Lauren Hutton


The remarkable thing about encountering Lauren Hutton in person is that not only does she live up to her reputation she surpasses it. Bright and exuberant, passionately interested, Hutton makes an impression like a chaotic but contained human hurricane.

It’s this zest and effervescence – as well as her enduring beauty of course – that explains the revival of her modelling and film careers.

The 1990s-vintage Hutton is very much the storm after the lull.

Having taken the modelling world by storm in 1973, Hutton accumulated an astonishing 24 Vogue cover shots over an unprecedented three decades and earned millions as the face of Revlon’s Ultima range.

From 1973 to ’83 she won acclaim for the assured elegance of her role opposite Richard Gere in American Gigolo but the late 80s proved a frustrating and unfulfilling period for her – in both modelling and cinema.

But a nine-month spell laid up after her friend, actress Beverly D’Angelo, reversed her car into Hutton’s leg seemed to re-charge her batteries.

”I spent three months on my back. Then I livedby myself in a fisherman’s cabin with no radio, nothing, reading mainly. Hobbling from the bed to the window. Friends would bring food at the weekend. It was heaven !”

Hurricane Hutton has been storming her way through life with renewed passion and brilliant mayhem ever since. ·

“I always loved tropical storms, any kind of disaster as a child,” she reflects. “Because there was always huge excitement in the house. All the adults were knocked out of their boring, normal, adult selves. I guess I’ve just carried that into ‘adulthood’, which doesn’t seem to have quite hit me yet.”

Hutton giggles, flashing the famous gap in her teeth.

Now 47, she has a point. Not only is she back in huge demand for modelling, she is having the most promising spell of her acting career too. Her latest film ‘Fear’ was widely referred to in Los Angeles as “the Lauren Hutton movie” even though she has little more than a cameo. She’s so compelling she steals the film from stars Ally Sheedy and Michael O’Keefe and is the only memorable thing about it.

At 47, Hutton’s sense for chaos -a hugely charming, warm, chaos – seems undiminished.

When we met near her home on New York’s bohemian Lower East Side, she says she’s only in town for a couple of days before departing for either LA (filming) or Atlanta (where her sister is having a baby) having arrived via Capri (modelling), Rome (filming), Paris (modelling), and Ravello where she had been visiting Gore Vidal. My first encounter with her had come at his stunning cliff-side villa during a tour of the grounds, tracking her down thanks to piles of weeds she’d left scattered along the path and the writer sighing: “ahh ! La Hutton has been busy…” (Which makes her surely the most glamorous gardener in Italy if not on the planet.)

Lauren Hutton arrives on the dot for our 9am breakfast like a playful tornado, gushing about everything from eating termites in the Kalahari and the situation in Liberia to William Faulkner and James Dean’s attitude to acting. She has the (terrifying) energy, enthusiasm, and idealism of a child and confesses to still having some empathy for “the girl I was at 5. I get excited when I meet someone. I think I have to make them know everything I know !”

After all this, it’s a shock then to hear the woman who has posed for photographers urinating behind a rock and mud-wrestling a 20001b alligator described as the ‘average’ anything, let alone the average American woman.

And yet she is.

“The largest percentage of women in America are my age. We got the birth of rock n roll at 13, the pill at 18, went from being war babies to producing the baby boom.”

So there was a wider significance when she inspired a catalogue for the trendy Manhattan boutique Barneys that was credited with revolutionising American fashion for the way it represented the premise that elder women could be intelligent, independent, and, above all sexy. Hurricane Hutton was back, blowing across the modern American consciousness.

“Steven Meisel, the photographer, encouraged me not to be frightened to be my age,” she explains, adding she had long ago tired of “rearranging the muscles in my face to look like a 30 year-olds… American is extraordinarily unsophisticated. We think women are redundant once they’re past child-rearing.”

Her interest in politics, particularly sexual politics, now seems to be insatiable.

“That’s pretty much all I’m interested in,” she nods. “That, work, and sex.”

In fact, her interest in learning verges on the manic. It’s no exaggeration to say her whole life has revolved around an obsession with knowledge.

“Do you read the papers?” she asks with bright excitement.

Her sentences will often begin with the words “what’s interesting about that is…”

Even in her long-term relationships (notably with ex-Sex Pistols’ svengali Malcolm McLaren), she says she has cast herself in the role of ‘pupil.’

She’s spent the money she’s made modelling on Art, books, and travel – travel and experience being her “most trusted teachers.”

Famous for turning up at modelling shoots after three-month­ adventures in Borneo, Malaysia, and Thailand, she is bursting with stories about tarantulas in Mexico, guns in Colombia, or eating termites in the Kalahari.

“They have beautiful, long, wings which you hold like chopsticks !” she enthuses. “You’re looking at this wriggling pointed head like a mantis… They taste like Brazil nuts.”

She giggles again.

“I would go out hunting huge antelope. End up dancing half naked round the fire. Even drank its stomach juices, which is foul.”

Even as a child she dreamt about travel and adventure.

Lauren Hutton was born in South Carolina and, she tells me almost like a warning, a triple Scorpio. She never knew her father, who died of a heart attack at the age of just 36. She has said she was 35 before she knew how to deal with men. She spent much of her childhood in Florida raising her mother’s three baby daughters, before heading for the bright lights of New York at the age of 21, getting her first job as a house model for Christian Dior.

She “copied poses from magazines, lived in the mirror, asked questions and learned as much as I could” but was invariably advised to quit modelling because she was “the wrong height, the wrong weight.” Plus of course there was the famous quarter-inch gap between her front teeth which in the early days she would fill with candlewax.

The moment that changed Lauren Hutton’s life was one of those fashion legends that sound too corny to happen in real life rather than TV movies when, during a shoot, she was caught sneaking a look at the legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland.

Vreeland turned to her and said: “you have quite a presence.  You’ve a fresh new look, realistically sized… You’re working with Avedon tomorrow.”

Working with a photographer like Richard Avedon of course was like being touched by the hand (or shutter-finger) of greatness.

“I was triple booked for the next 18 years.”

Besides modelling, Hutton’s forthcoming films will see her co-star with Rod Steiger in ‘The Chair’ and Billy Zane in ‘The Millionaires. But these days Hutton has her sights on other targets. She recently gave a lecture on “the power of the female to be the source of the solutions to the increasingly complex problems that face the world” – problems like the Ozone layer for which she thinks men are responsible.

After the talk, she laughs proudly, “half the men asked for their money back !”

She says travelling with hunters and gatherers in the North of Uganda and the Kalahari provided the foundation for her views on the roles of men and women in modern Western society.

“Women and men have very different brains… Women’s job is to take care of things, to make order. Be responsible for the quality of life. Men run after everything, explode. Their nature is to go too far…”

It’s pretty hard to argue with Hutton when she elaborates on the theme of her lecture.

“Women are just wet by themselves. But men are a CATASTROPHE without a woman ! When a man allows the female part of himself to come out, that’s incredibly soothing and wonderful and sexy, because it also has that rational male spirit over it.”

Malcolm McLaren once explained to me: “falling in love with Lauren Hutton takes years out of your life.”

Inevitably, his eyes were gleaming almost ecstatically at the time. He concluded with a typically McLaren-esque flourish: “It’s fantastic and adorable but just tremendously time-consuming and chaotic.”

Hutton says she is at present romantically unattached – “which is extremely unusual and temporary because I’m lonely. If I sleep with someone, I want to become intimate with them in a very strong way, which is also something women do much more than men.”

She adds it took her five years to come to terms with turning 40 (from the age of 37 to 42) but now she’s “ready for everything.”

“Although your ass goes South, plastic surgery is just a way of saying you don’t believe in experience anymore, which I can’t accept. I’d never know what I really looked like if I had my face done. We must start to honour the battle.”