Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Death of Gia Carangi

With all due respect to Suzy Parker, Lauren Hutton, and even Janice Dickinson, the world's first supermodel was a wild child from Philadelphia with a European look and a dangerous side that would prove as prophetic as it was sexy...

PhotobucketBorn in January 1960, Gia Carangi's childhood was marred by her parents' constant squabbling, which drove her to seek solace on the mean streets - and by the early Seventies few streets were meaner than those of North Philly; at the age of 17 she took off for Manhattan, and having worked for such noted fashion photographers as Francesco Scavullo, Arthur Elgort, Richard Avedon, and Chris von Wangenheim in short order she soon found herself the most sought-after fashion model in the world.

Regular readers of the Pop Culture Institute will be all too aware of the corrosive effects of fame on the young, effects which derailed not just the career but eventually as well the life of Gia Carangi...

A regular at famed nightspots Studio 54 and the Mudd Club, Carangi soon tried cocaine and eventually heroin, which would prove her downfall; the double shock of two deaths, one year apart - first of Gia's mentor Wilhelmina Cooper in March 1980 then that of Chris von Wangenheim in March 1981 - hastened Carangi's headlong slide when she chose to take solace in her addiction. Posing for her last Cosmopolitan cover in the winter of 1982, she was caught with drugs on a shoot in Africa in 1983 and her career was over.

The last five years of her life were spent in and out of various rehab and detox environments, punctuated by short-lived relationships with both women and men; Gia Carangi died on this day in 1986, one of the first prominent female figures to die of AIDS. The entire sad story - in which most of her highs were themselves lows - is told in Stephen Fried's book Thing of Beauty; the book was loosely adapted for television, and made into the 1998 TV-movie Gia, starring a then-obscure Angelina Jolie, who won a Golden Globe for her work.
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TankMontreal said...

Gia's story fascinates me. Something about bad girls I guess.

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