Before we dive into a new episode of Texas Toast (because I know it’s been awhile!), I have to share this. I am fascinated by the search engine terms that people plug in that lead them to my blog. But of all the chuckles I’ve had in the past 15 months, the following is the funniest and most perplexing:
Do Mexicans put dead rabbits by people’s house doors to show displeasure of the occupants?
I may be forced to write a short story around that; it’s simply too good to pass up!
In August of 1978, I had been booked by Bride’s Magazine for a 10-day trip to Charleston, SC to shoot editorial for an upcoming issue. Just seeing the words August and Charleston in the same sentence is starting to make me sweat and it’s 50 degrees and raining outside my window. This would be a new client, and quite frankly, I didn’t really pay them too much attention at the go-see. Since my sojourn to Italy and my month-long bridal booking there, it seemed that I was perpetually chosen for bride’s magazines. Typecasting perhaps?
We were to fly out of La Guardia on a Sunday afternoon, and the entire cast, crew, and editorial team had taken over all of first class. The other three very young models and I had been given strict instructions to remain outside the gate and wait to board the plane with the rest of our group. “Whatever you do, do not board that plane ahead of the rest of us; we must be sure every head is accounted for.” Duly noted.
As departure time crept ever closer, I was beginning to feel anxiety. I regretted not having paid closer attention to what the editor and her staff looked like, so I could recognize them if they passed us. The flight was scheduled to depart in 20 minutes and there was no sign of anyone seeking us out, not a single soul. I checked with the gate attendant and discovered that the rest of the magazine’s team had already boarded. Now, remember there were no cell phones back then. We were stuck outside the gate and our tickets were with the client on the plane. I was unable to persuade an airline employee to go into first class and bring back our tickets. I simply couldn’t let them leave without us, so being the oldest one present and the responsible mother hen, I quickly purchased one-way tickets for all four of us and we made the flight. The client was stomping mad, thinking that we were simply tardy, air-headed models. They swore they never saw the four of us sitting outside the gate, waiting for them. Turns out, none of us were wearing make up and we all looked so different from our photos and so plain, they had walked right by us without a glimmer of recognition.
Every one of the eight days we were shooting on location outside of Charleston was over 95 degrees. We were in full wedding regalia, including huge petticoats and stockings. Before they dressed us we had to be slathered head to toe in sunscreen so we wouldn’t burn and ruin the remaining days of the shoot. Then we had to ‘air dry’ for half an hour before we could slip into our outfits. Every afternoon without fail, a model would pass out, despite the ice packs that were placed in our lingerie to cool us down. Huge fans were set up on the lawns directed over tubs of ice but nothing helped overcome Charleston in August. With every costume change, our make up had to be redone from scratch, and our sweat-soaked hair dried and restyled. The stylists were bouncing around begging us not to sweat and damage the outrageously expensive designer gowns. Like we could will that to happen. I kept reminding myself that, as an editorial shoot for a magazine, I was only being paid $75 per day for all this fun and frolic, instead of my customary day rate of $1200! What a business, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
The memory that stands out most of all (beside the suffering!) was this. After lunch one afternoon, at a beautiful location called Middleton Place, all the models went to the ladies room. It would be our last chance before shooting beside the steaming hot river bank. Emerging from my stall in a beautiful ice pink strapless bridal gown, awash in yards of satin and lace, I was suddenly surrounded by a dozen little girls, probably age six or so. They were attending a birthday party on the grounds. Silence fell over the group as they all stared open-mouthed at me. Finally, one brave little girl approached me, and asked in reverent tones, “Are you a REAL fairy princess?” Answering in the affirmative, the other two models emerged from their stalls, striking the little girls mute. A tiny party guest piped up, “I didn’t think princesses made wee-wee!”
“There’s more than one princess here?” the birthday girl exclaimed. Then, “Are you here for my birthday party?”
“Well”, I replied, “we can’t stay for the whole party, but we ARE here to listen to your birthday wishes.” After the excited squeals subsided, the three of us, hoop skirts, veils and the whole nine yards, bent down to hear each little girl’s deepest, truest wishes. Their moms crowded into the ladies restroom, many photos were snapped, and that moment absolutely made my week.
Several weeks after we returned from our trip, I was told that I could stop by the magazine and check out the photos, prior to publication. This was a courtesy that was sometimes extended to models. When I arrived several light boxes were illuminated with my photos in slide form. The editorial staff would agonize over which to use in the magazine pages. After studying them for some minutes, I decided that I would probably get some usable ‘tear sheets’ for my portfolio and was pleased. As I was turning to leave, I noticed a post-it note on one of the slides. It was from the editor and was plastered over several shots of me in profile. It simply said “JUST SAY NO TO THE NOSE”. She had given the okay to book me in the future but only providing I wasn’t shot in profile; she hated my nose.
The funniest thing about the modeling biz is ‘what one man loves the next will revile’. Just two weeks earlier, I had left a studio on Fifth Avenue and heard someone yelling from high up in a neighboring building. “Miss, Miss, stop, I need to talk to you.” Suspicious, but curious, I waited on the sidewalk until a young photographer’s assistant came running up out of breath. “Miss, my boss just saw you leaving that building. He loves your profile and he wants to shoot you. He loves your nose!” That photographer was the celebrated Gary Gross, of the Brooke Shields Calvin Klein jeans ad campaign. Go figure!