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Jerry Hall: The Girl Can’t Help It

Jerry Hall just can’t help being a full fledged star. With her wildly successful reality show on VH-1, Kept.And now with the new London musical hit, High Society, and frankly, just about anything else she desires.The blonde bombshell from Mesquite, Texas is a true powerhouse and reveals, in an exclusive interview with us, the ins and outs of her success… and going from small town to a big life.

“Daaaahllling, how are you? You sound diviiiiinnne.” It’s Jerry Hall on the phone with a purring voice that could easily conquer more ships than Helen of Troy. I missed seeing Hall when in I was London recently, since she was here in Texas at the same time visiting her sister in Gonzales. Gonzales a tiny town in South Texas that’s so small if you sneezed, all of the Main Street would probably bless you. And it’s also where Hall was also born. She was in my state and I was in her London. Darn the luck. We made up for it with a long telephone conversation about life, love and the pursuit of glamour. And, of course, I fell completely under her hypnotic spell. That’s because we all know her as a fascinating supermodel and actress, and for Hall, there seems to be no expiration date to her sexiness.

All that sexiness had to start somewhere. In 1958, when she was two, her family moved from her birthplace of Gonzales to Mesquite, where she spent her youth. Mesquite is a small town outside of Dallas, and as a girl who grew up with humble origins, she moved past it as quickly as she could. “I read a lot of Hollywoodmagazines and dreamed about going away,” she admits. She was one of five daughters, including a twin sister, Terry Jaye. At 16, Hall left small town Texas to pursue a modeling career in Paris, with a nothing but a pocketful of dreams and a travel bag full ofFrederick's of Hollywood-inspired knockoffs sewn by her mother. She loved those early days as the new “It” girl in Paris, and waxes poetically about them, “It was great. You know, I was quite serious about the work. I’d joined the Ford Agency run by Eileen Ford. I never drank or took drugs and I studied books on poses, loving Paris for all its talk of art.” Hall goes on to say, “I then became part of the nightclub set and was introduced to the photographer, Helmut Newton. And ended up on the cover of French Vogue. Then Newsweek wrote a story on this Texas girl taking Paris by storm.”

And the rest is modeling history. Page Parkes, founder of Page Parkes Models in Houston and Dallas reflects by saying, “She started in Paris when American girls were the talk of the world like Brazilian or Russian girls are now.” Hall continues, “I was lucky enough to work with some of the best photographers of our time: Scavullo, Avedon, and Penn.. In Paris I worked with the greats, too - Hurrell, Horst, David Bailey, and Guy Borden.” Her current modeling agent and close friend, Neal Hamil of the Ford Agency in New York says, “Her beauty. Her body. Her attitude on the runway and in pictures. She understands it all. So many girls think modeling is so simple; that if they are pretty, tall and just stand there and smile, then they’ve got it made. Well they could not be more wrong. Every model should work with Jerry for an hour.”

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With her Texas beauty and smarts (she reportedly has an IQ of 146) she soon added British rock star Bryan Ferry to that ever-growing list of accomplishments. Making thousands of dollars a day as a top model as the face for Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium perfume, and as a Revlon girl, she was now dating the talented Ferry in the heady 1970’s. She even appeared on the cover of his hit 1975 album, Sirens. It was art imitating life again, while the emerald city of Manhattan turned out to be the best move for Hall after her stint in Paris. The six-feet-tall, globe-trotting Texas girl appeared daily in the gossip columns aimed toward a celebrity-hungry 1970s world. The Studio 54 days. Livin’ huge. Hi, Calvin. Hi, Liza. Hi Halston. “God, that was a fabulous time. I was what, 18 or 19, hanging out with Andy Warhol. Neither of us drank, so there we’d sit with our Perrier’s. Can you imagine?,” she confided. “I adored it. It was so much fun and I met every movie star there was. And people like Nureyev and Barishnikov. You know, I’d only read about them – then I got the chance to know them.” Houstonian Becca Cason-Thrash complements that by saying, “The Jerry Hall we all know did not happen by accident. She set her sights high at a very early age to become a star. She knew her gift - that being a long, tall Texas beauty in the middle of the Paris fashion scene of the 1970s would catch the eye of many, none the least of which was Mick Jagger - the biggest rock star in the world.” Yes, and then there was Mick.

Mick Jagger, lead singer of the legendary Rolling Stones rock band, swept Jerry Hall off her feet. At 20, she left Ferry for Jagger, with whom she’d spend be the next two decades. That was in 1979, when she fell for the 36-year-old Jagger, whose marriage to first wife Bianca was unraveling. In 1980, she found time to appear in the quintessential film about Texas in that era, Urban Cowboy. Then in 1984, she gave birth to the couple’s first daughter, Elizabeth Scarlett, and a year later son James Leroy Augustin was born. That same year, 1985, she released her autobiography, Tall Tales.

Hall and Jagger were together for more than a decade when they married in 1990, and a third child, Georgia May Ayeesha soon followed. Firmly ensconced into motherhood, Hall cut back on the modeling and took up acting more seriously, a natural progression from merely dabbling in it. “You know, I used to be on Andy Warhol’s cable access show in New York and loved it because I was one of his muses,” she discloses. In 1986, she hosted Saturday Night Live, and in 1989 appeared in the film Batman and in 1994, Princess Caraboo, along with appearances in minor films along the way. Her 22 year partnership and marriage with Jagger, was annulled by a British High Court judge in 1999. Hall and her children now live in the multi-million dollar home in London's posh Richmond Hill, and Jagger bought the place next door.

She says the children (her fourth child, son Gabriel Luke Beauegard, is now seven) adore Jagger and are all musically talented. She explains, “They all live here and upstairs they have their music studio. I love that music is important to them.” She goes on to say, “To me sharing meals together is important, too. And I always tell them ‘I don’t care what you do, just find the thing you love to do and do it.’” Since Jagger, she dated George Waud, a film producer, and banker Tim Attias, both Brits. Hall is living proof that survivors are strong. Neal Hamil knows this about Jerry from personal experience and says, “’Darling, always come from a place of love,’ she’d tell me in some dark hours we’ve both experienced. I will never forget it because it truly changed me. Deeply. I have heard her voice in my head speaking those words a trillion times. When I want to lose my temper or have a bad knee-jerk reaction to something or someone, I hear Jerry telling me to come from a place of love.” Coming from a soulful place has enhanced her acting talent, too.

Hall discovered her style was perfectly suited to theatre, where she has found great success. Starting with The Graduate, which debuted in London, she then found even more success on the American road tour with her. “Terry Josephson took the book and made it into a play. So the play had a lot of comedy the movie didn’t and when I performed it in Austin, I got a standing ovation. I loooove Austin.” So when the opportunity for the television series, Kept, was offered to her, she lept at the opportunity. “The series’ producer saw me in the Los Angeles performance in The Graduate. He approached me and said he wanted to do something with a Mrs.Robinson-type character with no script and lots of ad libbing. And that became Kept.” The series was a hit from the start, a show where Hall rides roughshod over the contest for one lucky man who gets a new start in life. Recently, in advance of the show’s debut in the United Kingdom, its promotional posters were banned. Asked why, she said, “I loved it. Was it that naughty? Can you believe they banned it? You saw it. It was me in gorgeous white dress surrounded by 12 men in black swimsuits on leashes. They said it was demeaning. I loved it.”

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Hall seems to have the world firmly by the uh, tail. She’s still controversial, yet her Texas beauty is still legendary by anyone’s yardstick, and she’s a gracious reminder that living well is indeed the best revenge. Just looking at her, she is living proof that 49 is indeed the new 32. She’s lived a heck of a life so far and the fact that there’s not much distance between fast and stop is seen in her breakneck schedule. She’s been conquering the London stage this fall in the revival of High Society. She famously once said about acting in her typical fashion, “I have discovered what it's about, I want to do it more and more. I'm hooked on it. It's better than sex. You can do it eight times a week and still you don't get pregnant.’ And, as they say, it got her to Here. And Here is pretty great these days, since the reviews for both the play and Hall have been outstanding.

She’s developed a legion of admirers, to be sure. Everyone seems to have a Jerry story. One of them is Dominick Dunne, the artful columnist of Vanity Fair, who told me recently, “I've always wanted to know Jerry Hall better than I do. Over the years, I've met her a few times, always in very smart English circumstances - at the Earl of Pembroke's ball at Wilton House, and at Lord Colin Tennant's ball on the beach in Mustique in honor of the late Princess Margaret. Each time we shared a good laugh. I love her looks. She has real presence about her. I admire the classy way she handled the very public ending of her very public marriage to Mick Jagger. But I've never had a real conversation with her. Some day I hope to be seated next to her at dinner. I'm sure we'd have a great time together.” Dallas businessman Brad Kelly recalls the time she crashed one of his parties in the early 1990’s. “She arrived with our mutual friend Twinkle Underwood Bayoud. Jerry’s long blonde mane and even longer legs stepped out of the limousine and when she walked into my home, every man in the room was instantly salivating over her. She seemed unapproachable to many of them that would have remained the case until she dove into my famous shrimp dip and well, immediately put everyone at ease by becoming one of the gang.”

Hall will undoubtedly add to the many stories about her life, and confides, “I’m writing another book.” It’s her way to set the record straight of what’s happened since the last book she wrote at the age of 29. If there’s a secret to Jerry Hall’s success, she states that it might be from advice her mother gave her at an early age, “She told me I should ‘be a maid in the living room. A cook in the kitchen. And a whore in the bedroom.’ I told her that’s fine, but I’m going to hire the first two.” In fact, in Jerry Hall style, that line has recently made the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations.

And as I bid adieu to Hall, she tells me she’ll be in Texas performing in March, if I wasn’t able to return to London to see her in High Society before then. She purrs, “You’ll come back stage and have a glass of champagne with me. Promise you will.” I promised, realizing one never breaks a promise to a woman like Jerry Hall.

Hall Pass – Q&A

Jerry, this is our Luxe issue. What defines luxury to you?

I think luxury has to do with quality of things being well made.

Luxury, I would also think, is a great role like I have in High Society.

It is. I wear fabulous copies of Dior dresses and fabulous jewels.

You’ve been on TV, film and stage – what’s so compelling for actors about theatrical work?

It’s soooo glamorous, darling. Having an audience. And the West End is fabulous. We are at the Shaftsbury, which has 1400 seats. Eight performances a week, for five months. God, I love adrenaline. In theatre there is a real magic that happens. It’s that suspension of belief – you weave the web with the audience involved. And you get different audience reactions every performance. It’s a great ongoing learning process for the craft of acting. For an actor, there is no better.

I hear you hold the Guinness world record of the most theatrical appearances in one night – tell me about that.

I was wild and we filmed it so we’d have proof. I did six West End plays in one night – to promote tourism for the theatre district. I did Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Fame, Blood Brothers, and My One and Only. All in one night. I traveled by motorcycle between each one to make it happen.

Are you still a contributing editor of Tatler magazine, my favorite Brit publication?

I am, and I love having my name on the masthead. I wrote a piece for them about a spiritual retreat with Deepak Chopra in New Mexico. It was quite a comedy. We ate beans for a week. I took my twin sister, who was just divorced at the time. It was our loony spiritual quest.

Most people don’t know you are a twin. Did you play pranks on your dates as teenagers?

We did. Our voices sounded alike, so we’d say weird things to the others’ boyfriend on the telephone. We even switched characters.

Let’s talk about your role in High Society – it’s a classic and everyone should see it when they are in London, right?

I play Mrs. Seth Lord, the mother of Tracy Lord, the main character. The cast is wonderful. A big chorus line – we even have dancing waiters. And lots of men. And I dance in it! It is such hard work and quite exhausting.

It’s really a play about upper-class mores in prewar America. To you, how drastically has that changed from today?

Very drastically. I think good manners are important. I’m strict with my children and I always get compliments them. Really, good manners are just thoughtfulness for others. It’s not just about knives and forks. Pete Townsend told me to write about etiquette - and I might.

In High Society, you play a wife whose husband returns to her. What was your inner motivation for the role?

It’s really about love and forgiveness. Set in the 1950’s, it’s a gentle story for nowadays when we have such a troubled world. The songs are pure Cole Porter and stand the test of time.

Yes, that great Cole Porter score – what’s your favorite song from the play?

True Love. Say It With Gin. I Love Paris. Well, Did You Ever?Riding High. I adore them all.

And I understand you’ve worked with vocal coach for the role – does that help with your onstage confidence?

It really did – it helped my confidence. I’m doing my best and they all seem to like it.

And you also did a spoken word album, I hear.

I did! It was a country recitation by Rachel Fuller, who is Pete Townsend’s girlfriend. – It’s called Cigarettes and Housework. He said ‘I wrote this about you and Mick. And it’s about what happens about a dining room table.’ It debuted at Austin’s South By Southwest Festival and Billboard wrote it was one of their top 10 favorites about the festival that year.

Speaking of favorites, I love your show, Kept. Do you, um, believe in younger men/more mature women dalliances?

To me, everyone can do what they like. Experience is much more fun, darling.

And I hear you are dating again.

I am dating. Very happily dating.

Jerry, fashion insiders tell me you are becoming a fashion maven with your own line of hosiery… why hosiery?

Yes, I love stockings. The line’s called Jerry Hall Stockings by Charnos. They’re very, very glamorous. I designed stockings with seams, some with hearts with go up the seam. And red lace, too. They hold up on the leg and don’t cut into the skin. We’ve already sold 40,000 pairs in England. And a percentage of the sales go to breast cancer care.

I know you get back to Texas, and a friend of mine once spotted you at the Gage Hotel in west Texas. What do you love most about that area?

I’ve been out there several times. It’s a miracle out there with those Marfa lights. There are so many talented artists and I’ve bought a lot of unusual art. I’ve taken the children and we took long trail rides. Texas has those wide open spaces that, to me, are very soul expanding.