Luke Blackall: An 81-year-old model with a doctorate in living

Man About Town

The queues were for James Franco. Scores of people packed into a tiny screening room to hear the actor, writer and thinking woman's crumpet. It seemed that even the rarefied crowd at last weekend's Liberatum cultural festival in Berlin, could get a little starstruck. In the end, he was only there for a few minutes, answered no questions from the crowd and granted no interviews to the handful of press there.

This sort of elusiveness (combined with his textbook handsomeness) probably only helps to maintain his creative appeal.

Franco was in fine company in a list of speakers that included the Nobel Laureat Wole Soyinka, directors Stephen Frears and Jonas Akerlund, actress Kim Cattrall, and musician Marianne Faithfull.

To me, the most interesting speaker was Carmen Dell'Orefice, an 81-year-old model. I stumbled into the talk – held in one of the apartments in the local outpost of members' club Soho House – almost by accident, but she kept the room enthralled for an hour.

Warmer than many fashion grandees, but no less authentic, Dell'Orefice's career began in November 1945 (before pretty much everyone else in the room had been born), with her first Vogue cover in 1947.

During her career of being shot by the best in the business, such as Beaton and Parkinson, she should have money enough to have long retired, but has lost all her savings twice, first in the 1980s and then again more recently when she was caught up in her friend Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme scandal. She has since had to start earning again as "money is the muscle of old age," she says.

She was, in her own words, "too old to sell my body" , so she chose instead to sell photographs of it and started modelling again. Her stories ranged from growing up impoverished in the 1930s to acting in Woody Allen movies and were punctuated with a stream of quips, bon mots and humour: "Plastic surgery? I think it's terrific."

Using her "doctorate in living", it was as much a talk from a motivational speaker as it was a discussion about post-war fashion.

By the end, the women in the room wanted to adopt her as an extra grandmother/best friend, while the men were trying to act like they didn't fancy her.

Either way, Franco had some serious competition.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week