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John Galliano Talks to Charlie Rose

The hour-long interview covered a range of subjects, but focused largely on his substance abuse and the events that lead to his fall.

GALLIANO ON TV: John Galliano’s highly anticipated appearance on “Charlie Rose,” his first televised interview since an anti-Semitic rant two years ago derailed his career, aired Wednesday night on public television.

The hourlong interview covered a range of subjects, including Galliano’s childhood in South London and his meteoric rise to the top of the fashion world at Dior, but focused largely on his substance abuse and the events that led to his fall.

After host Charlie Rose replayed the now infamous video clip of Galliano verbally assaulting patrons at a Parisian bar with racist slurs, the designer again expressed remorse and tried to explain his actions. While not excusing his behavior, Galliano attributed the outburst to addiction to prescription pills and alcoholism, which he described as “a cunning, baffling disease,” and bullying from his childhood.

“I just saw that footage you showed and it threw me quite. At that point in my career I had become what is known as a blackout drinker,” Galliano said. “I discovered that when one is a blackout drinker, what happens is that you can — it can release paranoia of such a stage that it can trigger frustrations from childhood.”

Galliano appeared before Rose clean-shaven, his hair neatly pulled back into a ponytail, wearing a simple Yves Saint Laurent suit, a look that would not have seemed out of place at an arraignment.

The interview, which follows an in-depth profile in Vanity Fair that covers much of the same ground, is part of Galliano’s attempt to stage a comeback. Though many news outlets pursued the first interview with Galliano, as his story had received tremendous international attention, Rose introduced the segment with a seemingly preemptive defense of any suggestions he might be party to anyone’s spin.

“Last night on this program, I did two segments, one on the demonstrations on Turkey, another on surveillance of Americans by the United States government. Another night we might talk to a brilliant director or celebrate a new discovery in science. All of these conversations are driven by my curiosity about the world we live in and the human condition,” Rose said.

While Galliano at times appeared disarmingly vulnerable and forthright, at others he resorted to the self-help language typical of rehabilitation programs. “Sobriety is not easy, Charlie. It’s been a difficult journey,” he said at one point. Rose returned with probing follow-ups that at least demanded clearer answers. Rose suggested there are alcoholics who don’t turn to racist language when they’re incapacitated, so where did Galliano’s come from?

“I’ve spent two years and three months in — you know, followed by therapists, working with top theologists and professors in France to find the answer. It’s true many people say, ‘In vino veritas.’ I’ve since discovered that ‘In vino veritas’ is not quite — it’s not quite as simple as that. Yes, alcohol does loosen up inhibitions, and it’s what’s floating around in the self-conscious that can be called out,” Galliano responded.

Asked about criticism that his alcoholism had lowered the quality of the collections, Galliano said, “The sales were still good.”

“In my mind, I could always do much better. And especially now, in my lucid state, yes, I mean, of course it could be much, much better. I was doing what I felt was right for the two houses,” Galliano said, referencing Dior as well as his namesake label.

He also recounted to Rose his sojourn in Oscar de la Renta’s studio this past February, where he was a “designer in residence.”

“The collection was quite under way. At first, I was — I just couldn’t, because I hadn’t been in the studio for two years. So, I ran to the bathroom and threw myself on my knees and then I came outside and I went into the workroom and introduced myself to all those lovely ladies — the tailors and the seamstresses in their white coats. And then it was fine. My shoulders kind of relaxed,” he said.

De la Renta was partly responsible for suggesting the Rose interview, but the designer singled out two influential figures with helping his rehabilitation — Jonathan Newhouse, president of Condé Nast International, and Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue and Condé artistic director.

Two men who have maintained their distance from Galliano in the last two years are his former bosses, Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Sidney Toledano, Christian Dior’s ceo.

“I did try to reach out to them but my calls were not accepted. And quite recently I tried to reach out as well, but the message I got was that perhaps it was too early,” Galliano said. The designer, of course, is in the middle of a legal spat with LVMH over the termination of his contract.

The one question Galliano himself couldn’t answer was about the possibility that he might again be entrusted with a fashion label.

“I really don’t know the answer to that. I mean, I’m able to create. I’m ready to create. I’m feeling fit. I’m feeling good. It really all depends on these steps I’m taking. And I mean, I hope that through my atonement that I’ll be given a second chance,” he said.

Viewers tuned in — the program was seen by some 41,000 viewers, or a 0.5 rating, on WNET, according to Nielsen data provided by the station. That was well above Rose’s average for the past six months, which has been around 30,000. The national ratings won’t be available for about two weeks.