I’m thrilled to report there have been no casualties or broken bones in the ongoing house painting project. Since the Teenage Morose One is persona non grata at the moment, it seemed sensible to send him WAAAAYY up the tall ladder to paint the 15’ ceilings and walls. If he took a tumble and ended up in the hospital, oh well, he’s grounded in perpetuity, so he wouldn’t miss anything! I bet he regrets his younger self telling me “I like being grounded; I get to spend the whole day with you, Mommy”. Still feel the same now that I’ve turned you into my painting slave apprentice?
I’m serving up a heapin’ helping of “Texas Toast” today, kids. Imagine my relief at nearly being liberated from this wretched winter month in Paris after nothing but ridicule and rejection. Several years ago I saw a wonderful movie starring Debra Winger and Billy Crystal called “Forget Paris”. Though that movie was released many years after my Parisian debacle, I can still recall my mantra the last 72 hours I was there, “Forget Paris, forget Paris, forget Paris” over and over. It was my take on Dorothy clicking her ruby red slippers together and repeating, “There’s no place like home”, until it became a reality.
Sweet sufferin succotash! It was finally my last “work” day of the Paris contest, and I actually had a booking. All the agency would tell me was that it was for a book cover, and that my fee would be $500. I’d done many book covers already, so I wasn’t anticipating any difficulty. How sweet, how truly karmic that my one and only job in 30 days in Paris turned out to be as a life-size furry bunny rabbit. Le Petit Lapin translates to “The Little Rabbit”. Makeup took hours, and eating, drinking, and bathroom visits required improvisation and dexterity. But the crew was friendly and upbeat, the music rocked, and we had some laughs, mostly at my expense, but hey, I was leaving Paris on Sunday and could begin to put this fiasco behind me. Reality had set in and I made peace with switching out my dream of a French Vogue cover, or Marie Claire, for a children’s book cover portraying Bugs Bunny. A girl’s got to be flexible, right?
Martine had informed me that instead of returning to NYC, they were sending me to Frankfurt for a five-day booking for a spa brochure. At that point I was so ready to work, I probably would have been ecstatic to do a pole dance for a Boy Scout convention. I was also told that I would then be sent on to Milan where I would be given the opportunity to ‘redeem’ myself. If I could do well there, CloClo’s agency would welcome me back to Paris, where I could earn enough to “pay us back for your hotel and airfare”. This debt was news to me, but anything that would postpone the feared meeting with Wilhelmina was fine with me. I guessed my chances in Italy were slim to none, but it didn’t seem like I was being given a choice. From the agency’s point of view, I belonged to them until such time that I earned enough money for them to recoup my month-long hotel bill and round-trip airfare.
A postscript. Two years later I was in Europe filming international commercials for Oil of Olay. We were bouncing between Stockholm, Copenhagen, Rome, Venice, and in March 1978, we were in Paris. I was walking down a boulevard when a newspaper photo caught my eye. It was a picture of Claude Francois. As the second most popular singer in France, this didn’t strike me as odd until I saw the words “La Mort”. THE DEATH. Stunned, I purchased a paper and read, in disbelief, of CloClo’s premature passing at the age of 39. Apparently he was electrocuted in his bathtub while reaching to adjust a light bulb. Talk about the ultimate Toe Tag Theory! He had survived an IRA bombing in London three years earlier, and in 1977, a crazed fan had tried to assassinate him. He survived both of those close calls, only to die at home in his bathtub! I fell to the sidewalk, sobbing at the loss of this man, who I barely knew. I imagined him looking down, seeing me crying in a heap on the sidewalk and saying “Hey, you crazee cowboy-girl, what’s with zee tears so much?” He called all women from Texas “Crazee Cowboy Girls”…endearing, no?
Please understand that even though his agency brought me to Paris, and I spent a weekend in his country home, and had dinner at his table every night for a month, I barely knew him. We had perhaps two or three superficial conversations at best. I have heard rumors that he was a controlling egotist, a cruel and savage man. Never having seen that side of him I can only say that some people have an inner light, a radiance, an incandescence if you will, that makes them stand out, that draws people to them like moths to the flame. CloClo had that spark, that light. In no way am I trying to turn a demon into a deity, if that’s what he really was. I, along with thousands of others, made the 35-mile journey to Dannemois to leave a floral tribute to his memory. It was almost incomprehensible that two years after the ill-fated modeling contest, he was no longer of this world.
Now, we resume this episode of “Texas Toast”, in its entirety. When I arrived in Frankfurt two days after The Bunny Incident, I was almost shell shocked from the disastrous outcome of Paris, the possibility of having to return to NYC in defeat and face Boy, the Prancing Sheilas, and worst of all, Willy. I had little hope and fewer expectations. The tiny German inn the spa had booked me into was charming and dear, and the proprietor was a stout, kindly lady who took one look at me and decided I was starving to death. An hour later my new, adopted Mutter was drawing me a fragrant bath, and bringing me trays of mouth-watering German sausages, mashed potatoes, black bread, and pastries. And beer, lots of beer. She had decided I was so frail that I must be anemic, and her prescription was warm beer! As I tumbled gratefully into an all-white bed layered in goose down, I wondered if perhaps heaven might not actually be made of eiderdown and marshmallow cream.
The next five days could not have been a starker contrast to the month in France. My only job was to look relaxed and at peace and be photographed while receiving one more decadent spa treatment after another.
Then there was a spa lunch that looked like art on a plate, followed by more treatments.
I was slathered in mud, draped with healing herbs, wrapped in Saran, massaged, oiled, buffed, mannied, peddied, and Rolfed until I looked like a brand new penny.
By the time my assignment ended Friday afternoon, I doubt that CloClo and Martine would have recognized their street urchin. Since the spa paid me my fee directly, and very unusually, in cash, I decided to spend Saturday shopping for new clothes. I would leave ragamuffin me behind in Germany and arrive in Italy a brand new butterfly.
The five weeks I’d spent in Europe had not been wasted. I’d carefully observed these stunning women and their fashion sense. None of them would have been caught dead in public dressed in overalls, tee shirts, and the hide of King Kong, so as I shopped the following day, I kept the image of Parisian women in sharp focus. At day’s end I had acquired a Burberry trench, a set of matching leather luggage and Hermes bag, baby-soft leather boots, and two fabulous grown-up outfits. I felt not one iota of remorse as I left KK, the abominable snowman boots, and the ubiquitous overalls behind in a trash bin at the shopping plaza.
By the time I climbed the steps to Ricardo Guy’s modeling agency in Milan, I had completely reinvented myself. The spa pampering had washed away 90% of the horror of France; it helped that I was young and resilient. Mutter had probably managed to add eight pounds onto my skeletal frame with her cooking and warm beer, and I was fairly glowing with good health and exuberance. The only thorn in my side was the tragic Prince Valiant hairdo, but isn’t it funny how one man’s trash will be another’s treasure??