France's Madame to Rich, Famous Dies at 92

Madame Claude and her 'swans' were a Paris institution in the '60s and '70s
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2015 11:30 AM CST
France's Madame to Rich, Famous Dies at 92

The most famous madame in France—who JFK reportedly once asked for a prostitute that looked like his wife "but hot"—died Saturday at the age of 92, the New York Times reports. Fernande Grudet—more commonly known as Madame Claude—ran a high-class call-girl ring catering to the rich and famous in the 1960s and 1970s in Paris. According to AFP, her clients included the Shah of Iran, Marlon Brando, and Moammar Gadhafi. "It was so exciting to hear a millionaire or a head of state ask, in a little boy’s voice, for the one thing that only you could provide," the Times quotes Grudet as saying. The BBC notes Grudet liked to muddle her personal history, claiming—almost certainly falsely—that she was raised in a convent. And the Times notes it's unclear exactly how Grudet built her call-girl empire.

But at the height of her business, Grudet employed more than 500 "swans," AFP reports. According to the Times, Grudet would recruit girls who were "foreign, from the fringes of the film and fashion worlds, with a sprinkling of students looking for extra cash and housewives looking for adventure." One columnist says Grudet sought out girls who couldn't quite make it as models and actresses, but that "didn’t mean they weren’t beautiful, fabulous." Her swans had to know literature and current events, and their sexual talents were tested. One night with a swan could cost a client $1,500 in today's dollars. But it wasn't all glamour. "She was like a slave driver in the American South," an actress who played Grudet once said. "It was sexual indentured servitude." Grudet had multiple stays in jail in the 1980s and 1990s. (More madame stories.)

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