November 23, 1998 12:00 PM

For the rest of us, it may have seemed like a hectic three weeks, but to supermodel Kate Moss, 24, it was business as usual: There she was out with pals at a rock show. Click went the flashbulbs. There she was again at a London performance by Cher. Click, click. And wasn’t that Moss spotted again at a nightclub opening, a recording studio soiree, a Halloween party and at a fashion show singing “Happy Birthday” to one of the Backstreet Boys? Click. Click. Click. Click. Still, the Nov. 7 report in Britain’s Mirror newspaper that Moss had quietly checked herself into a private psychiatric clinic in southwest London three days earlier surprised the modeling world. Called the Priory, the hospital is a $500-a-day refuge that specializes in treating depression, drug and alcohol abuse and psychological illnesses. “I’ve been doing a lot of work and too much partying,” Moss told the Mirror. “I wasn’t happy with the way my life was going. So I decided to step back and assess my life and future.” Confirmed her press agent, Paula Karaiskos: “Kate’s burned out. She wanted to reevaluate her life, and so she put herself in the situation where she’d be able to do that.”

Calling a halt to the clamor of nightclubs and catwalks seemed long overdue for Moss, who has lived out of jets and limos since breaking into the business at 14. “There’s no doubt she’s been burning the candle at both ends,” says Polly Graham, the Mirror reporter who broke the story. “She parties the night away and is usually up early to do modeling stuff.”

Yet Moss is not the only catwalk casualty these days, though her hospitalization is clearly a serious matter. The best-known beauties of the ’90s—supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and Moss, once dubbed the Super Six—are all at personal and professional crossroads. While it’s hardly the end of civilization as we know it (anybody seen any Adopt-a-Model ads lately?), their fashion fatigue may well be the beginning of the end of the supermodel era. Not only are they no longer fixtures on the runways (Campbell was the only one of the sextet to walk in this month’s New York City Fashion Week shows) but they have also been plagued by career blemishes (Crawford’s Sept. 22 ABC-TV special tanked), a public catastrophe (Evangelista was excoriated by local designers for appearing wobbly during a Portuguese fashion show this month) and legal imbroglios (Campbell is being sued for $2 million by a former assistant for verbal and physical abuse).

Long gone, it seems, are the days when supermodels redefined glamor. Though never the most sympathetic species on the planet, they did carve out a niche for themselves in public. “They turned the focus on fashion in a way that had never been seen before and in the process became a world cult,” says photographer Andrew Macpherson. Michael Gross, author of Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women, agrees. “They acted like stars and became larger than life,” he says. “Every boy in America knew who these models were.” But now they are being elbowed off the covers of such fashion bibles as Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and even Cosmopolitan by Hollywood sirens like Sharon Stone, Nicole Kidman and, yes, Oprah Winfrey. Celebrities who “have learned a lot of supermodels’ tricks are upstaging them,” says Vogue fashion news director Katherine Betts. “It’s kind of harder for supermodels to stand out.” What’s more, she adds, “people want something that’s more accessible now. Maybe supermodels were too far removed from the reality of everyone’s lives.” If so, like Moss, the glamor girls are paying a price. Says Gross: “They are yanked out of real life, denied young adulthood and divorced from reality. Partying is an occupational hazard.”

In Moss’s case, her wild lifestyle has forced her to deny having a drug problem. “She told me, ‘I am taking no drugs at all,'” her stepfather Geoff Collman told Britain’s News of the World in the wake of her hospitalization. “She’s just overpartied.” Certainly, Moss has had a close-up look at the devastation drugs can cause. Last year, Davide Sorrenti, the 20-year-old brother of Moss’s former boyfriend, fashion photographer Mario Sorrenti, died after a long battle with heroin addiction. (Davide’s girlfriend at the time, model James King, eventually kicked her own heroin habit and went public about the prevalence of drugs in the fashion world.)

Undeniable, though, is the roller-coaster nature of Moss’s love life. Her four-year relationship with Johnny Depp, 35, was certainly tumultuous: She was with him in 1997 when he was arrested for drunkenly trashing a New York City hotel room. The couple announced their breakup in June of that year but this May appeared together briefly at the Cannes Film Festival. There, Moss herself made such a racket entertaining friends at the discreet Hotel du Cap, which charges up to $4,000 a night, that she was asked to leave at 5 a.m. and barred from setting foot in the place for life. Since Depp, Moss has reportedly been linked with a parade of men, including Lemonhead singer Evan Dando, record producer Nellee Hooper, singer Goldie and, most recently, British aristocrat Dan Macmillan. But none of these post-Depp relationships has lasted long. “She’s at every cool party and meets the coolest guys, but she’s probably quite alone,” says Deborah Brett, a London Times assistant fashion editor who has worked with Moss. “She doesn’t have someone there to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to calm down.’ ”

Linda Evangelista has been there. The 33-year-old, Canadian-born stunner parted ways with Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan after a three-year engagement. She has also had health problems—she suffered a collapsed lung in 1991—and this month appeared bloated and unsteady during a Portugal fashion show (she later agreed to return part of her reported $100,000 appearance fee). “She has had her moment,” says a fashion insider. “And she hasn’t really expanded her experience beyond modeling.”

Not so Cindy Crawford, 32, although results have been mixed. The iconic Crawford is “like a brand” who has managed to “leverage modeling into other opportunities,” says designer Randolph Duke. But her acting debut in the 1995 action thriller Fair Game was widely derided, and her recent ABC-TV special, with the seemingly irresistible title Sex with Cindy Crawford, proved embarrassingly resistible. Divorced from Richard Gere since 1995 and now happily married to restaurateur Rande Gerber, 36, Crawford posed nude for October’s Playboy. Though the pictorial reprised the racy layout that helped launch her to stardom a decade earlier, many saw it as an unusual career move for such an established star. “That does surprise me,” says Grace Mirabella, founder of the magazine that bears her name. As for putting Crawford in a movie, she adds, that “was somebody thinking, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be a wonderful idea because she is so famous.’ But it just doesn’t work that way.”

Claudia Schiffer, 28, hopes Mirabella is wrong. After hitting the runway for Giorgio Ferrari in Milan in October, Schiffer was reported to have huffed backstage, “I’m never going to model again.” Though she later denied making the statement—and still has a modeling contract with L’Oréal—the former Guess? jeans girl is currently in New York City trying movies on for size by filming a role in Black and White, with actor Ben Stiller. Schiffer’s long-awaited turn as a real-life bride, however, is not on the horizon: Engaged to magician David Copperfield since 1994, she has yet to set a wedding date, a delay the couple blames on their hectic schedules. But Schiffer’s appointment book may open up if the trend away from supermodels continues. “She’s incredibly beautiful, but she’s had the same look for a long time,” says one fashion expert. “And in this business, you have to change.”

Schiffer did make one major change: In August she ended her involvement in the Fashion Cafe, the restaurant chain that also counted Turlington (she bailed out in 1997) and Campbell as promoters. Amid a lawsuit claiming mismanagement (it has since been settled), the chain has seen two of its eight franchises shut down. But ties to the Fashion Cafe may be the least of Campbell’s problems. In October she was sued by her former personal secretary of nine days, Georgina Galanis, who claimed that the model grabbed her, punched her and hit her in the head with a telephone (Campbell’s camp denies the charges). At least the model’s reputation as a diva (“She is notorious for being late,” says Duke) has not affected her workload. Contacted by PEOPLE in Athens, the 28-year-old Campbell says, “I’m traveling all over the place. I go to Cyprus tomorrow, then Argentina, then I’m back in New York….I enjoy it as it comes.”

Still, says Valerie Trott, president of one top agency, Elite Model Management, “I think the designers and clients got tired of the superstars. the way they were treated, their demands—it got completely out of hand. Finally they said, ‘Enough, we’re taking other girls.’ ” Indeed, a new crop of youthful wannabes has begun nipping at the high heels of the Super Six—freckle-faced ingenues like Maggie Rizer, 20, and Audrey Marnay, 18. “The days of perfect girls like Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington are gone,” says Elite executive Elmer Olsen. “Now you don’t have to have a perfect nose or rosebud lips. We’re looking for quirkiness.”

Not that Moss and Co. are likely to find themselves strapped for cash. Now a liberal arts student at New York University, the 29-year-old Turlington, for example, can still depend on a steady paycheck, thanks to her lucrative Calvin Klein and Maybelline ad contracts. “Models are realizing that, if you’re really good, it’s a quick way to make a lot of money and then go on to something else,” says Allure magazine editor in chief Linda Wells. “More and more, modeling is a means to an end. [Christy] does selective modeling, but she’s basically taken herself out of it.”

If less dramatically than Kate Moss. Raised in a middle-class London suburb by Peter, a travel agent, and his wife, Linda, Moss was discovered in JFK airport by a modeling-agency rep at age 14 and four years later landed a reported $1.2 million contract with Calvin Klein. Since then she has never lacked for work, surviving the backlash against the skeletal-waif look and, most recently, opening and closing Donatella Versace’s October Milan show. But being in demand can be very demanding. “When you’re really popular, you try to sandwich in as much work as you can,” says Grace Mirabella. “So you could be running a 12-hour day working and then 12 more hours dancing.”

Clearly, says show business reporter Polly Graham, Moss has never been one “to spend her nights in front of the TV.” A waitress at New York City’s Les Deux Gamins restaurant, a frequent Moss hangout, says the globe-trotting model “always looks so tired. She’ll say she doesn’t know what time zone she’s in.” The last month was typical: Moss was seen “at loads of things, buzzing around a lot,” says London-based photographer Dave Bennet. On the Monday before she entered the Priory, Moss dined at the Southeast W9 Asian restaurant in northwest London with Meg Matthews, her husband, Noel Gallagher (lead guitarist for Oasis), and other friends. Moss then attended a party until 3 a.m. before retiring to her home in the Maida Vale section of London. A day later, she checked into the clinic. “It is just too much strain for a young girl,” stepfather Geoff Collman told the Sunday Mirror. “It’s finally taken its toll, and she just needs a good long break.”

Few, however, think the episode will permanently damage Moss’s career. “This is not a sad story,” says author Gross. “So many models end up anywhere from desperately unhappy to dead. But Kate pulled up short and said, ‘Don’t follow down that path—reevaluate.’ And that is just wonderful for her.”

Alex Tresniowski

Joanna Blonska, Liz Corcoran, Laura Sanderson Healy and Simon Perry in London; Dierdre Mooney in Cannes; Joanne Fowler, Mary Green, Sue Miller, Michael Sommers and Natasha Stoynoff in New York City; Steven Cojocaru, Elizabeth Leonard and Vicki Sheff-Cahan in Los Angeles

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