teri weigel is making tropical heat waves in southern florida
Key West. Home to Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett and, for the day, Teri Weigel. The town is half shack, half sensitive restoration. Beer-bellied tourists stroll the veranda of the Hemingway house, wearing sumo-wrestler sweat shirts. There are film crews on every corner, trying to soak up the atmosphere. There's a woman going crazy on Caroline Street, or close to it, animating a pair of jeans in a manner guaranteed to make your heart stop and seriously challenge the sexual preference of half the town. It's Teri Weigel, Miss April, filming a fashion spot. When Hollywood or Madison Avenue or Paris wants a little bit of Florida style, it calls Teri. Twice she has been a special extra on Miami Vice ("I was in a wedding scene in one of the early episodes. I did a casino shot in another. I walked across the street in a bathing suit in Scarface. I had something in Stick. The problem is, I never get to see myself on TV. It seems that on Fridays, I'm flying somewhere to work"). How did she become one of the hottest models in Florida? "It was always a childhood fantasy. When I was 14, I used to pull down good money doing architectural drawings for a local builder. I won a two-month trip to Japan when I was 17. One you have a taste for travel, you can't sit still." After college, she scouted New York and Europe. New York said she was too short to model. She went to Europe and proved it wrong. ("I was cocky back then. I said, 'You'll see.' ") Five months in Paris, two months in Germany, two months in Italy, four months in Japan. "It's not so glamorous. It's not so exciting. I've lived all over the world by myself." Teri's home base is in the Miami area, but she talks of eating grapes in Italy, sauerkraut in Munich. She talks of watching couples in gondolas in Venice. She talks about playing golf in Osaka, dancing in the high-tech clubs in Tokyo. She spends a lot of time reflecting on her life. "I had an incredibly happy childhood," she says. "My grandfather was a successful butcher. He bought a whole block in Pompano Beach. All of his children and their children lived on the same street. I grew up with 17 cousins. There was always something happening. I remember doing the craziest things to get attention. I would put the plastic fruit from the dining-room table under my T-shirt and parade around for laughs. We had a strict Catholic upbringing. When we were kids, we'd take the piano bench and some pieces of bread and perform mock Masses in the living room. This may sound boring, but none of the grandchildren drinks or takes drugs. We are a proud family." How did her folks react to her appearing in Playboy? "My mom is very conservative. For a while, she wouldn't go shopping with me because I wore G-string underwear. But they taught us to be independent. I took home a couple of issues of Playboy and said, 'Look, Mom, this is art.' I I took home a couple of issues of Penthouse and said, 'This is filth.' She's come around to seeing why I'm doing it. My grandmother found out I was doing Playboy and can't wait." Teri's plans for the future? She's studying to be an actress. "I love emotions the way some people like food," she says. "When I was in Paris, I would go to the Louvre. I spent hours looking at the old paintings. Every eye, every lip, every hand had an emotion. The more contemporary paintings left me cold. There was no feeling, no gesture I could identify with. Acting lets me recapture intense, almost ancient emotions." Music provides the same release: "I like James Taylor, Kenny Loggins, people who know how to use words. You can dance to a beat, but words move you. I listen to a song because there's a certain feeling that comes from the words. When we shot the November 1985 cover for Playboy, I listened to Sade's Smooth Operator for ten hours without getting tired of it. At the end of the session, the assistants burned the tape. I live with a musician, and I've considered trying to sing. The problem is, I am still shy about my singing. I can scream in the car, but the minute someone is around, my voice drops to a whisper. I've got to learn to let what's inside come out." Will she make it? Does the sun shine in Florida?
Photography by Richard Fegley