Thursday, July 27, 2006

Skinny Girls And All



A run-in I had with some blogger-gals reminded me of a time I actually combed my hair. I mean, with an actual comb and not just my fingers. Perhaps spritzing in a little mousse and hoping for a good "set".

Back in the snowy early eighties, I was living in Tokyo and looking to make a buck or two by doing anything and everything an American guy could do legally (or mostly legal) without compromising the limited moral guideposts I had set for myself upon leaving home.

1) No fat chicks.

2) Don't do anything that will get you in trouble.

3) Be nice to people, especially old people.

That was about it. My three commandments. I supposed "don't kill" and "don't steal" were included within the framework of my second commandment, as well as coveting women with rings on their fingers and lying about someone I knew (false witness.)

Come to think of it, I'd say number two covered just about every one of Moses' burning bushisms-- except for that "vain" thingy, but I never fell too deeply into the world of looks or spent much time worrying about my own...

Well, except for a short time in Tokyo.

I was told I could make good money as a male model or a host.

A host was a guy who sat at a table and poured drinks for rich Japanese women who were trying to get drunk enough to get up the courage to sit in your lap, while all the other women took photos and held this woman in raucous esteem back at the office the next week or two.

There was no sex involved. Just a sort of fantasy-flirt scenario, and you were paid handsomely by both the owner of the establishment and the tips of the tipsy ladies.

(The opposite and more popular version of this, of course, was the hostess. The prettier the girl, the more she raked in. A sort of modern day, "toss in a foreigner and pretend she's a geisha", type of phenomenon.)

Being pawed and slurred upon was actually fun for a few weeks, and then grew immediately and suddenly old like Ricky Riccardo's "Babaloo".

I think I actually lasted three weeks.

I also went to an agency and signed up to "be a model". I had head shots done by a gay photographer from Sidney, I flew down to Hong Kong and had shoes, pants, and a really cool trench coat hand made. At almost 6-4, you can't find stuff to wear in Japan that comes close to fitting, although I did manage to buy a pair of black and white basketball shoes that had been placed in the window of a sports store as a joke. You know, one of those "look how big these are! Isn't that funny?" types of displays. I asked if I could try them on and they fit me just fine. It took some doing to get the owner of the shoestore to actually sell them to me. But that was a one shot deal.

Otherwise, nothing I tried on in Japan came close to even fitting me. Which proved to be the downfall of my budding modeling career. I would get called to an audition based on the few photos gay Sidney had done for me. They would be interested in my "look" until they asked me to try something on. It is really difficult to "look" like the all American guy they were looking for, when your ankles were exposed by four inches and you weren't able to actually put your feet in the shoes they provided. Every time I put on one of their shirts, I either could not move or I came within a threadcount of ripping the entire armpit wide open.

I got some jobs, mind you. But not as many as I could have, had I been 30 percent smaller. Six feet, and about 180 pounds was the upper threshold for guys walking the runways and filling out the catalogues. I know. I watched them rake in the big bucks while I fought squeezing into silk and then fought getting out of silk.

I did a couple of noodle commercials.

I went to the audition hungry, which was a good thing. They asked me to sit down and eat some of their noodles, and then look up and say "Oishii desu!" (It's delicious!) I wolfed down the whole cup of noodles. They were impressed. "You are good eater!"

Yes, I am.

Always go to a food audition hungry. I got the job. I wolfed down noodles with three other foreigners. I said "Oishii desu!" I got a big check. They asked me to make another one a few weeks later. I said, "Oishii desu!". I got another big check.

That part of the whole modeling experience was pretty cool. Free food. Big checks.

I didn't like "the scene" much though. But there was free food involved there too, so I partook with a detached air of "so-whatness" to the whole thing, grabbing plates full of meatballs and salad, wolfing down a late dinner in a fancy Rappongi nightclub, where "models" were allowed in free to bolster a club's image, and these genuine "posers' all stood around and gave their best poses to the crowd near the bar, looking much like the mannequins they actually were inside. STAND AND MODEL, is what we called this absurd display. S and M.

You were to hold your chin just so. You were to smoke just so. You were to wear your coat over your shoulder just so. Not me, just so you know.

I plunked down with a bunch of giggly Japanese girls and wolfed my food. I'd ask a few of them to dance, and then I'd grab my jacket and head out the door. In the mornings, early, I was teaching English to tiny tots who knew karate. I had to be wide awake and alert for that.

Occasionally, I would attend a party full of "models". It was invariably in an apartment owned by a modeling agency and loaned out mostly to the girls who flew in and worked the circuit for three months and then headed back to New York or Milan. They came for the cash. Back then, Tokyo paid big. A friend of mine pocketed 35,000 dollars in less than three months by dying his hair redder than it already was. He was the new redhead in the fall catalogue. I think they stenciled in freckles, as well. And a girl of sixteen could come and make double that. Easy. If she had "the look". Whatever that was...

On one such party, one of the girls out of the three who had a bed there went out to see Huey Louis and The News, in Tokyo, dressed in sexy sixteen year old girly clothes and looking older than legal. We had a reasonable time drinking and talking, me, trying not to get involved with conversations that involved hating being in Tokyo. "If it weren't for the money"...

Some girls had it rough.

Anyway, the party finished about two, but the trains stopped running around twelve. We all knew the Tokyo drill, you hunkered down until just after five, trying to catch a few Z's in the meantime, and then you took the first trains home and slept till afternoon in your bed or futon. We were all in this hunkered down and trying to sleep mode with most of the lights out and not a soul stirring. There must have been twenty of us in this smallish apartment sitting on the floor and leaning against one another, eyes closed.

The door burst open. It was the sixteen year old concert goer and she looked a little less made-up than when she left. She was excited. She was shrill. I guess she saw a light on and thought one of the two older, more seasoned models was still up. I know she wasn't counting on us being there. I know this because of what she said, how she said it, and the color red she turned when her audience turned out to be quite large and full of whiskery men.

She had burst open the door and exclaimed-- "I fucked Huey Louis!"

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Ever watch one of those corny movies where after a really corny speech about teamwork and love and redemption and whatnot, where there is a pregnant pause that goes on way too long, and then one person will clap, and then a second will join in, and then a third, and then you get everybody clapping and people are inspired to stand up and clap and then everyone gets teary-eyed and stands up and claps and its an ovation because ain't this moment grand and touching and spiritual and special and to be remembered for a long, long time?

It was like that. Only we were just sort of kidding around....

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