MrC1946 Posted February 12, 2007 Share Posted February 12, 2007 (edited) In the early 1960s having just discovered the opposite sex, I fell madly in love with a tall stunning brunette model known to the public as Wihelmina. This lady modeled enough fur to make even Deborah Harris green with envy. Wihelmina Cooper was born Gertrude Behmenburg in the Netherlands in 1940. She moved to Chicago with her parents in 1954. In 1958 she was discovered by the famous Eileen Ford (Ford Model Agency). It was Ford who suggested the name Wihelmina, alluding to her willowy figure. She insisted however that her friends simply call her Willi. She became the unquestioned supermodel of the 1960s. She married Bruce Cooper in 1965 and legally changed her name to Wihelmina Cooper. A few years later the Coopers had a daughter they named Mellissa. In 1967 at age 27 she formed Wihelmina Models, her own agency. Eileen Ford would not talk to her for some time, but eventually they rekindled their friendship. For a time she was her own hottest property but soon developed other stars as well. Sadly Willi's life ended far too soon. She was a life long chain smoker, and died in 1980 of lung cancer. She was only 40 years old. Two stories: The first is told by a good friend, a famous and veteran photographer who took me under his wing when I was beginning in the advertising business as a copywriter. He had an assignment to photograph maternity clothes, and he started calling all the agencies hoping to find a pregnant model. At Wihelmina the boss answered the phone. He explained his problem. "How pregnant?" Willi asked. "Very." "I have someone who's 8 months along. I'll send her over. The promised model turned out to be Wilhelmina Cooper herself, pregnant with Millissa. Story 2: The same friend introduced me to Wihelmina once at a luncheon. I was less than a year out of college. Through some miracle my knees didn't buckle and my voice didn't crack as I said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Cooper." She gave the most dazzling smile I have ever seen. "Please call me Willi. All my friends do." To me she will always be Willi, and she will always be beautiful. MrC Edited February 12, 2007 by Guest Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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