Born Fernande Grudet in Angers, France in 1923, Madame Claude led an extremely colorful life even before she gained a reputation as France's most famous brothel owner.
Having grown up in a convent, Claude fought with the French Resistance during the Second World War and then went on to form her own prostitution network in Paris in the 1960s.
She once famously said “there are two things people will always pay money for - food and sex, and I wasn't any good at cooking.”
This unique sense of humor helped her when it came to growing her brothel business - her charisma and professionalism were a big draw for celebrities who relied on her discretion.
Big name clients included John F Kennedy, Colonel Gadaffi and the founder of the Fiat motor company, Gianni Agnelli, as well as plenty of Mafioso and high-profile French politicians.
The girls Madame Claude selected had to audition like actresses (only 1 in 20 were successful) and they were trained in everything from poise and manners to how to satisfy a man in bed.
Claude would then send male acquaintances to “test” the girls on their bedroom skills, before agreeing to hire them. In fact, the girls were trained so well, many of them went on to marry millionaires and even royalty.
Flaunting her celebrity, Madame Claude evaded police arrest by acting as an informant, and the money she made off her girls (30% of their earnings, which could be thousands of dollars a day) enabled her to run luxury 'offices' above the exclusive Rothschild Bank off the Champs Elysees.
The artist, Marc Chagall, would pay the girls not with money, but with nude sketches which were destined to become priceless, while other clients such as billionaire Aristotle Onassis and his lover, Maria Callas, used Claude's girls (known as 'Claudettes') to indulge their own depraved sexual fantasies.
A crackdown on the sex trade in the 1970s, saw Madame Claude flee tax evasion charges by heading for Los Angeles in 1977, where she remained for the next nine years.
While there, she set up another brothel business from her adopted base in a small West Hollywood apartment (her official profession was as proprietor of a 'pastry shop').
Here, as in Paris, Claude would go to her hairdresser at 8:30 am every single morning to make sure she looked her best for her wealthy clientele.
But she was nowhere near as successful in Los Angeles as she'd been in France. The alien environment, unfamiliar climate and her own loneliness meant she had to work twice as hard to bring her own brand of French naughtiness to the City of Angels.
One of her friends noted that Madame Claude had closets “filled with glamorous French clothes that nobody would wear in LA.” But she still made her mark.
During her self-imposed exile, Claude even attempted to recruit the British movie star, Joan Collins, into her exclusive coterie of 'Claudettes,' telling her “you could do very well, and your husband doesn't need to know.”
Also while in Los Angeles, Claude fell foul of visa laws and spent six months in jail. Ever the businesswoman, though, Claude even tried to recruit a beautiful Mexican cellmate to join her prostitution ring, an offer the young lady politely declined!
On her release, Claude married a gay Hollywood barman in order to get her green card, but eventually left the US to live briefly on the South Seas island of Vanuatu, before returning to France in 1985 to serve a short sentence for the tax evasion.
She then tried resurrecting her naughty Parisian 'activities,' only to be sent back to prison again for six months in 1992 for procurement.
Eventually, the notorious and very naughty Madame Claude settled down on the glamorous French Riviera where she died in relative obscurity in 2015 at the grand old age of 92. Vive Madame Claude!