A long time ago, in a city far, far away; I used do some "nude model work." I was a pornstar. No, just kidding. Although I did consider prostitution once. But that's another story...
Picture it: Los Angeles, circa 1997. My Hollywood career had come crashing down around me. I think I may have had a nervous breakdown of some kind. I mean, when you find yourself surrounded by Paramount security guards and you're calling them "Nazis," there's a problem. Thank God their Chief of Security was a kind and knowing man. He took me into his office and calmed me down and sent me on my way. He knew, you see, how stress-inducing working in the Tinseltown trenches could be. I mean, I assume he did. It was the feeling he gave me. Or, I might've been Sherry Lansing's nephew and he was erring on the side of discretion.
Whatever the case; it was in that moment that I realized things were not going my way. I simply couldn't face another filing cabinet. I'd gotten my foot in the door at a major studio and now I was retrieving a stump and leaving.
Hindsight is 20/20. I probably should have had some kind of Plan B set up; but I didn't. I had almost no savings. I had a car that was falling apart. And I refused to ask my parents for financial help. It was a habit I did not want to get into. I needed to make it in life by the seat of my own pants.
But I had a great little apartment in Silver Lake that had an absurdly low monthly rent: $400.00. Your read that right. Four hundred dollars. A one bedroom pied-a-terre with a downtown view. When I think back on that, I realize that my landlord must've been some kind of guardian angel. He could've gotten three times that for that apartment. So, it was because of that rent that I was able to maintain the "lifestyle" to which I'd become accustomed. It certainly wasn't an extravagant lifestyle. I suppose on some level it was glamorous. But I was over glamour at that point. I needed to survive. I needed to put food into my mini-fridge. So I started looking for something in Silver Lake. Something I could ride a bike to (or walk...and nobody walks in L.A....but I did. A lot).
One fine day I came across a funky looking flyer on a phone pole. "Fine Art Models, Male, Wanted for Private Art Class" and there was a tasteful sketch of a male nude and a phone number. I put a finger to my chin. Should I? I wondered. Could I? Would I?
When I got home, I picked up the phone and dialed the number. I found myself talking to one Mr. Nick Paul. He explained to me that the gig was a couple of hours on Thursday night of good, old-fashioned nude art modeling. Mostly for a small group of gay men (who were actual artists). Yes it paid. Not a lot. But at least it was something. He asked me if I'd like to come by and check out one of the classes first to see if I'd like to do it. I agreed, and a few nights later I arrived at his apartment. It was actually smaller than my own digs. Let's just say that the environment was, shall we say, intimate. Here is Mr. Paul:
So, I had to ask myself if this was something I could do. It was a tough one. I had an aunt who had shamed me as a child. She was Japanese. She could barely speak English but she knew that particular word. I remember it vividly. I was about five-years-old and was on my way to the bath; but for some reason decided to run through the house naked. She was a house-guest. When she saw me she cried "Oh, no, shame on you!" "Shame on you!" Now, she wasn't doing it to be mean, 'cuz even at that tender age (or maybe it's just looking back) I could hear the note of humor in her voice. But I was five. And I'm guessing public nudity, despite group bathing, is a source of cultural shame for the Japanese. Whatever the case: it did a number on me. I'm still shy about being naked around others (even my husband to a certain degree). So, I thought, maybe I should force myself to do it to try and get over my hang-up. This is what I was working with at the time:
So, you're still here. Great! Let's talk about my junk! However, I first need to come up with a term for it that's not quite as clinical as "penis" or as cutesy as "wee-wee." So after a little research, mostly lists of slang terms for it, a couple caught my eye. So, I'm gonna go with "pink oboe" but I'm going to drop the "pink" part. So, any further mention of my instrument will be as an "oboe."
So, here's the thing. I'm Irish. A race not generally known for its giant oboes. I'm also a "grower", not a "shower." So here I was, considering showing my oboe in its natural state for quite some time, to a group of men. Men, let's face it, often size one another up. They make judgments when an oboe is not standing at attention (when they're all more or less on a level playing field and as big as they're ever going to get). So there's a lot of hero worship bouncing around the locker room for guys who "schwing." "Shrinkage" is a real thing (and not right after getting out of a pool). And this was going to be a room of gay men: so the sizing up was going to be truly inescapable, even in an artistic atmosphere. But, I needed that extra income; so I decided I would do it. If Quentin Crisp could do it, then damn it, so could I!
My worries over my oboe and what it might or might not be doing were quickly superseded by my worries of holding the poses. The poses were for varying lengths of time: anywhere from five minutes to thirty. Have you ever tried to hold a single pose for an extended length of time; even on something as comfortable as a sofa? You'd be surprised to realize how much you actually shift your position--when you can't. I was on a small wooden stage with a few pillows to put under pressure points. So, you get into position and then...
Well, you stare into space. You try not to worry whether your oboe is going back into its case. You try not to wonder if the people staring at you aren't making judgments about how you, shall we say, measure up. Not just the oboe, but the rest of you. And then, discussions begin to unfold amongst the sketchers and at least you can take your mind off of things by listening. But then someone asks you a question; thus, drawing you into the social interactions; which is nice. Except you're the only person who's completely stark naked, lying on your back with your feet in the air, looking at your oboe from a vantage point you've never seen it from while somebody is asking you about your favorite Mel Gibson movie (none; but you throw Tim out there because you saw it on cable once and Mel did a great job of playing a mentally challenged landscaper who likes to wear short shorts when he mows the lawn).
*So, Johnny Guitar said I could supply the unexpurgated account of our initial meeting, complete with pictures! Actually, his real name is Joel Craig (andjoelcraig.com).
So, I did have rather explicit details here; but then I thought perhaps that might be a little too TMI. And as I want this blog to be somewhat "family friendly" I ask you to use your imagination.