This is a story about three women, completely different, who always promoted, with their beauty, style and rascal behaviour, the city streets on which they made the most important steps
Cities live from memories, proud of their streets, museums, myths and legends, local heroes. The happier cities boast with their facades and rivers. There are also those who keep their lakes as the most beloved girl. Some cities digitize their history and thus seduce the generations born on Facebook. Others are trying to lure tourists by reviving their past through carnivals, or they simply lure them with the sound of the street. Smaller towns look at the bigger ones with some kind of envy because of the budget, population or theatre, but on the other hand, they are proud for having neighbours, time for afternoon coffee, being free from horrible noise and hysteria of a megalopolis. Those that have sea, live conceitedly during summer, and depressively and shyly in winter, waiting for the sun to act important again, because such a wave of waves cannot be heard anywhere else.
Someday, when they decide to retire and lower the curtain, these women will receive royalties for their lives
Still, there is one thing that gives a special note to this story about the cities. And those are people. They are the best promoter of the spirit of the area. I know some of the world’s passengers who have travelled miles embedded into their DNA. They no longer run through museums and excavations when they arrive in a new environment, but sit in the busiest place in the city and watch people. It is a kind of exhibition of figures that make up one city. This is a story about three completely different women who represent Belgrade.
Belgrade had and still has its promoters. Unofficial, certainly. But very convincing and persistent. One of them is Milanka Udovički. From Zemun, the first Serbian woman on the front page of Vogues, a PhD in Russian and Oriental languages. She obtained her PhD at Sorbonne, and her mentor was Danilo Kiš. This icon of freedom always attracted huge attention wherever she appeared. She dressed and behaved totally weirdly. She always smoked a pipe and wore a sailor’s cap. She went to pantomime school. She played in films. She never combed her hair. Completely by accident, she stunned the famous designer Philippe Starck with sneakers, which at that moment no one even knew how to make, let alone wear. If it were possible, she would surely had written “born with style” in her identity card. Apart from Zemun, Milanka lives also in Paris today. In her eighties, she still wears a mini-skirt and cowboy boots. She is the mother of three sons from three different relationships. She was photographed by the most famous world photographers, but Helmut Newton has a special chapter in her professional biography. Their story, in a way, has remained unspoken. After a lot of shooting, they had a plan – he wanted to photograph her with three sons and two grandchildren, who stand around her in black suits, while she enjoys in a miniature bikini. It would surely have been a memorable front page if Helmut Newton had not been killed just a few days before the scheduled shooting.
Paris never inspired her too much, London made her excited more, but she knew to come to the fashion shows of Aleksandar Joksimovic in the City of Light with the cabbage in her lap. With her own example, Milanka successfully demonstrates that with age, everything can be more exciting. I met her a few years ago at the now “deceased” tavern Tri lađara in Zemun. In this specific place, Lađarac, where jazz was served between meals and drinks, and also as a dessert, Milanka mingled and danced in a strict mini skirt, with the famous pipe, already deep in the ninth decade of age. Looking at her, one cannot get off the impression that one day, when she decides to retire, she is going to get royalties for her life.
Marija Baksa (María Baxa)
She was a Belgrade citizen in Rome, and a Rome citizen in Belgrade. She was born in a village near Pazin, in Istria. She finished high school in Belgrade, graduated from architecture, and started her movie career in Rome. She played in Italian comedies, she also had major female roles in the films “One Love, So Fragile, So Strong” (Un amore così fragile, così violento) And “Cosa Nostra, the Truth about the Mafia”. This is a part of the biography of the beauty that was all the rage, quite incomplete, inversely proportional to her real life, which she managed to keep only for herself and her closest ones. She still keeps it, while walking on the central Belgrade streets daily, provoking the views of the passers-by who do not even know who passes by them.
This blonde, with green eyes, was also nicknamed Yugoslav Catherine Deneuve, she also experienced the charms of Hollywood, the affection of Clint Eastwood, but returned to Rome. Fabio Testi, Giancarlo Giannini, Franco Nero “chased” her, other stars tried to seduce her. She became an icon of their social life. In addition, she was also a jack, she regularly sent air tickets to her Belgrade friends so that they would feel her fame as well. A little illustration would be the bouquets of flowers that came to her address, but never before eleven o’clock because they knew she liked to sleep. When all the vases were filled, she would throw the bouquets in a bathtub full of water. It was a kind of flower fair and girlfriend joy, in that villa outside of Rome.
People slandered her as the first Serbian, as it is pejoratively called today, “starlet”, accusing her for Playboy photos. She was not very stressed about this: “It was a time of crazy things. I do not make youth mistakes anymore, and in our country, people have no world views and enough imagination to understand many things.”
She played with Ursula Andress, she achieved the greatest success with the film “Secret Cosa Nostra”, where she played next to Charles Bronson, and in “Black Turin” (Turino nera) with Bud Spenser. The roles of the lovers of the gangsters, which brought her popularity to a higher level, were tailored for her. In our country, she appeared in Šijan’s “Davitelj protiv davitelja” (Strangler vs. Strangler), Jovan Jovanovic’s first movie “Mlad i zdrav kao ruža” (Young and Healthy As a Rose), she played one of the two main female roles in “Cyclops” of Antun Vrdoljak and in a gentle tragicomic story “Boxers Go In Paradise” (Bokseri idu u raj). In the US, she shot ads for lip gloss. She was ambitious, but when she realized that she would not really be a world star, she decided to retire. She had more than three marriages.
She gave herself a new role – she began to deal with antiques, she was about forty and enriched. She moved to the Rome Dedinje, made her showroom, where people came exclusively at call, her company was the Italian aristocracy. She lived a life on high heels. Now she is walking in sneakers. And she is equally seductive. She directed her own life with a moto: “Beauty is a capital that needs to be used well.” If there was an intimate guide through the history of this city, I would allow the selected ones to observe the daily march of Marija Baksa on the cobblestones. I know the way.
The star of the world’s catwalks, an atypical model that reigns the covers of the fashion magazines, the favourite model of Karl Lagerfeld, a girl who knows how to have fun equally well in both Brcko and New York, was twelve years old when the war in Bosnia began, when she became a refugee. At sixteen, she won the Elite Model Look in Belgrade and, as the happiest creature, entered the planet of world models. The crowd in Hyatt remembers her victorious jump in high heels, with a face that radiated true joy and on which the clever observer could clearly read: “I will conquer the world.”
Her power of transformation is fascinating, and she practiced it in her childhood already.
She also played football well, and before the first model season, she fell and smashed both knees. Karl Lagerfeld was thrilled with this story, especially when she admitted to him that it had happened to her on the edge of the penalty area.
She spent her first Belgrade days between a small apartment in Kneza Miloša and Sremčica, where they had a part of the house that her father had built before the war in the event that his children wanted to study in Belgrade. During the war years, nine of them was stuck in that small space and they were cool. Nataša’s stubborn nature was not immune to events in a country that burned in flames. She acted very problematically, she was very angry about everything that happened to us. She went barefoot to the school as a protest, pierced her nose, and when she did not know what to do – she would just get into fight. She went to Čumićevo sokače, this bastion for elite dressing spit out by the nineties, precisely because she despised newly rich and “dizelaš” people from the depths of her soul. She escaped from the graduation evening because she did not want to sit with those who had no idea that somewhere nearby someone was getting killed. She smoked “Drina” and her schoolmates “Rothmans”, which she sometimes wanted to try, so she asked for their noble cigarettes.
Behind her nonchalance lies a serious work. From six in the morning, when she comes to make-up session before the first show, she starts to make a show. Then he sleeps for fifteen minutes, wakes up and keeps on. Karl Lagerfeld liked to entrust her with special effects. He would just whisper to her: “Come on, make something cool.” The crime scene was Chanel’s fashion show. Naturally, everything fit and luxurious, and at the last exit, Nataša bends down and starts to walk on all four at the middle of the catwalk. She came to the end, stood up and twisted a pirouette. Thunderstorm applause. She came to Karl and whispered, “This is a real catwalk.”
She is not fascinated by the authorities, she has her own rules of the game that fit into the brutal world of show business, but still hers. Her energy and restless spirit guide her on a new way where she fulfils her desires and seeks new challenges. And she always promotes Belgrade.