When I was very young and susceptible, I went to the Beverly Garland Hotel on Vineland, one sunny Saturday morning, for a "seminar" about how to break into "the business". It had been listed in the back of the LA Weekly, so it must be the real deal, right? Yes, I was at a stagnant(read desperate) point in my acting career and was trying to be "proactive". It's mortifying. Really.
Anyway, I was one of three people who had paid to sit on a fold out couch in the living room area of a rundown hotel suite and learn about "the business" from a slick, balding, gold Mercedes driving, suit wearing, self proclaimed hot shot I'll call Dirk. Dirk told us right away that he owned an international modeling agency. Despite the fact that none of the three of us were "model material" or remotely international for that matter, he proceeded to explain why we three should let him, a bona fide expert, help us become famous. In addition to encouraging us to let him steer us in the right direction to stardom, he also wanted us to let him take our pictures- "head shots", he called them - but, oddly, all of his slide show examples were fuzzy boudoir shots of women in lingerie. There was a lot of cleavage and blond hair and satin sheets. A whole lot.
When it was over, I used my best late eighties/early nineties judgement and gave him a deposit check for the pictures.
I know. I KNOW?! Right?! What was I thinking? I cannot explain what would possess me to do anything but walk the fuck away from someone that overtly lecherous, slick, and cagey.To his credit, he was a really talented schmoozer.
The minute I said goodbye and stepped over the threshold of the hotel room, I drove straight home and called my lawyer, Leonard, who was a old school entertainment attorney that my father's legal counsel from New York in 1971 had referred me to. I asked him to help me get the check back.
He told me that he would have to charge me more than the cost of the check to even pick up the phone. He suggested I call Dirk and tell him I had changed my mind, so I did. I called him and explained that I'd made a mistake. Dirk was much less "Star 80" about it than I expected him to be, but he was really quite condescending, implying that I wasn't ready, I was not professional material. He did not give the money back, but he did agree to have another photographer take my head shots instead.
Fine, I said, I need head shots, but you're an overly persuasive pervy creep whose behavior only gets worse down the line, am I right?
No, I did not say that, but I'm sure it was true. People like Dirk are why I have never flown to Vegas to pretend to look at a timeshare to get free food because I'm the person, despite all my stubbornness and determination, who will buy the stupid condo that I can't afford.
He gave me the name of the new photographer-I'll call him Pascal-and I called and made an appointment. The details are fuzzy as it has been at least twenty years, but at some point I went, by myself, to a gorgeous loft downtown- all white brick on the inside-with enormously high ceilings and giant windows. Pascal looked like a young, blond Rupert Everett and he seemed totally bored by my normal actress/not model wardrobe and stipulations: no nudity, head shot, clean, all American. An equally bored French woman did my makeup, and her first order of business was to cover up every single freckle on my face. Not an easy task, but, by the time she was through, she had painted on two enormous caterpillar eyebrows in a deep auburn color; took my hair and created a giant jellyroll pompadour on top of my head with an abundant amount of teasing, brushing and hairspray; had me put on my favorite vintage forties houndstooth skirt suit, and pushed me into the studio. Pascal started taking pictures. I was certain that this was some sort of humiliating payback from Dirk.
In the mirror, I looked like that scene from Betty Blue where she's starting to unravel:
In print, however, I was astonished at how great the pictures were- of this other person. These were not photos of me. I tried to use one of the other, more normal looking shots but was told summarily by an angry casting director that I did not look anything like my picture. Oh, well.
I shudder to think what the shoot with Dirk would have been like. Hysterical, topless crying with the shutter clicking in the background comes to mind.
I never saw Dirk again. I have always considered him a bullet dodged/the person responsible for some great looking but useless photographs of my younger self.
I recently did some investigating to find out what became of the Hollywood cliche that he embodied twenty years ago and discovered that, since his days as a lecherous international modeling agency owner, he has become an internationally known painter whose work is and collected by three past presidents, several movie stars and a couple of race car drivers. He has also founded an international charity that helps low income women get mammograms. I hope to God he doesn't perform them himself. He spends his free time depicting Civil War characters in historical re-enactments near his home in another part of the country, which I'm sure he'd do internationally if he could. He's also written a book about depression and anxiety that's internationally available, obviously.
I was a little stunned. From a cheesy modeling agency owner to a charity running, collected artist, author and living historian? Did he have a personality transplant? Did he have a near death experience? Did he find religion?
I am a believer that people are innately who they are by their teens, and certainly by thirty- this guy was a balls out hustler if ever there was one-no pun intended. I did come across a legal document that was filed by some poor, naive model against him and his international modeling agency, right around the time that he was holding those "seminars". The information in the document is pretty pathetic. There are LOTS of references to offers of "special relationships", countless sexual advances, one exposed genital situation, outright promises/begging to give her free Zed cards if she slept with him. He was constantly on the make and the worst part is that his wife was also implicated in the lawsuit as a co-owner of the business, but perhaps she was just as bad or possibly worse? They are still married, apparently and, according to Google, it's all very international. But, then again, so is IHOP.