Keanu Reeves and his sister Kim
1999. For the release of ‘Matrix’ with Keanu Reeves, the 2 Laurent – managers of the company responsible for the premiere of movies – decide to call me to drive the actor around, to my biggest pleasure. I’ll get 35.000 francs for it. Non bad, huh?
I’m told to pick him up in a deserted countryside airport near Cergy-Pontoise. It’s beautiful. The wheat fields are endless. The weather is great, the view is wonderful. I feel on top of the world driving my Mercedes 600 and the day ahead is looking promising.
I get to the airport and greet the whole team there, bodyguards and the 8 other chauffeurs. The atmosphere is very relaxed. All the other drivers work for Ambassador, a company I would have liked to work for had I not been recruited by the Ritz.
I am called over to be introduced to the 2 managers of Warner Bros Movies. They tell me I’ll be looking after Keanu Reeves’s sister Kim. My mission is simple: taking care of her, driving her wherever she wants to go, offer to take her shopping, that sort of thing. They sum it up by saying:
- You are to do whatever she asks!
A white private jet lands on the tarmac. First out is Keanu Reeves who’s just been to Spain. He’s sporting what looks like a week-old beard. He’s beautiful, almost a wild beauty. His sister follows him. The staff introduces me to her. Like her brother born in Lebanon from a Sino-Hawaiian father and English mother, Kim has this kind of Asian look. She’s tall – about 1.75m -, brunette, good body, a very pretty face with delicate features. I assume she must be between 25 and 30. And she’s got class!
I help her get inside the car. I am alone with her. We head towards the Ritz, ‘my’ favourite Parisian palace. The weather is still wonderful. My first words to her were to ask if she wanted me to turn on the air con and put some music on. I drop her off her five-star hotel. In the afternoon, she decided to go into town for a walk on her own. I then decide to go see my former employer who tells me how proud he is of the man I have become.
My mission for Warner Bros is to last 5 days, which is quite long. I spend the afternoon reading press and magazines to learn more about ‘Matrix’ and its main actor. The release of this movie is a worldwide event. Reading the magazines, I understand that neither Keanu nor Kim had a very happy childhood. Their parent’s marriage didn’t last very long, then their mother got married to a Broadway director and moved her whole family to Toronto in Canada, but the couple split a year later. Their mother will then remarry 2 more times and divorce again in 1994.
Keanu, who was born in 1964, is 13 when he meets his father for the first time. At school, he isn’t passionate about studies and gives it all up at 17 to become an actor. He first gets noticed in Tim Hunter’s ‘River’s Edge’ and plays in Stephen Frears’s ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ alongside Uma Thurman. In 1989, the actor becomes a true Hollywood sex-symbol throughout the world. From then on, it’s one success after another: ‘Little Buddha’, then ‘Speed’ with Sandra Bullock. This particular movie is a worldwide hit. ‘Matrix’ will then bring him back glory by becoming a cult movie. A nice detail, Keanu is also a gifted musician. He plays bass in a band called ‘Dogstar’.
That first evening, Kim asks me to drive her to a restaurant. I look at her in my mirror:
- Would you like me to put on a different kind of music, Miss? How about some Italian music like Zucchero or Eros Ramazzoti?
She’s thrilled! She loves Italy. Well done!
Everything is perfect. I feel in total harmony with my beautiful client. I know that most chauffeurs don’t dare this kind of initiative. But I do! It’s a great night, the open roof allows to see the stars in the ink sky. I decide to turn up the volume of the stereo. I’m really proud of the sound system in my limousine. The sound is magic, a great quality.
Wonderful evening. I take her back to her hotel shortly before midnight.
The following morning, I am ready at 10, but Kim is not going out. That’s a big part of my job: waiting, always waiting. I make the most of my time and clean my car twice. I go for a walk on my beloved Place Vendôme and that always brought me luck.
At 6.30 pm, Kim eventually decides to go out.
- Karim, I want to buy a Mont-Blanc pen. Can you help me find one?
I take her Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. The shop is closed. I call ‘Le Printemps’, my secret weapon.
- No problem Karim, we’re waiting for you!
Brigitte Ribeyrz, always available, is standing by a sweet intimidated salesperson on the Mont-Blanc stand. Kim is surprised.
- How did you do it?
She picks a first pen and says:
-I would like another one please. Help me Karim, which one do you prefer?
My choice goes to a beautiful silver pen. Kim makes me understand that she wants to do more shopping, buy gifts for the whole staff working on the tour. So be it! We then thank the people working at ‘Le Printemps’ and go back to the hotel.
The next day, she calls me and invites me to have breakfast with her at the bar at 10.30 am. I’m truly flattered. We have a lovely time as Kim is so charming. We talk about Paris, horses (she loves them and works with them in the US). I feel her very fragile. I’m surprised when she orders a vodka-tomato so early in the day. She seems very attentive to me. I get the feeling she has true human qualities and tenderness. At lunchtime, she tells me she has booked a table at the ‘Les Trois Marches’ restaurant in Versailles. We hit the road together with the music turned up to the max in the car.
Being around Kim, I realize that being rich doesn’t necessarily equal happiness. This young woman suffers from a real lack of affection and attentions. It’s probably better to start life at the bottom, even if it means misery. It’s not always ideal to be rich without knowing the reality of life.
I do everything I can to make the ride as enjoyable as possible for her: place Vendôme, Rue de Rivoli, place de la Concorde, place de l’Alma (most clients want to see where Princess Diana died), Boulevard Wilson, place d’Iena, Trocadéro, Flandrin, Porte de la Muette, Bois de Boulogne. She finds everything wonderful! I then head to Versailles, where I let my passenger out in front of the palace.
- Enjoy your meal Kim. I’ll wait for you at the bar. I’ll go and have a club sandwich…
- No, Karim. You can leave the limousine with the valet. You are my guest!
I feel honoured and intimidated. My head is spinning. I am not sure how I’m supposed to handle this invitation. And Kim intimidates me! It is an unusual situation for a chauffeur on mission. I always feel uneasy when this happens as I don’t want my clients to feel betrayed in any way, in this case I’m talking about the Warner. But this time, I decide to accept the invitation: Kim is more than charming and we are alone, away from downtown Paris…
She observes me and, from time to time, starts a new conversation. We talk about fashion as she does a bit of design herself. As a token of friendship she gives me a button she created (I kept it for years in my wallet!) (…) Is she hitting on me? I won’t give in though (…)
Yes there is something between us. But I have to remain zen, remain her chauffeur.
It’s 3.00 pm and I think it is time to leave. That is when she gave me that button, with her initials on it. I tell her we should go back but she doesn’t want to yet.
- No Karim, I want to go for a walk!
We then head for a walk through Versailles gardens. Kim is thrilled by t ewater features and the boats you can rent out.
- I want to go on one, Karim. With you!
- It’s really nice of you, but I can’t row…
- No problem! I can. I’ll row for you!
I then rent a boat and take off my jacket. This moment is divine: I’m sitting in the boat and Kim is rowing. I look at her and say:
- Really, Kim, it’s so sweet of you to row for me!
We become really close, but in an honourable way. My mobile rings. It is another chauffeur of the team who is place Vendôme and wants to know where we are. Kim doesn’t understand French so I tell it all to him. He’s jealous!
- I’ve got to go!
And I hung up, really proud of myself.
We remain on the boat for about an hour. (…) Before heading back we stop for a drink in Versailles. We drive towards Paris, the music blasting. The magic will last until 6.00 pm when we reach the Ritz.
The next day, we go shopping. We have lunch at ‘L’Avenue restaurant’ with her half-sister. We get a warm welcome from Alex D. who is the owner and a former Ritz employee. Kim’s sister is very different from her: medium height, very pale skin, blue eyes and she doesn’t have Kim’s Asian features. Even if I have lunch with them, I try to step back and remain at my place. I sometimes start conversation again but I remain discreet.
Kim’s half-sister leaves us after lunch and we head for some more window shopping. I have to constantly park the car as Miss Reeves doesn’t want me to leave her side, even for a moment. Even in more ‘intimate’ moments. Every time she tries clothes on, she asks for my opinion. Although she is rich, Kim is a young woman like any other, with the same preoccupations. I get the feeling she’s very much alone in life though, and I think she’s hiding something, like a terrible secret. It is really sad to see such a beautiful girl so sad, so nostalgic. During that afternoon, she asks me if I’m single. I answer yes, of course.
I get told off by the production because the day of the Premiere – due to start at 8.00 pm – everybody had to be ready by 7.00 pm. And Kim is running late.
That evening, she doesn’t get in my car, as she’s accompanying her star of a brother. I’m thinking of following the official cars on my own, but there’s a change of plans: the actress sharing the screen with Keanu get in my limousine with 3 other people. Bad luck, the air con breaks down and it’s very warm in the car… I get told off a second time by the Warner exec who finds this very ‘unprofessional’.
Thankfully, the actress is really nice. She starts the conversation:
- Are you Parisian? As for me, I’m from Canada. I speak a bit of French.
Anglo-saxon stars are really down to earth. The usually aren’t big headed, especially when they’re young, from my generation.
Kim gets in my car after exiting the Gaumont theatre and I drive her to a restaurant Avenue de l’Observatoire. The place is booked for 25 people. There are 10 cars in all. Then another party is held in a tube station between 11.00 pm and 3.00 am. I drop Kim off and go for a walk. Brother and sisters remain at each others’ side during the evening. Keanu seems very attentive, really caring with his little sister.
The next day is a day off. Kim invites me to have breakfast with her, then we do some shopping before having lunch. We have a lovely time, but I think she’s still having a bit too much to drink…
It is our last evening. I’m already feeling nostalgic. We go together to the 404 restaurant. I know it’s all coming to an end. Earlier at the hotel, I saw the Harley Davidson the production had rented for Keanu. Unfortunately, with his heavy schedule, he hasn’t gotten on it yet.
Kim is sad. Rue de Rivoli, she asks me to lose the other cars.
- Take me on Saint-Louis island!
I park the car and we go for a walk along the Seine river. I think she expects a kiss. We I see her reaching out, I get a call from Keanu Reeves’ s bodyguard.
- Where are you?
I answer, and they follow:
- We have a bit of a problem as Keanu wants to be with his sister. OK, no we know where you are. We’ll call you back.
I hang up and that’s when Kim takes matters in her hands. She pulls me against the wall as I try to free myself. She insists and pulls herself close to me. I hols her in my arms but make her understand it is only a friendly hug. We remain like this for a few seconds.
We then hear the sound of a bike. It’s Keanu Reeves himself, driving the Harley with his other sister at the back. There’s no bodyguard to be seen.
I really feel like I’m in a movie. It’s so strange…
The actor asks me:
- Where do you think I can park?
- You can leave you bike right here!
He turns it off. His sister introduces me to Keanu. Honestly, I feel truly intimidated. He looks at me as if he knew something was up. His look is great! Very rock’n’roll!
It’s 3.00 am. The four of us are now walking in the heart of Saint-Louis island. It’s magical!
We then head back to my car. The three of them discuss amongst themselves. I try to step back a bit, then offer them a tour of Paris in the limousine. They accept and Keanu Reeves gets in the front of the 600, next to me. It is then time to go back to the hotel. The actor picks up his bike. For laughs, we race each other through the street of Paris, him on his bike, me in the Mercedes. When we get to the hotel, Kim thanks me for the evening. I do the same.
A few hours later, I am told to drive Kim to the Bourget airport as she has hired a private jet to go to Italy. She makes it clear she wants me to go with her. I decline and it’s the right move… as a Warner exec changes the programme at the last minute. I don’t know whether she has guessed something, but she decides to go to the airport with us. I suppose they don’t want to leave me alone with Kim anymore.
Before leaving the hotel, in front of her chaperon, Kim finds the time to give me a present.
- Darling, this is for you!
In the package is the latest silver Nokia phone, as well as the Mont-Blanc pen we chose together at ‘Le Printemps’. I’m really touched…
The drive to the airport is long and the atmosphere heavy. While they are waiting for the authorization to take off, the 3 of us wait in the VIP area. The Warner woman looks at me strangely then says:
- Well, it looks like you had a good mission working for her…
- Would you let me walk her to the plane?
She agrees. The private jet is beautiful, in black metal. Kim looks over to me one last time.
- I gave you the phone and the pen so we can always be in touch. That way you can call me.
I don’t dare ask for her number and details… I tell myself that she can always find me later through the production if she really wants to. We hug each other one last time.
I never saw her again… It’s only while working for Will Smith that a Warner exec in the US surprised me by saying in front of everyone:
- By the way Karim, Kim sends her love!
I always think of her tenderly. Especially since I read in the press that Keanu was going to put his career on hold for a while and look after Kim who is suffering from cancer. Now I understand her sadness better, and those vodka-tomato that she used to often have in the morning.
Don’t be sad Kim!