Robyn Peterson, a top model from Miami, has matured into a middle-aged fashion tipster with the splendidly unwholesome, raunchy appeal of an Angela Dickinson or a Kathleen Turner.
Her 80-minute show, coming to the Arts from the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, is part memoir, part cautionary tale, but mostly very well written and delivered with a nice swish in the tail and an irrefutable sense of authority: this woman has lived a life, and is obviously still living it.
She leaves Miami Beach – once described as “where neon goes to die” by Lenny Bruce – as a sixteen year-old, her mother’s advice ringing in her ears: “Keep your knees together and watch your handbag.” And on her first night in New York, she’s accosted by a photographer at a pizza stall and ends up in his studio on a waterbed smoking a joint and having sex.
This information rings true in essence but is probably condensed for effect. But as Peterson advertises her show as the story of the bare-bottomed model who lost her knickers in Paris, I think we get the picture. Mostly, though, the pictures that are flashed up in Tony Abatemarco’s nifty production are evocative period snaps of the heyday of haute couture, climaxing in the famous Vogue topless study by Helmut Newton.
Peterson is very good at telling the story behind the picture, and she sketches in hilarious lightning images of a speechless Yves Saint Laurent, a hysterical Karl Lagerfeld (when she snaffles a bikini from another girl’s rail and then goes down the catwalk with a dress on back to front) and the inscrutable, dominating Newton.
The Vogue cover marked her comeback – at the age of twenty-six. By then she had survived a marriage to a photographer husband (unnamed) who freaked out in Nice while she posed as Fay Wray with a bunch of monkeys waiting for King Kong to come along.
Elegantly attired in a wonderful white blouse and black satin slacks, she proves fascinating company, suggesting that women should keep their thighs in shape by copulating on top; you feel she really does know whereof she speaks. In the end, the show’s a bit skimpy: surely it should be developed into a stage play, if not a feature movie.