|Have a nice trip Frigide? (screen shot)|
But call her what you will, Frigide Barjot - 'barjot' is French for 'crazy', or 'a nutcase' - certainly knows how to manipulate the media. That's normal however when you look at her Curriculum Vitae. Born as Virginie Merle, her mother was a music professor at the Conservatoire here in Lyon, her father was a senior administrator in a clinic, she studied law in a prestigious university, and she began her professional life in the communications section of the right-of-centre RPR party (now dissolved).
Her real vocation in life however was not to communicate the words and actions of others. She wanted to hit the headlines in her own right. And so it was that she became a journalist in mondain and socialite affairs, a humorist, a pop singer, a bit-part actress and a TV personality. It was in this context that she was famously filmed in 2008 tripping over something and falling down whilst on her way to a sumptuous dinner at the Paris Opera.
Then she discovered god and the Catholic church, and everything changed. Barjot was transformed from the bubbly life-and-soul-of-the-party airhead she was known as into a vociferous defender of the Pope's backward views on contraception, AIDS, homosexuality, gay marriage, and she signed a petition which aimed to combat the assimilation of priests with pedophilia during the pedophile priests scandal which rocked (and is still rocking) the Catholic church.
Next came an autobiography - 'Confessions of a Hip and Trendy Catholic' - in which she related her conversion to Catholicism and its values, but her real moment of glory had to wait until mid-2012, when President Hollande and his government announced their intention to legalise gay marriage.
She hasn't been out of the headlines since.
She has been present at almost all the large demonstrations against gay marriage that have taken place since, culminating in yesterday's demo in Paris which was attended by 350,000 or 800,000 people, depending on whether you believe the police figures or those of the organisers.
Camera-hungry and ever-willing to speak to journalists, she has embraced the diatribe of the more extremist end of the anti-gay spectrum and has a knack for providing juicy sound-bites which the press and TV have been lapping up greedily.
Barjot believes that gay marriage is a threat to humanity and her pernicious scare-mongering tactics include outright lying. She has falsely claimed that the government intends to replace the words 'mother' and 'father' with 'parent 1' and parent 2', she falsely claims that the interest of children is a legal argument against gay marriage (it isn't, because if it were, we'd be using the principles of Eugenics to legally prevent adults with criminal records, communists and extreme right-wingers, drinkers, and a host of others, from having children), and she denied recently, despite filmed evidence to the contrary, that she liaises with extremist and reactionary Catholic organisations.
The most disturbing aspect of her activities however is her fundamental role in the anti-gay movement, and evidence is emerging that she has reached an agreement with the Catholic church whereby she has been confided the status of unofficially declared spokeswoman for the church's views.
This arrangement suits both the church and Barjot seeing as the church can continue to claim that it is not behind or directly involved in the anti-gay movement's actions, thereby avoiding accusations of interfering in the state's affairs, and Barjot gets the publicity she craves. It's a very convenient deal.
Frigide Barjot has become a willing puppet in the hands of the Catholic church, a front for its obscurantist, medieval attitudes and a warrior in the fight against social progress and the democratic wishes of the French people, who voted Hollande into power knowing that he would legalise gay marriage. Moreover polls show that a large majority of people still support this legislation.
But does her mediagenic presence represent a real and long term threat to the gay marriage project? This question is being asked right now by many commentators but I do not believe that her star shall remain in the media firmament for long.
The first reason for this is that Hollande and his government have made firm statements since yesterday which make it clear that the government will not be swayed from implementing this democratically-founded measure by pressure from the street.
And the second is that, by its shameful behaviour, the Catholic church has driven yet another nail into the coffin of its power over French affairs. Congregations have fallen disastrously, half of those Catholics interviewed in polls do not approve of their church's stance, and the public is waking up to the danger represented by its fundamentalist views.
Just as Frigide Barjot's days in the limelight shall soon end, so shall those of the Catholic church, and so much the better.