No time today for anything but more “Texas Toast”. Hang on; this one’s a doozy! To recap, Boy and I returned to NY from Italy in the spring of 1976. I was in a power struggle with my modeling agency over the direction I wanted my career to go, and I was winning, at least in theory. I had hatched a plot to be sure I wouldn’t get booked for any more ‘teen’ magazines by sabotaging my appearance and presenting to potential clients wth severely gelled back hair and strong makeup. At the same time I was scrambling like a demented woman to test, test, and test some more with photographers who liked my new, older look. This created a period of time where there was a substantial decline in my income, but I was confident it would pay off in the end.
I was working wth Geoffrey Beene, Calvin Klein, and Bill Blass with some frequency. For reasons I could never fathom I was working about 60% of the time doing swimsuit and lingerie modeling, though I never snagged the coveted Victoria’s Secret catalog. Since I looked like Olive Oil on speed, I never understood why I was hired to do all these swimsuit photos. Grateful, certainly, but perplexed. One very peculiar thing about the modeling business is that no matter how much skin you expose, you are paid your regular day or hourly rate for swimsuits and double your rate for lingerie. So, I might get $1000 per day for modeling a bikini that basically consisted of a piece of dental floss, but could wear a full slip in a Macy’s ad and be paid twice that! Go figure. I worked for all the major department stores, all of whom produced daily newspaper ads and seasonal catalogs.
Finally, in October, I got the booking that gave me the courage to eject Boy from my world once and for all. I was chosen, along with two very famous models, Pam Southern and Ingrid Boulting, to go to St. Maarten for seven days in January for an extensive shoot for a hair and makeup feature Woman’s Day magazine was preparing for a summer issue. Pam was featured on more Harper’s Bazaar covers than I could count and Ingrid was internationally renowned for her unique Victorian look.
Since Boy had shown zero interest in moving out on his own, I decided to take him to The Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center for dinner on Thankgiving. An ultimatum was issued, leave or die. The Rainbow Room is all about the view and the orchestra and dancing, not so much the food, which you will understand if you read Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”. After reading what he said about the goings on in those kitchens I felt the need to retroactively throw up that Thanksgiving dinner 35 years later. I dropped the ‘breakup‘ bomb on Boy. I expected him to be out of the flat by the Christmas holidays, to have his name taken off the lease, and to return the key when we traveled home to visit our respective families. He’d already been forewarned in Italy that this was coming, so he took the news in stride and cheerfully agreed with all my demands. Will I never learn to smell a rat if it’s sitting right in front of me at the table?
The day arrived for us to fly home to Texas for Christmas; Boy would be picked up by his family in Dallas, and I would continue on to Nowhere. When we separated, I said goodbye to the past 7 1/2 years and never expected to lay eyes on Boy again. I am beginning to think the permanent severing of all past relationships might be genetically imprinted.
After the New Year, I flew back to NY in order to meet the Woman’s Day crew and other models to fly to St. Maarten. It was a frigid, windy day, so I dressed accordingly. Warm, furry boots, and a beautiful wool peasant outfit with a heavy coat. I thought it was odd when I met the others at the airport and they were all dressed for a summer’s day. Clearly, this was my first trip to the tropics and as soon as we deplaned I realized my mistake and their travel savvy. By the time we were in line for customs, listening to the beat of a steel drum band, and sipping complimentary Bahama Mamas, my hair and clothes were plastered to me, and black mascara was doing a samba down my cheeks. I vowed to never purchase wool for the rest of eternity. I felt like the ultimate country bumpkin and decided I would copy everything Pam and Ingrid did for the remainder of our trip.
Several funny memories emerge from that trip. The client had apparently booked us on some type of ‘budget’ food plan in the sumptious La Samana Hotel, so while diners all around us were feasting on lobster and all manner of glorious fish dishes, we had only the option of lamb, lamb, and more lamb. Now I already hated lamb since the Easter dinner when I was three, when my 11-year-old cousin Jake gleefully shared the news that we were dining on Socks, my beloved pet lamb! Ah, the South, a land where everything is on the table, including the family pet! So, night after night, for seven days, I either had to eat that dreaded beasty or stick to salads and veggies. When I come to visit you for dinner, please, oh please, don’t serve lamb!
The other funny thing was that I have the bizarre porcelain skin that afflicts so many redheads and will not tan; I remain milky white no matter what. This was in the days before SPF, but the client insisted that I was slathered from head to toe with some yummy smelling, thick motor-oil-like substance made by Hawaiian Tropic. It smelled good enough to eat (and looking back, it might have been a viable alternative to the lamb!), but it was so viscous and greasy you couldn’t sit down on a piece of furniture or touch fabric without ruining it. So all I heard was, “Renee, don’t sit down, you’ll ruin the couch. Don’t pull that blouse over your head; you’ll get that stuff all over it. Renee, get back inside out of the sun or you’ll get burned”. All the while I enviously watched Ingrid and Pam getting browner by the minute and frolicking in the pool and the waves. I certainly felt like the redheaded stepchild and put a lifelong curse on the Irish Sperminator right then and there.
And how’s this for inconvenient karma? On the fifth day of the shoot, both the makeup artist and the hair designer went snorkeling after lunch. Apparently the lunch had involved a certain quantity of Pinot Grigio, which impaired their judgment. Suddenly they found themselves in only several inches of water with nothing beneath them but spiny black sea urchins. I don’t remember the details of their extrication, but apparently it required pulling themselves along the ocean bottom with their hands. The hotel doctor had to come and spent an eternity pulling out stingers. From the howls of pain, it must have hurt like hell. Suffice it to say, those two were pretty useless puppies for the remainder of the trip. Can you tell which pictures were done with professional assistance and which were the ones where we had to do our own hair and makeup because the ‘pros’ were disabled?
Finally, my lovely trip came to an end, and I found myself standing outside the door of my apartment, savoring the solitude I knew was waiting within. I was giddy with the relief of finally being free of Boy after all those years of turmoil and tension. I said a silent prayer of gratitude as I pulled out my key and inserted it into the door. I’d just been on my first trip to the islands AND I was a free woman. Even the fact that I was bloated from lamb overdose and my pores were oozing coconut Hawaiian Tropic couldn’t squelch my joy. As I pushed open the door with my toe, I suddenly went rigid. WHAT WAS THAT? Oh my God, it was the sound of an “I Love Lucy” rerun and it was coming from my apartment!
Son of a bitch! There lay Boy, sprawled out in all his semi-naked glory, watching MY TV and grinning up at me sheepishly. Of the thousand possible scenarios that ran through my mind about why he could possibly be here, instead of back in Texas where I’d left him, none turned out to be quite as creative as the actual truth. Because, as I’m glaring death ray bullets at him and hoping he dissolves into a puddle of ash at my feet, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find a stranger inquiring if I was so and so. On confirmation, she shoved a paper into my hand and cheerfully said, “Consider yourself served, and have a nice day!”
Apparently Boy’s family had convinced him not to let the gravy train that was his prior girlfriend run dry until he’d given it one last squeeze. There had been much media coverage around that time of a palimony case filed by a former live-in girlfriend of actor Lee Marvin. Apparently Boy had convinced a NY attorney that I was his ‘pal’ and that some ‘alimony’ would be nice, since we had lived together for some 5 1/2 years. Guess what folks? HE WON! Which is why, in our next installment, you will find me desperately searching for both a roommate and a part-time night job. To be continued…