Oh, but zis is impossible. Zis is not a TV studieau, zis is Ormond's, a central London night cloob. The pair are inaudible above the rising hubbub of arriving media tarts, here to kneel at the altar of a new series and the new book, The Weird Guide to Europe. "Once more for luck," says the presenter, unconvincingly, "really go for that `Eurotrash'." The two are looking distinctly bored. Peroxide skinhead Jean-Paul is sporting a camouflage creation, seemingly sown from old combat jackets, zipped up to the neck to protect him from the cold, and opening out into a sort of sealed skirt below the hips. Antoine is playing it smart casual: dark jacket and shirt, no tie. The man from Channel 4 press, who is organising the launch party, is looking flustered. "Who are all these people?" he mutters as more and more photographers and clubbers pile in. There are some who have clearly been invited, if not paid, to attend - the two large transvestites in red sequin dresses, for example; Joan Collins's daughter, Tara; the Jesus lookalike wearing a leather donkey jacket - others, like the small middle-aged man in the trilby who suddenly takes a polaroid snap of De Caunes and asks him to sign it, have obviously winged it.
It's that kind of programme, Eurotrash. It doesn't have a cult following, rather it embraces different cults under a pseudo-federalist umbrella. They're all here tonight. The closet De Caunes fanciers, the languid gay Gaultier groupies, the Europhiles and Europhobes, the sad perves. According to the producer, the book is "a phallic monument to everything Eurotrash stands for" - which is, primarily, the phallus. Apart from a graphic rehash of reports on, say, the sadomasochistic restaurant in Sweden and the French holiday camp where they make porn movies, the only relief from bizarre sexual practices is its author, and series creator, Peter Stuart's ongoing concern with `poop' - poop art, and the show's ubiquitous cardboard giraffe mascots, Pe-Pe and Po-Po. "It's a way to have nudity and fun without buying a porn mag," he smirks, before adding "anyone who is titillated by it is in deep trouble."
a, c'est Eurotrash: having it both ways. Frenchmen who put on froggy accents, reportage which breaks down English taboos by laughing at "deviancy" abroad, two professional men who play at children in their spare time. It's Anglo-regression therapy masquerading as Euro-voyeurism. It regularly attracts two million viewers and the new series promises to do the same: Michael Winner reviewing a drag queen restaurant, an interview with the French author of `A Brief History of Buttocks' and a peek at the Brussels Women and Underpants Museum. Stuart believes that it is the double-act of two old friends which really pulls the punters. "It's the sadomasochistic relationship that does it, I think. There's a bit of sexual flirtation and yet there's not. Antoine is more of the deviant one - Jean-Paul is the innocent, the masochist. He has a sort of angelic purity about him - just look at him."
I look over to where Gaultier is busy signing autographs. He is drawing a large, hairy phallus in the front of Joan Collins's daughter's book. "I am ze priest of bad taste," he titters, defending the programme that has made him a household name here. "It's truly responsible, we don't say `don't wear condoms', like the Pope does - that is criminal," and to ram the point home, he offers round a selection of rubbers.
"The liggers are eating all the food," someone wails. "Never mind, never mind," hisses the press officer, "let them. They're all arriving now - Julian Clary has just walked in." The house beat gets louder, the lights dim, the press pack disperses. De Caunes, who hasn't been in London for two years, or a club for five, briefly loiters, then vanishes. Gaultier, who is alleged to have wished he was born English, is in his element. His muscular entourage descend to the dance floor and the fashion designer stands for a moment at the entrance, silhouetted against spectral rays of light. Is he going to dance? "Oh, but yes," he scoffs, "I 'ave pree- pared a ballet, Swan Lake. Yes, hmmm." He throws his eyes heavenwards and trips off to meet his, how you say, leetle English friends.
`The Weird Guide to Europe' (Boxtree) £10.99. The fourth series of `Eurotrash' begins Fri 12 May, 11.05pm C4