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Culture / Travel

Hollywood’s Most Famous Llama Tells All On Modeling, Tasteful Nudes, Being Discovered on a Farm and the First Class Life

Reliving Her Great Dallas Adventure

BY // 12.08.17
photography Neiman Marcus Collection, Dallas Public Library, Dallas History and Archives Division, 1959

After a meticulous restoration, the iconic Statler hotel has reopened its mid-century modern doors that once welcomed Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, and one very fabulous Hollywood llama. Fifty eight years after her Dallas debut, PaperCity, in an exclusive interview, talks to Llinda Llee Llama, the Hollywood grand dame herself.

Your start in show biz. 

It’s the story everyone’s heard before. I grew up on  my family’s farm in a small town. A scout happened to be passing through, noticed my long legs, and the next day I was on a jet to Paris.

You stole the show at Neiman Marcus‘ 1959 South American Fortnight. 

When Stanley Marcus rang my agent and asked me to be a part of it, I was so honored. Then there was the matter of where I would stay. Fortunately, Conrad Hilton absolutely insisted I check into a suite at The Statler. I hear the remodeled hotel is using my likeness everywhere — which is certainly flattering, but really, they should have named the presidential suite after moi.

Even Audrey Hepburn has a room named for her. And if you ask me, darling, her talent and impact on Dallas were just so-so.

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You rubbed elbows with all the greats back in the day, including Barbra Streisand. 

Who didn’t? The truth is, though, at the Oscars in 1969, she was so rude on the red carpet, I almost spat in her face.

We hear you only flew Dallas-based Braniff back then. 

Naturally! First class all the way. I love Southern hospitality. Reminds me of my farm roots. From the minute I pranced off that Braniff International Airways jet in Dallas, I was given such a warm welcome. Neiman’s picked me up in a Cadillac limousine. I will never forget it! Air travel isn’t what it used to be. Now I only fly private.

Your stay at The Statler. 

I had hoped to spend more time exploring the city, but the cameras were everywhere. Luckily the hotel staff ensured I had everything I needed in my room. I have very particular requirements. I won’t sleep on hay that has less than a 700-blade count. And I travel with my fur colorist, spiritual healer, and hooficurist.

You do know llamas, alpacas,vicuñas, guanacos, and camels (such dear cousins) are the sole existing even-toed Tylopods, with peculiar bumps on the soles of our hoofs. I must take care! I was so comfortable at The Statler — Dallas in October is a dream! — that I extended by stay and was the resident llama for two full weeks.

I galloped down to Neiman Marcus (just down the street!) to buy alpaca sweaters and camel-hair coats. I had to send dozens of packages back home to L.A. I was a big fan of Dior and Chanel back then. Still am.

Even Tinseltown couldn’t dream a better love story. 

During my trip to Dallas for the South American Fortnight fiesta, I met Raul — a tall, handsome alpaca (a very distant relation) with the most beautiful black coat I’d ever seen. (He was a dear friend of Walter Muller, the former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., and the night’s guest of honor.)

Raul was the José da Silva Pereira to my Holly Golightly. We ran away to Peru. That’s where we raised our seven crias. Our ranch in the Andes is still my home base, but I spend much of the year hoofing it to the U.S. and France.

Next destination. 

I still go to Paris and New York for the shows every season. Before my Hollywood days, I was absolutely revered for my signature long legs — a natural model. I also have a large fan base in China, so I have a place in Shanghai as well. I love Dallas; the city holds so many special memories for me.

Do you know Ruth Altshuler? I met her during that Fortnight, and she was an absolute doll. We still keep in touch. Now that The Statler has reopened, I look forward to spending more time there. Maybe dear Ruth and I can grab a legume lunch.

For 80, you look fabulous!

I follow a strict regimen of Pilates, yoga, and hiking in the mountains. I’ve also cut out all gluten in my grass. Although I’m afraid my swimsuit-modeling days are behind me — my coat just isn’t what it used to be.

Your greatest passion. 

I am a huge supporter of the arts and of animal rights. I’ve been deeply involved with the Llama Protection Agency for decades. In  my younger years I posed (nude!) for a series of photographs shot by Richard Avedon for an art exhibit that raised more than $500,000 for the cause. A lot of money back in those days.

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