French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday, was born Jean-Philippe Smets on June 15, 1943. He’s often referred to as the French Elvis, but instead of gaining weight and dying young, the eternally youthful Johnny has had so many cosmetic surgeries that he no longer looks quite human. Still, his career statistics are impressive – over 100 million albums sold, 18 platinum albums, and 100 concert tours. No other French artist has sold as many albums. He was France’s Male Artist of the Year in 1987. He’s been in 15 films, including Pink Panther 2 in 2009, in which he played the role or arch-villain The Tornado (along with another Frenchman Jean Reno). He’s had four number one singles, “Tous Ensemble” (2002), his hymn to les Bleus, France’s national soccer team, “Marie” (2002), a love ballad, “Mon plus beau noël” (2005), celebrating the arrival of his first adopted daughter, Jade, and “Ça n’finira jamais” (2008), another song of tortured love. Is it just me or does he shout all of them?
Johnny doesn’t seem like someone who’s almost 70, despite some serious health problems last year due to post operative complications from repairing a herniated disc and a prior battle with colon cancer. He splits his time between Gstaad, Switzerland and Los Angeles. His Swiss residence allows him to economize on his taxes; his LA residence allows him to live in anonymity in a way that is impossible in France where he’s a god. Before the Swiss move, he’d tried to use his father’s Belgian citizenship to attain the same status, but he failed to meet the residency requirement and had to take his quest for a fiscal haven on the road. He is a close friend of Nicolas Sarkozy, who has tried to enact tax laws that are more favorable to his celebrity friends. Hallyday even promised to move back to France if Sarko was elected, but in the end, money talks. He’s on his fourth marriage and has four children. His longest marriage, to singer Sylvie Vartan, lasted 20 years, his shortest marriage lasted less than three months. One of his children was with his girlfriend of several years actress Nathalie Baye. The two youngest were adopted from Vietnam.
Today’s expression, un sacré monstre (uhn sackray mohnstruh) literally means “a sacred monster,” but figuratively means a superstar. Despite the fact that his fan club doesn’t include me, Johnny is unquestionably a superstar. I think he’ll cope without me.