Love in Time of Corona

… between Amsterdam, New York and Milford, PA


when I worked with Helmut Newton …

One day Helmut Newton booked me for a swimming-pool shoot. I was thrilled at the prospect of working with him. All the top models had worked with Helmut at least once. He liked tall, domineering, angry, sexy Amazons. I could do S&M, I could be his kind of girl. He was working on a famous series of models in swimming pools, contrasting the cool blue water with the black of their sunglasses and bathing suits, the red of their nails and lips, their ebony hair, long tan legs and backs, curved sexy bottoms and breasts.

Mine was an ad for Smirnoff Vodka.

The turquoise pool, my long naked back next to a martini glass.

It seemed simple enough.

Helmut arrived at Ringo Starr’s estate in a black stretch limo, took one look at Ringo’s pool, another look at the sky and declared both inadequate. He needed bright sunshine, a rare event in North London, and the pool was too shabby.

He ignored me like I was some assistant and disappeared back into his limo. The shoot was cancelled. I was paid five hundred pounds for showing up, and a week later ten of us, hair, make-up, stylist, ad-people, assistants, flew to an infinity pool carved into the Portofino mountainside.

Throughout our first dinner Helmut entertained us with witty but brutal anecdotes, like when he had a fireman’s hose pointed between the model’s legs and the jet of ice-cold water accidentally hit her in the crotch causing her to scream in pain. Helmut told the story as if this blast had actually given the girl an orgasm and everyone laughed.

I’d never been to Italy before and I ordered antipasti, Osso Bucco and Tiramisu.

I was in heaven but Helmut stated that if I kept eating this much I’d look like a Dutch heifer next to my fine-boned glass of Smirnoff Vodka and for the next two days June, his wife/assistant, ordered my meals of salad and fruit. I starved but I was terrified of Helmut and his cruel sense of humor, so I kept quiet.

I had my back to him in the shot while he said things like: She looks like a guy from behind, get me Dalma or Jerry, or anyone else who knows what she’s doing, Her hair is too short, her elbows too pointy.

It was hard to model with my back, sitting on the edge of a pool, legs in the water. There wasn’t much I could do to look different, sexier, curvier, more S&M, but I hoped my back looked angry, because I hated him, and I put all this emotion into my butt, my vertebrae, my neck, shoulder-blades, arms, hair, earlobes, and skin.

Afterwards, when I saw the ad, I realized he’d been obnoxious on purpose. He wanted that tension of anger. It showed. The ad was great and I was proud to have a Helmut Newton shot in my portfolio.


I feel top-killed

there is too much. Too much going on. Too much to write so I dont write at all.
I want to write about oil and about my rejection letters and about Iona’s prom style graduation, and about our dinner party (i was going to post pictures and recipes) and our last weeks in Miami, and I want to write a letter to Obama urging him to get into a white clean up suit, get oily, clean a dying bird and weep, because thats what “the American People” want to see. Hell who wants him taking responsiblity? That sounds too much like taking the blame. No we want his tears while wearing a diving suit, holding a fisherman’s child – Reagan/Clinton style – only then will we feel he’s on top of the situation.

OK. So.

One week ago Iona had her graduation from middle school in the form of a lunch time dance. She went shopping with her two best friends, Lourdes and Josirus and called me. “Mommy, I found a dress, and its really cool, and I would never have picked it myself but Lourdes made me put it on, and its like chonga, like really hot, and I think you won’t like it, but it looks really good on me and they say i should get it, shall I take a picture of me, like wearing it, and send it to you?”

She called me! From the dressing room. She wanted me to see it, approve it. She wanted ME. Still at age thirteen, almost fourteen. I was touched. I said I trust your taste. If you love it then get it. I’m sure you look great.


red hot?


it’s all about the back, its like all open, but its cool.


my beautiful baby


So at 8.30 on Friday morning she stood and waited, in the street outside our house, for her friend’s car to pick her up. She looked self-conscious, her knees and feet turned in, her head cocked at an angle, too cool to smile and wave at me. She looked heart breaking, a mix of five year old girl and sexy young woman. Tears rolled down my cheeks. It wasn’t the cliche that they grow up so fast. I was just so proud of her, how she’s making her way and figuring it out, so lovely, so together, so smart and such a good friend. I love you Iona.

More to follow…

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Kevin Vertrees performs: Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be writers…

Inspired by, but improved upon, my lyrics of yesterday, thank you Kevin, you made my day!



Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be writers

On my way to school this afternoon, after a disheartening afternoon in my attempts to become a published writer, I thought to myself, best warn Iona not to become a writer.

One thought led to another, and I ended up humming the below re-write of Willie Nelson song…

Writers ain’t easy to love and they’re harder to marry
They’d rather slip you a poem than diamonds or cash
Endless good reasons and old faded flannels
And each night begins a new day.
If you don’t understand him, an’ he don’t die young,
He’ll prob’ly just slip away.

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be writers.
Don’t let ’em pound MacBooks or ride them old bikes.
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be writers.
‘Cos they’ll always be home, still they’re always alone.
Even with someone they love.

Writers like smokey old rooms, lonesome walks at dawn
Hot cups o’ tea and Google and porn in the night.
Them that don’t know her won’t like her and them that do,
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She ain’t weird, she’s just smart but her pride won’t let her,
Do things to make you think she’s got it right…

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be writers.
Don’t let ’em pound MacBooks or drive them old trucks.
Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.
Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be writers.
‘Cos they’ll always be home, still they’re always alone.
Even with someone they love….


The cats of Miami Beach

heading for the cat thicket

Along the beach there live cats. Hundreds, maybe thousands of stray cats. Abandoned cats that bred and breed. Black ones, white ones, tiger stripes, patch-work, ginger, tabby, siamese, persian, sleek, fat, old, young, long haired and practically bald ones. They  hide in the brush of the dunes when its hot , and when at around five in the afternoon the cat ladies arrive with their bags of food, they appear. Dozens of them curling around  lonely old ladies with plastic shopping bags filled with cans and dry cat food. Each tends her own herd  and some can become quite proprietary, like catty, when anyone else tries feeding their felines.

Kiki and Leila and I have become such cat ladies. Several times a week we visit our own gaggle that congregate near the beach entrance at Collins Park. We’ve counted over 24 of them. We have a favorite. Leila calls her  Claire, since she’s perfectly white and quite girlie. She’s our cat. She comes when we arrive and sits with us and lets the girls stroke her. We bring her a can of soft meaty food while the other twenty something get dry stuff that K and L carefully distribute into several neat and even piles.

kiki and claire

“Can we have Claire, Mommy?” They ask each time. And every time I have to say, no, this cat wont like our candyland bachelor pad. She likes being outside with her friends. She’ll claw her way through all DJ Tiesto’s furniture. We’ll lose our small-fortune deposit….

leila and claire



And then there are  tears – the tears of disappointment at the crushed fantasy of having Claire at home, snuggling on their bed, playing with catnip toys, purring on their lap while watching TV.

oh claire

No, No, No, I don’t want another cat. I love cats. I love Claire too. But I do not want another cat. No more bags of litter, and changing trays. No more white hair on every black dress that I own. No, No, No.

We are, and will remain, Miami Beach cat ladies…

For now.

the poser

the cleanser

the fighter