It’s still dark when I pull up to the outside of the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset. I’m here for a job. The call time is 4:30 AM and it’s about 4:18 AM currently. The valet takes my car even though I hate valet and I hate getting into my car with the smell of cheap cologne and a sweaty palmed steering wheel. But they’re paying for it and I’m going to be here all day so I can’t help but subject myself to this foul invention of convenience.
My eyes are red and squinty; the schedule has afforded me less than five hours of sleep and I am not ready for this day to begin. I walk into the lobby. It is empty and white. No production crew, no photographer, just super late nighters milling around still vaguely intoxicated. House music that pumps loudly through ceiling speakers during the party hours hangs lightly in the hair, remnants of full fledged debauchery that was going on until about two hours ago.
Before I have the chance to mosey on over to the front desk to ask where the shoot is going to take place today, two women walk through the front door. They are immediately friendly and the three of us exchange knowing glances: the look that means we’re all a part of the club, the fashion job club. This is the same thing that happens when you pass fellow models on the streets in New York, except it’s less of a tip-of-the-hat variety of acknowledgement and more so the unturned nose, competitive kind.
In my professional estimation, these two ladies aren’t models though; they’re too old and too rough around the edges to be models. They look like makeup artists or hair stylists or something, I don’t know. All I know is I’m exhausted and I am happy to have found some comrades.
We greet each other with the common “Hey” and “Hellos” that are appropriate when you first meet other humans. I ask if they know what we’re doing or where we’re going. The ladies are as clueless as I am. The shorter of the two asks what agency I am with. I tell her. She tells me who she is with, which is strange because usually it’s an irrelevant discussion as the beauties and the beautifiers are represented by different people. But hey, I’m all for being friendly.
I begin to notice that neither girl has a makeup kit or anything to roll their supplies around in. I’m used to these types coming in with at least two giant suitcases filled with a smorgasbord of torturously girly things: curlers, combs, eye shadow, glitter, tweezers, pencils, straightening irons, bobby pins. The only makeup they have brought is what’s currently on their face: an interesting palate mélange of early 90s pastels and cakey foundation. Makeup artists never look this trashy, I think to myself.
Meanwhile the taller girl chats on her cell phone, trying to figure out where we are all supposed to be. The lobby is still largely empty and it’s nearly 4:30. Finally she comes back with an answer. “We’re shooting in the penthouse,” she says and motions for us to head up the elevators on our own.
We’re almost to the 12th floor when the shorter girl hums into the air, “I wonder if this is a cash or credit job?” Huh? Cash or credit? I’m confused. And all of a sudden, as the elevator doors open up to a dark door-lined hallway, my sleep deprived fog lifts like an opaque veil over my brain and good sense. Holy shit, these girls are hookers. These girls are hookers!
They’re getting off of the lift when they look back at me and in a panic I lie and say I forgot something downstairs and I’ll be right back up. They don’t seem to care either way. When they walk away I hear the one say to the other, “Is it film or video?” What?! What kind of place is this?!
I take the elevator ride back to the lobby, imagining what would have happened if I had followed them down the hallway and into the penthouse brothel. Surely, I would have figured out what was going on before I dropped trough and asked where they wanted me, but it would have been pretty damn awkward. I envision something similar to a scene in The Departed, walking in on Jack Nicholson chopping someone’s fingers off and I’m at the door asking if they sold puppies here. Naturally, I’d be killed. As I am not hip enough to the seedy ways of the underworld, I am inquisitive as to the nature of the whore world. Is it like the mafia?
The doors open onto a scene that had materialized in the minute I had been away: the photographer is unloading equipment with boys in black, the production assistant is walking around with a clipboard, there is the buzzing about of work getting done. The photographer looks up at me and says good morning with an energetic lilt and I feel like I have been hallucinating for the last thirteen minutes. I figure that I escaped being in my first porno to be a good start to an absurdly early morning, or in their case a very late evening.