April 27, 2010
A friend from Tennessee told me I should interview Audrey Braun. I had never heard of her though her name sounded vaguely familiar. A week later her book, A SMALL FORTUNE, and a stack of European tabloids (L’Espresso, Bild, Paris Match, and the Daily Mirror) showed up in a box at my door. I perused the magazines and in issue after issue, some of them dating back to 1983, were snapshots and fleeting mentions of Audrey Braun. There was Audrey Braun at a disco with Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Audrey Braun on the arm of weathered French rocker Johnny Hallyday, and then another photo later of Audrey Braun canoodling with Johnny Hallyday’s son, David. There were shots of her topless on a yacht floating in the Mediterranean with Keith Richards, Patti Hansen, and what looks to be Albert II of Monaco turning his back to the camera (the article was about Richards, the photo only named him and Hansen). There was even an article that linked Audrey Braun to Milan Kundera around the time The Unbearable Lightness of Being was being made into a movie. Our mutual friend says she was up for a part in the film but Kundera, who allegedly had “business” dealings with her father, thought she was “too young, too blond, and far too temperamental.” Additionally, our mutual friend claims that Daniel Day-Lewis (who starred in the movie) was overheard saying he wouldn’t work with Braun because her feet were grotesquely small.
After reading the tabloids, I opened the book. And indeed, this woman who doesn’t appear to have ever had a career (other than being the charming daughter of wealthy and very secretive Americans) is quite a talented writer. A SMALL FORTUNE is a sexy, mysterious romp with literary overtones. Erica Jong meets Harlan Coben on a sticky summer night.
I immediately sent Audrey Braun an email requesting that we do an interview over the phone. She sent me her number, but it turns out she rarely answers her phone. When I finally did get through to her (her almost-babyish voice reminds me of Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks), she said, “Can’t talk now, I’m in Target buying No. 7 Breast Cream.” And then she hung up. Seriously. The last person who hung up on me was Rita Gore in ninth grade who believed a false rumor that I had made out with her boyfriend, Denny Garcia, behind the dunes at Devereaux beach. I sent Audrey Braun an email with a single word: Target? She wrote back, “It’s the only place that carries No. 7. Breast cream. Buy some. Every woman should use it.” After dozens more attempts to get Audrey Braun on the phone, I gave up and sent her an email with 19 questions about her book, her life, her slightly famous parents, and her romances. Most of the questions came back blank, with no response (she refused to discuss any of the celebrities noted above). Next to the question of how old she was, Audrey Braun wrote, “N.A.” Not applicable?
I feel I should disclose that after my one sentence conversation with Audrey Braun I went to Target and bought some No. 7 Breast Cream. I’m now walking around with silky, creamy Audrey Braun breasts. Unfortunately, I still can’t figure out how to live the Audrey Braun life.
SIX (out of 19) QUESTIONS FOR AUDREY BRAUN
Q. Your first novel, A SMALL FORTUNE, is scintillating, thrilling, and full of intrigue. Oh, it’s sexy, too! Everything I’ve read about your life is equally thrilling. Is it true that your next book will be a memoir?
A. Have you read David Shield’s new book Reality Hunger? Don’t ask me to explain it. When I try I go mute. My head fills with rusty cogs when it comes to understanding the bigger question of “what is the REAL truth” and “how accurate is memory REALLY?” Then there’s emotional truth, which is just a smart lie that gets to the bigger truth inside ourselves. Right? I think that’s right. But to answer your question, some people think THIS book is a memoir. Ever since I read Reality Hunger I’m no longer comfortable questioning someone else’s reality. Does that answer your question?
Q. Someone I know who was at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference with you told me that for years you were the mistress of a married European royal. I tried to check this out with someone else who knows you and he claimed you were a mistress to a royal but not a European royal. Can you clarify this? Are you still involved with him?
A. Wait. Still involved with whom? The ‘someone else’ who claims to know me? Ha! Not after this I won’t be. You know, Jessica, it’s hard to talk about the Royal Days. I don’t blame you for asking. I just can’t go there without the powers that be going off like a Russian firing squad. However, I will say this: Borders move. One day you’re part of Europe sipping an espresso in the sun, the next day you’re living in the Eastern bloc, drinking water from a rubber hose.
Q. An article in the Daily Mirror claims you didn’t find out that your father was in the CIA until after his death. How did this affect the way you viewed your childhood, the years in European boarding schools, etc.?
A. All men are enigmas. The minute you think you’ve got one figured out is right about the time you need to turn around and open up your math book and start studying the facts (a little something I picked up during my Lichtenstein school days). That about sums it up. Pardon the pun. Sorry. I can’t really discuss my father. Talk about a Russian firing squad! No. I’m kidding. Don’t print that. You’re deleting this, right?
Q. Okay, more rumors (there are so many of them!): Is it true that your grandmother was a Ziegfeld girl and your mother was a Rockette?
A. Wow. You’ve really done your homework. Let’s dance. David Bowie wrote that. Put on your red shoes and dance with me. Who do you think he was talking about? Mmm hmn. Yes.
Q. Let’s not ignore your fabulous book! Where did you find these characters? Is Celia based on someone you know?
A. Funny how things come full circle. She knows who she is and if at any time she wants to come forward and talk about her story, not to mention “Benicio’s”story it’s fine with me. I wish her well, I really do, and I don’t say this out of any kind of jealousy or grudge or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I just wish she’d stop forwarding all those youtube videos. How many times does someone need to see a cat flush a toilet? I don’t care if it’s a Persian one either.
Q. Anything you want to clear up about your international reputation—are you as uninhibited (I read about the naked fountain swimming in Cannes) as people say?
A. Two things: I have beautiful breasts.