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    De Niro to France: Au Revoir

    "I never paid for a woman in my life." So swore Robert De Niro earlier this month.

    On Tuesday, the Taxi Driver star again swore that he's never handed over a sou or a franc, let alone a dollar, to make love to any woman, anywhere. And, he vowed to the French newspaper Le Monde, he was turning his back on France for even suggesting he had.

    Furious about being questioned by French police and a Paris judge about links to a call-girl ring, De Niro told the paper he will never again step foot on French soil--that includes future appearances at the Cannes Film Festival--and will be sending back the Legion of Honor, one of France's highest civilian decorations, which he was awarded last year.

    The imbroglio began when the 55-year-old Raging Bull's name was found in a prostitute's little black book, seized in a raid in Paris. De Niro spent the better part of a day answering questions from vice cops and the judge.

    His French attorney, Georges Kiejam, said that while "it's possible" that De Niro (who married flight attendant Grace Hightower last year ) might have had a limited association with the young women involved in the investigation, there was nothing wrong with talking to "ravishing" ladies. He also claimed De Niro's name was being used by a publicity-hungry judge and has indicated that his client will file suit against the jurist, Judge Frederic N'Guyen, for subjecting him to this ordeal.

    However, there's some indication that De Niro may not forever hold a grudge against the Gallic world.

    First, the hard-boiled thespian will be in France for at least another week, filming the John Frankenheimer spy thriller Ronin.

    Also, De Niro himself suggested his self-imposed exile might not last too long. The actor appeared on the Nulle Part Ailleurs talk show, where he was showered with praise by host Guillaume Durand. Durand apologized in the name of France to "one of the world's greatest actors" for the "difficult incident."

    Ever the trooper, De Niro responded by saying that he'd be back in the fall to view an exhibit of paintings by his late father, Robert. As the French say, c'est la vie.

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