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When the male model with the perfect abs, wearing little more than a metallic-gold banana skirt and some beads, squeezed by this particular reporter on the stairs, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be just any book launch.
Pat Cleveland’s riotous party Thursday night at New York’s Jane Hotel indeed seemed to blend the best of 1920s Paris with Studio 54, a celebration that was equal parts disco-ball revelry and Josephine Baker charisma. Then again, isn’t that how you would describe one of the world’s most iconic supermodels? “Pat is filled with life, energy on top of energy,” said Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing, who on this night eschewed the suits you typically see him wear on front rows in favor of a studded moto jacket. “And yet there is nothing but love in Pat’s heart. She is the most gregarious, audacious and most sensitive living being I’ve ever met.”
PAT’S PEEPS: Calvin Klein, Zac Posen and Anna Cleveland (Photos: Patrick McMullan)
Downing joined a standing-room-only crowd highlighted by a cadre of fashion designers, including Calvin Klein, Zac Posen and Francisco Costa, to celebrate Cleveland’s memoir, Walking With the Muses (Atria/37 Ink, $26.99), set for release this Tuesday, June 14. The dishy book traces Cleveland’s life from her youth in Spanish Harlem, the only child of a single mother, the artist Lady Bird Strickland, to the runways of Paris, New York and Milan, where she redefined what it meant to be a runway model. “When models were mere mannequins, Pat danced on the runway and had a personality,” Downing said. “She created the supermodel before the idea existed.”
The book’s boldfaced names are plentiful: Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Yves Saint Laurent and more, and kick off with the prologue, in which Cleveland details her crush on Warren Beatty, initiated when she saw him in Splendor in the Grass in 1961; 14 years later, at the age of 25 and already one of the world’s most celebrated models, she met him at a New York gallery opening. Their on-and-off affair lasted six years, she writes.
“He was the most beautiful man — he still is!” Cleveland enthused Thursday night. “Can you imagine seeing someone on the screen, falling in love with him instantly and then meeting him?” Did reality live up to her fantasies? Cleveland grins. “It was better,” she says.
Why was now the time to write her memoir? “I just knew I had a great story to share with the world,” she said. “It’s been an incredible life, filled with amazing people and a lot of love. That’s the story I wanted to tell.”
Cleveland was joined by her husband, the photographer Paul van Ravenstein, her son, Noel, and her daughter, Anna, now an A-list model in her own right. “I met Pat the first year I started my business 15 years ago, and she had Anna with her,” recalled Posen. “We were at Henri Bendel’s, and we spotted each other across a crowded room. Anna was too young at the time, but later Pat brought her to my studio, and my creative partner, Christopher Niquet, and I worked with her as a fit model and with all our look books and photo shoots. Anna had natural magic, but it needed to be honed. And through that she and Pat became part of our family.”
GOLDEN GIRL: Pat Cleveland performing during the party. (Photo: Patrick McMullan)
In a gold plisse gown designed by Posen, Cleveland displayed the sparkle for which she is known by lip-syncing to her own performance of “Tonight, Josephine,” an ode to Baker, whom Cleveland met in Paris in 1973. It seemed only fitting, then, that Cleveland capped the night by surrounding herself with male and female models attired in banana skirts as an homage to Baker’s most famous performance.
“Pat is like a bird: She flutters, she moves, she’s full of life and vivacious,” Posen said. “She understands both the sophistication and the theatricality of life, and that’s a very rare thing. Pat is truly special.”
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