On March 8, 1996, 47-year-old Wallis Franken, a famous fashion model, wife of French designer Claude Montana, threw herself out of the window. Wallace's friends claimed that "she died because of the moral, emotional, and physical suffering she experienced by marrying this frivolous homosexual man".
Wallis Franken was an eccentric American woman. She was born the same year as her husband, Claude - 1949. At sixteen, she began her modeling career. The slim, dark-haired girl stood out for her energy, her personality, her inner elegance. In 1966, Wallis was sent to work in Greece. On her way back she visited Paris. The city made such an impression on her that she begged her mother to let her live there. Mother allowed, providing that Wallis earns a living herself.
Very soon, Wallis Franken became a real Parisian. In the world of fashion, they loved her for her lively and likable character - she glowed with joy, gushing ideas and was ready to have fun every minute. Her friend Truckee Wood told that at that time, they were very young models and everything was possible to them. Although fame and money came easy, nobody taught them how to distinguish between good and bad, and to understand the possible consequences of their actions. The girls blithely enjoyed life and happiness, without even thinking about where they were going. Truckee mentioned that Wallis chose such husbands who would completely paralyze her will.
At the disco, Wallis met a young charming "Formula" racer Philip de Genning Wallis. Soon they became inseparable and gave birth to their daughters, Helios and Rea. However, Wallis fed and supported her family, while her husband spent all the money on cars. The couple did not even have their own housing, and they had to live in a camper van. The fateful meeting with a rising star of French design Claude Montana took place in Japan, where Wallis advertised French fashion. She fell in love with Montana at first sight and decided to leave Philip and send her daughters to boarding school.
Montana created his first independent collection in 1977, and its success was the great merit of Wallis. She did not pay attention to Montana's unconventional sexual orientation because she believed that she would cope with his homosexuality. Photographer Michael Comte recalls when he saw Montana entering Club Le Sept (a popular gay disco at the time – editor’s note.) with a group of young men dressed in black leather. Later, many of their attributes, such as extended shoulders, black leather jackets and hoods appeared on the catwalk as Montana women's fashion. The youthful figure of Wallis was the perfect «coat hanger» for such clothes.
Franken was the brightest star in his collection. However, she had to suffer from Montana’s uncontrollable bursts of anger. More and more did he remove her from the shows, and rarely invited her to the podium. In 1980, Wallis completed her modeling career and became a member of the stormy parties. Cocaine and caviar were expensive, and Wallis did not know how to use money. After all, the most important thing for her was not to become rich but to remain a talented and original person. She had an impeccable sense of style. Nevertheless, she never knew how to earn money either through her talent or by her enviable contacts. As Truckee Wood recalls, once Wallis even had no money to buy food during all week.
Montana was in no hurry to help. And when she tried to work with other designers, she faced Claude’s aggressive bouts of jealousy. Nevertheless, in July 1993, Claude and Wallis married at the age of 44. In the world of fashion, fake marriages are no wonder, but this time many were shocked. After all, Montana did not even try to hide his passion for men! A friend of Wallace, Caroline Schulz, told that one day they both walked past a bar for homosexual men; Wallis admitted that she had been there the day before yesterday. She also told Caroline about a party in Washington, where she and Montana were trying to buy drugs together. According to Caroline, at the beginning of their life together, Wallis believed that if she patiently and devotedly loved her husband, famous as “the night bird”, it would save him.
The wedding ceremony took place amid Haute Couture Week when Paris was flooded with the best and most influential journalists. Montana fatally needed their attention, since a year ago the Lanven Fashion House had terminated the contract with him to create a high fashion line. From the standpoint of business, the wedding was a good reason for favorable articles to appear.
The wedding took place in the town hall. The bride appeared in white trousers and a tunic, wearing a satin cowboy jacket. The groom put on a suit made of deerskin. After the official ceremony, the couple had a lot of fun with the press. However, in the first days of the honeymoon, Wallis complained to her friends that Claude went out for a walk with a dog and disappeared for a long time or returned with a boy.
In 1994, Wallis was invited to pose for the Donnos Karan advertising campaign, but Montana did not allow her to go to New York. When Wallis mentioned that she wanted to give the fee to her mother, who barely made ends meet, Claude lashed out at her with his fists, not paying any attention to the presence of the stepdaughter. After this quarrel, Wallis spent almost a month in the hospital. Seeing the beaten face of Wallis, her friends sent her to a lawyer and tried to persuade her to rent a separate apartment. Unsuccessfully. The next time Claude grabbed her hair and threw her into the street, Wallis went to the police herself. However, she stubbornly refused to leave him. Each time leaving him, when she heard Montana's tender and repentant voice in the telephone receiver, she would come back again.
Once a photographer called her to take a family photo. Wallis thought they wanted to take a picture of her with her adult daughters and two grandchildren. Nevertheless, the photographer had a completely different intention: he wanted to commemorate Wallis and Montana with his new lover and one young fashion model. The latter, for some time without hesitation, called Wallis old and ugly, and even threatened to take her place next to the designer.
When in 1995, at the presentation of the collection, Montana’s security guard beat the photographer, the press completely ignored his show. The beau monde of Parisian fashion reservedly appraised the work of Montana: "He remained true to himself." It meant: "He did not create anything new." Such an atmosphere has even more heated up the relationship between Wallis and Montana. While Montana was on top of fame, she was his ideal and muse. Now an aging woman had only become a witness to his failures, an object of irritation. Looking for oblivion, Wallis only found alcoholic intoxication and drugs.
Nobody saw Wallis that Wednesday. And who could even notice her absence, if everyone knew that she often lies in bed for days? It was not until early Thursday morning that the police, having recognized Wallace's body, woke the sleeping Claude Montana and interrogated him for several hours. The last time he saw Wallis on Wednesday morning sleeping in the living room on the couch. It seemed to the designer that when he left for work, the woman locked herself in her room. Having returned in the evening, he did not even ask where she was and what she was doing. Only at night, due to the draft, he got up to close the window in the kitchen. Of course, it never occurred to him to look down...
A year after this sad story, Claude Montana Fashion House went bankrupt. By: Jolanta Mishkinit (Lilit magazine)