Exclusive. In a new version of his biography, Yves Bigot returns to the story of this woman who until then had been secretive, Béatrice Grimm, Michel Berger’s last love.
They first met in 1990. German top model, former girlfriend of Rod Stewart, Beatrice Grimm is one of the many guests at this dinner given by Jean-Paul Baudecroux at Drouant. France Gall and Michel Berger responded to the invitation from the powerful head of the NRJ. The station accompanied the last two tours in France and is no stranger to their immense success. But for two years, France has taken a step to the side. She announced to her friend in late 1988 that she wanted to retire. Michel Berger logically made his mouse’s decision pretty bad. “For him, France was his showcase,” says Yves Bigot, cinema and friend of the composer. It was by working for her that he had finally known triumph. So obviously the thought of her taking a step back could not make him jump to the ceiling. »
Béatrice wanted to tell her story and that I should write a book with her
In fact, Michel Berger and France Gall are facing an intimate, unacceptable tragedy: Since 1982, they have known that Pauline, their eldest daughter born in 1978, suffers from cystic fibrosis. And now it’s time for Pauline to go into an intense period. “Michel divided things up a lot,” Bigot continues. Only a few very close people were aware of Pauline’s situation. “Also, as often, unfortunately, couples who face this kind of intimate drama react differently. For France, it will be solo exile, in Dakar, on this island of N’gor, where she is buying a house.” There, she will say, I’m alive, I’m draining, I’m recharging my batteries. For Michel, it’s going to be the job he, this alleged workaholic who still wants to conquer the world. ” his friend Claude-Michel Schönberg, supports Bigot. He worked hard on the English version of “Starmania” in hopes of making it a worldwide success. At the same time, he is writing and composing his next album, “It Doesn’t Hold”. But it is a melancholy shepherd who picks up the pen, the one who saw his friend Daniel Balavoine disappear in a helicopter crash during Paris-Dakar in early 1986, so his friend Coluche died in a motorcycle accident …
Troubled, despairing, lonely, Berger throws his strength into “Tycoon,” the name chosen for the Anglo-Saxon version of “Starmania,” which sees him fly to Los Angeles in the spring of 1991. In this City of Angels he loves, Berger’s mission is to Try female voices to find the artists who will give flesh to the characters invented by Luc Plamondon. And now Beatrice Grimm is knocking on the door of the studio. The model, who happened to live in Paris on 92 boulevard des Batignolles – the address of Berger’s Paris studio – lives between France, Germany and the United States. Beatrice Grimm posed for Helmut Newton in “Vogue”, met Jeanloup Sieffs, Ellen von Unwerths or even Peter Knapps lens. Always between two planes, she settled in Santa Barbara, her official residence. So, between two recordings, why not get into music? The day of the casting with this Frenchman, whom she has never met, Beatrice immediately falls in love. Michel asks him to sing “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor, accompanied by him on the piano, and is also immediately snapped up.
What is also certain is that on the day of his death he was married to France Gall and that he almost died in his arms.
For several months, the musician will travel many times to California – officially always for professional reasons. This “tycoon” requires English lyrics, to which Beatrice sometimes contributes. “It was a secret affair,” notes Yves Bigot. “Few people knew Michel and Beatrice were having an affair. Even though the situation changed a few months later when Beatrice took an apartment in the Saint-Augustin district. In the autumn of 1991, their meet more frequently but more cautiously, though Michel sometimes took Raphaël, his son born in 1981, to meet the young blonde woman of 30. It was abroad that the Berger-Grimm couple spent their finest hours: New York in the beginning of the winter, a cruise on the Nile only the two in early January 1992. But also in Corsica, at Pianottoli, with a German friend of Beatrice in February.In early March, they are seen at Terminus Nord , a mythical brasserie opposite Gare du Nord.Michel tells him that the next six months are going to be complicated: he has to finish an album with France, which will be followed by a long and extensive joint tour.The name of this disc? “Double dealer”. In hindsight, this title is sk ear, analyzes Bigot. Michel would in his own way evoke John Lennon, whose last disc – shared with Yoko Ono – is called “Double Fantasy” and was their swan song. Michel and France clearly designed it as a break-up album, a farewell album to a part of their life together. »
When Michel told France in mid-March of his intention to divorce and settle in Los Angeles, the latter took it badly. Very bad. She will only give one interview when the album is released in June and will be pretty tough with her partner. He settles for almost silence and does not want to paraphrase songs that tell of the end of an era. As every summer, however, the Berger-Gall family takes up residence in their huge villa in Saint-Tropez. “It’s been a complicated summer for him,” Bigot continues. Michel is carried away by what he is going through, by the guilt he feels towards his children, in front of France perhaps as well, and the desire to start a new life. What is certain, according to witnesses at the time, is that he was really looking for a house in Los Angeles. But what is certain is that on the day of his death he was married to France Gall, and that he almost died in his arms. »
Beatrice Grimm is a woman who has had a thousand lives, several husbands, several names who do not need money. She felt that being in the light would do her more harm than good
Beatrice Grimm is not invited to the funeral, which will be held in Paris, and which will be an opportunity for the country to discover the faces of Pauline and Raphaël. France Gall will do anything to erase this story: when this affair is mentioned in 2012 in a first biography of the same Yves Bigot, the Gall machine starts and crushes any media inclination to this topic. Especially since France is the guardian of the temple, the one who decides everything regarding her deceased husband’s music. Any attempt to rewrite the history of a member outside his clan will be systematically blocked, attacked or banned. Even Jenifer, who was thinking of paying tribute to her with a cover album, is scolded in the press for not asking Mother Superior for permission.
It will therefore be necessary to wait until the summer of 2018, six months after France Gall’s death, for Beatrice Grimm to emerge from the shadows. This time, Yves Bigot is called up by Franka Berger, Michel’s sister, whose enmity with France is more than legendary (she vainly opposes the relocation of Michel’s grave in 1999, when France asks him to rest with her daughter). “She invited me to have tea with her, and Beatrice was waiting for me there. She wanted to tell her story and that I should write a book with her. Bigot and Grimm get started right away.” She kept only one picture of Michel, whom she had taken in front of the Egyptian pyramids. But she threw away everything else, despite, also out of anger. Which means she has always been afraid of not being believed. Bigot is therefore active behind the scenes to find them , which can confirm the story of the German. “I saw that very few people knew of its existence. But for Bernard Saint-Paul, Michel’s friend and Véronique Sanson’s historical leader, Beatrice, for example, is Michel Berger’s real widow. The Grimm file will also be validated by Jannick Top, Berger’s bassist, or by Grégoire Colard, his former press manager. Beatrice Grimm will even cross paths one day, in late 2019, with Olivier Royant, then director of Paris Match, in a Parisian restaurant. Grimm tells her that she will finally tell her truth that she is ready to reveal everything as France is no longer of this world. The case does not turn into anything.
Last twist a year ago. Yves Bigot receives a letter from English lawyers. Beatrice Grimm ends their collaboration. The manuscript in his possession, not quite finished, must be deleted, crushed. “I had no explanation for his turn. At first she was very clear, very vicious about her decision, and then stopped responding to my text messages. Beatrice Grimm is a woman who has had a thousand lives, more husbands, more names that do not need money. She felt that it would do her more harm than good to be in the light. “The last love for Michel Berger will therefore remain secret. Well almost …
“Michel Berger”, by Yves Bigot, ed. du Seuil, 400 pages, 21 euros, published on 18 May
Find the rest of this story in Paris Match No. 3802 from March 17 to 23, 2022