Wednesday, June 3, 2015

SIMONE MICHELINE BODINE - "BETTINA" - THE FIRST SUPERMODEL and MISTRESS OF ALY KHAN - A JET SET ERA MISTRESS

SIMONE MICHELINE BODIN,  who used the modeling name Bettina, was one of the first supermodels.

When you think of hauteur, of high cheekbones, of elegant smoking, of millinery, the resurgence of which we have seen with the "fascinator" and all other outrageous hats worn by the Duchess of Cambridge and other aristocrats and their guests at the royal horse shows and weddings in Europe these days, while we all wonder "How do they keep those things on?," you begin to think of the models of Bettina's era, the late 1940's to early 1950's. 

They were all "class acts."   Even when they came from nowhere and nothing or had difficult personal lives.

Bettina went to Paris as a young woman hoping to get into fashion design, but instead she worked hard as a model and muse for several fashion designers and photographers.  She also helped organize shows and did the equivalent of PR and marketing too. Just about everyone she worked with became famous, if not rich, from their creativity.

She was red haired, freckled, and she wore barely-there makeup.  In 1952 fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy named his debut collection after her.  Of all the designers she worked for he seemed to be the one who loved her the most - as a muse and friend - and was most dedicated to her - for life.  He even named his first perfume Amarige for her.

Bettina married a society figure and photographer of the jet set named Gilbert Gaziani, called "Benno," briefly, but became entwined with a married man, screenwriter Peter Viertel, who left his pregnant wife to be with her.  Bettina may have been Viertel's mistress but come on, dump your wife when she is pregnant?   Bettina soon dumped Viertel, because she had met a better man.  Aly.

Bettina became an icon, even though she is said to have turned down a contract to act for 20th Century Fox studio.



BETTINA
AKA Bettina Graziani
born Simone Micheline Bodin
(1925  - 2015)
 
Image from Google Images - Fashion Addict
 
Bettina knew how to arrive.  She also knew when it was time to leave.
 
In 1955, at about age 29, having met Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan, a dedicated sportsman, horseman and horse owner, even sometime jockey, and playboy, she retired from modeling and was his mistress.  Kahn, born in 1911, was 15 years her senior, and a son of Aga Khan III, the head of the Nizārī Ismā'īlī Muslims.  His bad boy reputation meant that he would be passed over as the next head of the sect when his father died. In 1300 years that had never happened.
 
How bad was he?
 
When Bettina met her Prince, he as already twice divorced and the father of three children, and he had a thing for women who were not Muslims.  His own mother was Italian though, and he lived in a larger world, a not Muslim world, that encompassed Western culture.  A socialite who partied around the world seducing women, a member of the Jet Set, Aly's first marriage to the Honorable Joan Barbara Guiness (aka Barbara Yarde-Buller) took place only days after her divorce, and lasted from 1936-1949.  He ended that marriage to be with Hollywood movie star Rita Hayworth, but their marriage in 1949 only lasted till 1953 and by 1951 Rita was already threatening to divorce him.  He is known to have been a womanizer who sought out and conquered women of the aristocracy and claimed that he thought marriage would cure him of his compulsions.

On May 12th 1960, Aly Khan died soon after a car accident near Paris. He was driving and collided with another vehicle and everyone else including the driver of the other car, survived.  Now his fiancée after five years of mistressing, and pregnant with his child, which may have been Aly's reason for considering a third marriage, Bettina later miscarried.
 
After reading Bettina's obituary in the New York Times and an article saluting her from Vanity Fair, both published after her death this year, I found another article in the Sports Illustrated Vault from 1960 which said this:

"The death of Prince Aly Khan last week deprived horse racing of its foremost international figure; it also deprived our times of a man of quality.

In the fields Aly Khan chose for his own he had no peers. His horses were the best, his modern paintings were the best, his manners were the best and his women were the best. Then suddenly last Thursday night, on the gentle curve of a suburban Paris street while on his way to be guest of honor at a small dinner party.

 Aly's life of excellence ended

He had spent the day at Longchamp race track—"Don't play my horse today, I don't feel lucky," he told a friend—and then had gone home to dress for the evening in a blue tuxedo. Ready to leave his house at 10:15, he paused to telephone French industrialist Gerard Bonnet, his dinner host, to say he would be a little late. At his side as he took the wheel of his Lancia sports car was Bettina (real name: Simone Bodin), once the most elegant fashion model of France and Aly's mistress for years. A highly intelligent woman, Bettina was accepted by Paris society and by Aly's family as well."


In his pre-marital will, his fortune went mostly to his three children but Bettina was remembered with a $280,000 bequest.  A lot of money in those days for the likes of you or me but chump change considering his vast wealth.

Besides looks and talent and inspiration, as well as a volatile private life, what else was Bettina known for?  It is said that she never was one to speak negatively about anyone.  No mean spirited gossip for her.  What a gal!  (And isn't there so much else to talk about?)

She lived to the age of 89, and, true friend to the end, had dined out with Herbert recently.
 
C 2015  Mistress Manifesto BlogSpot./ Missy Rapport
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