WAITING FOR BARDOT. A romance
Published by Faber and Faber, 1996
I just read the script – it’s brilliant! It improves on reality, despite changing my name to ‘Phil’. And it’s probably funnier.
On reflection, Brigitte Bardot is probably the main reason I studied French quite so seriously. I thought it would come in handy when we went on a date. This book was also known, for some time, by the title, ‘BB and Me’. I think the turning-point in our relationship came when I read an article about her by Simone de Beauvoir, the philosopher. It was in an ageing copy of Esquire sitting around a barber shop in Romford, Essex. I was with my best friend Griffo (Steve Griffin) at the time. It was inevitable that we would ultimately make the journey to Saint-Tropez in search of ecstasy. This book is the account of that pilgrimage and the myth that we fell for. In a now slightly detached way, I think of this book as a study of an icon, an essay or meditation on stardom and a couple of star-gazers. In a sense it is the analysis of a mistake. But it didn’t seem like that when I was living through it. It seemed like a really good idea at the time. Jean Baudrillard, the sociologist, called this era ‘the Orgy’. I hadn’t read Baudrillard in 1968 but Griffo and I had a similar idea.
What it says on the flap: ‘A chance encounter at a sea-front amusement arcade. An unrequited love. A funeral. All the elements of an obsessive passion, but distorted to the point of delirium through pin-ups, movies and gossip columns. Waiting for Bardot is not a biography of Brigitte Bardot but a mythography, an elegy for an icon. Sexual messiah and existential heroine, feminist and fantasy, the archetypal woman who gave up men for beasts: BB has been the mirror of our desires and anxieties.
Waiting for Bardot is, above all, a true romance, the record of a lopsided love-affair, framed by celluloid. In the utopian summer of 1968 the author and his best friend and arch-rival, Griffo, set out for St Tropez to consummate their teenage lust. A quarter of a century later they end up on an empty beach of black sand in Ireland – still waiting for Bardot. But out of the ashes of experience the dream is born again.’
There is another note on the cover about me. ‘Andy Martin first fell under the spell of Brigitte Bardot at the age of 8 and a half.’ Which explains why there is the photo of me on the back looking very wide-eyed with freckles on my nose (except that most of my face is covered up by the black band that Faber decided to wrap around the book).
I am not at liberty to divulge the full facts concerning BB and me, but I can reveal that I went to Paris for the publication of her memoirs, Initiales BB. The publishers were nice enough to ask me if I could be interested in translating the book into English. So I read it rather carefully. And I was amazed not to find the name of Mike Sarne in there. I checked the relevant period twice to be sure – and not a mention. Yet Mike Sarne was a crucial part of the story, to my way of thinking. He was the drop-out university student who had taken up acting and had a fling with Bardot some 10 days (if that) after her marriage to German playboy Gunther Sachs. Or at least so Griffo and I firmly believed. It was a classic sixties statement and now it looked as if Bardot (in the late nineties) was retracting it. I even had to phone up Mike Sarne himself (I tracked down his number somehow) and confirm that it had all really happened and that it hadn’t been a mere PR exercise, another urban myth. What convinced me about him was that he didn’t want to boast about his conquest in the slightest, and was very forgiving towards Brigitte and her desire to be discreet about her past. One thing that shocked me in Bardot’s memoirs. Turned out that her ideal man was in fact General de Gaulle, then President of France. But I still have a lot of time for BB, even if she did end up marrying a fascist, on account of her passionate defence of animal rights in France and beyond.