Lauren Hutton on Social Media, Harvey Weinstein and Her Latest Skin-Care Gig
By Liz Ritter, Executive Editor |
This article first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of NewBeauty. Click here to subscribe.
It's funny how in the middle of New York, the tiniest repetitive noise—the chewing of gum on the subway, the click of lightening-speed texts with the phone volume on high—can be a colossal annoyance.
For Lauren Hutton, it’s the banging of a curtain cord, courtesy of an open-window breeze at The Plaza Hotel. “What’s that noise? Yoo-hoo, can someone come in here? Where’s the noise coming from?” she asks, apologizing in the process.
A man darts out of a second room and closes the window. “This is my assistant, Morthon,” she says, introducing us and then switching gears in the same breath.
“Wait! We didn’t ask if you wanted a glass for your water!”
Seconds later, I’m whisked into another room that
reveals a full-on glam squad setup that’s there to prep
Lauren for a gala she’s attending at the hotel that night.
There’s a hairstylist reading on the bed, luscious bathrobes on a rack, and a makeup table organized with the
care of a sushi chef plating fugu.
“This is my dress,” the 76-year-old says, holding up an off-the-shoulder navy suit that she wants me to touch to feel the fabric. “I don’t wear black—it doesn’t work for me. It works for you, but not for me. I have too many yellow undertones.”
I’m still conscious of our time as she leads me over to
her skin care–makeup station to show me the products
she loves. I have to get her back to that sofa so we can
chat, or else I won’t have a story. I take a deep breath as
she starts to massage her favorite serum into the back of
my hand to show me how well it works. And then, in one
of the breaths, I acquiesce. This is Lauren Hutton: I will
relax, try the products and let her tell me when she’s
ready to talk. She is in charge. And she will start when
she is ready.
And then she was ready to talk. “I’ve read all your stories on sunscreen,” Hutton says. “If only I had read them earlier because I never wore anything. Well, to be fair, they
used to not really have it. But I never even wore a hat—
even when I was in Africa. Africa was my first stop out of
the States. I gave Eileen Ford a wink and said, ‘I’ll be back
in two weeks.’”
SUNSCREEN IS KIND OF MY THING. It’s funny. Every generation gets younger and younger because we learn more. We have more information, more stuff to use—like really good SPF and things like that. And we’re smarter, and we’ve got jobs.
I was lucky. At 18, birth control pills came across the
counter. And then I got a job as a waitress because that’s
where I could make money at night. I put myself through
college, mostly in New Orleans, by working on Bourbon
Street at night in a jazz club. It was a fantastically interesting time. Our first guest was Dizzy Gillespie. Then,
after that, it was just one great after another. I learned so
much. I learned much more on Bourbon Street than I
learned in school, and it was a very good school.
EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE
TO WORK AS A WAITER OR
WAITRESS AT LEAST ONCE.
Good girl! It should be national service. It should be
something that every person does, no matter what class.
Even if you’re Zuckerberg’s kids, you should have to do it
because you meet every kind of person and you start to
understand. I got so much better of an education. Believe
me, I have thought about going back to it too. Around 60,
I started thinking, “What if I won’t be able to waitress
again? So, I better not lose all my money again.”
YOU’VE RECENTLY TALKED
ABOUT OTHER THINGS IN
I had forgotten about it until I started seeing all this stuff
coming out about Harvey and something just kept going
Ping! Ping! Ping! in the back of my mind. Then finally,
I remembered this meeting—the whole thing took place
in what was probably 10 minutes. I think, for him, it was
that maybe he’d seen a picture of me recently and
thought, “Gee, how did I miss her?” What an idiot. Suddenly, the door opened and I looked up—it was a tiny
little place too. I looked up and he was in this dirty old bathrobe. It was sort of tied, but not real tight, and he was
standing there with his hand on the thing, and he looked
up and he passed me—then he stood there for seconds.
So, I’m looking up, and it was so odd that I was just looking at him, and then he shuts the door and went back in.
Then, about five minutes later, one of the secretaries said
something came up for Harvey unexpectedly. I think he
probably thought, “She’s too old. I can’t do it.” Maybe he
heard something in his head saying, “I better not even try
because this is dangerous.”
HAS IT GOTTEN BETTER?
Oh, much better. Guys aren’t such big fools. The guys
now have mothers and grandmothers from my generation who got birth control at 18 and jobs by 20, maybe
by 25. Little by little, it got better.
The thing that I’m most proud of is that American Gigolo came out when I was almost 40. You can’t—at least
you couldn’t back then—have a lead in a movie unless
you’re NOT that age. And it just got more popular over
the years, to the point that it’s now a cult-classic.
After that, I started making five bad movies a year.
“Bad” in the sense that I wouldn’t want to see them. I think
it was because I was having problems in my personal life,
so I was trying to stay away from conflict. So, for a couple
of years, that’s what I did. Then I realized, looking in magazines, that, in fact, I could be somebody if I forced my
way back in. There had never been such a thing for a 30-
something. I snuck in with Revlon at that age because
they thought I was much younger. So, I thought, “If I get
myself back in, and I’m the one who can do it because I
was just so well-known, that it would be good for women.”
Because we had gone into everything else—we were in
the Supreme Court! We were in pretty much everywhere
else a tiny bit, except when it came to our actual image.
IT’S TRUE. YOU WERE IN
YOUR 40S WHEN YOU LOST
THAT REVLON CONTRACT...
I was 47. I was 31 when it first happened, and it was my
idea. It was a good idea, but it didn’t change everything.
YOU MUST FEEL DIFFERENTLY
NOW, BEING THE FACE OF
I’m really pleased about it. There’s been no one out there
that’s been 60. There’s Cindy and Naomi, Christy and a few others. And then Linda, of course. The great Linda!
But they must be…50? Who is 60? Maye Musk, maybe,
but it’s different because her son is a trillionaire. A genius
trillionaire, but nobody grew up with her around. It all
means we finally have a place to grow to! My mother was
parked at 30 in her generation. She was born in 1923 and
it wasn’t so long ago that, at 43, we were certainly supposed to be parked—and that was progress. That was the
silly boy’s idea of progress.
So, yes, I’m very pleased with StriVectin for being hip
enough to go with me—a woman in her mid-70s. It’s a
very interesting company. It was started by two doctors,
a married couple who was looking for burn and wound-healing stuff for the skin, and I love that the current CEO
is a woman. They know what they’re doing. I’m approached by a lot of brands, but not really beauty brands
anymore; seems more like car brands and things like
that are interested in me. But this is the product I put
on, the product I send to my three sisters, the product
I got good reports back on right away, the product my
friends ask me: “What did you do? Did you shoot something in your face?” It’s real stuff. It’s real medicine. I like
to layer it all on.
AND YET YOU STILL
SWEAR BY COCONUT OIL!
I was around it as a kid because it was good for your skin
and then you’d put it in your hair. I doubt if you can still
do this now, but it used to be that I’d be able to get it
where they were actually taking the husks and pressing
them—where they’d make copra. I even think the Hawaiians have something like 300-some different names for
the stages of coconut—of the growth and all the different
things you’d do with each one. You used to be able to get
it in this old bottle that had an unbelievably beautiful
amber color, and you’d put it on and smell like peanut
butter—the best peanut butter cookie you have ever had
in your life.
YOU DON’T SEEM TO
LIKE TO CONFORM.
There are so many ways people ask you to change. Do
you know Lillian Gish? Broken Blossoms is one of her
wonderful movies. She made a lot of silent films but she
taught, too. We were all in A Wedding together. It was
wonderful and I got to know her. Then we did some press
for the movies together. I remember they asked me my
age and I was just about to say it, and she said, “Lauren, a
woman who will tell her age will tell anything.” Back
then, you were probably ruined if you said your age. Now,
we’re a little hipper and a little bolder, a little smarter.
ONE WOULD HOPE.
I’ve never been much of a good shill. In the sense of if I
don’t believe it, I can’t back it. I never did cigarettes, even
back when everyone would have a cigarette. The first big
bunch of money I was ever offered as a model was for
those long cigarettes made for women, and I thought,
“Boy, I might be a user, but I’m not a believer.” And I
turned it right down. I got a lot of complaints from agents
about it, but I still didn’t do it.
YOU MUST HAVE SOME
THOUGHTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
I’ve never had social media. I had this makeup company,
which was really good for a bit, and they were spending
300 million in advertising, but it was just my mouth on
TV and I think they had a Facebook page. That’s the only
time I really dealt with it. I don’t do it, I’ve never done it,
and I won’t ever do social media. I don’t follow anything
or anyone, and I don’t know about it. I use my phone and
I text. I’ve never liked machines.
It was a very long time before I even learned to drive a
car. When I started making movies, I had to learn to do it,
but for a long time, I hitchhiked. I used to hitchhike outside the Chateau Marmont. I didn’t want to wait for a taxi
to come, so I’d stick my thumb out. I was like 25 and a big
deal in New York as a model, and it wasn’t smart nor safe.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT FROM
A BIG CITY, SOMETIMES
YOU DON’T KNOW…
Well, that’s all from my previous life. I was born in
Charleston. Then we went to Florida—my mother sort of ran away. My father was in the War, but we were still
inside the Charleston bubble. We stayed in that bubble
until she met a guy, and two weeks later, she married
him, which was a big mistake…well, I guess it wasn’t. I
got good sisters out of it. He moved us to a swamp on the
west coast of Florida, outside of Tampa, which was a
three-syllable word back then. I would still go back to
Charleston for weddings, funerals and family stuff, so I
had these very diametrically opposed things. My stepfather also lost all his money in a short time—like six
months—and for my mother, it was a surprise. But he
was a very good man, and knew about the woods and
that was great. So, suddenly, I got to be out in the trees—
more animals than I’ve ever seen anywhere. I mean, not
big like East Africa, but some serious animals. That was
the thing about Dick [photographer Richard Avedon]…
...THAT VIDEO, JUN ROPE’,
IS HAVING A MOMENT.
With Dick, I was trying to be Veruschka, and meanwhile,
I was about six or seven inches shorter than her, and I
wasn’t smart enough to understand it was about bones
and the length of bones. Veruschka could go into these
poses that looked like abstract art because she was probably six foot one, but when I tried to do it—I was trying to
act like a gazelle or something. I can still remember what
Dick looked like. We became very close friends and
worked together for probably 15 years or so. He said,
“Where did you come from?”
He didn’t want to say, “Stop trying, you idiot.” He was
too kind. I said, “Well, Florida.” He said, “Florida?” I said,
“Yes, up in the woods, and he looked up and he said,
‘Woods?” And this was a huge studio, he’s lying on the
floor, and he had this little Rolleiflex, and he laid there
because that makes you look taller, and he was saying,
“What did you do in the woods?” And I remember being
10 and 11 and 12, 13, and the woods behind us were all
giant—those trees, the huge trees, and those bushes
and there was a lot of snakes, big rattlers, really big most
poisonous ones. We had them.
I’m telling him and he said, “Jump? You jump over the
turtle logs?” And I said, “Yes, I didn’t want to step on
them.” And he’d say, “OK,” and he jumped up, and he
made a little X in the middle of the white paper that was
in the middle of this big, dark studio because he didn’t
want any distracting lights, and no one’s allowed in. They
have 30 people standing around doing nothing, but those
were sacred spaces! And he said, “OK, go from there,” and
he made another little mark here on the side and that
side, and he said, “Run! Take it from here! Run and jump
over that X.” So that was the focus, and I did it. We had
some of the best pictures I ever took—just like that.
That was after we’d been working together probably
eight years or something. I just saw the video the other
day. I had no idea it was being looked at. I haven’t seen it
since Dick first showed me it. But, yes, it was fun. What
was interesting about that is it’s like a burlesque and he
was a wonderful director. By then, I was traveling for four
months. Like two on and two off—or three on, two off,
and then I’d come back and work again for a few months.
But both Dick and Penn said that my face changed.
THAT’S A FAMOUS QUOTE:
EVERY TIME YOU TRAVELED,
YOUR FACE WOULD CHANGE.
Yes! And I was usually traveling a lot, and often sleeping
on the ground, and it was certainly intense. I was lucky.
The first thing you see is there’s a beautiful woman everywhere—one of every size, every shape, every combination, and there’s also beautiful men, but especially women. Then I started to think, “What in the world are we
doing with just our big, tall, skinny whites?”
And that changed. I hoped that would change. Yes, I
did. I hoped that because I, well, for starters, I was tanned
and no one was very tanned in those days. But I just
couldn’t stay out of the sun because I’d grown up in it, I
felt good in it and my skin could take it. One day, we were
reshooting a cover for the second time, maybe even the
third time, and it was a Saturday, and suddenly, in the
doorway to the dressing room, which was very rare because there was no one out front to keep people out—I
mean, it was someone who obviously had an appointment—there was this beautiful girl, Beverly Johnson.
I just remember saying, “Look at her.” Because usually,
you look through the mirrors and it’s not clear. I looked
over and there was this beautiful African-American girl.
I said, “Why shoot me? Shoot her.” I don’t think I even
had anything to do. I was of whatever it is, the social
ideal, but that isn’t where my sympathies were…
I’M SURE. CAN YOU PINPOINT YOUR FAVORITE COVER? I have many of them. I was lucky I did a lot, but I did one with daisies. It was an early Vogue cover and I have really big eyes. That’s a great one.
I had some great ones...if you give me your phone number, I promise I will call you back and tell you more.