We rang the bell on the second floor and waited. Jacques sighed. With a fat paw, he fished out a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the sweat from his face. As we stood there, he looked at me intently, almost hungrily, his eyes moving up and down. I tried not to shudder. He made me feel naked.
Fortunately, the door swung open a moment later. To my amazement the woman standing there was Linda Evangelista, wearing nothing but a silk robe. Linda was already world-famous as an up-and-coming star, though she had not yet claimed true supermodel status. That was still a year or two in the future for her. Almost comically, Linda mimicked what Jacques had been doing a moment earlier. She, too, looked me up and down, though I felt as if she did it more with evident disdain than desire.
"Oh, yes, here you are," Linda said as she stepped aside to let us in. "Gerald just informed me you were coming."
As we entered, Linda pivoted on her heel, waving one dramatic hand in the air. "Follow me," she said, the exasperation still evident in her high-pitched voice. She led us into the living room of one of the most exquisite apartments I'd ever seen. The wooden floors creaked underfoot; the curtains were pulled open next to the tall windows, revealing the bakery and cafe in the street below.
"Come along," Linda repeated as she took us down a narrow hallway to a large bedroom. Gerald's. The king-size bed dominated the room, but it was impossible to miss the mirrors on the ceiling. I noticed the open shower and bath, which were in plain view of the bed. Gerald was clearly a man who did not like anything hidden from him.
We circled the flat to the wonderful, expansive kitchen. A wooden chopping-block island stood in the center, with stools at each end. Gleaming copper pots and pans hung next to braids of garlic and other herbs that I did not recognize. The stone counters were lined with elegant little jars of honey and jams. An ornate wicker bread basket had pride of place on the counter, baguettes protruding from it. The room was what so many of us imagine when we envision a truly refined Parisian kitchen, glamorous and cozy all at once. Sadly, I would taste and experience very few of the kitchen's glorious comforts during my stay.
Linda told the cook to prepare another plate for dinner. At this point I was too tired to think about food. I only wanted to get to bed, and I tried to politely refuse the invitation to eat. Linda fixed me with a stare.
"In Gerald's house we do as we are told. You are having dinner with us."
Linda took me by the hand, her firm grip belying her childlike voice. She guided me along still another narrow hallway, to a room that I can only describe as Lilliputian. Compared to the expansive splendors of the rest of the apartment, it was tiny: a small single bed, a small chair, and a round porthole window-the sort one finds in the cheaper cabins on a cruise ship. A child's treasure chest stood at the foot of the bed, and a single lamp perched on a fragile little bedside table, providing most of the artificial light in the dim room. The ceilings were very low; if I wore heels, I would not be able to stand up straight.
"This is yours," Linda said briskly. "While you're with us, that is. It's normally Roxanne's room. We call her 'Cookie.' Gerald's daughter. "
His daughter's name was Cookie? Really? I bit back the question, asking another instead. "Where is she now?"
"With her mother. Do you remember Lisa Rutledge? The Australian model? She and Gerald divorced a while ago?" Three questions in rapid-fire succession.
Linda waited for a flash of recognition to cross my face. Unfortunately, I had not a clue who Lisa Rutledge was. I'd never been a student of the industry's history. I stifled a grim laugh, thinking that I'd been too busy Dumpster diving for dinner in Berkeley to pay much attention to top models.
"Oh, yes, of course." I willed Linda to see that flash of recognition. I was afraid that she already thought so little of me, and I had a past to hide. I did not need to give her any reason to be suspicious of me.
"Okay, I'll let you get settled. Dinner will be at eight. If you need me, I'll be cleaning things out of the hall closets. I have to fit all my clothes there."
Curiosity won out. I had to ask. "You mean Lisa's things?"
Linda looked at me indulgently. "Oh, no, Christine's things. Christine Bolster."
I managed a nonchalant "Oh." I was very tired, and it was all too much for me to keep up with. I had not heard of Christine either and did not feel like asking any questions about her. (I would hear of Christine again later. Our lives intersected in odd ways: She would soon become a headlining Guess model, as would I. Christine also briefly dated Mickey. Not long before I met him, he had introduced Christine to the man she ultimately married, character actor Robert Davi.)
Clearly, many girls had inhabited this house before me. But Linda was the new reigning queen, something I suspected she was not about to let me forget. What she did not know, and what I would soon discover, is that everything changed when the queen was away.
The dinner bell rang a little before eight. Jet-lagged beyond belief, I rubbed my eyes and stumbled out of my room. As I turned a corner, I found Linda standing amid a huge, messy heap. Women's clothes were strewn from one end of the hallway to the other.
She glanced at me. "Anything here you want?" She seemed cheerful at the prospect of giving away Christine's things as rapidly as possible.
Was she serious? I had come to Paris with one bag. I had no clothes, at least nothing suitable for going to castings. I nodded at Linda, and she started handing me things. She began with a flawless pair of blue suede Kenzo shoes. I'd never owned anything so high-fashion-I just held them in my hands, staring. But they were quickly obscured by the other items Linda tossed into my arms: a Kenzo shirt, black Christian Dior pants, and an exquisite silk Valentino dress. More followed.
I was speechless. Was Linda being kind? Or was it just the sweet satisfaction of giving away a rival's belongings? It did not matter. My wardrobe had just doubled in minutes; the retail value of what I'd scooped up in the hallway was more than that of all the other clothes I'd ever owned put together. Elated, I raced back to my little room to stash my loot. And then it really was time for dinner.
Before we sat down with Gerald, Linda pulled me aside. She had some sisterly advice, speaking model to model.
"We only drink one drink," she whispered conspiratorially to me, her voice staying remarkably high even at a low volume. "Gin. And tonic. It's full-proof and diet safe. It will fill you up and keep you skinny." Linda mixed one for each of us, and we sat down.
I had much more to learn. Warm, freshly baked bread was placed on the table; it smelled heavenly. I reached out my hand, only to have Linda slap it back.
"Ta ta," she said, shaking her head. "Bread is always a no-no. Never ever!"
The lessons were getting less pleasant.
Gerald finally came home, and with his arrival Linda's demeanor shifted completely. She was on guard, alert to every one of his needs. She doted on Gerald, sweet-talked him, and fed him his meal indulgently. She nodded at everything he said in his impenetrable accent. It would have been difficult to watch under any circumstances. As exhausted as I was, it was impossible. Before I embarrassed myself by falling asleep at the table, I made my apologies and excused myself to bed.
"Ma chere," Gerald called after me. "You need to be up at dawn. Another test shoot awaits you!"
Nodding and yawning all the way down the hall, I did not care what tomorrow would bring, as long as I could sleep. I fell into my minuscule bed, wrapped the comforter around me, and pulled the pillow over my ears and eyes. It had been the longest day of my life. I slept like a rock.
The very first time I'd seen Paris was at dawn when I landed at Charles de Gaulle. For the rest of my time there, I never ceased to be enthralled by its early mornings. The city had a song all its own. Long before sunrise, while I was still nestled in my tiny room, I'd hear the rumble of shop doors rolling open. The idling engines of delivery trucks would soon follow, and then-this is what I learned to wait for-the aroma of fresh bread and croissants would rise up to-and through-my little window.
The sounds and smells reminded me of the more pleasant parts of my childhood. As a little girl in Marin, I'd often wake before everyone else, roused by the thump of the furnace kicking on. I would climb out of bed in the pitch black and straddle the heating vent, letting my flannel nightgown billow around me, heat enveloping my body in delicious and comforting warmth. Back then what I heard outside was the garbage truck, its red lights twinkling in the predawn. All toasty from the heater, I'd dream of traveling around the world. Those memories came back to me almost every morning in Paris.
Most days I was up with the sun for one reason or another. Gerald had me out on test shoots and castings around the clock. Linda kept a very different schedule, often sleeping until noon. Gerald knew her preferences and scheduled her castings and shoots for later in the day. To be fair, Linda often worked until very late, frequently not returning to the apartment until the wee hours of the morning.
"Do not disturb Linda. She is resting." Gerald told me this often, his voice tender and indulgent. She lived the life of the superstar she was on the verge of becoming, emerging from her bedroom no earlier than noon, stretching like a confident lion. (She always got up early on Sunday mornings, however. Linda took her Catholic faith seriously and rarely missed Mass.) I was in awe of Linda, not only for her success but because of her willingness to dispense advice about everything I should and shouldn 't do. She was only three years older than I was, but those three years seemed to me like a huge gap I needed to fill. Given how competitive the world of modeling is, this was a very generous quality.
Less than ten days after I arrived in Paris, Linda landed a major shoot. She was thrilled. She would be off to an island location for at least a week, working with one of the top photographers out of New York. As excited as she was, Linda took the time to give me a subtle but unmistakable warning.
She told me that I needed to know just one thing.
Since I'd come to stay with her, there'd been so many things she thought I should know that I was surprised she'd narrowed it down to just one. "Yeah?"
But once she said what that one thing was, I knew why it took precedence over all others. She very clearly told me that Gerald was hers and that she would have her eye on me.
I was shocked. How could she even. . . ? Ewwww! The thought of touching Gerald was disgusting to me. Linda had nothing to worry about, or so I thought. But it appeared she was worried all the same, and I could not understand why. I was too young, too naive, and too eager to grasp all the reasons for Linda's anxiety. As it turned out, her fears were justified.
The day Linda left for her island shoot turned out to be memorable for me, but for all the wrong reasons. Under Gerald's direction I'd gone on several test shoots and finally had some very good photos to use. At last I had a book to take on "go-sees" around Paris. I headed out of the house that morning armed with my new portfolio, a Metro pass, a map, and a list of castings. The first meet-and-greet was at 10:00 A.M., and the go-sees continued all day long. A native Parisian would have been challenged negotiating the underground any more rapidly than I did that day. I made it through the schedule, more or less on time, but was nearly in tears when I finally finished.
Night had already fallen when I returned to 8 rue du Bac. I let myself into the dark apartment and fumbled for the light switch. It was the first time I'd been in the apartment by myself. I called Gerald's name once, then again. No answer came.
I began to wander through the flat. Linda had always been territorial about both Gerald and what she saw as "their" home, so I had not had much of an opportunity to explore. I was tired, I was curious, and I was still a teenager-of course I was going to have a look around! I wandered down the hall and stood in the doorway of their bedroom. I had not seen it since my brief glimpse on the day I arrived, and it looked even grander than I had remembered. Living in my tiny room made everything else seem enormous.
The mirrors on the walls and ceiling were dazzling. The marble in the open bathroom shimmered. And on the wall I saw a medicine cabinet. My curiosity grew much stronger. I had not gotten high on anything other than Linda's damn gin and tonics since I'd been in Paris. I was eager for something stronger, and after a day like the one I'd just had, I felt justified in looking for it. I assumed that Gerald had to be a partier; everyone in the industry partied. Partying meant cocaine, and I suddenly felt certain that if I searched hard enough, that's exactly what I'd find in his bizarrely luxurious bathroom.
I did not rush to the medicine cabinet right away. I walked slowly through the bedroom first, studying the paintings and photographs on the walls. The frames themselves seemed old and glamorous. The scent of fresh flowers was thick in the air; every day the maids brought in spectacular bouquets, placing them in antique vases around the room. I thought of all the models who'd been in this room before me. And I thought of all of the models who had shared Gerald's bed. I shuddered. Fresh flowers were not worth that.
In the bathroom I ran my fingers along the gleaming porcelain of the magnificent tub. It was cool to the touch. I moved on to the medicine cabinet. Nothing of interest, just toiletries and what looked like over-the-counter medications. But as I stepped back, I noticed a row of white jars, neatly lined up high on a shelf above the sink. I reached up and grabbed one; it felt full. I turned it upside down and unscrewed the lid, preparing to shake its contents out into my hand. I expected pills.
A second later I stood aghast in a cloud of white powder. One quick inhale and I knew that the jar had been full of cocaine. It was more than I'd ever seen in one place in my life, and I'd just spilled a fortune's worth all over the bathroom. The coke was everywhere, under the tub and settling deep into the cracks and lines of the old wooden floor.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit." I muttered the same word over and over like a mantra, frantically trying to sweep up the powder using the one piece of paper I could find. "Shit, shit, shit."
I had not been on my hands and knees for more than two minutes when I heard the sound of the antique locks of the front door turning, echoing like gunshots through the flat. Gerald was home. There was nowhere to run-no point in running. He would know I'd been snooping no matter what I did, so I stayed down on the floor, pathetically sweeping whatever I could on to the paper and pouring it back into the jar. I could hear the floorboards creaking as he made his way down the hall. He seemed to be coming very slowly, almost as if he knew where I was and wanted to draw out my agony.
Gerald entered the bedroom, tossed his overcoat onto the chaise, and turned to exit again when he caught a glimpse of me. His eyes widened with surprise, but as he took in the scene, he began to smile and another look-one I could not quite place-crept onto his face.
"Well, well. What have we here?"
I stood up. I had no choice. Part of me was embarrassed beyond belief to have been discovered like this, while a bigger part of me, I realized, was excited to have found the drugs. I missed partying. I missed coke.
"I... I was looking for some aspirin. I'm so sorry."
Gerald's smile grew broader. He did not buy it for a second. Who would? There I was, caught white-handed.
"Looks like we have quite a mess to clean up, you and I." With that, Gerald laughed, sat down on the floor, crossed his legs, and announced with a wink and a grin, "What we can not pick up, we'll just have to snort." Then, he plucked an American hundred-dollar bill from his wallet and neatly rolled it up.
And so it was that Gerald Marie and I shared our first lines of cocaine together, laughing on his bathroom floor. The ice was broken between us. As the evening wore on, I felt comfortable enough to divulge things I'd never shared before, and he did the same with me. We stayed up most of the night talking, smoking cigarettes, and doing lines.
Linda's career began to take off rapidly. Her travels away from Paris became more frequent, and as a result Gerald and I spent increasing amounts of time together. He wanted to push me, he said; he was sure he could make me a star as big as Linda-if not bigger.
"You are a rare beauty, Carre. The only thing that could ever fuck this up would be you." He told me this over and over again, following it up with a never-ending stream of advice. Gerald was a man of strong opinions about everything: makeup, hair, posture, and social etiquette. He was very particular about how I walked-not just on a shoot but on the street and in the apartment. I was desperate for his advice, and did my best to please him. I knew that this was my last chance to make it in the business. I knew that Gerald could help me become a star. And I knew that becoming a star meant being at his beck and call.
In front of others, Gerald could be as demanding and cruel as ever. But everything changed when we were alone in the apartment, doing coke together. It was secretive, but it felt strangely safe. I liked the way Gerald would laugh with me when we snorted lines together. I liked the way he teased me gently. And even as young as I was, I could figure out how my relationship with Gerald mirrored my dynamic with my dad. I had kept the secret of my father's drinking. Now I was keeping the secret of Gerald's and my cocaine use. In an odd way, I felt like Gerald's confidante. It was a very familiar role, and as sick (and age-inappropriate) as it was, I felt comfortable with it. To keep a secret involving someone you look up to can be immensely empowering, particularly when you tend to think of yourself as a misfit. I'd felt like an awkward outsider so much of my young life that having any kind of trust bond with someone in a position of authority gave me a certainty and a place that I clung to.
But despite Gerald's endless stream of advice, my career still was not getting off the ground. I was still traveling around Paris on the Metro, still going to casting after casting, go-see after go-see. One particular day as I raced around the city, the rains came. The shower was torrential. I remember the shopkeepers pulling down their awnings and bustling their wares inside. Women were leaping puddles in impossibly high heels and carrying big umbrellas that protected their perfectly coiffed hair. I had not brought an umbrella with me. By the time I got back to rue du Bac, I was soaked to the bone. I could feel a cold coming on. My inner mood matched the weather: dark and despondent. With no friends except Gerald, no real hint of success on the horizon, and no real option but to just keep trying, I was on the verge of depression. I was missing the States and terribly sad.
No one was in the apartment that rainy evening when I got home. I peeled off my wet clothes, jumped into the shower, and then crawled naked into bed. I was too tired and sick to think about dinner. I just wanted to be warm. I just wanted to rest. Though I tossed and turned most nights, that evening I fell asleep in an instant.
Hours later something woke me suddenly. I heard the drunken shuffling of feet moving down the hallway toward me. Filled with alarm, I pulled the covers tightly around me. But in a flash my safe haven was invaded and I was exposed.
Gerald stood above me, ripping the covers from the bed. Before I could react, his sticky body was on me and those disgusting wet ringlets of his were falling on my face. I pushed back, but I could barely breathe with the weight of him pressing down on me. I cried out, a lame attempt to shake him from what seemed like a drunken stupor. I could smell gin on his breath as he harshly pushed his mouth onto mine, a sharp tongue darted out, trying to open my pursed lips in a grotesque kiss. The smell of him made me want to vomit. The fury in me made me want to throw him off me. But in my naked, fevered state, I could not seem to find the strength or the leverage to move him aside. Gerald seemed all too expert at getting what he wanted, and in the tangle of my naked legs and pleas and cries his hand found my mouth and clamped down, trying to silence me. Why even bother? I wondered. I knew we were alone. And I knew that even if I were to fight back and scream, no one would hear me. No one would come.
Gerald proceeded to viciously penetrate my body, his grunts and groans mixed with the sound of the rain that had begun to pound the tiny window in that tiny room. My thoughts drifted to the other models who were temporarily housed in this room. I fleetingly wondered if I might not be the first girl to be violated in this strange place. I cried silently as well as out loud. I cried a river. I cried while the rains fell steadily outside. I became the rain. I became the room. I disappeared in the awful endless rocking.
I remember the horrific feeling of his penis sliding out of me, the wetness that told me he had come inside me. I remember nausea welling up, and then the involuntary gagging that began as he stood, looked down at me, then turned and stumbled out of the room.
There is nothing like lying naked and watching it storm outside while your teenage vagina is on fire because some asshole has just defiled you with all his might and power. The shame hit me like a ton of bricks; to this day the confusion as to why I'd never told a soul can still bring me to tears. If my daughters were ever to experience such horror and abuse, it would devastate me.
We hear so many stories about such events that we risk losing our sense of outrage and horror at what it really is. Some women have a hard time naming what happened to them, but I do not. Could Gerald have thought that the friendship we had forged, the fact that we did drugs together, the fact that I lived in his house, all indicated, in some way, that I was amenable to having sex with him that night? I can not say. I can only know that I never asked for it. As far as I'm concerned, the sex we had that night was not consensual. There is no way to wrap it up in a nice, pretty package, no way to say that "things just got out of hand." As I have learned well after this event, no one should tolerate-and our cultural beliefs and practices should not allow or, worse, invite-anything other than loving, safe, consensual lovemaking as the norm.
In the days that followed, it became clear to me that I could not do anything other than pretend. Pretend that nothing had ever happened. Pretend that Gerald had not forced himself on me. And so I pretended. In my grief, shame, pain, and isolation, it was easier to keep my mouth shut and not tell a soul about the degrading event that had taken place. It was also perfectly clear to me that my future career depended on my keeping this secret deep in the archives, to be guarded with my very life.
Although my relationship with Gerald changed to one of awkwardness and distance, I remained in the house, in that horrible little room. I became an obedient robot. A shell of myself. There were no more hugs or laughs. We still did coke together, but it was out of a desperate need to medicate myself for what I knew would come next. I soon found out that I was expected to let Gerald fuck me whenever Linda left town. Gerald held all the cards. The only hand I had to play was to stay and survive.
After that night Gerald's demands only grew. He still saw my "potential" and insisted I needed to drop even more weight to get the "star look" that he was convinced would send my career into the stratosphere. The look was super skinny, and if I wanted success, that would be the only way to achieve it. Before that night I had been quietly indulging in chocolate croissants and croque-monsieurs, but after that night I did not give a shit if I ever ate again.
To keep me on schedule, I was supplied with a small brown glass vial of cocaine every other day. This was the secret to model weight management. And at that time of depression and desperation, I was happy to receive my vial along with the list of castings for the day. Cocaine became my one friend. It carried me through the times when I felt as if I were running on empty. It fueled the frenetic pace I was expected to keep. I was using around the clock. I was a mess. At just seventeen years of age, I was lucky that my baby face could conceal the stress. From the outside looking in, I was an example of the all-American model striving to get to the top.
My life was a predictable grind. And the song that was always on my Walkman, Grace Jones's "Slave to the Rhythm," summed up my predicament perfectly.
I'd usually hold off on doing a line until my second cup of espresso, just before lunch. And of course I smoked, too. Coffee, cigarettes, and cocaine-hardly a healthy diet. But it needed to be this model's diet.
Whatever else Gerald was, he was an effective agent. Less than a month later, I finally got a break. One that would change everything. I'd been pounding the pavement day after day, bouncing back and forth between photographers and editors. At last I was being sent to the headquarters of Elle France. Louis, my booker at Elite, told me I'd be meeting with the editor in chief, Odile Sarron. Everyone knew Odile. She made careers-and broke them. (She would be credited with discovering many supermodels, including Claudia Schiffer.) This was, Louis assured me, a huge opportunity. The best I'd had since coming to Paris. But he had a warning for me as well. With a wry grin, he told me that Odile had a unique way of running her castings.
"You'll have to be nude, Carre. Odile insists on doing it that way. And you'll be alone with her."
That did not sound very good. Part of me hoped that Louis was teasing. So I asked a few of the other girls at Elite about Odile. When they heard her name, they quietly and sympathetically wished me good luck. So I steeled myself for the meeting and hoped it was just her effective way of testing a model's confidence and mettle.
The day my big break came, the signs were promising. Rather than pouring from morning until night as it had been doing for weeks, the first rain of the day passed quickly. By the time I hit rue du Bac's Metro stop, the sun was already peeking through the clouds. I recognized this as an auspicious sign.
Although I was no expert, I had acquired a little familiarity with the subway system by now. To get to the Elle offices, I would need to change trains at my favorite station, a place I called my "musical wonderland." As I got off one train and hurried to another across the platform, I stopped, mesmerized by a group of African drummers whose rhythm echoed through the underground chamber. I tossed my extra coins into a hat, waved, and smiled my gratitude, feeling sure that their symphony of sound was the second good-luck charm of the day.
I arrived at Elle five minutes before my eleven o'clock appointment. With my portfolio tucked securely under my arm, I walked through the doors of the offices and announced myself.
"My name is Carre, and I'm here to see Miss Sarron."
The girls at the front desk giggled, making little effort to be discreet. Jesus, I thought. What next?
I was escorted into a large, bustling sitting room. It was not entirely private-assistants were snapping Polaroids of the newest designer collections before they were to be sent out to various shoot locations. As I looked on enviously, they wheeled rack after rack of clothes out into the hallway. I needed a fucking break so badly I could taste it. I got up off the couch and began to walk around. As I looked at the photos on the wall, I felt someone enter the room behind me.
My back was to the door but I knew in an instant I was not alone. Whoever was there was watching me. I took a deep breath, turned, and saw a slender woman with blond hair and tanned skin. As I met her eyes, she brought her cigarette to her mouth and inhaled deeply. This was Odile. She was striking in both her grace and her power.
The legendary editor exhaled.
"Well. Carre Otis. So nice to meet you at last." Her accent was thick, her voice deep. "Gerald has told me so much about you," she said with a wink, making me instantly cringe. Great, I thought. What the hell has he said? That little eye play suggested she knew far more than I wanted her to know. It made my skin crawl.
Contents 1 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 2 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 3 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 4 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 8 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 9 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 10 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 11 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 12 ñòîð³íêà | Contents 13 ñòîð³íêà |