Cruising Manhattan in a stretch limousine. Learning the latest dance steps from New York City street toughs and transvestites. A visit to an after-hours club, then back into the limo and home before dawn. Face it, it may not be your typical Saturday night. But when designer clothes, exotic travel, constant attention and carloads of cash are all in a day’s work—and you’re only in your 20s—nothing beats a long evening of eclectic thrill seeking. Top models and best friends Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington recently allowed PEOPLE to go along for a night on the town.
The dinner reservation at Punsch, New York City’s hot spot of the moment, is for 9. But a hair crisis has delayed Naomi, Linda and Christy by 45 minutes—a little problem likely to cost less extraordinary customers their table for the evening. Yet this threesome isn’t the least bit worried. “They’ll let us in,” says the London-born Campbell in a chirpy British accent. “We make their restaurant.”
Sure enough, the icy maître d’ turns to Jell-O as the three cover girls in skintight Azzedine Alaïas prance into the white-walled Manhattan restaurant. Minutes later, Viscount Linley, son of Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones, ambles over for an introduction as the models pick at Caesar salads and pasta appetizers. Ah, to be young, rich, gorgeous and in demand—and to be best friends with women just like yourself.
They may not have household names yet, but their faces are familiar to anyone who reads the glossies. Turlington, 21, whose delicate features have been compared to Audrey Hepburn’s, is the gamine in the ads for Calvin Klein’s Eternity fragrance. Naomi and Linda say she is “the most fun” of the three. Evangelista, 25, best known for her cropped haircut that started an international shorter-is-better trend last year, is in the new Charlie ads. The others call her the “mommy” of the group. And Campbell, the trio’s biggest ham, who turned 20 on May 22, was dubbed “the reigning megamodel of them all” in last month’s Interview magazine. Each earns more than $1 million a year, hobnobs with a crowd that could curdle Robin Leach’s caviar, and holds the power to sell a skintight frock to the wrong buyer—a gift not lost on them. “I have that dress,” meows Naomi of a thigh-high Isaac Mizrahi mini that looks lumpy on a woman at the next table. “Now I’ll never wear it again.”
She doesn’t have to—at home Naomi has a closet bulging with designer clothes, so she can just toss the dress if she’s tired of it. What isn’t disposable is this friendship—an anomaly in the belle-eat-belle world of high fashion. Turlington first met Campbell four years ago at an agency in London where Christy was modeling and Naomi was a 15-year-old hopeful. “She was wearing her school uniform,” Christy recalls. “The next time I saw her, a few months later, she was on her own in Paris, dancing until 4 A.M. I offered her my apartment when she came to New York.” They ended up sharing it for a year. Christy and Linda, meanwhile, hit it off at fashion photographer Steven Meisel’s mid-town studio, and Naomi and Linda met while on assignment in Paris.
This is a bond that transcends even significant otherships. Since 1987 Canadian-born Linda has maintained a long distance marriage to Paris-based Gerald Marie, 39, who runs the French offices of the Elite modeling agency. Christy keeps company in New York City and L.A with her boyfriend of three years, actor and screenwriter Roger Wilson, 32, whose initials are tattooed on her right ankle. Naomi has been romantically linked—inaccurately, she insists—with Mike Tyson and Robert De Niro. Breezing through life like homecoming queens with New York City, Paris and Milan as their campuses, the women were drawn to each other, Christy says, “because we became big at the same time.”
In a group, they shed the sophisticated langueurs that earn them as much as $10,000 a day and become three young women out for a good time. “We’re an Oreo cookie in reverse,” says Naomi of her friends. “We’re only a third without each other.” “They’re crazy,” says Meisel, a frequent companion who refers to them collectively as the Ugly Sisters.
On this particular warm Saturday night, he is sandwiched between them in the back seat of a rented stretch limousine headed to an unlikely destination: the Hudson River piers. No sooner has the driver pulled into the parking lot than Campbell jumps out, asking the weekend crowd of boom-box toters who congregate there, “What’s the new dance?” At the sight of such long legs and fabulous faces, dozens of free-spirited street people shift into an Arthur Murray mode, launching into a revival of the bus stop, a ’70’s craze. “1-2-1-2-1-2-slide-2!”they yell. “Slide-jump-jump-turn-slide!” Christy trips; “I’m confused,” she twitters. Linda can’t seem to loosen up. “Let your body go,” someone tells her. Fearless Naomi has the group cheering. “Do it! Do it!”
Campbell, whose mother was a contemporary ballet dancer, was a student at the London Academy of Performing Arts when she was discovered by an agency scout. She has had parts in the movies Quest for Fire and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and played Julia, the girlfriend of Theo’s friend Howard, on The Cosby Show. (Like her two friends, she chose a high-paying modeling career over college.)
“Not every model wants to be an actress,” says Christy, who dreams of writing novels one day, though she concedes her prose style isn’t exactly the stuff bestsellers are made of. The daughter of a Pan Am pilot and a Salvadoran airline flight attendant, she grew up in San Francisco and Miami, where she was spotted by a Ford model scout at age 14. At 20, she signed an exclusive three-year contract with Calvin Klein that reportedly set a world record in modeling, bringing her a seven-figure income for three months’ work annually. Last year, however, Calvin bought out Christy’s contract, prompting rumors that she was fired. “Not true,” says Turlington. “The perfume company was sold, and my contract was renegotiated.”
Evangelista is the daughter of a General Motors employee and a housewife from Saint Catharines, Ont. Her first brush with modeling came at age 16 as a contestant in a Miss Teen Niagara contest. “I didn’t even place,” she says. “But a scout for Elite was in the audience, and he gave me his card.” Her career didn’t really hit stride until 1988, when she had her long hair cut at the urging of Paris hair oracle Julien d’Is. “It was just a bowl with sideburns,” shrugs Evangelista, who is now growing it out again.
Now the limo veers toward the seamy territory downtown, where the models occasionally visit the transvestite men they know by names such as “Cat’s Eyes” and “Stephanie.” West 14th Street is relatively deserted tonight. Buoyed by the attention of the three famous faces, the corner denizens form an ungainly chorus line, resulting in a more-than-passing-strange rendition of the bus stop.
Then it’s on to one of those relentlessly hip clubs that change locations each week. Tonight it’s in Andy Warhol’s one-time Factory Building off Union Square. Dubbed “a freak show” by Christy, it attracts preppies and drag queens alike. Inside, there is plenty of smoke but no mirrors or much of anything else except a makeshift bar. There is, however, a constant parade of exhibitionists—some wrapped in feathers, others harnessed in leather and, in one case, a man dressed mostly in appliquéd plastic bugs.
By 2:30 A.M., the models, whose natural energies have been fortified by nothing stronger than the wine they sipped at dinner, pile into the car and head home. They won’t see each other again for nine days, when they are all scheduled to appear in Azzedine Alaïa’s fall fashion show in Paris. Though Alaïa is one of their favorites, they say runway work, which can be tiring and not very visible, doesn’t usually thrill them. “The main reason we do fashion shows,” says Campbell, rubbing Linda’s aching feet, “is so we can see each other.”