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Carly Simon in 1973

In 1973, American singer Carly Simon scored the biggest global hit of her career with the release of  “You’re So Vain.” That year, the song hit #1 on the U.S. Pop and Adult Contemporary charts and sold over a million copies in the United States alone. “You’re So Vain”  is ranked at seventy-two on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All-Time.    

Written and performed by Simon, the hit became her signature song. In it she speaks critically of a self-absorbed lover.    

You’re So Vain Lyrics    

 
You walked into the party like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner
They’d be your partner, and….
  
You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you? Don’t you?
 
You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair
and that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me
I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee and….
 
 You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you…..
 
Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you’re where you should be all of the time
And when you’re not you’re with
Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Wife of a close friend, and….
 
You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you….. 
  

Carly Simon, "Anticipation." 1970

James Taylor and Carly Simon in an undated photo

Since the year of its release, the public has been obsessed with solving the puzzle in the song:

Who exactly is Simon referring to when she asserts in the song, “You’re so vain”?

Is it a lover from her past?

If so, then who is it?

 Carly Simon has dated many famous men.    

She has turned the speculation into a long-running guessing game, creating an intense media buzz and keeping the spotlight on herself. In countless interviews, she has dropped hints as to whom she is singing about but manages to never reveal his identity.  Her ex-husband musician James Taylor, to whom she was married when she recorded the song, is not in the running, she vows.    

 Interest has focused on four possible candidates, all of whom are Simon’s ex-lovers:    

rocker Mick Jagger (who sings back-up vocals on “You’re So Vain”)    

Mick Jagger marries Bianca De Macias in St. Tropez in 1971.

  actor Warren Beatty 

Actors Julie Christie and Warren Beatty, 1972.

 actor/musician Kris Kristofferson  

Carly Simon and Kris Kristofferson, 1974

 musician/activist Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam

Cat Stevens and Carly Simon in London, 1970, during the recording of Simon's song, "Anticipation." Simon wrote the song while waiting for her first date with Stevens.

The strongest contender is Warren Beatty – who actually phoned Simon and thanked her for writing the song about him.     

Here is a little bit of what Simon has said:    

The Washington Post – 1983

WP: Who was ‘You’re So Vain about? Mick Jagger?    

Carly: No.    

WP: Warren Beatty?    

Carly: It certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty. He certainly thought it was about him – he called me and said thanks for the song….    

WP: You had gone with him?    

Carly: Hasn’t everybody?    

WP: No.    

Carly: That only means you haven’t met him, though at the time I met him he was still relatively undiscovered as a Don Juan. I felt I was one among thousands at that point – it hadn’t reached, you know, the populations of small countries….    

 CNN – People In The News – 2004    

Paula Zahn : Long ago, you once admitted that it could potentially be a composite of a number of men that were dear to you in your life. Whether that be Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty or maybe even a little bit of James Taylor in there?    

Carly: Well, I guess for those who are interested in clues – the name of the person it was about had an “E” in it.    

PZ: Oh, well thank you…that’s very helpful Carly. That could be Mick, Warren or James. We still have the same three in the pot.    

Carly: Maybe I could disclose another letter. OK, it also has an “A”.    

PZ: (Laughter) Ok, we’ll be asking you about this for the next thirty years.    

Carly: Well listen, two vowels ain’t bad    

 Regis & Kelly – 2004

Regis : Isnt’ it time for you to tell the world – who’s the guy you’re singing about? Is it Warren Beatty? Is it Mick Jagger? Or is it me? Tell us!    

Carly: If I tell it, it’s going to come out in dribs and drabs. And I’ve given out two letters already, and “A” and an “E”. But I’m going to add one to it. I’m going to add an “R”, in honor of you.    

(End of Interviews) 

An a, an e, and an r – Warren Beatty certainly passes Simon’s letter test – and you can definitely put a checkmark in the vanity column, too.  In the New York Times bestseller, Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, author Suzanne Finstad recalls a 1960 wrap party for the filming of  “Splendor in the Grass,” in which Natalie Wood starred opposite newcomer Warren Beatty.     

Actors Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood in 1962

At the party, Director Elie Kazan passed out gag gifts to the cast. He presented Warren Beatty with a hand mirror that said, “Good God, Warren.”    

“According to Kazan’s assistant director, Kranze, the mirror was a symbol for Beatty’s vanity during filming. ‘I recall distinctly getting on the set early in the morning and he’s in there before his make-up call….he’s in front of a mirror, a set stage, where the mirror’s right on the stage—and he’s got a straight pin, right? He’s putting that pin into each eyelash, and separating and moving them forward. He’s separating every ___ eyelash! He’s going one by one by one. Oh, my G__, this is six feet of pure ego!'”    

Besides, Beatty’s family comes from Nova Scotia, the place mentioned in the song, adding more credence to those who believe Simon wrote the song about him.    

In the new book, Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, author Peter Biskind estimates that Beatty has slept with over 12,000 women.

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J

Justine Lévy, the French author of "Nothing Serious" (titled "Rien de Grave" in France,) a thinly-veiled fictional account based on Ms. Lévy’s bad encounter with husband-stealer Carla Bruni, whom she calls "The Terminator."

“On Wednesday evening, Sept. 21, 2005, the designer Diane von Furstenberg hosted a cocktail party in honor of Justine Lévy, the author of Nothing Serious (titled Rien de Grave in France), a roman à clef based on Ms. Lévy’s recent, sensational personal life.

Ms. Lévy, 31, is the dewy daughter of the French celebrity-philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, and her book whipped up quite a scandal in France, illuminating certain universal truths about men, women and sex, and even jostling The Da Vinci Code from the best-seller list in the process.

…Ms. Lévy had a rather tragic encounter with the supermodel-cum-chanteuse Carla Bruni—the Angelina Jolie of Europe.

Ms. Lévy was married to a rising philosopher named Raphaël Enthoven, who was the son of her father’s best friend, Jean-Paul. She had a late-term abortion at the insistence of her career-obsessed husband and went through a messy two-year addiction to amphetamines.

That was before Ms. Bruni arrived on the scene. Ms. Bruni had somewhat of a home-wrecking reputation and was credited in the press with causing Mick Jagger’s split from his wife. In 2003, she remade herself into a pop singer and won the 2004 Victoires de la Musique in France.

Carla Bruni sings at the 2004 Victoires de la Musique in France

She was also, at one point, the mistress of Ms. Lévy’s father-in-law. She dumped the father for the son [Raphaël], shattering Ms. Lévy’s Raphaël Enthoven Jr. were married and have a son, Aurélien, born in 2001.]

Carla Bruni, former husband Raphaël Enthoven, and their son, Aurélien, circa 2003-2004

Nothing Serious, …published … by Melville House, is a fictionalized version of this story, with characters thinly disguised through pseudonyms. Of the Ms. Bruni–type character, the book’s femme-bot ‘Paula,’ Ms. Lévy writes:

‘I thought she was beautiful and dangerous with that immobile face, as if sculpted out of wax, when she smiled her bones sort of moved to reveal her teeth …. I thought she was beautiful and bionic, with the look of a killer,”’referring to her as the ‘Terminator.”

…(of Bruni, Lévy said):

 ‘If I see her, I kill her.’ “(1)

(1) Kolhatkar, Sheelah.  “It’s A Chattefight As Novelist Levy Nips Carla Bruni”. The New York Observer, October 2, 2005.

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Italian model Marpessa, Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Carla Bruni, and Cindy Crawford at a Versace gala, 1992. Photo: Marina Garnier

Back in 1992, Carla Bruni (b. 1967) – First Lady of France, Italian heiress, international supermodel, singer – was romantically linked to Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger.

Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger

Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger

At the time, Jagger was married to supermodel Jerry Hall, who blamed Carla for the breakup of her marriage.

“Hall is said to be so jealous of Bruni that at a rock concert in London this summer she poured a mug of beer on Jean Pigozzi’s head and drove him from the backstage V.I.P. area, accusing him of having entertained Mick and Carla at his Cap d’Antibes compound.” (1)

Nevertheless, when interviewed by Bob Colacello of Vanity Fair that November, Bruni vigorously denied having an affair with Mick, although the press and close friends confirmed the affair.

At the time of the interview, Carla was flying high as an international supermodel, making over a million dollars a year. She had been on the covers of Harpers & Queen, Italian Elle, and Marie Claire, and was seen that month gliding down about 70 runways at the Paris, Milan, and New York ready-to-wear collections.

The video clip below shows Carla Bruni (Sarkozy) on the runway 1991-1995. Fashion designers featured include Dior, Versace, Chanel, Chantal Thomas.

Before Jagger, Bruni had been linked romantically linked to Donald Trump (when married to Marla Maples) and Eric Clapton.

Carla Bruni and Eric Clapton at a benefit for rain forests about 1992.

Clearly, the publicity had not hurt her career, Bruni confessed to Vanity Fair:

“‘A knife has two sides, the good side and the bad side. The good side is that the publicity is going to bring me more work and more money. The bad side is that it hurts….

Maybe I can get a subscription to scandals. Once a year. Every time my modeling rate goes down. Whom am I going to get next year? Hmmm.'”(1)

(1) Colacello, Bob.  “La Dolce Carla.” Vanity Fair, November, 1992.

Readers: For more on Carla Bruni, click here.

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