John Galliano arrived at court in Paris today, where he is being tried for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks — a criminal offense in France — to three people. Two are a couple, museum curator Geraldine Bloch and her boyfriend, Philippe Virgitti, a receptionist, who claim Galliano called them "dirty Jew" and "Asian bastard" respectively, while they were having cocktails at a bar near Galliano's apartment. The third plaintiff is Fatiha Oummedour, a 47-year-old French woman who says he verbally attacked her in the same bar, La Perle, in October. The hearing should conclude this afternoon, and a ruling is due in September. The maximum sentence is six months in jail and a $34,000 fine.
"One obvious thing is that John Galliano was ill," his lawyer Aurelien Hamelle said yesterday (Tues).
"He had a triple addiction to alcohol, benzodiazepine (Valium) and sleeping pills ... The combined effect of these drugs is a state of complete and utter abandon."
Pressure to perform led him to drink heavily and take Valium pills "like candy" as well as sleeping pills regularly, Miss Hamelle said.
"When he was in that state he had no way of knowing or remembering what he said."
Court documents state that Galliano's outbursts happened so frequently that his chauffeur, who often drove him around Paris in a yellow New York taxi, would call his lawyer "when the f**** began to fly." Apparently the driver tried to get Bloch to talk to Galliano's lawyer on February 24, when he allegedly called her a "dirty Jew." On the stand, Galliano said he doesn't remember what happened on that date very well, but added that one of the plaintiffs exhibited aggression toward him.
The courtroom itself was a bit of a scene. Snickers could be heard as the judge read Galliano's anti-Semitic remarks in English, and then translated them into French. Debate has also ensued as to the appropriateness of Galliano's outfit — a black suit with black brogues, and a black necktie with white polka dots, no hat, his hair straight, smooth, and natural-looking. While British Vogue called his look "conservative," and the Telegraph "sombre," one person following the trial tweeted, "Galliano dressed 'conservatively'? The guy is not wearing a shirt! Come on, Vogue!"
Update 12:48: "I have a triple addiction. I followed a rehab programme, spent two months in Arizona, I am still being treated and spent two months in Switzerland," Galliano told the court. (Meanwhile, reporter Belinda White writes that the designer has been spending time "at the atelier of a leading fashion designer in New York working on Kate Moss' wedding dress.") "I'm still in recovery but feeling much better," said Galliano, adding his father's death was also affecting him.
All he remembers, he claims, of the night in the Paris bar, is that things got aggressive, his driver intervened, and the police showed up. He doesn't remember exactly what he said to the couple.
Explaining the reasons for his downfall overall, he cited the pressures of his work, telling the court:
"At the time of the financial crash, I have two children. One was Dior, the other was Galliano.
Dior is a big machine and I didn’t want to lose Galliano (his company). At this point in order for that house of Galiano to survive, I met many businessmen and signed many licences.
So the collections to increase men’s wear, women's, children, shoes boys and girls, perfume projects, jewellery, fine jewellery. Beach wear underwear, boys and girl's clothes. The workload increased very fast.
Update 2:10: Plaintiff Fatiha Oummedour, a 47-year-old English teacher of Arab origin, was not present in court, but a lawyer read her statement. She claimed that Galliano had repeatedly called her a "fucking ugly Jewish bitch" at La Perle in October 2010 and that she "didn't find the insults funny." The defense produced no witnesses to counter her accusations. The court then played the infamous video taken at La Perle during which Galliano proclaims his love for Hitler and tells two Italian women that their parents should have "been gassed." Following the screening, the judge called a fifteen-minute recess.
After the recess, the court produced another complaint against Galliano from a shopkeeper who allegedly tried to throw Galliano out of his store for misbehavior. When asked to leave the shop, Galliano reportedly yelled, "I'll call Sarkozy and Carla [Bruni] and you'll disappear."
Update 2:36: Galliano told the court that since being fired from Dior and his namesake label, John Galliano, he is unemployed. In explaining just how much he embraced diverse people, he added, "I'm passionate and I travel the world not just as a tourist but to understand cultures ... I've lived with Masai [sic] tribe ... I travel the world and bring it back in the form of a research book that would become the starting point for the collection."
Update 4:06: It's just after 10 p.m. in Paris, and the trial, which was supposed to take just the afternoon, is still dragging on. GQ tweets this is because the plaintiffs have multiple attorneys making closing arguments on their behalf. One was a lawyer from the French anti-racism NGO SOS Racism, who argued that Galliano's behavior should not be excused due to alcoholism.
The Telegraph has posted this video of Galliano arriving in the courtroom today:
And for a more lighthearted take on the trial, Simon Doonan weighs in on Slate, recalling all the Jews who helped him in his career in fashion:
I suspect that John Galliano could, were he thus inclined, tell a story very similar to mine. Now that he is (fingers crossed) sober, I hope he can sincerely acknowledge how much of his success he owes to the kindness and support of Jewish mitzvahs, machers, schmatta kings, fashionistas, and, most importantly, customers. Newsflash: WASPs don't shop!
Update 4:28: With a final apology from Galliano, the trial finally comes to a close in Paris. Court will reconvene on September 8, when a verdict is expected.