Repost: Noel Godin

By (Peter Hipwell)
Date: Mon, 13 May 1996 13:39:15 GMT


[I'm going to repost this because it documents the ideal of SubGenius
revolutionary aactivity. Some of you may remember it, but I've just
run across a followup about a member of Godin's flan flinging troupe:
another Belgian anarchist, the man who created the famous "Underpants
Museum", produced comic books detailing Tin Tin's sexual relations
with his dog, and ... well, just stay tuned over the next couple of days.]

Transcribed from The Observer Magazine - Life (2:7:95)
Article by Robert Chalmers
Transcribed by Pete Hipwell (

"Permit me to recommend the bomb threat," Noel Godin said, pouring
China tea from a delicate pot. "One little phone call, and it never
fails. There are," he went on, "a thousand forms of subversion, all of
them interesting. But few, in my opinion, can equal the convenience
and immediacy of the cream pie."

A passer-by, glancing through the window of Godin's living room, might
take him for a tutor explaining some arcane point of literary
history. Every room of his house in Brussels is lined with books and
the whole place is kept in the kind of aimiable disorder associated
with the academic. After a few minutes I noticed that our conversation
was punctuated by a feeble mewing. A few feet away, huddled between
the complete works of Jules Verne and a sheet of hardboard, a family
of kittens had just been born.

On the table in front of Godin was a first edition of his 800-page
"Anthology of Radical Subversion"; behind him, an immense picture of
Norman Wisdom. Both are items deeply cherished by Godin, a man of
principle who likes to have fun. Fifty in September, he arrived late
and dishevelled for our lunchtime appointment, straight off the
morning express from Paris, weak from partying. The night before, he
explained, he had missed the last train back, adjourned to "a number
of nightclubs in the Bastille area" and had not been to bed.

Though he may look capable of no more aberrant an act than the
drilling of irregular verbs at a minor public school, the author and
provocateur is widely feared in France and Belgium where, under the
synonym of Georges Le Gloupier, he has taken to assaulting prestigious
thinkers, media figures and politicians with cream cakes. When Godin
speaks, hardly a minute passes without the use of the verb entarter,
which roughly translates as "to flan". "Over the past 20 years," he
boasts in the introduction to his recent autobiography "Cream And
Punishment", "Le Gloupier has sent the best outfits of France's
self-styled intellectuals to the dry cleaners".

Recipients have included Jean-Luc Godard, the film director, and
Marguerite Duras, the novelist. In VIP lounges at Cannes Film
Festival, what Godin calls "cream psychosis" has become so widespread
that even Gerard Depardieu is reported to have developed a preference
for hotels' rear entrances. At last months festival, victims included
the new French minister of culture, who is unlikely to forget his
first public engagement, and the philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, hit
for the fifth time.

Godin showed me a video of this last operation, which shows Levy - as
famous for his chest hair, silk blousons and Christian Dior shirts asq
for his philosophy - arriving at Nice airport with his third wife, the
actress Arielle Dombasle. As they check in, shadowy figures can be
seen in the background, ladling cream.

"They pick up their boarding cards, as you can see," said Godin, who
has clearly watched this shaky footage hundreds of times but, like a
footballer reviewing the goal of his career, seems unlikely to tire of
it - "then three entarteurs fall on them, with me leading the
charge. They shout: "Oh no. Oh not again." I deliver my cake, and he
responds with punches. One of my young female comrades flans him
again, point blank, while a second woman crushes alayered chocolate
gateau topped with creme chantilly over the head of Arielle
Dombasle. It was at that point", he added, "that things got out of

His recent operations have been heavily covered in mainstream
periodicals such as Paris Match, and even the most responsibly-minded
publications have reported his unusual campaign sympathetically. When
he arrived at Cannes last month, Godin recalled: "I was greeted with
cheerful cries of "Bonjour Monsieur L'Entarteur", "Who is it this
year?" and "Give my regards to Bernard-Henri Levy"." His surprising
popularity, Godin says, is the result of his careful vetting of
targets, who tend to be figures with a limited sense of irony at their
own expense. "I flan people in the spirit of the abusive letters the
Dadaists sent to worthless celebrities," he said. "The aim is always
to denounce them in some way. I do not want to slide into facile
sensationalism. Every victim has to be thoroughly justified."

Few have been more outstanding flanees that Bernard-Henri Levy, a man
so sensitive that he was once credibly reported as observing that
"when I find a new shade of grey, I feel ecstatic". He has also
famously remarked that he dislikes seeing a woman pay in a
restaurant. "I think," Levy explained, "that money does not suit a
woman; or rather that I would not fall in love with such a woman." His
own varied talents constitute, by his own account, "a landscape which
does not have a fixed place in the classic topography of culture."

These are the kind of observations that guarantee the philosopher
express deliveries of creme chantilly for years to come. "He is the
worst," says Godin, who, on the subject of Bernard-Henri Levy, tends
to sound like Herbert Lom on Inspector Clouseau. "He is the worst this
decade." He is especially critical of Levy's consistent urging of
armed intervention against the Bosnian Serbs, given that the
philosopher, unlike other intellectual militants such as Andre Malraux
or George Orwell, has shown no inclination to enlist himself.

But if a taste for personal involvement has not been a feature of
Levy's contribution to the Bosnia debate, he cannot be accused of
having shrunk from unarmed combat once the pies have started
flying. At Levy's baptismal flanning, in Liege 10 years ago, the
author of "Testament of God" delivered an unambiguous response. "I
didn't even feel the uppercut," Godin told me, "because I was so happy
to gaze up from the floor and see the peak of French intellectual
thought so thoroughly snowbound." Levy, who emerges from his books as
a reflective man unshakably committed to qualities such as
reasonableness and tolerance, was dismayed to find that footage of the
incident, which shows him shouting to his prone assailant: "Get up, or
I'll kick your head in," was repeatedly broadcast on French

On their second encounter, at a Brussels bookshop where a gathering of
what Godin describes as "100 painted old trout" had come to hear the
thinker, and pugilist read from his work "The Last Days of
Baudelaire", Godin was laid out on a table and subjected to further
blows. The film of ther latest incident, which shows Arielle Dombasle
scratching and lashing out at the entarteur's woman companions, ends
with an abrupt thump. "Levy broke the camera," says Godin, "then
punched the cameraman on the nose. A few minutes later he had his
hands round my neck while Arielle Dombasle thrashed at me with her
handbag. The police got me out of there."

Such episodes have done little to enhance Levy's profile. His puppet on
the French equivalent of Spitting Image steuggles to advocate a
military solution in the former Yugoslavia through a hail of dairy
products. In Japan, Godin claims, footage of the French philosopher's
viscous misfortune has proved so popular with game-show viewers that
Godin is known as "a kind of Belgian Jerry Lewis". "Levy was flanned
in Reims by a mysterious splinter group," said Godin, "and recently I
heard that he also ran into difficulties in a bakery at
Montpellier. If those reports are true, he is under fire from all

The first five seconds after the delivery of a flan, Noel Godin
believes, offer a stark revelation of a victim's real
character. Jean-Luc Godard, for instance, accepted his projectile with
good grace and later intervened to stop his assailant being banned for
life from the Cannes festival. "Accurately delivered, a cream pie is
an uncannily precise barometer of human nature," Godin argued. "If
Levy, for example, could once respond with humour or self-deprecation,
he would immediately defuse the process and turn the whole business in
his favour."

The phone rang. Godin answered it, then started to speak in a series
of code words. "Geneva," he explained to me, conspiratorially. "An

Noel Godin earns a living as an author and cinema historian, but makes
an occasional appearance as an actor: his brief appearance in the role
of the Belgian writer Pierre Mertens is the highlight of the otherwise
uneven film "The Sexual Life Of The Belgians", directed by his friend
Jan Bucquoy, which opened in London last month.

Increasingly, however, Godin's time is given over to les
tartes. Attacks are meticulously planned and require a minimum of four
people, including a camera operator, a stills photographer and an
assistant to hold the pastry. "The crucial thing is not to throw the
flan, but place it and, most importantly, not to give a damn about
finding a safe escape route, even if that means being beaten senseless
by dreary security guards. We only use the finest patisserie," he
added, "ordered at the last minute from small local bakers. Quality is
everything. If things go wrong, we eat them."

Sometimes, Noel Godin told me, his team can be 18 strong, with several
members dressed in the official costume of Georges Le Gloupier: a
preposterous outfit consisting of a false beard, reading glasses and a
bow tie. Entarteurs are strictly forbidden from responding physically
to attacks, however violent. As yet, none of his victims has pressed
charges. "They would love to," Godin said, "but it would be disastrous
for what they hold most dear - their public reputation. When I have
been detained in custody, my arresting officers have usually been weak
with laughter, and several have offered me their own list of future

The history of the flans is a bizarre and perverse one. Born and
educated in Liege, Noel Godin abandoned his law studies when he got
caught up in the student demonstations of May 1968. The following
year, fired with enthusiasm for the anarchist principles he has never
forsaken, he was hired to write the news column for Friends of Film, a
magazine published by the Belgian Catholic League.

"I started to print complete falsehoods - gradually at first, then
routinely," he recalled. "I invented non-existant films that I
illustrated with snapshots of my relatives. I worte face-to-face
interviews with hundreds of artists, including Frank Capra and Robert
Mitchum, without ever leaving my bedroom."

Readers of Friends of Film were introduced to the work of imaginary
geniuses such as Sergio Rossi, Aristide Beck and Viviane Pei, the Thai
director of such films as "The Lotus Flower Will No Longer Grow On The
Shores Of Your Island". Pei's acheivements, ceaselessly lauded in
Godin's column, were the more remarkable, he reported, in that she was
"the only blind director in the history of cinema". He enthused over
"Vegeatbles of Good Will" (1970, Jean Clabau), in which Claudia
Cardinale played an endive, and "Germinal II", a Maoist cartoon
featuring Jean-Louis Barrault as the voice of a cold chisel.

When I voiced my scepticism of these stories, Godin produced a
complete run of the magazine, carefully preserved in chronological
order, and clearly authentic. In the first column I saw, Jeanne Moreau
revealed Roger Vadim, former husband of Brigette Bardot, to be "a DIY
fanatic secretly obsessed with small balsawood aircraft". Elsewhere,
subscribers to Friends of Film learnt that Malene Dietrich led
expeditions to hunt down the Loch Ness monster, that Michael Caine had
a motor that ran on yoghurt, and that Marcel Pagnol had crossed the
Channel on a four-poster bed fitted with an outboard motor.

Godin's celebrity "interviews" often found his subject in unusually
candid moods. "I am a cretin," confessed Richard Brooks, director of
"Cat On A Hot Tin Roof". "My films are mere wind." Robert Ryan, who
player Deke Thorton in "The Wild Bunch" argued that "herbivorism could
make work a thing of the past". Mindful of his devout readership,
Godin announced a conversion every three months, and reported the
induction into the faith of such improbable penitents as Luis Bunuel
and Tennessee Williams. "I got away with it purely because I had a
credulous editor and the magazine was not distributed outside
Belgium," said Godin.

His interest in flans began when he wrote a report stating that one of
his fictional film-makers, Georges Le Gloupier, had assaulted the
director Robert Bresson with a cream pie. In the next issue, he
alleged that Marguerite Duras, a friend of Bresson, had launched a
revenge attack on Le Gloupier with a kirsch gateau at a cafe in

"A few days later," Godin continued, "I heard that Duras was really
coming to Belgium. With the help of a few Oud Zottegem - our explosive
bedside beer - the plan was hatched." Godin attended the function and
pressed a large cream cake into Duras's face as she elucidated the
theme of her second film, "Destroy, She Says". In the next issue of
Friends of Film, he reported the incident as a revenge attack by Le

Before I met Godin, I had expected his activities to be some kind of
contrived form of performance art. Little could be further from the
truth. A kind of earnest joy radiates from him when he talks about
what he calls his "cream crusade". He sometimes raises his hand to his
mouth, like a child, in a vain attempt to stop himself smiling at the
pleasure of it. While most of the volumes in his vast library are
fomidable-looking anarchist texts, a high percentage of his 10,000
videos are slapstick films. He owns the complete works of the Three
Stooges and Will Hay and - worryingly, for a man who speaks no English
- 14 films by George Formby. When that first tarte a la creme was
lauched, you feel, his disparate interests instantly
cohered. Suddenly, it all made sense.

As a young man, Godin disseminated tracts urging workers to minor acts
of sabotage. "A match jammed in a Yale lock," he suggested. "An error
in the accounts, a bomb threat, a drop of tar in a surveillance
camera." His principles have barely altered. "I was never cured," he
says, "of the fever of May 1968." He has lived with his girlfriend
Sylvie for 17 years, but remains opposed to the institution of family
and will not have children "because it would be irresponsible to bring
them into this bleak and tragic world".

His genial, bookish demeanour and mischevious good humour - in an
ideal world Noel Godin might easily be played by one of his favourite
actors, Alistair Sim - somehow allows him to sound endearingly
innocent even when pleading the most controversial of causes. "I
cannot help admiring irregular combatants," Godin told me. "I have a
powerful sympathy for the Baader gang, for instance. They gambled
their lives, and it was an adventure that could only end one
way. Their committment reminds me of the flame that burns in the
novels of Dumas or the films of Howard Hawks: unbridled friendship,
reckless joie de vivre, the love of risk, the refusal to accept any

Few could accuse Godin of less than total commitment to his own
surreal struggle against self-importance and conformity. Take his own
career as a director, which produced three bizarre shorts. The first
was a military training film stoled from the Belgian army, which Godin
released unaltered except for a new and unorthodox set of credits. His
second, "Trump Trump Trala", is the story of a woman OAP suddenly
seized with the desire to revolt against her oppressed condition. "To
sum up," says Godin, "she fires on soldiers with a catapault, flans
repressive parents, flagellates bailiffs, urinates in the street,
blows up police stations, and incites the pillage of the supermarket

The merit of these works, like his frankly deranged last effort
"Strike and Farts", eluded the average Belgian cineam-goer, although
Godin's second picture, to its creator's surprise, won a national
competition for Best Short Film.

"I had a dilemma there," he recalled. "The award was presented by a
mayor - the personification of every value I found most
distasteful. But the prize was two movie cameras. In the end I went up
on the podium and threw my arms round him. I said "Thank you thank you
tank you my mayor" and kissed him and licked him all over. I pushed
him over and with our limbs intertwined, we rolled around on the stage
while I covered him with kisses. This went on for quite a
while. "Thank you my mayor, thank you." Every time he tried to get up,
I hauled him back by the buttocks."

You could hardly accuse Godin of having mellowed with age. If
anything, his appetite for shameless exuberance seems to have
increased. In the past five years he has been responsible for closing
down two major chat shows, one in Belgium and one in France. Before he
agreed to appear on the French programme, "Durand La Nuit", Godin
admits having signed a no-flan pledge. "But then," he told me, "my
fellow guest, the playwright Vladimir Volkoff, started to complain
that, when he was in his local cake shop, he had to suffer the
presence of ill-mannered and ungrammatical proletarians who said:
"What do I owe you?" instead of "How much?". When I heard that I was
straight off into the wings. I came back armed."

Godin recalls that, after he appeared on the prestigious talk show
"Entre Nous" (now defunct), the presenter, then one of Belgium's
leading broadcasters, "was fired immediately". On another domestic
show, when the conversation turned to the late King Baudouin of
Belgium, Godin invited the sovereign to "indulge his sodomitical
passions with the active support of all his loyal citizens". A more
patriotically-minded guest threatened to knife him with a blade he
produced from his pocket. "The whole country turned its back on me,"
Godin recalled. "I was pelted with tins and bottles in a Brussels
shopping centre. People called me homophobic," he added, "which could
not be more wrong."

Far from fading away as its novelty wears off, Godin's extraordinary
campaign appears to be gathering momentum. He is in regular contact
with groups in Paris, Canada and Switzerland, where five cabinet
ministers were recently entarte simultaneously.

Did Noel Godin and his co-conspirators not consider that they had
already made their point? "On the contrary," he said, "we are just
beginning. We feel ready now. Ready to attack another sort of
target. A genuine International Brigade Patisserie has been born. We
believe that we are capable of acheiving great things in the near
future. For instance," he went on, "I firmly believe that we can flan
the Pope. We were waiting for him om 13 May 1994 in Brussels with some
delicately-flavoured surprises, but as you know he providentially
slipped on a bar of soap."

Noel Godin recently promised to flan the new French President Jacques
Chirac within the next six months. Both his girlfriend and his father,
a retired lawyer who urged Noel to follow him into the profession, are
advocating caution, especially now that he is aiming at such
highly-protected targets. It does seem possible that Godin's own
enthusiasm, combined with the youthful zeal of his new recruits, may
prove difficult to check, and that his campaign - like one of those
beserk final reels from the low comedies he so admires - may get
carried away by its own hysterical momentum.

"Sylvie is worried that I might end up getting shot," said
Godin. "Personally, I have considerable faith in the professionalism
of elite bodyguards, who are, on the whole, reasonably alert. Alert
enough, that is, to recognize a cream cake if they have had advance
warning about it. But that is a risk that will not enter into our
calculations for one moment. So great is the ardour that has seized us
- not just me, but the basic combat group - that we will go all the

Noel Godin's interest in new and more prestigious victims must, I
supposed, have taken the heat off his old enemy Bernard-Henri
Levy. "Sadly not," said Godin. "I offered my terms for a ceasefire
several months ago. Hostilities will end when he and his wife appear
in public and sing, as a duet, the popular French comic song
"Avez-Vous Vu Le Beau Chapeau De Zozo?". So far he has shown no sign
of complying. Consequently his astrologers, if they are to be trusted,
will have been warning of a high-calorie disaster which awaits him at
the beginning of next year. This is something of a break with
tradition; he is accustomed to having a year's respite between

On a recent operation involving Levy, Godin claims, the cream pies
were carried through a security barrier strapped to Alfred, a
performing dog. "Alfred is a pedigree," said Godin, "but I refuse to
reveal the breed. I like the thought of Levy experiencing a feeling of
slight unease every time he sees a dog at a public function."

A keen Anglophile, Godin says he is planning to visit London, in a
preofessional capacity. "I would like to appeal to like-minded people
in the United Kingdom," Godin said. "Invite me over. Propose a plan of
action." He opened the small notebook which contains his hit lists,
and showed me the beginnings of his British section. First on the
list, he explained are "two targets suggested to me by the Paris
diarist of the Daily Telegraph, who spoke to me on the phone the other
day. The first name is Martin Amis. The second name is Michael..." He
paused, unable to decipher his own handwriting. "Does that say
Protillo? Who is he?"

In any case, Godin says, he is already investigating the movements of
two other figures from what he considers to be an abundant supply of
potential British targets. "The escalation in the international flan
war," he told me, "has already begun. No obstacle can stand in our
way. Like Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Gene Tierney and Barbara Stanwyck
in the old Hollywood films, we have a crazed belief in ourselves. We
pose a direct threat to everything that is most pompous, from Margaret
Thatcher to the Pope."

Noel Godin hopes to be over "to brighten the lives of my British
friends" some time towards the end of the year. Could he be more
precise? "Tell them to expect me," he said, "when they see a
cream-coloured shooting star traverse their cheerless skies."

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