Revelation that celebrated actor was late rocker’s ‘Lady L’ takes France by surprise
Kim Willsher – The Guardian
Catherine Deneuve and Johnny Hallyday at a gala fundraiser in 2001. A new book claims Deneuve became the love of his life after they met in 1961 while filming Les Parisiennes. Photograph: Sebastien Dufour/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
More than two years after his death, the French rocker Johnny Hallyday is still causing sparks between the women in his life.
The late star, a notorious womaniser, is at the centre of a love-triangle spat over claims the actor Catherine Deneuve was his lifelong soulmate and a factor in his split with his first wife, the singer Sylvie Vartan.
The revelation came as news to the French public, most of whom were unaware of a relationship between the two celebrities – and also, it appears, to Vartan, 75, who described the story as “crazy”.
In his new book Lady Lucille, the author Gilles Lhote claims Deneuve became the love of Hallyday’s life after they met in 1961 while filming Les Parisiennes. Deneuve, he wrote, is the mysterious Lady Lucille to whom Hallyday dedicated a song and it was she who left an anonymous wreath on his grave signed simply “Lady L”.
“Catherine was the secret red line of his love life. She was always there when he was heartbroken and that happened many times. In their joint solitude, they came together a lot and were always there for each other,” Lhote wrote.
The writer claimed Hallyday’s relationship with Deneuve caused tensions with Vartan, the first of Hallyday’s four wives, whom he married in 1965 and divorced in 1980. These came to a head during the singer’s 35th birthday celebrations in Japan in 1978, where he and Deneuve were on the jury for the Tokyo Music festival and Vartan was filming.
“It’s always surprising to learn things about my own life that are laughable, but not necessarily exact. For example, according to recent zany tales worthy of an embroidery or science fiction contest, it seems that when these photos were taken in Japan in 1978, I was in a state of ‘disarray’ and separated from Johnny to boot,” she wrote.
“It’s funny, I don’t look at that period in the same way at all, and with good reason: taking advantage of a break during a tour I was doing in that country, I celebrated Johnny’s 35th birthday on June 15th in the company of Catherine Deneuve (both members of the Tokyo Music Festival as well as Michel Legrand, Diana Ross and others). I was neither in ‘disarray’ nor separated, then, but enjoying the pleasure and joy of sharing a happy moment with people who were dear to me.”
Lhote claimed Hallyday’s fourth wife, Laeticia, who was 21 when she married the 52-year-old singer in 1996, had learned of his relationship with Deneuve after finding messages from the actor he had hidden in a book.
“It was a bit complicated at the beginning, then she adapted and understood the relationship. I think Laeticia asked Johnny to choose between Catherine and her. It was a tense moment, very rock’n’roll,” Lhote wrote.
As the row hit the French celebrity magazines, Lhote took Vartan’s criticism in his stride. “A look or a picture is worth a thousand words,” he wrote on Instagram.
Deneuve has not commented.