At Paris dinner parties in the mid-Seventies a frisson would go round the table when the talk got around to Madame Claude. The name evoked private jets, high fashion, power, intrigue and elegant sex with beautiful young women. With her talent for self-promotion, Madame Claude, the purveyor of high-class call girls to the rich, royal and political was a byword for luxury naughtiness before Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the recently elected president, blew the whistle in 1976. Her thriving business lasted two decades, suiting everyone except, perhaps, the hundreds of women who passed through her hands.
More than four decades on, in the age of Me Too and Jeffrey Epstein, the legend looks pretty rum. Fernande Grudet, to use her real name, must inevitably be cast as a ruthless tyrant, a criminal and friend of corrupt politicians. She exploited young women and was enabled by cabinet ministers and police.