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The Loves of Lauren Hutton

Lauren Hutton, from Lunch Bunny to Supermodel Actress Turned Talk Show Host
Nancy Wolfson
From the Print Edition:
Matt Dillon, Spring 96

(continued from page 2)

Mary Laurence was voted "Best Eyes" in her high school senior class. She attended the University of Southern Florida for a year, changed her name and then came to New York in 1962, making ends meet by working as a Lunch Bunny at the Playboy Club. After three months there she decided to travel across the country, stopping in New Orleans to visit friends. Deciding to stay in the Big Easy, Hutton took art classes at Sophie Newcombe College (then Tulane's sister school) by day and moonlighted as a waitress at Al Hirt's jazz club on Bourbon Street. After a year in New Orleans, she went on to Mississippi to "hunt Huttons." In 1964 she returned to what she calls the hottest frying pan on the planet: New York.

In 1966, the 22-year-old Hutton bushwhacked her way into Vogue's New York offices. Diana Vreeland, its legendary editor, sent her over to photographer Richard Avedon. Unconvinced by her offbeat looks, he asked her what more she had to offer. "I can jump," Hutton hustled. This triggered a new genre of fashion photography.

"The fashion magazines showed the new kind of woman who was emerging in the '60s," says author and iconoclastic feminist Camille Paglia, a friend of Hutton's. "Women were in motion. And Lauren illustrated that, literally. Actually, her whole career is an excellent example of this new kind of independent woman." Hutton's wit and will are revealed in her "mischievous, kind of Tom Sawyer smile." Paglia observes. "She creates this mental space around her, and she sweeps everyone around her into her orbit."

Hutton's acting career began in 1968 with Paper Lion, the first of some 30 big- and small-screen movies. "I didn't give acting enough time, and as a result my work as an actress was very uneven," she admits. ("I modeled my way through acting, and you acted your way through modeling," Hutton told her friend Isabella Rossellini.) Of all her movies, "I'm only proud of about six of them, including American Gigolo. Since I had come from a Vogue cover, I always got rich, 'good girl' parts," Hutton says. "That's the last thing that I am." Last year she was again cast as an overbearing socialite in the CBS television series "Central Park West."

In 1973, Hutton landed the first major cosmetics contract with Revlon, known for a lip and nail shade called Fire and Ice. From 1973 to 1983, Hutton represented Revlon's top-of-the-line Ultima II brand. Sometimes she filled the gap between her teeth, other times she exposed it. Although rumored to have had an affair with Charles Revson, Revlon's founder, she says their relationship was strictly professional and, in fact, they only met about five times. The first time was in 1973, at the contract signing. When offered a crumpet with her tea, she took it, forgetting about the false tooth she'd affected for the occasion. She bit into the crumpet and lost her tooth, but not her cool, as Andrew Tobias recounts in his 1976 book, Fire and Ice. Hutton announced to Revson, "You'll have to forgive me, but my tooth is stuck in a wad of crumpet here and we'll have to do something about it because it cost 50 dollars and I'm not going to lose it."

She gained Revson's respect, and her image helped win his company a 65 percent increase in business. Her first contract, a watershed at the time, amounted to $250,000 a year for 20 days' work. Twenty years later, in 1993, she signed another Revlon deal as spokeswoman for Results, a collection of corrective moisturizing treatments. This one, up for renewal this year, is said to have made it into the million-dollar-plus range. And it demands less of Hutton's time.

These days she pours much of her energy into her talk show, but still wears many hats. Susan Grant, president of Turner Program Services, a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting and the syndicator of "Lauren Hutton And...," points to Hutton's wide range. "Lauren established that she was flexible enough to be a model, businessperson, actress and world traveler," Grant notes. "And the fact that she was able to take a model's career from a three- to 10-year span to a 30-year business is most important. It is her savvy and longevity that sparked our excitement in her as a host."

Hutton's 1989 comeback as a 45-year-old model forced our youth-driven culture to make a U-turn. She was in Yugoslavia doing a movie when Eileen Ford's husband, Jerry, called to tell her that the fashion photographer Steven Meisel wanted her for a Barneys New York ad campaign he was shooting. She accepted the relatively low-paying job and became a pioneer in reviving the image and allure of women over 40.

At about the same time, Hutton had a midlife crisis. A four-year relationship with Malcolm McLaren, the producer and manager of the rock group Sex Pistols, was ending. She'd also broken her leg in a freak accident and spent six months in bed.

She went to see a Jungian therapist to confront her pain. "That's what grows you up," Hutton confides. "You face what didn't work out...those childhood problems you keep putting off. First you're in your 20s and you're just a kid. Then you say, 'Yea, well I'm 30, but I'm just 30, and I've barely left being a kid.' And then suddenly you're 40. And that's when it gets disturbing. And if, by 45, you haven't faced it, you're in trouble. Which is what happened to me. I think it probably takes your whole life to look at all those things. I'm still working on them," she continues. "But I was a bit of a thug before. When I got into trouble with people I would resort to violence. And now I rely on words."

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