Great, I thought. This ought to be fun. Pulling out my toiletry bag, I headed to the bathroom to get washed up. Tomorrow morning I would have to be at the Elite headquarters to meet the man in charge.
Afterward, climbing onto the small bottom bunk, I could hear the girls whispering and laughing. They had already met the Boss, John Casablancas, and were well into their first weeks of endless castings and test shoots. If you managed to nail a job, you were as good as gold, but so far none of the new girls had. Listening to their conversations, I gathered that there was a four-week rule. If you had not scored something (or someone) by then, chances were you would be "sent back." That banishment loomed over all our heads as the minutes, days, and weeks ticked by. It was an interesting hell for a teenager to have to endure. Already we were on the clock, with a definite expiration date.
As the sun rose over the Big Apple, movement in the small apartment had purpose. The occupants made themselves busy preparing for the rounds of the day. Hair dryers buzzed, mascara was applied, lip gloss dabbed, and hefty streaks of rouge were smudged on. Apparently, barefaced castings were not really done in New York, or perhaps everyone just had her own interpretation of what "bare" meant.
I threw together the only outfit I had that might be hip enough to wear to a meeting with the president of Elite: an oversize silk navy button-down man's shirt and my only pair of black leggings that were not yet threadbare. Pulling on my socks and boots, I gazed out at the city streets below, noting that a light rain had begun to fall. I did not have an umbrella, and I certainly did not have a fancy overcoat. Looking on as my fellow models buttoned up their formal "best," I felt small and inadequate. Fiona must have noticed my wistful expression and threw me a long black trench coat.
"Here," she said. "You do not have one, do you?" Her look was inquisitive, and maybe a bit concerned. Shaking my head in disbelief and gratitude, I stood up to try it on. It was a perfect fit. And a perfect addition to my one and only outfit.
"Seriously? I can borrow it?" I asked.
"No prob," Fiona answered with a smile. That coat was an absolute gift, and it got me through my first freezing weeks in Manhattan.
I made my way to the agency and prepared myself for the worst. I was certain that John Casablancas would see me and realize that he'd made a terrible decision in flying me out. I sat quietly in the waiting room playing with the buttons on Fiona's coat, watching the doors open and shut, seeing faces and hearing accents from all over the world as people passed through like waves in an undulating ocean. The walls were covered with posters of Kim Alexis, Joan Severance, and Janice Dickinson. Paulina Porizkova lay sandy-bottomed for a Sports Illustrated cover. It was all tremendously impressive as well as tremendously intimidating.
Suddenly the large doors onto the waiting room opened and Trudi's familiar face poked in.
"Carre, John will see you now."
I gulped. Stood. And followed Trudi through the doors and into absolute mayhem. Bookers were on phones, all speaking in different languages. Head shots and composites lined the walls. Notes and client names were pinned to an enormous bulletin board. It was loud. Unbelievably loud. These were the days before computers and e-mail. The noise was unforgettable.
Trudi opened another large wooden door leading to a spacious office, and as I stepped in, she closed it firmly behind me. I held my breath. Here it was. The moment of truth. Sitting behind a beautiful mahogany desk was a dark-haired man. He swiveled his chair around to face me. He had such a magnetic smile. He beamed broad and bright; John Casablancas was a handsome and gregarious man.
"Hello, my dear," he said as he stood up. He walked across the carpet toward me. Just when I thought I would shake his hand, his cheek met mine in what I would soon come to know as the "Euro air kiss." Both sides were quickly pecked, and then he just as quickly backed off, retreating to his lush seat behind the desk.
"Sit. Sit down." John smiled, nodding to the chairs that surrounded him. I sat, trying to cross my legs elegantly and look sophisticated. Shit, I was so far out of this league it was painful. I was certain my cover was about to be blown.
"Let me tell you how this works, Carre," he said. "You will stay here, with us, and we will begin by sending you out for some test shoots. All I have here are these." He slapped the test photos I had taken in San Francisco onto the table. "Of course we can tell you are a pretty girl. But the question remains... Do you have it?"
I nodded dumbly. "It." Did I? I was not certain at all.
As if reading my thoughts, he gave a small laugh. "Even if you think you do not have it, my dear, act like you do. And let me be the judge."
"Also, I hear you have no money. Is this true?"
I nodded and stared.
"We will provide you a small allowance every week. This will be on your tab of what you will owe us as your agents. And this money... Well, Trudi will give you all the details you need. We expect you to show up on time. Be professional. " He turned his attention to a small photo on his desk. I recognized the face. It was a young up-and-coming model, Stephanie Seymour.
"Let me tell you a story. This girl, Stephanie, came to me only six months ago. With her mother. She was an unknown. And soon she will be world-famous. In just a year. Ahhh... Stephanie. " He looked longingly at the picture. "She sends me the sweetest cards, with glitter and stickers spilling out. She's in Marbella right now, shooting for French Elle. My little star. "
I was confused. But soon it would be clear. Stephanie was John's girlfriend-despite their nearly twenty-seven-year age difference.
He placed his hand on the intercom and paged Trudi.
"So let's give you a few weeks and see what we have. Perhaps you will be my next little star," he said, in what sounded to me an almost conspiratorial tone.
Just then Trudi walked in.
"Come along with me, Carre," she said. "Let me show you around. You will be 'mine.' "There was something caring and protective about both her manner and these words.
I stood and thanked John. I was genuinely grateful, just unsure.
As we walked back through the office and the hustle and bustle, Trudi pointed out all the big agents. "There is Monique Pillard. She handles all the stars." As we passed a glass-encased office, I could see a small, pudgy, wire-haired woman pacing. She looked like someone's grandmother. But Monique was a big shot. Not to be fooled with.
After my tour I was a given a map of the city and a list of the subways I'd need to take to get to my first test shoot. It was with Rocco Laspata, a photographer who would later go on to found the Laspata DeCaro agency. Rocco had been sent my one picture from Gary's test and had liked it enough to agree to shoot me. Working with him was my initiation into life as a model in the big city.
There were many, many test shoots in the weeks to come, but few pictures actually made the cut. It was the hair, or the makeup, or the lighting-or, even worse, just me. I was not quite right. I was too this or too that. I was too plump, my face too fat, my smile too crooked, or my nose too difficult to light. My pout at that time was too big, my tits too small. Despite all the hope in my heart, there was an inevitable sinking feeling at day's end, knowing as I did that the clock was ticking and my time was running out.
One evening Trudi asked if I wanted to come over for a glass of wine. Wow. This must mean she likes me, I thought. I happily agreed, and as I knocked on the door that led from the models 'apartment to hers, I felt my first sense of triumph in the big city.
I sat with Trudi on her white couch, listening to music, sipping wine. And as we both loosened up, she began to share with me details of her love life. Her boyfriend had just sent her a gift, she told me. "Wanna see?" she asked sloppily. I laughed, eager to please, and said, "Of course."
But mortification took over as she pulled off her pressed pants and underwear and stood there bottomless. (Modesty, as I'd be reminded many more times in my career, really is overrated in the modeling industry.) Embarrassment then turned to confusion when Trudi opened a box and pulled out a pair of panties. Or were they? What the hell? They were "half panties." My brows must have furrowed in uncertainty. I tried to act cool and nodded, encouraging her to try them on. That, of course, was my first introduction to the thong. Neither of us were very clear on how to wear one, so the next few minutes were spent in trial and error.
"Well, wait," she said, struggling. "I think this string goes here and that one goes there." She wiggled the panties around, but no matter how she situated them, they still looked totally wrong.
We laughed and at that point I stood, figuring this was a good time to leave. "Oh, they're cute," I assured her. "Really cute. He must be a doll."
"Wait, Carre, before you go.... Let's hang out again. Maybe we could have drinks with Eric. My boyfriend?"
"Yeah. That would be great." I lied. I sensed that Trudi was lonely and looking for a friend but I also sensed trouble. Lord knows, I do not need any more of that now, I thought.
"Cool. Tomorrow at seven. Okay?"
"Sure." I smiled. I was tired. Ready for my day to end.
The next day came, and eventually I found myself back at Trudi's with a glass of Fume Blanc in my hand. Her boyfriend was there, too. We hung out and ate Chinese food ordered from the corner restaurant. But every time Trudi left, Eric would stare at me, inching closer and closer on the couch. It was all too awkward. I liked Trudi a lot, but spending time with her and her boyfriend was weird. He made me feel uneasy.
I ended up hanging out with them again. . . and again. Every night the same thing happened. But I could not resist. The models 'apartment was dull and lonely. Of course, it did not take long for my involvement in the "world next door" to get the other girls furiously whispering every time I made a late-night return.
A couple of weeks into my stay, I was called into the Elite headquarters. Waiting in Trudi's office, I was surprised to see John himself walk in. He had a series of my test shots in his hand.
"Carre, we have a problem."
Oh, no. This was not going to be good.
"Your look is not it, my dear. It's not catching on. We have not one really solid shot of you in all of these," he said, waving the pile of pictures. I swallowed hard.
"You look too..." He paused.
"I know," I said. I finished the line: "Fat, pouty, angry, plump, dark, exotic. I've heard it all." It sounded like a list of dwarfs from an alternative Snow White movie. And I was grumpy, too, tired of being endlessly picked apart.
"Now, now," John scolded. He was supposed to say these things. Not me. "I will give it one more week. On my dime. If we can not get something good, something really good, then I'm afraid you will have to move on."
"Shit," I muttered under my breath.
"Pardon?" He shot me a stern look.
"Nothing. Of course, Mr. Casablancas. Thank you. I will give it my all." Not that I had not been. I had. It was just that-once again-I was "wrong." All wrong.
John left, and I sat alone in Trudi's office, tears streaming down my face. I did not have a fallback. I did not have another plan. This had been the whole plan. I was fucked.
"Hey, Carre." Trudi waltzed in. "What's up?" She saw my stricken face. "Oh, honey, it's okay. It's going to be okay." She drew me into a hug, and I cried for a moment, then looked her in the eyes.
"Sweetie, listen to me," she said. "He will not just let you go. You'll be sent to Paris. Milan. You will make it. "I felt momentarily comforted." You! You are special, Carre, you have that look, "she assured me. Then she asked me to do her a favor.
"What is it?" I said between sniffles and blotting my tears.
"Can you meet Eric at my apartment? He does not have the keys, and I have a late meeting."
Without thinking, I said yes. Why? I'm not sure. I wanted to help. I felt vulnerable, and I was grateful for her support. But something in me was flashing a warning sign.
When Eric showed up around seven, I did as I was told and let him in. Comfortable in Trudi's apartment by this time, I turned on the music and opened a bottle of wine, offering him a glass.
"Here you go, Eric," I said, smiling cheerfully and handing it to him.
"Thanks, Carre." As he took it, his hand touched mine and our eyes met. His gaze lingered a moment too long. I pulled away and looked at the floor. That was awkward, I thought.
"Come," he said, as he patted the couch next to him. "Sit by me for a moment."
I was unsure of what to do, yet I did not want to be rude. And so I sat.
Casually and utterly predictably, Eric put his arm over the back of the couch, his hand touching my shoulder. I stiffened. A moment later he swiveled around so that we were nose to nose. I held my breath, praying he would go away. And then he did it. He kissed me. I pulled back on impulse, totally mortified. I was considering slapping him when Trudi walked in and stood, mouth agape, staring at the two of us sitting much too close together on her couch.
"What the fuck is going on?" she yelled. I could see the fury course through her, the rage welling up as her cheeks flushed. "You did not just do that again, Eric?" She was demanding an answer and begging him to be something other than what he was. I could feel her pain, her sense of betrayal.
"Trudi!" I cried, rising from the couch. "It's not what it looks like!" What a pathetic line, I thought as soon as it came out of my mouth. Like she'd ever believe that one.
She stomped over to me and pushed me. "What the fuck are you doing? You treat me like this? You treat me like shit? I invite you into my home and you do this? "Spit was flying. Her voice was escalating. I knew that the girls next door had their ears to the wall.
"Wait! I did not do anything. He-" I cried, pointing a finger. "He tried to kiss me. I only did what you said. I opened your door for him! "I was desperate. But I knew I would not be believed. I was telling the truth and it did not matter. My lifeline was being severed.
Trudi looked like she wanted to slap me first and then smack Eric, too. Instead she grabbed me by the arm and practically dragged me to the door that separated the apartments. She opened it and pushed me through.
"Get out of here, Carre! Get the fuck out. And do not you ever fucking set foot in here again." She looked at me with disbelief and hurt. And then it turned to disgust.
I felt like shit. I had disappointed her and myself. And with that, she slammed the door, leaving me face-to-face with a roomful of models, each silently staring at me. We all stood motionless, amid the yells and the thumps and the shattering of glass as Eric and Trudi argued in the next room.
In my bed I pulled the covers around me and listened to the drone of city traffic, then a pounding rain. I blew it. I could see Trudi's expression over and over in my head. I could not imagine exactly what my fate would be after this, though I had my fears. As it happened, I would not have to wait long to find out.
The next morning the phone rang in the models 'apartment.
"Carre, it's for you."
It was Trudi's assistant.
"Pack your bags. You're heading out."
"Wait... What?" I stammered. "Where to?"
"Paris, France." I knew after my meeting with Mr. Casablancas that this call would be coming, but I had hoped it would not be so soon. . . and that the incident with Eric did not hasten it. What would have been welcome news yesterday sounded more like a death sentence today. I knew the truth and it hung over me like a black cloud.
I had blown it. Again.
PARIS, TAHITI, MILAN
The next night I took the red-eye on Air France. It seemed to last forever-hour after hour, flying through darkness. By the time we landed at Charles de Gaulle just before dawn, I was exhausted and disoriented. Some people imagine that traveling must be a particularly glamorous perk for a model. Many assume that models all fly first class. There would come a time when I would travel in the front of the plane, and even on private jets. But in 1985 I traveled the way most models did and still do: in coach. Luxuries in the industry were reserved for a lucky few, and John Casablancas was not going to spend more than he had to on sending a difficult young model off to Paris.
What little sleep I got had been in some cramped and compromised position. Even for my young body, that flight was a haul. I got off the plane, every bit of me aching, and trudged through a maze of escalators and moving walkways. I longed for a soft bed. A flat bed. But as I arrived at the baggage claim, I saw through the windows that the sun was already rising. The airport was a long distance from the city. I would catch my first glimpse of it in broad daylight. In spite of my exhaustion, I began to wake up. It was too noisy not to. De Gaulle was a cacophony of sounds. The strange language and the overpowering smells of smoke, perfume, and espresso all hung heavy in the air.
My one bag came around on the carousel, and I swung it over my shoulder and headed through customs. As I walked toward the glass doors that divided new arrivals from the outside world, I saw the waiting and expectant faces on the other side. I did not know what face to look for. I had only a name. I prayed that I would find him; I realized that I had no idea how to use a French pay phone, and I did not even have a number to call.
I stepped out into a sea of ??people and looked around. I did not see my name on a sign or anyone waving at me. I walked slowly toward the street exit, holding on tightly to my bag. As I pivoted to avoid getting run over, I saw a short man with a round and flushed face come my way. He had on an old-fashioned cap, a corduroy blazer, a button-down shirt, and a colorful ascot. Even in a Paris airport, he stood out as particularly French. "Carre? Carre, is this you?" He extended his hand, and as I reached out to shake it, he pumped my arm up and down, a bit too enthusiastically. I had just met the infamous Jacques de Nointel.
Jacques was a close associate of Gerald Marie, the president of Elite Europe. I would later learn that in that distinctive corduroy coat he carried dozens of watches that he tried to sell at every opportunity. Patek Philippe, Cartier, Tiffany, Rolex. Like a character out of an old movie, Jacques was ready and eager to throw open his coat and make every new "good friend" a special offer. He was a bit of a nut, and not necessarily the endearing kind. I would learn to steer well clear of Jacques.
Jacques informed me that "zee boss" (Gerald) wanted me to come straight to the agency. "He needs to see you immediately," I was told. I got the picture: It was not about my comfort. It did not matter that I needed to shower, needed to sleep. How I felt was irrelevant to the "boss." I was now one of his soldiers. Elite owned my ass; I could not possibly say no, so I acquiesced, and we got into Jacques's car.
We passed enormous billboards on our drive into Paris. I was amazed by what I saw: The models were nearly all nude. Every American who comes to Europe notices the greater openness about nakedness in advertising, but my shock was compounded by what I was in Paris to do. I was a model-and could not take my eyes off the exposed nipple on the Clarins body-lotion ad and the perfectly tanned butt of another model in an advertisement for suntan lotion. This was a different world.
Jacques drove fast. Not unusual for a Frenchman. We wended our way at a breakneck pace through the small streets, still slick from rain, zipping past cars tinier than any I had ever seen. As we drove into the heart of Paris, the city seemed to wake up around us. Our tires bounced over cobblestones as cafe doors opened and shopkeepers set out their street-level displays of fresh produce and fish on ice. The exhaustion soon faded, and exhilaration pulsed through me. It was so new, so different, so perfectly beautiful. Everyone falls in love with Paris at first sight, and I was no exception. The difference was that I was also thinking of my career. In the fresh light of morning, I felt a wave of optimism. Perhaps everyone had been right: I just needed a new start, a new chance. That was the magic of Paris, a magic that makes anything and everything seem possible.
My reverie stopped as abruptly as the car did. We rounded one last bend and came to a sudden halt. We had arrived at 21 avenue Montaigne, Elite's glorious Paris office. Before I got out of the car, I stole a quick look in my little handheld mirror, smoothing my hair and making sure I did not have any sleep left in my eyes. It would have been nice to have showered after the flight, but if "zee boss" wanted to see me right away, he'd just have to cope with Carre au naturel.
I climbed out of the backseat of the car and took a deep breath. I gazed at the stunning (and to my eyes, ancient) building. This was my moment. I knew I needed to make a great impression. And as I stood there, right on the sidewalk, something shifted inside. It was as if the clouds had parted and I realized all at once that my prayers were as good as anyone's; I deserved a break as much as the next girl. That sudden sense of well-being was rare and elusive when I was seventeen. I would learn, many years later, how to connect to that energy and confidence at will. But all those years ago, it was a most surprising, welcome, and needed gift. And with that gift and that sudden surge of confidence, I followed Jacques through the front gates.
With each step I took, I felt my doubts and mistrust slip away. I felt certainty rise in me; everything was about to change for the better. Upon walking into the inner courtyard of 21 avenue Montaigne, I felt almost defiant. Come hell or high water, I told myself, I will not go back home defeated. What I did not know was that defeat wears many faces. I thought defeat would be failing to make it as a model. What I was about to discover is that our most devastating defeats sometimes come disguised in the form of success.
Walking through that door was electrifying. Even early in the morning, you could feel the energy. My exhaustion was gone; my pulse grew quicker. In the center of the room, half a dozen agents sat around a circular booking table, all on phones, all talking, smoking, laughing, and glancing intently at the model board. I moved around that table in slow motion, checking out all the model composites, the famous faces of past and present framed and hung on the walls. These photos were their trophies, I realized. These were their stars. These were their victories. It was the first time I realized how much I wanted to make it in this industry. I wanted to work. Badly. And I wanted to succeed.
I did not have much time to linger over the portraits. When a short, stringy-haired, pug-eyed man walked briskly and deliberately toward me, I had no trouble figuring out who "zee boss" was. Gerald Marie was wearing leather pants, pulled a bit too high and cinched at the waist with a cowboy belt and oversize buckle. The look was completed with snakeskin boots and a button-down shirt and blazer, Gerald's greasy curls touching just below his shoulders. He was the walking embodiment of what Americans already called Eurotrash. He was quite a sight.
Gerald looked me up and down. He took my hand and twirled me around, studying me from my head to my toes. I was numb to this sort of thing at this point, having learned to stand back and wait for the verbal assessment to come. If you were not numb, those candid assessments could be brutal. They could hit a girl like a punch in the gut. I had steeled myself against those words for so long already that it rarely seemed to matter what any agent or photographer said. But Gerald was not brutal. He nodded with a slight smile and a little wink. "You will do well here, my dear. Let's get you on the set and see what you are made of."
He turned to Jacques and told him, "Take her to Phil Stadtmiller at La Tour Eiffel. Now. Everyone is there, and you are running late!"
I stammered. "But wait. I just got here. My bags. My hair. I'm exhausted."
Gerald spun around, his voice hard. "Are you in or out, my dear?" (And this was twenty years before Heidi Klum would make a nearly identical phrase legendary on Project Runway!) I could barely understand what he said; Gerald's accent was particularly thick when he got annoyed. But there was no misunderstanding after what he did next: He took me by the hand once again and marched me down the hall, away from Jacques and the agents. When we were out of earshot, he hissed, "On my dime I do not want your opinion, Carre. I want your obedience." With that, he slapped my ass, a bit too hard. "Are you game?"
I nodded in shock, but also in resignation. I knew that working in Paris would be different from anywhere else, and because I had no choice, I would be game for anything. As for the slap, I ought to have taken it for the bad sign that it was. Today no one smacks any part of my body without my permission. But it was a common enough thing for agents and photographers to do. Sometimes the gesture was sexual, sometimes it was meant as encouragement, and sometimes it was just a way of punctuating a conversation. But Gerald's slap was different. It felt possessive. And mean.
We rushed out of the Elite offices, Jacques whisking me over to the Eiffel Tower as fast as he could. We pulled up and saw that Gerald had been right. A small van and an entire photo crew were waiting, none too patiently. Everyone was in a rush, and I-still unrested and unshowered-was in the center of the bustle. I sat on the tiny chair in the van, the hairdresser frantically brushing and pulling, blowing and curling as the makeup artist did her thing. No one said much of anything, and none of what they did say was in English. I could see wild, colorful clothes hanging on a rack, my outfits for the day. Just as the team was finishing the task of pulling my look together, the door of the van flew open. The next voice I heard was not French but pure New York.
"What the fuck is taking so long?"
Enter Phil Stadtmiller, asshole extraordinaire. Really, there's no other way for me to describe this impressively belligerent human being. We were like oil and water from the moment we met. Of course, I knew he had not come all the way to France just to torture me, but damned if it did not seem that way. What's worse was that Phil understood very well what it meant for a "New York model" to be sent to Paris: I had not been able to make it. As far as he was concerned, I was already a failure, and he was skeptical that I'd have anything to offer.
Working in the confines of this tiny van, the crew stuffed me into stockings, a frilled skirt, a corset, and go-go boots. If you've seen the Cyndi Lauper or Madonna videos of the mid-1980s, you know the look. The moment they were done, they kicked me-literally-out of the van. There was no time to complain. We were racing the light.
That first day in Paris was as terrifying as it was amazing. I climbed the base of the Eiffel Tower, at more than one point swinging from those famous metal girders like a monkey. Time and again I clambered into dangerous, seemingly impossible positions, all to get to the best angle and shot. Phil said little that was pleasant, but the other members of the photo crew were exuberant. "Genius!" they cried. "Ca c'est tres belle!" On and on the thick French compliments came. And at last, as the sun sank toward the horizon and the light began to fade, as I began to shiver from cold and exhaustion, I realized just how good I looked. This was working. I was working. John Casablancas had been right, it seemed: Everything was different in Paris.
By the time the shoot was finished, I felt delirious. I had not slept properly in what seemed like days, not since New York. As I finished changing for the last time, Jacques sidled up to tell me that Gerald had called him and directed him to drive me to his home at 8 rue du Bac, in the seventh arrondissement-the very heart of Paris.
I had not expected to stay at Gerald's house. Alarm bells ought to have gone off again. But I was too tired, and I knew I did not really have any other options. I was eager to collapse into sleep, and I knew that as long as I had my own room and my own bed, I'd be just fine.
As it turned out, in that house things would not be fine. Not at all.
The drive to Gerald's place was mercifully quick. Jacques parked his Mercedes on the sidewalk and retrieved my bag from the trunk. I waited on the pavement, staring at yet another gorgeous building. I'd already seen so many throughout the endless day, but 8 rue du Bac was particularly striking. We went in through two enormous wooden doors and turned to the right to climb an elegant spiral staircase. Encased within that spiral was a fine but time-worn cage elevator. Jacques ignored it and took the stairs, perspiring all the way as he lugged my bag. We were only climbing two flights.
Contents 1 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 2 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 3 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 7 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 8 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 9 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 10 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 11 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 12 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 13 ñòîð³íêà |