In Blog #8 ‘Judi’ism’ I told you about finding my long-lost friend Marilyn, who I’d lost touch with for 14 years. When we used to rent a summer house on Fire Island together back in the 1980s, we made up alter-ego, trailer-park names and personas for ourselves. An exercise clearly fueled by too much tequila, no doubt. If the 1970s were the decade of unbridled wildness and experimentation, the 80s were all about excess, big hair, big shoulder pads, big balloon skirts, and way too much of everything, including drugs and alcohol. So, fired up by way too much Jose Cuervo, she was christened Merle Dean and I became Lucy Mae; the spouses were reborn as Dex and Bud and we spent many tipsy, goofy hours over the next nine years making our four characters come to life, down to the smallest detail. Merle Dean is the one who just closed on a house in North Carolina and will be moving here as soon as her current house on Long Island sells. We’ll be State Mates!
This morning she sent me an email letting me know her Long Island house had just been listed on-line, so I could check it out. Now, I realize that none of us remain static in our tastes, and 14 years IS a long time, but to say that I was shocked when I did the virtual tour of her house would be an understatement. The sleek, contemporary, thoroughly modern décor of her previous high-rise apartment had prepared me for nothing less than great taste and sophistication. As I’m looking at the black and white plaid wallpaper in the kitchen, the large-flowered carpet in the master bedroom, and the truly monumentally hideous black and white wallpaper in the breakfast room, I was aghast. What the hell had happened here? Had the mothership of bad taste stolen her away in the middle of a dark Long Island night and brainwashed her until she renounced her love of all things tasteful and streamlined? Made her recant her motto of “Less is more”? Did she eat one tequila worm too many
and get infected with Fugley Flu?
And even worse, as I told The Unit, what the hell was I supposed to say to her about this house she currently lives in? “As Grandma houses go, this one is truly lovely? I was a bit startled to see you had papered an entire bathroom with fake books from a non-existent library? Dear God, woman, whatever were you thinking?” The other very odd thing was the photos on the walls of this house; none of these folks were recognizable and I’d met all her and Bud’s friends and family at their wedding. I sent her a very lame email back saying the virtual tour made me feel like I’d just been there visiting, and hoped that would suffice without further elaboration. Like a good politician, I wanted to avoid the truth at all costs! Moments later here comes another email, “Have you turned blond? You were looking at the wrong house!”. Vast relief swept over me as I looked at pictures of the right house, no offensive wallpaper in sight, marble in the bathroom, stainless steel in the kitchen, everything perfect and just right. As I reached for the bottle of tequila I gave a silent prayer of thanks that the mothership had spared my friend her good taste!
The months between March and December 1975 were pretty contented ones for yours truly. Signing with Wilhelmina was a huge cause for celebration among the Prancing Sheilas, and I seem to remember the party being on-going for the better part of a month. Boy had gotten fairly steady free-lance work with a gay, Egyptian architect based in Poughkeepsie, so home life was tranquil with him being out of my hair during the week. The commute was too long and too costly for him to come home each night, plus the architect had developed quite an attachment to his young, handsome draftsman, and liked having him as a houseguest with benefits. Boy spent so much time in Poughkeepsie throughout that nine months, it was like a dress rehearsal for me being footloose and fancy free in NYC.
Though I still had a lot to learn about the modeling world, and many rungs up the ladder still to climb, I was at least being booked fairly regularly. When my association with Eve ended, so did the chances of running into sleazeballs like the Snow Monster. There were now real clients like Geoffrey Beene, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Bonwit Teller, and Danskin. I began working with photographers, art directors, and editors who would remain true and loyal friends and associates for the duration of my career. It almost became like a second family. It was very reassuring and peaceful knowing that you’d be working with the same group of makeup artists, hairdressers, and stylists you knew and respected, and who knew how to make you look your best.
My favorite and most frequent gig during this time came through my good friend Maggie. She was from the Midwest, very healthy and wholesome looking and resembled Cybil Shepard. Like many of these girls, she’d drug a small-town husband to NYC to come along on her ride to fame and fortune, but, like Boy, NYC proved too much for him. Maggie didn’t work much, which she always attributed to her size. She was an eight amongst size fours, and while I envied her and would have traded my starving, preying-mantis frame in for hers in a heartbeat, her misperception of her appearance would have tragic and fatal consequences in the years to come.
Soon Maggie got a break and started working regularly for a large department store in Brooklyn. Being a fiercely loyal friend, she got her buddies bookings there, too. It didn’t take long to figure out that the art director was enamored with her and would have gladly booked Bozo the Clown to model the store’s fashions if his beloved Maggie had requested it. Maggie and I, along with our other Wilhelmina pals, and Chad, the besotted art director, an Italian staff photographer and his stylist wife, soon became a merry little band of brothers. Chad would choose really cool locations for our shoots, and we’d all pile into a limo and head off to a beach, Connecticut, or West Point. Then we’d break for long, wine-soaked lunches, generously paid out of Chad’s expense account. We were all fat and happy and having a great old time. It was, as they say, the calm before the storm that would break my life and my career wide open in January 1976.