You expected, admit it, you expected a dumb California blond out of Cheryl Tiegs . . . a brain-dead patsy with some greaseball gorilla of a manager who'd keep interrupting to say: "What Cheryl means to say is . . . "
Hold it, fellas -- as she says on the commercial for Olympus cameras. Or "No, no, no," as she keeps saying now, while wagging her forefinger over her lunch of trout almondine.
"When I was working on my book, [called "The Way to Natural Beauty"] Simon & Schuster seemed to think it would be text with 12 pages of pictures. I said: 'No, no, no.' I'd work from noon till 7 in the morning, scrambling around on the floor, pages all over the place, pictures pinned to the walls. They'd say: 'It finished yet?' I'd say: 'No, no, no.'"
And then she touches those perfect teeth together while she flares her flash-frozen blue eyes . . .
Yes: Cheryl Tiegs, at 33, after conquering the fashion world of the '70s, with her face exploding off the covers of Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and any other magazine which could pay up to $2,000 a day; after being cited as the girl of the '70s, exemplifying "the new bold beauty," as photographer Francesco Scavullo put it; after making the cover of Time as both model and subject; after her legendary annual bathing-suit features for Sports Illustrated (particularly the memorable fishnet suit); after the poster of her in the pink bikini superseded the Ferrah Fawcett-Majors poster; after marriage to director Stan Dragoti, then separation, then links to photographer Peter Beard and tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis; after all this it turns out she is -- and why is this a surprise? -- a tough cookie, who also likes to goof around, who can scold you for looking at her too hard, then stand up and shoot out a Sears-clad, Cheryl Tiegs-autographed, cotton-sports-skirted hip at you.
"Look," she says.
Touching the teeth. Flaring the eyes.
'I'm very strong-minded," she says. "I'm German, my family is all German, from Minnesota."
"That explains it all, huh?" says Tiegs, with a little shove of a smile. She likes to slug it out, it seems. "I'm stubborn and disciplined. I know what I want. But I'm flexible. I can have my little rules, but I can break them."
The rules. For instance. "I have three requirements for a man. He has to have compassion/kindness, he has to have intelligence/enthusiasm, and, well, good looks is in there too, and S.O.H."
"Sense of humor. And if you meet that man, let me know."
But she isn't always seen with extravagantly handsome men.
"I think my husband is very handsome," she says of Stan Dragoti, from whom she's separated, but who directed both her Olympus camera commercial and a forthcoming Sears commercial. Dragoti's co-producer on one movie called him "the ugliest man on earth."
The point is that you shove Cheryl Tiegs even a little tiny bit and she shoves right back.
Except on her looks. And, face it, she photographs fabulously, pumping pizzazz right through the lens. But you could argue, if you wanted to, that her chin might be a tad large, the eyes a hint too far apart, the lips thin, the shoulders wide, though she does great things with them, shrinking back in her chair now with one hand over her mouth, the other extended in horror as she remembers posing for detective-magazine illustrationf for $5 when she was a kid in Pasadena.
It's suggested that her face is interesting because, while it's beautiful, if it were any more the way it is than it is, it could be ugly. A millimeter more bold and natural and she'd be rawboned.
"I don't have classic features. I'm not a perfect beauty," she says. "I think that's one reason women like me."
She made it as a model against some odds, however.
When she dropped out of Cal State, Los Angeles, and went to New York at 19, she was all wrong for high fashion. She was tall and thin enough at 5-feet-10 and 120, but she had that . . . California look. It was a face on which pounds of glued-on eyelashes never looked right, a face with none of the ice-queen anemia that fashion editors looked for.
So her first success with magazines like Seventeen or Glamour, which aimed at an audience from 18 to 35. She married Dragoti in 1970 and quit the business. She ballooned up to 155 pounds.
"Did you see that picture of me in my book?" she says now. The picture shows a woman with big hips and an empty, puzzled face. "There's no life in the eyes. I had no pride."
So she lost 35 pounds and went back to work after two years, catching the big wave of the early-'70s Natural Look with that California vigor.It was a look that prompted Diana Vreeland, the Vogue editor who had been fired as the new look arrived, to tell Time magazine: "There's too much blowing in the wind. At one time, it was fashionable to be made up and it was not fashionable to have your cloths always falling off you . . . I think there is a certain monotony about the girls of today."
Marx once said that it is the illusion of every age to believe it has defined the natural man. In the late 19th century, for instance, corseting was so natural that the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons issued a report saying it was necessary to a woman's good health. Back then, natural meant women (and men) shaped like draft horses. Then the idea grew thinner and thinner, being seen last in the 1960s in models such as Suzy Parker, who Tiegs imitates just now, dropping her chin and sucking in her cheeks.
"Cold, classic beauty," she says.
The Natural Look required breasts and bottoms. The miracle of Cheryl Tiegs was that she had them on a body which is 5-10 and 120. She is a stunning collection of the parts that the Natural Look demands. She wears them on her model's body as if they were clothing. As public image, she's a fertility goddess for the age of birth control.
She lives alone with no telephone on six beachfront acres on the end of Long Island.
"I have to get time alone.If I don't get it, I get irritable," she says. "What do I do when I'm alone? You'll never find out, no, no, no." And she wags the forefinger. And says that actually, she likes to get up at noon, eat breakfast in bed and watch "General Hospital" on one of her five televisions. She likes to read. She just read Truman Capote's new book, and he's a neighbor, but she's never seen him out there. Dick Cavett's a neighbor, Andy Warhol's a neighbor, but she never sees them. Stays alone. Has a kitten which she's having chauffeured into New York to see her next weekend (she's been traveling on a six-week book promotion tour). Does push-ups and sit-ups every day, maybe spends an hour at the gym. Has a weakness for Ruffles potato chips, onion dip and Dom Perignon champagne, she says, "the best."
Has a strength for just about everything else, it seems.
"My weakest feature? You'll never know. You'd put it in the newspaper and then everybody would know. Do I know? Of course I know."