Gainsbourg impersonator jailed for knifing rival

Gainsbourg impersonator jailed for knifing rival
Johnny Hallyday (L), Serge Gainsbourg (R). French music icons whose impersonators' bizarre feud turned bloody. Photo: Georges Biard/Claude Truong-Ngoc
A court in north-eastern France on Tuesday sentenced to jail an impersonator to French music icon Serge Gainsbourg for stabbing a rival tribute act for French rock star Johnny Hallyday, amid a bizarre feud between the pair.

Denis Colnot, 48, was sentenced to two years in prison by a court in the Vosges region on Tuesday, for stabbing Michel Pacchiana, 52, in the town of Epinal, in July 2011.

Colnot, a Serge Gainsbourg impersonator, had for years been embroiled in a bitter feud with Pacchiana, who made a living being a tribute act of French rock star Johnny Hallyday, over lookalike contests and competition for appearances at local bars and parties.

The rivalry turned violent on July 23rd 2011, however, after an argument between the two outside Colnot’s house.

Pacchiana was said to have disdainfully tossed pocket change at Colnot, and called him “a social misfit”.

In response, Colnot retrieved a knife from his house and stabbed Pacchiana in the throat, just missing his carotid artery.


The Gainsbourg-obsessed culprit, described by his own lawyer Gérard Weltzer as “emotionally fragile”, had told the court: “I acknowledge that I stabbed him, but I didn’t intend to kill him,” according to BFMTV.

Colnot had faced a potential 30-year sentence, if the court found that his attack on Pacchiana was premeditated, and amounted to attempted murder.

Instead, he could be freed within a month, having already served the majority of the sentence whilst in custody awaiting the trial.

Weltzer had previously argued that his client had simply “blown a fuse” after years of abuse from Pacchiana, against whom he filed a harassment complaint in the days leading up to the stabbing.

For his part, Pacchiana attributed the attack by his rival, whom he called “a cabbage-head” in court, to professional and personal jealousy.

“I had won the last two competitions that we took part in, and he was livid,” he told local daily Vosges Matin in 2012.

“When I sing as Johnny, I become a total animal on stage. Whereas Denis Colnot stays completely motionless when he impersonates Serge Gainsbourg,” he added.

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