So I was close, I say. "You were," she replies, as if to a third-grader. "You knew it had something to do with lips." Like the Carolina Panthers, whose dressing room I was working 36 hours earlier, I feel as if I'm not getting enough respect.
Time to rattle a few cages. Time to ask the tough questions. For four years Graf has been dating Michael Bartels, a German race-car driver. Stef, I say, your decision to appear in the swimsuit issue—did you discuss it with Michael?
"What is there to discuss?" she snaps.
"Nothing, of course," I say, back-pedaling furiously. "I just wondered, you know, since so many people will see it and since you will appear somewhat scantily clad, if...."
Mercifully, she cuts me off. "I mean, if it were Playboy, that would be another thing."
That would be cheesecake. What we're doing here is obeying the swimsuit muses. We're making art. It was her concern with aesthetics, in fact, that led Graf to ixnay several of the bikinis Farley had picked out for her. The black Lycra one and the leopard one spring to mind. Like any intelligent person. Graf has a good idea of what will look good on her and what will look preposterous.
Iooss has his own ideas. Graf is not happy when he insists on taking a series of shots of her profile. During our break, from 10:30 to 1:30, Farley receives a call from Graf's agent, who's phoning from Arlington, Va. Would SI please stop asking Steffi to assume poses that make her uncomfortable?
Of course, SI would. Before we head out into the hot afternoon sun, Graf talks about how far she has come since earlier in her career, when she was plagued by an epic shyness. "It took me seven years to go on Letterman," she confides.
So you did eventually go on the show with him?
"Two times," she says. "They tell you not to touch him."