Quiet, intelligent, well-mannered, Philippe is the kind of man you would trust to interpret both your dreams and the entr�e selections on a French menu. He and Jamee met in 1970 in Los Angeles, where she was taking a fling at acting—her modeling agency had sent her to a drama class in L.A., and the highlight of her brief career came when she auditioned for the role of Hot Lips Houlihan in the movie version of M*A*S*H—and Philippe was working at UCLA's Neuropsy-chiatric Institute. He made a less-than-stirring first impression by showing up for their blind date not only with a white Mercedes that he had borrowed from a French actress, but also with the actress, who was behind the wheel.
Still, within weeks Jamee and Philippe were married. Though Philippe is from Armenti�res ("As in 'Mad'moiselle from...' " he says), they decided to live in Paris, where he could practice psychiatry and Jamee could pursue modeling.
Her work eventually became a strain on the family. Sydney was standing in a train station one day about 12 years ago with Jamee's uncle, Dennis Bolger, when she spotted a poster of her mother, who was in Tunisia on a modeling assignment at the time. The girl burst into tears. Not long after that, Jamee turned down a job that would have kept her away from home for six weeks, and her agency said, in effect, Look, are you a model or a mother?
"Well, that one's easy," Jamee replied, and quit on the spot. She hasn't modeled since.
"I loved the travel and the freedom of modeling, but once I met Philippe, my priorities changed," she says. "The way I looked at it, every time I smiled, we were a little closer to that refrigerator-freezer we needed."
She tends to remember the lighter moments of her modeling career—like the time she tripped over the sword of another model, who was dressed as a West Point cadet, as he escorted her down the runway at a bridal show. Or the time that a security guard refused to let her relieve herself during a fashion show because she happened to be wearing a couple hundred thousand dollars' worth of jewelry. "Finally, I went to the bathroom with the door open and him holding my hand," she says.
The Guilberts are an unpretentious lot. The family car is a rusty, beat-up, 1980 Fiat with a driver's-side door that doesn't open from the outside and an I BRAKE FOR WHALES sticker on the back bumper. Justin, who loves the ocean, supplied the sticker. Jamee attends many fashion shows to collect ideas for FIDM, but she is equally as likely to be struck by examples of what she calls "the peacock world of modeling" as she is by, say, "the vitality of the spring collection."
She's much more serious about her volunteer work in the American community in Paris. She constantly strives to present the best of both French and U.S. culture—"Please don't call me an expatriate," she says—and seems to have taken it upon herself to try to rid the world of the notions that all Parisians are rude and that all Americans are boorish, though she will allow that there are plenty of examples of both. She doesn't just talk a good bicultural game, either. Sydney and Justin attend a bilingual school, and, to ensure that their English stays sharp, Jamee and Philippe speak only English to them.
Jamee became involved in the USO about three years ago through her father, John Becker, an import-export businessman who is a former USO Man of the Year. Her title as vice-president is largely ceremonial, but the workload isn't. For example, in June she helped organize a black-tie benefit for the organization, at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Pearl Bailey was one of the entertainers.
"Without volunteers like Jamee, the work over here would be very much harder," says Helen Rodgers, the wife of U.S. Ambassador Joe Rodgers. "Jamee has been fabulous. She does everything exactly as it should be done. I didn't see the swim-suit pictures, but I'm sure she's as attractive now as she was then."