At 78, Paulene Stone, the former Vogue cover model, has still got it. Words by Jonathan Whiley.
Paulene Stone has still got it. The style, the sass, the je ne sais quoi.
Now 78, the former Vogue cover model has been married four times, battled cancer three times and, mercifully, is not about to go gently into that long good night, thank you very much.
Her life is as riotously colourful as any Kandinsky canvas.
What’s more, she makes for fabulous no-nonsense company. And she dishes up delicious showbiz snippets with a candour few can match.
Then again, for a woman who was dubbed “the embodiment of the Sixties”, would you really expect anything less?
Welcoming me at her beautiful Belgravia home, she cuts a stylish, but slight figure.
“I’m a very conservative eater, but I have to eat regularly since my various cancers, as I can drop three pounds on a light eating day,” she says.
But she remains a sprightly presence as she nips to prepare tea.
Having had a stroke last year and lost much of her core strength due to cancer, she decided to find a personal trainer recently. He now comes twice a week for hour-long sessions.
“I realised my bottom had gone flat and I nearly got blown under a bus in the wind because I wasn’t strong enough to hang on to the pavement,” she says.
The big break
Born in Guildford on the night of the London Blitz, she quit school at 16 and began commuting daily to London from Goring-by-Sea.
I wonder when she became aware of her own beauty.
“I didn’t!,” she says. “I still am not!”
Her ‘big break’ came when she was persuaded to enter a modelling competition in Woman’s Own, and won.
The prize was £100 and a three-week course at the acclaimed Cherry Marshall Modelling Agency in St James’s.
“When I completed the course, she gave me a list of all the photographers she wanted me to go and see… I was very diligent and did it and I got a job and from the first week, I never stopped working,” she says.
One of the photo sessions was with a then unknown photographer by the name of David Bailey.
A snap he took of Paulene crouching down with a squirrel in 1960 became iconic and secured Bailey a contract with Vogue.
Now the picture sits in the upstairs bathroom of the Belgravia home.
She moved from Hampstead to Chester Row in Belgravia after the death of her second husband, the Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Harvey. He died from cancer in 1973 aged 45, 11 months after they married.
“I was living in America at the time,” says Paulene.
She then married Hard Rock Café co-founder Peter Morton in 1978, and they divorced in ’86.
“I rented it at that time. In the ‘80s there were lots of movies being made in London and they all wanted to stay on Chester Row, so it was full all the time with really famous people.
“One musician turned the basement into a sound studio. There was the man who made a film with Baryshnikov about the ballet. Then I had Pierce Brosnan. A bit of the ceiling fell down on the end of the bed when he was staying,” she remembers.
Love and tragedy
She met actor Mark Burns at a party one night.
“He was so nice; handsome, intelligent, kind and my number one fan. He thought I was fabulous, so that was good and we just hit it off. He used to make me laugh and I was hanging around with Americans and they don’t really make me laugh,” she says.
They married in 1995 with a reception at Mosimann’s in Belgravia, but 12 years later Mark succumbed to lung cancer.
A decade on, Paulene encountered further heartbreak when her second daughter, bounty hunter Domino Harvey – daughter of actor Laurence – died of a painkiller overdose, aged 35.
Tragedy has certainly spliced the glamour of yesteryear, when Paulene was partying with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and hell raiser Peter O’Toole.
Paulene says she wouldn’t want to be a model now, despite the huge sums of money involved.
“I started off with £2.50 an hour and that was quite generous, then it went to £5 an hour and I when I finished I was getting £25 an hour in 1978,” she says.
Today her local haunts include Daylesford, La Poule au Pot, Paolo Moschino (“my cushions all come from”), jeweller David Thomas (“he remade my engagement ring to Laurence, which I love) and she attends the Church of St Barnabas every Sunday (“the vicar, Father John, is divine).
Find similar stories in the People section of our website.
You may like to read Hello Sweetie in which Joanna Lumley talks about the Sixties when everyone was skinny and only the rich could afford to get drunk or stoned.
In Liz Hurley on Chelsea, the actress, model and businesswoman talks about her favourite haunts in the neighbourhood.
Or read Mary Quant and the King's Road about the exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum running until February 16th 2020.
Picture credits: REX Shutterstock.