Yes way. An extremely rare selfie.
Beverly Hills, California. That is who you think it is. Oh, and the other one is me who hates taking selfies. But here's how this exception came to be...
So, Atlanta, about hundred years ago, just out of college with a fashion design degree. I was introduced to Vanna White by mutual friends at dinner one evening. I remember that we had an interesting conversation about all that's involved in the Georgia Miss USA pageant that she was entering as a contestant. That night, to my delight, she asked me to custom design and make her evening gown for the competition. What's made this gig even more exciting was that her boyfriend Gordy (a foreign exotic car dealer) took us fabric shopping in a vintage Rolls Royce....wait did you hear me? FAB-RIC shopping...while we were sipping champagne people! So, you see, this set the barre for design commissions as I've never designed another pageant gown again.
The fabric supply was in an enormous warehouse and I remember being like a kid in a candy store - only a little more wobbly and with hiccups. Keeping true to form, Vanna wasted no time and knew exactly what she was looking for. She chose a gorgeous coral color silk chiffon for the gown which you can see she's wearing (on right). It was a halter with a V neck fitted empire bodice, and full sweeping circular skirt to the floor. I remember doing some hand painting and bead work on it, but I don't think it I ever saw an image of the whole dress and I can't remember that part exactly. I do remember that I had a lot of trouble making the hemline even because the bias of the fabric and circular shape was skewing it.
A hundred friends and I watched the pageant from a nightclub in Buckhead. Without a doubt, Vanna truly was a show stopper that night. However as these things sometimes go, she came in 4th. Hmm. I think she showed them now though, how 'bout it?
Anyway, we became friends during those years in Atlanta and I enjoyed living vicariously through her experiences in the modeling world. She moved to Cali just before I moved to Florida and we lost touch for a minute while we were both establishing careers. A few years later, in a hotel in Philadelphia, I couldn't believe my eyes...on TV on a game show - Wheel of Fortune. Immediately, I contacted the studio KYW in Philadelphia for her number at the Burbank studios. Believe it or not, somehow my call went backstage and Pat Sajack answered! I was gobsmacked. I asked for Vanna, and he said sure, here she is. That was how we reconnected.
So, we have stayed in touch all these years, largely due to Vanna's way of always updating me with her address and sending picture Holiday cards every year! It's been wonderful to meet for lunch or dinner now and again whether in LA or on the East Coast.
In the early 80's, as I had started a dancewear company, and Vanna was gaining momentum as a TV personality, she was always happy to help promote Leotardo da Vinci by wearing the samples I sent to her, and finding ways to get photographed in them. Of course, I never really knew when I'd be in the grocery checkout line and see one of my designs on the front page of the National Enquirer, but then there were great layouts in Shape Magazine and others too. It was a time of huge hair, slouch socks, LA Gear, and shimmer tights. Aerobics was lead by Jane Fonda, Cher, and Richard Simmons, all of whom also wore some of my stuff. As i needed to travel frequently for trade shows, I often called Vanna who always arranged something incredibly fun for us to do, like go to a celebrity sushi bar, the Polo Lounge at the Beverly HIlls Hotel, and to the Playboy Mansion for a movie with Hef. I'm not kidding.
I've attended a taping of the show at Temple in Philly, and met Pat Sajack finally after all these years since we first chatted (lol). I've also had the delightful opportunity to go on a wardrobe fitting with Vanna and her stylist who has chosen a huge rack of clothing from high end boutique designers, and are trying them on for future show wardrobe.
Anyway, fast forward - Vanna and her handsome partner John had just returned from a vacation in Hawaii and offered to have me to their home for lunch this visit! Guess where???? Mulholland Drive. OMGoogle it.
It was a perfectly sunny and warm day for yummy chicken salads on the veranda by the pool overlooking the stunning views of the San Fernando Valley. It was a wonderful visit and she is as warm, kind, and genuine as she always is - always the same. Love that about her. Beautiful as ever and she never wears a stitch of makeup off camera. Still a Size Tiny, might I add.
All is well on the set of Wheel, fyi. They lost a little time and ran reruns for a few months during the pandemic, last year but now with plexiglass shields in place backstage, no studio audience, and some other inconveniences, the show goes on. And you'll be able to watch my most famous friend for at least another 3 years she tells me. Isn't she amazing?
So, sometimes I hug people and forget that I don't really know them. And Vanna's son Nikko (26), who I had not ever met, happened to be in the way of that impulse that day. Well, because I have seen his pic every year on the Christmas card since he was born. (And Gigi too, but she happened to be out or I would have hugged her too.) Anyway, the Vermont Maple Syrup I brought, and Vanna's blueberry waffle skills the next morning... I think things are okay now, and he isn't going to need therapy.
Throughout the time that we have known each other, Vanna and I have had parallels in many ways including losing our mothers to cancer at a younger age, and our years of struggles with infertility. It truly has always been a comfort to me to know that we have that kind of friendship that endures in a beautiful way through every twist and turn our lives take. I'm always so grateful for Vanna's steady voice of encouragement, calm nature, happy disposition, and for being as big a fan of me as I have been of her.