Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Homeless Models, Inc.


We told them to get backup models because there was a high probability that the ones we suggested wouldn’t show. This was how it always happened but nothing ever changed. Upstairs would call and ask for a handful of clients who would be willing to participate in an ad campaign (usually billboards) for our agency. We would suggest a few with the caveat that some of these people were stricken with one, some or all the following: poverty, mental illness, drug addiction and/or critical illness, which could prevent them from showing up. Knowing this, once we had done our job, we wiped our hands clean of the project and kept a low profile.

On the day of the shoot, only one model showed. I told ya! I received a call from upstairs asking (begging) if I would be willing to be in the shoot. I knew this would happen, so I gave them no grief and agreed.

On the second floor, the photographer and crew had turned the backroom of our grocery pantry into a little studio. To a point-and-shoot guy, it looked pretty pro: umbrellas, computer hooked up to the camera, photographer showing her midriff, etc.

Unbeknownst to me, the model gig was not guaranteed. After the client didn’t show, the photographer and our team scrambled, searching staff I.D. badges for someone that would fit what they were looking for. Up to this point, I wasn’t aware there was look.

When I got to the second floor, a stylist/makeup artist was applying base makeup to the client model’s face. While the people in power talked in the corner, Omar, an Administrative Assistant, stood by himself, leaning against the wall.

“Hey, Omar. How are you?” I said, not expecting a response. Omar never replied. He was either a dick or shy, I wasn’t sure.

Once I entered the room, the people in charge turned and looked at me and Omar. Ignoring any sense of politeness or social norms, they openly talked about our strengths, interspersed with whispering when our weaknesses were thrown about. Obviously, this gig was between me and Omar, which was odd. Omar was a clean cut, quiet Indian dude and I was a pasty, perennially tired, loud white guy - exact opposites.

When I overheard that they were looking for someone who looked homeless, I knew I had the gig. They dismissed Omar and walked me to the makeup chair, where they decided that I was “homeless” enough and I didn’t need makeup or any kind of wardrobe. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this.

The photographer sat me down in a chair, adjusted the lights and gave me instructions:

“So, this is a campaign directed at donors. I want you to appear hungry, depressed and looking for love.”
I quickly replied, “That’s my specialty.” She wasn’t amused.

We played around with a few poses - mouth open, tongue seductively peaking though my lips and sultry eyes. I was having fun and “camping” it up. I mean, come on - hungry, loveless and depressed?

“Can I take my shirt my off? I think it would be good. You know I did a little modeling for Tonka and Sear’s when I was in Kindergarten.” I was half joking, throwing out my modeling credentials to let them know they weren’t dealing with an amateur (I did model for Sear’s and Tonka).

“No, I don’t think it would work. Please. Be serious.” The photographer was kind of a b-i-t-c-h and wasn’t responding to my unorthodox attempts at charm.

Our people shot me a look and I gave them a look right back that said, “See, I told this would happen. Did I tell you to be prepared and have backup models?” They were stuck with and knew I had the upper hand.

I got serious, conjuring the great Dead or Alive video by Bon Jovi where Jon Bon Jovi (JBJ) and his road tired band are at an all-night diner. JBJ is sitting in a booth, looking out the window and longing for the comfort of home and his woman. With JBJ as my muse, I gave the best pensive, lovelorn, hungry-ass look I could muster. They loved it!

My large face with the caption, “All you need is love. Oh yeah, and some food” ran on buses, subway stations and billboards. Friends called and inquired about my well being and I told them story.

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