I Most Truly, Unreservedly, Utterly Apologize! #59

It’s only been five short months since I went on my Bride of Bigfoot rant. The Christmas decorations were still up and twinkling well into January, and my drip watering/mister system looped unfinished all over the gardens. I fussed and carried on about The Spousal Unit and his wild enthusiasm for starting projects, yet not completing them. Well kids, today I sit down with knife and fork in hand, prepared to ingest a big heapin’ helping of humble pie. The Unit has done E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. on his honey-do list, and believe me when I tell you it was so long it would put a male porn star to shame! It’s like the man’s got ants in his pants and rockets in his pockets; he simply can’t keep still. A lesser woman might be suspicious, but I say ‘tish, tosh‘ to all that. I am dancing gleeful jigs of gratitude all day long. The poor fella is about to bid adieu to the homestead for one month, and I believe the fear of returning to another four weeks of additional items on his to-do list got him motivated. He’s been busier than a one-legged dog with fleas, while I gaze  around our mothership property with a big, shit-eating grin from ear to ear. Hear this, Spousal Unit, you are hereby forgiven for your wintertime sins of sloth; your poopy karma has been cancelled.

My poor son “Paco” would have absolutely no luck with vehicles if it were not for BAD luck. You may remember, he had his beloved 1984 shiny black El Camino permanently taken away after a certain party; it was replaced with an 11-year-old Mitsubishi Eclipse. We took it to our trusted mechanic before agreeing to buy it, and were fully aware that it needed two new tires and a new transmission. We made an offer $3k less than the seller was asking and he almost leapt in the air, all atwitter with delight; perhaps we should have smelled a rat? Since April we have spent $3500 on repairs, some expected, some not. Today, I noticed that two of his tires had exposed cord; they had been just fine 3 weeks ago. Off to the mechanic we go. The two new front tires were almost bald! Turns out the garage we paid to do the alignment hadn’t actually done it after all, and all the tires were shredded because of that. Unexpectedly shelling out $1000 in one day  only a week prior to Paco leaving for college makes Mama very sad indeed! I fear we may have purchased a mobile money pit.

Now to today’s chapter of “Texas Toast”. In the last post I told you about one of my two favorite photographers. The other was Lars Underwood, and the day Wilhelmina sent me to see him in his Chelsea studio, I was trembling in my cowboy boots. Lars had a ferocious reputation in the business, and could make even the most successful model turn pale with fear. He had a short fuse, which led to fierce verbal attacks if you disappointed him. Apparently, he was easily disappointed. Oddly, this tyrant and I hit it off almost immediately; he liked models he could not intimidate.

Lars had an unorthodox way of running his business. 98% of photographers will land a very specific assignment. Shoot this dress for this newspaper or magazine ad, on such and such day, at this location. Sometimes they select the model, sometimes the client does. Everything is structured in advance. Lars didn’t like anyone telling him what to do, so he would do test shoots with his models, and send his aggressive rep out to clients to buy the ‘stock’ photos. This was how just one test session Lars and I did on a Friday evening, wearing a green sequined dress, yielded two big prizes. One was my first cover in America, for a now defunct magazine called VIVA.

One lazy afternoon, in the middle of a nap, the phone woke me up; it was a writer from the magazine who wanted to do a brief interview for a cover bio. This is how it appeared.

 “It’s 4:30PM and Renee Cristophe is yawning–very genteelly, but yawning still–into the telephone. “Been working hard?” we queried.

“Yes, that,” said Renee, “and also I just got back from eloping.”

Remember eloping? We stifled an urge to inquire, “With a man?” Eloping seems so thirties movie-ish and madcap and old-timey–quite unlike anything you’d expect degagee cover-girl types to do.

But Renee is a good deal more grass roots than she appears. The marriage took place way down in Texas, which is Renee’s home turf, or was, back in the days when she was just another army brat, waiting for the local movie The-AY-ter to change features and for her life to shift gears. It did!

She effected a quick transfer from college in Texas to New York and the Wilhelmina Model Agency. A fast move from tacos and dust to champagne and sequins, but she had what it took. Her photographer states, “Aside from being a natural beauty, she’s the consummate professional. She works hard and she works well, and takes direction like an angel.”

The world is minus a museum curator. But, Renee found that she had other ground to cover. Not to mention plenty of magazines. We forgive her.

That cover brought me bookings from total strangers for the next six months. The other photo from that test with Lars was purchased by a cosmetics company and that became an ad for a perfume named Intoxication; the ad continued to run for years after I retired from modeling.

Despite his difficult reputation, Lars was a magnet for his favorite models. It wasn’t uncommon to find several of us in his studio any evening, with boyfriends or husbands in tow, drinking wine, chilling, chatting, perhaps snapping some photos here and there, as the spirit moved us. I vividly recall one Friday night. Jack and I walked into the studio to discover Jessica Lange and Mel Harris, along with her significant other, in residence. Jessica was in town promoting her recently released remake of “King Kong”, and Mel would soon go on to a solid career in TV. Ten years later she would be part of the cast of the wildly successful “thirtysomething” TV series, which ran for five years. Mel, Jessica, and I were all in Wilhelmina’s stable, but our paths didn’t cross until that evening.

Jessica Lange

Jessica in the 1976 remake of King Kong

As Dustin Hoffman's love interest in Tootsie

Mel Harris

Mel with Ken Olin, her TV husband in thirtysomething

It was around this time that I received a call from Jack’s ex-wife, who was in town from Chicago, wanting to meet for lunch; she had something important to tell me…

2 thoughts on “I Most Truly, Unreservedly, Utterly Apologize! #59

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