Gross, a very detailed reporter, badly needed an editor to slim down this sprawling book about modeling, that ruthlessly competitive industry. He sweeps energetically through the rise of the supermodel, including Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer, but the book is most effective when the models speak for themselves about the demands of their high-paying, glamorous work and their often outlandish lifestyles. Lauren Hutton, for example, in describing her prime modeling years, shows she was treated more like a work-in-progress than a woman: "I had six mobs every day. Six photographers, six sets of hair and makeup, and 10 suits from the ad agency who just wanted to see the models. Ten, 20 different people, five of whom were touching you. It's a big mental strain."
The author also documents how, beginning in the mid-'60s, drugs and promiscuous sex became an integral part of the modeling world. Young women, most still in their teens, were thrown into a sophisticated milieu with no one watching over them. When a young German model named Agneta Freiberg, apparently tripping on LSD, jumped out of a Paris hotel window in 1971, the French police asked celebrated agency owner Eileen Ford if Agneta could have been involved with a revolutionary group. "I don't think she ever thought that deeply," replied Ford. Gross has obviously thought deeply about the machinations and meaning of the modeling business, and it has left him feeling very queasy. (Morrow, $25)