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There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part Two: Coco Chanel: The Nazi Who Invented Fashion

Part Two: Coco Chanel: The Nazi Who Invented Fashion

Thu, 30 Mar 2023 09:55

Robert is joined again by Courtney Kocak to continue to discuss fashion designer, Coco Chanel.

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That's a good, people do that all the time, yeah? Yeah. Yeah. Let's just make a lot of money. Look, when you've got Netflix money, which at this point is what like $40, you don't have to apologize for anything. So Coco Chanel is riding high in the in the early 1920s. She is rich as shit. She is the talk of the town. She is pretty racist and the guy she loves is dead, but hey, she's friends with Picasso. And can you put a price on being friends with Picasso? Probably. She's also friends with the Grand Duke Demetri, who is a former Russian noble exiled after the Bolshevik revolution. Grand Duke Demetri, like the TLDR of his background is he was one of the guys who killed Rasputin. So this is like a dude that she parties with. Maybe has a thing with, is the Grand Duke Demetri. Pretty cool. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I mean, he's a he's a zaris noble. So he's a bad guy. But he's not particularly bad. Yeah, she will hang out with worse people. And he does not have a bale full influence on her. Mainly the thing that like he they spend a lot of time drinking and talking and whatever. And from his like stories of the homeland, she decides to launch a line of Chanel clothing patterned off of Russian peasant clothes. Which is again very successful. And it's also from her conversations with the Grand Duke that Coco gets the inspiration to create her own scent. And yeah, this is what becomes Chanel number five. Right? Everybody knows that. CNN fashion describes the process of concocting the soon to be infamous scent. Chanel launched her eponymous number five perfume in 1921. A year before, so the legend goes, she had challenged French Russian perfumer Ernest Boe to create a scent that would make it's where smell like a woman and not like a rose. The result was a mixture of 80 natural and synthetic ingredients, which Boe presented her with a numbered series of perfume samples to choose from. She picked the fifth. The blin subverted the notion of fragrances as a symbol of high social class, instead pushing the idea that women could be multiple things, natural and artificial, provocative and pure. It was what I was waiting for. Chanel later said, a perfume like nothing else, a woman's perfume with the scent of a woman. I did hear one time that she picked something else first, I think. Did you talk about that? Yeah, yeah, I think she picks like another one for two or something. Yeah, she eventually lands on five. But that's why it's Chanel number five, because she's given a bunch of options and five is the one she picks. And she's not only, obviously, I guess it smells good. I can't think of the top I have what Chanel number five smells like. I couldn't tell you. But everyone knows that it's a thing. You say, Chanel number five and everyone has heard of it, which is it's like Coca-Cola, right? It's the Coca-Cola of perfumes at this point. I think it smells like department store kind of, right? Yeah, yeah, probably. That's probably fair to say at this point. And so the most interesting thing about it is how it became that ubiquitous. And this passage from Howell Vaughn's book describes the innovative way in which Coco was going to market her new perfume. To promote her new invention, Chanel, like the shrewd peasant she was, believed in word of mouth. She tested Chanel number five by inviting friends to dine with her at a posh restaurant near grass. Then she furtively sprayed guests passing by her table. And they reacted with surprise and pleasure. Pleased with the results, Chanel returned to Paris and quietly launched her new venture. She didn't announce its arrival in the press. She wore it herself and sprayed the shop's dressing rooms with it, giving bottles to a few of her high society friends. Her perfume soon became the talk of Paris. No concern. She does kind of do the departments. Yeah, no, non-consensual perfume spraying. I do feel like the fact that they're marketing it a woman's perfume. That's how it's marketed now. It's the same exact marketing, like 2020. Why mess with success, Sophie? Yeah. And then I think that the non-consensual spraying is basically department stores. That is. It is funny, Courtney. You brought up department stores. She does kind of invent that too. Yes. Yes. Yeah, so broad. She's going to spray it. Without Chanel, we would never have that episode of friends with Joey. It's sp- I'm sorry. If you got it, you got it. If you didn't get it, watch it. I feel like gun stores should do the same thing with mace. Like you were going with it. I was like, I'm anywhere you're going with it. Yeah. No, it was a mace joke. It's fine. So the demand for Chanel number five, almost immediately exceeded this blows up like basically nothing ever had before. It immediately exceeds cocosability to produce or distribute it. You know, she is a boutique fashion maker. She's very successful, but she does not have the kind of production capacity to mass manufacture perfume. And so she starts looking for somebody to help her expand and an entrepreneur named Pierre Wartimer makes her an offer. Pierre is the patriarch of a wealthy Jewish family. And he probably also is kind of in love with cocos Chanel. Coco has kind of a love-hate relationship with him because there's I think a degree to which she finds some a little charming, but also she's very racist. And more to the point, this deal that he's going to make with her to produce cocos perfume to produce Chanel number five. It's going to make her incredibly wealthy, right? And it's going to make Chanel number five an iconic product. But he gets most of the money from it. Now, wait, is this you said she's racist? Is this a Jewish man? Oh, yeah. So that's going to be a problem because the deal and you know, whatever, these are all wealthy capitalists. So I'm not going to try to come down on like this person is the right or the wrong. But like he is taking on the primary financial risk by putting in a shitload of money upfront to create a production line to mass produce Chanel number five, right? And so he gets most of the money, right? Coco makes a shitload of money. She makes more money than anyone could ever spend in a lifetime. And more money, in fact, than she is able to ever spend in her lifetime. But she will spend the rest of her life kind of obsessed with the fact that he's cheating her out of her fair share of the profits. And this is very related to the fact that he is Jewish and she is racist, right? Yeah, it like validates all of her, I mean, not really. But in her mind, validates all of her like, yeah. And from where I'm sitting again, I'm not going to like whitewash word thimer because there's some critiques to make of him because he's a wealthy businessman. But like, she makes more money than she could ever have spent on this shit. So the fact that she's obsessing over the fact that this is not as fair a contract as she thinks it should be is, I don't know, it says a lot about her. Obviously, I think that is more understandable because she grows up super poor. So maybe she has this kind of fixation because money was always so tight for her as a younger person. I don't know. But like her, her anger at the fact that she's not getting more money is academic because she is never able to spend close to as much money as she has by the mid 1920s. Coco had reached the absolute height of success in her business life. And she was about to reach a similar height in her personal life. In the early 20s, she made the acquaintance of a British socialite and aristocrat named Vera Bait Lombardi. Vera was famed for her beauty and had many influential suitors in the British nobility. She was one of these like, look, you're not going to marry me. We can have a good time, right? And Vera is a big advocate of what was called at the time the sporting life. And this is kind of how British aristocrats spent their free time. They're going on a hunts. They're shooting fesons. They're shooting foxes. They're playing tennis. They're going on sailing adventures around the cape of good hope or whatever. You know, this is what the elite spends their time doing, right? And that's that Vera is a big advocate of the sporting life. And because she is so beautiful and fucking a lot of these influential British aristocrats, she knows all of the people that are worth knowing in British high society. Now, she falls in love with Chanel because the sporting life is kind of difficult when you wearing like a 65 pound whalebone dress that's got like a 10 foot wide like hoop skirt or whatever. So Coco's clothing, like the sporting life is kind of increasingly becoming a fashionable thing late 1800s, early 1900s. And the fact that Coco starts coming out with these really comfortable thin, like easy to wear clothing is huge for a broad like Vera. She's like, oh, man, this fucking lady makes the best clothing ever. And so Vera befriends Coco Chanel and introduces her to English high society, which is the most closed and hardest to enter aristocratic set in European society at this point. And it's through Vera that in 1923, Coco gets invited to a dinner at Monte Carlo where she meets the Duke of Westminster. Hugh Richard Arthur Grossvena known as Bindor to his friends. And Coco quickly becomes a friend of Bindor. He is entranced by her. And you know, Bindor is one of the only men, maybe the only man really she was likely to meet who has more money than her because he is probably the richest man in Europe. He is the largest landowner in Europe at like near the height of the colonial period. This guy, he has so. This guy's got a lot of slaves. Is that what's going on? There's a couple of levels. Basically, essentially, but like, so there's a couple of levels to having money, right? There's like being middle class, which is when you can afford the stuff that you need, but you're not free of precarity, right? There's upper middle class where you can afford the stuff you need and most of the things you want, but you're not entirely free of precarity. And then there's rich, right? Which is where you have all, we have a lot of money, right? But there's a level, and most people just think that like, yeah, rich is kind of like the top of having money. There's a level above rich because rich people have money. The mega rich like Bindor, they don't have money. They just don't have, they can never run out of money. That's a different thing, right? Having money is different than... Bindor does not spend money. Bindor demands things and they are made for him or they come to him, right? Like his wealth is so vast that he effectively does not have money. He has a superpower. He has magic. That is the kind of rich this guy is, right? Like, this is like, this is Jeff Bezos level, right? Of wealth, except for more of it is actually in physical things for a guy like Bindor. You cannot exaggerate how much fucking money this guy has. So like British, I mean, usually it's old money, right? But was this guy new money? Very old. No, he is old money. He has inherited a lot of it. This is old colonial money. He owns land all over the fucking place. Like, he owns palaces. He owns a massive yacht that is like a gigantic floating English mansion. Like, it's a country mansion that he had turned into a yacht so he could sail around but still live in an English country mansion. Like, this... Yeah, beyond rich, you know? Like, that is the kind of money this guy possesses. It's like, this boat sounds like a great way to die. Yeah. And again, nobody told him how much the boat cost. He just said, I would like a boat that feels like my country mansion and it was made. You know, like, that's the, that's the degree. The kind of guy that says, one of the women who spent time around Bindor later described him this way. A pure Victorian who had eyes for his shotgun, his hunters, jumpers and racehorses, his dogs while English women of his day had only to give birth to children and please their masters. A man who played it dropping a bit of sugar in its paper wrapper into hot coffee and with a cronominor in hand, timing how long it took to melt. A man who enjoyed hiding diamonds under the pillow of his mistresses. A man who could brutalize women. Okay. That is, that is Bindor. Sexy. Yeah, that's what Coco thinks. And he is drawn to her in part because like, as rich as he is, she is probably the only woman on planet earth who he would number one be interested in, but who has no interest in his money. Yes. She doesn't need his money because she has, like, again, he's rich as fuck, but like, she has more money than she can ever spend. At one point, they have a spat over the fact that he's like constantly cheating on her, right? And she tells him, all I want from you, he's like, basically, what can I do to make this right? And she says, all I want from you are the wildflowers picked by your own hands, right? Basically, I want you to actually go do a thing for me. And instead, he has his servants get up on shift wildflowers and lace them with jewels and give them to her because he just can't comprehend doing a thing. He's not that kind of man. No. So what she is interested in, in addition, I think she does legitimately like this guy. She stays with him for 10 years, right? She does, I think there is like an emotional connection that they have. And he seems to legitimately care about her to the extent that a man like this is capable of caring about other people. She is also interested in his connections. And it's through Bendoor that Coco meets with the Duke of Windsor. Later, Edward King Edward VIII, who then abdicates because he marries a common woman. He is a Nazi. Yeah. He is, he is, he is, he is a hung out with Hitler Nazi. He is, he is a, he is a first name basis with Hitler Nazi. She also meets with Winston Churchill, who despite being pretty anti-Nazi, is friends with all of these guys and hanging out with them. Churchill writes a lot. Churchill actually writes a good amount about Coco Chanel. She is a good hunter. She's really good at like writing horses and hunting from horseback. And he's like impressed with how good she is at this stuff. He writes this, I think he might have had a crush on her. He writes a decent amount about like her shooting animals and writing her horse and stuff. He's very, he finds her very impressive though. And you know, all of these men, including Churchill, are incredibly right wing. And all of these men aside from Churchill are huge fans of Hitler. So even Churchill though, wasn't he a little anti-Semitic? Oh, yeah. I mean, for sure. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But he is, he's, he's, he's one of the things you have to give Churchill is like he's not a, not a Hitler stan, right? Right. Yeah. But no, I mean, they're all, they're all big. They're all right. Like homies with Hitler. I do like homies with Hitler. Yeah. I mean, I like it. But all these guys are shitty. Don't get me wrong. It's just that Churchill is not that specific kind of shit. Like fuck all of these motherfuckers. But there are tears. Absolutely. There are tears of fuckery. And the guy that she is like bumping with is that one of, is this almost the shittiest. I would say King Edward the eighth is a little shittier than than Ben Dore. But yeah, it's, it's good stuff. So in the late 1920s and early 30s, which is Wincoe, it's like kind of the mid 20s to the early 30s, like 23 to 33, I think more or less. That's when Coco is kind of a really intimate part of this circle. So that's quite a lot of time. You know, they spend a lot of time together. The Duke of Westminster and his friends admired the Nazi movement, most particularly for its strong stance against the Jews. Lawrence James, author of a book called Aristocrats claims, what lay behind their support of appeasement was a fear of communism. What emerges is a picture of a knot of peers adrift in an uncongenial world united by paranoia, pessimism and panic. So basically, the Bolshevik revolutions just happened. All of the nobility in Russia has been either murdered or forced to flee and a lot of their wealth has been taken. Ben Dore, this is one of the few things he's got a fear is like, what the socialism thing spreads over to England. Yeah, I got a shitload to lose. So they support Nazis because of that. And because they're all anti-Semitic, they see Bolshevism as a Jewish movement, right? Yeah. And these are the people that Coco's hanging out with. So this kind of, this is when she, I think probably moves from the normal level of anti-Semitic and French society more or less to super racist because she spends 10 years with the most racist, and these guys, all they have is money and time to spin conspiracy theories, often about the Jews. And so like, she's just kind of hanging out with them when they're like drinking and talking about this Judeo Bolshevism shit and how fascism's the only thing that can stop it. She's like, you gotta meet these guys. They have really great YouTube channels. Oh man, these guys would have all been tape stands. Absolutely. Lawrence James goes on to explain, visceral anti-Semitism permeated the upper classes between the wars. Jews were vilified as flashy and pushy aerobests with a knack for enriching themselves when the aristocracy was grumbling about an often exaggerated downturn in their fortunes. And Coco obviously, she's well prepared to embrace this bigotry, but Bendoor is going to not only kind of encourage this bigotry, but he's going to lend a sheen of class and education to the way in which she's racist, as Hal Vaughn describes here. Whatever Chanel's views on Bolshevism before 1925, Bendoor tutored her on the evils of communism and confirmed her antipathy toward Jews. He shuddered at the word Marxism. He was notoriously homophobic when his homosexual brother-in-law advocated free trade unions as leader of the liberal party, Bendoor revealed him to be gay to the king, George V, ruining his sister's marriage in the man's political career. Chanel could match Bendoor's homophobia. She is quoted as telling Paul Morand while in exile in Switzerland in the winter of 1946 at St. Moritz. Homosexuals are they not always hanging around women? My beauty, my little one, my angel, continually strangling them with flattery? I have seen young women ruined by these awful queers, drugs, divorce and scandal. They will use any means to destroy a competitor in recvisions on a woman. The queers want to be women, but they are lousy women. Oh my gosh. She's a real piece of shit. This is the end of the sympathetic coco. Yeah, RIP. Is she going back and forth from Britain, great Britain to Paris, like London and Paris at this time? She travels constantly. And she's often like hopping a ride across the channel or whatever on like a yacht or you know, she's got, she has all of the money in the world. She has all these connections. And you know who else has all the money in the world? Our sponsors. Not yet. Not until you pay them some of your own. This show was sponsored by BetterHelp. Life is a process of learning more things about yourself. For example, I recently learned that reading about terrible people all the time can sometimes make you sad. And when you're sad, it helps to talk to people. 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As his mistress, she finds herself regularly at exclusive gatherings, these royal cattillians, where she'll be like drinking and partying with like literally the 50 or 60 most powerful people in the world pretty much. Bendor's palace, Eaton Hall, had 54 suites and a staff who were trained to keep completely silent and just ensure that the guests never had to lift a finger. So while millions of people are starving all around the world, while like the depression has said it's worst, this is what Coco's up to. Yeah, would have been, could have used a Molotov or two. So she and the Duke of Westminster finally break up in the early 30s. I believe it's 33. Primarily due to the fact that Westminster wants an heir and Chanel is unable to get pregnant. She was also frustrated constantly by the fact that he cheated on her with clock like regularity. The two fought more and more as time went on, having a particularly rival to argument after Bendor brought a beautiful socialite onto his yacht, the flying cloud. His usual tactic was to calm Coco with a gift and on this occasion he gave her a priceless emerald that had been carved out of one of the empires overseas colonies. Something that's probably worth an incalculable fortune today. And because they're fighting, she takes this massive emerald and she drops it into the ocean. Like a real life-sized panic thing. Yeah, but instead of it being for whatever reason that lady did it, she just does it because like fuck you were fighting. I don't even need this emerald. I think she is like, you can't buy me. That's like one of her vibes. It's just like, fuck off her each guy. And I think that is, that's one of the things that is really interesting and kind of as bad as she is endearing about her is that from the beginning, she's got this like, number one, I ain't gonna actually stay with a dude unless I really am and love with him. And part of how I will make that like the only way to really prove that is to make sure that I am rich as shit. Like so that this whatever I'm doing is totally my call, you know? Which is interesting about her. It's one of the things that makes her a compelling person to to read about. Now, they break up, but they're, again, she's pretty good with her exes. They're friends for the rest of Bendoor's life, which fortunately ends in 53. But Chanel drifts away with from him after kind of the early 30s. She spends a chunk of those years in Hollywood where she designs clothing for act, just like a, like less than a year in Hollywood. She makes clothing for actors and actresses in a bunch of films, but most of those movies flop, which is kind of one of her few brushes with failure. But her time there puts her into the acquaintance of the next great love of her life. A guy named Paul Iraban-Gare, known to most as Paul Irib, thank God because I can't really say that last name. So, Paul Irib is a Basque man. He was, he's in the film industry. He had succeeded in the movie business as an art director for Cecil B. DeMille. He was also a director in his own right. In France, he was famous for being the illustrator of an erotic art book and also for being one of the first writers and illustrators for Vogue. So he's an artist, you know, yeah, she's very drawn. Well, put it in that one. Okay, he's got some flaws. I'm sure you're going to lay them on me. So in addition to being a very talented artist with a provocative wit, he is so racist. This guy, this guy is like Hitler level of racist, right? And that has an impact on Paul Irib because like Hitler's coming into power in this period, the far rights innocent globally, you know, yada yada yada anti-Semitism is in, you might say, Vogue. And a reb convinces Chanel that she could be a part of this big ground swell in racism with a small investment. And using her money, he relaunched a failed newspaper that Timoyne as a nationalist anti-Semitic propaganda paper. And I'm going to quote again, yeah, Coco Chanel founds a racism newspaper. Oh my God. That's cool. It's awesome. I can't believe you like learn what racism is and you're like, you know what? I'm going to die. It's going to be a newspaper about this shit. I want to paper the town without racist I am. Yeah, yeah, I got to make a newspaper about how much I hate people. I can just only imagine her in modern times like I think she would have been just as successful. I'll tell you that much. Yeah, I don't disagree. I don't disagree. I just it's fascinating. The parallels. Yeah. Yeah. And she really like, she is this kind of timeless capitalist school because it you can just imagine. Yeah, you just trans today. The internet she wouldn't have been any less successful. She would have made most of the same calls and they would have worked about as well. She's like in this oddly fraught relationship with Bill Mars. Yeah, I would have been Bill Mars today. So I'm going to quote from Hal Vaughan. According to one biographer, Erieb was an elitist bourgeoisie supercharged with a with an irrational fear of foreigners. Reading his issues of letharmonic, one would think France was the eternal victim of some vast international conspiracy. The magazine was a timid echo of France's fascist and anti-Semitic press, publications that supported French stormtroopers named the Hooded Ones. And groups promoting law and order in Italy and Germany. Biographer Charles Rue believed Chanel's launching of letharmonic with Erieb as editor and art director marked her transition from political indifference to a view of the future modeled on the opinions of Erieb. Mixed with ideas and prejudices absorbed during her peasant and Catholic upbringing. In the February 24th, 1933 edition of the magazine, Erieb had the brass to draw Chanel as a martyred Marianne in her ferngy and bonnet. Her naked body held by a collection of evil-looking men with obvious Jewish features. France, according to Erieb and Letharmonic, was suffering from a conspiracy managed by enemies within, called Samuel or Levy, the alien, like Leon Blum, and the Judeo-Massonic Mafia, the USSR, and Red Rapples. Leon Blum is like the leader of the popular front, which is kind of this left-wing progressive political movement that defeats the fascists and France during this period. So yeah, that's Coco, the bigot. This is all the shit that's in her paper. Yeah. Oh my god. It's pretty bad. Yeah. Now there's some good news coming, Courtney. Because Paul LaRib, like after a couple of years of this in late 1935, he's paying to it. He's playing tennis. Coco's out sunning herself. They're having a great day. And this motherfucker drops the fuck dead of a heart attack, which is awesome. That's great. Dead knots. Fuck him. But second time her boyfriend's died, right? Yeah, she loses a lot of boyfriends. Yep. I'm just saying you could really sell this fucking Netflix show. I know. I'm totally unborn. You would have been Netflix show. Look, you're going to have to cut a lot of the anti-symmetism. You're going to have to you're going to have to cast for Paul LaRib. Who do we cast? Oh, who's that guy? He's in him. He's in the new Star Wars movies. Everybody thinks he's handsome. Pablo Pascal. Pedro. No, not Pedro. You could probably do Pedro. You could do Pedro. You could whitewash Paul LaRib as Pedro Pascal. Sure. Let's do that. You know what, Courtney? Greenlit. The Coco story. That's my question. Yeah. What's that fucker's name? Okay. One sec. I want to know who you think is handsome. I don't. I'm so bad at like movie star names. Wow. I'm going to just go. So he's having a moment. I got to say one thing I appreciate. I just typed into being Star Wars handsome guy. There's a lot of potential options for that. You get Warwick Davis, which I think is awesome. I don't even know who that is. Warwick is the guy who plays the leprechaun and the leprechaun films. He plays a number of like, you know, stuff. Yeah. No, not at him driver. I don't think I'm like, Adam drivers. Very good looking. He's the guy who's kind of like Latin. Oh, he was. I'm sure. I'm sure literally the entire audience is screaming at us. Yeah. He was in Willow too. Yes. I taught him. Who's the fucking? The guy who plays Anakin because everybody likes him. No, no, no. I don't know. I'm so bad at names. He's a little person that was in Willow and actually it worked with a relative of mine in Willow. We're getting totally derailed. Sorry. You know, he's great. I just appreciate for his sake that he is the first pick in Bing for Star Wars handsome guy. Good for you, Warwick. Yes. Love you. Appreciate you. Oscar Isaac. God, that was driving me crazy. Oh, yes. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Oscar Isaac is who I would cast as Paula Reeb in the white washed version of Coco's life where we pretend she didn't run a Nazi newspaper. Dope. Yeah. Isn't he? Yeah. I'm looking. He's a handsome man. Oscar Isaac. Yeah. I mean, you're once he's he's he's he's he's Guatemalan. He's he's Guatemalan and and I think he's a little too handsome for his fashion. I'm gonna be honest. That's it. I mean, yeah, but who are I mean, who are we casting for Coco, right? We're going with somebody like in this period actually kind of maybe Opry Plaza is who I cast for Coco in this period. She's kind of in like her her late 30s early 40s around this time, I think. So yeah, I think she could I think she could do. And she also has that like head really well. Yeah. Yeah. Honestly, I don't know who else you cast cast now that we've mentioned it. No. Yeah. Opry do it. Do it and do it. Racist. Let's just let's just go for it. If you're going if you're if you're sticking with a French actress, you could do Mary and Courtyad. I don't know who that is. I know you don't. I bear I couldn't it took me like 10 minutes to figure out who Oscar I said, was cool. So, you know, this piece of shit dies and good ridden's very funny that he dies playing tennis. Fuck this asshole. This makes Coco very sad though because she loves the piece of shit. And she is made only the sadder because of the political currents that are going around in France at the time. As had happened in Italy, Spain and Germany, the far right is on the rise in France in the mid-delay 30s. But unlike in those countries, a united left-wing popular front was able to rise up and block the fascist from power. We cover this somewhat in our behind the insurrection series 1936 is the year of the popular front's electoral success. And it brings with it as part of this big, you know, kind of left-wing counter wave to the fascists. A wave of strikes by organized labor. There's a general strike on May 26th and by June, the boutiques in the Ritz Hotel where Coco lived full-time had closed. You know, within a few weeks Chanel's sales girls and seamstresses had joined the strike. Some 4,000 of her workers in total start striking. And when Chanel is informed of this, she so she learns her workers are on strike because her personal assistant has to sneak into the hotel from the back because the employees have a picket line out front. And Coco is horrified and shocked that her workers have decided to join this strike. She expresses the thought that they must have lost their minds. She calls them her little hands. That's what she calls her workers. I know. She is a girl at this point. And she accuses them of having been infected by an American mind virus. Liss it down. Which is interesting to me that like today when you talk about strikes, the French are like the first people you think about. Back in this day, when her workers go on strike, she's like, this damn American striking virus. That could be us again, folks. So her workers meanwhile saps like all held signs that so like they would basically, you know, the workers at these shops would cover the windows with signs that said occupied because they were not, they weren't just like not working. They were sitting in her factories and her stores and refusing to either work or leave so that nothing could be done. Which is fucking rad. It's very cool. Chanel calls this a betrayal. She felt that she paid them fairly. She's particularly angry because she offered them unpaid vacation days and they weren't grateful. Can you believe that Courtney? They weren't happy with their unpaid vacation days. Was she paying them fairly for the time? I don't think it's bad pay for the time. Obviously they're not happy with it. So I'm going to trust them that it could be better. That's clearly an error at it too. So she became convinced. I don't think, like from what I've read, I don't think it was particularly bad, but clearly it could have been better. And it's about to get better because they go on strike. She becomes convinced that a civil war is imminent. Such incidents from the working class is the only thing it can mean, right? Bolshevism's around the corner. They're going to be hunting us down in the streets. This is the only logical conclusion to what have we had paid vacation days? Coco, you live in a hotel and will never be able to spend all the money you have. Maybe we could have paid vacation days. She's like no revolution or nothing. This is war. Again, very little lever changes. So gold prices during this period skyrocket in France because Coco and all of her friends buy all of the gold that they can get their hands on because they're worried the cash is going to collapse. But just actually, that's not unfair considering this is around like right after the Great Depression, right? Like not unreasonable to be worried about that. Coco raised rage in roared as she sought to bring her labors to heal without success. They would not move on their demands though. Ironically, her designs became even more iconic during this period because one of the big symbols of the strike is all of these Chanel workers and their Chanel suits strutting around in front of Chanel's shops refusing to work without a fucking raise. Pretty cool. So like they're advertising for her? Kind of. Well, I mean, it's the nicest clothing they have, right? Yeah. Yeah, you know, I don't know. It's what they do. Eventually Coco is forced to concede after the leader of the popular front and the French labor movement sign-apacked granting French workers a 40 hour work week, paid vacations, collective bargaining rights, and compulsory schooling up to the age of 14. Coco fought to the last moment possible, but enraged eventually conceded. So. Fuck yeah. Way to go workers. Again, like every story that has a good thing in it in this part of the 20th century. It's like, yeah, that all ends well. And then on June 14th, 1940, Germany invades France and things. Things take a turn, shall we say. Within weeks, the Germans break the back of the French army. Paris has declared an open city to spare it from getting the fuck blown out of it. And as soon as the fighting starts, Coco is like, well, I'm not going to stay in fucking Paris. So she bounces to her nephew, Andre. He's like an adult now. He's in the French army. He's got a family. He has a nice home in the countryside. He's done reasonably well for himself. I'm sure she helped. And she winds up just kind of crashing with his family in the countryside in their nice manner for a while. Andre is on the Imagineau line. I probably don't need to explain to you that he gets captured. That's not a, I mean, it doesn't work all that badly for him. Sorry. I'm done. What's that line you just said? Oh, the Imagineau line. Sorry, I shouldn't make assumptions like that. The Imagineau line is so, you know, World War One goes pretty badly for everybody involved. A lot of murdering. So in order to like not have that happen again, the French build this big wall of fortifications across most of their border with Germany. And the hope that like, well, the next time they attack, we'll just kill them all with these gigantic, like bunkers and forts. But they don't, you know, the Imagineau line actually does its job reasonably well. The French, the Germans just move around it and then enter from that area. Anyway, it's a whole thing. Gotcha. But he's stationed in the Imagineau line. The Germans get around them. He gets captured. He becomes a prisoner of war, right? So Coco and her family living in the countryside are mostly insulated from the opening stages of World War Two. But they are worried for Andre, you know, it becomes clear something has gonna rye when he stops sending letters. The mystery only lingered after the fighting ended and Germans occupied the French heartland. Coco found this as intolerable as she was separated from her businesses. That's the main reason she is frustrated about the German conquest of Paris. And so shortly after Adolf Hitler's triumphant visit to Paris, she returns home telling her family, the Germans aren't all gangsters. Coco. One fun anecdote is that on the drive back, gases and shuts, such short supply and it's about to be rationed into extinction for regular people. Her show fur has to fill the trunk with tin cans of gasoline in order to get her to Paris. Interesting context. Another thing I learned during this that I hadn't known is because the Germans, when they take over most of France, because they ration gas and people can't get it, a lot of French people convert their cars to run off of like, like literally to run off of like charcoal and wood. So you just like stoke a burner and it makes your car go. I didn't realize you could do that. That's kind of a cool idea. That is interesting. Hey, did she feel safe because the Nazis are in charge of Paris, right? So it's like she had friends. Yeah, she's Coco, you know, I think she has this kind of confidence that it'll be fine. And there's a reason for this confidence because this is the point which Chanel's life comes to intersect with a Prussian military officer named Hans Gunther von Dinklitz. Now, Dinklitz had been born the son of a Prussian major and the daughter of a German merchant family. He'd been educated in England though, which gave him this kind of worldly charm that German spies generally aren't good in World War II. The British basically catch all of them. Dinklitz is about to become a spy. He's a very good spy because he has this kind of worldly background. So after World War I, where he serves in the cavalry, he joins the obvaire, or the obvaire, which is like German military intelligence. And he gets sent to France in 1928. So he's there before the Nazis rise to power. And he's working as a secret agent for the German government disguised as a diplomat for the entire period from 28 up to the start of World War II. And his job is basically to earn trust and sympathy with French high society people with politicians with the wealthy. And he develops a perfect cover to do this because his wife is Jewish. So he's like, yeah, you know, we're here in France because of all the anti-Semitism in Germany. We had to flee those Nazis. You know, we had to like, he's the perfect double agent. He's the perfect double agent while he's fucking spying for the Nazis. And to make it more fucked up, he actually divorced his wife in 1935 before the Nuremberg laws, which like made it illegal for them to be married. But they continued to live together in France in order to provide for his cover. It's fucked up. It's totally fucked up. I guess she would stay because she needed to be safe. I don't think she had a lot of options. Yeah. I don't know. I'm not an expert on her specific story or why she did it. It's messy. That's for sure. Yeah. When the Germans won Dinklage returned to like, because he leaves right before the invasion, he comes back after it succeeds. Because he knows France and the Germans need people in country who can help them run it. He and Chanel had known each other again before the war. He's kind of playing as this like exile in high society. He's a noble. So they're friendly, you know, they know each other. And then when the Nazis take over Paris, she like runs into him and is like, oh, shit, I know this guy. And he's kind of a good guy to know right now. So they start hooking up right the fuck. It doesn't hurt that Dinklage is a dashing man in his own right. But he also provides her a pathway to respect and luxury in the tiniest reality of the war years. Gotta get that good Nazi dick. Yeah. Yeah. Von Dinklage, whose nickname is Spitz, is able to get Coco permission from the Reich to live in the Ritz Hotel in Paris, which during the occupation is only for Nazis in their approved guests. So she gets to keep living in her fancy hotel because she's kind of boink in this guy. She also gets high quality French cuisine, which is mostly restricted like actual French people are living on a starvation diet. The average French working person diet is like 1200 calories a day during the war. And the areas that the Germans are running at least. But you can get all of the good food in the Ritz, right? Because it's being served to Nazis and to Coco who at this point is basically a Nazi for an idea of like how bad shit is for regular French people. Hospitals are bartering their wine rations for their patients because some of their patients are too sick to drink wine in order to get potatoes, which is the only food dense enough in calories to keep their patients from starving to death. Like that's again, how bad it is for regular people while Coco's living in the Ritz. So yeah, that's good. Awesome. You know who else lives in the Ritz Kourtney? Probably some more Nazis. I'm guessing more Nazis. Yeah, probably still Nazis. But also our sponsors know. Oh God. We'll fix this in post. Spring is just around the corner. That means it's time to get outside. Head on over to sportsmen's guide dot com to find everything you need. We're talking a huge selection of hunting gear tree stands blinds boots and apparel from sent lock 10 point baronat nomad and many more. 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One of the parties she has at the Ritz is one where like, it's like these French collaborators and all these Nazi officials. And the Nazi officials aren't allowed to speak German. So they have to attempt to speak French. That's like the fun theme of this party while everyone else in Paris is starving. German officers consciously wielded starvation as a weapon, which made it easier to compel behavior by awarding collaborators with rations. As one German officer in the Ritz stated, in times like these, to eat well and eat a lot gives a feeling of power. Yeah. Yep. Good guys, the Nazis. Sympathizers will often justify Chanel's choice to collaborate by saying that she was simply looking out for her nephew. This is true, but it's also true that she saw to her own comfort first, although it was to protect Andre that she finally became an agent for the Nazis intelligence service. So she wants to get this guy, her nephew, maybe son out of jail. And that's why she agrees to start working with the Nazis. And I'm going to read a quote by Tim Ott here. Dinklage introduced his lover to another prominent obvary agent, Baron Louis de Valfourland, who allegedly promised to help Chanel free her nephew in exchange for her service to Berlin. Sometime in 1941, Chanel was registered as agent F7124 with a code name of Westminster after her former flame. You know, she's her Nazi nickname is her fascist boyfriend. That's cool. Tast with obtaining political information from colleagues in Madrid, Chanel traveled to the Spanish city for a few months mid-1941 with Valfourland under the guys of business dealings. There is a record of her dinner with British diplomat Brian Wallace during which she casually discussed life in occupied Paris and the animosity the French and Germans held toward each other. It is unclear whether Chanel's interactions in Madrid move the needlin anyway, but they were apparently enough to impress Abwehr supervisors and earn the release of her nephew. So she goes on the spying mission in Madrid, maybe it's to prep for a potential. The Nazis are kind of considering occupying the city. There's a number of theories about what she's doing. This is the first little thing she does. As spying for the Nazis go, it's not that sketchy, but it's about to get sketchier because once she's done the solid for them, they have a relationship. She's like, hey, you know, there's this. I kind of like spying. I kind of like spying. She's also like, so there's this Jewish family I got beef with. Oh, the people who are making her perfume, the vertimers. And she uses her position as an Aryan, which is a legal position in Nazi law, to petition German officials to legalize her claim as sole owner of the perfume. On May 5, 1941, she writes to the Nazi official in her area, who's responsible for confiscating Jewish assets. She lists her grounds for ownership of the perfume, as based on the claim that perfume's Chanel is, quote, still the property of the Jews, and has thus been legally abandoned by its owners when they fled the country. She wrote, I have an indisputable right of priority. The profits that I have received from my creation since the foundation of this business are disproportionate. And you can help to repair and part the prejudices I have suffered in the course of these 17 years. But Coco has been outfoxed, because the vertimers set shit up before they fled the country. They transferred ownership of the perfume firm to an Aryan friend before they fled the continent. And during the war years, they sent one of their allies. This is kind of a cool story. They send this guy who becomes the president of their company into Paris, where he like sneaks in and pretends to be somebody else, and he steals the formula for Chanel number five, so it can be produced in the United States. It's like this skull dug a reaction, but it's all about making perfume. Amazing. I love that they looked out for themselves. Oh, yeah, they're smart. They knew what they were doing. They took care of their shit. So there are rumors that during the war years, while she is working for the Nazis, she is also working for the British royal family, possibly via Winston Churchill, because her ex-flame vendor and the former king all owned property in Nazi occupied Europe. And the Nazis are fighting the British, right? So the Nazis could take all that shit. They could destroy it. They could do, give it to other people. And Chanel allegedly helps them protect their properties on the continent during the war, right? We don't know if this happened. We do know that she stays in one of these properties after a visit to Berlin to meet with SS General author Schellenberg about another operation. So by 1943, most of the smart Nazis around Hitler, including Himmler and Schellenberg, knew that the war was lost. The sheer scale of the tide that had turned against the men Russia made any hope of German victory, nothing but a fantasy. And these Nazis went behind Hitler's back to try and make a separate piece through some of their sympathetic friends in the British government, including the former king and the Duke of Westminster. And this brings us back to our friend Vera Bait Lombardi. Remember Vera? She's that Italian-British socialite who introduces Coco to the Duke of Westminster. You know, she had remarried an Italian fascist military officer near the end of the 20s. So she's not anti-fascist, right? But Mussolini's government also didn't trust her because she was English. So even though she's married to this fascist, she's watched carefully by Italian intelligence services during the outbreak of World War II. In 1943, horrendous war reversals forced Mussolini briefly from power, and there's kind of this fascist crackdown to retake power in parts of the country, and the authorities arrest Vera during this crackdown. She spends about a week in an Italian fascist prison camp before the Germans intervene and get her out. And they get her out so that Coco, because Coco's like, hey, if you get me and Vera together, we can go meet with our contacts in the British government and negotiate a separate piece, right? That's what Coco tries to set up. That's why the Germans get Vera out of prison. But Vera is kind of pissed off that she's been arrested by the fascists and put in a prison camp. She does not like this, so she's actually not going to be a very good partner to Coco in this Nazi scheme of Coco's. Yeah, and I'm going to, yeah. It's pretty funny. I'm going to quote next from a write-up by PBS. Nazi leaders contacted Dinklage and told him it was time to leave Paris and Chanel behind. Unwilling to be left alone in Paris, Chanel decided to devise a new plan with Dinklage, attempting to leverage Vera Bates' connection with Winston Churchill. Siting French history in Henry Gadel, Vaughn writes, Madame Waselle Chanel thought she could barter her friendship with Winston Churchill to persuade the Nazis that she and Dinklage had the contacts to broker a separate piece with Britain. Gadel believed the Duke of Westminster, well known for being pro-German, along with many other senior British politicians and royals, feared that the Soviet Union would grab all of Europe. The Duke encouraged Chanel to act as an emissary between Berlin and London. However, the plan went horribly awry when Chanel's friend Vera Bates, upon arriving in Madrid, confessed to the authorities her part as a German agent in the final hour. They mean Chanel is an informer. So they get to Madrid and Vera's like, this bitch is a Nazi, we're working for the Nazis. I don't want any part of this shit. Fuck these fascists, right? I respect that. Blows it all up. I mean, she did kind of come late to not liking the fascists to be fair. But where are you? However you get there, right? I was just watching this thing and it's crazy how many people are traders and double agents. Oh yeah. It happens all the time. Constantly. So the fact that she has been exposed as a Nazi agent causes difficulty for Coco Chanel after Paris is liberated in 1944. She is quickly arrested by the free French purge committee and accused of being what's called a horizontal collaborator. Now this is a serious allegation, and we know it's a true one. People were imprisoned and in some cases beaten or killed for less than what Coco did. Yet after several hours of questioning Coco was released and nobody really knows why. There is suspicion that Winston Churchill negotiated her release, possibly as payment, or to hush up the underground work she'd done with the Nazis protecting the assets of wealthy British people on the European continent. May have happened. If it did, it means that Churchill himself was guilty of violations of his own trading with the enemy act. But you know, we'll never verify this one way or the other. But pretty cool. Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. Some Churchill tea there, which I guess is just normal tea because he's English, but probably tea with gin, probably just gin with a tea bag in it actually. So in any rate, Chanel gets out of this first thing with this French committee and she bounces. She goes to fucking Switzerland. She's like, I ain't staying around to see if this winds up being cool in the long term. Tim Ott summarizes what comes next. After the war's conclusion, Chanel appeared in a French court to account for sworn testimony from arrested German officers that tied her to the ab there. She managed to wriggle her way out of trouble, confirming that Vrofferlent had promised to get her nephew out of prison, but otherwise denying the extent of their interactions. According to sleeping with the enemy, Chanel also took care to erase evidence of her actions where possible. Upon learning that an ailing Shellenberg was planning to publish his memoir, Chanel paid his medical bills and insured his family was on sound financial footing. The subsequent memoir had no mention of her involvement as an agent. So in this old Nazi general is dying, she like makes sets his family up. She gives them a fortune so that he doesn't write about her in his autobiography as a fucking Nazi spy. Shred. Shred. Very rude. So the fight over control of the Chanel perfume brand continues. You might think that Coke was involvement with the Nazis would have benefited the Ver Timeer's case. This is not really the case. So the perfume is in their control legally and they also have the recipe, but this is kind of their weakness in this court case with her because probably if they were to fight this, they could like point out you were working for the Nazis. We should get all of the money from their perfume. But this is Chanel number five. If Coco gets sort of dragged through the mud as a Nazi, people aren't going to want to wear Nazi number five perfume, right? So the wordheimers are kind of in a vulnerable position here too. So they reach and rather than like taking her to the fucking mat, they reach an arrangement with her and a pretty weird one. Not only do they give her millions in back pay from the war years when she hadn't been making Chanel money, but Pierre wordheimer agrees to pay all of her personal living expenses for the rest of her life. Weird huh? Yeah. I mean, weird. It's weird, but it's a complicated situation. She always winds up on top. You got to say that for fucking Coco. Even after she's been caught as that, even when she is fighting in court with the Jewish family, she tried to like rob during the Holocaust. She whites up on top. They're doing the same deal with her though. They're like, we'll pay for all your shit if you just give us what we want. We'll pay for your shit if you stop fighting us in court. And if we don't have to actually fight you in court and thus destroy your good name, right? Because no one else knows. The French society does not know. It is not public knowledge that she wasn't working for the Nazis, right? The vertimers know because they've got the people to do the digging. There's some folks in government and in the spy agencies that are aware, but publicly it is not known. And so the vertimers just kind of decide, let's keep working with Coco because there's a lot of money in Coco. And in fact, the vertimer family plays a major role in helping her return to the fashion industry in 1954. They basically like put a bunch of money into her rebranding and like putting out new lines of stuff. She continues to be a massive success in an influential part of the industry until her death in 1971. No public acknowledgement of her work for the abwehr was made until 2011 when sleeping with the enemy was published. The PR campaign around that book and the well-deserved buzz it generated created problems for the Chanel brand, as Forbes summarizes. The brand discredited the book as speculation and said it will no doubt always remain a mystery. Today, the brand seems more open to acknowledging the standpoint while distancing the current brand from it. A spokesperson told me, Gabrielle Chanel was a daring pioneer and the House of Chanel upholds and extends her extraordinary legacy. Her influence on many designers has been significant and she continues to inspire new generations. However, her actions during World War II were the subject of discussion in many publications and biographies. The actions that some have reported in no way represent the values of Chanel today. Since that time in history, the House of Chanel has moved forward well beyond the past of its founder. Not quite saying, yeah man, she was a Nazi. That's fucked up. Like, can we still keep the stock high though, please? We grew from her being a Nazi. We moved on from the founder being a Nazi. Yes. Now, the Chanel Corporation's attitude is not a universal belief, particularly among people inclined to analyze the fashion industry through more skeptical eye. Tancy Hoskins, author of stitched up the anti-capitalist book of fashion, disagrees that we can separate Coco from her clothing. Quote, it's clear that Chanel's far-right ideologies influenced her designs. She championed minimalism and the austere. It's very white European. And that's the note we're going to end on. Okay. Listen, I don't know if her style, that last thing on her style. I don't know much about style at all. This is just what someone said. Yikes. Well, that's a life. That's a life. Yeah. You're going to go pick up some Chanel number five Courtney. Yeah, I can't wait to smell like that bitch. Yeah. That's actually not a bad ad. Just like a lady walking in like a curfew bottle. Can't wait to smell that bitch. She's got a fucking red arm band with a swastika on it. Hell yeah. That's how you do it. That's an smell good after all that. It's a hell of a perfume. Well, Courtney, how you feeling? You know, I just feel just so much internal conflicted feelings about this feminist icon who was a horrible person, but you know, that's what this show does. Was there anything to do with her like the logo of Chanel? Is there anything? Yeah. No, no, it's not a Nazi thing. It's her. It's Coco Chanel, CC. Well, I got a wallet. Yes, but I was just wondering if there was anything, anything more to it than just that. I don't know. There's shit in it in both of the books about her logo. I didn't find it interesting. So I didn't, I didn't include it. So if I, because I'm a hack and a fraud. No, now I know. You're if you didn't find it interesting, then I no longer care. I was all about the Naziism stuff. There. All about all about that. Well, no, probably shouldn't say that. Don't be all about Naziism. She don't don't make don't be about Courtney Kasex pluggables right now. Yeah, Courtney, what do you got a plug? Oh, you guys, if you like podcasts, I make a ton of podcasts. I make a new podcast for podcasters called podcast bestie. And for writers, I make a podcast called the bleeders. And for horn dogs, I make a podcast called private parts unknown. And I am winding down my only fan. So you can go get some last pick. Sneak a peek at me naked at Coco Peep show. Check it out. Check out Coco Peep show. Not to be confused with Coco. Yeah, I mean Courtney, very famously during World War II, you fought for the French underground. I like that. Yes. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. That's that's so support this Coco. Don't support the other Coco. Who was dead? So I guess it doesn't matter. I guess at this point, there's nothing you can do to harm her either way. So I mean, that is kind of the thing, right? She won. Like she won. She played a hell of a hand. Yeah, she did. She got she got a dog shit hand and like a terrible person, but God, you have to like admire the skill with which she played a zero hit, not a single fucking asset, but whatever was inside her head and made it work. Yep. Yep. All right. Well, this has been a series of episodes about a fascist who was kind of impressive while being a fascist. Yeah. Behind the bastards is a production of Cool Zone Media. 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