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Thing Of Beauty
     

Thing Of Beauty

4.3 33
by Stephen Fried
 

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At age seventeen, Gia Carangi was working the counter at her father's Philadelphia luncheonette, Hoagie City. Within a year, Gia was one of the top models of the late 1970's, gracing the covers of Cosmopolitan and Vogue, partying at New York's Studio 54 and the Mudd Club, and redefining the industry's standard of beauty. She was the darling of moguls

Overview

At age seventeen, Gia Carangi was working the counter at her father's Philadelphia luncheonette, Hoagie City. Within a year, Gia was one of the top models of the late 1970's, gracing the covers of Cosmopolitan and Vogue, partying at New York's Studio 54 and the Mudd Club, and redefining the industry's standard of beauty. She was the darling of moguls and movie stars, royalty and rockers. Gia was also a girl in pain, desperate for her mother's approval—and a drug addict on a tragic slide toward oblivion, who started going directly from $10,000-a-day fashion shoots to the heroin shooting galleries on New York's Lower East Side. Finally blackballed from modeling, Gia entered a vastly different world on the streets of New york and Atlantic City, and later in a rehab clinic. At twenty-six, she became on of the first women in America to die of AIDS, a hospital welfare case visited only by rehab friends and what remained of her family.
Drawing on hundreds of interviews with Gia's gamily, lovers, friends, and colleagues, Thing of Beauty creates a poignant portrait of an unforgettable character—and a powerful narrative about beauty and sexuality, fame and objectification, mothers and daughters, love and death.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Boston Globe Stephen Fried has done an admirable job reconstructing Gia's frenzied life...Fried makes a convincing case, through recording Gia's travails, that fetching eyes and a killer body are not enough. This is a chilling tale that every pretty, stupid young thing should read.

Liz Smith Gia's story has everying—glamor, glitz, squalor and tradgedy.

The New York Times Book Review Vivid...The story of Gia Carangi...should be set out among the fashion magazines in modeling agency waiting rooms and any other place where teen-age girls who've been called pretty a little too often hang out...Stephen Fried's exhaustive account of Gia's brief life seems to have an important unanswered quesition on every page: why didn't anyone help Gia?

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Charts international cover girl Gia Carangi's descent from $10,000-a-day modeling jobs to heroin addiction and death from AIDS at age 26. Photos. (June)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671701055
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Publication date:
06/28/1994
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
406,619
Product dimensions:
4.24(w) x 6.92(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

From the Prologue

The newsmagazine anchorman thanks a correspondent for his report on "this fascinating subject of near-death experience," turns to face another camera, and reads the teaser for the upcoming segment of the January 6, 1983, edition of ABC's 20/20.

"Next," he says, "inside the world of the fashion model...a world that is not always as it appears. Right after this."

After the commercial, the anchorman introduces reporter Tom Hoving, who presents a report meant to detail "the dark and anxious side" of the modeling business but manages somehow to make the whole enterprise seem extremely glamorous anyway. There's top model Christie Brinkley being coaxed by a photographer. "Make me chase you," he's saying. "Tease, tease. Look at me like you're naked. That's it. Fabulous." After the shooting, Brinkley—the industry's quintessential blond-haired, blue-eyed California girl—says that she'll never have to worry about money again.

"Models can earn two million dollars a year," Hoving explains in his booming TV-overvoice. "Once you make it, you become a member of an exclusive international club, where the sun always shines, the parties are glowing. A land where there's no ugliness, no sickness, no poverty. A land where dreams come true and everyone is certified beautiful. The club has special fringe benefits. Top model Apollonia knows them all."

"Rolls-Royce, flowers, dresses, limousines, tickets," lists the Dutch-born Apollonia von Raveenstein, a long-reigning queen of the more specialized, dark-haired, European-exotic look. "I mean, anything you want, anything a woman would want, really, just ask."

Flamboyant hairdresser-turned-fashion-photographer Ara Gallant appears, wearing a leather Jeff cap, Mr. Spock sideburns and nearly as much makeup as any of the girls. (In modeling, women are always called "girls.") He is asked to reflect on why the fashion model has such appeal. "They've become a glorified version of what ladies imagine themselves to look like in their fantasy," Gallant explains. "And they set a kind of standard. Without models, women m general would have no guideline with which to identify. So they've become icons, the modern icons."

Hoving then takes the viewer through the cattle-call auditions and explains that there are 7,000 girls in New York who "call themselves models"; 1,500 actually work, and of these, 500 are the "so called 'glamour guns' " who get most of the good jobs. Because his report is focused on New York, he doesn't even mention the international farm system for modeling: the untold thousands of girls enrolled in regional schools, or signed up at local agencies in America and Europe.

Several models attest to how difficult and degrading the grind of traveling and groveling for work can become. Shaggy haired John Casablancas—the president of Elite, the upstart agency that has recently toppled the decades-old studio system in modeling and, almost overnight, tripled the price of professional prettiness—explains that when and if success finally comes, models "have a moment where they appreciate it very, very much, but it's very, very short ... they get too much too quickly."

Then the camera cuts to Francesco Scavullo's studio on East Sixty-third Street. In the reception area, decades of Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar covers shot by the precious, prolific photographer hang high on the white walls. The girl whose face and "bosom"—as Scavullo would say—appear on some of his more recent covers is in the small dressing room being prepared for a demonstration photo session being staged for the TV cameras. Seated in front of a large makeup mirror, the girl doesn't squirm a bit as her face is painstakingly primed, painted and powdered for nearly two hours. She has learned to hold still while her naturally beautiful face and hair are made unnaturally beautiful so that the camera—which sees things somewhat differently than the human eye—will capture her as preternaturally beautiful.

She is Gia. At seventeen, she was a pretty girl from the Northeast section of Philadelphia who worked the counter at her father's luncheonette, Hoagie City, and never missed a David Bowie concert. At eighteen, she was one of the most promising new faces and figures in modeling, discovered by the agency run by sixties cover girl Wilhelmina Cooper and launched in American Vogue by the most influential fashion photographer of the day, Arthur Elgort. Now, at twenty-two, Gia is a member of the elite group of so called top models. At any given moment, there are only a dozen or two such girls, who end up splitting most of the very best editorial advertising and catalog jobs.

Even among the professionally beautiful, Gia is considered special. She is more like the quintessential painter's model—an inspiration, a "thing of beauty"—than a working girl, a professional mannequin. A disproportionate number of the beauty and fashion shots she appears in transcend the accepted level of artful commerce and approach the realm of actual photographic art.

But Gia is legendary in her industry for other reasons, only a few of which can even be mentioned on network television. Her celebrated androgyny is no provocative put on: the female makeup artist who is brushing Gia's lips shiny red is the recurring object of her affections. Her rebellious attitude toward the business—no model has ever come so far while appearing to care so little—has alternately outraged and delighted the biggest names in fashion. And her drug problems have been so acute that if she didn't have that incredible look, she might never work at all: lesser girls have been blackballed for doing once what Gia has managed to get away with many times.

Behind the scenes, where the world of a fashion model is really not always as it appears, Gia has given new meaning to the industry catchphrase "girl of the moment." It usually just refers to a model's popularity among photographers, art directors and ad agencies reaching such a critical mass that her face is suddenly everywhere. But Gia is such a girl of her moment that she is about to become either the face of the eighties, or a poster child for the social ills of the seventies.

While Gia is being photographed by Scavullo in the background—"Great, like that, turn your head over a bit...fabulous, fabulous, laugh, laugh; beautiful, marvelous...smile, if you can smile"—reporter Hoving talks about the supermodel. "A virtual symbol of the bright side and the dark side of modeling," he calls her.

"I started working with very good people...I mean all the time, very fast," Gia says, in a metered tone created by professional voice instructors who are trying to neutralize her unsophisticated Philadelphia accent so she might get into acting. "I didn't build into a model. I just sort of became one."

"Then the troubles began for Gia," Hoving intones, his postrecorded commentary interspersed with edited interview snippets. "The real world became clouded by illusions."

"When you're young," Gia tries to explain, "you don't always...y'know...it's hard to make [out] the difference between what is real and what is not real."

"Particularly when adulated..."

"Innocent," she corrects, "and there's a lot of vultures around you."

"She became erratic," Hoving booms on, "failed to show up for jobs." Then he turns to Gia. "At one point, you got kind of into the drug scene, didn't you?"

"Ummm," she pauses for a long time, as the reporter and cameraman anxiously wait to see if the loaded question will yield a usable sound bite about a still-taboo subject. Gia has been in front of the camera enough times to know how to dodge the question or spoil the take but, finally, she decides to do neither. "Yes, you could say that I did. It kind of creeps up on you and catches you in a world that's, y'know, none that anyone will ever know except someone that has been there."

"You're free of it, aren't you, now?" he asks, even though many on the 20/20 crew believe her to be high on something as she speaks.

"Oh yes, I am, definitely," she says. "I wouldn't be here right now talking to you if I wasn't, I don't think."

"Are you happy with your success?"

Gia thinks for a second, running her tongue across her painted lips. "Ummm, yes," she says. "I am, I am."

"You ... hesitated."

"Well, I just wanted to think about it," she quips back, laughing, trying to defuse whatever poignancy her pause has taken on, now that it has been captured on film and can be offered for individual interpretation to each of the program's fourteen million viewers.

"No, I am happy with it," she says.

Copyright © 1993 by Stephen Marc Fried

Meet the Author

Stephen Fried is a Senior Writer at Philadelphia Magazine. His work has also appeared in Vanity Fair, GQ, and the Washington Post Magazine. A winner of a 1993 National Magazine Award, the Distinguished Service Award for Magazine Reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Clarion Award from Women in Communications, he lives in Philadelphia with his wife Diane Ayres, a fiction writer.

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Thing Of Beauty 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very excited to read this book because I saw the movie and became highly interested in this young woman. Her life was certainly exciting even before she begain modeling. Unfortunatly many aspects of it were not always positive. The book, I feel failed to show that. Once I started reading it, I felt it was more of a book about modeling featuring Gia rather than her bio. It got better toward the end because the author finally decided to focus on her. I wouldn't recommend it unless you are really interested in the 'mechanics' of the modeling field.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a book that tells you what the modeling industry is REALLY like. All of us teenage girls think its glamourous and all but we dont see the dark side. The parts about Gia were really absorbing, but not when they get into the technical parts of modeling. Gia was like a shooting star. She rose up so fast but she came down even faster...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Life, death, energy and peace...beautiful words spoken from a beautiful woman inside and out. Most of us know late Supermodel Gia Carangi's life was a rollercoaster ride full of sensuality and beauty. Yet it's Shocking how it ended in such terrible circumstances. Stephen Fried clearly did his homework to put this Autobiography together. He takes us not only into the fascinating life of Gia Carangi,...but the lifestyle, people and world that surrounded her. The people who knew of her, other models, makeup artist, hairdressers and fashion designers who can recall Gia. We get a chance to see things not through Gia's perspective but through co workers, friends, family members in interviews and articles ect. The ones who witnessed the success of Gia...then her downfall, that was simply too painful to watch. The models who were from her time and also making close to a million dollars a year... don't like to talk about her "she was a party girl, that's all I need to say" says one retired model. They remember Gia and her fast rise to the top in one of the most shallow, narcissistic and cut throat industries that exist...fashion modeling. Living in an era were sex, drugs partying , glamour, rock n roll and disco was at it's prime! And thanks to Wilhelmina Cooper Gia went from a David Bowie obsessed street kid. Punk rocking it out as a tough rebel, switch blade knife in back pocket. To a sophisticated appearing, drop dead gorgeous girl with attitude and charisma like no other, giving her the title "Supermodel" and also the nickname" shooting star"."Once you make it, you become a member of an exclusive international club, where the sun always shines, the parties are glowing; a land where there’s no ugliness, no sickness, no poverty; a land where dreams come true and everyone is certified beautiful!" . Gia could have had it all....and she f*cking blew it! The fast lane wasn't enough....she loved the Heroin needle more. I believe drugs were the substitute for her mother's love she so deeply craved...but was only given to her in small amounts throughout her life. Gia's mother Kathleen was coldblooded and selfish, putting herself before her daughter and neglected her own children. And what Gia didn't know about that glittering world of the wealthy and trendy she got herself into was when it came down to it...they didn't care about you and what troubles you had or what you were going through emotionally. They only loved you when you were smiling. Gia was all alone in that world...that was her reality. This all happened in a time when HIV AID's was still an unkown disease. A time when club studio 54 was more popular than ever and people were partying hardcore. And for those unfortunate ones who were self destructive and careless, it was also a time when the AID's virus ate a lot people alive with no mercy. And Gia just happened to be one of them. Now rather one feels sorry for her or not she brought most of her own demise upon herself due to the poor and stupidly naive decisions she made. Was Gia just a immature irresponsible child, who just happened to get lucky? Or a lost and misunderstood soul, looking for love in all of the wrong places and from all of the wrong people? Gia went from the most desired, pampered and briefly one of the top successful woman in the world to a penniless prostitute junkie and dying of AID's like a nobody. Why didn't anyone try harder to save her? Because all people are selfish. And most likely were not about to take a trip to Hell on earth and damage they're own reputations and hard earned careers while trying to save hers. In the end it didn't matter how beautiful Gia was, because her beauty was her curse. Gia's story is a Cinderella fairytale that ends in a nightmare. But worth the read. 5 STARS!
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Interesting read, but I found the writing style to be difficult.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing it make you think and hopefully open ones eyes on how precious life is and how we shouldnt take things and people for granted
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Fried's attempt to capature the life and ultimately the death of Gia hit a home run. Being an avid fan and intrigued with Gia's life I couldn't put this book down. By including interviews and quotes from Gia's own diary Mr. Fried brings us into the life of a woman who shot to stardom to fast and to soon. Gia ewas a fall from grace unprepared for what the real world had in store for her. Unsure of herself and lacking the guidance of any female role model Gia can never truly be forgotton. Awesome bok and a truly remarkable author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Knowing little more then Angelina Jolie's portrayal of Gia in the 1998 HBO special I was drawn to this book and this young woman. She had humble beginnings and yet fame and fortune was thrust upon her so fast that she spiraled out of control. Gia was a fall from grace. Mr Fried captured Gis'a essence and her love. Completely uninhibited and unrestrianted Gia was and is not going to be forgotten. This book is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered what if.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very interesting, although I felt that more emphasis should have been placed on Gia throughout the entirety of the book, as sometimes the story veered off into a more general overview of the modeling industry itself. So many points of view are taken into account here...everybody knew Gia in a different way, and this author does a remarkable job of expressing Gia's life through the eyes of each individual that has been enlightened by her. A unique individual with so many faces... The only disturbing part of this book was the picture of Gia suffering in the hospital. This book MORE than illustrates the pain and grief she endured both before and during her battle with AIDS---no pictures necessary---Think about it---If you were her would you want people to see you at your weakest point?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I personaly loved this book, Thing of Beauty. It touched on everything in Gia's life, and i loved that aspect of it. it's an amazing tragic story of love, drugs, loss, and death. after reading this book, Gia has become one of my biggest idols; not an idol for me to become a super model or drug addict, but for me to be strong, and stand up for what i believe in. also the fact that she was a lesbian is also truly amazing, i idol her for beauty, strenght, and being a proud homosexual. i highly reccomend this book to everyone
Guest More than 1 year ago
I believe that this book is great in telling you the best and worst parts of being a model. Before I read this book i thought that being a model must be the best thing in the world and I wanted to be a model. After reading it i realized that everyone looks at you like you the best person in the world but truely they have no idea what can haunt you deep in side.
Guest More than 1 year ago
after reading this, i felt like i knew Gia. through all her ugliness, there was this true beauty inside her that drew me closer to her. stephen fried did a wonderful job teaching the audience of the world Gia was surrounded by along with giving us a detailed description of her life and all her ups and her many more downs. you'll be touched for years by the story of a girl who will become your own.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the plot was worth the read although fried's writing style was a bit too detailed. a must read for anyone interested in the fashion industry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the best book that I have ever read. Stephen Fried is THE most talanted writer-if he wrote a dictionary, I would buy it. This is a MUST read, I guarantee that you will not be able to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book's very interesting. It tells about how she became famous and how quickly she became a 'nobody' after doing too much drugs. A book that everyone who aspires to be a supermodel should read. Hah.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a sad glimpse of what unguided ambition can do to a person. Gia was a sad example of a product of the family values of the 70s. Parents who refused to correct their children's mistakes, who turned the other way when their children cried for help, who mistook being blind to their children's needs to being liberal and open minded parents. It's a book about an era that passed leaving so many scars. When Americans tested the brink of reality and morality- and they lost! What a sad book!