The Brow

This is rare indeed for me (who loves his bad girls) but for a change I gotta give some props to a quintessential good girl (and yeah, she coulda gone over to The Dark Side, but she didn’t – dang!). So let me break down why I am madly in love with the beautiful, and downright classy, Brooke Shields.

promo shot (detail) for Pretty BabyCredit: Paramount Pictures, 1978

I say classy because as a nubile she wasn’t out there like today’s Hollywood ho-bags, flashing her crotch and engaging in ridiculous public behaviors.  She managed to get through her earlier years without the embarrassing train-wreck behavior of some other young “ladies”.  And as an adult woman she carries herself with dignity still.  She is probably the least offensive celebrity ever to walk the face of the planet.  Brooke seems to be a genuinely nice person.  As proof of it, she was Michael Jackson’s friend and beard” (on an “as needed” basis) starting in the late 1970s, wasn’t she?  Only a truly nice girl would do that. 

The beautiful Brooke Christa Shields was born May 31, 1965, in New York City.  Her mother, Teri Shields, wished for fame for her daughter, and she started early promoting her baby girl.  Brooke began her career as a fashion model in 1966; she did an Ivory Soap shoot at the almost fetus-y age of 11 months.  She later worked for the legendary Eileen Ford (of the Ford Agency) as a very successful child model.  Eileen Ford said she started her children's division just for Brooke Shields.

In early 1980, Shields, then 14, was the youngest fashion model ever to appear on the cover of Calvin Klein print adCredit: Calvin Klein, 1981Vogue.   Later that same year, she did the “controversial” print and TV ads (there was never any real controversy here, just Klein or someone on his behalf generating publicity.  I mean, look at the shot – pretty tame stuff).  The televised version has her saying, "You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins?  Nothing."  Yeah, that’s really racy, right there, I’ll tell you what.   Even back then I couldn’t understand the brouhaha; it’s definitely more mystifying today.  

As a print model Brooke was huge.  Think back to that time; this woman is a pop culture icon.  She personifies the 1970s and early 1980s in a good way – she never had one of those dippy Seventies hairdos; she always looked fresh, and not contrived.  Brooke was responsible for creating a “look” that echoes even in some of today’s young women. 

Of course, nobody rocks a uni-brow like Brooke Shields (maybe Groucho Marx or Salma Hayek, but other than them nobody can pull that look off with aplomb).Salma Hayek as Mexican artist Frida Kohlo  Brooke actually Groucho Marxset the bushy brow standard; before her, women were working a carnival sideshow on their faces, plucking everything out, then penciling it back in for that eternally surprised look.  Madonna’s early "look”  (whether she would ever admit it or not) is as informed by Brooke Shields as it is Marilyn Monroe (check out Madonna’s landscaping over her eyes early on and her tousled hair – tell me she didn’t have a bit of Brooke in her). 

On a related front Brooke didn’t seem to have a twisted body image seen in many of today’s models.  Brooke let younger girls of that generation be cozy with being more natural (did I mention the turf strip over her eyes?  I did? Good, now you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout, Willis!).  And, she wasn’t an anorexic either.  Brooke was a healthy teen girl, with just a bit of baby fat in all the right places, and she didn’t seem agonized about it.
When she jumped into acting (and Brooke, despite her modeling, has primarily always been an Pretty Baby movie posterCredit: Paramount Pictures, 1978actor, I think) I knew what was coming as far as acting jobs for her would go.  Exploitation would be critical.  Titillation had to come first.  This was borne out in her second movie, Pretty Baby.  This film (set in a New Orleans brothel in 1917) displayed Brooke’s Lolita qualities perfectly.  Although this movie featured a couple of heavy hitters of the day (Susan Sarandon, Keith Carradine), look who’s on the movie poster, eh?  Minor controversies surrounded its release as the film featured a pre-pubescent, nude Brooke in some of its shots.  These, however, were not done for any prurient interests, and people finally shut up about that.  Brooke really did have that "It" factor going for her, though, even as young as she was.  The movie is not terrible, but assuredly fewer people would have watched it but for Brooke’s being in it.

Blue Lagoon was crapulous (a story of two young children stranded alone on a deserted island, exploring their budding sexuality as they mature).  It gave Brooke a break-out role, however, sending her star power into the stratosphere.  The only reason this movie enjoyed any success at all was because of Brooke (any other starlet inpromo shot (detail) Blue Lagoon, 1980 the role at that time and it would have bombed).  Her celebrity was peaking, and pervs that we are, we all went to see her in varying stages of undress (just admit it!!).  This film was all Brooke’s from the start.  The Malibu Ken doll stage prop that supported her in the cast probably shouldn’t even have bothered to show up – a cardboard cut-out would have been just as easily overlooked in this film since nobody noticed him.  For me, the guy in the movie was a distraction and an annoyance.  I mean, I was 17 when this movie came out, and if you don’t think for one minute I couldn’t picture myself on that island alone with Brooke Shields, you need your head examined!!

People have to remember just how big a star Brooke Shields was at that time.  She was a genuine media sensation (in the age before cable television and the Internet).  Her press was all hard-earned – photo shoots, interviews, print and television exposure.  Yet, somehow, this young woman managed to keep her dignity (look at the immature IM’ing, hyper-Texting, LOL’ing, gum-snappin’ brainiacs that pass for young women today and ask yourself how many of them could have maturely handled the stresses Brooke had). 

Brooke as a child star and as an adult has acted in dozens of films.   And like Kurt Russell and Jodie Foster she has managed to segue from “child star” to adult actress without the attendant drama in which many of her kind engaged.  She began appearing in bit acting parts after being out of the limelight for a few years (she used that time to actually go to college and get an education, graduating from Princeton in June 1987). 

When she got her own sitcom I was actually excited.  Suddenly Susan was not a great show, but it had a decent run (from 1996-2000) and Brooke was the producer.   Like many people, I watched it anyway just to see her.  You could tell Brooke was really trying, and I loved her more for that (this show also gave mass exposure to Kathy Griffin for the first time – take that any way you want).

More toward what I imagine the real Brooke could do, acting-wise, is the character she played on an episode of Two and a Half Men.  This was fun for me to watch.  She acted mostly like the classy Brooke Shields but at one point in the episode she turns into a wanton slattern (in the episode she is a recovering alcoholic with some emotional problems).  I’d like to see her do more of that kind of goofy good-girl/bad-girl thing.  It seems out of character for her, but that’s what made it all the more engaging.  She’s done multiple walk-ons and short-runs on other shows as well, such as Friends and That 70’s Show

Her dramatic parts on television have been fairly credible.  She did an excellent job in a guest appearance on Law & Order: Criminal Intent (both in how good she looked, and how well she acted).  She’s played lesbians in some made-for-TV stuff.  The woman has some skills; she doesn’t seem to always get the right chance to use them very often (just one time I’d like to see her play a serial killer, all nasty like Aileen Wuornos).

Brooke has trod the boards, too (is there nothing she can’t do?).  She’s appeared as Rizzo in Grease (1994 revival) on Broadway.  She’s been in Cabaret and Chicago.  This year (2011), she’s supposed to play Morticia Addams in a Broadway musical, The Addams Family (how fun is that?  Brooke Shields as Morticia Addams – you gotta love it!)

Brooke’s “love-life” has been all over the map.  She’s been connected with several celebrity types, most of whom she hung out with when she was younger.  Brooke says she did not lose her virginity until the age of 22 (and unlike Britney Spears, I actually believed Brooke’s early claims she was still a virgin).  She married André Agassi (tennis player guy) in 1997, and they divorced in 1999.  In 2001, she married her current hubby, TV writer Chris Henchy (he actually seems like a good yegg). They have two daughters: Rowan Francis (born 2003) and Grier Hammond (born 2006).

My love for Brooke Shields reached infinity when in 2005 she publicly talked about a bad run of postpartum depression.  Her experience included chronic depression, suicidal thoughts, and an inability to develop a strong maternal bond.  The condition might have been triggered by one or all of several things: a traumatic childbirth, the death of her father three weeks earlier, stress from in vitro fertilization, a miscarriage, a family history of depression, as well as the hormonal and life changes brought on by childbirth.

Depressives never want to talk about being depressed.  Why? Because they aren’t able to adequately convey what, exactly, it feels like to be a chronic depressive.  That “I-just-want-to-crawl-off-into-a-corner-and-die” feeling is hard to put into easily understood terms (Brooke knows what I’m talking about).  It’s frustrating.  Sort of like how any woman must feel if she tries to explain to a man how it feels to be a woman.  Or if a black man tries to explain to Whitey how it feels to be black.  You get the idea.  So, for her to go public with this is a very big deal. 

Tom Cruise (as a Wackologist, he does not cotton to psychiatry) publicly attacked her for using, Brooke Shields todayand favorably reporting on, the anti-depressant drug Paxil.  Cruise’s smugness, and Brooke’s relatively-classy responses (a little snide, but not guttermouth), however, made me cherish her more.  At the same time this incident solidified my already-strong belief that Tom Cruise is a tremendous, 55-gallon, plastic-nozzled, vinegar-and-water, “fresh-as-a-country-lane-after-a-spring-shower” douche.  Who attacks someone for being a depressive? Trust me – depressives can’t do much about their condition except suffer.   If Brooke feels better on anti-depressants, more power to her (I know Prozac made a huge difference in my life).

Boy, howdy!  This tall drink of water with the big ol’ brows: it may not be fashionable (or “kewl”) to be stricken with amoré for Brooke Shields, but I’ve never been a slave to fashion.  Now that she’s older (and she was pretty as a girl, but once she lost the coltish gawkiness of her teen years and became all woman – whew!!) she’s more beautiful than ever, a real stunner.  She’s funny, smart, and classy, and most of all she’s nice, and that’s why I am madly in love with Brooke Shields.