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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.

June 22, 2011|By Devorah Lauter, Los Angeles Times
  • John Galliano leaves a Paris court house.
John Galliano leaves a Paris court house. (Thibault Camus / Associated…)

Reporting from Paris —  

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.

Lauter is a special correspondent.

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