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Girls Interrupted

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After marrying for a second time in 1993, and starting a second family, Casablancas decided to semi-retire -- he's currently aiming to be out in September. "That's what's guiding my life now," he says. "I'm moving to Miami in June." But the BBC documentary threw his plans for a smooth transition into disarray. So in his faxed manifesto, Casablancas named Massimo Redaelli, who'd recently joined Elite from Ford Models, as the new head of Elite USA. But Redaelli, it turned out, wanted a guarantee that Gérald Marie would not return to work; he felt that without it, the cleanup of Elite would merely be cosmetic. Two weeks after the fax went out, Redaelli refused the presidency and resigned.

Even so, Casablancas remains confident about the new Elite, and supportive of Marie. "We've been negotiating this for weeks now," he tells me. "We've come to an acceptable compromise. Gérald has understood that he's got to separate his private life from his professional life. He has gotten to that stage of maturity. And I think the argument has sensitized it."

In the new Elite Casablancas vows to build, "Gérald will have very, very little to do with the models," Casablancas says. "He will be very careful. He's a smart guy. With this happening, what mother will send her daughter to Gérald?"

Casablancas realizes the world has come a long way from when he started in the business in 1969. "Me, I'm not seeking redemption," he says. "I'm really proud of the story of my life, not in the sense that it's perfect, but I enjoyed it, I had a lot of fun, I made money, I had prestige, I'm comfortable with what it was -- with its weaknesses."

Casablancas's weaknesses have certainly given him special knowledge of what's wrong with the modeling business. But can he persuade his colleagues to take him seriously? "Maybe they'll think this guy's moving out, he's suicidal, so he'll cause a lot of problems for everybody else," he says.

"But I think a lot of these people are really tired in the relationship with young models. The parents are a pain in the ass. The responsibility is a pain in the ass. If we can control better the relationship with the models -- because they're older, they can make their own decisions, and they don't need these handlers -- our bottom line will be better. So I have a certain hope -- I won't be able to get it all, but I may get some of it done, and it will be a nice way to step out of the business."

Like Eisenhower railing against the military-industrial complex, Casablancas is taking his leave by taking on the very system that made him. "It's about time," says Marie Anderson Boyd when I tell her of Casablancas's about-face. She chuckles before asking, "Is he still with that wife? Good for him."

Michael Gross's book My Generation: Fifty Years of Sex, Drugs, Rock, Revolution, Glamour, Greed, Valor, Faith and Silicon Chips will be published next month.


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