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A MODEL RIDER : She Got Out of Fashion, Hopes to Make It in Demanding Sport of Dressage

April 03, 1989|JEFF MEYERS | Times Staff Writer

In 1984, after Zahlis finished a 2 1/2-month job in Japan, Fontaine pressured her to go to Europe for a year, "but I was really, really tired," she said. Then she shot a rock music video with Toto and started dating Tim Clawson, now head of production for Propaganda Films.

Realizing she was unhappy, Clawson encouraged her to give up modeling--"He knew how models were treated," she said--and bought her a schooled dressage horse, a thoroughbred gelding named Copper Talisman. "If she had said she wanted to be an Olympic volleyball or basketball player, I'd have been more skeptical--she was past her prime" to get into those sports, Clawson said. "But we had just watched the '84 Olympics, and the gold medal winner in dressage was 70 years old.

"I was also excited that it was a life-long thing to learn dressage, like becoming a maestro--I can appreciate that kind of thing," said Clawson, who lives with Zahlis in Woodland Hills.

Inside a stall at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, Zahlis does all the things other grooms do. It's a dirty job, but Zahlis manages to look as if she could go directly from there to Spago. "I'm a little old to be grooming horses," she said. "But I would have missed out on a lot of life if I hadn't gone into modeling."

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