- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001

HOLLYWOOD The maid brings me green tea in a Japanese pot and lights three candles; the scent of sandalwood drifts through the huge open-plan Hollywood living room. There is not a sound to be heard. Just pouring the tea produces a great cacophony of tinkling and gurgling that has me looking nervously over my shoulder for the feng shui police.

I am waiting for Cheryl Tiegs, the world's first supermodel, blonde beauty and original California girl. In 1978, Time magazine put her on its cover with the caption "The All-American Model."

She is 53 now, and famous all over again for producing twin boys, Jaden Joseph and Theo Reid, on July 1 last year. Only, she didn't produce them herself: She paid a surrogate, a much younger woman, to carry and bear babies conceived in a dish from her eggs and the sperm of her new husband.

This has raised big questions in America about procreation and the biological clock and suggests that a woman need not organize her life according to her traditional childbearing years. "I don't think that age is a criterion in what you want to do," Miss Tiegs says. "We are setting boundaries today that have never been set before."

Since Miss Tiegs married her yoga teacher, 43-year-old Rod Stryker, she has pushed back her own boundaries in the quest for inner peace. But where is the noise, energy and visible debris that follows the arrival of not one, but two babies? On the custom-built bookshelves above the soot-free fireplace there are leather-bound copies of Encyclopedia Britannica, but there is not a cuddly toy or stray bootie to be seen. And where is the rubble from her first child, 10-year-old Zak?

"Oh, I am a very organized person," says Miss Tiegs, drifting weightlessly through her home to settle on the sofa.

She is in great shape, and clearly happy, but there is another side to the twins' story, and it is not long before Miss Tiegs is telling it. For all the Hollywood gloss, becoming a mother at her age and without a pregnancy has been traumatic.

"I just cried for months and months before the babies were born," she says, "and for months afterwards. I was so scared of losing myself. I really do believe that the boys have added to my life rather than taken away from it. But it can be so overwhelming. I was so afraid."

Motherhood is different this time around for Miss Tiegs, and having looked after Zak for most of his life, she no longer sees the kitchen and nursery as her natural habitat.

"It is being happy within that counts," she explains. "It takes a lot of work. You have to monitor yourself not just daily but hourly to make sure you are OK and at peace within." Every afternoon she must lie down for an hour or so, just to let her pulse rate drop.

Why then, I wonder, did she embark on such a demanding adventure? "Because my husband is 10 years younger and had never had a child," she says. "When we married, I agreed that I would try. I just could not say to him that I have Zak and that I do not need more kids. I had the energy and the financial wherewithal. It was at his urging, and I agreed."

But Miss Tiegs also understood that she needed the children herself, because there is a part of her nature that is deeply introverted, perhaps even cold, and she is prone to disappear into lonely self-absorption.

She was always a quiet child, preferring, just as Zak does now, to read books and draw than to join in team sports and party crowds. It was her best buddy in the late 1960s who persuaded her to try modeling, then still considered the preserve of haughty Europeans.

"We used to read Seventeen magazine together and my friend would say that I was just as pretty as the models," she says, "so I agreed to see an agent." The friend turned out to be right. A new look was needed for the 1970s, and Cheryl Tiegs' natural beauty fitted the bill. By the end of the decade, she was the ubiquitous cover girl for Glamour magazine and for Sports Illustrated. The annual "swimsuit issue" was basically created as a showcase for her.

She signed record-breaking deals with Sears Roebuck, Clairol and, in a five-year deal that dwarfed the Revlon contract with Lauren Hutton and redefined the modeling industry, with Cover Girl Cosmetics for $15 million. "Before the Time magazine cover and those contracts, people knew models by their faces, but not their names," she says. "After that, we had names and personalities. It was a different world."

Giddy professional success, however, proved hard to match in her private life. In her early 20s, Miss Tiegs married naively, she admits a Hollywood film director, Stan Dragoti. But the relationship ended soon after he was arrested for cocaine possession and dragged off to rehab.

Her second husband was the Kenyan wildlife photographer and adventurer Peter Beard, a scion of the East Coast establishment who had dropped out to live in the African bush. For three years, Miss Tiegs seemed happy with him in the romantic living conditions of his camp.

But Mr. Beard, who later discovered the supermodel Iman wandering through a marketplace, proved at least as decadent and narcissistic as the men Miss Tiegs had left behind in Hollywood, and by the mid-1980s she was back in California. There, she married Tony Peck, son of Gregory, and gave birth to a son, Zak.

But her third marriage did not last, either. Miss Tiegs went to live alone with Zak on a beach in northern California and lost herself in motherhood and meditation. She came back to Los Angeles four years ago and married Mr. Stryker a year later, after meeting him at his yoga class.

"Women today have such independence," she says. "There are so many new rules. But with greater freedom comes greater responsibilities, and that is hard. I was safe on the beach, but I was becoming too isolated. It's important to get back into the community. I cried for 10 days before I left that place. But as soon as I was barreling along in the car, heading back here, I felt so happy."

She is talking about crying again and, catching herself, falls silent. I ask whether this would be a good moment to meet the kids. Where are they? Miss Tiegs looks at her watch and says that they might be napping, but we could go and see. We pass through the kitchen and into an annex that she has converted into the nursery for the children and a live-in nanny.

The boys are awake. One is cradled on the arm of the nanny and sucking a bottle. The other is on the bed, gurgling as she rubs his back.

Their mother reaches down to the boy on the bed and pats him gently on the stomach. We chat and coo for a minute or two, and then Miss Tiegs suggests we should leave them to get on with their routine.

As we leave, I realize that she has made no move to pick the boys up or make contact beyond that tentative touch. As she and I turn away from the two little blond boys and their nanny, so quiet and hidden away, we seem to share a profound moment of sadness.

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