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PARIS — John Galliano on Wednesday blamed work-related stress and multiple addictions for a series of public outbursts during which he is charged with uttering racist and anti-Semitic insults at a Paris cafe, but told a French court that he remembered nothing about the incidents.
Summing up evidence from police depositions at the disgraced designer’s trial on charges of public insult, presiding judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud read out the alleged slurs in heavily accented English. They included “dirty Jewish face,” “f---ing Asian bastard” and “f---ing ugly Jewish b---ch,” among others.
Galliano, 50, said he was taking a “lethal” mix of alcohol and prescription drugs at the time of the events, which prompted his dismissal from Dior in March after 15 years as creative director and also caused him to lose control of his signature fashion house.
“After every creative high, I would crash and the drink would help me to escape,” he told a packed courtroom during the seven-hour hearing.
“I started to have panic attacks and anxiety attacks, and I couldn’t go to work without taking Valium,” he added. “My body was becoming so used to the pills, so my intake increased to an amount where I can’t actually remember how many I was taking. Sometimes I was taking sleeping pills during the day.”
Wearing a dark blazer and sarouel pants over a waistcoat and polka dot neckerchief, a contrite Galliano arrived in court through a side entrance, sidestepping most photographers.
He told the court he started drinking “in a cyclical way” following the death in 2007 of his beloved assistant, Steven Robinson. “Steven protected me from everything so I could just concentrate on being creative,” Galliano said, his voice cracking and hands trembling. “With his death, I found I had no more protection.”
The designer said his workload intensified at Dior and the Galliano company, where he signed licenses for multiple categories, increasing his design duties.
“I had two children. One was inherited — Dior — and the other was my own, the Galliano company,” he explained. “Dior is a big machine and I didn’t want to lose Galliano. At this point, in order for the house of Galliano to survive, I met with many businessmen and signed many licenses.”
Galliano testified that his hectic timetable did not leave him time to mourn the loss of his friend Robinson, in 2007, and his own father, in 2003.
“When Steven died, his parents and I buried him, then we went to the crematorium, and then I went back to do my fittings,” he said. “The same thing happened with my father’s death. I had to go and bury him and then come back that very night and work on the haute couture. I really didn’t take the time to mourn.”
Galliano sat impassive as he watched the now infamous video in which he can be heard saying in a slurred voice, “I love Hitler.” After viewing the video footage, he said: “I see someone who needs help, who’s very vulnerable. It’s the shadow of John Galliano. I see a man who’s been pushed to the edge.”
The undated video, originally made public by British tabloid newspaper The Sun, was submitted as evidence, although it does not depict the events of Oct. 8, 2010, and Feb. 24, 2011, the two nights Galliano is alleged to have insulted patrons at the trendy Paris cafe La Perle.
The designer has been charged with insulting someone on the basis of their origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity, a crime that carries a penalty of six months in jail and a fine of 22,500 euros, or $32,390 at current exchange, although in practice, jail sentences are very rarely handed down in this type of case.
The court heard how, on Feb. 24, Geraldine Bloch and her friend Philippe Virgitti had been having a drink on the busy terrace of the cafe, located in the Marais district near Galliano’s apartment, when the designer sat down at a neighboring table.
Shortly afterward, he allegedly began to insult the pair, initially asking Bloch to speak more quietly because her voice annoyed him.