The Showtime Cable TV series stars Billie Piper in the lead role of Hannah Baxter/Belle de Jour (which airs here and in the UK). Last night, it was Piper as herself who chatted with Belle about – well, everything.
The special, “Billie and the Real Belle Bare All,” was fun to watch, and both women have since said that it was equally fun to produce. The third season of the show premiers Feb. 1.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Belle de Jour had been the nom de plume of a celebrated British erotic author, who was also a high-class London call girl for two years. Her awarding winning blog details her many adventures in the sex industry with wit and humor, but what puts it on the map is the writing – unique and unforgettable.
Last year, Belle revealed her true identity is Dr. Brooke Magnanti, of Bristol, England, a noted scientist. She disclosed her identity in a voluntary interview with the London Sunday Times. Brooke’s specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and is now working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. She is currently part of a team researching the potential effects on babies of their mothers' exposure to toxic chemicals.
But, from 2003 to late 2004, Brooke worked as a prostitute via a London escort agency; she started blogging as Belle de Jour — after the Buñuel film starring Catherine Deneuve as a well-to-do housewife who has sex for money because she’s bored — shortly into her career as a call girl, after an incident she thought funny enough to write down.
She charged £300 an hour for her services, of which she got £200. The average appointment lasted two hours; she saw clients two or three times a week, “sometimes less, sometimes a great deal more,” she has said.
"Secret Diary" is based on her writing, and is a very personal story of a confident, capable and caring women who has made a different kind of career choice.
The new season deals with the aftermath of Belle writing a tell-all book and her efforts to find the same creative spark to produce a second book.
Piper's performance is perfect. Just like the character she plays, the actress can shift from strong to helpless or from funny to serious as the situation warrants.
The following is ITV2 promotional material from last night’s interview special:
"Billie Piper meets the real Belle de Jour, Dr Brooke Magnanti in an intimate and revealing conversation about her time spent as a high class call girl. In her first full length television interview Brooke discusses her reason for becoming a call girl, her clients' bizarre requests and her motivation to reveal her identity after six years of anonymity. The show also gives viewers a chance to see footage from the forthcoming third series of the ITV2 drama inspired by her story."
"Billie gives Brooke the chance to talk openly about her work as a prostitute, and Brooke explains how it felt the first time she met a client, some of the outrageous scenarios she was involved in and finally her decision to give it all up to concentrate on becoming a bestselling author and a research scientist. Billie and Brooke also discuss the accusations directed at them for glamorising prostitution.”
On ‘all-nighters’ with her clients, Brooke tells Billie: “Very often it would start off like a normal appointment, where you have the drink, a bit of chit chat, and get sex...sit down and even more of a chat, order up some food...watch a movie, and then sex again and maybe some sleep, and then sex in the morning...They’re paying for intimacy, if it was just about getting off...they'd save the money."
Discussing the controversy surrounding the drama series, Billie discloses that, “I definitely felt under attack in a way that I hadn’t felt professionally before. People were obsessed with the fact that I was playing a role...and that I’d come from a family show and how irresponsible that was of me...People say to me, well essentially it's (prostitution) all just selling your body for money.”
“When you sit at a desk you sell your mind. When you dig a hole in the ground you’re selling the strength of your arms. We are allowed to sell everything about ourselves. People have a problem with one aspect of it and that’s sex,” Brooke said.
“Because I’d decided to do it for the money it didn’t enter my head to feel strange about having accepted money for it, that was the whole point,” Brooke added.
The interview was exactly what we all have come to expect from Brooke: Funny, raw, intimate, and insightful. A real standout included Brooke describing her very first experience as a high class call girl.
“He was the perfect client,” Brooke told Piper, gentlemanly, thoughtful and had left the money in advance so they wouldn’t have to discuss it.
Asked by Piper if she had been petrified, Brooke thought a moment, then said, “Until I knocked on the door. I can actually – I have that moment in my head. I was thinking: ‘Oh my hair,’ ‘Oh my makeup,’ ‘Is he going to be tall?’ ‘Is he going to be my height?’ ‘Is he going to be short?’ ‘How do I look?’ Then the door opens and it (nervousness) was just gone – I’m here now.”
“And how was the sex?” Piper asks.
“It was good. There was nothing unusual about it. Standard,” Brooke said.
“Missionary?” Piper grins.
“Umm,” Brooke said, implying not really. “He was behind for a bit.”
“What was your first thought when you left the room? Did you have to go whew (as in, glad that’s over)?”
“There was a little bit of that,” Brooke replied, and laughed that she had also worried if she had left anything behind. “You know, ‘I do have my phone, don’t I?’ ‘Keys – OK.’ Then I had to ring the agency and tell them that I had left, and that I’d left on time.”
“Did you think ‘that was successful, I’m surprisingly OK with that?’” Piper asked.
“Let’s be honest – I wasn’t a virgin,” Brooke laughed. “I have had one-night stands before."
Piper noted it is the exchange of money that makes people “uptight.”
“It’s all right if someone goes home with someone they don’t know and has sex for free. It’s not all right if there’s a third party involved to make sure the guy is OK, and there’s money involved,” Brooke said. “Which is something I don’t quite understand.”
As Belle de Jour, Brooke has written four books in addition to her always fabulous blog about her work in the sex industry. Her fifth book, Belle's Best Bits: A London Call Girl Reveals Her Favourite Adventures, was released last week and is widely available across the pond and at Amazon’s UK division.
Here is a description of the new book, provided by Orion Books:
“From the summer of 2003 Belle charted her day-to-day adventures on and off the field in a frank, funny and award-winning diaries. She was the first to reveal (among other things) how she became a working girl, what it feels like to do it for money, and where to buy the best knickers for the job. She also discusses her efforts to change from 'working girl' to working girl, whilst sneaking off to visit clients in her lunch hour. From debating the literary merits of Martin Amis with naked clients to smuggling whips into luxury hotels, this is a no-holds barred account of the high-class sex-trade, and an insight into the secret life of an extraordinary woman.”
Brooke's other books are Belle de Jour’s Guide to Men, 2009; The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, September 2005; The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, May 2007; and Playing the Game, June 2009. There is not a ringer in the bunch – trust me!
— The Curator