[Note: The two women profiled here are now in their 80’s—and still modeling, half a century after this article was written. Presumably they now make more than $60 an hour.]
How true is the popular picture of the model as skinny, conceited, overpaid and undersexed? Two of the top come clean about the glamour profession
You are in the giant studio of one of the world’s foremost fashion photographers. It is eleven in the morning, and since nine the studio has been preparing one fashion photograph. The model has arrived in make-up, done her hair and submitted to a complete blue-white body wash because this will be a color shot. She has been walking around for an hour, wearing nothing but a balloon chemise, drying herself in the air.
Now the sitting begins. The model puts on a high-fashion dress and takes her position on the set. The photographer stacks records on the hi-fi and driving jazz blasts through the studio. A giant electric fan is turned on, and its gale whips the model’s dress. Its roar is added to the clamor of music, and everybody has to shout.
Plate after plate is slammed into the camera. At each exposure, the strobe lights explode with a shattering WHAM! The model melts smoothly from pose to pose, experimenting with arms, hands, legs, feet, body, head—always careful to adjust the dress and display it at its best.
The photographer never stops directing, praising, singing with the music: “Arm a little higher, darling. That’s it! Beautiful! Hold it!” WHAM! “You look lovely. One more.” WHAM ! “Perfect!” WHAM! Left leg back. Hold the hem higher. Lovely!” WHAM! “One more!” WHAM! “What’d you just do with your head? No, the other way. That’s it! Beautiful!” WHAM! WHAM! WHAM!
Note: Alfred Bester, senior editor of Holiday, encouraged Benchley to turn this article into a novel; Benchley took his advice and wrote Jaws.
ONE WARM SUMMER DAY I was standing on a beach near Tom Never’s Head on Nantucket. Children were splashing around in the gentle surf as their mothers lay gabbing by the Styrofoam ice chests and the Scotch Grills. About thirty yards from shore, a man paddled back and forth, swimming in a jerky, tiring, head-out-of-the-water fashion. I had just remarked dully that the water was unusually calm, when I noticed a black speck cruising slowly up the beach some twenty yards beyond the lone swimmer. It seemed to dip in and out of the water, staying on the surface for perhaps five seconds, then disappearing for one or two, then reappearing for five. I ran down to the water and waved my arms at the man. At first he paid no attention, and kept plodding on. Then he noticed me. I pointed out to sea, cupped my hands over my mouth, and bellowed, “Shark!” He turned and saw the short, triangular fin moving almost parallel with him. Immediately he lunged for the shore in a frantic sprint. The fish, which had taken no notice of the swimmer, became curious at the sudden disturbance in the water, and I saw the fin turn inshore. It moved lazily, but not aimlessly.
What’s the name of the game, Woody?
“Basically everybody is a loser,” Woody Allen, high priest of the cult of the loser, says, “but it’s only now that people are beginning to admit it. People feel their shortcomings more than their attributes. That’s why Marilyn Monroe killed herself, and that’s why people can’t understand it.
“I’m a loser, and that’s been one of the appeals of my stage career. I’m a complainer. I’m more acutely aware of the negative side of life. That’s why I don’t like sunny weather. I like gloomy winter days. I like gloomy weather, period. I’d like to spend a winter in Copenhagen.
“Look at San Francisco. It has the highest suicide rate in the United States. It has perfect weather,around sixty-five degrees all year ’round, and the city is lovely—and everybody jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge.”