39 years ago next month, Barbara Carrera's acting career was just taking off. It would be another six years before she would become Bond Girl Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again, and while that wasn't the end of her career (she went on to star in a whole season of Dallas) it certainly marked the pinnacle. She would also make another appearance in Playboy Magazine, in March of 1982.
Top fashion model turned actress barbara carrera finds that the creatures in her new film, “the island of dr. moreau,” are only human, after all.
pictorial essay By BRUCE WILLIAMSON Metamorphosis looms large in the burgeoning career of Barham Carrera. Changes. Hourly changes, daily changes. Changes of heart. Changes of direction. Take a sharp right turn and shoot for the moon. She'll get there. Just a lew short years ago, she was a top cover girl working through the Ford agency and Wilhelmina—you saw her adorning Zoom, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar, to name a few. Calls herself an international nomad, though she is currently settled in a sunny jungle habitat of a flat in Beverly Hills. And somewhere in her well-worn luggage, she packs a letter from editor Helen Curley Brown, attesting to the fact that Barbara's Cosmo cover outsold everything up to and including the famous issue with the Burt Reynolds nude centerfold. Her Harprr's Bazaar cover photographed by Hiro marked the real turning point, however. "Until then," says dark-eyed, raven-haired Barbara, “the blonde all-American outdoor look was the look everyone wanted. It's what I myself, even as a little girl, thought was the definition of true beauty: blonde, with blue eyes. But after that Hiro cover, the look changed and my career really took off."
Photo Caption: Cover girl Barbara Carrera has an unforgettable face, but it was not always so. "When I first came to New York, my face just didn't fit in. A session with Vogue's Irving Penn ended up with just my back appearing in the magazine." As you can see, below and right, more than her back caught photographer Chris von Wangenheim's eye. One man's oversight is another man's pleasure.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS VON WANGENHEIM
Barbara took off, too. She earns $100 an hour (as a model) on up—way up. She lives in airplanes and the very best hotels. “She also works like a dog." adds Barbara, “and the glamorous life is largely a myth, I once rented an apartment in Paris, but I never had a chance to decorate it, much less live in it.”
A prestigious U. S. casting director kept pursuing Barbara around the world to ask whether she wanted to become an actress. "They were looking for someone to do a remake of Camille. But how could they want me, I asked? I'm just a model, not a professional actress. I said no, yet a seed had been planted in my head.” (text continued on page 200)
Photo Caption: Was photographer Von Wangenheim trying to re-create an X-rated version of I Was a Teenage Werewolf? No, says Barbara. "He set out to capture a beauty-and-the-beast tableau. It is his interpretation of H. G. Wells's Island of Dr. Moreau. Where the film is Victorian, the photos are contemporary. The theme is simply conquest and submission. The man's submission at times, my submission at others." Or, simply, who's on top? This fantasy is unconditionally guaranteed to put hair on your chest, not to mention your palms.
ACTING BEASTLY (continued from page 96)
“‘One woman asked: “Why don’t you, make a blue movie?” People refuse to take a model turned actress seriously.’”
Some time later, she was working and relaxing among some Beautiful People in the south of France when her agent called to say that Tom Laughlin, of Billy Jack fame, had seen photographs and wanted to test her for an important role in The Master Gunfighter. “Everyone laughed, and one woman asked: 'Why don’t you make a blue movie?’ People refuse to take a model turned actress seriously." Which was all it took to propel Barbara onto a plane bound for L.A., instinctively itching to have the last laugh and a good try.
Today, the model-to-movie-queen metamorphosis is complete. Or at least rushing right along. After Laughlin’s film, Barbara co-starred with Rock Hudson in Embryo, a passable thriller for which she won kudos as a rather bloodthirsty temptress produced in a test tube by a miracle of modern science. Frankenstein, eat your heart out! Her latest and most promising vehicle is The Island of Dr. Moreau, a multimillion-dollar film version of the H. G. Wells science-fiction classic, slated for summer release. Burt Lancaster plays the title role and Michael York is a shipwrecked sailor whom Barbara enchants—but ultimately disappoints by effecting another startling metamorphosis from beauty into . . . well, it wouldn't be fair to give away the whole plot. "The girl I play is a total mystery,” says Barbara. “Since it's a period piece, she’s beautifully dressed in the Victorian manner, almost out of place on the island. You don’t know whether she’s Moreau's mistress, his daughter or what. And she's holding this marvelous wild, spotted serval, a kind of cat.”
Movie stardom has wrought some dramatic changes in Barbara’s private life. Formerly married to one of Germany's handsomest male models, from whom she split after a year or so, she has managed to keep the gossip industry abuzz with a series of newsworthy romances. Actor Alex Cord rated high for a while, and they remain good friends (“Alex quit acting several years ago, moved up into the hills and has written two novels"). A liaison with Hollywood superproducer Robert Evans ended on equally good terms, and they still share the services of a celebrated, Rolls-Royce-driving house-boy named Ruble Ray, who does Evans' shirts, takes Barbara gifts of vintage champagne and pays annual visits to Brigitte Bardot. (He was formerly employed by the Wrigley family and by Howard Hughes, and only in Beverly Hills do you find a houseboy like that.) Although outsiders may tip you that Barbara’s most durable love interest is European nobleman Maximilian von Bismarck, heir to a German dynasty with power and money as rock solid as castles on the Rhine, Barbara stays mum on the subject of Max. “I don't talk about this,” she demurs graciously, “except to my closest friends."
Her close friends are few, she notes. “People think I'm very aloof, because I choose carefully. Also, I cherish a sense of mystery, and to open up I have to trust someone very much. When I'm in love, it's something else. Always like a tremendous magnet, uncontrollable. I'm not attracted to men often or easily, but once I fall, I fall flat, with nothing held back.”
Riddles within riddles are the clues to the Carrera mystique. Born in Nicaragua, shuttled to convent schools and “different people" in different countries after her parents divorced, she went from riches to rags (“what they call genteel poverty, I suppose") and back again. Along the way, she learned to speak five languages fluently and shrugs with exquisite boredom about published hints that she is actually Puerto Rican. At least one journalist, trying to drum up a feud between Barbara and Bianca Jagger, cited alleged jibes about the Carrera family heritage. "Being asked about this is beginning to bug me a little,” admits Barbara, bemused but ready and willing to display a U.S. passport marked "Birthplace: Nicaragua." "I’m the first film star from Nicaragua, though I left when I was just a child, and I don’t even know Bianca Jagger. In any case, it is not where I come from that’s important. It’s who I am that matters. God, you can see the Indian in me. There are 200 different kinds of Indians in Nicaragua—actually.
I call myself a bouillabaisse of bloodlines.
I have lived in so many countries and learned practically everything I know by living."
Barbara is a painter, a poetess, a music lover and a part-time philosopher, and seldom at a loss for words. Arranging an initial interview during a quick publicity junket to Manhattan, she swiftly fields a telephone request that there might be a better way to begin than the usual celebrity game of 20 questions in a hotel suite. “Fine," she replies through an intermediary, "maybe we can just go shopping at Revillon Freres or Van Cleef & Arpels.”
Instead, however, she arranges a leisurely lunch in her Regency Hotel suite, with background music from a tape recorder she takes wherever she goes. Mozart and Beethoven are her favorites and, for this occasion, she has programed a Mozart piano concerto, talking through it in a warm, subtly accented voice of velvety richness. She flips through queries about her standard bio and her latest movie but would much rather discuss her dreams. “All my life. I've had a recurrent dream about flying. When I was a child, I had to push myself hard to get going. As I grew older, I was able to rise on my own, unassisted. In the last dream I had, I was way off in the universe—with two bright stars very, very close. My friends tell me that most people go to sleep in order to rest. ... I go for amusement.”
Winged creatures are almost an obsession with her. Butterflies, appropriately enough, intrigue her most. And with urging, she may be persuaded to recite a piece of a poem she wrote:
Dark, dark my light and darker my desire—
My soul is like some heat-maddened summer fly that keeps buzzing at the sill.
“It's not entirely mine." Barbara tags on with a smile. "I plagiarized a little from Roethke.”
Weeks later, in Beverly Hills, Barbara plays hostess at home, looking casually elegant in a loose knitted blue suit and leather boots, surrounded by books, comfortably cushioned rattan chairs and lush greenery—a lemon tree, giant ferns, fuchsia. Just the place for an exotic bird of passage to alight from time to time. A sort of solarium with glass walls, open to the sun, separates the living room from her mirrored bedroom, where Eastern demigods and goddesses assume erotic poses in a huge, colorful tantric painting hung as a headboard directly over the bed. The decor throughout is dominated by her own surrealist portraits in acrylic, most of them featuring a flawless face and figure not unlike Barbara's. “They are all myself,” she explains, “because I know my features best." When she showed two of her canvases during a guest shot on the Merv Griffin show, an art dealer got in touch with her and wanted to talk business. “I might give a picture to a friend, but I couldn’t sell them.” says Barbara. “They’re too personal, too much a part of me. And I suppose I'm totally egotistical. What I want-’’
Barbara pauses, lips apart, a radiant Circe who might turn men into swine with one sultry glance, though at the moment, her attention is focused inward. Shrewdly self-aware, clearly ripe to open, at least a crack wider, her book of revelations. What is it that she really wants?
Superstardom? "On my own terms, maybe. The trouble with the star system is that everyone tries to be like everyone else who’s making it. Even dressing the same way, acting the same way, wearing Army clothes. Trying to prove that they’re ordinary, laid back. There’s no one I'd wish to emulate. Bette Davis, Hepburn, Stanwyck all had their individual styles . . . yet I’m not influenced by anyone else’s achievements or failures. That's a hopeless battle. So far. I've earned less in films than I earned as a model. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve star billing but not the salary that goes with it. That's going to come. I hope to work with people who value creativity above money. But my life and career are my own."
Love and marriage, maybe? “At this point. I don't believe in any sort of permanency. I'm a loner. Marriage is good for those who choose to experience everything with just one person. Hut I like new things, new people, long-distance friendship. I need changes in the company I keep, as well as changes of scenery. My ideal city would be one made from little bits and pieces of a dozen different places. That should tell you something.”
Total freedom, in other words? "I want to be a free spirit, though I don't think I'm there yet. We’re all so conditioned, inhibited, robbed of the talent for discovering life. I feel a tremendously deep, deep desire to find out all there is to know, every philosophical truth, every truth about myself. I see people struggling to express themselves—women, men, homosexuals, pornographers. They must have reasons. If whatever helps them get where they're going doesn’t harm anyone else, that’s fine with me.
"I'm confident about my future, because I don’t live in it. I live with the here and now. Forever to me means my waking hours.”
Any questions? Wait awhile. You’ll undoubtedly be hearing more, much more, from Barbara Carrera—a vividly painted butterfly with a stratospheric flight plan.
[Source: Playboy Magazine, July 1977, P.92-96, 200-201. Copyright © 1982 Playboy. All rights reserved.]