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Model The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women
This book is dedicated to Clay Felker, A. M. Rosenthal,
and Edward Kosner and to Barbara Hodes, my wife, who didn't mind when Cindy Crawford called
Cover Title Page Dedication Introduction Milan, October 1993 Cindy Crawford Part One In Loco Parentis $5 An Hour Hannah Lee Sherman $15 An Hour Francine Counihan $25 An Hour lean Patchett $40 An Hour SuzyParker $60 An Hour Part Two Bad and Beautiful Celia Hammond £24 An Hour Veruschka
$75 An Hour Lauren Hutton $120 An Hour Apollonia Van Ravenstein * Louise Despointes Lindblad' ShelleySmith
$1,500 A Day Janice Dickinson
$2,500 A Day Bitten Knudsen
$5,000 A Day Christine Bolster $10,000 A Day Veronica Webb $25,000 A Day New York, October 1995 Epilogue The Last Word Bibliography Searchable Terms Acknowledgments About the Author Praise for Model Other books byMichael Gross Copyright About the Publisher
MILAN, OCTOBER 1993
It is about 1 AM. on a weekday in October 1993, and the piazzas of Milan are dead quiet. But it is the beginning of collection season, the semiannual frenzy when the women's clothing designers in the world's fashion centers-Milan, London, P:nis, ;mci New York-hmnr.h their new lines to hllyers :mci the
press. The six-week�long process begins here in Italy. So the calm is illusory. Although all seems quiet at the door of Nepenthe, inside the exclusive club is seething. Tonight is a gathering of the clans, an annual meeting of the international royalty of fashion modeling so secret not even Italy's infamous and ubiqUitous paparazzi are poised outside. They call it Tartuffo Night. Regulars have special plastiC cards that admit them to this orgy of pasta and mushrooms and champagne. The elect include modeling's kingpins, the agents who run the business, like the host, Riccardo Gay, of the eponymous Milanese agency; Ford Models co-president Joe Hunter; Elite Models chairman John Casablancas; and their counterparts from around the world. There are queens, too, like models Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Karen Alexander, and Naomi Campbell Orbiting around them are the lesser mortals of the model scene: There are the young agents who dream of the power wielded by Hunter, Casablancas, and Gay, the rich young Milanese boys known as Milano per bene, all long-haired and chic, who chauffeur models to the shows all day and to the town's discos by night. There are older men, too, sniffing the air like silver foxes on the hunt. Their prey? The young models, seated at almost every table, whose names are as yet unknown. They don't speak the language.
They don't know the ropes. They don't know Guido Dolce, who runs Italy Models, from Giorgio Sant'Ambrogio, who co-owns Fashion Model. They know nothing about the history of the business or the relentless march of ravaged casualties who preceded them. They don't know the rules, but who cares? They just changed! They look around wide-eyed at one another, wondering if they'll be the next big thing, sWilling Cristal champagne with a rock star boyfriend. They know that already the cognoscenti are saying that Kate and Christy are out, and Bridget Hall, a sweet-faced Texan, and the Teutonic blond Nadja Auermann are in. They dance with the silver-haired men, wondering which one, if any, will give them lbdr big break. They
see the menu but not the agenda. The music pounds, the champagne flows. There is brimstone in the air along with Poison and Obsession and Vendetta. It is the smell of a factory that feeds on young girls.
Modeling occupies two separate parallel planes. It resembles one of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula lagoons, where freshwater from inland and salt water from the sea meet, sharing a space, but separately. In the Yucatan, freshwater creatures swim on one level, and saltwater species frolic on the other. In the top layer of the modeling lagoon swim supermodels like Naomi and Christy. Pampered creatures, they are sent straight into the sweet waters of success, never tasting the brine of the bigger ocean. Inches away, beginners and those who will never surface swim in murkier, more dangerous waters. It has been ever thus in the modeling world. The heights are incredibly bright and glamorous. The depths are equally dank and appalling. Only a few can reach the pyramid's point. It is crowded around the bottom. Wannabe models, lacking the looks, the will, and the sense to understand their precarious position, are junk food for modeling's predators and bottom feeders. But rarely is anyone in this business of illusions what he or she appears to be. The good can be not so. And the bad often do hold the keys to success-or at least know how to pick the locks.
Modeling was invented by a genuine good guy: John Robert Powers, whose name still lives on in a chain of schools and small agencies. But immediately behind him came an endless parade of unsavory others; crooks, con men, and operators have been attracted to the field right from the start. Both Harry Conover and Walter Thornton, early model agents, were arrested and ended their careers in disgrace. Conover and Thornton were followed by a generation bent on
cleaning up modeling's image. But in their wake rose a group of men like playboy-agent John Casablancas and others. "I got involved because that was where the pretty girls were," millionaire Bernie Cornfeld says.
Christy Turlington modeling Chanel couture in 1991, photographed by Charles Cerli Christy Turlington by Charles Cerli All was not pretty. Claude Haddad, the French agent who discovered Crace Jones and Jerry Hall among others, was exposed by television's 60 Minutes for allegedly having sex with underage
girls. He closed his agency and now scouts in the former Eastern European bloc, working for many major agencies in Paris. Among them is Karins, which is run by Jean-Luc BruneI, who was alleged, on the same TV show, to have drugged and raped models. At the time he was in league with Eileen Ford, the so-called godmother of the modeling business. And Brunei isn't the only skeleton in Ford's closet. Ford's reputation is that she cleaned up modeling and policed its standards as a benevolent despot until Elite's Casablancas came along, sleeping with young models and being generally immoral. But Ford's moral despotism eventually turned great numbers of her onetime employees and allies against her and her
agency. They knew that agents have slept with models right from the beginning, that agents have slept with models at Ford, that models are the people agents meet. Meanwhile, Casablancas built the largest, strongest agency in the world, based entirely on the very quality of his character-seductive sexuality-that his detractors disdain. Models love Casablancas. But then, models are women of twenty who like to have a good time, and he is a man who likes both good times and twenty-year-old women. And what do models know? Self-centered by professional definition, they care little about how their business works when it does. When it doesn't, they have little interest in remembering. After all, what twenty-one-year-old wants to come home and tell stories of how she didn't become a top model. Top models may be the worst judges of all. The underbelly of modeling is never seen from their gilded perch. Right from the start, when a modeling pro spots a potential new star, he or she is on best behavior. Sex and fun are easy to come by in modeling. A million-dollar face is a bit more rare and valuable. The flesh and bones of beautiful women are worth a pretty penny. You never mess with quality merchandise. "It's like, take care of her, because you don't want to scare her and have her run away back to I11inois and never model again," says supermodel Cindy Crawford. "It's true that most of the top girls haven't dealt with slimy agents, haven't done the whole drug thing, and it's interesting that the business says, unspokenly:
These girls, protect. Luckily 1 didn't go to Milan when I was sixteen. "
However bad the rest of modeling is, Milan is worse. "I don't go to Milan," says Eileen Ford. "I don't like Milan." If modeling is, as one of Ford's children once said in an unguarded moment, a business of "whores and their pimps" (a nice way to talk about your parents), then Milan is to modeling what Cheyenne was to the American West, an untamed, lawless frontier. It was in Milan, in the mid� 1970s, that wannabe models were put up in a hotel nicknamed the Fuck Palace and a residence dubbed the Principessa Clitoris. It was here, all through the early
1980s, that models flying in from around the world would be unexpectedly met at the airport by Rolls-Royces driven by playboys with a dozen roses in one hand and a big bag of cocaine in the other. It was here that excess became modeling's norm, that financial chicanery with models' money was raised to an art form, that money laundering was whispered to be common, that the Mafia and the outlawed P-2 group of power brokers were said to have their hooks into agencies, and that even reputable agents were said to have-more than once-fire-bombed their competition's offices. And it was here most notoriously, in 1984, that a wannabe model, high on coke, shot an equally strung-out playboy to death for claiming that she liked drug and sex orgies. She was in fact no stranger to orgies. Ciao, Milano.
It is the season of the supermodel. Before coming to Nepenta
that night, most of the evening's cast of characters has spent the day at the Fiera Campionaria, the ugly, sprawling convention center on the outskirts of Milan where deSigners show their clothes. The first show is Gianni Versace's. After the lights go down on his white marble runway, Versace plays black transvestite RuPaul's big hit "Superrnodel," while Richard Avedon's photographs of model Stephanie Seymour are projected on a backdrop. Then, one after another, the actual supermodels of
the universe parade down the runway to officially open the fashion season. First is Kate Moss in a pleated short kilt, a sheer white blouse, and stockings that look like psoriasis. �Work it girl," RuPaul sings, and the models do, trying hard to make Versace's faux� punk frocks appealing. There is no question who the stars of this show are. Fashion now follows their lead. After Kate comes Yasmin Parveneh Le Bon, who is married to Duran Duran's lead singer, Simon Le Bon. Then Veronica Webb, who has parlayed her face time into jobs as a writer and television news personality. Eve, who wears her dyed white hair in a crew cut, the better to show off the dragon tattooed on her skull.
Claudia Schiffer, who makes more money than any other model $12 million a year at last count. ChriSty Turlington, the prettiest girl in the world, who can carry off even Versace's stringy, greasy hair. Helena Christensen. Her boyfriend, Michael Hutchence, singer in the rock group INXS, is seated right next to the editors of Vogue in the front row. Yasmeen Ghauri. The smile of an angel atop-as a fashion editor might say-"the body of death!" Naomi Campbel1. Meghan Douglas. Each more beautiful than the last. The parade lasts about thirty minutes. The twenty models alone cost Versace in excess of $100,000. Ever since the Italians started mounting circuslike ready�to� wear fashion shows in Milan in the late 1970s, the world's top models have arrived twice a year, like clockwork in March and October, to earn sums of up to $15,000 an hour, walking back and forth, back and forth, in impossibly expensive clothes and impossible�to�maintain hairdos. The shows in Milan revolutionized the fashion business, made deSigner clothes accessible to millions through the mass media, and changed modeling as well Every one of Milan's agencies takes a booth at the Fiera, where models can check on their bookings, have a smoke (all models smoke), or meet their cute young drivers between shows. The booths reveal a lot about the agents. Top dog Riccardo Gay's space has the names of all his top models-and there are many-printed all over the walls. The Italy Models booth is done up in red, green, and white. Elite's has a saddle suspended on a rail; why is anybody's guess. Beatrice Traissac's
Beatrice Models booth is smaller and sparer. She doesn't approve of the other agents in the city, �She is the hated one," a Milanese playboy hisses. Beatrice (pronounced Beh-ah-tree-chey, although she is French), stands in the doorway of her booth, looking darkly at the scene before her. The men who dominate the business in Milan stay away from her in the hallway leading out of the Fiera, which the modeling folk have claimed as a minipiazza for posing and preening. Beatrice watches as stars breeze past, lesser models hesitate, groupies congregate, and her fellow agents manipulate. Scouts, called scoots here, skittle around, sneaky as rodents hunting for stray bits of cheese, trying to lure models to the coffee
bar, where they'll tell them how bad their agencies are and why they should change to another. It doesn't matter which other. Models are sold back and forth for bounties. It is a thriving trade. Ford's Joe Hunter, who doesn't have a Milan agency, works the booths furiously, negotiating for his visiting models while Simultaneously hunting for more. Gerald Marie, the president and part owner of Elite in Paris and ex-husband of supermodel Linda Evangelista, does the same. The two are bitter rivals and seem to back away from each other like magnetic Scottie dog toys. Ford has just signed up Naomi Campbell, moments after Elite announced in a press release faxed around the world that it was firing her for unspecified bad behavior. Carol White, Campbell's London agent, defended Naomi on Sky TV, claiming she'd never seen her behave badly. If so, she was about the only person in fashion who hadn't. Though Campbell's diva routines were particularly stellar, bad behavior is the norm in modeling. That may explain why whispered slanders are the coin of the realm. At an agency that afternoon a booker studied a photocopy of an Italian magazine article. It featured Luca Rossi, who works for Elite's Milan agency, seeming to mount and suckle the nipples of topless buxom women at the Voile Rouge beach club near St. Tropez. A note accompanied the copy when it arrived, anonymously, at various agencies.
�TRUST ELITE THE HEAD BOOKER [S A
it said. If you don't have anything bad to say, don't say it here. Which model has slept with every photographer in town? Which one
N[CE GUY HE [SCOING TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR GIRLS,"
serviced the shah of Iran? Which one, high on LSD, jumped out a window? Which ones jumped out a villa's second-story window, escaping a horny, hashish-smoking playboy? Which one disappeared on a shoot with a nonexistent Saudi Arabian magazine, ending up who knows where? It's not just the models. Ask them, and they'll tell you about sadistic photographers like the one who makes a habit of exposing his penis while exposing his film. And playboys like the Hollywood producer who lures models to gang rapes by his friends and then ships them home suicidal. They are no worse than their agents. Which one tries to bed every model who passes through his office? Which one doesn't?Which one is in Milan's
Mafia Bianca? Which one sells his agency over and over yet remains on the scene, a modeling monument? Which agent sells cocaine to photographers? Which ones feed it to their girls? Which one sends the stuff across the Atlantic, inside videocassettes carried by unwary friends? Spend a few weeks in model world, and you'll hear about all of them. Some of these stories are true; some not. But all are repeated as gospel. This is a world in which lawsuits fly as frequently as the models do from city to city, agency to agency, magazine to magazine, boyfriend to boyfriend. Loyalty is nonexistent. Betrayal is everywhere. But what else do you expect from a world that caters to envy and lust? Is it any wonder, then, that back at the Fiera a booker named Alessandra exits Riccardo Gay's booth, grimacing in pain, and leans her forehead against a wall for all to see? Standing on the sidelines, Beatrice Traissac observes, "It's like the pit in which the lions play at the zoo."
The top cats hate each other, but they need one another, too. That is why they come together at the Nepenta party. Every year a class photo is taken there of all the agents in attendance. Riccardo Gay arranges it and then sells the photos to Italian magazines. Gay never misses a chance to make a buck. The agents all cooperate and stand together in a group. "Plotting to stab the next guy in the back," one whispers as they head back to their tables.
The night wears on. A satisfied glow comes over the crowd. Naomi Campbell is moving across the dance floor without a partner. She doesn't need a partner. Everyone-apart from Elite wants the next dance. Kate Moss and Christy Turlington are head to head, puffing on cigarettes. They will stay and drink and dance until two-thirty, and they will both look vacant and pimply at a show the next morning, but it doesn't matter. The gods of makeup and hair will be there to tend to them. But still. �I need some hair of the dog," Turlington will say at eleven that morning, quaffing a glass of champagne in Gay's Fiera booth. �It's the only thing that helps. " If they act like chosen people, it's because they are. They've been chosen by the hand of fate to have chic bones. And they've been chosen by the agents in a never-ending process that leads from one young girl to the next and the next and the next .... Take Elite's John Casablancas. He is here, of course, a man in his element, beaming a satisfied, proprietary grin at his long table filled with long-legged women. His back is to the wall, so despite the presence of his mortal enemies, no one can stab him in the back here. Casablancas's arm is draped around the shoulder of his adoring third wife, eighteen-year-old Aline Wermelinger, a Brazilian Baptist whom he met when she entered Elite's Look of the Year model search contest. She isn't his first model, not by a long shot. His second wife was a model, too. And by his own admission, he's loved several others and bedded countless more. He is past fifty. But it shows only in his belly, which creeps out over his belt. It is doing that now as he leans back and puffs on his Cigar and swigs some champagne and the kittenish Aline curls against him. A new song starts playing on Nepenthe's dance floor. Hearing it, Casablancas starts lustily singing along. �We are the champions," the song goes. "We are the champions ... of the world!"
Cindy Crawford taps her foot and tsk�tsks impatiently. She's clocked into photographer Patrick Demarchelier's studio twenty minutes earlier-a mere six minutes late for a 9:00 A.M. modeling job. Crawford is prompt and expects as much from thosp. shp. works with in f