Culture Magazine

Brigitte Bardot: Still Making Waves at 80

By Colin Randall @salutsunderland

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Whether it's supporting dodgy right-wing politics, firing off letters to the mayor of Saint-Tropez about the "celebrity villa cruises" that invade her privacy or engaging in her fierce war against animal cruelty, Brigitte Bardot retains the capacity to rise above the parapet and make sure she's heard. On Sunday, she will be 80. Tonight, she gives a rare interview, to every other Frenchwoman's favorite newscaster, Laurent Delahousse, on France 2. Salut! wishes BB bon anniversaire pour dimanche - even though the late update is I have now seen the interview and nearly choked on my coffee as she heaped fulsome praise on Marine Le Pen - and reproduces this item from four years ago ....


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No, said the Dutchman preparing to auction off his 8,500 items of Brigitte Bardot memorabilia, I was not in love - or, by implication, lust - with her. "I was interested in her image," Cees Storm explained as we spoke in the Druout saleroom in Paris. "I thought she had wonderful . ... "

The pause was long enough for Mrs Cees Storm to offer to complete the sentence: "... breasts?"

"No," Mr Storm insisted, "it was her charisma."

Be that as it may me. I did not come across Cees Storm's name among the credits as I wandered around the Exposition Brigitte Bardot at the Espace Rendezvous in a corner of the Places des Lices in her celebrated stamping ground of Saint Tropez.

He may have donated some material to Bardot's animal welfare foundation but I could find none of it among the photographs, posters, film, newspaper and magazine cuttings and assorted objects on display.

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Now pushing 76 (NB: this was 2010), Bardot has, of course, led an extraordinary life and the exhibition has the rich flavor of some of its highlights.

There is ample evidence of how modest her acting and vocal talents were, but that was never the point with BB. She was simply one of the greatest beauties of her age.

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Among a blown-up selection of quotes displayed outside was Jane Birkin's comment that she had studied the young Bardot's body from head to toe in search of some fault, only to find none. The circumstances of Birkin's inspection were not explained but you knew what she meant.

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If you are planning to be anywhere near St Tropez between now and Oct 31 (2010), there are worse ways of spending 11 euros a head. There is a relaxed feel to the exhibition, arranged in spacious, easy-to-view aisles and alcoves with no fussy staff stopping people taking photographs.

Bardot has given her blessing to the event, making available numerous items from her private collection. Some of the proceeds will go to the animal foundation, which has a room of exhibits to itself complete with a warning that children may find the images upsetting.

Bardot's home, La Madrague, is not far away and it is from there that she famously engages in verbal warfare against those who vex her.

One series of exhibits has the accompanying note that she has always maintained the stormiest of relationships with successive mayors of the resort. I recall her complaint last year that she was fed up with hearing her life story bawled out in a succession of foreign languages as boats, vehicles and guided walks brought tourists in their thousands practically to her doorstep.


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There was a more recent outburst when she accused Carla Bruni-Sarkozy of being "as beautiful as she is badly brought-up" for failing to thank her for a gift of a designer handbag, from the Bardot range, or persuade her husband to ban bullfighting in the south of France.


At about the same time that I wrote about Mr Storm and his youthful obsession fascination with Brigitte Bardot, five or six years ago, I spotted her boarding my Paris Orly-Toulon flight. Despite all the unkind references that have been made to the way she has aged, I thought she looked in fairly normal shape for a woman of 70.

But I have heard that when a Bardot exhibition was staged in Paris, she decided not to attend, saying: "I want people to remember me as I was, not as I am now." I have not been able to locate the quote; if she did say it, or words to that effect, would I be alone in finding it just a little sad?


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