Betting on Kim
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD FEGLEY
Sean Connery, Bob Fosse, George Plimpton and other seasoned' girl watchers have pledged allegiance to sexy miss Basinger.
Photos: As a lacquered Revlon goddess and cover girl (above), Kim always considered her modeling career "just a means to an end." The real Kim (at left) was photographed by playboy's Richard Fegley in Hawaii. And here's the way she is; indomitable, a natural. Next, she hopes to cut a record singing her own songs.
Photos: Advance word on Never Say Never Again calls Kim "enigmatic" and "vulnerable" in her role as the elegant Domino, opposite Sean Connery's James Bond (left). Bodes well for those of us who saw her star potential long before Bond beckoned. Kim also sees the Bond epic as a major career breakthrough.
Photos: You can take the girl out of the back country, but there's still some down-home simplicity that enhances Basinger's beauty. Which may be why she earned critical kudos on TV in Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold (top) and as a hooker in From Here to Eternity (above). Below, Kim with Charlton Heston in the theatrical film release Mother Lode.
Photos: Pensive in private, Kim confesses that "my ultimate dream is to be one of the first pioneers to set up housekeeping in space." On location with photographer Fegley (here and opposite page), she displays the free spirit expressed in many of her poems, notably one that reads, "Crystal Indian lady running wild through the pass—better watch where you stumble, you're fragile as glass. . ." Incandescent, too.
Photos: Sand, sun and all that glitters lend radiance to this golden girl from Athens, Georgia. Kim (overleaf) wets down, ready to go with the flow when the tide turns her way.
Just because she’s blonde with her big blue eyes,
She can’I really help it; she was born with that disguise.
But try to tell the women that, and try to tell the guys
How many tears have fallen from those big blue eyes....
personality by Bruce Williamson that lyric is from a song titled Birthmark, one of hundreds written by blonde, blue-eyed Kim Basinger, who has had precious little to try about lately. She’s lucking out as Domino, Sean Connery's ladylove in Never Say Never Again, which will bring Connery back to the fold (not to mention the gold) as James Bond.
Born in Athens, Georgia, Kim grew up in a family of seven children and describes herself as "a rebellious loner and painfully shy girl” who bided her time by writing poetry while looking for a way out. She got out of Georgia by winning a Miss Breck contest, became a Ford model in New York and wound up “making lots of money, lots of music and lots of mistakes."
Next stop: Hollywood, where she turned down an offer to join Charlie's Angels because she didn’t want her wings clipped by a long-term contract. In 1978, she won the lead in Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold on TV, then triumphed as the winsome hooker Lorene in NBC's hit miniseries based on From Here to Eternity. Still, she hadn't become a household word- Her first feature film was the 1980 Hard Country, with Jan-Michael Vincent; her next, Mother Lode, with Charlton Heston. Neither has received wide distribution.
By the time her Bond opus opens in the summer of 1983, however, the wide world will know what I sensed the first time I met her—that Kim is a one-of-a-kind girl who's destined to go places and determined to get there on her own terms. It was a critical colleague, Judith Crist, who alerted me to her beauty, talent and natural chemistry; she'd reviewed Kim's Centerfold performance on TV and kindly phoned to say, in effect, "Oh, boy, have I got a girl for you.”
That started wheels spinning, and long before the Bond wagon had taken her aboard, playboy’s editors had approved the plan to test my own hunches about Kim Basinger by exposing her portraits, her film footage and/or her provocative immediate presence to a list of connoisseurs. The results are impressive.
France’s star-making director Roger Vadim met Kim and reported, “She has this quality—absolutely indispensable for an actress, specifically for a beautiful actress—which is not to know that she’s beautiful.”
After seeing her first movie and chatting with her, glamor-industry mogul Vidal Sassoon offered, “She's a positive, positive delight. ... I think we have the makings of a star. First of all, she has the most sensual lips in the business.” Veteran Hollywood make-up man Allan “Whitey” Snyder, who worked his magic on such beauties as Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, said, "When you first meet a girl, you know she’s got style or she hasn't. Kim has it."
And after studying a portfolio of her photographs in far off Rome, cinematic maestro Federico Fellini summed up his impressions; "She is abstract femininity . . . the prototype of a galactic New Woman.”
Thus encouraged, we went on to recruit a blue-ribbon trio of gentlemen with solid credentials in the art of appraising remarkable women, both in public and in private. Their testimonials follow.
Sean Connery, a certified superstar, had six James Bond adventures under his belt before he packed it in as Ian Fleming’s hero (for the second time) more than a decade ago. But the aptly titled “Never Say Never Again” brings Connery back for a seventh 007 role. It will be a screen showdown with his most successful successor, Roger Moore, who’s simultaneously starring in another Bond film, “Octopussy.” Barbara Carrera was signed early on to play the bad girl in “Never," but finding a Miss Right for Bond seemed not an easy task. Sean reports that it turned out to be easier and far more pleasant than expected.
Having casting approval on a film is a two-edged sword. I wanted the best for all the parts—underline best—and I’m glad to say we got the best. Having rehearsed with Kim, filmed with her and seen the early results, I can say she’s terrific, the kind of totally professional actress I enjoy working with.
She had come well recommended by Talia Shire, another splendid actress, who is also the wife of the film's producer, Jack Schwarzman. As if that were not enough, fate gave a gentle nudge in the right direction by putting Kim in the same hotel I was in when she came to London—quite unbeknown to me— to test for the role. My wife, Micheline, encountered Kim in the lobby, had no idea who she was, yet described to me in detail the stunning girl she had seen who would be perfect for Domino. The rest, I suspect, is already on its way to becoming cinema history.
George Plimpton is the world's most avid and articulate collector of vicarious thrills, the peripatetic Paris Review editor, writer, actor (most recently in “Reds") and man about town who once photographed a Playmate candidate. He had never before, however, interviewed a gorgeous up-and-coming actress for a playboy pictorial—an assignment he jumped into with typical zest and sportsmanship.
We met in the patio of the Polo Lounge—a Sunday, I think it was, and crowded, so that the tables under the parasols were taken—and we sat in the bright sun for lunch. Appropriate enough. Kim’s an outdoor girl. Pale eyebrows. Her hair is extraordinary—heavy, textured, straw gold, the bulk of it cascading over one shoulder. She is in constant attendance to it: a hand to it here, a shake of the head to clear a strand from before her eyes. What I liked first about her was that she had very little to say one way or another about the Polo Lounge. We could have been sitting together on a park bench in Wichita rather than in Beverly Hills. In fact, she had never been in the place before— bizarre, considering that any aspiring actress makes a pilgrimage there at least once. She told me later that she had breathed a small sigh of relief when she left: The large table next to us where everybody was speaking French made her uncomfortable; when she reached home, up in Topanga Canyon, she had gone swimming with her dogs.
There is very little of Hollywood conformity about Kim. She does not go to parties—having had her fill of them, she told me, when she lived in New York City, modeling. She had arrived there from Athens, Georgia, when she was 17— that gold hair of hers hanging to her waist. She was spotted in the airport by Bill Mathis, the New York Jets football player. She was very funny describing how he tried to strike up a conversation—edging over, very shy, quite red-faced and talking so fast that she could barely understand him. He offered her a ride to the city. She told him that the last words her family had said were, "Don't get into a car with anybody!"
“I am a very respectful man,” Mathis had said, shifting uneasily, standing there in the airport rotunda. After all, he was from Georgia himself. He went on to say that he actually knew Eileen Ford, the head of the famous modeling agency that was going to represent her.
“I swear to God,” Mathis had said, "I know everybody in New York. You can trust me.”
Football players turned out to be her particular friends and guardians during her years in New York—Mathis (who did drive her into the city), Tucker Frederickson, Joe Namath. Very protective. They’d call and ask, "Has anybody attacked you?"
Kim became a hugely successful, eye-catching model for Clairol, Revlon, Maybelline, Cover Girl, Yamaha, a whole range of products—"You name it.” she said—for which she got paid up to $I000 a day.
But always during that cornucopia time, she was determined to sing and act. She was an apprentice at the Neighbor hood Playhouse. One day, after ten years of modeling, she said. "I'm not going to work today.” and—with four dogs, a cat and a New York actor she described to me as Romeoish—crossed the country in a jeep and arrived in California. The first part she tried for was the Fay Wray role in the De Laurentiis King Kong. It didn't work out. Parts she was offered— in Charlie's Angels and two James Bond movies, including Moonraker— she turned down as inappropriate: her first big role was in Hind Country. I went to see it not long ago, intending just to stop by the screening room for ten minutes, so I’d recognize her when she turned up in the Polo Lounge. I ended up staying for the film’s length. Kim is asked to do a great deal in the film, displaying an enormously emotional range from despair to high spirits.
About the only thing she does not do in Hard Country is sing, which is surprising, since she told me her great ambition was not only to sing but to write songs. She said she had entered 12 songs in the American Song Festival. I wondered—though not aloud—whether the judges wouldn't think her a mite aggressive, sort of stuffing the ballot box. But that is her nature—determined and to hell with the proprieties.
Very busy and ambitious. And yet her material longings are very few: to own a guitar and a swimming pool and to keep her dogs. Those dogs! The carpet at Kim’s must seem to rise when guests come to call. It's not just that there are so many (six) but that the dogs are either very large—a Malemute and a Siberian husky, a golden retriever—or very small: two Pekingese and a Shih Tzu.
Kim swims nude with Elvis (the Male-mute) and the retriever. She doesn't enjoy swimming in other people's pools, she told me. because she has to put on a bikini. "It's weird, weird,” she said, "putting on a bikini."
“Oh?” I asked.
“It’s the pits. That's the truth, man.”
That's the way she talks sometimes, when she gets excited—that brash New York-bop/Sixties lingo. And then, when she doesn't understand a question, she tilts her head and asks, "Sir?" with that lovely formal politeness of her Southern heritage.
“Why did you, er, ah, pose for playboy?” I asked. "I mean, should an actress, er, ah..."
I liked her answer when I put the question to her more clearly: She posed nude because during all those modeling years, she was inevitably performing on behalf of Revlon or Maybelline or a lingerie company. "They never photographed me." she said. Well, that was straightforward enough.
I hadn't known that Kim was married. It came out in the conversation. She kept referring to “we” and “us”—"our" home up in Topanga Canyon. For a while, I thought (and hoped) the collective referred to the dogs, perhaps: but after a bit, it emerged that she was referring to her husband. He is Ron Christian, from a famous Hollywood make-up-artist family. His father. Whitey Snyder, was Marilyn Monroe's make-up artist, and, in fact, prepared her after her death for the funeral.
Kim wants to play Jean Seberg if anyone is clever and forthright enough to do a film adaptation of that girl’s life. I hate to think of all that tawny gold hair being cropped to the shape of her head, the way Seberg liked it and the way she had it in Breathless, but Kim would be wonderful.
She can resist the feeling of being lost in Hollywood’s competitive struggle. She has her strong defenses. She showed me a necklace given to her by her husband, two hearts on a gold chain, with the inscription Je t’aime sûr tout quand je te l'exprime le moins—“I love you most when I express it least.”
ff you can be assured of that, you're in fine shape out here.
Boh Fosse, the protean director-choreographer who has conquered Broadway and Hollywood with aplomb, from “Lenny” to his Oscar-winning "Cabaret” and "All That Jazz" is also famous as a connoisseur of beautiful, talented ladies. His next film will be "STAR 80," based on the story of Dorothy Straiten. His very personal report on Kim follows.
I started walking. I thought her hotel was only four blocks away. It turned out to be eight, (t was hot. Trickles of sweat were running uncomfortably down my ribs, which reminded me that my doctor said I should take off five pounds. My shoe was rubbing a blister on my toe. That very morning, the banks had dropped a full one and a half percent on six-month savings certificates. Whatever savings I have are in those accounts.
It was one of those chic hotels on Madison Avenue that turn me off. The snob with the strange accent at the desk wasn’t sure there was a Kim Basinger staying there. Five minutes later, he confessed that she was registered and that the delay was due to my mispronunciation of her name. Thanks a lot.
The house phones were all busy. Long conversations in several languages; nasty looks at me, also in several languages. What the hell am I doing here? I saw Kim in a picture called Hard Country. I liked her—a lot. I thought she was a good actress. I saw some photos. She looked pretty. But don’t most actresses look pretty in photos? Bruce Williamson had asked me to see her. I like Bruce. As much as any film director can like any film critic. But I wasn’t sure I liked him this much! My toe was really hurting. I was just about to say “Screw Bruce Williamson! Screw Kim Basinger!” and walk when I got her on the phone.
“I’ll be right down.”
It’s been my experience that when a young, pretty actress from California says “I'll be right down,” she really means, "I have several phone calls to make. I'll finish this joint, meditate awhile, eat some nuts and raisins, brush on some mascara, audition two or three different jump suits, and then I’ll be right down.”
Not so. Kim was right down. Long blonde hair flying, she walked directly toward me. I couldn't help noticing that every man and woman in the lobby was looking at her and then at the object of her walk—me. I stood up a little straighter. She’s tall. Then, with a mouth that would turn a leader of the Moral Majority into a heavy breather, she said, "Bob?" My toe stopped hurting.
The next couple of hours flew by. We both ordered coffee and didn’t touch it. She talked about her time in New York, her childhood in Georgia, about acting, about dancing, about success, about trying to be a good actress. Flirtatious? Well, maybe a little, but she also talked glowingly about her marriage.
She totally captured me. She’s a charmer! She has, in my opinion, that special quality most actors pursue with an unpleasant zest but only a few possess. Directors, producers and casting directors try to explain that particular quality using such words as vulnerable, sexual, intelligent but usually wind up saying, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s just something special."
She has it. I left her not giving a damn about my bank accounts, determined to take off five pounds immediately, liking the hotel and thinking that Bruce Williamson is one helluva nice guy. Even if he pans my next picture, I don’t care! Well, maybe my enthusiasm is causing me to exaggerate a little.
Anyway, we exchanged phone numbers when we parted. I’ve already lost hers. But I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding her. I think she’ll become a star.
[Source: Playboy Magazine, February 1983, P.83-90, 170-171. Copyright © 1983 Playboy. All rights reserved.]