Letter by P. Schaeffer, director of the French Broadcasting Corporation’s Research Division :
I read Les Filles de Madame Claude, sunlit lunch, quickly swallowed . I want to tell you how much I have appreciated it. Well, to tell the truth, I was a little worried to see you interested in such a strange subject.
Not that it would be a tricky or even inappropriate one. But, it’s equivocal, midway between report and psycho-sociology. And that’s precisely what makes it a success : light enough to stay on the surface, with, from time to time, a glimpse of tragedy, and above all, the innocent festoons of our two (very slightly) perverse sweetie-pies, having crossed dark thickets without even a scratch. […] In my Research Division, wasn’t I myself, the cunning instigator ? A big kiss, Elizabeth, and my hearty congratulations. Pierre Schaeffer
One of my very dear friends, a dropout from Parisian life, brilliant but a bit lazy, used to talk all the time about the harem of Madame Claude’s call-girls- so often that it spurred in me something like envy, or, at least, the early stages of a comparative curiosity. These young ladies had, it seemed (to me), all the perfections beauty, of course, but also a worldliness (not being blueblood) youth … a true Spanish college of ladies of “little virtue”, as we say in French (where we use a lot of quite tender expressions like “cocottes”, “dames de petite vertu”, “hétaïres”, that don’t seem to exist in English, do they ?).
At the time that I decided to get to the heart of the matter, I met Anne de Boismilon, teacher of History and Geography at the (religious) school Sainte-Croix de Neuilly. We decided to write the book together she took a pen name but … her photo appeared on the dustjacket !
To make contact with Madame Claude, I asked the wonderful German actor Curd Jurgens, whom I had met on a plane to Berlin; he asked around, and we were sent to a suburb of Paris, to a café called « The Pig of Saint-Anthony » (who would think of such a name?). The maître d’hôtel and the waiters looked us over carefully and the result must have been good because, five minutes later, we were called by Claude’s assistant, Catherine (called « Virginie » in the book) : she gave us a rendez-vous. And to know what happened then, one has to read the book …
Months of investigation, a pinch of erotism, a cocktail of seriousness and charm: Elizabeth Antébi and Anne Florentin trace with humour the portrait of a certain society, of demimondaines - women of the night - who act as the perfect copy of “mondaines” (socialites), imitating respectability.
Sidonie Don Juanlike, Lia the Caressing Woman, Yoshiro theLady of War and Samantha the Bourgeoise parade in this gilded kaleidoscope, but beneath the glitter, the ladies/women are naked. Madame Claude’s customers are … emperors, kings, ministers, businessmen, the privileged few, having constructed around themselves screens of steel. Of steel or brass?
To keep up appearances, to live in a world where “you can do this, you cannot do that” that’s the moral framework of both the Call Girls and of the customers. And behind all that, you find Madame Claude, Madam of a New Society. A hundred million dollars per year. A childhood in a Visitandine Sisters convent. One living on the fringe of modern society. A caricature /one of the flambuoyant personalities of our time. In a world which is turning upside down, the blissful ignorance of the ostriches who, while burying their heads in the sand they reveal something more in their attempts to play a role and look their part.
The 8th of June 1975, Le Progrès de Lyon published an interview :
« Twenty-nine years old, Bachelor of both French Literature and the Classics, Bachelor in Art History and the History of Theatre, journalist and TV director, Elizabeth is working on two movies, one about Baader-Meinhof’s Band in Germany, the other on actor Marcel Maréchal and the history of the puppet Guignol. Her friend and partner, Anne Florentin, twenty years old, is also a journalist and historian. They are preparing a new book together on the politics of the Vatican. Back from Rome, they have stopped in Lyon, on the way to Paris. […]
Les Filles de Madame Claude is the result of a long and very serious investigation on one of the best-known networks of call-girls. The two young women explain why they have chosen such a subject :’Madame Claude seems to us very symbolic of a way of thinking specific to our time : cheating and manipulation, the reign of the false, the willingness to channel, to master, to merchandize the mystery (of life and love), parallel to the appearance on screens of pornographic movies and other x-rated material. Little by little, ‘the woman-as-an-object’ is creating the ‘man-as-a-synonym-for-money’.’ »
« Very appropriately, we have seen the publication this week of a probing investigation by Elizabeth Antébi and Anne Florentin on Les Filles de Madame Claude whom they have more delicately named “the little sisters of rich men”.[…] There, in this ghetto of illusions, we see something like a well organized kind of psycho-therapy.[…] What we can really conclude from the book, is that neither the endless talk about the social causes of the phenomenon, nor the claptrap of the sexologists can ever explain or decipher these strange “ideograms of love” that are shown here.[…] A capricious Marquise des Anges and a Florentine virgin have collaborated to produce an investigation where their irrepressible and, occasionally, ironic curiosity never descends into the vulgarity often peculiar to this literary genre. This is why, probably, this book seems so current and appropriate : we are led from the particular to the general, through a straight-forward description of facts followed by personal encounters with people.» Philippe de Saint-Robert, Le Quotidien de Paris
« Two young women, E. Antébi and Anne Florentin have decided to explore the real story of the « Harem of the New Society ».[…] If, during the period of the ancient cathouses (« Le Chabanais », « le Sphynx »), they were very popular with the members of the leftist Radical Party, we could easily say that Madame Claude’s was the brothel of the Vth French Republic. » André Halimi, Pariscope.
« A conclusion is offered in the book by Elizabeth Antébi and Anne Florentin, Les Filles de Madame Claude. These two respectable young ladies delved into the heart of the matter and asked not only the girls who lodged with the well-known Madam, but also the customers, and Madame Claude herself. Their conclusion is the following : ‘Customers are lying to themselves, girls are lying with everybody, Madame Claude never tells the truth.’ We are in the kingdom of sham, beloved of Tennessee Williams, and of imitation - the source of money in a consumer society. » Paul Morelle, Le Monde.
« The most astounding book in the field. » E. Schneider, La Suisse.
« In Les Filles de Madame Claude (« The Pink Brigade of Madame Claude”), two young women describe in detail, with ‘dexterity’, the very famous Harem where, for at least fifteen years, more than five hundred ‘young ladies” followed one another. And also self-preserving ‘club’ of scoundrels from the upper crust in high circles of power. » Bernard Thomas, Le Canard Enchaîné.
Articles Canard Enchaîné and Pariscope.
and also Minute, Gazette de Lausanne, Quotidien de Paris.
Madame Claude, is an Empire. From the borders of the Pacific Ocean to the Russian and Afghan frontiers. She has made, since the beginning of her career, around ten millions dollars. She has connections in America, in England, in Italy, in Belgium, and representatives in Germany and Sweden. A windfall for the Travel agencies, she buys around fifty plane tickets a month. She is supported by politicians and the police. With customers of prestige: princes and kings in the Middle-East, in Africa, Dignitaries from the Arab world, grand masters in the political and economic fields, but also in industry, real estate, publishing, journalism and the cinema. The first European harem in the age of petrodollars! […] Who is this character, with all her contradictions and paradoxes being bourgeoise but not respectable, tough but vulnerable, naive and perverse, hard business woman and who is able to fall madly in love ? After her trial, she ran a patisserie in Los Angeles, specializing in a pastry called “puits d’amour” (cream puff, but in French “a well of love”) Most of the formers call girls from her « pink squadron », became wives of very important people ministers, and so on and you could easily meet one of them, without knowing it, in the most fashionable “salons” of Paris, Rome, London, Berlin or New York : a French connection of love and power, raised up in the cocoon of Madame Claude, in Paris.