Indulge your fantasies for one moment and imagine yourself to be a billionaire in 1960. Not only that, you’re a billionaire in search of love, that ephemeral emotion that your limitless riches cannot, apparently, buy. Where do you look? Who do you seek? How do you acquire them? Being a billionaire, that is, a man somewhat given over to ego, you’re most likely to start your search in the same place as all the other billionaires, in a sun-drenched playground of riches both corporeal and financial, a place where the most beautiful women in the world congregate to find, well, people exactly like you: welcome to St. Tropez.
This was the situation that Lebanese billionaire hotelier Jean-Prosper Gay-Para found himself in, only he came to the target-rich environment (although who could say who was predator and who was prey?) of St. Tropez with a single target in mind – the most desired creature on the face of the earth, one Brigitte Bardot, the woman whose 1957 film And God Created Woman (written and directed by her first husband Roger Vadim) put this picturesque traditional fishing village on the map. In most circumstances, being a billionaire would be a pretty sizeable edge in the pursuit of pulchritude, but when you’re chasing a siren, the competition stiffens - if you’ll excuse the double entendre - leaving Gay-Para with a sizeable challenge. German multi-millionaire playboy Gunter Sachs had already stolen a march on him by dropping a tonne of red rose petals from a helicopter over Bardot’s familial home in La Madrague, on the Côte D’Azur. Gay-Para would not be put off his mission however, for despite this being a hopeless, dizzying moonshot, it was a shot nonetheless. Bardot was notoriously tricky though: an outlier among outliers and quite cognisant of the fact; beguiling yet capricious and at the very height of her fame.
Gay-Para sprinkled the grounds of Hotel Byblos with numerous early-Christian sculptures