By Lydia LaFleur, a member of Get Your WordsWorth
Several weeks ago I got a call from Gene, owner of Flaunt Model Management, asking if I’d be interested in doing a print commercial for the magazine Scientific American that had to do with a new medication for Alzheimer’s. He said they wanted someone older, so he had thought of me. The session would take only two or three hours and would pay $125. Pretty crummy amount, I thought, and all the more so when I was reminded that the agency gets 20 percent, Still, I hadn’t done a commercial in several years, so I said yes. The shoot was to take place at Scientific American’s headquarters on Varick Street; the #1 train would get me there. Then I got an e-mail from Scientific American asking me to bring a red turtleneck and a black turtleneck and several other tops in solid colors (yellow, blue, green), crew neck and open collar. For only a $100! No way I could manage carrying all that on the subway, so I would have to shell out for a taxi. The shoot would be at 10:30; I figured I should allow at least an hour to get there in case of traffic. The night before I got everything, but everything, at the ready including changes of clothing in a cleaner’s plastic bag, not knowing how crucial that would turn out to be. I set the alarm for 8:00. When it went off the next morning, I felt very tired; five more minutes, I said. I woke up and shot out of bed; the clock registered 9:00! I had to be downtown in an hour and a half. How in the world would I make it?? I jumped into the shower, put my hair up in curlers, drank half a glass of milk (no time to make coffee – they’d surely have some there), took out the curlers, called AA car service which came in two minutes, rushed downstairs and jumped into the cab. As I settled into it stretching out the clothes on the seat beside me, I imagined myself a glamorous New Yorker in a scene from Sex and the City breathlessly rushing to her next appointment, although in my case, an 83 year old with arthritis off to do a commercial for Alzheimer’s; it was more like a future Woody Allen movie. I looked at my watch: 9:55. It would be a miracle if I were to get there in half an hour. And so it came to pass; hardly a car on the West Side Highway. “There’s no traffic,” said the cabbie, “‘cause it’s Passover and the holidays and the kids are off from school.” I could not believe my luck, or could it be my Guardian Angel rescuing me as she had a number of times over the years. How else to explain why I woke up at 9:00 instead of 10:00 or later or why there was no traffic on the road? But, oh, how I needed some coffee! I arrived at my destination, a tall new building at 10:27, showed my photo ID to the guard at the desk, reminding me of how vulnerable such a building could be, headed for the sixth floor and into a vast room with a side view of the Hudson River, and filled with several dozen workers each in his/her cubicle with desk and computer only. Everyone was hard at work, no draped over the partitions gossiping here. I was ushered by an Ann through another door and into a room devoid of furniture except for one long table and photography and lighting equipment. There were only three amiable looking young people in the room: Eric, the photographer, his assistant Evan, and the stylist, Assumpta (her name sounded American Indian to me, but no, she was from Ireland and the name referred to the Virgin Mary). At all the shoots I’d been to there were always juice, danish, sometimes bagels with cream cheese, and, of course, coffee. No sign of any of that here. When Eric told me that I would need to look hopeful in the photos for the new medication for Alzheimer’s, I knew my eyes could not look hopeful if they were half asleep still; I needed that coffee. I don’t know where they got it, but, thank God, they did. I showed Eric all the clothes I had brought with me; he said he liked the colors of every one of them, but that all I’d be needing were the black turtleneck and the red turtleneck. Huh? I was to have a natural look, so Assumpta applied light makeup that resembled my coloring and just a little eye makeup and gave me a simple page boy hair do. I was ready. The photos would be only from my shoulders up. Eric proceeded to take shot after shot after shot of me. “Smile, now smile a little more, a little more.” With nearly every shot he would say ‘Great” which, of course, made me feel great. That kept me smiling for the next hour or more, as well as the thought that against all odds I had made it that day thanks to my Guardian Angel. And over all, it had been fun.