The thing about genius is you get there by being able to storm through conventional boundaries. Most people see an insurmountable problem – be it in maths, physics, music, literature or fashion – and you merely see a great height from which to view the next problem. You think slightly differently. Your brain is braver. You make brilliant connections, faster than mere ordinary mortals.
And often, your private life is a mess.
The trouble is, conventional boundaries may hold us back, but a lot of the time they hold us in a safe place. Sometimes safe is boring, but sometimes safe is good. I bet most people in Tripoli or on the border between Libya and and Tunisia right now are dreaming of safe. They wouldn’t see it as boring at all.
Conventional boundaries include manners, the ability to hold down a stable relationship, remembering things like to come home for meals, buy a Valentine’s card, not drink that extra glass of wine and not quote a love for Hitler in conversation with strangers, just because you know it will shock them to the core or, worse, because you really do.
John Galliano – who doesn’t look at his sharpest or most sober on the video posted on the internet – seems to be trying to think of whatever will horrify the couple he’s addressing most. He talks with slurred panache, but he seems to have forgotten that as an openly gay man living in Paris, he’d have been high on Hitler’s list for gassing himself. Not funny then; not funny now.
I don’t blame Dior for sacking him. I think that often big organisations can over-react to small situations, but John stormed through an conventional boundary too far. We’ve all studied the Holocaust. We’ve seen more recently in Rwanda how rapidly and horrifically ethnic cleansing can spread. There’s genius and there’s contempt for a vast swathe of your potential customers. There’s a quick pick-me-up in a bar, and there’s blind, drunk stupidity that you’ll probably regret for the rest of your life.
It’s such a shame. Nonie relates her glowing admiration for Galliano in the opening chapter of Sequins, Stars & Spotlights. I used a mythical Dior show to illustrate the absolute heights of haute couture catwalk fashion. And they have been the absolute heights. Now they’re tainted by the absolute depths of an artistic ego that’s been pampered and protected from conventional boundaries for too long.
In my books, Crow can be a difficult genius, but she’s quietly loyal to her friends and is willing to sacrifice anything – even her own name – to do the right thing. If ever she was tempted to go off the rails, those friends would rally round and stop her. Does John have friends like that any more? If he does, he’ll certainly need them now.
He’s a survivor and he’ll come back, but it’ll be from a dark place. He might start by going easy on the mojitos. It doesn’t suit him. He accuses the woman of being ugly. But there’s no ugly like an ugly drunk.