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Hijacking Dr. Hofmann

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Genevieve in the Sutton Place apartment, circa 1974.   

“It doesn’t smack good,” says Cornec.

Because they haven’t been able to see the terms of the trust, some of Hofmann’s associates are concerned that David might benefit financially in ways that Hofmann never intended. They speculate about scenarios in which David pockets anywhere from 2 percent to 20 percent of Hofmann’s millions when Hofmann dies. Even Justice Drager, who found against Genevieve in the annulment, wrote in her decision, “Both Mr. David . . . and [his daughter] are trustees for a [second] trust that may become funded after Dr. Hofmann’s death. It is unknown what, if any, benefits they may then receive as trustees.”

I visited Hofmann twice in Paris. The apartment he shares with Genevieve is in the center of the 16th Arrondissement, the Upper East Side of Paris. The balcony overlooks City Hall and Genevieve’s childhood home, the Eiffel Tower. Hofmann and his roommates live on 1,200 euros per month, the limit set by the French guardian, an austere budget compared to the $60,000 a month Hofmann spent before David and his attorneys stepped in.

Hofmann, now 98, no longer leaves the hospital bed in the back bedroom, where nurses sit by his side 24 hours a day. Both sides of the dispute have a keen interest in his mental state. Genevieve claims he still has good days, in which he expresses his love for her and his desire to remain in Paris. The David group maintains that Hofmann’s brain is so badly atrophied that he couldn’t have been lucid in 2003 when he married Genevieve, let alone now.

My first visit with Hofmann lasted five minutes, and he stared at me the entire time. He looked angry, I thought, although reading emotion into his eyes seemed hopeful at best. His hair had been recently trimmed, his face recently shaved. He wore a white hospital gown, but no teeth. He didn’t respond to Genevieve’s questions: How are you doing? How do you feel? Where are your teeth?

My second visit got off to an equally inauspicious start for Genevieve and her claim that Hofmann remains, on occasion, aware. As we entered the room, a blind, heroically muscular physical therapist massaged Hofmann’s legs. Genevieve and I stood by the side of the bed in silence.

After a minute or two, Hofmann spoke. In a soft, slurred, raspy voice, and apropos of nothing, he told Genevieve she has two children and she is right-handed. “Yes, Dr. Hofmann, two children!” she said sweetly. She held his bare, oiled calf as she spoke. “Yes, Doctor, I am right-handed!” Hofmann asked Genevieve if she has a brother. (She does.) He spoke mostly in Spanish, though he dropped in an occasional English word.

Hofmann again stared at me, the anger, if that’s what it had been, now gone from his eyes. He raised his hand toward me, slowly, like E.T. “Camisa Hermosa,” he said—beautiful shirt. He lowered his hand to his face, rubbed his chin, and said my face looked dark, which Genevieve took to mean I needed a shave. (For the record, both observations were accurate. I hadn’t shaved since New York, and I was wearing a checkered shirt that has garnered many compliments, not just from Hofmann.)

Hofmann—three decades older and six inches shorter than the French models—stepped up to the cadre of hotties and introduced himself.

Genevieve asked Hofmann why he wasn’t wearing his teeth. “Broken,” he said—a bald-faced lie. They hurt his mouth, she confided, and he refused to wear them, even for company. Hofmann looked at Genevieve’s watch and said, “Cinco,” meaning five o’clock. It was actually four, but I considered the observation a check mark in the lucidity column, its out-of-the-blue-ness notwithstanding. “En una media hora, yo quiero hablar con alguien,” he said. “With who, Dr. Hofmann?” Genevieve asked. “Who do you want to speak with?” Hofmann didn’t answer.

Soon, he said that his legs felt good, which seemed perfectly reasonable, considering they had just been massaged. He added, in Spanish, “I want to leave. On my feet.”

As we left Hofmann alone with his blind masseur, Genevieve smiled. She considered this a good day.

Genevieve has aged with the grace of a woman who has never held a job. Her face is lightly lined, her hair a perfect platinum. With her model’s posture, she seems taller than her actual height of five foot eight. But she looks tired. When I saw her in August, she wore the same black Ann Klein pants and the same plain white shirt every day, a far cry from her chic New York days. The ferocity of the fighting seems to be taking its toll as the endgame approaches.

Cut off from Hofmann’s cash by David’s lawyers, she has become increasingly desperate and paranoid. At one point during my stay in Paris, she showed me a document, its date apparently doctored, purporting to be proof of Hofmann’s lucidity near the time of their marriage. Another time, she called me at my hotel: “You are a spy for Arie David!” she yelled. “I will not talk to you anymore.”


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