Living: Big-League Stunner or Nice Kid?

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Unbelievably, Brooke Shields really seems to be both

Idly waiting for the show to begin, the cynical parent wonders how he would handle things. "To the school office:

Please excuse my daughter's absence for the past three weeks. She was . . ."

Sulking? Unable to find two knee socks that matched? Out of eye liner? No, as a matter of fact, the 15-year-old in question was in Manila as the honored guest of President Marcos and his wife ("Those are real diamonds in Mrs. Marcos' dress.

I think that's neat") and the star attraction at a film festival. Then she flew back by way of Rome, where she was photographed in full battle dress for the cover and a big inside feature of the Italian Harper's Bazaar. Then, since she was there and why not, she chummed around with Franco Zeffirelli, who directed her latest film, and helped Designer Valentino show his spring collection, keeping an eye out for one of his dresses to wear at the high school prom back in Englewood, N.J.

So: "... absence from school. She was having an out-of-body experience."

Brooke Shields, pretty Brookie, was already a big-league stunner when most of the models backstage at the Valentino show were still in high school, and now, rubbing slender elbows with them, she was definitely not outclassed. But she was 5 ft. 10 in. and a bit the last time anyone measured ("My doctor says I'm going to be 6 ft."); she doesn't wear heels much, and she wobbled a bit as she wandered around in a yellow strapless with a puff-sleeved jacket, waiting to be hung with jewelry. Wondrous astral bodies circulated about her; the ineffable Apollonia had got hold of some champagne, and showed up for work wearing red tights, a black tank top, a rough-trade belt, and Sony headphones over her ponytail. Iman, the gazelle-like Somalian, in silver pants and a noisy yellow top, joined her and they began dancing and laughing. Another black model, completely dressed on her bottom half in pleated silk skirt, stockings and shoes and completely bare above the waist, cantered through the room as Brooke watched in amazement.

When Brooke made her first entrance, "halfway through the show, the models backstage applauded. Onstage, as the audience clapped politely, she broke into a grin, as if she thought the whole spectacle a big giggle. If Valentino had tried to show her the catwalk glide, it wasn't evident; she simply galumphed down the runway as if she had been let out into a spring pasture.

At one point she tried a hand-on-hip flounce. As photographers lunged and snapped, she winked at the audience, grimaced wildly and, with eyes rolling toward the ceiling, indicated that she felt like a bit of an idiot. Awkward or not, she kept the onlookers on her side. She bore no resemblance to the young passionflower her merchandisers have hinted she is. But her giddy height and her astonishing face, with its hawk-wing eyebrows, deep blue eyes and full lips too fine for banalities or bubble gum, gave her what watchers have always known she had, a rare order of beauty not seen more than once or twice in a decade.

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