French President, Former Wife Come to America

Mon dieu, America is getting a double dip of the French this week.

The former model and concert pianist Cecilia Sarkozy and her two children are shopping and dining up a storm in New York City as her ex-husband -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- appears at the White House.

But the question is, Cecilia qui? While a photo of the stunning 49-year-old with her children, and buzz about their whereabouts, have been splashed across New York's dailies, even the paparazzi trailing her are puzzled as to why she is getting so much ink.

Splash News' Lawrence Schwartzwald, who photographed Cecilia and her daughter, Jeanne-Marie Martin, with a "mystery man" at the bistro Orsay Nov. 4, had no idea how to recognize her when he got a tip on their location.

"I didn't know what she looked like and was trying to figure things out," said Schwartzwald, who caught the family embracing before security guards chased him down the street.

Cecilia Dove Into Car

Schwartzwald told he called a videographer who was tracking down power couple Tom Cruise and his wife, actress Katie Holmes, who had just run the New York Marathon.

"I told him to lead on this," he said. "I knew this was news."

"I just started shooting and hoped I was aiming at the right person," he said. "Cecilia looked shocked when she saw me, then dove into a car."

John Simion, manager of the Upper East Side celebrity haven Nello, said he would be thrilled to have the former French first lady dine at his restaurant but was not sure it would boost its star appeal.

"I don't know if people other than French customers would recognize her," said Simion, who just this week hosted regular Priscilla Presley and friends. "To be honest, I myself wouldn't recognize her."

The Sarkozys, who had a tumultuous 11-year marriage before announcing their divorce last month, stayed together despite affairs that were splashed across the media. Both have children from previous marriages.

Cecilia's daughter and 10-year-old son Louis, accompanied her to New York this week. Meanwhile, her husband dined at the White House amid speculation that he would bring a date.

Before the French marriage was toast, both spouses declared their taste for everything American. Media reports have said Cecilia has wanted to move to New York, where two years ago she was "publicly cuckolding" her husband with part-Moroccan boyfriend Richard Attias, who runs a PR firm on Sixth Avenue.

New York Is Where I'd Rather Be

New York magazine recently reported that in 2005, when asked where she saw herself in a decade, Cecilia replied, "Living in New York, jogging around Central Park."

Despite her seemingly low profile, gossip columnists say Cecilia's star power is growing, especially because of her "colorful past."

New York Post's Cindy Adams said the topic of dinner party conversation among an "international set" was le divorce. According to the group, her husband would take her back, but they could "never survive PR scrutiny continuing to live the way she chose to live."

Letitia Baldridge, former personal assistant to Jackie Kennedy and doyenne of Washington protocol, told that Cecilia's emerging notoriety bears some parallels to Princess Diana.

After Diana's divorce from Prince Charles, she was photographed on the American social scene with various escorts. "She has the same glamour," Baldridge said.

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