Welcome back to Going Downs, a newsletter about the intersection of celebrity and politics.
For Hollywood celebrities, the famously romantic Casablanca quote, “We’ll always have Paris,” is being taken literally. Sure, there’s a continent-wide travel ban preventing all Americans from visiting the European Union thanks to our lackluster handling of the pandemic. But that won’t stop them. Especially if there’s a new paramour they can “whisk” away with. “Whisking” always seems to refer to impulse trips to Europe, doesn’t it?
I’m not talking about Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber yachting in Sardinia under the supposed business exemption of a Versace photoshoot. Nor am I referencing Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson cashing in on their long-awaited dual-citizenship by spending their antibodies in Greece.
I’m referring to the intense passion, lust, and carnal desires that have led A-listers to holiday on the severely-restricted old continent in the name of love, while the rest of us sit at home worrying if our new coughs are wildfire-related.
On August 26, Brad Pitt made headlines after he and his new 27-year-old girlfriend, Nicole Poturalski, jetted off to the South of France and landed at Chateau Miraval, the castle where he and Angelina Jolie got married in 2014. Last month, Lily Allen and David Harbour relaxed with their children at a resort on the Croatian island of Hvar. Two weeks ago, Kylie Jenner and DJ Fai Khadra made headlines posing maskless in Paris. This week, Selling Sunset’s Christine Quinn and her boyfriend Christian Richard posted pictures while yachting in Croatia.
How is this happening? I can’t even eat inside a Chipotle right now, much less access Europe's entire, glorious continent. The answer is likely vacations masquerading as business trips, with testing right before. After all, the EU’s suspiciously subjective exemption guidelines say individuals with a “high level of skills and knowledge needed to contribute to the EU’s post-COVID economic recovery.”
In Brad Pitt’s case, his girlfriend is a German citizen. Since the beginning of August, Germans have been able to see their long-distance non-EU partners if they can prove the relationship is long-term. That would make sense, except Nicole Poturalski is currently married to another man, restauranteur Roland Mary. I did some digging, and Pitt and Angelina Jolie actually own the $67 million Chateau Miraval, and the estate’s vineyard produces expensive champagne. According to Wine Spectator, each October, bottles valued at $400 are ready for release each October. So yes, a “business trip” actually a “show my new girlfriend my ex-wife and I’s castle.” Relatable. It also makes sense that they landed in France first, because Poturalski would have had to quarantine for 14 days if they went back to her home country of Germany, returning from the COVID-addled USA on a tourist visa.
Lily Allen and David Harbour employed a more interesting tactic for getting to their Croatia resort trip. Harbour left the Stranger Things set in March to lockdown with Lily and her kids in the United Kingdom. While Lily and her kids can jet set to Croatia, no problem, even despite Brexit, Harbour cannot, unless it’s for work. But, the travel-through-the-UK-to-get-to-other-parts-of-Europe method is exactly how most rich people have been able to reach the mainland. According to this great Politico EU article on the secret and lavish vacations that uber-wealthy Americans are taking, the most common “loophole” travel agents advise is a stop in England, then take smaller planes and trains with less Passport scrutiny. As for Lily coming into the United States to get married to Harbour in Vegas this week - in a great dress, BTW - technically they’re both supposed to quarantine for two weeks to comply with CDC guidelines. But like everything in the US with COVID, requirements are just pathetic suggestions that nobody seems to take seriously.
Kylie Jenner came the most under fire for her liberal use of the EU’s business exemption when she traveled to Paris with “friend” and DJ, Fai Khadra. Jenner’s alibi was that she was on a business trip for the makeup company, Coty. Sure, Coty is French, but it’s been based in New York City and Amsterdam for many years. So, it’s a Sardinia-style-photoshoot-excuse or something. Fans were most incensed by Kylie and Fai going maskless, while Parisians face a fine of 135 euros for any time spent without a mask in public. Fai is Palestinian, which means he’s allowed to go for vacay if he tests negative.
As for Christine Quinn and her retired millionaire software engineer husband’s two-week cruise in Croatia, that’s a head-scratcher. From my research, both Christine and husband Christian Richard are American, though if anybody knows of dual citizenship in an EU country, let me know. She told Vogue that she was “living her best life,” and “We had to take two COVID-19 tests before we even got on the boat,” as if that was surprising. My guess here is that they just hooked it up. According to this excellent VICE article by Drew Schwartz, the rich use major connections at embassies and use luxury travel agents to pull strings. In speaking about a pleasure cruise in St. Thomas that one agent organized for NBA Players, it’s explained they reach the yacht by private plane, is serviced by a small staff, then disembark to socially distanced activities on land. The price quoted for this is between $350,000 and $500,000. Relatable.
I understand that part of being a celebrity today is selling us, peasants, a rose-colored fantasy lifestyle, complete with weekends at your vineyard and overnights on a yacht in Croatia. Even the idea of falling head-over-heels for a refined European, no doubt a descendent of a long lost monarchy, is cinematic. And, part of being in the wealthy ruling class today is being a scofflaw. When rich people don’t pay their taxes through a series of loopholes, they’re geniuses; when poor people do it, they’re “welfare queens.” There are thousands of serfs in international relationships or have family abroad, who just can’t travel: there’s no “business exemption” any of us can claim. There’s no private jet airport terminal lax on passport checking we can land into. We’re just stuck.
I also have to blame the apparent and blatant European corruption. So if Brad Pitt’s lawyers email the right person at the French consulate, it’s all good, right? It’s ridiculous to think any of these people actually have the “high level of skills and knowledge” that are “needed to contribute to the EU’s post-COVID economic recovery” more than any of the rest of us. Year-round, Europeans sneer at stupid Americans for being, well, admittedly stupid. But the moment Kylie Jenner touches down, suddenly it’s God Bless the USA, and there’s a window table available at my cafe. European officials: sneer at these people. I’m a cool American, and I’m at home, not infecting you! The stupid Americans you’re looking to make fun of are already inside your borders, doing bikini photoshoots for Instagram.
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