Models and Photographers #58

Simpler than most of my titles, n’est-ce pas? Simple title, very complicated subject. Ask any current or former model to wax eloquent on this topic and I daresay you would receive wildly divergent, yet passionate responses. My experiences are the only ones I can recount for you here, and what a wild and crazy ride these relationships can be. The right model can be a photographer’s muse and greatest inspiration. The right photographer can push a good model to reach deeper and push harder than she’s ever done. There is a huge adrenaline rush that comes from the anticipation of what’s cooking in the chemicals in that darkroom. Was this shoot the one that will give you your career all-time favorite photo; will it become famous in the business? Will clients and other photographers who see it feel both jealous and curious about how you got that particular shot?

In the eight years that I was a model in New York and Milan, I worked with photographers of every skill level, from piss poor to genius, to world-famous. Of all of them, two were my absolute favorites, yet their work could not have been more different. Because I respect their privacy, I will alter their names in this post. I met Paul Lawson when he was just establishing himself in NYC, sharing a studio with a food photographer. He had the weathered look of the Marlboro man, and a craggy, brusque manner to match. He was living with a Jewish woman named Johanna and was madly in love. I met him for the first time shortly after I returned from Europe, and from our first test shoot together, there was magic every time. His style was pared down, clean, simple. I don’t think I ever took a bad photo with him, and we soon became a prolific duo. I think he booked me for every job he had that didn’t require a black or Latino woman. Below are some of my favorite photos he took.

For Vidal Sassoon

For The Wool Council

For Bloomingdale's

For Bloomingdale's

Not long after we met,  Johanna left Paul, and that was one crushed and shaken man. I became his bar buddy and we’d hang out after a day of shooting and he would pour out his soul and his sorrow to me. It was inevitable that we would soon fall into bed together, me because of a huge crush on this amazingly sensitive and gifted man, him solely for comfort. This was the in-between time in the final days of Boy, and prior to meeting Jack.

One of my favorite photos came on a stormy January weekend in the Hampton’s, shooting a fashion layout for Calvin Klein.

For Calvin Klein

The snowstorm quickly became a blizzard, so the snow you see all around wasn’t studio generated fluff; this was the real deal. I was standing in snow up to my knees, and my eyelashes kept freezing. Several times an hour Paul would look through the lens and announce, “She’s turning blue; thaw her out!”. The makeup artist and stylist would hustle me into the trailer to thaw me and my frozen clothes out with a blow dryer so we could keep shooting. We spent the entire day in that storm just to come back with a picture of one outfit! It’s crazy when you think of the money and resources that go into something as simple as a single ad page in a magazine. There were makeup artists, hairdressers, and clothes stylists who might well have paid their entire month’s rent from that single gig. I often think about that when I flip through a magazine, about how many man hours went into getting a one-page ad  for a single outfit. It’s a crazy business.

Oddly, my working relationship with Paul was completely unaffected by our becoming lovers, my marrying Jack, and his beloved Johanna marrying a successful French chef. We remained a team up until he relocated to San Francisco to become a photographer for The Gap. In a strange twist of fate, the French bistro owned by Johanna’s husband became one of my favorite places, and it was there that something eery and discombobulating occurred some seven years later.

I’ve always pursued airy, fairy, hippie-dippy, New Age interests. I had been avidly studying Tarot cards and this often became an impromptu entertainment at various parties. My friend Cat was having her birthday party at Johanna’s bistro in Chelsea, and it was that time of night when things are getting quiet and still after dinner has been eaten, birthday candles blown out, and a few guests have started to trickle away. Cat suggested I bring out my Tarot cards. I did a handful of readings, which were light and fun and amusing. Then Johanna, who had just given birth to a son several months earlier, sat down and asked me to read her cards. As I laid them out I kept looking at them over and over, not trusting what I was seeing there. Then, for the briefest moment in time, there was a visual flash, like a smokey hallucination, of the image of her baby boy being diagnosed with a terrible cancer at age three, and then a scene of his mother at his funeral, sobbing, bent over double in grief.

Johanna, sensing my agitation, inquired as to what I’d seen. I was obviously upset and distraught, and couldn’t even speak coherently. I mumbled some ridiculous excuse about not having studied this for very long, and it was all just a parlor trick anyway. I wrapped up my cards in a silk Hermes scarf and exited the restaurant as fast as I could. I went home and burned the scarf and the cards in a cast iron skillet and dumped the cooled ashes down the trash compactor.

I have never, to this day, fooled around with Tarot, nor would I ever again. There is a strange power there, and it was something I never wanted to come face to face with again. I am very sad to say that Johanna’s son did succumb to a virulent form of leukemia at the age of 3 years and 8 months.

Next time I’ll tell you about my other favorite fellow, Lars Underwood, whose pictures of Jessica Lange were instrumental in her being cast in the 1976 remake of King Kong.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Goat #42

When I accepted the office manager position at a small, start-up dental practice in 1997, my only thought was, “This will be a cake walk. No stress, no worries, phone it in and head for the beach.” After years on Wall Street, I just wanted a calm, adventure-free job. That assumption on my part was wrong on sooooo many levels! So many insane things happened in that practice, it could have easily been turned into a long-running sitcom.

The petite, adorable, and oh so stylish female dentist I was working for wasn’t from Eastern North Carolina, and would need to build her patient base slowly and by word of mouth. Like most new practices, it was decided to accept Medicaid patients in order to help do this. It was a win-win for both the community and a fledgling practice. The first week the doors were open we spent a lot of time learning our new software and waiting for the phone to ring. One day it did. Would we accept a family with several children with bombed out teeth in need of immediate treatment? Darling, if you had a pulse, a toothache, and a Medicaid card, it was your lucky day! COME ON DOWN.

And come they did. This family practically lived at our office for about a month, and I DO mean lived. Lord knows what their living conditions were like at home, but apparently they viewed the daily trips to the dentist as an opportunity to have running water and a flushing toilet. Their dilapidated old van would pull up, doors flung open, and out they poured. They brought not just the child to be treated that day, but their mothers, fathers, in-laws, cousins, babysitters with boyfriends, and dogs. “Hot damn Etta Mae, we’re headin to the toof doc; it’s a party!” They were perpetually filthy and barefoot and apparently used our tiny patient bathroom in an attempt to tidy up, among other things.

A Pooper Family Portrait, complete wth Billy/Image from

Each relative would go into the bathroom for extended periods of time, and when they finally left our office, there would be no paper towels or toilet tissue left, and the toilet was always stuffed up and overflowing. Obviously, we soon dubbed them ‘The Potty Poopers’.

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Since there were only three of us in the practice, it often fell to me to clean up behind The Poopers; I became the Rear Admiral of the Plunger, and soon came to dread their visits. But one day they pushed things too far. When the doors of their ark were flung open and everyone poured out, what should bring up the rear but a damned white goat, being led on a short rope.

I have no idea what The Poopers plans for this red-eyed devil were. Drink some fresh running water from the tiny sink, or from the toilet perhaps? Give it a bath using 87 of our C-fold towels? Allow it to graze on our fake ficus tree?  Maybe the goat was to be bartered to cover the family copay? Weeks of being pissed off about my unwanted Rear Admiral position boiled over; I had had enough of this red neck Noah’s Ark and challenged them at the door into the reception area. “You can’t bring that animal in here; it’s unsanitary”. They weren’t thrilled about this turn of events, but finally compromised and tied old Billy up to our sign post out front.

We were soon provided the opportunity to dismiss the entire family from the practice due to various misdeeds, none of which involved the goat. I’m sure there was some serious celebratory drinking going on the night that dismissal letter was sent out!

Now, for some more “Texas Toast”. It was the day after my most embarrassing moments with the gorgeous Jack Scalia and the pickaninny hair do. Boy arrived for his six week vacation and first visit to Europe. As long as romance was left out of the equation, Boy was a perfectly good companion. He had an acerbic wit and a caustic tongue and not a half bad sense of humor. While I was working during the days, he amused himself with the architecture and history of Milan and the surrounding countryside. Nights were quiet dinners enjoying the incredible restaurants and discos. It was at one of these dinners the first week he was there that we finally had a long overdue heart-to-heart, probably prompted by one glass or four too many of Chianti.

For the first time since meeting in high school, Boy admitted he was ‘probably’ gay. Apparently it all started when an older gentleman mentored him in high school. This ‘gentleman’ was a pillar of the community (aren’t they always?) and had an indoor pool constructed in his living room that he used as bait to lure in his prey. Boy thought that dating me might just cure him of his ‘problem’. Apparently not, since, at the University of Texas, Boy had a lengthy affair with one of his professors, which the wife took great exception to, ultimately filing for divorce. A very famous architect (yes, you would ALL know this name, except possibly Etta Mae and Billy Goat) came down to do a stint as a visiting professor, and you guessed it! Affair number three. Then, meeting the Prancing Sheilas was the straw that broke the gay camel’s back. Top that off with his introduction to the West Village scene and our relationship was dead and buried.

So, where there’s tit, or in Boy’s case NOT, there had to be tat. Boy wanted me to confirm that he wasn’t being paranoid about Alberto, and that we had indeed been carrying on a long-term affair. After much clearing of the air and dirty laundry, I think we were both vastly relieved to have this behind us. I told Boy that we were officially over, but he could remain as a roommate until he found a new place, which I prayed would be sooner rather than later. He wasn’t to question my comings and goings, or social life in any way, and vice versa.

Almost every weekend Boy was in Italy, we would hop a train and explore Venice, Florence, Siena, or Rome. My last days in Italy passed peacefully and uneventfully, but I had great trepidation about returning to New York. How would I be received by Wilhelmina? Would the awful Parisian flame-out be offset by the success of Milan, or would I have the smell of a loser child wafting off me? Summer was coming, and only time would tell.

Baxter “THE BOOGER” Balboa, Lightweight Boxer Champion of the World #38

Sometimes blogging feels a bit like being part of a large, extended, meddling, disfunctional Italian family. So much advice and suggestions from soooo very many. Last week a reader asked me, “Renee, since you named your blog for your dogs, why don’t you write about them more?” So Janelle, from Michigan, this post is for you!  

Baxter is in class on Mondays; he’s a great candidate for being a therapy dog at hospitals or senior centers, so we’ll see if he makes it to The Big Show! He is the most intelligent pet I’ve ever lived with (please don’t let Reggae read this!), but his brain is matched only by his obstinate nature. The downside of the Booger’s arrival in our family is that the bigger and more dominant he becomes, the shyer and more passive Pooter is. On balance, I don’t think she’s ready to return him to the breeder, but there are days when a little Booger goes a LONG way.

I read that Boxers are the clowns of the canine world, and it’s certainly true for this guy. Last week he discovered my yummy Polartec robe and came prancing down the hallway modeling it. I thought he looked like a prize fighter about to enter the ring with his satin robe thrown over his shoulders.

Last week, leaving the vet’s office, we saw a beautiful female boxer, about 20 pounds lighter than Baxter. It was odd, because, even with the size disparity, they looked like carbon copies of one another. They almost seemed to recognize each other. Come to find out, it was Ginger, a sister from Baxter’s litter! Talk about a small world, and no, I still do not want to paint it! So, Janelle, are we good?

As you may recall, at the last posting of “Texas Toast” I’d just completed my first day of “go-sees” in Milan, Italy, where I’d been sent in exile and disgrace after my most humbling month in Paris. Career-wise, this was apparently the equivalent of My Last Supper. I had been working non-stop for the first four days after I arrived, when I was summoned to the modeling agency office. How would I feel about spending ten days shooting in Tunisia? And, also, would I consider extending my stay in Italy by a few more months? Apparently, a bridal magazine wanted to book me for a month-long shoot traveling all over the country.

I'll never forgive France for this "Beatles" haircut abortion!

I was black and blue from pinching myself. How could this be happening after the debacle in Paris? Could a mere 500 miles make such a night and day difference? It truly did seem like one country’s trash  could be another’s treasure! Clients, photographers, and magazines could not have been more welcoming, and better yet, put their money where their mouths were. So much money was rolling in I felt like I was playing Monopoly. I felt confident enough to check out of my perfectly acceptable, though modest hotel, and checked into the magnificent Hotel Diana Majestic, which would be my home for the next four months.

Hotel Diana Majestic

 This was the first taste of true luxury that I’d ever experienced in my life. I lived in a huge suite, where everything was white on white. There were balconies overlooking an interior courtyard with flowing fountains, a fabulous restaurant and bar, and a delightfully fawning staff. In retrospect this was a silly extravagance, since I was on the road so much of the time, but I was like a kid in a candy store, living la dolce vita and having a blast!

Remember Mood Rings?

Italy spring 1976

There was one humorous, but quite odd aspect to my Milan modeling life. Apparently there existed a cadre of men, some titled and some not, usually quite wealthy from family money, who wanted to be photographed out and about with the model equivalent of “The Flavor of the Week”. These were not one-on-one dates, but loosely organized affiliations of models and men generally late 20’s to 40-something. Professional bachelors, who, for one reason or another, chose not to participate in the quest to find soulmates. Some were gay, some didn’t want to risk the family fortune on what could turn into a bad marriage, some wanted nagging, aging parents off their backs. Apparently being seen in the tabloids with a constantly changing parade of young women fit the bill. These evenings were encouraged by my agency, as it certainly didn’t hurt for their models to be caught by the paparazzi. So it came to be that I was out dining and discoing in all the best places every single night I was in Milan. I also vaguely remember a couple of helicopter trips to the gorgeous seaside resort of Portofino.

At some point during my second month in Italy, the Paris agency called to inform me that they were thrilled with my ‘resurrection’, and that they were eagerly awaiting my return to them to pay off my “debt”. One thing was certain; I was never, ever setting foot in that city again. They can call it ‘The City of Lights’ all they want, but to me it will forever be ‘The City of YIKES’. As in, hell no, mama ain’t going back there; not til hell freezes over and the devil wears ice skates. I also had the reassurance of knowing that if my return to NYC was less than triumphant, I could always return to Milan and have a very successful career. A fall back is a good thing to have.

And in a moment of largesse I decided to throw Baseball Bat Boy a bone, and bring him to Milan to visit for the final six weeks of my stay. After all, he had no job to hold him in NY, and I was paying for a humongous suite. He was an architect by training and I knew he would love the opportunity to see some of Europe. What Boy didn’t realize when he accepted my invitation was that it would be his swan song. I now knew I could swim in the sea without that very gay albatross around my neck, dragging me down. Actually ejecting him from my life would end up taking longer and be much more difficult than I could have imagined. In time, I would shed him like a rattlesnake sheds its skin, and one more chapter in my Texas book would be closed.

Eastern North Carolina…A Land Where Teeth and Literacy Are Optional #36

You know by now how much I adore living on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina; I have written enough words of love on this subject, but, like so many things, there IS a flip side. For those of you old enough to remember records, for every A side that was a hit song, there was a B side, filler, fodder, fluff. So my beloved adopted homeland also has a flip side, an underbelly if you will, a bit less luscious than the beguiling scenery.

Yesterday, The Spousal Unit and I were in line at the grocery store. My having worked as the admin manager of THE cool, hip, local dental practice for 13 years, means there are about  11 folks in the area I do not know personally. We were behind one of these strangers yesterday. The Unit has one of those open, happy faces that never met a stranger; he could strike up a conversation with Sarah Palin and Muammar Gaddafi, and all parties would walk away pleased.

Said female stranger was mumbling to herself, when The Unit accidently made eye contact. All my protective instincts began to set off warning bells, and I sent him cautionary Silent, Secret, Spousal vibrations. “Step away from the crazy lady; do not engage with the crazy lady”. His eye contact immediately convinced her that he liked her, he really, really liked her, and would agree with whatever came out of her mouth. She was gesturing wildly toward a Globe cover showing a photo of President and Mrs. Obama, with a story about their being snubbed for the Royal Wedding. “Communist sumabitch, whadda’s he expect?  You don’t bow to the God damn Queen of England? I’m dummer than dirt and even I KNOW TO BOW TO THE God damn Queen of England, dummm ass sumabitch.You don’t God damn bow and you stooopid enuf to expect a weddin invite?” All this at the top of her voice. All activity at the neighboring registers came to a halt, as people turned to see who was carrying on this brilliant and learned dissertation.

She turned to The Unit and continued to repeat herself, while jabbing a gnarled finger at the Globe. It was then that we saw IT. A huge, black cavernous orb, totally devoid of a single toofer, perched right down on the lower half of her face.  I would like to say this was an anomaly, but around these parts, having all of your natural teeth is as rare as The Donald giving up his comb over. I tell you there is an epidemic of toothless people around here, and the strangest thing is that they are not the least bit embarrassed about it.

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 When I moved here I thought the locals must have a lot of native American blood because they had such pronounced cheekbones; experience has taught me it is simply the missing molars and premolars causing the sunken cheeks.

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It isn’t just the tooth thing, either. There’s something strange about the schooling in these parts. Last week, The Unit and I went out to a decent restaurant (they have real silverware and cloth napkins, and something approximating a wine list). I asked the waitress if they had Pinot Noir. She focused intently on my face, looking like the proverbial deer caught in headlights. You could see her mind trying to process my question. To assist in the act of thinking, she slowly pulled the chewed pencil from behind her ear, and oh, so slowly, repeated, “Do we have Peanut Manure wine? Well, Sugar, I surely don’t know about that; I’ll have to check with the bartender. No one’s ever asked for that flavor before”.  After living here 14 years, I should realize that I just need to ask for whatever they have in a purdy red color.

And this one makes me particularly crazy. “I seen it yesterday.” For the 13 years these pint-sized varmints are in public schools, shouldn’t teachers be allowed highly encouraged to whoop any student upside the head caught saying “I seen”? No wonder this country is going to hell in a hand basket! The next time someone tells me ‘they seen’ something, I think I’ll waggle both hands in my ears, and shout at the top of my lungs, “Nah, nah, nah, nah, I can’t heard you”!

Golly, pulling on MY BITCH CAPE AND BECOMING SUPER PISSED WOMAN always makes me feel so much better! Thanks for tuning in to today’s rant!

As a virgin novice blogger, I am fascinated by the incredible amount of talent out there in Blogville. I am in serious danger of spending my entire day reading my subscriptions, while letting the family starve and houseplants wither. Until six months ago, I’d never even read a blog; I’m not sure I even knew precisely what one was, so forgive me for exuding wild enthusiasm for my new finds. I found this week’s infatuation because a picture of Steven Tyler was her feature photo; being a reformed 1970’s wild child, I’ve always had a crush on this crazy man. Imagine my joy when I realized I could see him two nights a week on “American Idol”. It’s like legalized stalking! In ten seasons, I have only missed one episode of “Idol”, and that’s when I was lying in a hospital bed after “dying” in an ambulance. Yes, I am an unapologetic, hard core fan. So you must check out “Steven Tyler Has Gone Bananas” by Mommy Needs a Pinot. And Steven, my buddy, I’m standing by you. Big may be good, but it doesn’t always have to be better!

Now we return to “Texas Toast” and my first day in Milan, Italy. Upon arriving at my new agency, I was given a long list of go-sees for that day, also the address of the hotel where I’d be staying. The hotel was bright and airy, nothing spectacular, but imminently doable for the four weeks I was scheduled to be in Milan. After checking in, the desk clerk provided me with a rudimentary lesson in lire (currency), the underground, and the bus system. Around 9PM I was finally finished with the meetings and greetings, and stopped in a family-owned trattoria for a bite of dinner. After sitting alone at my table for maybe 15 minutes, my waiter inquired if anyone would be joining me. When he found out I was on my own in a strange city, he immediately relocated me to a table set up in the kitchen, where I was joined by all manner of brothers, sisters, and cousins of the owners. I was treated like long-lost family, and spent a marvelous couple of hours getting to know these warm, kindly people. How very different the Italians were from the cold and aloof French. I realized I could learn to love this country quite easily.

When I pushed open the door to my hotel’s lobby around 11PM, I was greeted by the frantic front desk clerk. “Signorina, urgent messages for you. Many times your agency phone here. You MUST NOT go on more appointments tomorrow. You must be at this address instead for an 8AM booking, and at this address by 1PM for another. Also, they said you were booked every day for the next three weeks, so please make no plans to leave town for the weekends.” Certain that, between the language barrier and her charming accent, I had misunderstood, I made her repeat all this three times before it began to sink in. Did Alice just fall down the rabbit hole?

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Emerald Isle NC beaches/Image from

Inlet waterways

Historic Swansboro NC

Houseboat/Image from

Swansboro NC dock, historic downtown

Sunset over the Intercoastal

Le Petit Lapin Says Au Revoir Paris #35

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.

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Then there was a spa lunch that looked like art on a plate, followed by more treatments.

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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.

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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??