The word “seducer” has a rather bad ring to it these days, when seduction is generally considered a euphemism for “bent over and involuntarily buggered”, not necessarily in any sexual sense. Bernie Madoff comes to mind, but really, in spite of all those pilfered billions, where it matters most, Bernie Madoff is small fry. Compared with today’s birthday boy, he pales into obscurity. Bamboozling people out of their pensions, defrauding banks – how vulgar!

Today’s birthday boy, had he been around to witness it, would have have laughed old Bernie out of Wall Street.

Today is the birthday of Giacomo Girolamo Casanova de Seingalt, the man whose very name has become a byword all by dint of a very dirty and not undeserved reputation. “He’s such a Casanova”. “Discount Casanova”. All of them have slipped into general usage as one and two-word descriptions of slimy disco balls so slick they slide up walls.

Which does the original no favors. Because dear old Giacomo packed such an extraordinary amount of life into 73 years that you begin to wonder what sort of writer cooked up this kind of diabolical plot.

Con man, spy, huckster, compulsive gambler, dueller, actor, musician, physician, clergyman, philosopher, nobleman, librarian – he was, at various points in his life, all of these things. At a time in history when it was still possible to reinvent yourself from scratch, he mastered all the differing roles in his life with aplomb, finesse and loads and loads of – style, quite often financed with someone else’s money.

But his main frame of reference, and one he encouraged and enhanced all his life, was as a world-class seducer of women. They fell, like so many drugged fruit flies, victim to the kind of charm that would have been lethal, if only it could have been bottled.

In today’s world of sex-as-commodity, where sexualised images are everywhere you look and there’s no end to self-proclaimed experts on “sexy”, seduction has sort of fallen by the wayside. It implies that you have been had – literally and figuratively. Which is a shame, because this real life Don Juan – and even that title is rather misleading for reasons I shall explain in a bit – knew a thing or two about those ladies he loved – and he loved, by his own account and the accounts of most of his contemporaries – hundreds, if not thousands of not at all unwilling females.

I used to joke that any guy who liked historical costume had to also like extended foreplay. The crinolines and petticoats, the powdered wigs and flowered phrases that consisted civilized concourse 250 years ago were all just the starting point. These were the obstacles a seducer had to work around. Think of the stiff conventionality of a movie such as “Dangerous Liaisons”. There is John Malkovich, so cold we could call him Monsieur Frigidaire, except they hadn’t been invented yet. That was the sort of convention Casanova was up against and had to play to. But Casanova had an edge on Malkovich’s Vicomte de Valmont. It was the same edge he held over that fictional construct of Lorenzo di Ponti’s Don Giovanni, and Byrons’s later Don Juan.

For neither Don Giovanni, Don Juan or the Vicomte de Valmont really, truly loved women. Women as a gender, woman as a concept, that great soft and rounded creation no man can create – or exist – without. All of these esteemed gentlemen knew how to use the fair sex, they knew how to play into their insecurities and vanities, but they most emphatically did not love Woman. They all railed against feminine wiles and female treachery, they all struggled against their own desire and need, but they did not love Woman.

Casanova, for all his stupendous life, did. Woman as a concept, women in general, women in particular, he loved it all and he loved them all in all their moods and follies and from the tops of their violet-scented perukes to the tips of their rosy silk-clad toes, even as he exploited them for his own nefarious ends. He knew that in order to seduce a woman, you had to make her believe to the marrow of her bones that she was, for the duration at least, the most fascinating, scintillating creature ever to walk the earth.

He knew, too, that seduction is not merely sex, and that looks mean less than you think. Flattery will get you part of the way, but only part of it. Flattery and significant looks, a sense of humor, but not too much, and some very good pheromones will get you – everywhere, horizontal, vertical or on Louis XV armchairs. He gave himself totally, in the space of a few days, what most men were content to dole out with teaspoons or eyedroppers over a lifetime.

In other words, he left them happy, and knowing that it would never happen again.

That, dear reader, is a man. And what a man!

As for you, Giacomo, I salute your ghost as much as I adore your spirit of adventure and possibilities. I admire a man who was honest enough to say that a man who never spoke a bad word about women had never bothered to understand them. For in order to understand them, you have to be made to suffer at their hands. Then, and only then, can you truly love women.

Pay attention, guys. Some day, you will thank me for that information. But don’t thank me.

Thank Giacomom Girolamo Casanova.

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I have always ascribed to the notion that having only one vice was for wimps. Why have only one when you can have ten? Twenty? Hell, have an entire rehab center catalog! Vices are nice. They have been my friends for a long, long time. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I have been forced to give most of them up, and not just for Lent.

Among the ones I no longer have: recreational drugs, splatter movies, Lycra, sparkly or black lipstick and Bananarama. It hurt to see them go. I’d love to give up casual sex, but I’m still not entirely convinced it’s not possible. I’ll let you know.

Among the ones I still have: pop astrology, chick-lit (due to an appalling lack of estrogen in my life), chocolate in any form except Hershey’s and the kind with built-in booze, books in general, French cosmetics, literary erotica, Irish whiskey, Burgundy, Champagne, Armagnac, Calvados, testosterone bombs with or without tattoos and long hair, bands so obscure they’re only known in two villages in Slovenia, and – perfume.

That last is a biggie. It’s a good thing I don’t own a credit card, since I know exactly how I’d spend $10000 – in ten minutes or less. Much of that would be blown on perfume. Not just any ol’ Walgreen’s special offer, either. Like I’ve said before. if it ain’t made by Florentine nuns according to a recipe they made up for Catherine de Medici, forget it. If you can only buy it in one store in the planet, and that’s in Paris, I’ll want it. I’ll not only want it, I’ll want to asphyxiate everyone else with it, too.

It goes without saying that my idea of a living nightmare would be perfume allergy. But it hasn’t happened yet, so I’m not too worried. My dead mother exposed me to so much of the stuff growing up, I’m probably immune for life.

Now, let’s face it, people. In this day and age of excessive personal hygiene, perfume these days, as opposed to, say, 250 years ago, is about one of two things. You can be out to put yourself into a particular mood or mindset. I have one perfume in my personal hall of fame that landed me not one, but two jobs, I’m sure of it. Or else you’re basically looking for that elusive Holy Grail of the perfume world known as:

Sex in a Bottle

This is where it gets interesting, because one woman’s Obsession is another woman’s Poison. (And both are on my all-time barf-list, along with another Eighties stinkaroo, namely Giorgio). What we want to do, at least in our twenties, is to knock down the guys – or gals, depending on your perspective – like so many bowling pins, in one nice and elegant strike. We’re all on the prowl for something besides a plastic razor that not only will bring out our Inner Goddess, it will make the opposite sex positively swoon with lust.

And ladies – or gents, or something else entirely, I’m openminded – let’s face it – it ain’t happening, because Nature in her infinite wisdom has with a few notable exceptions given the male gender the olfactory abilities of a woolly mammoth with a bad headcold. Sock it to ’em with a heady floral, and it’s “nice”. Soak yourself in a skanky Oriental scent, , such as Shalimar, or something a bit more unusual, like Cabochard, and it’s “sexy”. Which is rather disheartenening. You just blew your rent money on Absolute Essence of Afrodite, and you want a bit more appreciation than just – “nice”. You want “please, let me rip off your lingerie with my teeth before I die of longing and a permanent hard-on”, is what you want.

Back in my bad-girl days in my late teens and early twenties, I wore one perfume that divided my male friends like the Berlin Wall. They would either head in my direction like so many brain-hungry starved zombies, or they would run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. It was what is known today as an all-time classic, beloved by Gothaholics on at least two continents: Narcisse Noir, by Caron. And you’ve likely never heard about it, because this is not something you’d find on sale at your local CVS. My mother wore it, but not for long, because I stole it. So did Anais Nin, and I figured, if it worked for her…

Today, I can’t stand it. It’s stunning, but polecat-in-heat is not an aura I need to project any more. I’m past 35, so I’m not even projecting. Me, I slide across the floor every day, and count myself lucky if anyone notices. If they’re under 40 with a pulse, they’ve made my day. If they’re under 30, they’ve made my year.

But now, I think I’ve finally figured it out. Ladies, save your pennies – or your rent checks. If you want to amp up the sex appeal, if you want to turn that pathetic couch potato who’s buried himself alive with his Playstation into the Towering Inferno of Rampant Lust, if you want to have him rip off everything Victoria never did keep secret, forget the esoteric essences of Afrodite. Throw those costly Carons right out the window. Chanel will go out of business because of this. You will never need Calvin or Ralph again. Armani will never decode it.

Not so long ago, one rather occult French perfume company launched a perfume that was supposed to be Sex in a Bottle. It was even called – in French, when anything sounds better – Magnificent Secretions. (Trust the French). If you ever had a Night to Remember, the kind where you leave in the morning, still in your silk and heels, trailing stray dogs and strange men and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi fishy aroma – that’s pretty much it.

That’s taking a literal interpretation too far. Really. We’re women. We’re not stupid. We’re certainly not so stupid we’ll pay over 100 € for a bottle of liquid dirty underwear.

Well, maybe if we’re French.

So, you’re still looking for Love Potion nr. 11, since numbers 1 through 9 didn’t quite work out, and no. 10 was already trademarked? Have I got news for you! You’ll thank me later. Really, you will.

No. According to all the recent studies of males ranging from their twenties to their sixties, the ultimate, the complete, the non-plus-ultra nasal turn-on of all time is – drumroll, please!


I know, That sucks if you’re a vegan. I’m not, and know only devoted carnivores, and even a band called Carnivore, but that’s a blog for another day.

That’s right. Get yourself to your local supermarket, invest in the best smoked pork belly you can afford. Fry it up. If that hasn’t brought out the Number of the Beast by then, well hey – rub it all over your pulse points.

Some time later, when the couch potato has returned to what passes for reality, he might, if he knows what’s good for him, ask you what you’re wearing – apart from a tattered and battered body by Victoria/La Perla/Dior/H&M.

You can look up at him with dewy eyes in postcoital bliss and say, in your best breathy voice:

“Love Potion no. 11”.

All’s fair in love and war.

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