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Famed Madam Arrested For Reviving Posh Call-Girl Network

March 19, 1992 GMT

PARIS (AP) _ Madame Claude, who ran France’s most exclusive call girl network during the 1960s and ’70s, was jailed Wednesday for allegedly returning to the business that made her famous, officials said.

Fernande Grudet - known throughout France by her professional name, Madame Claude - was charged with living off prostitutes’ earnings, judicial sources said. She was imprisoned to await trial.

Authorities are incarcerating ″a legend and not a person,″ her lawyer, Francis Szpiner, said.

″Her reputation is bigger than the charges against her,″ he said.


The 69-year-old Madame Claude appeared before Examining Magistrate Chantal Perdrix, who charged her. It was not immediately clear what sentence she could face if convicted.

Madame Claude was arrested Monday after investigators turned up evidence that she had re-established a high-priced prostitute service involving at least 12 young women and catering to some of her former clients.

Prostitution is legal in France, but it is illegal for another person to make a living off a prostitute’s earnings.

Investigators said Madame Claude’s new operation functioned much like her previous one, which reportedly was patronized by heads of state, royalty and powerful industrialists. Clients paid $2,000 or more for the company of call girls who were recruited and groomed by Madame Claude.

She chose their wardrobes, supervised their hairdos and makeup, counseled them on good manners and even arranged plastic surgery.

In a book she published in 1986, Madame Claude wrote that good manners and elegance were more important to her customers than ability in bed.

″If I have to choose between a nymphomaniac and an intellectual, I’ll hire the intellectual,″ she wrote.

For many years, she had no trouble with French officials.

″The highest French authorities needed me,″ she told The Associated Press in 1986. ″Most of my clients were foreign dignitaries whose embassies felt they were safer with one of my girls than out on their own.″

But tax authorities finally began chasing her, and she fled to the United States in 1977. Journalists traced her to Hollywood in 1981, the year that a film appeared in France called ″The Girls of Madame Claude.″

She returned to France in 1985, and spent four months in jail in 1986 for failure to pay $3 million in back taxes.

The product of an upper-middle class French family, Madame Claude received a strict convent education until age 18. She said the one great love of her life was her first lover, killed during World War II.