They met in the spring of 1956.
The photographer André Ostier, who was supposed to take portraits of Christian Dior in his renovated mill in Milly-la-Forêt, took his friend Jacques Benita with him.
A few months later, the three of them went out to the Théâtre Montansier in Versailles.
During the break the couturier bought beer, they got along well, and when they were back in the box, Dior took Benita's hand.
“We no longer parted,” said Benita decades later to the Dior biographer Bertrand Meyer-Stabley.
“We wanted to live together.
Everything seemed so simple and obvious. "
Responsible editor for the section “Germany and the World” and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin.
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Of course it wasn't.
Jacques Benita, who was born in Oujda, Morocco in 1930, was at the beginning of a career as a singer.
Dior, who was born in 1905 and became famous in 1947 with the "New Look", was the greatest fashion designer of his time.
No wonder that the young Moroccan, who was attracted to older men, was not exactly welcomed in Dior's surroundings.
The one "who takes the metro"
The sensitive fashion designer was protected by a cordon of employees, especially Raymonde Zehnacker. Frédéric Bourdelier, “Directeur Culture de Marque & Héritage” of the Parisian fashion house, confirms that it was by no means easy for the young man with Dior's right hand, which really wanted to keep everything in her hand. “He wasn't part of the fashion scene,” says Bourdelier. Raymonde had spoken disparagingly of Diors' new friend, "who takes the metro".
Christian Dior was not deterred.
He spent a lot of time with the man, who was 25 years his junior.
You can see them in a photo in Barcelona with Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala.
On another, sitting in a café in Saint-Tropez.
Catherine Dior, the younger sister of the fashion designer, later said that she had never seen her brother as happy as with Jacques.
The couturier was finally able to experience the delights of normalcy - and, for example, watch Alfred Hitchcock films with his friend in the cinema on the Champs-Élysées.
Dior's slender line was in constant danger
Christian Dior even showed his affection several times in public, something he had never done before with any other man. “He was very discreet,” says the German designer Jürgen Michaelsen (“Yorn”), who was an assistant in the fashion house on Avenue Montaigne in 1956. "And at the time it was extremely unusual for two men to reveal their relationship." Of course, one could not speak of a coming-out, even if Paris wasn't as anti-gay as the rest of the world.
The relationship with the good-looking young man may also put Dior under pressure.
His slim line was always exposed to the danger of good food, as he wrote in his autobiography - he omitted nothing from foie gras to candied fruit.
Until recently, the restaurant in the Hotel Plaza Athénée, opposite the company headquarters, served the Dior menu with lobster and lamb chops from Lozère, followed by a Norwegian omelette with raspberries and vanilla.
Not exactly appetizing when you consider that Dior probably died of heart failure because of his obesity.
His death was a catastrophe for him
In any case, in the fall of 1957 the fifty-two-year-old was exposed to a number of stressors. The comparison with the young man at his side was not exactly flattering for him. He was so exhausted after the October fashion show that he urgently needed a rest. The evening before his departure he attended a vocal performance by his young friend and was thrilled. They said goodbye for the last time at the corner of Rue Balzac and the Champs-Élysées - Frédéric Bourdelier from the Dior Archives still thinks about it every time he comes by.
The next day, Dior boarded the train at Gare de Lyon to Montecatini in Tuscany, a resort with thermal baths. There he died on October 24, 1957. The funeral service on October 29 in the church of Saint-Honoré-d'Eylau was like a state ceremony with thousands of onlookers, among the guests celebrities such as the Duchess of Windsor and Jean Cocteau, employees such as Raymonde Zehnacker and Anne-Marie Poupard, mannequins such as Victoire Doutreleau, his assistant and successor Yves Saint Laurent and his friend Karl Lagerfeld, who found his life destined for a Dior fashion show in Hamburg in 1949.
For Benita, death was “a catastrophe”, as Frédéric Bourdelier from Dior used to say, who has often met him in recent years.
Also because he was falsely assumed that he had urged Dior on a diet.
The singer took on the pseudonym Tony Sandro, went to the USA for some time and later released records under this name in Paris ("Ou est le Soleil").
On the night of Wednesday last week, Jacques Benita, as the fashion house Dior announced on Monday, died at the age of 91 in Paris.Keywords: