Ten years after his death, documentaries recount the glory and fall of Delarue

Americans speak of “bigger than life” destinies. An expression for which the French language has no equivalent, the literal translation, “larger than life”, inspiring more a poetic vagueness than the extraordinary character of an existence marked by excess. So, we have to say things differently.

Maryse Samuel, the mother of Jean-Luc Delarue, she says: “He died at 48 years old. He lived two lives, it’s like he lived to be 96. She utters these two sentences in the epilogue of the documentary Jean-Luc Delarue, 10 years already, of excess success, broadcast on TF1 on Wednesday at 9:10 p.m. A way of signifying the extraordinary journey of the one who was one of the favorite animators of the French and French. Many saw him as an ideal son-in-law. He was far from it.

An unparalleled destiny

We looked for other examples, but its destiny, composed of so many ups and downs, is unequaled in the history of French television. Under Anglo-Saxon horizons, where biographies made of grandeur and decadence have always inspired scenarios, it would undoubtedly have already been brought to the screen. But in the country of Michel Drucker, TV stars are special stars that are confined to the memory of the small screen.

Jean-Luc Delarue died on August 23, 2012, following cancer of the peritoneum and stomach. He had died for the first time a month earlier, for fake, when a bad joker announced him dead on Twitter. Jean-Luc Delarue died ten years ago, at a time when social networks did not have the scale and did not offer a sounding board as we know them today. And that’s good, say his relatives in the TF1 documentary.

His arrest, in September 2010, for possession of drugs, his fight against addictions, his escapades on planes, his fight against illness, etc. could have caused an even greater explosion if they had been massively tweeted, commented on, relayed, transformed into memes and hashtags. This was not the case, Jean-Luc Delarue is today someone we think of, saying that he left too soon, being moved by his brutal end of life. Perhaps the saddest thing is that a decade after his disappearance, he seems to have been relegated to the background of memories.

The cocaine taboo

To revive the memories, there is therefore 10 years already, of excess success. The documentary may be produced by Reservoir Prod, the company that Jean-Luc Delarue created in 1994, but it is not hagiographic. He does not seek to draw a flattering portrait of the TV man. His professional entourage who, during his lifetime, rarely dared to contradict him for fear of pointing him, tells his truth today.

They talk about the boss who was not always in his normal state and his cocaine consumption that everyone pretended to ignore. Others confide in the dantesque parties organized at L’Olympia or his incivilities on board the planes which he tried to excuse by an alleged phobia of cabin trips. Flavie Flament, host of Home Stars, produced by Reservoir Prod, recounts the day when, arriving late for an appointment, she was greeted by a flurry of insults uttered by a Jean-Luc Delarue on drugs. She ran away crying. The pain of the memory is such that tears still well up in his eyes today when he recalls this episode.

Contrary to The TV King’s Last Secretsanother documentary programmed on C8 on September 1 at 9:15 p.m., that of TF1 does not dwell on the tensions that arose after his death, the question of the inheritance – a sum of 22 million euros -, or the fierce disagreement between his last wife Anissa and his father, Jean-Claude Delarue, convinced that his son converted to Islam before dying.

His legacy, the testimonial broadcasts

The first channel sticks to the “successes” and “excesses” mentioned in the title. Or how, while working in advertising, Jean-Luc Delarue gave up everything to try a career on TV, starting with the co-hosting of a game on TV6, An ad page, in 1986. Three years later, by joining Canal+, he became known to a wider audience. First columnist for tomorrowpresented by Michel Denisot, he took the reins of The big family in 1991. The freshness of his youth – he was not then 30 years old – made him stand out: he had his tone, his phrasing, his tongue-in-cheek and absurd humor.

In 1994, Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, with whom he befriended at Europe 1, was appointed head of France Télévisions and convinced him to join the public service. It is discussed was launched a few weeks later. The host then imposed on the French audiovisual landscape what will remain his television heritage: testimonial broadcasts. He was quick to host other programs like Day after day or to produce others – the instantly cult It’s my choice ! presented by Evelyne Thomas on France 3 – where Monsieur and Madame Tout-le-monde were going to tell why they and they weren’t just anyone. Societal or intimate subjects, tragic stories or amusing anecdotes… the diversity of daily life, of daily lives, found its place on the air.

“Potato Thieves”

On screen, Jean-Luc Delarue appeared with an earpiece that was anything but discreet: a way for him to show that he does not work alone, but in a team, with colleagues speaking to him from the control room, that a broadcast is above all a collective. What was not seen on the screen, on the other hand, it is, as the deputy Alain Griotteray reproached him for it, the marvelous sums which France Télévisions paid to him to produce his emissions. It was in 1996, and it became the scandal of the animators producers. Nagui and Arthur were also in the sights. The sketch of Info horns showing their puppets as “potato thieves” in a parody of a Kodak spot, has since been anchored in many memories.

This first controversy ended in a breach of contract, announced in full JT of France 2 – which ulcerated Jean-Luc Delarue -, then by the resignation of Jean-Pierre Elkabbach and the end of the friendship between the two men. It would have taken more to tarnish the image of Jean-Luc Delarue with the public.

The doubts and the fall

Undisputed star of the hearings in the early 2000s, everything seemed to work for him. If we were doing counter psychology, we would say that this success offered the one who, as a child and teenager, lived in the shadow of his excellent student brother, validation, legitimacy, respectability. But it was never enough for the host, who constantly doubted and constantly needed to be reassured.

And then there is the fall. When did she start? In 2007, when, on board a plane, he bit and slapped a steward and touched the breasts of a hostess? He admitted to the violence and was sentenced to a citizenship course. In 2009, when, master of ceremonies for the Crystal Globes on France 3, he said to director Yamina Benguigui: “Do you want me to hold your Globe… or your globes? “, referring to his chest. He publicly apologized but France Télévisions then deprived him of live. She suspended him from the air a year later, after he was arrested at home at dawn for drug trafficking.

France then discovered one of the hidden truths of the presenter, learned in the press that he organized “blue white” evenings at his house, where the guests consumed cocaine and Viagra. After a detox treatment, he once again made an act of contrition in public and set off on the roads of France in a motorhome for an awareness campaign on the fight against drugs among high school students. Some laughed.

“An oxymoron all by itself”

He returned to TV in September 2011 with Family meeting. But the public was not with go, the emission stopped a few weeks later. This failure, which he interpreted as a disenchantment with the public, bruised Jean-Luc Delarue who then did not know that he had less than a year left to live. In December, he hosted a press conference to reveal he had two cancers. An announcement precipitated by the fact that a people magazine, aware of his state of health, was about to release the information.

“He was an oxymoron on his own, summarizes journalist Gilles Bornstein in the TF1 documentary. We would like to think that life is simple, that there are good boys and bad boys and that it is easy to categorize people. Jean-Luc Delarue, by the way he led his life, proves that not. Humanity is complicated. »

Ten years after his death, documentaries recount the glory and fall of Delarue