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Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Alejandro's Penthouse. He is in the center, Ludmila next to him in one of the parties.

At Alejandro’s Penthouse. He is in the center, with Ludmila next to him

We headed to New York again for the big Fashion Week, staying in a luxury penthouse by the East River across from the United Nations Building– a gorgeous little apartment for my boss, Bud, and me. Although I adored New York, I still had a beautiful home, many friends, and my mother to go back to in Hollywood. Not to mention the dwindling hope of being with Walter. What started with him as antipathy had become a burning love, full of admiration and respect, of course frustration and pain as well, but as the saying goes, there is no light without dark. Inside my heart there was still a light keeping my love for him alive.

At that time in New York everywhere I would go reminded me of the time Walter and I had together. Sometimes the work and social life kept me busy enough to forget him. Every day after work I went for a drink or two, or three. I left my modeling things with my enormous bag in our apartment. In the same building there was a great bar, overlooking Manhattan so I went there, while Bud got ready to go out. If I was very tired then I made dinner in our penthouse, but it was tempting to go out, have some cocaine, dance, and drink all night; especially in that famous discotheque that belonged to the wife of Richard Burton. After a few sniffs and dances we would inevitably start talking about how our day was, and we consistently had two drinks together with my boss Bud who would say, “Why can’t you train the other models to walk like you?” Then he would go home and I still lived up la vida loca (the crazy life) until morning. I would walk to our place with a glass full in one hand (not coffee) and on to the set of my shows. My poor feet had enough activity and so did I. Bud was such a nice person and he let me sleep until the show started and everybody was ready. I would be in a private little dressing room of my own. This treatment only happened when the designer needs your body for his or her creations, and you are a great model on the catwalk or in photos, and you sell every piece of garment you’re showing, then and only then, you will get away with a lot. I was modeling again, all day long and then maybe I would go out to dinner at some really exquisite place. Next day, it was the same routine all over again, for the entire week. Discotheques at night, and modeling all day.

Ludmilas birthday party in her house. Daud  proposing her in front of all her quest and mama.

Ludmila’s birthday party, 1964: Daud proposing to her in front of mama and all the guests

One day we went to work in our showroom, on the 30th floor. As usual when we finished work it was dark already, and the last buyer had left. All of a sudden the lights started going out; we stood by the big window and watched as area after area of Manhattan and greater New York were shutting down the brilliant lights and everything turned pitch black!  People, like us that had stayed late, were just coming out of the showrooms and boutiques, and other people started coming out from everywhere. It was a great commotion, and panic started. None of us knew what was going on? Maybe an atomic bomb attack from the Russians? There was no radio transmitting, no electric power, so now people started walking down the escalators but it was not easy as it is a long way down, besides we were in fear not knowing. It was a very scary moment to say the least.

Thank God Bud and I were healthy and strong, so down we went, all 30 some floors, nervous and not sure what to expect. When we finally arrived to the main floor, Bud went immediately to stand in line with another maybe 50 people or so wanting something from the lobby desk manager of the building hotel. The hotel management was trying to accommodate us with what they had, just some snacks and drinks. The showrooms for fashion week generally are in big flashy hotels. People started playing cards, drinking and talking, not in a real panic anymore, but anxious because no one knew for certain what was going on. The people of New York behaved amazingly well, actually, with no robberies or vandalism. Somehow Bud got help from the lobby manager and put us up in the basement on some cots. Among all this, we met a black man who became our supplier, even offered us some for free. I thought it was kind of him, giving us free cocaine and wishing us a good trip back, and that soon we will see him back in L.A. Later back in Hollywood he did contact us. The great New York Blackout …what an experience!

Now I had to go back to Caracas again, although this time I was going on my own business. I flew down with my portfolio, my composites and my ideas for a show of models in Venezuela. I don’t really know how or when this came about, but there I went with mamachka. We stayed in El Hotel Tamanaco, that is so familiar to me, and where thoughts of Walter suffocate me! With so much going on in my life I thought I had almost banished that memory, but now here I am confronted with all our past, reminding me that I was not cured of his spell, and the pain, anger, and sadness came back to me forcefully. The horrible awareness of what I had done trembled within my body. I killed those innocent souls, and I will have to live with it the rest of my life, paying for my sin– can I ever forgive myself?

Renee called me and asked if I could come to an interview? Everyone wanted to know how this girl from Venezuela made it in Hollywood. On his show was the men who played in the French film “Papillon” and the men from the hit film “Asphalt Jungle”. I really felt like a star in Caracas, it was fantastic! I was someone people recognized and saw on the cover of magazines, with my pictures larger than the President of Venezuela. I was invited to many fancy places, including a very private penthouse party for Mr. Rodriguez. Anybody who was anybody in the society of Venezuela was there, and some of the prettiest ladies too– Miss Venezuela Susanna Duin, Miss Universe, and Miss Mundo!

Of course the party included a very formal dinner under a bougainvillea tree that must have been there since the building was built. It covered the whole outdoor terrace like an umbrella of deep red flowers, and seemed to bloom all year round. The table was laid with exotic seafood dishes, and plenty of wine and champagne but then I went to the bar, like this was not enough!  I had to drink some more and I took a couple of pep pills that were there under the bar top behind the bottles. The bar was next to the terrace, with the living room to the side. The room was very cozy, warm with soft pillows and chairs, wide open French doors and windows, and full of light music. It was just right, with the fragrance of the flowers and the moon peeking in, on this wonderful tropical night of Caracas.

I was sitting in a big cushioned chair, with albums of pictures of famous faces of past visitors on the tables in front of me. One of them I remember is Natalie Wood. That was my favorite bar room in the world. The bar was usually attended by Alejandro himself, when he wasn’t busy in his boudoir making love to one, two or three ladies. Once I “brought a sandwich to a party” on one of my flights down to Caracas. I was picked up at the airport by Alejandro who never goes anywhere, but for me he made a real gesture of friendship and showed up in a black limousine. Once inside the limo, I told him I had cocaine with me. He almost jumped out of his skin! Here he was kindly picking me up, and how scandalous I was! He was a very prominent socialite and from a good family, with a good name to protect. I laughed and told him nothing could happen. Well that is how nonchalant I was about that at the time. Later we became even better friends as he realized what a silly worrier I actually was, with my innocent nature, totally naive and gullible in many ways. We became the best of friends. Ever since that day, I was invited every night to his Penthouse parties, and I met many people there– important politicians, film and TV stars, spies, and people from all over the world. There I met the grand Venezuela maestro composer Aldemaro Romero and Luis Felipe Herrera, my dear friends. I met his father Reynaldo, who was married to a very lovely dear lady, although he had tried to take my virginity a long time. I had an incredible love for that family, pure class in my eyes.  They are probably the most aristocratic and old money family in Caracas, besides the Lord Boulton’s family.

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 Arriving on U.S.A.

Arriving in U.S.A.

Hello New York! I had been there twice already but landing at Laguardia airport was still exciting. To get to our new home at Syracuse we took the Greyhound bus. The air is different to me in New York, smelling of opportunity, success, money, and fame. I was thrilled to be on American soil with my mama so she could see for herself the American dream. The Statue of Liberty stood in front of us, shining for all mankind to come and work for freedom in an honest way.

In Syracuse, we stayed for a couple of days at a friend of mama’s house. Then mama went to work as a waitress, washing dishes at night in an Italian restaurant. I went straight to a local television station and told them how great I was, showing them my pictures dancing on TV in Caracas. A Greek producer director gave me a chance to perform one day on one of his shows. He was Orthodox like me, so we went together to the Greek Church. In no time, he was ready to propose marriage, but I just stalled for some time. I did not want to be married yet! I wanted to be free, although I did like him a lot.

I took a bus to New York and went to see Oleg Cassini, who was one of the favorite designers of the new first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. First, I worked in the showroom, modeling fur coats; I always looked good in fur and in hats. I was 5’8” and half, and weighed only 120 pounds, with big shoulders and a great walk, so I did not have any trouble finding work. But it was only in the showroom, because I had no agent and did not speak English yet. I was still very green, a kid in the biggest city in the world of fashion. But I noticed they were paying much more money to the models with agents who worked the one hour show, than I made for hours of working. I had to stand for hours so they could wrap fabrics around me to create new designs. I will never forget my job in the showroom of “Schwartz Furs Creations”, wearing mink, chinchilla, Russian Savel– Wow! How sensual it was to feel that expensive fur on my skin.

I lived in Riverside with a Jewish widow, in the second bedroom. The place was very small and we could hear everything between the room, so not much privacy.

My niece Vera arrived alone when she was 10 years old. At the airport I picked her up, and my mother came from Syracuse. We had a fantastic two days exploring New York, of course to central park, the Empire State building, and more. My mother went back two Syracuse and Vera stayed with me awhile. She went to work with me and behaved so well, just watching what I was doing and imitating me when we were back at our small room. Poor thing being so far from her parents. Then Galina Fedorovna arrived and they went to Syracuse.

Walter flew in from Caracas to spend a weekend with me, but this little room was no good for us. When he left, he left me 1000 dollars and said, “please take it and do what you think is right.” I took it and I decided to…

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