The Club M�diterran�e clientele tends to be lower-middle and middle-middle class—with a large number of professional people, "intellectuals" and students, on the one hand, and shopkeepers, on the other. These two groups do not, fundamentally, share common tastes, views and manners, but the club tries to develop a kind of fraternity and unity in the villages. "Everyone is the same in a bathing suit," says Tony Hatot, hopefully. "Our members must feel kind to one another, be friendly, happy, totally relaxed. The French love to talk politics, but you will find that after a few days in a village, no one talks politics." To encourage this mass euphoria, Lethe even, the vacationers are all called G.M., meaning gentils membres, or "nice members." The club's 1,500 summertime and 700 wintertime employees are known as CO., meaning gentils organisateurs, or "nice organizers."
G�rard Blitz was born in Antwerp in 1912. His great-grandfather, grandfather and father were in the diamond business, as was G�rard until the outbreak of World War II. But the Blitzes cleaved the water with as much �lan as they cut diamonds. G�rard's father was a European swimming champion and is vice-president of the Belgian swimming federation. G�rard's Uncle G�rard was a world backstroke champion and is president of the Belgian swimming federation. The Blitz family, as a matter of convenience, is also in the swimming pool business.
"From the age of 12," says Blitz fits, "I did nothing but swim and play water polo. My father pushed me, so to speak, into pools. At the age of 20 I stood 6 feet 2, weighed 195 and had a 45-inch chest. I have the same measurements today." Blitz stays fit by dividing the year into three enviable divisions: four months in Tahiti, four months in Paris and four months in Castellaras, in the south of France. One of his four children has a house at Cap d' Antibes and, even when "stuck" in Paris, Blitz manages to spend every other weekend on the C�te d'Azur.
Wherever he happens to be, Blitz starts the day with 40 minutes of calisthenics and yoga. He calculates that he is outdoors nine months of the year. During four of these he is underwater for four or five hours a day. "I'm a fanatical skin diver," says G�rard Blitz.
The war radically changed the direction of Blitz's life. After taking his family to Switzerland, he went to work for the Belgian government in exile as a resistance worker. "I traveled all over the Continent," he says. "It may sound curious, but I actually developed a taste for travel in those terrible days."
From 1945 until 1947 Blitz was employed by the Belgian military mission in France. "My job," he says, "was to look after Belgian escapees from the concentration camps. They were in dreadful physical condition, of course, and the problem was how to make them healthier and happy. I created a chain of hotels in the Alps, centering around Chamonix. Naturally, those who came paid nothing, and we saw to it that they had no material concerns. You might say that 50% of the Club M�diterran�e vacation formula already existed in that chain of hotels for concentration camp victims."
When his work was finished, Blitz looked, as he says, "for a m�tier in keeping with the times, an original one. One day in 1949 I was vacationing with my son in Corsica, near Calvi. We met some likable Frenchmen who also enjoyed the secluded sandy beaches but had no idea what to do with themselves. That set me to thinking."
In 1950 the Club M�diterran�e opened its first village in Alcudia on Majorca. In 1953 the club had four small villages. By 1956 there were six good-size villages (the word "camp" is never, never used) in which some 16,000 members spent their holidays. In 1957 the club opened two winter villages and attracted 23,000 vacationers. This year Blitz estimates that the club will cater to almost 80,000 holidayers. "We have always had to turn down a great many applicants," says Blitz.
Blitz plans to build 20 additional villages, several in what he terms "the touristic periphery of the United States," notably Mexico and the Caribbean. Villages will not be constructed in the U.S., however. The club has about 750 American members, and this winter Blitz expects another 1,000 will fly in chartered planes to the St. Moritz village. Next year he will open at least one village in Russia, cither on the Black Sea or in the Caucasus. "Wouldn't it be a fine thing," says Blitz, "if, for instance, young Americans and young Russians spent their holidays together?" The club has also arranged to charter Russian planes to fly members to the Tokyo Olympics.
The Club M�diterran�e is an extremely profitable enterprise. Its gross earnings for 1962, according to Blitz, were $14 million. "We are American in our efficiency and in much of our outlook, too," he says. Blitz and his partner, Gilbert Trigano, who joined the firm in 1953, control and operate it, but a one-third interest was recently acquired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild.