Star-studded barely begins to describe designer's varying gigs
Jewelry designer Loree Rodkin has just picked a cookie off a plate in the cafe at Ikram, the high-end women's clothing boutique in Chicago, when she sees a smiling face approaching. It's Sting's manager, Kathy Schenker, who's in town with him for his new musical, "The Last Ship."
"I had no idea you were here," Schenker says. "I'll tell Sting."
"Maybe we all can meet up for a drink later," Rodkin says.
The stars have always seemed to align in this way for Rodkin. Through three careers spanning more than 40 years, she has decorated the homes of rockers such as Alice Cooper and Rod Stewart. As a talent manager, she scored a young unknown — Brad Pitt — his role in "Thelma & Louise."
A hobby making jewelry landed her Elizabeth Taylor as a client. Rodkin went on to drape Michelle Obama in diamonds at the 2009 inauguration. Those pieces now reside in the Smithsonian's permanent collection.
It all started with a move at age 19 from her native Chicago to Los Angeles. There, a party-planning job led to a relationship with Don Henley of the Eagles.
Later, she dated and decorated the home of Bernie Taupin, the lyricist for Elton John. That spiraled into other interior-design gigs for rockers and pop stars — and countless connections. (Cher became her best friend.)
Rodkin credits one client from her days as a talent manager — Robert Downey Jr. — for her most recent reinvention, as a designer of fine jewelry. Coveted for a "Game of Thrones" edginess, her signature pieces include full-finger bondage rings that articulate over the knuckle like miniature suits of armor.
She sat down during a recent trunk show to talk about her "affliction for rock 'n' roll" and her revisionist history. What follows is an edited transcript.
You started out as an interior decorator?
It was really my escape clause from Henley. I had designed an apartment so I could move into it. I was kind of over our relationship.
Later I dated a Russian ballet dancer who had just defected, Alexander Godunov. I was going to ditch him, so he asked me to manage him. That's how I became a manager.
I managed Brad Pitt, Sarah Jessica Parker, Billy Zane, Kyra Sedgwick, Judd Nelson ...
You managed Brad Pitt?
I got Brad "A River Runs Through It" and "Thelma & Louise." The producers (of "Thelma") were like, "Please don't call us back. He's very cute, but he's not very talented." We stalked them, and they just couldn't find "the guy." Brad got the part, as the last choice.
You made jewelry as a hobby at age 12. How did it become more than that?
When Robert (Downey Jr.) was drugging so badly, I made jewelry to keep myself awake at night; I would rescue him from wherever he was partying. I made myself a diamond skull ring in 1988 in the midst of Robert's madness, and the L.A. store Maxfield saw it and launched my career.
What do you consider yourself first and foremost?
I consider myself an aesthetic. Everything has been about design. Management was just an offshoot of having an opinion, an aesthetic opinion, of how their careers should look. It was the '80s; there was nothing very serious. We were paid to play and show up at restaurant openings. It was a fun, mad, not very mature time.
But I was so square: no drugs, no alcohol. I don't like the taste. I've probably still only had four drinks in my life. I lived through the madness completely straight.
Before Maxfield saw the diamond skull ring, a girlfriend who was one of the Gettys saw it and hired me to do some presents for Elizabeth Taylor. I started at the top by accident. Elizabeth would come to my house in her pajamas, or I'd go to her house in my pajamas, and she'd say, "Let's look at the blue ones today."