Designer Galliano goes on trial over anti-Semitic remarks

June 22, 2011

John Galliano leaves a Paris court house. (Thibault Camus / Associated Press / June 22, 2011)

Paris (CNN) — Flamboyant fashion designer John Galliano went on trial Wednesday, accused of making anti-Semitic comments against at least three people in a Paris cafe.

Galliano, who was fired by fashion giant Christian Dior in March after video surfaced showing him praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, testified Wednesday that drugs were to blame.

Judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud read out a list of the abuse Galliano is accused of hurling at Geraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgitti, including obscenities mixed with remarks about their ethnic backgrounds.

“He said ‘dirty whore’ at least a thousand times,” the judge said.

Galliano said on the witness stand that he had no memory of making the comments.

Asked to explain his “lack of memory,” he said: “I have an addiction. I am currently undergoing treatment.”

Galliano’s attorney said before the trial began the designer “was a sick person, who was suffering from addiction and this is something we are demonstrating through medical evidence, expert reports.”

“We must not judge a man who for 30 years has been dedicated to diversity, who has been a loving person for all races, cultures and religions … based on 40 minutes where he was sick through alcohol and medication,” Aurelien Hamelle said.

Galliano testified that he suffered from an increasing workload and no time to mourn after the 2007 death of his alter ego at Dior, designer Steven Robinson.

“With his death, I found I had no protection,” Galliano said.

His body became dependent on drugs, he said.

“I was taking sleeping pills during the day,” he testified. “I’ve only just discovered since rehab what a lethal mix I was taking.”

Bloch testified Wednesday that she encountered Galliano on a crowded cafe terrace, which led to an angry exchange.

“I don’t remember his exact wording; there were different phrases,” Bloch told the court. “It’s true that I was angry. I insulted him, too.”

Virgitti testified the confrontation, which he called “just an argument in a bar,” began when Galliano sat down next to his party at the cafe.

“He started speaking to us very quickly after arriving,” Virgitti said. “He told Geraldine to speak less as she was disturbing him. We didn’t know what to do. The situation got worse. He started touching her hair, saying she had no hair. I told him, ‘Don’t touch her.’ ”

He acknowledged during his testimony that while Galliano “said things he shouldn’t have,” the incident “has been so overly played out in the media.”

Galliano faces a six-month jail term and a fine of 22,500 euros ($32,410) if he is convicted, according to prosecutors.

A verdict in the case did not come Wednesday.

Galliano will be judged in one trial over two separate incidents, one in October and one in February.

After the second incident, Galliano was taken to a police station where a test revealed he had a high level of alcohol in his blood, authorities said at the time. He was later released.

The video is from yet another incident. He is not being tried for the incident because the couple involved chose not to press charges.

“I love Hitler,” Galliano said in a video obtained by Britain’s Sun newspaper. “Your mother, your forefathers would be f—ing gassed and f—ing dead.”

Christian Dior condemned his “deeply offensive statements and conduct.”

French law prohibits the incitement of racial discrimination, hatred or violence based on a person’s origin or their membership — or nonmembership — in an ethic, national, racial or religious group.

Galliano apologized after the video was released.

“I only have myself to blame and I know that I must face up to my own failures and that I must work hard to gain people’s understanding and compassion,” Galliano said in a statement. “Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society.”

Galliano has kept a low profile since his firing, but Vanessa Friedman, fashion editor of the Financial Times newspaper, said that given time, he could return to the industry.

His career is over in its present form, she said.

But he could return to Britain, where there is “residual love for him,” lay low and make a comeback in a few years, she said.

“People love a redemption story,” Friedman said.

John Galliano blames drugs, alcohol for anti-Semitic outbursts

The fashion designer testifies in court that his addiction left him unable to remember anything about his racist rants at a Paris bar.

Los Angeles Times       June 22, 2011
By Deborah Lauter

Fashion designer John Galliano testified in a Paris courtroom Wednesday that an addiction to pills and alcohol kept him from recalling any alleged use of anti-Semitic and racist slurs on two separate occasions at a Paris bar.

The outbursts cost Galliano his job at Dior, where he was one of the fashion industry’s brightest stars, and left him facing accusations that he used profanity and derogatory comments while violating French law prohibiting public insults based on race, religion or origins.

The trial Wednesday included an undated video of the 50-year-old Galliano that surfaced after a complaint was filed in February, in which the designer says, “I love Hitler,” and tells someone that “people like you would be dead.” Galliano testified he didn’t recognize the person he saw slurring on camera.

“I’m apologizing because that man you see up there is not John Galliano. I have no recollection of these events,” he said. “I read about them afterwards.”

Geraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgitti filed a complaint against Galliano after a Feb. 24 encounter at the trendy Parisian bar La Perle. Other plaintiffs include five different French antiracism organizations, and another woman who claims Galliano insulted her with anti-Semitic slurs at the same bar in October 2010. She was not in court Wednesday.

Bloch and Virgitti testified that Galliano peppered them with profanities and derogatory comments.

“It was a litany of insults of all kinds,” Bloch said.

Galliano testified that his addiction began around 2007 as the pressure to lead Dior mounted.

“After every creative high, I would crash, and the drinking would help to escape,” he said. “My body was becoming used to the pills so my intake increased to an amount where I actually can’t remember how many I was taking. I had to sleep, so I would take sleeping pills to sleep, and sometimes I took sleeping pills in the day.”

The loss of his partner and father were also reasons for stress, he said. When his partner died in 2007, he lost his “protection” from the industry’s pressures, and “didn’t take the time to mourn,” rushing back to work after both funerals.

Galliano maintained that no racist or anti-Semitic thought has ever crossed his right mind, and said that he himself was a victim of prejudice for being gay.

“I was a student in a classic, typical English school,” he said, while explaining his experience with discrimination. “And you can imagine that children can be very cruel.”

Prosecutor Anne de Fontette asked that Galliano be fined about $14,400 for what she called, everyday “countertop” anti-Semitism. A verdict is expected Sept. 8.

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