On March 8, 2014, I visited Welfare in order to pay my electric bill. I filed an application because I qualified for poverty level assistance. While I was teaching at CTAS, I made some three hundred a semester and had a pension from SS and SAG, but could not pay my bills.
John Loring, formerly the CEO of Tiffany’s who discovered the talents of Paloma Picasso, knew I had Picasso jewels given to me by Francoise Gilot, Claude Picasso’s mother.
Francoise had given me this jewelry to thank me for supporting her son, Claude Picasso, who had been living with me and for becoming his fiancée. I was a successful model and fondly referred to Claude as my househusband. When Picasso died in April, 1973, Claude and I flew to Marseilles then drove with Paloma, and Maya to the mideaval Chateau des Vauvenargues to say goodbye to Pablo Picasso. Well, his body. This journey made no sense as Picasso’s wife, Jacqueline Rocque, would not allow the Gilot clan near Picasso. Picasso lived in exile in order to create. Francoise Gilot did not want to accompany us as she knew it was futile. After we said the Lord’s Prayer under the moonlight in front of an open grave, Claude asked, “Will you be my wife?”
“Of course,” I would be proud to be the next Mme. Picasso,” I said. Then Claude and I kissed.
Because Picasso would not leave a will as he felt it would bring on his death, his Estate went to the French government. In 1974, Francoise Gilot sued and Claude became the head of the Picasso Estate and a billionaire. Then he jilted me. In the late seventies Claude flew to my home in Hollywood to dispose of a New York apartment we shared. We made love as though we just had met.
“I’ve met someone in Paris who reminds me of you,” he said, then added, “Maybe I’ll call you and we’ll get married from Vegas, Bebe.” Several months later he married that woman. He jilted me again.
I tried to find a lawyer to sue him. Futile. Then went on with my life.
All along I had the Picasso jewels which I wanted to sell. While I had written a memoir about my time with Norman Mailer, and a novel, I could not make a living from my writing. Alas I was forced to self-publish Picasso’s Ghost which told my story about my relationship with Claude and the family. I sent this to my friend, John Loring. He suggested buyers for my jewels. “Try Gloria Lieberman,” he emailed. “She is at Skinner Auction House .” I sent Gloria Picasso’s Ghost in which I had inserted thirty photos and in one I was wearing “the sun” one of my Picasso jewels.
“I loved your book,” Gloria said. “Would you like to offer your Picasso jewelry to Skinner and we would fly you to Boston to have you lecture the night before the auction?”
On March 19, I spoke at Skinner. Gloria looked like she stepped off the cover of Town and Country while I looked like I had stepped out of the local gym. No longer caring about appearances, I thought of myself as a later-day-communist. I had let my weight go and my clothing and viewed others who valued material possessions as shallow. Here I was at an auction house that auctioned diamonds, and precious stones while Gloria drove an Audi and had an art collection of note. I felt like a communist in a china shop. Something was wrong with this picture.
I packed rapidly as I did not have a mirror to try on outfits and really no longer cared what I looked like. Superficial. My trip to Boston was about overcoming poverty. Not to model like what I had done when on the cover of Cosmo. Gloria’s apartment was glorious, filled with cherished art and possessions.
“What are you wearing to speak in?” Gloria asked at her dinner the night before my lecture. “Oh, a black suit,” I said referring to the outfit I had had for fourteen years and had worn to every speaking engagement I had. With a gold Mary Mc Fadden blouse the look was foolproof. The following night as I dressed, I realized my gold blouse had spots on it and I could no longer fit into my jacket. Awh God!
“What do you have in that suitcase,” Gloria had asked when she saw me schlepping a giant suitcase for a three day stay. Well, I had prepared for this disaster by having an array of outfits given to me by a dead friend. I grabbed a black velveteen jogging outfit with a hoodie on the back and zipper up front. It would disguise my weight gain. I zipped the jacket up over the spots.
To assuage my bad feelings, I called my therapist, “Have the concierge go out and get you an outfit,” she said.
“There isn’t time,” I said.
When I arrived at Skinner, Gloria said, “We’ll have to lose the hood. We can’t have you speaking in a hoodie.” And like a perfect stylist the VP of Skinner brought out diamond earrings, a broach and made me presentable for a TV camera and for an audience of one hundred. While being filmed, I sometimes forgot where I was.
“Where was I?” I asked Gloria seated by me on the podium and she would answer as did some of the guests. They were listening and I was flattered.
The next day I sat next to Gloria’s husband, Larry, and held his hand. Gloria was the auctioneer extraordinaire who held up the auction when a foreign phone line was lost and who increased the bids once the first piece of jewelry, The Satyr, hit fifty thousand. “I need a bid of five thousand, “she said with confidence and come they did from Europe, Asia and North America. Ten phone lines kept ringing and my Picasso jewels–the sun, the satyr and Claude’s portrait--sold for record prices. In the tomb like auction room there was applause as I sobbed.
When I returned to Norristown, Pa., I began looking at Audis and realized a material life has its advantages and sent the beloved John Loring two dozen red roses. My neo communist stance is being re-examined.
What’s left to auction? My Karl Lagerfeld wedding dress bought by Francoise Gilot for my wedding to her son, Claude, which, of course, never happened. And then there’s that bracelet Dodi Fayed gave me. Now that’s a story!