by Dr. Susan Block
Beachtown in Heat
Neel, Thierry Chevrollier, Christian Neel, Dr. Susan Block, Claude Martinot,
The traffic was so
slow, we didn't get to the opening until it was ending, but that still
gave us time to soak up the dazzling hues of Christian Neel's "Feux
D'Artifice" exhibit. Claude Martinot, organizer of the show, welcomed
us so warmly, we felt like international dignitaries, instead of the horribly
late, sweaty, salty boat people that we were.
Dr. Suzy with Feux
D'Artifice Artist Christian Neel. . Gerald
Hardyand other guests of the Château Hôtel de la Messardière
It was a bit too
late to tour the grounds of the Château Hôtel de la Messardière,
known as the "Versailles of Saint-Tropez" with it's acres of
lush pines (thankfully not charred to a crisp, like so many of the hills
on the way to Saint-Tropez) and Provençal gardens surrounding
a 19th century fairy tale castle, restored in 1989 with a distinctive
late 20th century finish to its Belle Époque design.
of Saint-Tropez": Hôtel
de la Messardière
We did get a chance
to stroll the halls hung with a variety of art exhibits, including the
marvelous Byzantine-style Tarot Card paintings of Victoire de la Messardière,
whose distinguished ancestor Henri Brisson de la Messardière was
the original owner of the luxurious Chateau. Then, we had drinks on the
patio by the emperor-size pool, stalked by some of the most gorgeous,
scantily clad women in the world.
Where to next? We
were exhausted, but just had to do a bit more Saint-Tropez before the
endless drive back. We were invited to Nicky Beach, Saint-Tropez' answer
but our company was a bit squeamish, so we opted for a tour of the famed
Vieux Port. Here we were greeted with the sights, sounds, smells
and sweat of a beachtown in heat in more ways than one, a souped up, 21st
century version of a medieval fishing village, with cobblestone streets
and space age yachts, with clubs and shops of every kind open until all
hours, as nighttime temperatures soared into the Fahrenheit triple digits
(that's surpassing 38 degrees Celsius for you Euros).
The Port at night
in Saint-Tropez is rather like a debauched zoo, but it's hard to say who
are the zoo animals and who the people: the folks in the giant private
party yachts with their twinkling lights and multiple amenities, or the
teeming crowds onshore not even bothering to pretend not to ogle the cork-popping
yacht-dwellers who stared, quite blatantly, back at them. Every so often,
a burly fellow would swoop a gorgeous young tanned and giggling lady,
teetering on her stilettos and falling out of her sequined camisole, past
the "PRIVÉ" ropes and up onto one of the floating pleasure
palaces where presumably she would be wined and dined like Mediterranean
royalty for a couple of hours, or perhaps a week, or a summer cruise,
or maybe a movie contract.
Saint-Tropez--What a Zoo! Are the animals in the yachts are on land?
Speaking of which,
where were the Movie Stars? Well, just like Cannes in May, in summertime
Saint-Tropez, the IDEA of Movie Stars is always in the air, even if you
never see any actual Movie Stars waving from their yachts or emerging
from their rented Mercedez.
Who's in that vintage
Mercedez? Who's on the yacht? ... PHOTOS:
One Cannes Press
Club member was writing an article for a British newspaper about how Saint-Tropez
is supposedly going downhill and nobody (including the Movie Stars) wants
to go there now because of "drugs." We doubt that "drugs"
would discourage the kind of cosmopolitan party people who like to go
to Saint-Tropez. More likely, it's the drooping dollar, and the burned
hills. And the heat! This heat would chase any self-respecting Movie Star
clear into Iceland. Nevertheless, there didn't seem to be any scarcity
of gorgeous specimens hanging off of yachts and emerging from Mercedez
and Bentleys at the port, even if none of them looked quite familiar.
The port was a glut of humanity, sticking to each other's designer skimpies
in the vibrant night heat. And all the hotels-posh and downscale-were
As for those living
legend Movie Stars, well, of course, they don't flock to Saint-Tropez
like they did in the Fab '50s or Swinging '60s. But they still come to
the area, usually ensconcing themselves in extremely private estates far
from anyone without a helicopter.
Brigitte Bardot is
still there, and the place is infused with her sensuous, playful spirit.
Bardot galleries and BB clothing stores proliferate. Bardot is the most
famous European sexpot movie star of the twentieth-century. She has been
depicted as a French Marilyn Monroe, but sultrier, tougher and more bohemian
than Monroe. Like Monroe, she led a tempestuous life, privately and publicly,
beloved and vilified for her dramatic sexuality. Unlike MM, BB is a survivor.
Reclusive with her beloved animals, but still around, she's the Living
Saint of Saint-Tropez.
Brigitte Bardot: Patron
Saint of Saint-Tropez
Poster from Sasha
& Una at the
& Una Gallery
there's Johnny Depp, stealing the summer show as the goofy but sly, drunkenly
swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's "Pirates Of The Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl." Between films and trips to Paris,
Johnny lives near Saint-Tropez, in a Saint Aygulf farmhouse with French
singer-actress Vanessa Paradis and their two young children, Lily Rose
Melody and Jack. And despite the Dixie Chicks backlash from Americans
out to squelch the First Amendment, Johnny isn't shy about stating his
views of his native country's Mesopotamian adventure.
Johnny Depp with Vanessa
Paradis and as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's "Pirates Of The Caribbean:
The Curse of the Black Pearl."
"I saw these
American kids being shipped off to war, and I was looking at their faces
and thinking, they're not ready for it." Johnny told Gregory Katz
of USA Weekend.. "Is anybody ever ready for it? You're thinking about
where they're going, what they're getting into. What's it really all about?
It's about dough; it's about money. That's ugly."
Johnny also likes
to sing praises of the French. "I love America -- I love going back,
seeing my family and friends, but it's wonderful to get back to France
and be living in a tiny village with nothing around. There is still the
possibility to live a simple life. You can go to the market, walk about,
buy fruits and vegetables -- the things they did 100 and 200 years ago."
Johnny's house in Saint
Aygulf, and with Vanessa, Lily Rose Melody and Jack
A product of the
rural Florida and Kentucky who spent many years clubbing with Winona Ryder
and Kate Moss in Hollywood, Johnny never really felt at home until he
moved to France. He rejects the view that there has been a surge of anti-Americanism
there because of opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and believes the
French have behaved in a dignified manner while some Americans have resorted
to "schoolyard tactics" by renaming French fries "freedom
"That was so
revealing, that grown men sat around and came up with that idea,"
he says of the freedom fries initiative. "It was tragic and embarrassing.
At the same time, I was happy it was exposed, and people knew that a bunch
of congressmen -- big people, the upper-drawer people -- made that decision."
Thanks to some very
heroic "little people"--the local Saint Aygulf firefighters--
Johnny and Vanessa's villa narrowly escaped becoming a smoldering heap
of French-fried ash like so much of the rest of the area.
Var firefighters battle
the flames of the Riviera Terrorist-Arsonist of the Summer of 2003
to Page 7
by Dr. Susan Block
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