Paris's twice-annual Fashion Week began yesterday, but no one in the City of Light is talking about the clothes. Dior designer John Galliano was first suspended, then sacked, from the couture house as allegations he has, more than once, engaged in anti-Semitic rants in a Paris bar have come to light over the last few days.
Dior first suspended the flamboyant designer, who was born in Gibraltar but raised in London, after a couple accused him of shouting epithets at them. (Anti-Semitic remarks are illegal in France, and Galliano could face up to a year in prison.) No third-party witnesses surfaced to back up the allegations—Galliano has filed a claim of defamation against the couple—though one person stepped forward with a similar allegation of trash-talking at the same bar. But then a video reached the Internet showing Galliano, on yet a third occasion at La Perle, telling a group of women, "I love Hitler. . . . People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f—ing gassed." Dior immediately moved to fire him.
Galliano's fall-winter collection for Dior is still scheduled to be presented Friday at the Musée Rodin, but the designer's nearly 15-year association with the house is over. Can the same be said about his career?
People are awfully forgiving. Apocalypto was released six months after director Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic rant after he was arrested for driving under the influence. The movie was a critical and commercial success. Charlie Sheen has said too many crazy things in the last few days for people to pay much attention to his anti-Semitic tone in talking about his former boss, Chuck Lorre.
Reaction has been mixed in the fashion world. Nicole Kidman wore Dior to the Oscars, but Best Actress winner Natalie Portman, perhaps responding to the initial allegations, did not. Portman, the face of Miss Dior Cherie perfume, distanced herself from the house's designer after the video went public. But plenty of his friends have defended him. Sex and the City designer Patricia Field insisted that Galliano's performance was just another version of the farcical theater he provides with his catwalk shows. Many other luminaries have weighed in with support. (It's a shame that Galliano has possibly run afoul of French law. The British designer has long been a Francophile: His graduation collection, Les Incroyables, was inspired by the French Revolution.)
Clearly, Galliano has a problem. And it's not just with Jews: You can't watch the video of his "performance" without noticing the man can barely get his hateful words out. The fact that all these allegations have centered on the same bar indicates it's a place Galliano can often be found.
Yet, I'm constantly surprised that we expect creative artists and celebrities to be pleasant people. There are too many reasons for them not to be—the artistic temperature, the lure of drugs and alcohol, the constant feeding of hungry egos.