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Author Engages in 'Model Behavior'

November 16, 1998|IRENE LACHER

Just for the record, we want you to know that Jay McInerney looked pretty fab when we lunched with him at Hugo's in West Hollywood the other day. He was wearing a nifty blue shirt, which matched his dandy blue pocket square, which matched his steely blue eyes. All that blueness, for little old us?

We tell you this because this was a theme lunch--judging a book by its cover--which is also the subject of Mc-Inerney's latest book. The cover? "Model Behavior."

It's been seven years since McInerney's last model girlfriend. Surface connoisseurship used to be his specialty. It helped him snag his post-"Bright Lights, Big City" bad-boy persona, which he still likes to trot out even though he's morphed into, if you'll pardon the expression, a married father of two.

"Norman Mailer said, 'Don't knock it, kid. One of the most valuable things a writer can have is a persona,' " McInerney recalled between bites of Pasta Papa.

Just try living with your own persona. Trickier yet, try living with a model. Mc-Inerney did that more than once, and he lived to tell the tale. The book's title novella is based on the demise of his relationship with model Marla Hanson, who dumped him.

"Next time you're shopping for steady companionship," a magazine editor says in "Model Behavior" (Alfred A. Knopf), "I would advise you to avoid the narcissistic professions."

McInerney may have sworn off models when it came to choosing wife No. 3, but that didn't zero out his karma debt as a former looks-ist. Well, sort of former.

One day, he came home from interviewing Julia Roberts, raving about her fabulousness. The next day, his then-47-year-old wife, Helen Bransford, got a face-lift.

Oh, yes. Then the next day, Bransford told everybody the Julia Roberts story in her nip-and-tell book, "Welcome to Your Facelift" (Doubleday).

"I tried to get her to take that part out, and of course she wouldn't," McInerney says.

As if all that weren't irritating enough, supermodel Naomi Campbell clawed his eyes out in the pages of the New York Times Magazine for trashing "the howling mindlessness" of her profession in "Model Behavior."

"Puh-leez!!" Campbell ranted. "The models I know are sharp as tweezers in ways that count. . . . "

"I was in Paris when it came out," McInerney said. "To tell you the truth, I still haven't read it. I don't really care. I think it proves my point, basically. She's a notorious [not nice person]. To be attacked by Naomi Campbell is like being attacked by [Yugoslav president] Slobodan Milosevic. It's not a bad person to have on the other team.

"But," he added dryly, "I'm glad to know that she's very smart."

Campbell's oeuvre prompted "Extra!" to ambush McInerney at a recent reading at L.A.'s Skirball Cultural Center.

"The danger of writing about this world," he says, "is that you'll be reduced to its level."

Puh-leez!!! Don't you guys know that Jay McInerney is a serious fiction writer and not just some poor schmuck "working out his obsession with models in his new novel," as Naomi charged? Well, is he or isn't he???

You judge.

Irene Lacher's Out & About column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday on

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