Modeling in the Sixties
Being plunged into such a sophisticated society as the international fashion world was a bit overwhelming for teenagers from the USA. Each of us dealt with it as best we could. I went a different route than many because I got involved with the aristocrats and the literary set, by accident really, not by design. Most models dated photographers and sometimes together they made a great creative team. I never really got involved with a photographer, although I found some very attractive. I did like Arthur Elgort, but it was not to be. It’s a funny story and I will tell it later.
I started out as a plain tall skinny nerd, talented in Art and English, but a hopeless outcast in high school society. By my junior year I had attained a level of popularity because of my resemblance to the First Lady, Jacquelyn Kennedy but I still did not fit in with the different cliques at school. I was the Art editor of the school newspaper and appeared in the high school plays, but my friends were usually older. That made it altogether more fabulous to be turned into Cinderella for a season. I was swept from an ordinary existence as a typical Long Island girl into a world of glamour and intrigue, jealousy, madness and even murder.
What have I learned over the years is that having seen life at the “top” as one of the so-called “beautiful people” did not make me any happier. Happiness comes from within. You will see a little of my point of view emerge as I try to show the that even with all that wealth and glamour, people still have their problems, triumphs and tragedies, and that beauty and fame are not guarantees of happiness. Many of the people I knew ended up tragically, Sharon Tate, Donyale Luna, Wallis Franken, etc.
As I piece all these stories together, I will go into the effect the great rebellion against our parents’ generation had on us and society as a whole. The shortening of skirts, the emergence of the birth control pill, the popularity of drugs, the androgynous look, the Women’s Movement, all these had effects on society, some good, some bad. I try to be objective in my reporting, while still being subjective in my experiences.
Somehow such incredible opportunities were thrown at our feet in those days. International models were considered eligible young ladies and were welcomed into aristocratic circles and the jet-set, as individuals with character and personality, as well as beauty. Academy Award winning movie stars, European royalty, Hollywood producers, international executives and whatever other dashing personalities were around, were courting us, much to our amazement. They would send private jets to pick us up, just to attend a party. And no one was expected to do anything they did not want to do. Before this I had dating been good old American college boys and of course Michael. They were wonderful but this was a whole new ball game. I was playing in the Big Leagues now. Still, I was interested in being in a relationship. I was pretty old-fashioned despite my Mod clothes. I mostly went out with Susan Brainard and and Ulla Bomser. We would run into other New York models. Most of us lived on the Left Bank in inexpensive, but clean and quaint hotels.
Top models were independent contractors, signing with the best agents and working hard. You could say we were rootless mercenaries, traveling the world and earning our own way. I loved living in hotels, eating in restaurants and traveling by plane and train, for free because the client paid all expenses. And I loved buying new clothes in each city. Such wretched excess, is what I am thinking now. But that was the way it was. I had to travel light. I left so many suitcases in so many hotels and bed and breakfast places because I could not carry everything back to my home in Paris. All the models were always dressed three to six months ahead of what was shown in the magazines and the stores, because of course we had seen it on the shoots. So I did not really miss the clothes I left behind. Later I learned to buy classic styles that could be worn for a long time.
Models did not get ten thousand dollars a day in the Sixties but we made as much as any big CEO of a corporation. We were sole proprietorships. Very large responsibility was placed on us. Thousands of dollars were riding on us showing up in the right country, in the right studio and on time and in good working order. We didn’t have teams of stylists, designers and hairdressers to give us support, but I sure wish we did. We had to schlep huge bags filled with all kinds of wigs, hairpieces, scarves, jewelry, hats and other necessities. Professionalism was stressed. and insisted upon by the top agencies. It was a blessing to have hair and make-up artists once in a while, for covers or beauty ads and editorial. But mostly I did my make-up myself and my hair. I had many wigs and hair-pieces so I could change my look.
There was no time for ego-trips, temper tantrums, lateness or no-shows. We did not consider ourselves as sex-objects and were not asked to pose in compromising pictures. There were still certain standards of behavior although they were more relaxed in Europe. Still you were not expected to do anything you would not want to do.We wore some very short skirts and were sometimes very scantily clad, but because it was haute couture, and we were so skinny and looked so cool and classy. We set the standards for a generation.
Below are some of the pictures I did in New York, before I took a helicopter of the PanAm building which took me to the airport. I looked down on New York City not realizing then that i would not see it again for many years. I was off to Paris, meant to stay for six weeks, but the life of a model in Paris in the Sixties was so appealing, I decided not to return. I worked a lot, traveled and played. And then I fell in love with a dream man. Or so I thought…..
|My first composite before the Vidal Sassoon haircut that set me apart from the rest of the “Formula Faces.”|
|Betsey Johnson bathing suit shot with a wide angle lens Gosta Petersen for Mademoiselle|
|It’s easier to stop traffic in a mini-skirt.
I never liked these long skirts but I was booked for an editorial in on
the new phenomenon The Midi. These pictures are for sale on the Intenet by Life magazine.
|This was shot by Gosta Petersen. It was done live.
The studio was dark. He held the lens open and flashed once, I jumped into the second pose,
showing the dress underneath and the light flashed again. It was very a very new photo technique.