I find it interesting that you didn't like the public Dali persona. You'd been around famous people before, so were aware of a public and private aspects of a personality. But in what ways did Dali differ in private?
I never liked Dali as a public figure. He was such a show off, always bragging that he was the best and that all the others painters were rubbish. Since I liked Picasso, I never got into Dali's work, I found it scary and weird.
The first meeting you had with him must have been amazing. Did Dali express instant fondness for you and see how you were to inspire his work?
Our first meeting was a disaster. I told him that I was studying art and that I wanted to be a painter. He told me that women had no talent and that they only could paint bouquets of flowers or crying babies, wishy washy art., real artistic creativity was a male thing, coming directly from the testicles. No balls no art. Then he said that I had the most beautiful skull he ever saw and that he liked my skeleton. I hated him, found him ridiculous and swore never to speak to him again. All this in front of a circle of admirers, parasites who adored him and applauded at his declarations.
That was the public Dali. The next day he asked me to lunch and I discovered the private Dali, adorable, witty, educated and magical. And I fell for him. For 16 or so years I was with him and was never once bored or annoyed. He was so funny and inventive.
People describe the energy he had when painting. Is it possible to describe how he acted when painting, how he moved and expressed himself?
Posing for him was fun, he spoke all the time. Made great gestures, explaining what he was doing and being highly satisfied with himself as if he was creating a masterpiece. But mostly he was hurrying up to finish his drawing, throwing ink all over the place, more "action" painting than really caring. I did not like that. I was only impressed when he was care fully working on an oil painting on canvas. Then he was slow, precise, careful not to spoil his work by being too fast to complete it. There was only the two of us then, I was watching him paint and sometimes reading to him some pages of Proust. He was very patient, totally different from the show he put on when he had an audience.
You got to know him very well. How true was the theory that he invented the public Dali to combat the ghost of his deceased brother?
Of course he explained that his paranoia came from his childhood when he discovered that his dead brother was also named Salvador and he was never sure if his parents spoke of him, alive, or of his dead brother... Many psychiatrists were visiting him to study this famous paranoia. But Dali was far from crazy and he just enjoyed fooling them.
I imagine every where in the world Dali was famous and gathered a crowd. Where were some of the best places you went with him where the reactions were out of this world?
Everywhere we went there was a crowd and photographers, journalists, and Dali loved it while I was sulking and hated the whole circus. I was only happy when we were alone.
How do you view the relationship between him and Gala? He obviously worshiped her, but do you believe she loved him the same back?
His wife Gala became my close friend, a sort of grand mother, she was very kind to me. Everybody hated her because she was trying to control the situation, She was tough in business, hard to deal with. She managed Dali business contracts, was greedy for dollars and frightened the entourage. But she liked me, she realised that Dali needed me for inspiration and my presence gave her the possibility to be finally "free". She could travel, go to the theatre with some friend and let Dali show off with me on his arm.
Were you saddened when he started to become ill and frail? The public Dali was no longer a possibility at that stage but the man you knew so well must have been there inside...
The end was pathetic. Gala died and Dali fell into depression. He had Parkinson, could not hold a pencil or paint anymore. Surrounded by vultures who pretended to protect him and cut him away from his real friends. He told me he wanted to be buried near his father in Cadaques, then with Gala in Pubol. Finally they buried him in his museum in Figueras and visitors walk on top of his grave. It's revolting.
Do you remember where you were when he died, when you heard the news?
I was working in Italy when he died. Of course all the media wanted to interview me. I was the only person left who could react and talk about him. They flew me to Philadelphia for his retrospective, a beautiful show of his work. I felt like his widow.
Do you think a film will ever surface of you and Dali's relationship?
I sold the rights to my story to a Canadian film company, they are actually finishing the script (which I must approve) and we'll start the casting. Nobody can portray Dali. Perhaps Adrian Brody... we'll see.
I see Dali's influence everywhere today, and you must too. Do you think his influence is growing over time more and more, in fashion, art, film and music?
Years after he disappeared he is still very present. People finally ignore the scandals and the provocation; they rediscover the fantastic painter and genius that he is. His influence is enormous.