Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, like those late greats, Ava Gardner, Dorothy Dandridge, Hedy Lamarr, Anna Mae Wong, Elizabeth Taylor, Claudia Cardinale, and Gina Lollobrigida, has put the lie to the Cult of the Blonde.
I've been seeing her pictures in high fashion magazines for a decade and a half. She was cool and still is. But anyone with any knowledge or experience of the theatre must have been having a ball from the moment France's First Lady stepped off the plane dressed in Dior, whose women's wear designer is arguably the greatest couturier on the planet, John Galliano.
One of the reasons that Galliano is great is because he views fashion as theatre, as circus, as provocation. I can only imagine this British-born designer's glee at how he would create the mise-en-scène of "Carla in London as wife of the French President". A dash of Jackie Kennedy (not Jackie 0, which has got Nicolas in trouble in the first place); a tiny bit of Grace Kelly in her early "Serene Highness" phase, along with a splash of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's/Charade mode.
The fashion show demonstrated by one of the greatest supermodels of the Nineties was awesome. And the press bit. She was a great distraction, as far as the papers were concerned, from having to get to grips with the real issues at hand, some of them so toxic, that, as former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke has said, an era and its people will have to pass away before Britain can begin to deal with them. But a beautiful woman brings a smile to anyone's face, so I'm not complaining.
Well, I did, just for a minute, when I discovered that only a handful of women was invited to be present at the lunch and coffee to meet Sarkozy after the summit at Emirates Stadium. So, in the spirit of the coverage afforded Carla , here's what happened. The first person I met going in was a Very Prominent Broadcaster. He was beautifully dressed in a well-cut charcoal, light wool suit and beige tie. But it was his scent that was most striking. It was wonderful, strong, yet discreet.
Lunch was full of other Big Beasts, many household names, all impeccably attired in that City-meets-the-House look: blindingly white, crisp shirts, "my-wife/secretary bought this tie" tie, shiny shoes and very good haircuts. One of the Big Beasts complimented me on my Vivienne Westwood skirt.
No journalists were present. Conversation revolved around the EU, Nato, etc. No one mentioned Carla.
After lunch, we were led into another room for coffee. On the other side of the glass was the beautiful Field of the Cloth of Goal, I mean Arsenal's pitch. Some of the Big Beasts were overcome with emotion at being in such a privileged position.
In the light of that pitch, and in the vicinity of those beautiful trophies, no one mentioned Carla.
Then suddenly, the lift door opened and a tsunami poured into the room. This had happened to me only once. The first time it was Bill Clinton, a man who could make you feel as if you were the only person in the room while surrounded by a multitude. Nicolas Sarkozy can do the same thing.
The camera is a cruel machine. There are some people the camera does not love. In his soft blue suit, dark blue tie and beautifully crafted shoes, he was a walking energy field. A hundred per cent testosterone, the way that Russell Crowe is and Daniel Craig coming out of the water in those Speedos or Denzel Washington in Training Day. Gordon Brown, another guy to whom the camera is beastly, wore a light-coloured suit with the nonchalance of a man who uses a suit the way a priest uses his vestments for mass. It not only belonged to him, but was of him.
The President of the Republic walked straight up to me and introduced himself as he shook my hand. "I am Nicolas Sarkozy," he said with a big grin. I'll say and every woman in that room, from baroness to the ladies who served coffee, knew it.
Legend has it that Sarkozy was invited to a dinner party and was seated between his hostess and Carla. He said to his hostess: "Excuse me, madame, but I will have to turn my back on you." Then he devoted his entire conversation to Madame Bruni.
No wonder she married him.
Like his policies or not. Hate his Ray-Bans, his big nose, the bling, his penchant for holidaying on the yachts of tycoons, his big mouth, whatever. Sarkozy is hot. Carla's the one who's lucky.