ASTRAL TRAVELING BY PETROVSKY & RAMONE
- GOLD RUSH BY TONY DURAN
- NICO TORTORELLA
- KING LOUIS REIGNS
- ALANA MARIE
- AMANDA MARIE PIZZICONI BY BRETT RATNER
- WATER GIRLS
- TADAO ANDO: THE SIMPLICITY OF PERFECTION
- DUANE MICHALS
- STORK CLUB: THE MOST FAMOUS NIGHTCLUB ON EARTH
- ISSUE 5
- LE PRINCE DE PARFUM
- JOHN VAN HAMERSVELD
- EVA & KELSEY BY LUIS SANCHIS
- CISCO BY DAVID BELLEMERE
- BOB CARLOS CLARKE: THE LAST OF THE MAVERICKS
- TRIPTYCHS BY SAMUEL BAYER
- ZUZANA BY ANNE-CONSTANCE FRÉNOY
- VANESSA BY KESLER TRAN
- THE MAN WHO (ALMOST) FOOLED EVERYONE
- TABITHA BY STEVE SHAW
- JAMES GEORGOPOULOS BY MAXWELL WILLIAMS
- HOLLIE BY MARIANNA ROTHEN
- EUGENA BY JOSH RYAN
- BLACK TONGUE BY SAMUEL BAYER
- TEHILA BY JAMES MACARI
- TREATS! PARTY PICS
- BRETT RATNER SHOOTS AMANDA PIZZICONI
- BLACK TONGUE
- FALLING BY JO BAKER & GABRIELLE REVERE
- JO BAKER – WICKED LINER AND LASHES
- SIGNE VILSTRUP – RITUAL (VIDEO)
- TREATS! MAGAZINE ISSUE 2 PREVIEW
- “ASTRAL TRAVELING” BY PETROVSKY & RAMONE FOR TREATS! ISSUE 4
- SHORT FILMS
- THE SUMMER HOUSE BY JOE WEHNER
- TREATS! ISSUE #3 LAUNCH PARTY
- TREATS! MAGAZINE ISSUE 3 PREVIEW
- MARK SELIGER SHOOTS SESSILEE LOPEZ EXCLUSIVELY FOR TREATS!
- “WATER GIRLS” BY HERRING & HERRING
- DIORA BAIRD BY STEPHANIE VOVAS (VIDEO)
- TRICK OR TREATS! ANNUAL HALLOWEEN PARTY
- FRANK W OCKENFELS 3 SHOOTS MAY LINDSTROM FOR ISSUE #3
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS EMILY RATAJKOWSKI (VIDEO #2)
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS EMILY RATAJKOWSKI (VIDEO)
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS IOAN GRUFFUDD
- STEVEN LYON SHOOTS “FILLES DE NUIT” FOR TREATS ISSUE #2
- BROOKE BONELLI GETS A TREAT! OF A TAN!
- TONY DURAN, BEHIND THE SCENE PART 3
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS BROOKE AND MAY – BEHIND THE SCENES
- DEWY SKIN BY JO BAKER
- FILLES DE NUIT BY STEVEN LYON
- TREATS! PREMIERE ISSUE OSCAR PARTY
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS ABBY BROTHERS
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS JASON STATHAM
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS BROOKE & MAY
- RED LIPS BY JO BAKER
- SHIMMERY SEXY EYES
- METALLIC CAT EYE BY JO BAKER
- JO BAKER MODERN ROMANTIC
- TREATS! PHOTOGRAPHERS
- TONY DURAN SHOOTS THE CASTING: BEHIND THE SCENES PT. 2
- BEN WATTS SHOOTS BREAKING AWAY FOR TREATS! ISSUE 2 – PT. 1
- TREATS! MAGAZINE ISSUE 1 PREVIEW
- ELECTRIC BY HERRING & HERRING
- AUDREY AT THE GOLDSTEIN RESIDENCE
- TONY DURAN SHOOTS EMILY RATAJKOWSKI IN “LIKE IT HOT” FOR ISSUE #2
- TREATS! EVENTS
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS AMY HIXSON
- BEN WATTS – BREAKING AWAY FOR TREATS! ISSUE 2 VIDEO PT. 3
- BEN WATTS: THE INTERVIEW, PT. 1
- BEN WATTS SHOOTS BREAKING AWAY FOR TREATS! – PT. 2
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS BROOKE BONELLI
- TONY DURAN, BEHIND THE SCENES PART 1
- BEN WATTS FOR TREATS! PREMIERE ISSUE: BEHIND THE SCENES
- BEN WATTS – THE INTERVIEW PART 2
- MODEL SCREEN TESTS
- WEB EXCLUSIVES
- RALPH GIBSON’S NUDE: REDUX
- TASYA VAN REE: THE FEMALE GAZE
- ERIC STANTON: IT’S A WOMAN’S WORLD
- TREATS Q&A: STEVE SCHAPIRO
- MALIBU’S LOST SHANGRI-LA
- WHERE MODERNISM FOUND ITS HOME
- CONRAD ROSET: THE MUSE IS THE MEDIUM
- DAVID PAUL LARSON: RAW APPROACH
- POST NO BILLS & FAILE
- BAKER’S BEAUTY MARK: SPF SHOWDOWN
- CHIC ROUGH SHINY WEARABLE THINGS
- FIFTY SHADES OF DE SADE
- THERE WILL BE HISTORY
- PROPRIETRESS OF PLEASURE, AKA OWNER!
- THE ZIGGY FILES
- BAKER’S BEAUTY MARK: OLYMPIAN METALLICS
- CARMEL VALLEY INN
- A ROUGE AWAKENING: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LIPS
- CAMPGROUND CHIC MEETS LUXURY LODGINGS
- MODEL TALK – DIORA BAIRD
- ACHTUNG, BERLIN!
- SKIN RE’TREAT!
- ARMANI’S CREMA THE CROP
- MR MAXWELL WILL SEE YOU NOW
- PEACHY KEEN: SLIDE INTO SPRING WITH CHANEL’S HARMONIE DE PRINTEMPS LINE
- BELA BORSODI: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PHOTOGRAPHER
- TREATS! Q & A: DAVID BELLEMERE
- MODEL TALK: MAY LINDSTROM
- HELMUT 3.0
- A BALANCING ACT LIKE NO OTHER
- THE CHARMING BENEDICT REDGROVE
- BAKER’S BEAUTY MARK: MON SHU
- YEAR OF THE BUNNY
- ADVENTURES IN RIO: BRAZIL & BUST
- SEX LIT 101: CLASSIC EROTICA
- TREATS Q&A: JARRED LAND
- LA PERLA: COSA C’È SOTTO!
- NICK VEASEY: X MAN
- TOM O’NEAL: MOMENTS IN TIME
- TREATS! Q&A: EDOUARD MEYLAN OF CELSIUS X VI II
- TREATS Q & A: D.A. PENNEBAKER
- 2 1/2 HOURS
- LUXURIANT DESERT JEWELS
- BUTTERFLY DREAMS IN CHINA
- WHO IS DOUG BARTLETT?
- ALLAN TEGER: PEAKS & VALLEYS
- MAKE IT NEW: THE STORY OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE
- GUSTAV KLIMT: THE SHAPE OF A WOMAN
- THE MOST INTERESTING TOWN IN THE WORLD
- JIMMY STEINFELDT: IN THROUGH THE LENS
- FOREVER YOUNG
- TREATS Q & A: JOHN URBANO
THE SCANDAL OF THE MOULIN ROUGE
In 1905 the French medical doctor Julien Chevalier, and author of La corruption Fin-de-Siècle, boldly announced, “Lesbianism is spreading like an oil stain throughout the French capital, making its way from legal heterosexual brothels to the homes of respectably married women and for the past few years lesbianism has grown in disconcerting proportions in Paris and other [European] capitals; we can no longer pretend to ignore its existence, its influence, and its danger…priestesses of the new cult have become legion.” In fact, the doctor had no idea, really, what was lurking in the shadows of turn-of-the-century Paris. Although mainstream society tried to cast a blind eye, fashionable ladies, or “priestesses” as he called them, looking for a partner in vice routinely drove through the Bois de Boulogne in open carriages, scanning the women on the Champs-Élysées, their cotton-white lapdog poodles curled up on their warm thighs, a bottle of nice wine uncorked and ready to go. Out of the dark alleyways, the women who returned the glances of the elegant women in carriages would make a distinctive, almost horse-like sound—a rapid movement of the tongue and lips to signal “‘I go with women.”
He also warned of the threat posed by prostitutes who left the sex trade; when they married their clients, these emancipated women would “spread their sapphist practices to their new female acquaintances.” However, at the time, this was just an insecure male doctor’s theory—but those who read his words couldn’t imagine such demimonde in their beloved City of Lights.
With its seductively warm red-hued interiors, saucer-like golden chandeliers floating from its soaring ceiling, and spindly red windmill adorning its roof, the Moulin Rouge (“red windmill”) was the birthplace of the cancan dance routine and the artistic heart of belle époque Paris; it was the undisputed crown jewel of bohemian nightlife in Montmartre. Courtesans, artists, clowns, demigod noblemen and dancing girls all mingled underneath the illuminated windmill and in the garden, where a giant model elephant stood taking in the sights of debauchery induced by Champagne and song. It was the shank of the evening on January 3, 1907, when the Rouge’s curtain rose on an Oriental tableau. Thanks to a sassy and well-distributed publicity poster for a new pantomime added to the nightly performance roster, the packed hall was swarming with members of the aristocracy, including everyone from Prince Murat to leading members of the Jockey Club to the notorious cultural critic Henri-Gauthier Villars, or “Willy” as he was known from the covers of the enormously popular Claudine book series. Willy was especially interested in the new pantomime entitled Le Rêve d’Egypte (Egyptian Dream), as his beautiful young wife, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, was headlining alongside a cryptic actor named “Yssim.”
Willy, a top-hat-wearing, walrus-mustachioed, ladies’ man, and one of the show’s writers, was sitting next to his new mistress in a theater box as he watched Yssim play the role of archaeologist. Clad in a velvet suit and tie, Yssim putters over dusty books in search of an answer to the silent riddle presented by the linen-bound sarcophagus that stood before him. Yet this was no ordinary ancient figure from the Nile delta. As the linen was unwrapped, a beguiling and breathtaking woman appeared, cloaked like an Egyptian mummy in a calf-grazing gauzy skirt, golden breastplates and a headdress. Wearing serpentine bracelets, her legs, midriff and feet were bare. This Cleopatra-esque temple dancer began to undulate and fall to the feet of her master in a passionate spell, recalling the seduction of the Dutch exotic dancer and accused German spy, Mata Hari, and her famous striptease at the Musée Guimet that had captured the imagination of Europe’s fashionable salons only two years before. (In 1931, Greta Garbo famously played the dusky double-agent enchantress in the Hollywood movie, Mata Hari, slithering and writhing around in Paris clubs while donning a nude bodysuit and jeweled bra.) As if rewarding his newly revived and richly adorned slave, the archaeologist, planted a deep and erotic kiss on the eager mouth of his Egyptian dream girl, leaving her left breast exposed under the torn slip of white linen, which also revealed her perfectly round thigh. Outrage erupted in the audience over the brazen act. Candy, cigarette butts and bouquets of garlic showered the lovers on stage, the orchestra pit of 40 musicians drowned out by the boos and cries of disgust. Apparently, it was not only a kiss to wake the dead—but one to enrage the living. All this fuss over…a kiss?
Thanks to the stars of the short-lived show, which saw a casting change and reopened for only 10 more performances, there was plenty to fuss over. You see, the voluptuous Colette wasn’t kissing a handsome man-of-the-world archaeologist at all—but an anti-heroine transvestite by the name of Sophie-Mathilde-Adele-Denise de Morny (known as “Missy”), who claimed a laundry list of strange sexual peccadilloes. A French newspaper claimed that Missy was a necrophiliac and possibly a transsexual who had had her breasts removed. Salonistes whispered that she allegedly bit the clitoris off of her former lover after a tempestuous quarrel. Missy (also known as the “Marquise de Belboeuf”) was one of the more colorful creatures in all of belle époque Paris and an impressively blue-blooded aristocrat. She was not only the daughter of the Duc de Morny—a French statesmen and half-brother of Emperor Napoleon III— but also the former wife of a Spanish duke and a prominent Norman nobleman, Jacques Godard, marquis de Belboeuf.
In fact, Missy and Colette’s kiss was no mere indulgence in theatrics, but a proud display of their lesbian love affair. Both women were recently estranged from their husbands and living separate lives together, far from heterosexual conventions. The Marquise, no fan of the horizontal dealings between man and wife, and Colette, who had suffered a nervous breakdown due in part to her husband Willy’s chronic infidelity, now indulged in the familiar comfort only another woman’s body could provide. The pair could often be seen strolling the streets of Montparnasse, Colette wearing a dog collar that brazenly read, “I belong to Missy.” Their appearance on stage together rocked the very foundations of French social order—not withstanding the blatant and inexcusable use of the de Morny coat of arms on the promotional poster for Le Rêve—and both women became instant caricatures: the long-limbed and deliciously curvy Colette caught in the spidery arms of her androgynous, marquise-cum-prince-charming outfitted in her trademark top hat, suit, cigar, waistcoat and boots. (Missy would later commit suicide by putting her head in a gas oven as the Nazis were closing in on Paris during World War II.)
Willy, not one to usually shy away from a scandal, tried to escape with his mistress from the pandemonium, but was met with angry fists from the audience and was pummeled with umbrellas until the police led him to safety. The show was closed down on the spot and the theater was evacuated. The evening was forever immortalized by the press that called it “The Scandal of the Moulin Rouge.”
The fallout of the kiss meant that Missy and Colette were not allowed to openly continue their affair—but for Colette it meant the beginning of shedding her skin and eventually becoming France’s most infamous woman of the 20th century, affectionately known as “The Goddess of the Senses.”
VENUS, MOON & MARS: A REBELETTE IS BORN
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette began, as all women do, as a beautiful little girl. She had a perfect rosebud mouth, waves of hair framing an oval milk-white face beset with startlingly mossgreen eyes, both steely and amorous. To say the least, Colette was a striking child, a rare combination of luminescent tomboy and coquettish femininity, especially in the backwater town of Burgundy. She was the youngest of three children: half-brother Achille who was “full brother by choice and heart”; somber half-sister Juliette; and brother Leopold, known as “the sylph.” She was the only daughter born to Adéle-Eugénie-Sidonie Lando (“Sido”) and Jules-Joseph Colette, a former captain in the Algerian light-infantry unit, who lost his left leg in battle. When Jules met Sido, he was a newly appointed tax collector—and ﬁgure of provincial romantic intrigue. She was eight months pregnant by Jules Robineau-Duclos, her moody, mean-spirited alcoholic ﬁrst husband. The death of Duclos in 1865 left Sido a wealthy land-owning widow with two children, and that same year she married ‘Le Capitaine,’ whose main concern until his own death were the many ways to adore his headstrong wife who never ceased to be embarrassed by the depth of his love.
Sido went through a difﬁcult 48-hour labor with Colette, who came into the world blue and mute on January 28, 1873. Sido attributed the painful birth of “her masterpiece” to their strong attachment, and Colette would remain ever her mother’s child, citing Sido as the most important person in her life. In return, Sido adored her “minet-chéri” and christened her with such nicknames as “Bel-Gazou” (beautiful language) and “Jewel-of-pure-gold.” According to her horoscope, Colette was Venus moon/Mars-ruled, no stretch to the imagination even in her early years; one only has to look at photographs of her at age 11, a predestined seductress in a pinstriped dress with a dreamy look; and at 15, two braided plaits tumbling from a straw hat down to her knees as she relaxes in a hammock, all too aware of the camera’s gaze. Sido educated her petite beauty from the beginning, counseling Colette never to marry the man she was in love with, lest she lose power—and, most importantly, to never doubt that she was equal to, if not better than, any man. These blueprints for bittersweet happiness did come to pass later in the unconventional arrangements explored in the romances of her best-selling books and short stories Gigi, proving that the lessons of children eventually spill into the learnings of adults. Freedom, wit, atheism and modernity were what mattered most to Sido—and Colette would live her life in fevered pursuit of them all. Her exploration of adolescent love, love rebuked, jealousy and lust were way ahead of their time—especially for a female novelist. Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye in Burgundy, France was awash in a sea of ﬂowers, endless meadows and serene canals, which provided a enchamting backdrop for Colette’s vivid imagination. As if any child who dreams of being abducted can only exist in the lush green of the countryside. Colette’s childhood home was stately and somewhat forbidding, with ever-blossoming gardens of wisteria and begonia tended to by Sido’s expert hands. Exposed to an early love for plant-pruning and lazy afternoons in the garden with a book, Colette became a creature of the earth like her mother, never losing her provincial tastes, even when Paris became her adopted home. Today, the throngs of “Colettolatres,” as the French call her disciples, travel to Puisaye to ﬁnd on her house a simple rose-marble marker stating “Here, Colette was born.” Named in her honor, Rue Colette leads pedestrians through the town. Puisaye was known as the “poor Burgundy,” so as not to confuse it with the rich Burgundy of vineyards and summer homes, but Colette left her indelible mark on that modest spot as one of France’s richest
THE GHOST WRITER OF 28 RUE JACOB
Despite an education by way of her progressive mother, Colette’s true schooling, at the hands of a man, no less, wasn’t far from her 18th birthday. Henri Gauthier-Villars (“Willy”), a learned, eccentric dandy, had been a friend of the Colette family for quite some time before the young Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette began to show an interest in him in 1891. The son of an important publisher of scientiﬁ c books, Willy was a balding 32-year-old bachelor with a serpentine mustache, pendulous belly, a taste for imported shirts, biting social satire, scandal, and relentless skirt chasing. As one of the belle époque’s most defensive cultural critics and accomplished hacks—he would consistently churn out books by a cadre of ghost writers, splashing his playful name across the covers—Willy was to be Colette’s ﬁrst husband and mentor, if not her master and introduction to crushing heartbreak. He oozed a charm that only a man who knows he’s no treat for the eyes can, but, more importantly, he made the nubile Colette laugh. After an intense, two-year love affair conducted through letter-writing and familial resistance, Colette, now 20, and Willy married on May 15, 1893 in a private church service in Châtillon, France. Early photographs predict a parody of teacher and pupil older than time: the ﬂeshy conniving man and his beautiful child bride, a most delicious recipe for matrimonial disaster. More ominous, however, were Colette’s own words: “The day after that wedding night I found that a distance of a thousand miles, abyss and discovery and irremediable metamorphosis, separated me from the day before.”
So, Colette Willy, as she was now known, said goodbye to Sido and her country childhood and moved with her new husband to Paris, occupying ﬁrst Willy’s cramped Venusburg bachelor pad, named after Wagner and strewn with naughty German postcards, before ﬁnding a more suitable love/hate nest in the Latin Quarter.
Thanks to his position as music critic for Echo de Paris, Willy’s social circle was far-reaching and friends and enemies alike were eager to glimpse his new bride. Her angular face, striking eyes and schoolgirl fashions did not go unnoticed in the cafés, nor her hair “long enough to let the bucket down the well with.” No sooner had the couple settled into domesticity at 28 rue Jacob, a mere two blocks away from where Stendhal had lived in 1810 and where Wagner had completed “The Flying Dutchman,” was Colette thrust into the salons of Paris with access to the most important cultural ﬁgures of the day. Already testing the clandestine gender-bending underground world of Paris, she dressed in jaunty sailor suits as she met and charmed a who’s who of Paris’ most distinguished men: the man of letters himself, Anatole France, composer Claude Debussy, Marcel Proust—who would later be moved to tears by the ﬁnal pages of her novel Mitsou—and was sent compositions and gifts by a smitten Gabriel Fauré, the most famous pianist in Paris. Despite his many literary outposts and fancy dress, Willy, ever anxious over his dwindling fortune, began disappearing for days. Colette tried in earnest to please his many appetites and soothe his nerves, yet, inevitably, Willy’s eye began to wander.
In the winter of 1893, Colette was given an anonymous warning over her husband’s amorous deception that led her to a small apartment where she found Willy and Charlotte Kincelear, his squat, dark-haired mistress, engaged over…an account book. The young Colette was no less stunned, and, at 20, keeping back the tears she found so hard to expel, she suffered her ﬁrst broken heart that bitterly morphed into a nervous breakdown. Bedridden and without an appetite, Colette worried her doctor and unnerved a guilty Willy who waited on her hand-and-foot before Sido appeared at her daughter’s side. Colette did not, however, like so many young brides at the time, succumb to a melodramatic death birthed by betrayal—but rather she came back, newly revived from the disappointment of ﬁrst love and a jealousy she embraced. And, apparently, with her sense of humor intact. She famously quipped:
“Give me a dozen such heartbreaks, if that would help me lose a couple of pounds”.
Since women are forgiving, not forgetful, creatures by nature, Colette stayed with Willy—who never ceased sticking his poker in the ﬁres of others—and began again her fashionable life as the toast of the Parisian elite. Funds, however, were continually low and, in 1894, Willy had an idea for a literary cash cow: Colette was to write her memoirs of her school days in Burgundy, a topic she visited when feeling homesick for Puisaye. “Don’t be afraid of the spicy details,” Willy naughtily advised his newest protégée. Not that he could’ve guessed what creatures he was bound to release from the corners of Colette’s mind with his request for erotic juvenilia, but that ﬁrst “assignment” began a cycle and a reluctant life-calling for Colette. However, ﬁlling the margins with his own edits, Willy was unimpressed by his wife’s efforts and stuck her compositions in his desk drawers, much to Colette’s relief. Five years later, as they were continuing their modern life together, Willy was cleaning out his desk and came across the set of notebooks containing Colette’s writing. Perhaps it was the fresh eye given to desperation but Willy was convinced he had something with her schoolgirl prattle, upon second reading. No sooner had he ﬁnished the ﬁfth page was he dashing to his publisher, ready to become the “father of the Claudines.
CLAUDINE EN MÉNAGE
Long before Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Harry Potter, there was the phenomenon of Claudine. Adopted into an eventual four-part series beginning with Claudine á l’école—and a cover suited to meet the fantasies of any French Humbert Humbert—Colette’s writing gave birth to the modern teenage girl: a saucy, rebellious, red-cloaked scribbler who waxed over her own inclinations towards pleasure, purity, individualism, forbidden desires and the complexities of love.
Paris at the beginning of the 20th century was a city in full artistic bloom and was in the ﬁrst throes of a feminist movement. (When asked by a reviewer if she was a feminist, Colette responded, “Me, a feminist? You’re kidding. The suffragettes disgust me. You know what the suffragettes deserve? The whip and the harem.”) It was also the beginning of the Art Nouveau movement; Van Gogh had his ﬁrst posthumous art gallery show; the Champagne riots had turned the city upside down, Italy returned the Mona Lisa to France, and the belle époque period was at its zenith. And, well, all of Paris was in a spell for Claudine, the coltish little creature whose inﬂuence spread all the way to the provinces. Selling 40,000 copies in four weeks, an astronomical sum for the time, Claudine á l’école had Willy rolling in dough over the demand for everything Claudine—from ice cream and cigarettes to collars, hats and perfume.
Willy, now able to rent a more spacious apartment for his newest child-bride ghostwriter, did not want to waste time over the next installment. “Quickly, my dear, quickly!” the pudgy control freak would shout at Colette as she spent her afternoons writing under lock-and-key at 177 bis, rue de Courcelles (where she reportedly installed a trapeze and parallel bars in the studio upstairs to blow off steam), letting her out only after she had given him what she had written. It is easy to make the argument for Willy as Colette’s oppressor during this period, but by trapping Colette with nothing but her talent and writing essentials to occupy her time, he did reveal her greatest gifts. Even after her love for him had soured, Colette would credit Willy as her greatest teacher, forcing her to learn and embrace a craft she otherwise found tedious.
Claudine was too bold and iconic a ﬁgure to live merely on the page, and in 1902 she made her stage debut in Claudine á Paris, played by the music-hall singer and actress Polaire, an intensely soulful Algerian beauty with a legendary 16-inch waistline. The show, featuring Polaire in fantastic schoolgirl garb, was a success and ran for over 100 performances. Willy’s fame exceeded that of his contemporaries, inspiring Sacha Guitry, the celebrated stage actor and playwright, to suggest “only God and maybe Alfred Dreyfus are as famous as [Willy].” Imitation is the sincerest form of ﬂ attery, and Claudine à Paris inspired a number of parodies before it toured the countryside, with Colette even taking over the role in 1908 in Brussels and Lyon. Colette—who in 1905 wore the schoolgirl dress herself alongside her beloved dog Toby-Chien in a promotional photograph—had created a type of pop-culture ﬁgure with Claudine, and Willy was nothing short of a publicity genius. In an attempt to delight readers with a truth more scandalous than ﬁction, Willy began to appear in public with Polaire and Colette dressed as twins after the release of Claudine en ménage, a novel which features a very Parisian love triangle. Although readers could not get enough of the sensual and provocative books, critics were not as kind, calling the works “vulgar,” “perverse,” “vampiric,” and “soulless.” It was then that Willy ordered, to Sido’s devastation, for Colette to cut her hair short in order to match Polaire’s bob. Gone was the famous plait—and with it went Colette’s last ties to her already strained marriage. After years of playing the diligent and willing prisoner-writer, Colette was slowly venturing towards independence. Capitaine Colette was to die in 1905, and in 1906, after training with the celebrated mime Georges Wague for some time, Colette made her debut as a faun in Le désir, l’Amour et le Chimére. Outﬁtted with horns and perspiring under the lights, Colette had come to a new and very satisfying home: the stage. Colette famously quipped, “On this narrow planet, we have only the choice between two unknown worlds. One of them tempts us—ah! what a dream, to live in that!—the other stiﬂes us at the ﬁrst breath.”
GERMAN ACROBATS, BARE BREASTS & POODLE-TAIL MUSTACHES
Fancying herself a “woman writer who had turned out badly,” Colette began to tour the music halls and theaters of France, Belgium and Switzerland, headlining a series of pantomimes with Wague while she continued to publish articles and stories exposing the life of the stage. Attacking her new vocation with the hunger of a newly christened nun, Colette was reinvented by the power of performance, welcoming the grueling hours of rehearsal, the blue grease pencil that ringed her eyes and the sore yet happy muscles from show after show. Her life on the road was immortalized in the beautifully written Music-Hall Sidelights, whose characters include German acrobats who talk stocks in the wings and dancers who nurse bastard children between costume changes, and in the semi-autobiographical novel La Vagabond, published in 1910 to critical acclaim. Yet Colette’s departure from the salon was not without notice. The negative consensus after her ﬁrst performance allowed Willy to come to her defense, stating that the public had wanted “to punish Colette for having deﬁnitely declared herself for professionalism.” Whether on stage or at the writing table, work was a speciﬁc indicator of independence for Colette, and the training that came with learning a mime’s craft was no different than the training Willy had subjected her to on the rue de Courcelles. Not for nothing, it was the only occupation short of prostitution in which a woman could earn a living with her body, something that naturally spoke to the sensuous Colette. Yet, even Colette was unable to escape the titillation only a skimpy costume could provide, and she found herself in a number of salacious roles, including the wife of a cuckold in La Chair. During a heated scene with her lover, played by Maurice Chevalier, she bared her perfectly round white breast to the audience. “When one knows her breasts,” an observer remarked, “one adores them.” To Chevalier, she wrote on a photograph of the erotic scene, “Hide discreetly…what I am displaying with such generosity.” Chevalier would go on to play one of his most famous roles, Honoré Lachaille, in Vincente Minnelli’s screen adaptation of Colette’s popular story “Gigi.”
All the while Colette was indulging in her new occupation, a lover was still ﬁnancially supporting her—though this time the sex was of a different kind. Colette was no stranger to female attraction—there were childhood crushes on music teachers and infatuations with beautiful American wives peppering her early years, but the lesbian underground of Paris held a serious court. Sophisticated cross dressers met in secret caverns while enjoying ﬁne wine and cigars. One of the most notorious lesbians of the belle époque, and master ringleader in the sapphic circles, was the aforementioned Missy. Ten years Colette’s senior and staggeringly aristocratic, Missy played the role of a man with ease, with her short haircut, round ﬁgure stuffed into overalls, and penchant for mustaches made from the tails of poodles. Missy and Colette met months before the Moulin kiss by way of power lesbian and salon holder, Natalie Barney, and embarked on a love affair that would last for ﬁve years. In 1906, Colette began living with the marquise, who had been divorced from her husband since 1903. Colette’s husband Willy was only faintly estranged from his wife, leading a very public affair with a plump 22-year-old by the name of Marguerite “Meg” Maniez. Protected, spoiled, mothered and adored by her masculine marquise, Colette had gone from a kept wife to a kept lover, making the transition with strange ease, while traipsing on the stages across Europe. Seaside vacations to Missy’s villa in charming Le Crotoy (Jules Verne wrote the epic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in the quaint beach town) were common, as was catching the lovers exercising together on their homemade gym. Finally, Colette and Willy divorced, following the bitter realization that he had sold the rights to the Claudine books. Colette was now a free woman—but it was a freedom hardly felt by a heart so hungry.
A LONG GESTATION IN THE CITY OF LIGHT
Despite Colette’s wanderings outside the perimeters of her love nest with Missy, her affairs during their years together rarely came to anything serious. Enter Henry de Jouvenel in 1911, the second mustachioed lothario to capture Colette’s attention and voracious affections. One of the editors of the inﬂuential newspaper Le Matin, 35-year-old Jouvenel was an educated member of the bourgeoisie. He had two sons: Bertrand, from his ﬁrst marriage to the daughter of Alfred Boas, and Renaud, by his mistress Isabelle de Comminges. With his rugged, handsome face and luxurious tastes, Colette found herself smitten in the ofﬁces of Le Matin, which had been publishing her stories since the success of La Vagabonde in 1910. Their affair was kept under wraps until 1911, when signs of a scandal began to show. Using the theater as an alibi to a fuming Missy and concerned friends, Colette would meet Jouvenel in Paris in secret and became the object of death threats from de Comminges aka The Panther.” Colette proudly declared to de Comminges, “I am the other woman.” Hearing of this episode through the Parisian grapevine, Missy, disgusted and dejected, left Colette with only the house they shared in Rozven, and would end her days ruined and insane, dying at the age of 81 in 1944 after a bungled suicide attempt. Great love offers the heart a second chance to grow, and Colette embraced her passion for Jouvenel, whom she called Sidi, (lord in Arabic), and followed him to the vocation of journalist. Sido, by now aging in Châtillon, was not exactly thrilled with the new man in her daughter’s life. Perhaps she could see the smoke before the ﬁre, recalling the physical and emotional torment the unfaithful Willy had caused Colette in her youth, sick from betrayal and wanting nothing more than the man she loved to love her back.
Now working as a reporter, Colette learned the tools of another satisfying trade, this one allowing her to ﬂy on the Caudron airbus and in a hot air balloon. But the adventures would not last long—at least for a short spell: Colette discovered that she was pregnant. Nearly 40, she married Jouvenel on December 19, 1912, becoming a wife for the second time and a reluctant mother-to-be for the last. Maternal instincts were not a part of Colette’s make-up. Her ripening belly embarrassed her and she often compared herself to “a rat rolling away a stolen egg.” Giving birth to a daughter, Colette de Jouvenel, whom she called “Bel-Gazou” as her mother had lovingly called Colette herself, Colette was nonplussed by the joys of a new baby and soon found an English nurse for her “little pet,” or “Colette II,” seeing her only during the holidays or by the seaside. Despite a blissful summer in Rozven in 1914, Colette’s world was soon delivered a terrible blow after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, plunging Europe into a great and devastating war that would last longer than anyone could have predicted. Returning to a ghostly, panicked Paris, Colette did her best to stay strong in the absence of Jouvenel, who had donned a uniform to ﬁght. Leaving her daughter with her nurse in the safety of Rozven, Colette wrote articles for Le Matin, penned the first-person narrative La Vagabonde, about a 30-something workingwoman’s addiction to men, and shared her shopping, cooking and cleaning with friends who were determined to become useful by way of a new patriotism. She and Jouvenel exchanged a correspondence, continually interrupted by cut telephone lines and the post that wouldn’t arrive, and trudged along with the rest of Europe as it found itself no longer a glittering, spoiled child but a somber and war-ravaged adult.
OPERATION BLACK PEARL
Paris in the 20s was a place like no other—past or present. The streets were thick with expatriate artists, poets, composers, writers and mystics—Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, Salvador Dali, Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Edgar Degas, Ernest Hemingway—and bohemian haunts like Les Deux Magots, Café de Fiore, La Rotonde, La Coupole and Le Dome were awash in a newfound intellectual and artistic freedom. (At La Rotonde, its owner, Victor Libion, occasionally held rafﬂes at the end of the night for the starving artists who couldn’t pay their booze bill until a “later date.”)
By 1924, the amount of Americans in Paris had swelled to almost 30,000—none more glamorous than the bananabelt-wearing, bead-shaking Josephine Baker, a breathtakingly exotic ﬁgure even in 20s Paris. Her stage shows were legendary worldwide: Her pet cheetah, swathed in jewels, would leap from the stage into the orchestra pit and all hell would break loose. She instantly became a quixotic muse for painters, writers and sculptors. Upon seeing her on stage one night, Hemingway blurted that Baker was “the most sensational woman I’ve ever seen.” And the papers blazed with headlines such as “The Most Spectacular Singer and Performer in the World” and Josephine Baker: La Grande Diva Magniﬁque.” (There were even rumors that the ingénue helped smuggle anti-Nazi intelligence in her sheet music and underwear during World War II.) Don’t think for a moment that the dusky, intense, “queer” sexuality of the so-called “Black Pearl” didn’t catch Colette’s eye.
It’s not clear when they met exactly, but meet they did in the seamy cobblestone jungle of 1920s Paris. According to Baker’s son, Jean-Claude, she had many lesbian affairs, purportedly including Clara Smith, Frida Kahlo, and one Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. According to his book, Josephine: The Hungry Heart, Jean-Claude maintains that not only were Colette and Josephine lovers, they remained “lifelong friends.”
LONG BEFORE LOLITA THERE WAS CHERI
With the publication of Chéri in 1920, a novel about an affair between a much older woman and a handsome wild-child bad boy, Colette, now 47, had reached new emotional heights. The story of Léa, an aging courtesan, and her beautiful playboy lover Fred (“Chéri”), chronicled their intense and unexpected six-year romance, a heartbreaking tryst of a love felt too late but one, like most of her work, where the woman is sexually fulﬁlled and in control. If one believes Oscar Wilde’s prediction that writing terrible stories allows them to come true, then Chéri, though birthed by the seaside some years before, was such a story for Colette. Her young and ﬁercely protected stepson, Bertrand de Jouvenel, was now a shy, pimply 16-year-old with dark hair and a chiseled face who had never met his stepmother, though doubtless he had heard some colorful stories of her character and escapades. At Jouvenel’s insistence, his son was to spend the summer in Rozven with Colette, who taught him to swim and luxuriate in the joys only the ocean could provide. With her hands and Sido’s own gardener, Colette spent her days tending to the earth and furnishing her house—and taking the waters with her stepson before, after giving him a copy of Chéri, she became Léa herself, planting a kiss on Bertrand’s innocent mouth one evening as he was saying goodnight. She instructed a startled and aroused Bertrand to “hold the lamp steady,” and thus began an exciting and forbidden love affair between a teenage boy and his seductive stepmother on the brink of her ﬁfties.
Their affair, scandalous and forbidden in any century, which biographers have agreed was Colette’s attempt at revenge on Jouvenel for his numerous inﬁdelities, lasted an impressive ﬁve years; no coincidence, of course, when Chéri was adapted for the stage in 1921, Colette would play the role of Léa for the production’s 100th performance. When it came to pleasing his parents, Bertrand took no interest and stayed faithful to Colette as long as they were together. Colette, surprised at the attachment she formed to her daughter’s half-brother, embraced her passion for Bertrand with a coltish energy, despite her ripening years. When it came to sex, the once nubile slave to love was now into dominating her lovers. She liked to joke that as she got older she kept going after much younger men by assuming the role of the seducer. Bertrand would recall her on his deathbed: “She eagerly picked the fruits of the earth without discriminating those which were forbidden.”
The same year she began indulging in one of her most shocking romances, Colette—the Captaine’s daughter after all!—was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest civil honor from the president of France itself (an honor that is usually bestowed upon kings, war heroes, doctors and business tycoons). For a most unconventional woman, it was quite the conventional accomplishment, but it would not be her last, nor her highest. Once again, her wit and seeming contradictions came to light when asked by a newspaper reporter about a woman winning the honor: “When women get hold of power they’re absolutely frightening—worse than men. I know many intelligent women who would be great judges and ministers, except for the fact that they get their period every
SAINT-TROPEZ, NEW YORK, BELGIUM, MOROCCO
In 1905, a 16-year-old Maurice Goudeket, son of a middle-class Jewish family, was reading the work of Colette when the future poet and pearl salesman declared to his parents, “Someday I’m going to marry this woman. Only she will know how to understand me.” This like-minded creature of the senses would meet the 52-year-old Colette at a dinner party when he was 35, after she had divorced Jouvenel and broken off her ill-fated affair with Bertrand. Colette would go on to write La ﬁn de Chéri in 1926, in which the still-young, rich and handsome Chéri shoots himself at the hard and bitter book’s end over the hopelessness of his love for Léa, a sad parallel to the maturity of Colette’s own Europe that had grown from the belle époque into the twisted madness of the postwar years. Goudeket was by her side for 29 years, as her lover for the ﬁrst 10 and—everyone knows third times the charm, right? —her husband for the last 19. Colette would call Maurice her meilleur ami (best friend) and travel the world with him, from Saint-Tropez to New York to Belgium and Morocco with him, and write some of her most celebrated works. Around this time, Colette would often quip to her friends: “Is suffering so very serious? I have come to doubt it. It may be quite childish, a sort of undigniﬁed pastime. I’m referring to the kind of suffering a man inﬂicts on a woman or a woman on a man. It’s extremely painful. I agree that it’s hardly bearable. But I very much fear that this sort of pain deserves no consideration at all. It’s no more worthy of respect than old age or illness.”
UNBEHOLDEN TO THE GODS OF MEN & BEASTS
Colette would spend her last years traveling extensively on lecture tours, as a guest speaker in celebrated universities and exotic locales like Romania and North Africa, and writing cultural criticisms and works such as La Naissance du Jour, Sido and the groundbreaking exposé on sexuality, Le Pur et l’impur. Translations of her work appeared in England, Italy, Germany and the United States and, in 1928, she was promoted from Chevalier to Ofﬁ cier of the Legion, and then received the title of Commandeur in 1936, the same year she was made a member of the Belgian Royal Academy. Her fame was now far-reaching from the Parisian social circles she frequented in her early years, and such fame came with the irritating trappings of bona ﬁde celebrity: over-zealous fans and acolytes wandering into Colette’s garden in Saint-Tropez and selling postcards of her house. Having experienced the brutal depression of World War I, the conﬂict of Europe’s Second World War took a more personal toll on Colette. On December 14th, Maurice was arrested by the Nazis and taken to a camp in Compiégne. Showing strength in a state of terrible worry, Colette appealed to anyone and everyone she knew who had connections to the occupation forces to help save Goudeket from the horrors of the death camps. After two months, Goudeket, thinner and crawling with lice, was released and Colette was granted the ﬁnal comfort of having her best friend by her side until her own death.
But, of course, Colette wasn’t going to let the Nazis off that easy. As a clandestine member of the resistance movement, she routinely hid her Jewish friends in her attic and converted her dilapidated castle in Correze into a safe refuge for those being hunted by the Nazis. Not being political by nature, the rest of the war, according to her, was spent le sage repliement sur sol (“lying low”).
Around this time Colette received a visitor at her sumptuous Palais-Royal apartment near the Grand Vefour building, with a sublime view of the gardens. A wide-eyed, young American writer named Truman Capote entered her room and was instantly besotted. “She received me in her bedroom and I was astonished,” he said. “She looked precisely as Colette ought to have looked. And that was astonishing indeed. Reddish, frizzy, rather African-looking hair; slanting, alley-cat yes rimmed with kohl; a ﬁnely made face ﬂexible as water…rouged cheeks…lips thin and tense as wire but painted a really brazen hussy scarlet.”
THE FELINOPHILIAC OF PÉRE-LACHAISE
No stranger to suffering, Colette’s arthritis was worsening, her stomach ached from years of gastronomic indulgence and radiation treatments, and her weight, which always tethered on an uncomfortable brink, was out of control. Some think the weight was a deliberate statement about Colette turning her back on “thinness,” while others casually observed that she just liked to be gluttonous. Her biographer, Judith Thurman, who wrote Colette: Secrets of the Flesh, elaborates: “She wrote about misogynistic designers who were only making clothes that thin women could wear, and that the fashion for slimness was masculinizing them. She took a sort of ‘fat is beautiful’ stance before anybody did.”
Despite paying for her sins, and spending the remaining decade of her life on her daybed, or “raft” as she dubbed it, under her beloved reading lamp while gorging on her beloved shellﬁsh, and surrounded by her harem of Chartreux cats, she was able to write and achieve new heights, publishing groundbreaking “erotic wisdom” short ﬁction in Gigi, Le Kepi, Le Tendron and L’Enfante Malade. And, in 1945, Colette was elected to the Académie Goncourt, becoming president of the jury in 1949. Worshipped by European royalty like Prince Pierre of Monaco and old friends like artist and genius in his own right, Jean Cocteau, Colette bore the laurel crown of a living literary legend in France. And two years before her death in 1954, Colette had been made, quite fantastically, Grand Ofﬁcier of the Legion of Honour, granting her a state funeral—the ﬁrst woman to have such a ceremony—attended by throngs of admirers and mourners who passed by her tricolor-draped cofﬁn in the Court d’Honneur of the Palais-Royal. Now, Colette can be found in the PèreLachaise cemetery in Paris, buried alongside other bohemian luminaries such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Honore de Balzac, and Jim Morrison—and, of course, the swank citadel for a la mode fashion on 213 rue Saint-Honore that is named after her.
To be sure, writers and critics have not been at a loss of words when looking back at the effect Colette had on society. Thurman so colorfully writes: “Like the goddess Prosperina, she had two guises: one as a daughter, one as a queen…she was accessible and elusive…greedy and austere…scorchingly honest and sublimely mendacious…an inspired consoler and an existential pessimist, living her life as both a conservative and erotic militant…and, of course, seducer of her only stepson and neglecter of her only child…a restless ghost crashing headlong and sidelong against that barrier reef, mysterious and incomprehensible, the human body.” But how did she, “the most famous woman in France,” want to be remembered? Toward the end of her life she gave an interview to a magazine where she said: “Biographers generally believe that it is easy to be a monster. It is even harder than being a saint…. perhaps the most praiseworthy thing about me is that I have known how to write like a woman, without anything moralistic or theoretical, without promulgating. I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it. What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner”.