Hi Ho Hi Ho…Off to Gay Paree I Go #32

We have a very big serving of “Texas Toast” today, readers. I promised you a trip to Paris, did I not? But first, I wanted to share something a friend sent me; this is more than food for thought; it’s an entire smorgasbord!

Never look down on anybody, unless you’re helping them up.

To realize

The value of a sister/brother

Ask someone who doesn’t have one.

To realize

The value of ten years,

Ask a newly divorced couple.

To realize

The value of four years,

Ask a college graduate.

To realize

The value of one year,

Ask a student who has failed a final exam.

To realize

The value of nine months,

Ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.

To realize

The value of one month,

Ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.

To realize

The value of one minute,

Ask a person who has missed a train, bus or plane.

To realize

The value of one second,

Ask the person who has survived an accident.

Time waits for no one,

Treasure every moment you have.

You will treasure it even more when

You can share it with someone special.

To realize

The value of a friend or family member,

LOSE ONE

To realize the value of humility, spend a month in Paris! By January 1976, I had been knocking around the modeling scene in NY for about 18 months, and was nearing my first anniversary with Wilhelmina Models. While things were certainly an improvement from my time with Eve Shelton Models, nothing really gelled in the way I had envisioned. I felt like I was on a treadmill, with three steps forward, then two more back. Then, one day right after the New Year, I received a completely unexpected call from Wilhelmina inviting me to come to her office and join her for lunch; she had a very interesting proposal for me and someone she wanted me to meet.

One of Wilhelmina's many covers/Image from carnabythemusical.com

Understand that this was a very busy lady, and I was not exactly high up on the food chain, far from it. So, a summons from The Great One herself had me quaking. I considered I might be getting “cut” from the agency roster, except that particular bloodbath had already occurred just before Christmas. And if that was the case, why would she want me to meet someone? It made no sense, and I was vibrating with curiosity and angst when I pushed open her office door. She introduced me to a high voltage livewire French woman named Martine and explained that she was in the States representing a small but elite modeling agency in Paris.

This agency was called simply “Girls”, and had recently been acquired by one Claude Francois, an entertainer. In 1962 he had shot from night club singer to overnight star when he sang a French version of an Everly Brothers song called “Belles, Belles, Belles”, followed the next year by his French rendition of  the Pete Seeger classic “If I Had a Hammer”. In 1967, he wrote a song that would be reworked in English by Paul Anka and made famous by Frank Sinatra. That little tune was called “My Way”; perhaps you’ve heard of it? Claude, or CloClo, as he was called by his adoring fans, was an incredible Vegas-like showman, who channeled Elvis’ love of sequined suits and who possessed a flamboyant stage presence. And somehow, in the midst of his phenomenal concert touring and recording career, he had come to own a modeling agency.

CloClo/Image from bellespics.eu

As Martine explained to Willy and me, the idea had been born to have a competition in France to help publicize the fledgling agency. The thinking behind this contest was to bring back two unknown models from the US and pit them against one another and see who could launch the biggest career success in Paris. Martine had been dispatched to bring back one girl from the East Coast and one from the West. Both girls had to be virtually unknown, and willing to live and breathe this competition for one month. A French newspaper was to follow our progress and allow their readers to follow along with the fun. Would I be interested in being the East Coast girl?

Let me tell you right now, the heavens parted, the angels sang, and I saw Jesus, because I knew with every fiber of my being this was my big break. Everything clicked, everything fit. Why else would my Mama have given me a French middle name, living in the sticks of Nowhere, Texas? Why else would my mentor Alberto Rizzoli have anointed me with a new French surname straight out of “Les Miserables”, the very day I first became “A Real, True, Bonafide New York Model “? Why would I have spent 4 years studying French in high school and college, if not for this very moment? Hell, yes, I was interested!

An expedited passport was arranged and in less than two weeks time I was on a flight to Paris. Martine met me at the hotel that would be my home for the next four weeks, along with my competition from Los Angeles. She was a very pretty brunette, who probably didn’t stand 5’7”. She seemed friendly and harmless enough. She was extremely wholesome in a kind of farm-girl way (yeah Sista, that’s the pot calling the kettle black!), and I immediately dismissed her as any real threat to my winning this thing. We thought there must be great cosmic significance in the fact that both of our first names were Deborah. Suitcases were unpacked and Martine swept us both to the agency offices around the corner from our hotel, where we were welcomed with great enthusiasm by the small staff. Apparently this little contest had generated quite a bit of buzz.

Paris at sunset/Image from isotg213.ds.dk

We were given rudimentary lessons on using the Metro (the subway), French currency, which neighborhoods to stay away from, and a list of names and addresses of photographers and potential clients we were to call on the following day. Jet lagged and with spinning heads from trying to translate everything from French into English and then back again, all these two East Coast and West Coast girls wanted was a hot bath and a good night’s sleep, but we were informed that we would be having dinner every night of our stay with CloClo and his entourage. We soon discovered that this merry little band of diners didn’t usually even leave the agency until around 11PM, which was about an hour past my NY bedtime. Since I was a perpetually starving waif who needed to be fed every 4 hours, I experienced what would be my first slight misgiving, but I attributed it to exhaustion and hunger.

Arc de Triomphe in summer/Image from photoatlas.com

After we had been introduced to CloClo, his girlfriend, and various hangers-on, and everyone had been well and truly double air-kissed, it was time to leave for dinner. I can’t describe the pandemonium as soon as the agency door opened. There were at least 100 teen girls, perhaps more, outside, screaming and shrieking for their singing idol. Flowers were flung at him with force, signs bearing his photo were wielded like swords. We followed CloClo through this gauntlet, as he paused to sign autographs. By the time we reached the limo, everyone was breathing hard. This would turn out to be a nightly ritual that he must have enjoyed, as he certainly took no steps to avoid the mob scene.

Notre Dame/Image from panoramio.com

Every night we went to a new and more amazing restaurant. Wine flowed, and no menu item was off limits. The tabs for these nights must have run to several thousand dollars. It was rare to have a morsel of food enter your mouth before 1AM, and after dinner and cognac, there would be disco, lots and lots of disco! West Coast and I had to be up and at em by 6AM, and these nights of 2-4 hours of sleep were rough, even at our relatively young ages. But, as the soon-to-be winner of this challenge event, weighing in at 105lbs soaking wet, I would take the punches and roll with them, all for the impending glory that I knew would be mine in 30 days. But at the end of our first full day of go-sees, Deborah already had several bookings and I, alas, had none. Hum…..stay tuned.

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