At a party for the release of the new film about the legendary, late restaurant FLORENT: QUEEN OF THE MEAT MARKET, I ran into eternal model nova, Pat Cleveland, timelessly gorgeous, as bubbly as ever, wearing a skimpy Stephen Burrows cocktail dress that on anyone else, besides her, at her age, would have been unthinkable. Check out our encounter in GAY CITY NEWS here
Cleveland’s Scandinavian/Black looks, which could be compared to everything from a Modigliani
to an idealized Josephine Baker
(as well as 1930s supermodel, the Javanese Toto Koopman, a favorite of Hoyningen-Huene),
would have been enough to make her a modeling star, but it was her incomparable body language on the runway which gave her mythic status. Where Iman rocked a commandingly sexy, statuesque stateliness, Cleveland was always dazzlingly kinetic, a full-on chameleonic actress on the catwalk, working amusing Pierrot moves in an Issey Miyake oversized draped jumpsuit, pirouetting like a mad top to show off Halston’s swirling balloon skirt, giving you Jazz Age showboating in YSL’s smoking, or being the most demure lady who lunches in Chanel bespoke.
I never tired of looking at her, whether in print – photographed or drawn so exquisitely by the late, great illustrator Antonio Lopez – or in person. Indeed, the 1970s-80s for me were marked by the thrill of seeing her in person at random moments, like Garbo-sightings in New York once were for those particular, devout beauty-worshippers. I recall seeing her striding along Central Park South one sunny afternoon, clad in peach, lacy lingerie, all the better to keep cool; skipping out of an Aretha Franklin concert at Carnegie Hall, fluttering a fan with the excitement of what she’d just seen, in the company of the late designer Willi Smith and his model sister, Toukie; her charming two-night cabaret performance at the Mudd Club, on the stage of which her Adele Rootstien mannequin kept her company; all those breathtaking dance floor appearances at 54, gyrating in a gorgeous Valentino pink chiffon blouse and skintight black leather pants in her own personal spotlight or twirling in Halston’s balloon skirt with her then-lover, model Sterling St. Jacques, to the Village People’s MACHO MAN, of all things. She even strayed from her 54 roost to come downtown to the Paradise Garage one night and I recall her squeals of delight watching Walt Disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY in the screening room at that literal multi-cultural utopia. And then there were quieter moments, like when she and I both toiled for a minute for that pioneering crazy old disco dinosaur, Trude Heller, and we shared a quiet chat in a shabby little dressing room where she had gone to escape the club’s hubbub, a Maximilian sable coat draped over her shoulders.
At a recent Museum of the City of New York panel appearance, she was both eloquent and amusing, especially when this mistress of model movement demonstrated that galumphing horse-y prance of a walk that is now so de rigeur for every fourteen-year-old nonetity on the catwalk these days.
check out this seminal EBONY magazine article by Andre Leon Talley about Pat and her fellow black model sisters here
Feast your eyes:
at Moschino show, working Mickey Mouse and Olive Oyl 1993