Continuing from Part 1, Laura and I were in a small crowd on the luxury shopping street Via Monte Napoleone, waiting for Claudia Schiffer to emerge from the Gucci store.
[Milan. Spring 1996 – Part 2 of 2] Two more men, dressed in black, were the first to exit the store. They held the doors open for the main event: the angelic emergence of Claudia.
The supermodel stepped in the doorway and came into focus to cheers from the small crowd around us. She waved to the people and flashed that Brigette Bardot-like smile. Her wavy golden hair embraced her face and cascaded down past her shoulders. She removed her black oversized sunglasses, giving us a more intimate peek past the barrier to her beautiful eyes.
Some of the tourists snapped photos from their pocket film cameras – digitals were not mainstream. Remember: This was the mid-90s; a time before the invasive mobile phone camera.
Claudia wore tight-fit jeans and fitted flowered top – looking comfortable, but always in style. She stepped down from the threshold, followed by two more security men. It was a total of six suited men forming a circled barrier around her as she walked with the crowd further down the street. Laura and I followed, of course.
Occasionally, arms reached within Claudia’s circle, handing her random objects to autograph (a notebook, a hat, even a cigarette pack); and Ms. Schiffer seemed to have happily obliged. Thinking back at this, it may have all been a publicity stunt for Gucci. But, it really didn’t matter; we were close in proximity to a supermodel – Claudia Schiffer.
The crowd shuffled around, continuing to hand Claudia objects to sign. Laura and I struggled to find something to hand to Claudia but, we didn’t really have anything; and we still felt out of place, sort of. We continued to walk with Claudia as she reached the Valentino store, and followed her as she went right onto via Santo Spirito.
At this point the crowd had shuffled haphazardly. For a brief moment, the security men lost the shape of their protective circle and struggled to regain their form. The moment of confusion separated Laura and me. And, as if some act from the heavens, I somehow ended up within the protective circle, walking right next to Ms. Schiffer!
From behind I hear Laura calling for me through the crowd; but I ignored her; mesmerized by Ms. Schiffer. Meanwhile, I noticed Claudia looking at me smiling as she continued along signing whatever object she was handed. We both looked at each other as we walked along in silence.
We passed the Balenciaga store, continued down the street until Claudia led us left down Via della Spiga. Satisfied with the autographs, the crowd dissipated, but I stayed on with Claudia, walking within her circle.
I had been walking with her for a while at this point and we had not exchanged a word to each other. I wanted to say something to her. I had to say something. But, I didn’t know what. I opened my mouth to speak to her, but nothing would come out. I felt like I was trying to force a word, any word out of my mouth, but I just could not speak. I noticed Claudia looking at me and giggling as she continued to walk along with me. She knew what was happening. She had to have noticed my inability to speak to her. It must have been obvious to her that I was apparently and completely star struck. I was embarrassed. I stepped out of my fog of awe and realized my surroundings. I remember thinking: ‘What was I doing in the circle? Why are the security guards allow me to stay alongside her? Why was she smiling at me?’ Claudia was having a laugh and I felt like a fool. I had to act cool, so I laughed back with her; but still no words would come out.
I looked around for Laura and finally found her lined up with me on the other side of the guard to my right. To my left was still Claudia, smiling and now apparently done signing things. The crowd had died down to about five people. Laura called out to me again. The guard looked at me as if just noticing I was on the wrong side of the circle. We locked eyes, and I popped passed him to join Laura. Yes, I was out of Claudia’s safe circle, but still we walked along with her. Laura really wanted to hear what I said to Claudia, but shyly I admitted my failure to speak.
We reached the Byblos store and the end of Via della Spiga where a black Mercedes awaited. The driver seeing the model approach, opened the back door for her to step in. The security guards spread out allowing her room to walk to the car. When she reached it, she turned around, waved to us again, and climbed in. At that point, I thought it was over. We were standing about five feet apart: she in the car, me on the street. Laura and I were ready to head back to our normal lives. But then, we notice the window to the black car roll down.
Claudia looked out and waved again. I decided that I had to speak. I couldn’t let Claudia think I was some bumbling fool, too scared to say anything to her. I suppose at that point it was too late because that clearly was the impression I had given. (Yes, I want to believe she actually had a thought about the weird guy that couldn’t speak.)
Anyway, it was my moment to finally say something. It was a now or never moment. Again, I struggled with my nerves. But, I fought the embarrassment. I shook myself out of the star struck awe. And I worked up the strength to put up my hand, wave and finally shout out “Bye, Claudia!” to which the golden goddess giggled, smiled and waved again.
So, I’ve decided to leave that memory believing that Claudia Schiffer thought I was funny and adorable. Hey! It’s my memory, I can believe whatever I want.