- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO —Three middle-aged men peer around the corner — beaming. "We're just gawking," one quickly confesses.
Lauren Hutton flashes her famous gap-toothed grin. "I'm very flattered. Really."
At 57, Miss Hutton looks much younger. She's tanned, thin and wears little makeup.
She explains that she grew up in a Florida family that was "deeply working class," so she headed to New York in the mid-1960s believing it would be her gateway to the world. She became a model and soon landed a groundbreaking $200,000 annual contract with Revlon.
Miss Hutton has since appeared on more than two dozen Vogue magazine covers and in nearly 50 films, most notably 1980's "American Gigolo" with Richard Gere.
Last October, she nearly died in a motorcycle crash near Las Vegas. Miss Hutton was on a 100-mile ride by the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club with other celebrities, including Dennis Hopper and Jeremy Irons.
She crashed while going more than 100 mph. Her right leg was broken into pieces, and it is now held together by titanium rods and screws. Her right arm also is held together by metal.
Miss Hutton uses a cane and walks slowly, with a limp she'll likely have for life. But she was in good spirits during a recent visit to San Francisco, where she was the host of a World Wildlife Fund benefit.
She credits her friends, including riding buddies Mr. Irons and Laurence Fishburne, with getting her through the tough times.
"They listened to me cry and howl and carry on for hours," she says.
1. What did you learn from your accident?
Miss Hutton: If I ride again, I will never ride again if I have a bad feeling. I felt bad about it from the beginning and I knew something was off and I just shouldn't have gone. I'll listen to my instincts a little more.
2. Did you believe you were going to die?
Miss Hutton: I was too drugged up most of the time to think about that. My friends all thought I was going to die. They all thought I was dead. You can tell by people looking at you in a way that no one's ever looked at you. I knew it was bad.
3. When you first started modeling, you were pressured to close the gap between your front teeth. Why didn't you fix them?
Miss Hutton: I liked my teeth. Besides, I had already gotten mortician's wax to fill the gap. And when I got money I had them make a little thing that had a line down the middle of it so it was a permanent little thing and I wore that lots of times. I could get the all-American, perfect tooth, upper-middle class, orthodontist look if I wanted. So I didn't see why I had to bash my teeth around and turn them into a pair of Chiclets.
4. You've had a lifelong fascination with Africa. Where did that come from?
Miss Hutton: Tarzan. I saw Tarzan movies as a kid and I thought they were the first intelligent adults I had ever seen in my life. They didn't wear clothes. They wore paint and feathers and shells and they swung through trees and they had fun. I thought these people were something else. They got to hang out with great animals all day, talk to them, live good lives, have fun, swing around in the jungle and that's what I wanted.
5. And you fell in love with the continent?
Miss Hutton: One of the great things that I've loved about Africa is it made me feel normal. When the plane door opened to Nairobi in 1967, I just felt like I'd come home. When you're out there for a while and you're just living in the bush with animals, you start feeling like one of many different animals. You know you've got a lot of things they don't have, but they've got a lot of things you don't have and you get this balance. As soon as you come back, the balance goes and you feel incredibly lopsided because the things you've got to watch out for is a car hitting you on the sidewalk, not an angry buffalo running to dinner.

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