Micheline Muselli Pozzo Lerner

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Micheline Muselli Pozzo Lerner (di Borgo)

Birthplace: Italy
Death: August 2012 (79-88)
Immediate Family:

Ex-wife of Alan Jay Lerner
Mother of Private

Occupation: lawyer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • ex-husband
    • Private
    • Private
      ex-husband's child
    • Private
      ex-husband's child
    • ex-husband's daughter

About Micheline Muselli Pozzo Lerner



RIP Micheline Musseli Pozzo di Borgo


During my freshman spring-break, I witnessed my first Californian sunset from the Hollywood Hills. The view was from inside composer Alan Jay Lerner’s manse on Marlay Drive, which his son, Michael, called home. I spotted one of Lerner’s Oscars (either for “Gigi” or “American in Paris”), which was buried in a corner bookshelf. I touched it.

During that trip, I was invited to dinner at Chaya Brasserie and was seated beside Lerner's former wife, Micheline. Micheline's reputation preceded her. She was supposedly a descendant of Napoleon. She scandalized fashionistas for her DIY-tailoring to Coco Chanel's skirt hemlines, which had not yet to risen to Micheline's expectations.

Although Alan and Micheline once reconciled their relationship by remarrying, ultimately their divorce was so gnarly that in his memoir, "The Street Where I Live," he refers to Micheline as "the unnamed wife." Thus, the court of public opinion declared Micheline as a gold-digging villainess, which I only recently discovered to be one-sidedly unfair.

At dinnertime, Micheline entered the French-Japanese boîte wearing a cream blazer with skin-tight leopard pants. La Chaya was a celeb magnet that night. Noticing Micheline's shapely gams, a suave Julius Erving shuffled over to introduce himself. After initial hellos, Micheline graciously introduced the six-foot seven-inch Dr. J to Yours Truly, saying, "You must meet this young man who's visiting from Texas."

The dinner conversation favored those fluent in French, which meant I was scoping out other tables: There was Scott Baio sitting with a shy, stunningly gorgeous blonde who became Pamela Anderson; and Leif Garrett serenaded Justine Bateman with a toy-sized harmonica.

When our food arrived, I asked Micheline what she'd ordered. "Liver," she said. She could tell that my unsophisticated palate had judged her nauseating entree. "You've never had liver?" she asked. "No way," I gagged. "Well then, you must try it. I insist," Micheline said while lopping off a square of the sautéed organ. She placed the morsel on my plate. And as my fork reached my mouth she said, "Every time you try something new, you must make a wish."

It wasn't that bad. (But I've yet to taste it again.)

My sister just emailed me, telling me that Micheline passed away last week, and that Micheline left her a heartfelt phone message just days before she drew her last breath. Micheline had apparently finished writing a book and was informing loved ones that she was ready to go.


One persistent fiction was that his divorce settlement from Micheline Musseli Pozzo di Borgo (his fourth wife) cost him an estimated $1 million in 1965. This was a gross distortion of the truth.

It was also falsely reported that Musseli sent over $500,000 to Switzerland. But that gossip was given credence by newspaper items claiming that Loewe had warned his partner to not get romantically involved with a lawyer. The reality is that Micheline Musseli Pozzo di Borgo, a French aristocrat who at 20 was France’s youngest lawyer ever, brought considerable wealth to her marriage to Lerner and lost most of it through him, including nearly $600,000 from the sale of her Parisian apartment, which Lerner placed in investments that either failed or were looted by him during periods of financial desperation.

Musseli told friends she had not wanted to sell her home, but that Lerner urged her to cut her ties with her native city and that she entrusted Lerner with the proceeds of the sale, for investment in the U.S.

The daughter of a World War I French war hero — and herself an unsung heroine of the Resistance — whose Corsican forebears were intimates of Napoleon Bonaparte, she later made Lerner the gift of a chateau in France after he declared to her that he wanted a French rural retreat where he could write. That too was lost to Lerner’s neglect of his finances. Some observers speculate that Alan Jay Lerner’s pride was so badly bruised by Muselli’s much-publicized rejection of him (due to his drug addiction and neglect of their son) that in revenge he portrayed her as a gold-digging spendthrift.

Her actual settlement was said to be in the neighborhood of $80,000.

Alan Jay Lerner’s pattern of financial mismanagement continued until his death from cancer in 1986, when he reportedly owed the US Internal Revenue Service over US $1 million in back taxes, and was unable to pay for his final medical expenses.]


Lerner’s wife at the time (the fourth of an eventual eight) was Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo, an elegant Italian-born defense attorney, indeed “the youngest avocat ever called to the French bar” (she was 20 when she became a lawyer). As Time magazine noted in 1964, “Napoleon was her great-great-grandfather’s godfather.”

The Lerners’ house was at 42 East 71st Street. Married in 1957, they bought it in 1960, Lerner was barred from it in 1964 due the couple’s divorce proceedings. The residence was sold in 1965, when their divorce was finalized. Mrs. Lerner’s lawyer, by the way, was Roy Cohn.

One can only imagine was she must have been like: Kitty Carlisle loathed Mrs. Lerner and bragged to The New York Times, “I once hauled off and smacked her.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

7th January 1997 The folly of fancying a lawyer

Kennedy Wilson recalls a brief encounter, involving an Oscar-winning librettist, that led to a messy divorce.

ALAN Jay Lerner was the famed American lyricist of such hit musicals as Camelot, Gigi, and the unforgettable Brigadoon, but he received a different kind of fame in the mid-sixties during his divorce trial from hell. Like many theatre folk Lerner was superstitious. He always avoided the number 13 until he met his fourth wife, two of whose initials were M, the thirteenth letter of the alphabet.

Never fancy a lawyer, (the word wasn't fancy) one of Lerner's friends counselled. But it was too late. Alan Jay Lerner had fallen for Corsican-born Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo, the youngest avocat ever called to the French Bar.

In 1965, at the height of Lerner's fame - his classic stage musical My Fair Lady had just been filmed - he was involved in the messiest divorce case since Lord Wheatley presided over the marathon proceedings between the Duke and Duchess of Argyll at the Edinburgh Court of Session two years earlier.

Perhaps Lerner's most enigmatic production with his longtime collaborator Fritz Loewe was Camelot, based on the King Arthur legend. Dedicated to Micheline, the 1960 Broadway hit starred Richard Burton and Julie Andrews and told of one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot. Like Camelot, Lerner's fourth marriage was brought to a sad end too. The lyricist married Micheline in 1957 and by most accounts she was a tough cookie and henpecker. Not for nothing had she made her name in Paris legal circles as a formidable criminal lawyer who prided herself on never losing a case.

Clearly she was not the sort of person to tangle with in court, something her husband was soon to discover. All but the last of Lerner's eight marriages ended in divorce. I have been married repeatedly, Lerner once said. I am not proud of it, nor am I ashamed of it.

Many people in the Lerner and Loewe circle suggested that it was Micheline's interfering that helped end the musical pair's winning partnership in 1962. In his autobiography Lerner wrote: All my wives were (lovely) - with one aberrational exception whose name will not appear in this book. This was Micheline.

Success had not been altogether kind to the Oscar-winning librettist who had acquired an addiction to the drug methedrine. His amphetamine problem was partly responsible for his turbulent marriage to Micheline, the fate of which was sealed in 1964 when she filed for a separation claiming marital cruelty. Micheline engaged the original celebrity lawyer, Roy M Cohn. Cohn had been Joseph McCarthy's legal henchman, had prosecuted Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the atom bomb spies, and was generally seen as a man who would stop at nothing to win a case (including entrapment, harassment, and bribery of witnesses).

Like Micheline, Cohn had an early, precocious talent, being admitted to the New York Bar at the age of 21. He was first hailed a boy wonder, later a legal executioner. As brilliant as he was arrogant Cohn soon rose to become special assistant to the US attorney general and was a protege of J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI. Although he saw himself as a maverick, standing against long-established, respectable law firms and winning against the odds, Cohn went on to become a power broker and Mr Fixit for an array of high-profile and fashionable clients.

Hilarious accusations flew in the Lerner v Lerner courtroom. The most reported was that Micheline was a spendthrift, ploughing through $500 worth of cold cream in seven months. Lerner said that one particularly argumentative summer with his wife would have attracted the professional eye of any passing exorcist. When Micheline locked her husband out of their Manhattan townhouse he climbed in an upstairs window via the roof and was only ejected by four policemen and six lawyers. After the slippery Cohn played on Mr Lerner's success and status he won for Mrs L the largest alimony payment in the history of New York state. She balked at the $50,000 legal bill. To regain the money Cohn approached a witness from the separation case whom he had wanted to testify against Mr Lerner and tried to persuade him (the witness) to testify against Mrs Lerner in the case over Micheline's unpaid legal fees.

FOLLOWING a humiliating few months of bad press Alan J Lerner took Micheline to the divorce courts in 1965. He claimed that she had called him a cheap musical comedy writer and referred to her cacophonic willfulness; she said that their marriage was sexless and violent.

Cohn was hired to impugn Lerner's character. It is ironic (that) Roy Cohn used an imputation of homosexuality to smear Lerner. After his death of Aids (in 1986) it was revealed that Cohn had been an active homosexual, observes Gene Lees, Lerner's biographer.

Throughout his life the divorce courts became accustomed to Alan J Lerner's face, but the trial between Alan and Micheline dogged the former for years after the decree absolute. Up until the year he died Micheline sought thousands of dollars in alimony arrears. Lerner's career never again scaled the heights of his My Fair Lady success. His musical on the life of Coco Chanel was a particular flop. Lerner once said: The female sex has no greater fan than I, and I have the bills to prove it.

Roy M Cohn was thrice tried and acquitted on federal charges of conspiracy, bribery, and fraud, and was finally disbarred only two months before his death. Humourist and broadcaster Ned Sherrin recalls interviewing Cohn in 1978 over breakfast during which the lawyer turned to an aide and, within Sherrin's earshot, said: Did you mail that cheque to the judge?

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