Clouded By Illusions: The Beauty Of Gia Carangi

Life and death
energy and peace
if I stopped today
it was fun.
Even the terrible pains that have burned me and scarred
my soul it was worth it for having been allowed to
walked where I’ve walked. Which was to hell on earth
heaven on earth, back again, into, under, far in between
and above it.

Gia Carangi (1986)

The death of supermodel Gia Carangi went unreported by the press. Five days later, her funeral was a quiet affair, attended only by her immediate family, with a closed casket recommended for the woman whose exquisite face and fabulous figure had once stunned the fashion world. None of the photographers who had clamoured to capture her, or the fashionistas who excitedly watched her strut down a catwalk were there, or even knew she had died. She was certainly not the first young woman destroyed by the glamorous but notoriously fickle modelling industry, but as one fashion insider later remarked, ‘There were a lot of girls who were victims of those times — the night life, Studio 54, dancing, having fun. There were girls who took a lot of coke and destroyed their beauty, but I don’t think Gia was one of those. I think she was a victim of herself.’

Born in Philadelphia on 29th January 1960, Gia’s early life had been wrought by the unhappy marriage of her parents, Joseph Carangi, an Italian restaurateur and his wife Kathleen, who was of Welsh and Irish descent. Gia was their youngest child of three and their only daughter, although Joseph also had a son from a previous marriage. In 1971, Kathleen left the family home for good and later remarried, seeing her children at fairly irregular intervals much to the distress of her daughter, who was never able to overcome her sense of abandonment, as a friend recalled, ‘The one person Gia always wanted something from was her mother – and she just never felt like she got it.’ As well as her mother’s departure, Gia eventually revealed that she had been molested at the age of five, an experience that left her traumatised.

After being discovered by a local photographer whilst working in one of her father’s restaurants, Gia appeared in several advertisements in Philadelphia before moving to New York in 1978. Gia was signed by Wilhelmina Models straight away, with the agency’s owner Wilhelmina Cooper, who would become her mentor, enraptured by her ‘fantastically pliable face.’ One of Gia’s first assignments was for Vogue with the photographer Chris von Wangenheim in October 1978.

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Queen Of The Blues: Mary Millington’s Confessions

On 19th August 1979, Mary Millington’s lifeless body was discovered by her husband, at her home in Walton-on-the-Hill in Surrey; she had taken an overdose of paracetamol, washed down with a large amount of vodka, a slow and agonising way to die. Four suicide notes were found at the scene, each one documenting their author’s troubled state of mind and explained how she felt that death was her only option.

As the most recognisable adult star in Britain, for the past decade Mary had devoted herself to a tireless campaign for more liberal pornography laws, and for a freer debate on the expression of female sexuality. Even as she lay dying she wrote, ‘I do hope so much porn is legal one day, they called me obscene names for being in possession of it – I can’t go through anymore.’ The prospect of spending time in jail was one that haunted Mary in her final years, and the two London adult shops she owned and often worked in, had been subjected to countless raids. At the time of her death, she was due to appear before the Old Bailey on a recent obscenity charge, and feeling that she was being deliberately persecuted by the authorities, she confessed in one of the notes found beside her, ‘The police have framed me yet again. They frighten me so much. I can’t face the thought of prison.’

Born Mary Ruth Quilter in Kenton, Middlesex on 30th November 1945, Mary shared her birthday with Winston Churchill, something she often remarked upon. Mary’s mother, Joan Quilter, worked for the Foreign Office and her father was the opera critic, John W. Klein; the relationship was a casual one and dissolved soon after Mary was born, with Klein eventually losing contact altogether with both Quilter and his young daughter. A lifelong animal lover, Mary had ambitions to become a veterinary nurse, but was let down by her inability to pass the required exams. Nevertheless, she became an ardent supporter of several animal charities, including the PDSA, and was devoted to her own dogs. Continue reading