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June 1, 2021

The Story Behind the Photo of Brooke Shields Doing Goofy Face on the Street of New York City, 1981

At 7 o’clock in the morning, on the day of her Sweet Sixteen party, Christa Brooke Camille Shields pokes the world’s most perfect face out from her bedroom in a New York City apartment and yells: "MOM, do I have to wear my CALVINS today because I'm doing an interview?"

“Brooke was the world’s most famous teenage model when I took this picture, and I had never been around anyone so naturally beautiful,” photographer Tom Zito said of the image. “I was working on a cover story for Rolling Stone about child actors, and Brooke was simultaneously the busiest and the most gracious of the group I met.”

“I first glimpsed her at seven am on the morning of her Sweet Sixteen party. Her mother had made coffee for me in the kitchen of the East Side apartment they shared, and Brooke poked that oh-so-perfect face out of her bedroom door and yelled, ‘Mom, do I have to wear my Calvins today because I’m doing an interview?’

“Like Brooke herself, the question was right in the buffer zone between innocence and pragmatism, with no mercenary overtones. Many people had criticized her stage-door mother Teri for allowing Brooke to deliver the infamous line, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins,” in a much seen series of six TV commercials, for which she was paid a half million dollars. Worse still, the critics railed, her mother had let her play a nineteenth century New Orleans prostitute in the film Pretty Baby when she was only twelve. The reality was that Brooke seemed unfazed, more like sixteen going on nine; the Calvins came between her and her horse, which she was much more interested in than boys, let alone sex.

“Franco Zeffirelli, who directed her in the film Endless Love, said to me, ‘Some women have so much experience that you begin to direct them and they cut you off. With Brooke, I say, ‘I want to see passion, and ecstasy on your face,’ and she shrugs her shoulders. And I want to say... But there is no way you can say that to her. She is too innocent, too sweet. I would be too embarrassed.’

“When I asked Brooke why she had declined the cover of a Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue, she matter-of-factly pulled out the front of the pink polo shirt she was wearing and said, ‘No way. Nothing up here.’ At the time of this encounter, Brooke had an allowance of ten dollars and was receiving about two thousand pieces of fan mail a week. ‘Most of them are very nice, photo requests,’ Teri told me. ‘There are some crazy ones. If it’s a really rotten one from a kid, I’ll call the mother. The mother says, ‘I had nothing to do with that letter.’ And I say, ‘My daughter is a very nice girl,’ and then I put Brookie on. The apology usually shows up in three days.’

“When I suggested to Brooke that we have lunch at my father’s social club, she demonstrated that, at 16, she already understood what made for good copy. ‘That’s kind of boring, isn’t it?’ she asked. ‘Why don’t you come to a shoot.’ Brooke got started in the modeling business at the age of eleven months. Francesco Scavullo was sitting in his studio with 300 kids, casting for an Ivory Soap commercial, and called his friend Teri Shields. ‘You can’t imagine anything worse than Scavullo surrounded by screaming kids,’ she said. ‘So he asked me to bring Brooke over and we made thirty-five dollars.’

“Now Brooke and I were en route to a studio in downtown Manhattan, where Scavullo, who died in 2003, was once again going to shoot her, this time for a Cosmo cover. As we were walking down Fifth Avenue, I asked if I could take her picture. Immediately she started posing, then said, ‘I hate being serious.’ ‘Do anything you want,’ I told her.”

This is what happened!

(Photo by © Tom Zito)


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