January 19, 2004 12:00 PM

Using bright lights, ample hairspray and a lens that seemed to filter any flaw, Francesco Scavullo created the modern supermodel much as Zeus birthed Athena from his forehead. His lush-lipped glamazons appeared on more than 300 Cosmopolitan covers between 1965 and 1997, while Scavullo himself became a puckish court photographer for Hollywood royalty. “He was this smiley, wonderful man,” says Paulina Porizkova. “He never, ever made anybody look bad.”

It was a formula Scavullo—who died at age 82 on Jan. 6 in his Manhattan apartment—developed as a movie-obsessed boy on Staten Island. “I remember finding photos of Dietrich and Garbo before they came to Hollywood and thinking, ‘Hollywood made them gorgeous,'” Scavullo told PEOPLE in 1998.” ‘Anybody can be glamorous.'” The son of Angelo, who owned a New York supper club, and Margaret, a homemaker, he got his start in 1937 by snapping his sisters. He shot for Vogue and Life but really took off in 1965 when he met Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown. “He pulled the best out of anybody,” says Brown, “by making that person think she was just glorious.” Or he. Scavullo made a modestly posed Burt Reynolds Cosmo’s first nude centerfold. He also took Brooke Shields‘s earliest professional photos—a 1966 Ivory Soap ad at 11 months—and later some of her suggestive Calvin Klein ads. Says Shields: “He was Uncle Frankie to me.”

But if Scavullo’s work was all glossy sheen, his inner life was more muted. He suffered several nervous breakdowns and, in 1981, was diagnosed as manic-depressive. Wed briefly to model Carol McCallson in the ’50s, he met Sean Byrnes, who became his stylist and his companion, in 1971. Scavullo had no plans to retire, says Byrnes, 50: “It was work, work, work.” To the end, says Shields, he “took one job as seriously as the next. He didn’t have a hierarchy. To him, it was all art.”

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