• France's news in English

France's most famous brothel 'Madame' dies

The Local · 22 Dec 2015, 10:36

Published: 22 Dec 2015 10:36 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Dec 2015 10:36 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

By the end she lived as a recluse on the French Riviera, where she rented a small apartment and survived on a modest pension.

But in another life, Madame Claude, whose real name was Fernande Grudet, was anything but reclusive.

She became known as the most famous French procurer and at the peak of her powers in the 1960s she was the head of a exclusive French network of call girls who worked for dignitaries and civil servants.

Madame Claude had acted as an agent for the French Resistance during World War Two, but moved into high-end prostitution years after the war.

She set up her brothel at 32 rue de Boulainvilliers in the chic 16th arrondissement of Paris.

Among the clients of her call girls were politicians, police chiefs and gangsters.

(Fernande Grudet, seen in the company of her lawyer at a court in Paris in 1986. Photo: AFP)

In August last year acclaimed celebrity biographer William Stadiem finally revealed some of Madame Claude’s top secrets including names of several of her most illustrious or notorious clients including John F Kennedy, deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Oscar winning actor Marlon Brando.

Stadiem had interviewed Madame Claude in the 1980s but his planned book remained unpublished.

After talking to her former clients and staff Stadiem made his findings public in the article with the subheading “Behind Claude’s Doors” in Vanity Fair magazine.

According to Claude, murdered US president JFK was a regular client and once asked for a prostitute who looked like his wife Jackie “but hot”.

JFK was the not the only famous client to have frequented the brothel, Stadiem revealed that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Oscar winning actor Marlon Brando were also regular visitors during the 1960s and 1970s.

JFK, Gaddafi and Brando 'all visited Paris brothel'

“There are two things that people will always pay for, food and sex. I wasn't any good at cooking,” Claude is quoted as saying.

Stadiem also claimed that the CIA once hired Claude’s “swans” as she referred to her call girls, to keep up morale during the Paris peace accords of 1973, which brought to an end US military involvement in Vietnam.

The madam also claimed famous painter Marc Chagall would regularly show up to paint nude portraits of the woman. 

But it wasn’t all glamorous for the brothel owner.

Story continues below…

In 1976 French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière took on her network of call girls and began dismantling it.

That move prompted her to flee to the US to escape the French tax man.

Convinced she was safe from prosecution she returned to France in the 1980s but was sentenced to four months in prison.

When she left prison she was intent on setting up a new prostitution organization but found herself hauled before the court again in 1992 and was once again handed a jail sentence for procuring.

The history of Madame Claude has inspired many writers. Her life was the basis of the 1977 feature film, "Madame Claude", directed by Just Jaeckin, and starring Françoise Fabian. She died in Nice on December 21st.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
What's on in France: Top things to do in November
Don't miss the chocolate fashion show in Lyon. Photo: Salon du chocolat

The autumn is in full swing in France, and there's plenty to do.

What Paris 'squalor pit' Gare du Nord will look like in future
All photos: Wilmotte et Assoicés

IN PICTURES: The universally accepted 'squalor pit of Europe' is finally getting a facelift.

Halloween: The ten spookiest spots in Paris
Is there really a ghost on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower? Photo: AFP

Read at your own peril.

Halloween holiday in France: Traffic nightmares and sun!
Photo: AFP

But it's great news for the country's beleaguered tourism industry.

French MPs vote to make Airbnb 'professionals' pay tax
Photo: AFP

Do you make a lot of money through Airbnb in France? You'll have to pay a share to the taxman in future.

France and Britain accused of abandoning Calais minors
Photo: AFP

Scores of young migrants are forced to sleep rough for a second night.

France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business
The business district 'La Defense' in Paris. Photo: AFP

France clearly has some work to do if it really wants to pinch business from the UK post-Brexit.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Do you know the French word for throat-support? Photo: AFP

Word of warning: Don't translate French literally.

How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Yellow smoke rises around French police officers in Paris holding a banner reading "Solidarity with our colleagues, police angry". All photos: AFP

Could these measures stop the cops from protesting?

'3,000 migrants dispersed' after 'Jungle' clearance
Photo: AFP

While thousands of migrants have been bussed out around France, new ones are arriving all the time and thousands of others have simply been dispersed aid agencies say.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
How speaking French can really mess up your English
The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
jobs available