our november playmate may be the girlfriend of rock star todd rundgren, but she's very much her own woman
Bebe Buell had just come to New York from the South and had met a young man who owned a recording studio. "He must have thought I was great," she recalls. "He hung photographs of me all over his studio." And everyone who passed through the studio -- recording engineers, producers, musicians -- saw the pictures. One day, a musician friend of the studio owner met the girl in the photographs. His name was Todd Rundgren. "At the time," Bebe remembers, "Todd had just released his second album. But I had no idea who he was. Anyway, we talked, went out a couple of times and soon we were living together." That was nearly three years ago, and though the photographs are gone from the walls of the recording studio, some of New York's finest fashion photographers are taking new ones of Bebe all the time. "I model," she explains, "because I like to accomplish things. It would be easy for me to just hang around with Todd and do nothing but blab on the phone all day while shining the furniture and his four gold records lying around our house. But I like to be independent. I want to have my own career, my own identity." While Bebe has busied herself with that, Rundgren has gone on to become one of the most accomplished writers and producers of rock (his last single, Hello, It's Me, was nearly a 1,000,000 seller). Bebe still travels with him, though, when he and his band, Utopia, go on tour. But because her talents are in great demand by photographers, agencies and fashion magazines (on a typical nonshooting day, she averages enough appointments to keep her busy well into the evening), the tours and parties with good friends on the road come much less frequently. "That's kind of sad," Bebe admits, "but I don't go to as many parties as I used to, anyway, and I got tired of spending my nights being seen at high-class New York bars. I'm trying to live a healthier life. I do yoga, I've quit smoking and I haven't eaten any meat for the past year." Still, Bebe wonders on occasion whether it's all a dream. "Sometimes, when I see my picture in a magazine or watch Todd play at a concert for thousands of people, I almost have to pinch myself when I realize that less than three years ago, I was just a nobody from Virginia Beach who didn't even know that there was a Todd Rundgren or such a thing as rock culture and the lifestyle that goes along with it. One week not too long ago, for instance, Eric Clapton was in town for a concert. Todd and I were invited backstage, at which point Eric asked him to sit in. Then Mick Jagger walked into the dressing room, and later, when Todd was onstage, Mick and I talked and he said, 'Why don't you and Todd come over to my place tomorrow?' His place turned out to be Andy Warhol's summer cottage out on Montauk Point. And since then, he's phoned several times from London just to find out how we are." Bebe rarely lets all that glitter turn her around, though. "I'm too busy for that," she says. "I've got too much growing and learning to do, and I'm determined to be proud of myself." No reason you can't start now, Bebe.
Photography by Richard Fegley