On the Sunday in May that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, at the time the head of the International Monetary Fund, either attempted to rape, or propositioned, or was conned by the African chambermaid who had come to clean his room in the midtown Sofitel—the notion that this brief encounter was purely consensual is too preposterous to even take under consideration—his distinguished wife, Anne Sinclair, was shopping for shoes in Paris’s 16th Arrondissement. Sinclair, a petite 63-year-old with bright-blue eyes and raven locks, her lips always curled in the sort of bemused smile one makes after an inside joke, stopped for a while at Castañer, the Catalonian espadrille maker that inspired Yves Saint Laurent in the sixties to make this woven-straw country-folk shoe into an emblem of city chic. According to Madame DSK, a biography by Catherine Rambert and L’Express editor Renaud Revel published last week in France that includes a detailed account of Sinclair’s evening, Sinclair was there for half an hour, trying on a few different pairs of $400 and $500 shoes, but then hurried out. As usual, she had a full social calendar that night, and she didn’t want to be late.
Sinclair, an extraordinarily wealthy art-world heiress and a pillar of European Jewish society, was born in New York, but she didn’t like the U.S. much. Though she bought a $4 million townhouse in Georgetown for Strauss-Kahn after he took over as head of the IMF, she found D.C. dull and resisted socializing there. She preferred the $5.5 million penthouse with Versailles-style parquet floors she had purchased on the Place des Vosges in Paris. Strauss-Kahn was happiest at their ryad in the palm-grove district of Marrakech, to the north of the port city where he grew up as a French Jew; his neighbors there include a bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia, Fiat’s Marella Agnelli, and frequent visitors like their friend Stéphane Fouks, the head of publicity firm Euro RSCG, who has also acted as Strauss-Kahn’s publicist. “Dominique supervised the plumbing and electricity when we renovated the house,” Sinclair has said. “But these days, the ryad is very often occupied by our children. It could almost have a waiting list!”
The funds for these homes were supplied by Sinclair: Strauss-Kahn’s annual $420,000 salary from the IMF, kingly though it may sound, was not enough to support the couple’s high-flying lifestyle. Once a renowned celebrity and political interviewer on French television, with importance in her own right, these days Sinclair preferred that her power accrue to her husband. She was older now and aware that her place was behind the scenes. In fact, this day, she was expecting to become a grandmother for the first time—her first marriage, to a journalist, produced two sons (Elie, the youngest, was named after Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, a close friend), and one of them was expecting a child to be born into his family within a couple of days. She hoped that Strauss-Kahn, back from the U.S. tomorrow, would make the occasion, too.
But as Sinclair dressed for her evening event—the surprise birthday party for an old friend, Parisian singer Patrick Bruel—she received a call from her husband. There was a tightness in his voice. He spoke of a “serious problem” in New York, but said he couldn’t talk about it right now, adding that he had lost his IMF-issued cell phone. He wanted to know if Sinclair could reach out to Fouks. Then he got off the phone. Sinclair was concerned but thought he was likely referring to a political problem. Now that he was close to announcing his candidacy for the presidency of France—he was running 20 percent ahead of Nicolas Sarkozy in a recent poll by Paris Match, with Sinclair polling at double the likability of Carla Bruni—Sinclair was always paranoid that someone was gunning for her husband, trying to take him down.
Sinclair set up a meeting for him with Fouks for the following day, then joined Jean Frydman, the Buchenwald survivor and financier, for dinner before entering the surprise party around 11 p.m. Despite protestations, she stayed only a little while, saying she had to pick up Strauss-Kahn at the airport at 6 a.m. It was almost midnight when she folded herself into a taxi and her phone rang again. But this time, she learned the true nature of the problem—and exactly how personal it was.