Maggy: Flamboyant mistress of Mistral’s youth, the toast of Paris in the‘20s. Her luminous flesh was immortalized in the paintings that made Mistral legendary.
Teddy: Maggy’s daughter, the incomparable cover girl who lived fast and left as her legacy Mistral’s dazzling love child.
Fauve: Mistral's daughter, the headstrong, fearless glory girl whose one dark secret drove her to rule the world of high fashion and to risk everything in a feverish search for love.
From the ‘20s Paris of Chanel, Colette, Picasso and Matisse to New York’s sizzling new modeling agencies of the ‘50s, to the model ward of the‘70s, Mistral's Daughter captures the explosive glamour of life at the top of the worlds of art and high fashion. Judith Krantz has given us a glittering international tale as spellbinding as her other celebrated bestsellers, Scruples, Princess Daisy, I'll Take Manhattan, Till We Meet Again, Scruples Two, Dazzle, and Lovers.
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Fauve dashed through the lobby, her Stop-sign red slicker flapping around her, and managed to squeeze her way through the elevator doors a split second before they closed. Panting, she tried to furl her big striped umbrella so that it wouldn’t drip on the other people who were jammed in with her, but, in the crowd, her arms were pinned to her sides.
Earlier in the morning Fauve would have had the elevator pretty much to herself, but there hadn’t been a single empty taxi in Manhattan on this rainy September morning in 1975. She’d had to wait endlessly for a bus on Madison Avenue and run the rest of the way across Fifty-seventh Street. Soaking and uncomfortable, she cautiously swiveled her neck around to survey the mob that hemmed her in. Would any of them get off before the tenth floor? No hope of that, she realized. The creaky, ancient elevator that rose so slowly in the Carnegie Hall office building was charged with a palpable cloud of tension and terror. Except for the operator, the small space was packed with young women who were gripped in silent, fierce and frightened concentration. Each one of them had grown up knowing that she was, beyond any question, the most beautiful girl in her high school, in her hometown, in her state.
This elevator trip was the last step toward a goal they had been dreaming of feverishly for years. Before them lay an audition at the Lunel Agency, the most famous of all the modeling agencies in the world, the agency with the most prestige and the most power. Fauve felt the almost unbearable weight of the quivering anxiety and nervous anticipation that palpitated around her, and, closing her eyes, she prayed for the ride to be over.
Casey asked if I’d seen you,” the elevator operator said to Fauve, so loudly that everyone heard him. “She’s waiting for you upstairs.”
“Thanks, Harry.” Fauve hunched deeper into her coat collar, trying to disappear as she felt twenty pairs of eyes immediately turn toward her in a wave of hostile awareness. On each side her profile was being evaluated in naked competitiveness, her neighbors sweeping their glances from her forehead to her chin and finding no flaw. Behind her they were estimating her height and noting, with a misery that vibrated clearly, that she was as tall or taller than any of them. Even in the rear of the elevator there was no girl whose view was so completely blocked that she couldn’t see the conflagration of Fauve’s tumult of hair, of a red so extravagant that it could only be natural.
There was absolute silence as Fauve was inspected.
“You’re a model, aren’t you?” the girl on Fauve’s right asked her, accusation and desperate envy clear in her tone.
“No, I just work there.” Fauve could feel the relief in the elevator as if it were a solid substance. She straightened up, invisible now and blessedly unimportant. As soon as the elevator doors opened on the tenth floor she sprinted out into the corridor and ran through the entrance to the Lunel Agency without a backward glance.
She knew precisely what the girls behind her would do. Each one of them would take her place on the line that had begun to form a half-hour ago for the open auditions that were held three mornings a week at the agency that had been founded more than forty years earlier by Maggy Lunel, Fauve Lunel’s grandmother. Out of the many thousands who auditioned each year, only thirty were accepted.
As Fauve walked rapidly to her office she thought that perhaps one of those girls in the elevator might have the slightest breath of a faint percentage of a chance to succeed. Perhaps one of them had that quality everyone in the agency called “lightning.” How could they know, she wondered, as she pushed open the door to her office on which the sign said, “Director, Women’s Division,” that it had never been enough just to be beautiful?
Casey d’Augustino, Fauve’s assistant, looked up in surprise from the chair on which she was perched, leafing through an advance copy of Vogue. Tiny and curly haired, Casey, at twenty-five, was older than Fauve by several years.
“You look as if you’re wanted by the Mounties,” she chortled, amused by Fauve’s expression.
“I’ve just escaped the furies … got caught in the elevator with a large batch of young hopefuls.”
“Serves you right for being late.”
“How often does that happen?” Fauve asked with mild belligerence, shucking off her raincoat and sinking, with a sigh of relief, into her chair. She pulled off her wet boots and put her feet, in their kelly green tights, on her desk. She always dressed to defy bad weather and today she wore an orange turtleneck sweater and purple tweed trousers.
“Rarely,” Casey admitted, “but no need to apologize, you’re still right on time for the emergency of the week.”
“Emergency?” Fauve looked out through the glass door of her office, her red eyebrows raised in inquiry. Everywhere she looked she saw the normal activity of the agency, dozens of bookers talking into their batteries of phones. As long as the telephones functioned, there could be no real emergency at Lunel.
“Trouble with Jane,” Casey said, looking unnervingly serious.
“Again!” Fauve, who had started to doodle on the pad on her desk, slammed down her pencil with as much force as if it were the gavel of a hanging judge. “After that warning I gave her last week. Trouble again?”
“She was booked for Bazaar yesterday—Arthur Brown was hooting. Bunny, his stylist, called first thing this morning, absolutely livid …”
“Did you know that livid means black and blue?” Fauve interrupted hastily, not anxious to have her already harried day utterly ruined by hearing the latest about Jane, Lunel’s top model, a girl who worked only under her plain first name, needing none of the catchy, inventive appellations of others, for she was the best blue-eyed blonde in the world, possessing a cataclysmic beauty about which there could be no ifs, ands or buts. It was all there with Jane, locked into the bone, irrefutable. She was the only model Fauve had ever known who was completely satisfied with how she looked, insufferable Jane, who knew she was perfect.
“Livid as in furious,” Casey went on. “Jane showed up two hours late yesterday which Bunny had anticipated, since she’s always late. So that wasn’t the problem. Her hair was filthy. That wasn’t the problem either because the stylist washed it. She proceeded to mortally insult the makeup man but he forgave her because he’s heavily into being insulted. Then she felt too shaky to work because she hadn’t had lunch so they fed her, sending out for three different kinds of yogurt before she was happy. After that she had to make a half-hour phone call to her personal astrological adviser. All par for the course, so far. The thing Bunny was livid about was that after fawning over Jane all day Bazaar still didn’t get the picture. She wouldn’t let them cut her hair.”
Fauve leapt to her feet, her lovely, vivid face a study in disbelief, her great gray eyes wide with outrage. “Jane knew it was a beauty editorial. She knew they had to cut her hair two inches—that was the whole point. Damnation! The difference in hair next season is a mere two inches—I had it all out with her last month when she accepted the booking.”
“Ah, but our Jane changed her mind, you see. Her astrologer told her not to make any changes until the sun moves into Neptune.”
“That’s it! Jane’s got to go. I’m going to terminate her contract today.”
“Oh, Fauve …” Casey moaned, thinking of the next three solid months’ worth of bookings on Jane’s schedule.
“Nope. Jane’s made us look bad once too often. How can I expect the other girls to behave and work hard if I let her get away with this?”
“If you terminate her she’ll be working for Ford or Wilhelmina tomorrow. People will put up with anything to get her—there’s only one Jane,” Casey warned solemnly.
“Wrong, Casey. There’ll always be another Jane, sooner or later,” Fauve said quietly. “But there’s only one Lunel.”
“Point well made. Point taken. Still, aren’t you going to talk it over with Maggy first?” Casey asked.
“Maggy!” Fauve said, astonished. “She’s not supposed to be in today—it’s Friday.” When her grandmother was away on her habitual long weekends, Fauve was in full charge of the business.
“She told me it was raining too hard to go up to the country until tomorrow. The Boss is in her office,” Casey informed her.
“Of course I’ll tell her about Jane,” Fauve said thoughtfully. “Any more emergencies?”
“Only one you can’t do anything about. Pete’s working on it now,” Casey said, referring to the telephone repair man who spent half of every week unscrambling their hundred outside lines and dozens of intercoms. “One of the bookers’ phones is screwed up—she’s getting some shrink’s calls and he’s getting ours. She’s telling everyone to have a good cry, then take a cold shower, two aspirins … and pray.”
“Couldn’t hurt,” said Fauve as she pushed open the office door and headed in the direction of the big corner office where Maggy Lunel had long reigned over the world of fashion modeling.