We are sitting in the back room at the Bar Marmont. Whitney is nervous that this job is going to be something similar to the time where models stood on high plexiglass boxes at a club in Las Vegas trying to close their legs enough to feign modesty and avoid being touched inappropriately. I tell her that she needn’t worry; this is one of the more civilized places in Los Angeles. After all, the connecting hotel has been the overdose location of choice for many famed celebrities. Assuring me further, the show is for Zac Posen, which leaves me to assume it will be of a classier nature. I anticipate that my dignity will remain intact and I will avoid crying myself to sleep tonight. These are now the standards by which I measure my jobs.
It will be a small, recession-friendly event: six girls in total modeling all of the Spring/ Summer 2010 show – a collection that is reminiscent of my 1960s Barbie trading cards purchased from the dollar store. There’s pink, plastic, and gowns I’d like to lay listlessly in next to a pool while nursing a champagne hangover and getting a rubdown from Ken.
The presentation will entail the use of hot pink, numbered cards – something that ordinarily makes me cringe while I grin and bear the humiliation of knowing I am just a walking coat hangar, a mute salesman, a piece of clothing needing to be sold. But my nightmares of Vanna White pageantry vanish away when our producer offers that we liken it to 1940 Haute Couture. To aid in our perception of that reality, he kindly orders multiples bottles of champagne after double checking that we are all of age. These are the moments in which drinking would aid a much needed false sense of empowerment. I’ve been told PCP is like that.
There’s plenty to laugh about backstage while I sit on the booze trodden floor hoping that hepatitis doesn’t craw up my shorts and into my bloodstream. One girl looks like she’s trying to light a cigarette lodged in her purchased cleavage. At one point the aforementioned producer – who I am quite fond of because he looks like David Bowie wearing tight metallic gray pants – mistakes a bottle of hairspray for a refreshing facial moisturizer. He is unfazed by the potential clogged pores or any social embarrassment, stating that it will better set his bronzer. His voice trails away, still talking about drag queens.
I get my makeup done by a man wearing a lot of foundation himself. This makes me nervous because I know my face will befall the same overdone fate; my smile lines and forehead wrinkles left to make prominent marks in the added layer of cakey garbage. Makeup snow angels. I don’t have a mirror but I know I will look roughly five years older and just a shade or two more orange by the time he’s done with me. He has scars peaking through his button up shirt – also covered with foundation. I want to ask him about it but I figure someone who is concerned enough to try to mask them probably doesn’t want to know that I haven’t been fooled.
First changes begin. One out of six. I put on my first dress, which was originally worn by a girl I knew peripherally from trips to New York. We danced to LCD Soundsystem at my friend’s loft. She bent in strange ways and I drank that night to alleviate some pent up anxiety. She wore black converse and torn jeans. I met her before she was a supermodel. Now I’m wearing her ready to wear hand-me-downs while she does Chanel in Paris.
The show begins and we mosey through the crowd with our hot pink rectangles of Haute Couture shame, looking as “coquettish” as possible without licking people’s faces or falling over. At pose point three, I notice Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers occupying the pole space we were told to lean on seductively. I’m sure he wouldn’t have a problem if I just leaned on him, but I opt to adjust the directive accordingly.
It’s hectic backstage; attempting to run an entire fashion show with six girls when there’d ordinarily be thirty is an interesting experiment. Dresses are thrown in the corner on top of shipping plastic. Zac swigs a drink, noting that he’s never seen his dresses treated so badly. A dress rips. I put my head through the wrong hole and barely get it back out. A girl checks to make sure her nipples aren’t entirely visible in a see-thru nude chiffon gown. The usual.
Four girls, all wearing jewel colored feather coats, flank Zac on all sides for the finale. Emerald, cobalt, amethyst, canary yellow. I follow behind with Whitney, laughing as I watch the spectacle moving ahead of me. It looks tremendously chic and rock and roll and I am actually happy to be a part of it, even if it’s not the real show and I’m not a supermodel.
I change out of my black crepe gown and back into my American Apparel shorts and a gray blazer I bought at Goodwill. Real life. I walk over to the liquor store and wait for Tyler to pick me up in his gold Camry. Sunset Boulevard purrs in front of me and I hear a voice from behind, singing some indiscernible tune. Anthony Kiedis is walking to his car and the Chateau Marmot hangs behind us. I’d offer to tell him that “Under the Bridge” was my most frequently sung song in the 2nd grade “Show and Tell” time but he’s moving too fast and it’d probably just make him feel old.