Photo Of The Day

Photographed by Jack Robinson, Vogue, September 1971. Carly Simon.

Photographed by Jack Robinson, Vogue, September 1971.
Carly Simon.

You’re So Vain 

In January of 1973, You’re So Vain was the # 1 hit song on the radio. Carly Simon had just married fellow pop-superstar James Taylor a month before, so when You’re So Vain hit the airwaves, it stirred intense curiosity about which one of her previous lovers was the subject of this wry nod to the male ego.

A radio station in Los Angeles had their listeners call in to cast their ballot as to who they thought the song was about. Was it Mick Jagger? Cat Stevens? Warren Beatty? Kris Kristofferson? It was common knowledge that she had been involved with each of them in the past. To this day, she is still asked the question “Who is You’re So Vain about?”

Will you ever reveal who You’re So Vain is about?

I don’t see why I ever would. What would it advance? I wrote that song in the days when people kept confidences to themselves. Carly Simon

 Was ‘You’re So Vain about Warren Beatty?
It certainly sounds like it was about Warren Beatty. He certainly thought it was about him – he called me and said thanks for the song. At the time I met him he was still relatively undiscovered as a Don Juan. I felt I was one among thousands at that point – it hadn’t reached, you know, the populations of small countries. Carly Simon
The Washington Post 1983

 For the record, Simon does confirm what many fans have assumed for a long time: that the song’s second verse refers to Warren Beatty, with whom she had a brief affair (“You had me several years ago, when I was still quite naive,” the verse begins). It’s a composite of three men from her L.A. days.

You’re So Vain was just a series of lines in a notebook for a long time.

There was you’re so vain you probably think this song is about you, and you walked into a party like you were walking onto a yacht.

And then one day I figured out ‘Hey, these two lines could be about the same person

I never took him seriously. He was great fun and very, very, bright. But noooo … as a boyfriend. In the beginning Warren was pretty good at pretending he was only smooth on the outside and a bowl of jelly on the inside. But he doesn’t do that secondary act very well now. Carly Simon

Fame Magazine 1989

Carly Simon was a fresh-faced 20-year-old crossing the Atlantic when she and her sister Lucy spotted Sean Connery on the SS United States bound from Southampton for New York.

It was 1965 and she was on the cusp of her singing career, crooning with Lucy in a glamorous double act called the Simon Sisters. Connery, with four James Bond films under his belt, was a major star.

And yet, within 15 minutes of the girls’ sending him a cheeky fan note, asking if he fancied coming to their tiny cabin for a ‘cup of tea or pre-prandial cocktail’, 007 had rung them from the liner’s presidential suite.

As Simon recalls in her new memoirs, champagne and dinner in his palatial quarters swiftly followed while the 35-year-old star regaled them with stories — including a recent experience he’d had with the hallucinatory drug LSD. Suddenly, he jumped up and urged them both to dance with him. ‘Ah, girls, you’re so beautiful,’ he kept saying. ‘You’re so funny . . . come here, you adorable college girls.’

The actor — married at the time to Australian actress Diane Cilento — pulled them close, murmuring that they shouldn’t waste this night together. Simon believes now that the Bond star was suggesting a threesome, a ‘Simon Sisters Sandwich’ as she laughingly referred to it later. She was not interested — Connery took on the chin.

Undeterred, he met up with 22-year-old Lucy on her own the following night; she didn’t crawl back into the girls’ cabin until 5.15am. Her sneaking off in secret had been a ‘betrayal’, says Carly.

Connery might have been one that Carly Simon turned down, but her cluttered roster of lovers still includes some of Hollywood’s most infamous studs — Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Kris Kristofferson — as well as the singers Cat Stevens and Mick Jagger.

No wonder there has long been a guessing game over exactly who she was referring to in the lyrics of her famous ode to male arrogance, You’re So Vain. In a rare honour, Jagger had agreed to sing backing vocals.

Describing their recording session, Simon says there was ‘raw electricity’ between them as they stood at their microphones and stared at each other. ‘Having sex would have actually cooled things off,’ she writes. Though she now confirms that at least one of the song’s verses was about Beatty, it’s easy to conclude she was probably building a composite picture of many lovers.

While they may not all have shared Connery’s confidence that he could seduce not just one but two Simons, they certainly behaved as if they had merely to look at a woman for her to fall at their feet.

Reputedly she is the only woman who made Bianca Jagger jealous.

Highly sexed, an heiress, clever, determined and possessed of the endless legs and voluminous pout that could turn the head of even the biggest star, Simon worked her way relentlessly through many of the most famous names of the Seventies.

It may not come as a huge surprise that there was a daddy complex going on. Carly, now 70, was the daughter of the powerful Richard Simon, co-founder of the Simon & Schuster publishing empire.

The family enjoyed an apparently gilded existence living in New York but as the youngest of his three daughters, Carly makes it clear that her difficult relationship with him coloured those with other men in her life.

As a girl, Simon was getting ready to perform in a family production of “Little Women” when, suddenly, a stammer emerged. It worsened until, finally, at the dinner table she struggled to say “pass the butter.” Her mother made a suggestion. “Carly, darling, try singing it.” Her German speech therapist also had her sing through the stammer. Later, though, Simon’s anxiety onstage led to an early ’80s breakdown during a concert in Pittsburgh and years off the road.

Carly battled for attention from a father who she felt preferred her sisters. He died of a heart attack when she was just 16.

By then, her parents had already covered up a deeply disturbing family scandal involving a seven-year-old Carly and a series of sexual encounters with the 16-year-old son of family friends.

The boy, who she names only as ‘Billy’, would stay with the Simons every summer at their Connecticut home. During the first of what she calls their ‘interludes’, which lasted six years, he made her touch him when he was showering in the changing room of the Simons’ pool. When her bohemian parents discovered what had been going on, they insisted nothing was wrong and simply banned Billy from visiting their home for a month ‘It was heinous,’ Simon says now. ‘It changed my view about sex for a long time.’

They were quite the family. Her mother, Andrea, reportedly insisted Simon have a birth control diaphragm fitted when she was only 15, telling her daughter that as a teenager she herself lived in an extraordinary menage a trois.

It transpired that Andrea’s boyfriend, an American football star, had fallen not only for her but also for her gregarious 34-year-old mother, Chibie — reputedly the illegitimate daughter of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and a Moorish slave. The trio lived together for four years.

In another episode that must have been bewildering for the adolescent Carly, Andrea had an affair in the family home with their male nanny, which her husband pretended to ignore. Carly, meanwhile, though barely in her teens, says she was experimenting sexually with a girlfriend from school.

She decided to pursue a performance career having started singing as a child to help overcome her stammer.

During a sojourn in London when she was 20, she got engaged to the British satirist William Donaldson, later the author of the Henry Root letters.

He had just broken up with actress Sarah Miles but — providing Simon with what she says was her first taste of the insincere show business male — dropped Carly abruptly when they got back together.

Back in New York after her Atlantic dalliance with Sean Connery, she soon fell for a far more shameless womaniser in the shape of Jack Nicholson.

After they met at a party, Nicholson waved farewell to his girlfriend for the night and promptly asked Simon if they could adjourn to her flat. They drank coffee on her fake fur sofa before the actor off-handedly asked: ‘Do you ever drink coffee in your bedroom?’

Their romance lasted just a few nights, her passion somewhat dampened after he calmly informed her he was starting to see another woman he was serious about.

In those early days, Simon says she was ‘gently passed around, as if in a fraternity, not the first woman to experience this and not the last’.

During the summer of 1971, Carly & Kris embarked on a summer-long love affair. He was 35; a Rhodes Scholar turned singer-songwriter, who had just been named “the hottest thing in Nashville” by the New York Times. During their time together, she wrote Three Days about Kris, and he wrote I’ve Got To Have You about her. Looking back on the romance, Kris says, “I was pretty self-absorbed in those days. Carly was funny and really smart – she had more brains than I did. I have a hard time now believing she tolerated my company.”

Boyfriends included film director Terrence Malick, Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton and Cat Stevens.

After the success of Carly’s first single That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be, Carly opened for Cat Stevens at The Troubadour in April of 1971. The three nights sold out to rave reviews. When Carly flew back to New York, Cat Stevens did too, and he asked her out. While waiting for him to arrive for their date, she wrote the song Anticipation.  She had invited him over for dinner (chicken with cherries in a cream sauce) and he was late. By the time he arrived, she had written the song. She also dedicated the album, of the same name, to him – using his real name Steve (Steven Demitri Georgiou). In turn, he wrote Sweet Scarlet for her.

She was, in fact, on tour with Stevens when Warren Beatty knocked on her dressing room door and came right in without waiting for an answer. He didn’t waste time, she says.

‘He got very close to me, looked into my face and down at my breasts,’ she writes. Before even introducing himself, he asked: ‘Can I see you?’

Beatty — who she describes as a ‘glorious specimen of man’ — was ‘skilled at keeping several women on the hook at the same time’ and shamelessly kept a list of ‘the main loves of his life’. Simon’s name, for a short time, was at the top.

Yet she was treated to a staggering insight into Beatty’s tight love-making schedule when he rang one night and invited himself over to stay in her New York flat. He would be flying in from LA at 12.30am and had to be gone by 5.30am for a film shoot, but he ‘had’ to see her, he insisted.

Carrying her off to bed, he ‘made love like in a movie’, she writes. ‘Warren was such a professional; the pressure points he knew about stirred a tremor in me.’

He had gone by 5.20am with a slice of toast, leaving Simon with a few hours before an 11am appointment with her psychiatrist.

When she told him of her passionate night with Beatty, the shrink blanched. She was the second woman he had seen that morning who had spent the previous night with the actor, he announced.

The Beatty affair — like many others — was short-lived, spanning a few months of sporadic get-togethers. Her affair with Jagger, on the other hand, took years to come about.

Simon had first met him in the mid-Sixties, backstage at a Rolling Stones concert in New York. It was instantly obvious, she says, that for him ‘all women, including me, were his by divine right’ and they existed to ‘frame’ and ‘illuminate’ him.

Not the warmest of praise, but it certainly didn’t put her off him when they worked together years later in London on You’re So Vain.

‘Mick is that genius of an artist who thrives on the dark and the daring,’ she says. ‘And you could say that the love affair between us that appeared to be brewing contained both of those things.’

She and Jagger ‘spent some evenings together at the studio where he was recording and some other times in rooms at the Portobello Hotel, which was dangerous and conspicuous’. Like other men, Jagger labelled the well-connected Simon as irredeemably bourgeois, telling her that whenever he wanted to distance himself emotionally from her he would remember she had once told him she had a Swiss bank account.

Ironically, this claim wasn’t actually true, she says.

Her affair with Jagger coincided with her falling in love with another musician, James Taylor. On the eve of their wedding in 1972, he received a call from the then Mrs Jagger, the Nicaraguan-born Bianca.

She urged Taylor to call off the wedding, telling him Simon was cheating on him with her husband. Fortunately for Simon, Taylor could not really understand Bianca’s accent, replying: ‘I trust Carly.’

Taylor was a heroin addict and would tell Simon he needed to get drunk at least four times a day. By 1979, they were cheating on each other, he with a backing singer, she with a sound engineer.

Their marital difficulties, which were compounded when their son, Ben, was ill, came to a head in 1981 when Simon suffered a panic attack performing in Pittsburgh. She asked her fans if they could comfort her, and 50 audience members came on stage to sit round her.

As her palpitations increased, Simon started haemorrhaging. By the time she came out of hospital a month later, Taylor had moved on to the actress Kathryn Walker, who would become his second wife. Simon and Taylor divorced in 1983, which is where her memoirs end.

The following year, she allegedly began a secret affair with the actor Jeremy Irons. According to a 2012 biography by Stephen Davis, an old friend, Simon had fallen for him after watching him in the TV adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel Brideshead Revisited.

Davis says she invited Irons — who was said to be going through a rough patch in his marriage to Sinead Cusack — to her home on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard, purportedly to make a music video for her.

Davis, whose story was supported by the singer’s brother, Peter, claimed Simon became pregnant by Irons, but had an abortion. Neither Simon nor Irons has ever commented on the claims.

According to Davis, Carly Simon is ‘the supreme networker’ who ‘gets what she wants in this life’. But it’s difficult to read her star-studded, unintentionally poignant memoirs and believe that her love life turned out exactly as she wanted.

Carly Simon’s long awaited Memoir includes remembrances of her romantic entanglements with some of the most famous men of the day and the unravelling of her storybook marriage to James Taylor.

Boys in the Trees: A Memoir

Video Carly Simon – You’re So Vain

Video Carly Simon – Anticipation

Carly Simon Finds Her Voice in a New Memoir

These six tragic revelations


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