I went to Europe in April 1979, that was the good news. The bad news was that I was a very immature 18 years old, 5’7″, weighed 49 kilos, had four broken wisdom teeth and a bad back. One of my vertebra was displaced, making some movements agony. My broken teeth were sore and kept me from enjoying eating. Being a hypochondriac is only fun when you can go to a doctor. Most days I was convinced I was probably dying from some dreadful cancer. (Go see a doctor? Do I have health insurance? in America? don’t make me laugh!). But I’d been sickly most my life – catching every stomach bug and strep throat germ that came by, colds usually turned into bronchitis, and sore throats turned into laryngitis. I had chest pains, stomach pains, back and leg pains – but there was nothing new there, I just thought being in pain was part of being human. And to top it off, my glasses fell overboard on a ferry one day and I never got them replaced – so add migraines from eye strain to all that and you have an idea of my physical state in 1979. After starting modelling I had the opportunity to go to Europe, so off I went. I, and five other models, flew across the Atlantic. The other girls had money for taxis. I met some fun people on the plane, and they told me to take the “choo”, as it was much cheaper. We debarked, and they helped me to the Underground station where we took a metro. I decided “choo” must be short for “choo choo train”. I was embarrassed when I told the story at dinner only to have everyone burst into laughter and tell me I’d made friends with Cockney’s and their “choo” was actually “Tube” – what the English called their subway.
Our first first stop was London and for three day I hardly slept, going on “go sees” during the day and going out nearly every night with the group of models. Next stop was Milan, where I suddenly came down with strep throat. I had a fever, and could hardly talk. That day Johnny Casablanca – owner of the modelling agency – was coming to meet us at the hotel. He took one look at me and ordered me back up to my room. He called a doctor, much to my horror, and sat at the foot of my bed until the doctor came – then he dispatched a groom to fetch the medicine for me. When it came; he gave me the package and said, “Here! Take one now, and another in the morning. Do that for five days.” I looked at the medicine. I had no idea what it was. In a plastic pack were what looked like ten bullets. “What are they?” I croaked. He frowned and said, “Suppositories. It has an antibiotic and will take care of your sore throat. Best thing for that. You’ll feel better in no time.” I shook my head. “But – what – I mean how?” I asked, perplexed. He heaved a sigh. “Americans,” he said, “don’t know anything. You put it in your rectum. Push it in. Pop! Up it goes. Best way to take medicine. Now, do it.” I refused point blank. He insisted. I protested. He got mad. I got stubborn. He glared at me and said, “No one wants to take pictures of a sick model. You’re sick. You need to get better. You go in the bathroom right now and use that suppository.” I tottered into the bathroom and locked the door. He pounded on it. “No flushing the toilet!” he yelled. I cringed. I looked at the sink, but the drain was hidden beneath a sieve-like cover. Johnny knocked on the door again. “Hurry up!” he cried. I crawled into the shower, opened the suppository, and pushed it as far as I could down the drain. Then I tottered back out and collapsed on the bed. Johnny went in and inspected the toilet, garbage, drawers, and sink. Then he came back beaming. “So far, you’re the smartest American I’ve met,” he said. “Usually they have to be tied up and held down for suppositories.” He saw my expression and laughed. “Just kidding. I’ll have dinner sent up for you. Soup? Yes? That will be fine. And tomorrow is a big day. Get lots of rest!”
He left, and I thought about things. With a sigh, I got up, went back to the bathroom with another suppository, and managed to take my medicine. I was mortified, but there was no way he was going to think of me as a stupid American. I supposed that having gone so many years without a doctor or medicine made that antibiotic work like magic – whatever the reason – the next day I felt better than I’d felt in ages. And the rest of the week I finished the box of suppositories and was amazed – even my teeth had stopped aching. It was a good thing I got better – the next day I got a job modelling wedding dresses for an Italian magazine, and I spent four days in a real castle in the Alps. The weather was amazing, the scenery even more so – I felt like I was living in a fairy tale – and I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t still sick in bed in Milan! Vive the suppository!