A private service will be held Sunday in Topanga, Calif., for former model Todd Irvin, who died Jan. 15.
In the Eighties, Irvin was one of the most recognizable male models and a top earner. The 66-year-old Irvin, who had been a practicing therapist for nearly 25 years, was found last week in his Santa Monica office of a suspected heart attack, according to former model Bruce Hulse, a friend of nearly 40 years.
Born Frank Todd Irvin in Chagrin Falls, Irvin was widely known as “Todd.” Along with Jeff Aquilon, Nick Constantino, Hulse and others, Irvin was part of a group of models who were often booked together by clients for various shoots, according to Irvin’s former agent, Martha North. On Tuesday, Hulse recalled meeting Irvin in 1981 or 1982 in Paris. “He was the ‘it’ boy over there and I was just fresh off the boat. I remember him roaring up to the agency on his motorcycle in his green leather pants, and everyone [yelling] ‘Todd, Todd.’”
At that time, both men were working with a modeling agency in Paris, although Irvin had started his career with Zoli before joining Wilhelmina in 1984. Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis, Christian Dior and Jeffrey Banks were among the designers Irvin worked for, as well as photographers like Bruce Weber, Richard Avedon and Herb Ritts, among others. Irvin was among the first wave of breakout male models in the early Eighties “that basically changed the whole modeling agency,” Hulse said.
In addition to Wilhelmina, Irvin was represented by other agencies in Paris, London, Milan and other parts of the world, which enabled him to earn easily more than six figures annually — a sizable sum for a male model in the mid-Eighties, according to North. “He was incredibly bright, having graduated magna cum laude from Duke. He was really inquisitive, kind and easy to be around and then you coupled that with the fact that he was stunningly good-looking. I always said to people that it wasn’t about the looks. It’s how you are on set, how you are with clients, do they want to work with you again? You don’t have a career based on one client or one job. It’s the repetition. It’s Saks Fifth Avenue using you over and over again, or Bloomingdale’s or Bruce Weber — all of these elements that make for a career.”
In the Nineties, Irvin left the modeling world to earn a secondary degree from Antioch and relocated to California. A college wrestler in the era when recruiting was intensifying, Irvin “had that all American look — piercing blue eyes and an athletic stature,” said Hulse, who is now a photographer. “He wasn’t ‘Mr. Talkative.’ He had that quiet, intuitive, kind nature. Everybody loved him. He was a real kind soul. He was always concerned. That’s why he went on to become a therapist, I guess. I did a lot of jobs with him back in the early days and he was always uncomfortable with the modeling. He would say, ‘I want to help people. I don’t want to just stand here in front of the camera, looking pretty.”
North, who is now a photographer agent at Ray Brown, concurred, noting how in those pre-cell-phone years she and Irvin were part of each other’s daily life for 11 or 12 years. “You have to remember back then you had these guys traveling around the world literally. And you were the lifeline that said where you go next, what do you do and what do you think about that. If you were lucky, you became really good friends. It didn’t feel like what one thinks of when you hear ‘male model.’ He was very philosophical. There was this whole other side to him. He was this tai chi master. You could have conversations for hours that had nothing to do with fashion or work. I’m glad that somebody like that was part of my daily life. I don’t know that it is like that any more.”
Emphasizing how empathetic Irvin was, North said he found his calling as a therapist. “When he asked you how you were, he really wanted to know.”
The travel aspect of modeling was a plus with Irvin, “an outdoor guy, who could windsurf, water ski and all that kind of stuff. He loved any time where they were [shooting] outside, and they were making him do something athletic,” said Hulse, who worked out with Irvin in California a couple of times a week, and were part of the same weekly meditation group.
Irvin is survived by his wife Leeanne, a Bravo producer, their daughter Ainslie and his brother Chris.