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Topic: Jerry Hall interview Return to archive
November 20th, 2004 09:24 PM
Hannalee In the Sunday Times:

Interview: Cosmo Landesman meets Jerry Hall
My favourite man is Henry Kissinger

Almost 30 years ago to the day, readers of The Sunday Times would have found one of the first articles in the British press about a 19-year-old Texan “cow-girl” who’d become a “cover-girl”. Her name was Jerry Hall and she was the brightest star on the international modelling scene. Before there were supermodels, there was Jerry. She had glamour that made strong men go weak at the groin.
Since then she has been the face of everything from Roxy Music to Bovril, yoga to sexy underwear. Model, actress, the former Mrs Mick Jagger, socialite, mum, whatever — she’s been there and promoted that.

This is a woman who once said diamonds “last longer than rock stars”. Well, you can borrow Hall’s glamour at a price — these days she’s promoting Goldsmiths’ jewellery — but Jerry’s opinions are her own.

When I tell her Anita Loos — the woman who coined the phrase diamonds are a girl’s best friend — once said: “Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend — a career is,” Jerry shakes that blonde mane in agreement and replies: “That’s what I tell my girls. Forget men. Get a career!”

She is not what I expect. Before long we are discussing the importance of strict boundaries in parenting, why she has always been a natural conservative and how her hero is Henry Kissinger.

But first things first. An informal survey before I went to meet her showed that what most people want to know is, does she really have cellulite? Okay, ladies, here’s the first item of bad news: that famous shot of her alleged cellulite was — Jerry tells me — a fake.

“I’ve never had cellulite. But if it cheered people up at the breakfast table, that’s fine by me.”

And now for bad news item number two: Jerry still looks great despite being two years off 50. She has just recovered from a bout of glandular fever, but looks as if she’s just back from a health farm. Tall and slim, in the flesh she’s much prettier than in photos, less horsey.

Her face is free of the camouflage of make-up. Her hair beams, the skin shines, she’s wearing a dark Dolce & Gabbana suit and Vivienne Westwood cardigan. She looks sleek ’n’ chic.

Talking to her, you soon come to realise she is cool. Not cool in the sense of being trendy, but in the original sense of being cool; a chilled-out woman who is unflustered by the slings, arrows and anxieties of everyday life.

For example, ask a model her age and she will respond with coyness or contempt. Not Jerry. Without missing a beat she says “48”. In the real world that isn’t old; in model world it’s ancient. A 48-year-old model is like a 150-year-old 100-metre sprinter.

Is she freaking out about ageing? Does she worry about how time is slowly chipping away at her looks?

“Nah,” she says in her trademark Southern drawl. “I think it’s amazing that I’ve looked so good for so long and they keep paying me to be a model!”

We’ve had Jerry Hall the glamourpuss but what happens when she becomes Jerry Hall the granny? (She has four kids and Elizabeth, her eldest, is 20.) Is that a day she’s dreading? “Hell no,” says Jerry, “I can’t wait to be a gran.”

Recently a survey identified a group of women — gay divorcées in their fifties — who instead of settling down to a drab life of celibacy and singledom were zooming around letting their hair down. They date. They drink. And do things that make their children blush.

Does Jerry believe in growing old gracefully or, like the new generation of “groovy grannies”, does she think it’s better to grow old disgracefully?

“I think you should grow old gracefully in public — and disgracefully in private,” she says with a chuckle.

That pretty much sums up her former husband Mick Jagger and that whole generation of 1960s rockers. Unfortunately their private affairs end up very public matters. Is it time that lot grew up?

You won’t get a bad word from Jerry about Mick. While some see an ageing lothario who should hang up his lips and retire gracefully, Jerry sees a “great father” to her kids.

Still, the mind boggles at the possibilities of Jerry behaving disgracefully in private. This is the woman who has ended up in the Collins Dictionary of Quotations for saying: “My mother said it was simple to keep a man, you must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I said I’d hire the other two and take care of the bedroom bit.”

“Would you care to elaborate on that, Jerry?” I plead.

“If I did,” purrs Jerry, “it wouldn’t be private, would it.”

But isn’t it a bad thing that grown-ups refuse to grow up?

“It is for young people,” says Jerry. “They’ve got nothing to rebel against, so they have to go farther and farther out.

“A lot of young people seem a bit lost and they’ve got all these problems with anorexia, drugs and dressing up like tarts when they’re 11. It’s scary!”

So what are perplexed parents to do to help their kids? I was expecting Jerry to take a classic liberal “give your child space to grow” line. For at one point she tells me: “I’ve always said to my kids, ‘I don’t care if you do good in school.’ I never looked at their school grades.

“I said, ‘I don’t care if you get a job or make money, you can always live with me. What I care about is that you find the thing in life that you love and I’ll support you 100%’.”

How’s that for a laid-back mum? But she also has a deeply traditionalist view of parenting.

“You need to be strict and set boundaries and not approve of drugs and getting drunk,” says Jerry.

“You need to set a good example to your children and have good morals.”

This is not exactly the sort of thing you would expect from Miss Rock Chick herself, let alone a woman who was companion to Mick Jagger for so long.

So I ask, have you become a little more conservative with old age?

“I’ve always been that way,” she insists with a smile.

Hold on a sec. Is this the Jerry Hall who in the 1970s used to hang out at New York’s Studio 54 (then the most decadent nightclub in the world) with Andy Warhol’s crowd of transsexual coke-sniffing freaks?

Is this the Jerry Hall who dated and dumped Bryan Ferry and married Mick Jagger? Jerry Hall who was busted for drugs in Barbados and later acquitted?

Jerry is adamant she never was a rock chick.

“I’ve always been really straight. I was never as wild as everyone else in the rock world. Casual sex was never my thing. And I’ve never taken drugs. I used to sit next to Andy Warhol in Studio 54 because Andy never took drugs either.”

She may sound like a woman in denial — or at least one with a selective memory — but when you think about Hall her style has always been more Veronica Lake and mint juleps than Janis Joplin and Jack Daniel’s.

And yet the image remains. There was the headline-grabbing nudity of her stage appearance in The Graduate and the time the pregnant Jerry was painted naked by Lucian Freud.

But I wonder how her kids feel about having her for a mum? She lives with Elizabeth, James, 18, Georgia May, 12, and Gabriel, 6, in the £6m Jagger/Hall mansion in Richmond, southwest London.

“Elizabeth is really cool about it. She’s doing well as a model, so we talk a lot about fashion,” says Jerry.

“My son Gabriel is cool, too. But Georgia is the one who disapproves. She’s always saying, ‘Mom, that skirt is way too short,’ or ‘Mom, you shouldn’t be wearing those sexy stockings — who’s going to look at them anyway?’ ”

Jerry admits that now she’s older she’s had to be a little more careful about the way she dresses. “I’ve had to tone it down a bit, but I still have fabulous legs and wear miniskirts. I’ll keep wearing bikinis till I’m 80.”

She has been around long enough to provide a good perspective on the pressures that young girls generally — and models in particular — have to face. Have we become a society obsessed with looks?

“I think so. Young girls have always wanted to look good, but things have changed, and not for the better. Everyone wants to look the same. What’s wrong with having a big nose or small breasts? I think small breasts are nice.”

The way she says that I think Jerry wants me to join her crusade on behalf of big noses and small breasts. Instead, I mention plastic surgery, which — judging from her reaction — is a bit like mentioning Satan worship to a born-again Christian.

“All this plastic surgery and pursuit of plastic perfection is awful. It’s freaky when you see these 50-year-old women with these stretched weird faces and Botox — they look crazy.”

Elizabeth has crooked teeth and wanted them fixed, but Jerry advised against changing. But then Elizabeth started modelling when she was 14. Since then she has become the face of Lancôme and done a bit of acting. Recently, insiders in the fashion world have suggested she may be suffering from anorexia.

Jerry is adamant that her daughter is merely “skinny”.

“She comes from a family of skinny people,” says Jerry. “I’m skinny, Mick’s skinny, we’re all just skinny. We have that kind of metabolism.”

She says she isn’t worried about her daughter’s weight: “She eats five meals a day.” But she admits that Elizabeth is concerned.

“She’s trying so hard to put on weight. She has been to see a nutritionist and is on a special diet. I said to her, ‘Don’t worry, wait till your 30 and had a kid, you’ll put on plenty of weight’.”

As for romance, Jerry says she’s not in love but “open to persuasion”. From what she tells me her kids keep a very watchful eye on the men in her life and have power of veto. “They said of one poor guy, ‘But Mom, you can’t go out with him, he’s wearing a belt!’ ”

She has no interest in young men — “What would you talk to them about afterwards?”

Instead she likes brainy guys. When I ask her who is the man that has most stimulated her mind she pauses for a while and goes through her list: “Tom Stoppard . . . Alain de Botton . . . no, Henry Kissinger!”

As I leave I realise the most likeable thing about Jerry Hall is that she’s a very down-to-earth woman — ironic, considering she is most famous for her image.

But with Jerry it’s a case of what you see is what you get. “I think it’s because I have big feet. They keep you firmly on the ground.”

November 21st, 2004 12:22 AM
Night Clerk "less horsey". Heh heh...
November 21st, 2004 10:04 AM
Monkey Woman That's an interesting read! Thanks a lot Hannalee

Still, that bit about selective memory seems spot on. Not that she really tried to smuggled cannabis in Barbados, that must have been attempted extortion. Or so the crooked cop who arrested her admitted in court.

But then of course she was very tolerant of drug abuse around her and did dabble in casual sex -- or she wouldn't have slept with Mick before returning Bryan Ferry her engagement ring!
Mick also tried to initiate Jerry to hallucinogenic mushrooms once, but it made her ill and she never had it again. There are a few more wild stories like that in her book Jerry Hall's Tall Tales. Now out of print, how sad!
November 21st, 2004 11:40 AM
Scot Rocks Henry Kissenger?!!? what!
November 21st, 2004 12:49 PM
Ten Thousand Motels
Scot Rocks wrote:
Henry Kissenger?!!? what!

Really. Big bullshit artist.
November 21st, 2004 06:08 PM
seclusion Should I dare say it? I like Jerry Hall, especially after reading her book. She came a long way and I respect that.
November 21st, 2004 06:17 PM
glencar She's gota great sense of humor & she sounds like a fun night.
November 21st, 2004 10:47 PM
Soldatti Good read, thanks