Carlton Fuller became one of the top male models in New York during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Below is an article that appeared in The Raleigh Times on December, 31, 1968. It was written by Wendell’s own Mary Jo Cashion.
WENDELL— There’s no keeping him down on the farm after he’s seen the bright lights.
And the bright lights of modeling and acting first struck the son of a Wendell tobacco farmer in March of 1966. That was the date that Carlton Fuller, son of Mr. and Mrs. David Fuller, left his job at a Raleigh bank, packed a few of his belongings and moved from his parental rural home here to New York. His goal was to break into acting.
Home last week after an absence of ten months, 23-year old Fuller recalled his three years of struggle and limited fame. He now stands on the threshold…with a bevy of advertisements and commercials under his belt and the chance for meaty roles in two up-coming motion pictures. Not at liberty to discuss the movies for which he will audition in February, Fuller willingly told of his three experiences in film…”Hello Dolly” with Barbara Streisand (this part in the chorus was cut from the released film), “Sweet Charity” with Shirley MacLaine (his role was a small, no line feature spot) and “Fig Leaf,” a Candid Camera film.
“That film (“Fig Leaf”) was probably the worst job I ever had,” spoke up Fuller, who was playing the part of Michaelangelo’s statue David. His body was shaved and painted white; he wore only a brief bikini and a fig leaf (sometimes). True to the Candid Camera style, unsuspecting museum visitors were surprised by the speaking David, who at times, asked for his fig leaf which was lying on a nearby table.
“I had to stand in that air conditioned room all day,” the aspiring actor recalled the unpleasant experience. By noon he demanded that his salary be raised from the $125 a day minimum to $500. It was.
“It’s really been a struggle,” confessed the slender golden-haired young man. “But it’s what I want to do as my profession and I wouldn’t change for anything now.”
For eight months after moving to New York in 1966, Fuller worked on the stock market and saved his money. In November of that year he began studying at the Herbert Bergoff Studio and during that time he also started modeling. His first modeling job was for “Esquire” magazine. Working under Wagner Men Agency, Fuller has also appeared in ads in “Men’s Wear,” “Gentleman’s Quarterly,” “The Scene,” “Bride’s Magazine,” catalogues for J.C. Penney, Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery-Ward, and various foreign magazines. He has modeled in seven live fashion shows, four for “Esquire” at the Plaza Hotel.
While modeling he continued his studies in acting with Wynn Handman, Jerry Barclay, and in speech with Mrs. Alfred Dixon, among whose pupils are numbered Julie Andrews and Paul Newman. Then his interest in film and TV drama increased.
In May of this year Fuller tried his wings. Moving to Hollywood and leaving an established modeling record, he hoped to make the break into acting.
“California was not anything like I expected it to be,” he said remembering his frustration. The breaks didn’t come. To eat, he painted houses…$3 an hour.
Back in New York he had pulled $50 an hour for his modeling. He moved in with friends and began studying with Pat Randall, “the best coach I ever had.” Originally from Roanoke Rapids, Pat is credited with two Broadway shows and a current film with Steve McQueen.
Then came the movie bits intermingled with TV commercials. And finally he began meeting people…the right people…like Robert “Boston Strangler” Fryer and Bob Thompson, talent coordinator for CBS on the West Coast.
While home over the holiday’s Fuller was sporting a head full of curly golden hair. (“Mother didn’t recognize me when I got off the plane”). He explained he would have had a haircut but a commercial for a hair product was next on his agenda.
For the next several months the local-boy-making-good will make New York his home. (“Work is good there this time of the year.”)
“I want to audition for an off-Broadway show,” he told of his plans. “I want the practice of an every night show.”
But whether it’s New York or Hollywood…it’s bright lights for the Wendell farm boy. Now there’s no keeping him down on the farm.
End of article in the Raleigh Times.
Unfortunately, Carlton’s acting career did not take off. He told this reporter later that he was finally told that his voice was the problem. However, his modeling career did take off. Carlton became one of the top male models in New York. He could be seen in countless magazines and catalogues. He stayed on top for over a decade; however, as he started to show his age, the amount of work started to decline. In the 1980’s he continued to model and also worked at a yacht club in New York and Florida. Carlton died prematurely on June 15, 1987.
This reporter and his wife visited Carlton twice during the early 1970’s in New York. He had a great apartment in Greenwich Village. He entertained visitors from home just as if he had never left Wendell. He told us of the time that his mother sent him some frozen collards. As the aroma from the cooking collards filled the halls of his apartment building, Carlton recounted that he met every Southerner in the building. They all wanted a taste of the collards from back home.
Carlton Fuller was a top model in New York, but he never lost the Wendell charm nor did he forget his roots. His infectious laugh will linger in the hearts of those who knew him. Although modeling may not have been the career that he wanted, it was a career that paid him very well and gave him his well-deserved recognition in the advertising world.
Carlton Fuller graduated from Wendell High School in 1964 with this reporter. He was a good friend that deserved all the fame he received.
— by Ray Hinnant – 2010