An Interview With My Mom on Her Life as a New York Model in the '70s

In Depth

Everyone has a complicated relationship with their parents, but there’s a special weirdness between a teen girl and her super hot mom. Luckily, I’ve aged enough to appreciate my mom for who she is—a great lady with some wild stories. For Mother’s Day, I interviewed her about her life working as a model and actress in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. I’ve heard many of these stories a million times. This was the first instance where I really paid close attention.

Did you want to be a model?

No, I never wanted to be a model. I wanted my mother to love me. She wanted to model, but got married or whatever. She was very tall and beautiful, but shy. All I wanted to do was come to New York City and meet John Cassavetes and become a filmmaker. And I eventually did meet John Cassavetes. I would watch these films in the old art house in my town, and they were probably very old when they got there, but I just thought, “This is what I want to do.” And the opportunity presented itself.

What was the opportunity? Were you “discovered?”

I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be a filmmaker, and you come to New York, and you’re young and you’re pretty and someone says, “Hey.” Just the fact that I was young and pretty.

But how did you get started?

My first job was for “My mother is a lesbian lover,” which was the cover of that romance novel. When you decide you want to be a model you gotta get pictures for your book, so you do a couple of those low-paying jobs and they shoot extra pictures so you can use them for your book. Everyone was very excited, my mother was very excited for me to be on the cover of Modern Romances. And then it came out and it said, “My mother has a lesbian lover!” And she couldn’t show it around, it was so disappointing. It takes months and months and months for your photo to appear in a magazine so there was this big buildup.

But my parents loved hearing about it. One weekend I went out to see them—I got this job to dress up as a Christmas elf and I went out to see them on a Friday and I just ate and ate and ate and ate and when I went to the shoot I could hardly fit into the costume. They were very upset.

Did you have to watch your weight a lot?

Oh god, you see all the pictures. Do you know how many times I got told I was fat, that I had to lose weight?


A lot. I gained weight very quickly then, especially if I just sat there and ate. I couldn’t do it now, I would feel sick eating the stuff I used to eat. I used to eat shitty food, all carbs. I didn’t know anything about nutrition. They were always telling me I was fat.

How did you respond?

I tried to do the best I could. I did what a lot of the models did—The Spit. You don’t throw up, you just chew and spit it out to get the taste of it. Everyone was doing it, no one would even mention it.

What didn’t you like about modeling?

One thing was I’d have to get up in the morning, and do your makeup and put your hair in hot curlers, and you’d have a “go-see” outfit. My go-see outfit was pants and a shirt and those very high wedgies underneath the pants! So I could be 5’6”. And you’d have to go out and be pretty all day. So that was the week. Then on the weekends I wouldn’t take a shower or anything or do my hair. I had one boyfriend who on Sunday night, picked me up and threw me in the bathtub. I guess I resented doing all that stuff.

How did your career grow?

There was a circuit at the time where all the models went through one man. Everybody says, “Oh, go meet [redacted].” He was this man who looked like Humpty Dumpty who had an office on 57th street, and the way he looked at you and how close you were to him and where he sent you would determine how successful you would be. He had one girl who ended up

being the first person to pose for Summer’s Eve. And that was considered risky at that time. It was considered risky to be naked or even in a bra commercial at that time.


Well, [redacted] one day says to me, “You’re getting old. I love the way your face looks here [points to jawline], but you’re getting old.”

How old were you?

23! or 22! So he says, “Let’s talk about it. Come to my office at 9 a.m. tomorrow when it’s not so crazy and we’ll talk.” So I get there and he’s on the couch, sort of spread around the couch, and he basically says, “come on over here and give me a blow job.” I don’t know if he said “blow job” but that was the meaning of what he said. And I said, no. Absolutely not. You’re insane! And he said, “You know, we can just get this over with and you can have a career. You’re not getting any younger and you’re aging.” At that moment the way I felt—I had been very excited about going to meet him that morning, thinking, “Oh my career is going to take off.” For that second I thought I’d just walk off his balcony and take a dive. Just fuck him over. But then I realized that was ridiculous; of course he’s not going to say, “I demanded a blow job so she killed herself.” So I left and kept my life.

Did you stop working after that?

No, I went to work for more legitimate modeling agencies! I was considered short, but the biggest mistake of my career was I didn’t understand what I had to offer physically. There was a woman who looked just like me, Monica Just. Who was almost my twin and she was doing really well. She was a White Rock Girl. Like a little fairy on a half shell. So I ended up going to the wrong agency for me, a Scandinavian agency. I had to lie about my height. I wanted to put on my resume, “5’4” to 5’9” depending on what shoes are next to my bed.” But I had to say I was 5’6”.

What do you mean by Scandinavian modeling? The agency was run by Scandinavians?

Yes, it was, but they also specialized in blondes. In a certain girl-next-door blonde look. Everybody knew if you wanted a blonde, you went to them.

Did your height stop you from runway modeling?

I did trade shows, they called them. You go to the showroom when the buyers come and you wear the clothes for them to see. And I met some nice people—there was a man named Howie who kind of had a crush on me. He always used me and paid me an outrageous amount of money. Once I went down to South America and I ran out of money and I called him collect and he gave me a ticket. I never saw him again, but he bought me a ticket so I could get home!

At this time were you just supporting yourself through modeling?

I would do the New York auto show where you stand on top of a car and talk about it. I remember wearing a blue blazer and white mini skirt and little white boots and talking about the cars. I did Avon, those kinds of things. But I was also getting things for my writing, doctoring screenplays. Voiceovers.

I started doing editorial. I was able to work a lot because everybody liked the fact that I was sort of outrageous. And I was physically very able, I was great when I could move, not so great when I had to sit still. The photographers would get really excited and start changing the lights. A photographer once said, “Oh we got so excited when we heard that you were coming, because we know that you’ll do anything.” Not fucking them, but I’d climb up the wall, hang out the window, I’d just be like “fuck” and give them interesting stuff without being told what to do.

What was the biggest job you can remember doing?

I guess the cover of Newsweek. Except that woman, can I say her name?


[Redacted]. She now writes essays about feminism. So the shoot was an exposé about Club Med. And we went to three of the islands and we were supposed to do the cover. But she was determined to keep me off the cover because she hadn’t even wanted to bring a model. And when I walked into the airport, really happy, she says loudly enough for everybody to hear, for me to hear, “Here comes the piece of meat.” Talking about me. She made it very difficult the whole shoot. I would have really gotten crazy, but I had to share a room with her. In the middle of the night she was crying because her mother had just died. Then we became friends, but she was trying to get me to fuck all these young guys who were working at Club Med, because she was this dowdy married woman. She wanted to live vicariously with me.

Did you?

When I was there? I just remember one. He was very cute. When you get to Club Med they give you a lot of beads and that’s how you pay for shit. So these guys, they have drawers full of beads because they fuck the women and they’re really gorgeous. So I gave him all my beads. He didn’t want to take my beads, but I gave them anyway.

What are some other places you traveled to as a model?

Hmm, a ski lodge, to do something for Disney. There was another woman there and she knocked on my door in the middle of the night and said, “Hi! Can I sleep in here with you? Because they’re hanging around outside my door and I think they wanna get in.” Because they [account executives for Disney] got really drunk. We were all staying in the same house. One of them said to me, “You know it’s very cold. Why don’t you just sleep next to me, nothing will go on!” Just to stay warm, I should come into the cot with him. I mean how stupid does he think I have to be! She was very scared and so she came and slept in there with me and we locked the door. But the snow was impossible so we got paid with no shoot.

Did you ever get hired to hang out with handsome rich men?

Yes. In fact there was an agency where that’s all they did. It wasn’t like prostitution, though I’m sure some people did. You go to these parties and they have games, and barbecue, and you’re supposed to look really pretty and dance and make everybody happy, execs and stuff. I was riding up to one on the bus and was talking to this girl, she was a little different, but smart, getting her PhD. Then at the party I look up and she’s the stripper for this event. And none of the models would talk to her, because they were snobs.

But you kept talking to her?

Of course I did! I’d never met a stripper before. There was also an agency that I quit, that would hire you to spend the evening walking around at a cocktail party, but you weren’t allowed to sit down. You were supposed to smile, you couldn’t talk to other girls, not supposed to get drunk, look really pretty, make the guys think you’re really interested in them and that they’re really thrilling.

I know you’ve dated a lot of famous men. Are there any stories you can tell without being too explicit about who they are? How did you come across people who were famous?

Okay, I’ll tell you how. You have to understand, New York, it was a different kind of scene than it is now. It wasn’t like a bunch of foreigners in huge apartments that they barely come to and nobody can afford to live. There was a whole big flourishing scene, and if you even had a toe into it—I got invited to openings, I got invited to parties—you’d meet somebody. In one day I could see John Belushi, and I don’t know. You just bump into people, as a part of a circle.

When you were a model did you do drugs?

Well, later I did drugs. Everybody at the time, even the receptionist, a little lady who looked like a suburban mom at the modeling agency, would offer me coke at 10 a.m. Everybody was doing it. Literally: men, agents, photographers, other models. If you were a pretty girl, by 10 o’clock in the morning you were offered coke several times. It’s just the way it was. You went to a shoot, you went to a film, everyone was doing it. A lot of work went off the rails because people were doing it.

When did you decide you didn’t want to model anymore? Was it a decision?

No—it was more like… it wasn’t very interesting. I wanted to act. I started writing stuff for myself. I started doing monologues. I saw a movie called A Wedding by Robert Altman and there were a whole bunch of people in it, but there was one actress who blew me away. Viveca Lindfors. I think she’s insanely incredibly talented and I just wanted to meet her somehow.

At the time I was hanging out a lot with Cuba Gooding and Tony Silvester. And one night I was just waiting and waiting for them to show up. I turn on the TV and I see her in a cable TV show. And I track her down. She’s giving a class at the Y. I go and I read something I wrote, and she said, “Skip this, come to my house for a private class next week.” So I go and I walk in, and there’s Anna Deavere Smith, and we stood on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum and read our original monologues. Because no one else had original monologues. And people ignored us. But that was it. I got stuck in the alternative theatre world. And I’m still doing it!

I want to hear the sex stuff, but I don’t think we can name names.

Okay. I was on a movie. I was actually doing the movie under someone else’s name because I didn’t have a SAG card. So the casting agent told me, “Use this name and we’ll get you into this movie—Death Wish.” There are many different Death Wishes, like seven of them. So we were shooting a scene in a supermarket, and there was an actor there, with a speaking role but who was just breaking out. Also there was the son of Dino De Laurentiis, Frederico. Dino’s son was so. Fucking. Beautiful. Like you can’t believe.

I know; I saw a picture.

You did? Of Frederico? He was absolutely fucking drop dead gorgeous!!! He comes over to me, and he says, “Hello, my name is Frederico,” and he is very uncomfortable because he’s like this very elegant European man, but the crew members had given him this puffy jacket which was just not his thing. But he asked to go out with me, so I said sure. Then the actor comes over, and does the same thing. At the same time, I had just met a jazz musician named Jean Luc Ponty, he came up to me in a bar and started playing piano on my back. It was really beautiful. So these are the three guys I’m juggling.

At this time, I was trying to write even though I was modeling and going to acting school. So Frederico one night comes to my musty dusty place with his Italian friend. He’s like 19, he’s younger than me, I’m like the older woman at 23. But his family is so rich they have an apartment on the Central Park South in one of those big buildings. They come and knock on my door and they were absolutely scared thinking they were in this dangerous place.

Where were you?

I was above Sarge’s Deli on Third Avenue. To them it was so scary. They were so scared. So the actor was doing a play that really skyrocketed him, and he became famous. He was invited out to do a Woody Allen film. We stayed in touch, and I was still kind of dating everyone at once. Then I was half asleep one morning and this producer called, and said, “Hey! Oh, I’m really fucked, this model is sick, she’s not coming. We just need somebody to come down the steps of the Plaza Hotel naked.” I said, “No, I won’t do that. But I would love to come with you in the limo and see!” He said, “Oh, no, we don’t have enough room.” Finally I say, “Okay I’ll do it, but I’m going to wear a little scarf and you gotta have somebody protecting me on the stairs.” So he said sure.

I come out of the elevator at the Plaza. At this time in my life I was still wearing everything purple. All my clothes were purple. I had purple underwear, magenta boots with long fringe, everything is purple. Even my makeup, purple lips. I walk out and there’s this guy coming in and he shouts when he sees me. He is my bodyguard, supposedly. But he told me he had been dreaming for months and months every night of a woman all in purple coming down a purple rope. And I came out of the elevator, and I was that woman. So of course I moved in with him very shortly after that. [Writer’s note: this is not my dad.] And that was the end of those other guys.

But I ended up handing him my coat and walking down the Plaza steps naked into the limo. And when you were born, one of my friends sent me the picture of that from a magazine, and she wrote across it, “Could this woman really be a mother?”

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