- Wendy Stuart Kaplan’s Endless Conversation With New York and The World
- Wendy Stuart-Kaplan, A ’70s Club Kid Who Lived to Tell All, Still Going Strong
- This sexy sexagenarian model proves beauty is timeless
- Milford Journel Profile – A Real Girl
- The River Reporter – Doing it by the Book
- ViviNow – A Perfect Book for Summer Reading
- Fragile Beauty – Press Release
- This ‘Last Model Standing’ on a Long-Time Mission to Help Others
- Wendy Kaplan – Model and Writer, Traveler, and Advocate – Gets Her ‘Life’s Balance’ in Milford
- With a Song in My Heart
- Documentary about saving primates to be shown at the Columns
- ‘Fragile Beauty’ at next Milford After Dark
- Photographers of indigenous tribes to lead talk on ethics
- Free screening of ‘Fragile Beauty’ at the Fauchere
- Where stars spend the night
- Films with the power to transform lives at The Black Bear
- Studio 54 Documentary at Black Bear Film Festival
Here’s social-influencer Wendy Stuart Kaplan with producer/promoter Nick Lion and singer Bobbie Horowitz at the NYC premiere of Michael Penny’s JUNK-A Musical Comedy; hosted by the grand-Michael Musto …
Social-influencer Wendy Stuart Kaplan appeared Monday night at Bedlam on the Lower East Side at the Reading for Filth event, which she co-produced and appeared in. Performers included Michael Musto (Village Voice); Penny Arcade; and, Eileen Dover. She’s seen here with Blair Bersha for B&B Couture, who outfits Wendy …
The Glorious Corner: Wendy Stuart Kaplan, Golden Door Film Festival, James Blunt, Project Grand Slam and More!
WENDY STUART KAPLAN LIVE IN JERSEY CITY— Last Thursday we traveled out to Jersey City for the annual Golden Door Film Festival opening night fete, where Wendy and Alan Kaplan’s documentary Whisperers and Witnesses was part of their schedule. Arriving at the art-deco Lowe’s Theater, we were immediately greeted by most of the other filmmaker’s whose work was being shown as well.
We’ve raved about this documentary previously, where The Kaplan’s travel to Cameroon to explore the story of two remarkable women, Rachel Hogan, Director of Ape Action Africa and Dr. Sheri Speede, Director of Sanaga Yong Chimpanzee Rescue. Both women are actively saving Gorillas and Chimpanzees in the depths of the Cameroon jungle.
Along the way the Kaplans meet some extraordinary people from Cameroon and the surrounding areas, who are fighting an irrefutable war against “bushmeat” in Africa. As we experience the commitment of these astonishing human-beings, and our connection to the primates, who share 98 percent of our DNA, you’ll be wondering, “How can we not save them?”, “What can we do now before it’s too late?”
When your eyes connect with these formidable primates there is a deep, overwhelming connection that cannot be explained, much like love at first sight. Though, even harder to explain is how we can allow these beautiful creatures to be massacred in the name of profit and greed.
This is the journey the Kaplans are on. In Whisperers and Witnesses: Primate Rescue, Wendy and Alan are searching for answers, solutions and a way to get this imperative message out and make a ongoing change in the manner our primates are being depleted before they’re extinct altogether.
Their film officially unspools Sunday night.
SHORT TAKES — Social-influencer Wendy Stuart Kaplan was interviewed by Zach Martin for his Big Fat American podcast; take a listen: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/big-fat-american/id1465382603?i=1000442952064 … Happy 4th!
Festooned with tambourines around her neck and elsewhere, raconteur Wendy Stuart Kaplan darted through the cavernous main theater of the famed La Mama performance complex. No one could ever call Kaplan shy, let alone at a loss for words. At Brian Butterick’s memorial, this author/personality was one of the speakers who celebrated the late gay activist/founder of the famed Pyramid Club and shared her memories of him.
Memories. Kaplan has been writing her memoir, “She’s The Last Model Standing,” all her life; it’s that she’s lived her life to be memoir-worthy. By the time the willowy bon vivant met and married renowned photographer Alan Kaplan, she had already carved out her perch in New York as a bona fide scene maker and observer. Born and raised in the Bronx, she exited her suburban confines to embrace many bold faced names such as Andy Warhol and became a regular at such NY haunts like Studio 54, Elaine’s, Area and Xenon.
Kaplan was already famous for photographs that graced the pages of GQ and Italian Vogue when he met the free-spirited Stuart. He encouraged her to become a model and advised her to travel to Europe for work and maybe, fame and fortune. What she found instead was a season of misadventure, so she returned to the States and she did what any Jewish mother would love a daughter to do, she got married — in Wendy’s case to Kaplan. Their partnership flourished as they began roaming the globe filming and established “Model with a Mission Visual Journeys” which documents unique stories of indigenous people and endangered species through Alan’s keen eye and Wendy’s quirky way and compassionate heart as the on-camera host as well as series producer. They also released “She’s The Last Model Standing” which garnered praise and finished “Whisperers and Witnesses,” a film which won the Best Documentary award at NYC’s Chelsea Film Festival.
Q: How long did it take to get the book done?
WSK: I’ve been writing this book my whole life. This book is about my life from the time I came to NY in the late ‘70s all the way up to now. But it was hard getting it together because a lot happened over that time period. I had to go back through photo albums, I have over 250 photo albums. Pictures of everything that came down the pike from the late 70s up to now and all the things I did. So I started looking at the pictures and started writing paragraphs and there was no timeline, nothing made any sense. It was almost stream of consciousness, like James Joyce. I showed somebody the draft and I was lucky enough to meet David Wallace who ended up becoming the editor and was able to work with me that way.
Q: Was it easy or did you need to get James Joyce involved?
WSK: We didn’t need to James Joyce but I had to beat up Wallace a couple of times because he kept trying to change my words. Those were my words, my life experiences, my voice, nobody else’s.
Q: When you’re writing a book how do you know when to stop from adding new things.
WSK: This is the easiest thing in the world because you know where you start and where you’ll end within the month of doing the book and that’s exactly what happened. It ended on one of my trips when I was making films about people in remote parts of the world. It was easy enough to end the book on one of those projects. You always want an audience to want more.
Q: When did you decide you needed to write this and did you have you to stop your life to write this book?
WSK: I’ll give you an analogy. You got all these bloggers. What is a blog? Half the time it’s someone’s very uninteresting daily memoir. What makes a book different is that you have a story in you. For someone like me it was always a running monologue of “Oh I should be writing this down — this is an incredible story.” I took pictures and knew one day I would share the stories behind them. When someone writes a memoir, that’s a historical record of their life. You’re probably thinking, “what makes your life so special?” It’s just a thing a person knows. You go to cocktail parties and share experiences or when you’re at a job and you tell people what you do. You can tell by the reaction you get. I have to be honest, more than a few people said “you should write a book.” So I did.
Q: And no one else had those photos to refer to.
WSK: My story is a very unique one. There’s not a lot of people that came out of the whole club scene and are still movin’, shakin’ and can remember what happened.
Q: Uptown or downtown clubs?
WSK: Things have come full circle for me because now the last five years have been spent in the downtown scene, and more recently, the Brooklyn scene; let’s not forget that. But my club culture started out with Studio 54 and everything that went with that. I remember what went on then and the other clubs around then. I went to all of them — Limelight, Roxy, Paradise Garage, and more. The thing is with me, I never stopped going to clubs. I remember being eight months pregnant and dancing on a party boat in New York in a leopard dress.
Q: Where’s this poor child now?
WSK: Actually, the child is brilliant,. She’s 26 years old, and getting her first apartment. She’s got a job that can pay her rent, and is really an incredible writer, but totally different from me. She’s been schooled in writing and I’ve been schooled in club culture.
Q: Does the disco beat seem frightening to her?
WSK: It’s not frightening but she doesn’t connect with what I am about. She’s never read my book. She said, “I’m just not ready to do that yet.” Maybe it’s because I’m her mom.
Q: How do her friends react? Do they think you’re cool?
WSK: I’m like a goddess to a lot of her friends, they totally look up to me and they do wanna hang out when they’re over. But they’re her friends, I say I don’t want to monopolize your conversation. People came here to see you, not me. The stuff I’ve lived through really interest them. I really interest them. Because their parents, most of them, are not like me. You find a few, because after all, this is New York.
Q: You still have your disco clothes?
WSK: Someone asked me to audition for something today based on my fashion background and they were very intrigued that I have my disco clothes. We don’t call them disco clothes though — they’re “vintage”. Vintage is the proper fashion term for them. So yes, I still have my disco clothes and I’m proud to say I’ve carried those clothes forward and mix and match them with what’s going on now.
Q: Do you have a glittery Halston dress?
WSK: I have a glittery dress, I’m just not sure if it’s a Halston. I have every Betsey Johnson thing, and a lot of Haute Couture. That’s when Couture was a size 8 and not 0 or 2 or whatever. I’m proud to say I’ve maintained the exact same size and body weight as I had back in those days. I have a lot of no-name brands as well, from stores like Rainbow.
Q: How about from Fiorucci, the very fabulous Italian brand?
WSK: I love Fiorucci. That’s collectible, the shoes are above and beyond.
Q: I knew the club-tastic Joey Arias whom I met when he was working at their legendary midtown store.
WSK: I love Joey. He had a Cabaret act at 54 Below. I adore him. He had a retrospective with polaroids from back in the day and writings and photographs from [the late] Klaus Nomi [Both of them performed with David Bowie on SNL].
Q: Who else is memorable to you in a profound way?
WSK: The other day I had lunch with Rollerena. She’s still a major icon, just that she ain’t rolling anymore [smiles]. But still so fabulous. We talked about how you didn’t have to become anything in those days, you just were. Rollerena was a Wall Street broker by day, fairy godmother by night. She’d roll around the dance floor at Studio 54. After work from her Wall Street job, she’d go uptown, get into her Fairy Godmother outfit, and roll from 6th Avenue and 57th street down town on 6th Avenue. She’d roll against traffic so everybody noticed her. People in those days really went against the grain. They were the real deal.
Who did I know in those days — Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Calvin Klein, Joe Dallesandro. It’s in my book; Andy offered me a role in one of his movies with Joe, but it never came to fruition. I’m just a kid from the Bronx and there I was, rubbing shoulders with celebrities like Warhol. I remember going to a Halloween party with Cornelia Guest. C.Z. Guest, Cornelia Guest, those are names you don’t hear a lot of anymore. But in those days, Cornelia Guest was a big deal. There was a Halloween contest at Studio 54 and I was a finalist and she was a judge. I came out and people were applauding and I heard her say, “Ugh, she’s tired.” I hated her, HATED her for saying that.
Q: Who else did you hate?
WSK: Honestly, not that many people. There’s no room for hate in my life.
Q: Who do you love the most from those days?
WSK: I love the purely creative people like Andy Warhol. I know there’s been a lot of stuff in the negative said about him. I never had to deal with him on that level. He was a creative genius. His exhibit at the Whitney, it was above and beyond. Debbie Harry was in some of videos. I knew Debbie then and I know her now. I have such incredible respect for her transcending the decades. Unfortunately Warhol never got a chance to do that and maybe that’s what was supposed to happen. People had put his films down, put his actresses like Edie Sedgwick down, they put down the Campbell Soup cans, and just about everything else. Now look at it. When you go to the Whitney and see his body of work,my god, this guy was such a visionary. I wish he lived longer. Calvin Klein was a guy I used to see out a lot. I admired him because he never seemed to age. Ironically now you don’t see him out much anymore. I used to think he slept with intravenous embalming fluid because he was so handsome and always looked the same.
Unfortunately the times that we’re talking about is when AIDS wiped out everyone. It wiped out Halston and some of the brightest most creative people that existed. I was on the board of an organization that took care of the pets of people who had AIDS; it was called POWARS: Pet Owners With AIDS Resource Service. That was a very empowering time for me because it was the only way I felt like I could do something. I lost everybody and so did so many other people too. Three phone books I went through of people who died.
Q: How many phone books did you have in total?
WSK: Probably 12 from back in the day. The rest are from after what I call the Holocaust, cause that’s what it was. There are two things that impacted New York; you can’t talk about all this without talking about the AIDS epidemic and 9/11. Those were big game changers. For me personally, nothing was the same after that.
But you always have to repackage, reinvent, and move on. I’ve had a whole life of reinvention. Still modeling, still acting but now I do brand ambassadoring for clients and have moved into a whole different area.
I was auditioning for travel shows. Maybe it was the impetus for the book, but I went up for a show called “Ms. Adventure” — it was either Nat Geo or the Discovery Channel that was doing it. I had all the qualifications. I had lived in the Amazon and had leeches on me, lived in Nigeria, my book opens in Nigeria where I was living in a village up in the area of Nigeria where the Boko Haram were. They were there then under a different name. There I was, blond hair down to my waist, free as a bird, thinking absolutely nothing can happen to me.
When you’re in that age group, you don’t think those things can ever happen to you. All these things led up to me auditioning for this show, but I didn’t get it. Not only that, but I didn’t even get called up for the audition. That’s when I started to understand the way things work. I had all the qualifications and didn’t even get to audition. I had to reinvent myself, get my brand out there, and let people know about it.
So with my husband, a brilliant videographer and photographer, we started combining our work and going to remote places around the world and I wrote these very loosely put together scripts. They were very reality based; we called the project Model With A Mission. We told the story of elephant rescues in Thailand. Our most recent film, “Whispers and Witnesses,” — which is about Rachel Hogan from Ape Action Africa and Dr Sherie Speede from Sanaga Yong Chimpanzee Rescue, who are both saving primates from the bushmeat trade in Cameroon — won best documentary at the Chelsea Film Festival. It was made because I became a member of the Explorer’s Club so I met these two women who have rescue centers which are working in Africa to stave off primate extinction.
Q: You’re involved with the Explorer’s Club, aren’t you? It’s a curious place.
WSK: I do the tours, I’m a docent there. My tours are different from others. My tours are based in history but there’s an awful lot of juicy stuff about our explorers, including the polar bear. I encourage people to take a selfie in front of the polar bear. That was the impetus behind the film, I heard these women speak there. There was a fundraiser to bid on this trip. I was making these films two years ago and didn’t have a project. I thought Cameroon sounded interesting. I looked at the bid sheet and no one else’s name was on it. I won the trip and they called me a week later to tell me I had won it.
Within three days I used my frequent flyer miles and then they called me and said they’d give me some dates and I said I was going to come there to shoot a film about these rescue centers for animals. They said you need a letter from the government so I’m like ok, when can you get me one? When I have a vision I go through with it, nothing stops me. The women said they have to get me a visa, I didn’t know what no tourist infrastructure really meant. You think they have your name on a sign. My name was on a sign, held by a BEAUTIFUL man, about six foot four, completely dressed in uniform. We get there, we’re exhausted, this man is gorgeous, has an enormous gun and a sign with our names and I say “Hi I’m Wendy Kaplan and this is my husband.” He said, “My name is Kennedy, my English not so good.” I thought to myself, don’t even talk, just let me look at you. He had to be the most handsome man on the face of the earth.
Nobody spoke English but everybody spoke French, so it forced me to use my high school French. I said where is the super market in French, and he took me right away to the one supermarket. I bought 50 bottles of water for drinking, bathing, washing hair. Do not use local water for anything. Even if they tell you the local water is purified, there’s that 8% and that 8% is gonna get you. It was an experience but I managed to get as close as I am to you right now with gorillas and chimpanzees. I got to tell the wonderful story behind what the women are doing there.
Q: It’s a feature?
WSK: It’s 42 minutes. I call it a “shlong” because it’s between a short and a long. I came up with that. If you know film festivals, they’ve got these categories that are so confining.
Q: How does your husband keep up with you?
WSK: I fell apart in Africa. Alan actually did much better than me. He doesn’t keep up with me easily because all I need is five hours of sleep, I read all the time, and love meeting people. But Alan is very grounded and when I was in Africa I was freaking out thinking I was gonna die there. One guy I interviewed said he was recovering from typhoid and malaria; and I heard about things that crawl under your skin and lay eggs. By day eight, I thought I was going to get all those things. But I got through scot free.
Q: What’s happening now?
WSK: I’m working on getting an expedition going. I’d like to go to Madagascar. Patricia Wright studies the lemurs there. There’s a leech expert I know from the Explorers Club who is there. I begged him to take us. The Explorers Club has these great experts from all over the world about everything. I want to make films about them but you can’t put just an academic film out there. I can find the hook to bring it into your living room. Alan shoots amazing video and I’m the comedic relief freaking out in a foreign country.
And “Whispers and Witnesses” is at the Africa, Women, and Arts Festival in Tanzania. I would love to have gone there… And I’ve got the African Film Festival coming up in Dallas. I also run panels for them.
Plus, I’d like to do a follow up to my book “She’s The Last Model Standing.” I’m a baby boomer and I’m up for us to be as fabulous as possible. 40 to 50 is the new 20, yes it is. We’re all aging backwards. I have the fashion background and I’d like to work with fashion designers who aren’t designing things for 20 year olds that are size two. Boomers are the ones with the money. Women come up to me all the time and say they can’t find clothes. And I then find them what they need. That’s what I am — a connector.
Wendy Stuart-Kaplan, a ’70s Club Kid Who Lived to Tell All, Still Going Strong
New Yorker Wendy Stuart-Kaplan is a ’70s club kid and model who has done it all, from basking in the dazzling lights of the legendary Studio 54 and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Carl Bernstein, Andy Warhol and Calvin Klein, to saving elephants on treks to Thailand.
The Bronx-born Kaplan has been omnipresent in pop culture for 40 years and lived to tell about it.
The legendary New York Post gossip columnist Earl Wilson once wrote an entire column about her bedazzling presence. The column was titled “She Dances Alone.”
In 2015, She released her own book, “She’s The Last Model Standing,” about her 30-year career as a “fit model.”
Who else can say women’s underwear sold at Wal-Mart is modeled on their size eight bottom? Wendy can. “I cover the asses of the masses,” she boasts.
Kaplan is still going strong after 45 years in fashion. At just over five-feet, eight-inches tall, she still weighs 135 pounds, just as she did in the ’70s and ’80s when she partied hard at celebrity studded Studio 54.
These days, Wendy can often be found at The Explorer’s Club on Manhattan’s tony East Side, giving tours, or at the downtown New York City hub, Irving Plaza, hosting a Night of 1000 Stevie’s.
She’s also released, in conjunction with husband Alan Kaplan, the film “Witnesses and Whisperers.” It’s about fight to preserve the gorilla, chimpanzees and monkeys in Cameroon.
The movie was previewed recently at the Chelsea Film Festival.
Stuart-Kaplan sat down with IM to talk about her career and her new film in a Q&A.
WENDY STUART KAPLAN – Model With a Mission
By the time Wendy Stuart Kaplan met and married renowned photographer Alan Kaplan, she had already carved out her own totally unique perch in New York as a bona fide influencer and tastemaker. Born and raised in the Bronx, Wendy quickly became acquainted with soon to be bold faced names like Andy Warhol and Anthony Hayden Guest and was a regular at such NY-after hour haunts like Studio 54; Elaine’s and Irving Plaza.
She gained instant notoriety with her quick wit and ability to quickly assess trends; be it in fashion or in pop culture. She’s also released her own biography called She’s The Last Model Standing, which immediately gleaned terrific reviews and has just finished her film Whisperers and Witnesses; which won the Best Documentary award at the Chelsea Film Festival in NYC.
Iconic photographer Alan Kaplan was already famous for his revolutionary photographs that graced the pages of GQ and Italian Vogue when he met humanitarian and free-spirited Stuart. He encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a supermodel and advised her to travel to Europe to find fame and fortune.
What she found instead was a summer of misadventure and so when she came back to the states she did what any other girl growing up in the Bronx, whose mother encouraged her to seek employment at the telephone company, would do … she married Kaplan.
Thus began a partnership that has endured the test of time as they began roaming the globe filming and revealing the truth through their Model with a Mission-Visual Journeys that convey unique stories of indigenous people and endangered wildlife through Alan’s keen eye and Wendy’s quirky sense of humor and compassionate heart. Wendy appears as on-camera host as well as producer of the series.
Forthright, unflappable and adventurous Wendy forges ahead when she makes a decision. Whether it’s trekking to the isolated villages of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia to see what the latest fashion trends are (usually dating back hundreds of years) or hiring a soldier to get the Kaplans deep into the jungles of Cameroon for Whisperers and Witnesses, or hosting Night Of 1000 Stevies , 2:00 AM at Irving Plaza.
Wendy is fearless as long as long as she has her lip gloss, waterproof mascara, toothpaste and her eyes set on a site to discover chimpanzees, gorillas and rescue centers. She wants to tell a story that no one else has told before.
Wendy is a fearless globetrotter who when asked if she was afraid of the AK47’s that the Karo people carry, rolled her eyes and replied, “Are you kidding? The NYC subway is my midtown office! Now that’s scary when you think about it!”
Alan, a man wrapped in nonchalance and willing to take any risk Wendy dishes out carries his cameras and tripods like an Oscar. Kaplan has replaced the beautiful fashion people with the most interesting people who happen to be beautiful. Alan, holding his camera inches from a gorilla’s face or documenting natives in ceremonial dance or Manhattan’s nitty-gritty nightlife are what makes him the perfect blend of explorer, voyeur and diarist.
Wendy understands the human condition and knows when and how to bring a serious segment home but also is quick to find the quirkiness or comedy in any unfamiliar situation. In Fragile Beauty, A Visual Journey, drawing on her background as a professional model in the fashion industry, she explores the fashions and culture of indigenous people who have existed in the same manner for centuries. She takes full responsibility for what needs to be accomplished to change the rapid extinction of tribal people and at the same time records, with a light heart and respectful humor, the oddities along with the fears and joys of the people.
The Kaplans are never intruders or guests as they always strive to be players in the band. To accomplish such a feat the two understand that in order to be let in on the secret they must quickly gain the trust and friendship of whomever they meet. They must allow life to go at its own pace until they are asked to join in and become a part of everyday life that has been sheltered and isolated for, in some cases, centuries. Not an easy feat but one remarkably executed!
The Kaplans admission into the highly selective Explorers Club resulted in her film, Whisperers and Witnesses, being screened exclusively at the club. In fact, Kaplan can often be found at the club giving exclusive tours for interested parties – which she proclaims as everything you ever wanted to know about the Explorer’s Club but were afraid to ask.
A true force of nature … WENDY STUART KAPLAN.