Yes, I worked for Richard Avedon. The story is this: I was in NYC, I was just starting out, and so far I hadn’t had any great jobs except for two non-speaking parts as an extra in films – one with with Michelle Pfeiffer and my role was sitting in a nightclub trying not to watch her on the dance floor. “Stop watching the actors! You’re just extras!” the director would shout – then “Roll ’em!” (honest, he did shout roll ’em) and then “Cut!” So we sat and pretended to drink and talk and not look at Michelle, who was so gorgeous she glowed. The other spot was on roller skates, and I had to walk down a spiral staircase on roller skates, then skate past the camera (me and two other girls). We giggled and tripped and blundered about, and drove the director crazy (he was cool though, he just made us do it until not one of us tripped) – and that was it. I never knew what either film was for – and honestly at the time I didn’t think it was important. It was a day’s work – that was what was important!
All the girls in the agency wanted to work with the big three: Vogue, Glamour, or Mademoiselle. Anything else was treated with disdain. One day I was in the agency and the booker, on the phone, raised her head and shouted “I need a girl to pose for a shot about breast cancer awareness. No face, no nothing – just tits. Who wants it?” And everyone snorted and turned their backs but me. I raised my hand. “I’ll take it,” I said. (I was never prudish – nudity didn’t bother me). The booker put the phone down, after telling the client my name, and said, “Well, Jennifer, it’s your lucky break. The photographer is Richard Avedon.” I just looked blank. I had no idea who that was. But the other girls in the room either screamed or burst into tears.
The next day, off I went to post nude for Richard Avedon. I arrived at the studio and they put me in a well-lit dressing room in front of the makeup station, next to a tall, big-boned blond girl who had a strong Texan accent. “Heya, what’s your name?” she asked. “Jennifer. What’s yours?” She widened her eyes. “Jerry. Jerry Hall.” I shook her hand. “Pleased to meet you.” Her name didn’t mean anything to me. You have to remember – I came from the Virgin Islands, had grown up with no television (our TV was on the porch, covered with a cloth, used as a table). She put on her makeup, and looked at me out of the corner of her eye. Finally, she put her blusher down and said, “Why aren’t you putting on makeup?” I explained I was just there for a tit shot. Here eyebrows went up again. “Put on makeup anyhow,” she said. “You always have to look your best for the photos.” I took her advice, while she flipped through my press book (you always bring your book with you). ‘These are real nice,” she said. Then she got up and went to do her shoot. She would be the lead photo for the article, and my tits would be a small photo in the side, illustrating the importance, I supposed, of having breast cancer awareness. When it was my turn, Jerry came in and gave me a quick hug. I thought that was really sweet, and told her so. Then I took off my shirt and posed for Richard Avedon, whose name still didn’t mean anything to me. He took about five shots, then, and I remember this, he took off his glasses, and peered at me. “Show me your book,” he ordered. I fetched my book and handed it to him. Still standing behind his tripod, he flipped through the pages. I was proud of the photographers who’d taken my pictures, so I pointed and said, “That was was Sing-Si Schwartz – he usually does still life shots, and he set up that whole stage to look like snow. And that’s Andrew Bruckner – he used to work as an assistant. He’s freinds with Doug Healey who took this at the pool the other day.” I was chatting, and he was just looking at the pictures, then he put the book down and hollered at his assistant, “Get me Vogue on the phone!” They brought a phone over (this was in the day before portables, and the assistant held the phone while he spoke), and what he said was, “I have this girl here and she’s very interesting and I think you should use her.”
When I got back to the agency, my booker got up from behind her desk, ran over and hugged me. “You got a job at Vogue!” she shouted. “And Mademoiselle just called, and they want you in Miami next week! Richard Avedon loved you!” (We know where that Miami shoot went, don’t we?) I looked at her and frowned. “Who is Richard Avedon?” I asked.
I also didn’t find out who Jerry Hall was until I met her again in Milan, Italy. We recognized each other and had a drink together (“You have to try this orange juice,” she told me, “It’s red – so weird, but really good!” It was orange sanguine and looked just like tomato juice but tasted like orange juice – too weird!) We talked, I told her what I’d been doing, and I thanked her for telling me to put on makeup. She finished her drink and waved goodbye. That’s when Johnny Casablanca came over and said “You know Jerry?” I said, “Yeah, I met her in New York once. She’s really nice.” And he said, “Did you ever meet her boyfriend, Mick Jagger?” I was floored. Shit – I knew who that was!
(Two shots from my book that Richard Avedon saw.)