After I cut my hair and got turned into a punk, things moved quickly. I was fired, I had no job, but I got some gigs at the huge wholesale showrooms in NYC – one was working for a toy company, the other was a shoe designer who paid me in shoes as well as cash. Cool! I had two pairs of stilettos* that made my legs look absolutely fabulous. I dyed my hair back to its normal shade of dark ash blond, and posed for a neighbor who wanted to do some fashion shoots. He was a talented photographer, and I got some great photos. About that time I went to a party at Fiorucci in NYC and a model agent asked me if I wanted to be a model. Now, you have to realize that for my Entire Life, my mother had looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, you’re not a model!” (My bangs were crooked – my teeth were crooked, my nose was crooked, my eyes were crooked – to each of my complaints, she’d sigh and say, “So what? You’re not a model!” So when this guy came up to me at a party and asked if I wanted to be a model, the first thing I did was laugh. But then I thought he was a creep who just wanted to sleep with me, so I told him I’d meet him at the agency. To my surprise, he agreed, and we met at Elite in NYC and they signed me up that day. I was sure it was all some sort of candid camera joke, but no one popped out and shouted “Surprise!” So I signed on the dotted line and came back the next day to be sent off on what are called “Go See’s” as in, “Go see this person about a possible job.” And I also got sent to different photographers who were just starting out and who needed models for their press books. That’s how I got a ton of really cool photos. I discovered I had a knack for putting on my own makeup and posing for shots. It was fun. I wasn’t really working yet – I had a couple small jobs, but I was having fun. And then, one day, I got sent to a shot with Richard Avedon, who called Vogue and told them I was ‘hot’, and then Vogue booked me, and when Vogue booked me, then Mademoiselle had to book me, and suddenly I was booked for a trip to Florida *gasp* with a photographer who happened to be going out with Janice Dickinson! Wow. I was going to be in a photo shoot with Janice Dickinson. I was psyched. The trip started off really well. I first spent a week on a shoot for Self Magazine in the Florida keys, and the crew was terrific. I was starting to feel like a real model. Especially when the agency called and said a German magazine had asked me to show up for a half day shoot in Miami just before the big shoot (also in Miami) with Mike Reinhardt and Janice. So I arrived in Miami, did a half day shoot for a German mag and their very nice crew, then went to the hotel where I was supposed to meet the gang for the shoot for Mademoiselle that next week. It was the perfect job for me – it was for bathing suits – I have to admit that when I was younger, I had a bathing suit body and most of my work was for lingerie and bathing suits. A piece of cake – right? I met the photographer and his assistant, and the art director, and we all piled into the cab to go to a restaurant for dinner – and here’s where everything went to Hell. The photographer put his hand on my thigh and started squeezing. I’d been warned. Other models and my agent had warned about photographers getting fresh. So I took his hand and removed it. It came back. I removed it again. And again it came back, more insistant and more obnoxious. “Hey, just cut it out,” I said. “I have a boyfriend, and I’m not interested in you, OK?” He didn’t reply – but he started to sulk – and he sulked until the next day, when Janice arrived from somewhere glamorous, and Mike announced to the art director that I was not at all suitable for the job (without having me try on a single bathing suit) and that he wanted me gone. I was stunned. And furious. I sat next to Janice at the makeup table, while she got makeup on, I just sat there – trying not to cry. She looked over at me and said “You know, if you want to climb the ladder, you have to do it on your back. Like I did.” I turned to her and said, “I could have started with your boyfriend.” The temperature dropped to sub zero in the studio. I went back to the hotel and called my agency, complained, and got no pity. Then I emptied the mini-fridge, because Mademoiselle would have to pick up my bill, and spent hours calling all my freinds and family from the hotel phone (hit them where it hurts – in the wallet – that’s always been my theory) in those days, long distance was expensive. I got on a plane back to NY and told the agency that I never wanted to work with Mike Reinhardt again. But – the knife cuts both ways – because I wouldn’t let him grope me, he didn’t want to work with me again. I had a long career as a model, and that was the only time I had to fend off a photographer. When I came to work in Europe, I found the European photographers were a different breed – the work was more professional – and the men more respectful towards women in general. It might sound ridiculous, but that was my experience. A week after I arrived in Paris, I was shooting a cover shot for Marie Claire. Take that, Mike Reinhardt.
*I now have two pairs of stiletto sandals, one pair of Candies slides, and a pair of flip flops – with that, I was facing a NYC winter… more on that next week!