Season after season, as soon as even a baby's breath of bohemia or the oft-dreaded words, "rich hippie," leave the mouths of stylists and editors, the name Talitha Getty inevitably enters the conversation. The second wife of John Paul Getty II, she died of an overdose in 1971 and although her now-legendary style is a mainstay in the fashion lexicon, it's difficult to find anything in her own words, or even an objective account of her life, in the public sphere.
She's the kind of person made famous by photographs and gossip columns in life, and in death, by enduring style and the conceptual fantasy of carefree pleasure in exotic places her name invokes. NARS has named a lipgloss after her, a "deep rose" called "Talitha." She appears in the same publications over and over, sometimes years apart, sometimes more frequently (see: W, Dec 01; W, April 05; Village Voice, May 03, Village Voice, Sep 05)... usually to describe a particular kind of dress or the slightly louche sort of background sketch that lets you know, It was the Sixties! Things were ever so slightly magical/fabulous/berserk, e.g. the casual mention of her Marrakesh scene in a profile of YSL that appeared in The New Yorker.
And then, of course, lest you think that a hard-partying life of endless street drugs in a city with a low cost of living is rather pedestrian as things go, there is her yacht and namesake, the Talitha G ("Running costs: Pounds 252,000 a week to charter. Value Pounds 128 million.")
Romanticized nearly beyond compare, Getty's role as an eternal muse in the world of fashion seems as ephemeral as the caftans and glamorous mien that shadowed her decadent lifestyle. A recent issue of Tatler profiled her son, Tara Galaxy Gramophone Getty (b. 1968), who lives, with his family in Africa, the relatively normal life of an heir to an unimaginable fortune.
The snapshots of young Tara and his mother were the first I'd ever seen of her that didn't appear make her appear to be the shallow shorthand for the end of a lawless era, or one of the few whose seemingly ubiquitous status in the public eye only makes them more mysterious.
(Scanned from Tatler, February 2006):