My hero, all of my life, has been Fred Astaire. Not only was he one of the greatest dancers ever, but also he was so stylish and gorgeous. I had been modeling for about four years when I was cast in my first film, The Boy Friend, in 1969. It was a musical that had lots of tap dancing, so I watched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies obsessively to prepare. When it was released in America in 1971, I flew out to Los Angeles. I was at the MGM offices and somebody asked me, "Is there anyone you'd like to meet while you're in Hollywood?" Of course, I mentioned Fred.
At the time, I was only 21 years old; Fred was around 70. They told me that he was retired and very private, so it probably wasn't possible. But somebody at MGM who had worked with Fred overheard the conversation, and the next thing you know, I got an invitation for tea the following day at his home. Truthfully, I've never been so nervous. I thought my heart was actually going to stop. And I'll never forget the first moment I saw him. Nobody walks across a room like Fred Astaire — it was like poetry in motion! He was so lovely and modest. He also introduced me to his daughter, Ava, who was around my age.
I became friends with Fred after that. When I went back to England, we would write to each other and stay in touch. And when I went back to L.A., we went out to dinner in Beverly Hills at one of those Polynesian restaurants where they serve cocktails in coconuts. I wish I had a picture of us! I wouldn't say we were drunk, but we were quite happy when we left. Fred even did a tap dance down Rodeo Drive while we were walking to the car. People probably thought they were hallucinating when they drove by. [laughs]
Years later [in 1983] I was cast in my first Broadway show, My One and Only, with Tommy Tune. Cameras never fazed me because I had been modeling since age 16, but the thought of going out in front of 2,000 people every night and performing live terrified me. On opening night Ava presented me with this beautiful silver hand mirror as a good-luck gift from her and Fred. It has the initials "AA" on the back because it once belonged to Fred's sister, Adele Astaire, who was his dance partner before Ginger Rogers. I burst into tears because it meant so much to me.
Fred was older then and couldn't come to New York to see the musical, but the thoughtfulness behind the gift was incredible. I used the mirror every night to do my makeup for the show. And what a good-luck charm it was. We ran for about 18 month on Broadway and I was even nominated for a Tony Award for my performance. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Now I keep the mirror displayed in a beautiful cabinet in my home in London. It gives me a thrill when I see it because it reminds me of the magical time I had on Broadway. It also makes me think of Adele, Ava, and my darling Fred. I got to meet my hero. And it couldn't have been better.
As told to Jennifer Ferrise.
Twiggy's podcast, Tea with Twiggy, is available now in your podcast app.
For more stories like this, pick up the August 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download July 16th.
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