My Afternoon with Salvador Dali

My Afternoon with Salvador Dali
With Salvador Dali at his home in Cadaques, Spain.

Every so often, Chicago Now bloggers engage in a creative writing session called Blogapalooza.  For this 8th edition, we have been asked to "write about a favorite or memorable place we have lived for any time at all, whether a country, state, city, childhood home, fraternity/sorority, hostel, hotel or even bedroom."  Well, I have many such spots that have left a lasting impression on me so  it will be hard to choose just one.  But, besides my childhood home of Dupo, Illinois, there is another spot that comes to mind that had to do with my early modeling years.

I had just been sent to Europe as a model by Wilhelmina, my New York modeling agency in the 70's.  I had been rejected by Ford for having too short a distance between my ankle and my knee (I kid you not) so was thrilled to be picked up by an even more prestigious agency who suited me much better.  At this time, Ford was all about the blond, lanky Christie Brinkleys of the world and I certainly didn't fit into this mold.  BUT Wilhelmina, on the other hand, was embracing diversity with great success.  They had just launched sexy, dark haired bad girl Gia Carangi and she was well on her way to stardom so  I was thrilled to be with HER  agency!  I never forgot seeing the knife marks she had carved on her agent's desk there but this is another story.

During this time, the best way for new girls to get a killer portfolio was to go to Europe so off I went with letters of introduction from Wilhelmina clutched in my sweaty little hands.   I was to be represented by Covers Models in Barcelona and was put up in a charming little hostel that I will never forget, Hostel Benelux.  Luckily, a model/friend of mine from Chicago, Jeanouche Wopinski, shared this adventure with me which made it much less nerve wracking.

We shared a little room with a tiny terrace overlooking the rear patio.  Happily, we came to find out this was a very popular spot for models from around the world so our experiences multiplied with every new contact we made.  We met Greta from Germany who always wanted to borrow Jeanouche's sponge rollers.  We would hide knowing how worrisome her head scratching was for sharing anything hair related!

We made so many wonderful friends there who I'll never forget.  Our common modeling goals brought us all close as we met up each night in the little courtyard to share our day's experiences over a glass of sangria and bowls of Spanish olives.

I was fortunate to begin work right away, filming a commercial in the Canary Islands (inside an active volcano), shooting a champagne commercial in town, ads for Burberry's and so on.  But the highlight came the day we were invited to lunch at legendary surrealist artist Salvador Dali's home in Cadaques, on the northern coast of Spain.  To this day, I don't know how or why we were invited but I'm sure glad we were!

We were driven 2 1/2 hours to his house where we were greeted by a dour looking housekeeper.  The home was built of white stone with a long lap pool in the backyard.  Everywhere you looked, you saw eggs which were a popular theme with Dali.  Concrete eggs tilted on their sides on the tiled roof, oversized eggs placed on each side of the entryway.  It truly was a surreal afternoon in every single way.

Dali arrived in a flowing gown with a long, ivory-tipped cane and we all sat at a round banquet table.  He mentioned to Jeanouche that he would like to transpose her ear with her nose...just for a while, and take her on a publicity tour.  His mind was working on a completely different  plane.

And when his wife Gala showed up, I thought I would lose it.  She had to be 85 if she was a day with oversized, painted red lips ala Betty Boop.  She even had a huge bow in her hair like the character but one thing that wasn't comical was the hunky young guy she had in tow.  Apparently, they carried on in the pool house on a regular basis and Dali was cool with this.  My head was on a swivel marveling at the scene before me as we all sat amicably together for lunch.

The couple who had driven us had wisely brought things for Dali to sign....all I had was a couple of postcards I'd bought in town before reaching the house.  These are treasures of mine to this day.  A scrawled signature by the greatest surrealist artist of all time.  Not a bad haul for a kid plus memories that will last a lifetime.

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