Chapter 7 – Runway Modeling

When I walked the runway for Macy’s in Roosevelt field, I thought I was acting quite professional and looking supremely confident, but it scared the shit out of me. At this point in my life I was no performer. I was still growing up and becoming comfortable in my own skin. Being the subject of cameras or on a runway, in front of so many people, frightened me. But, modeling was proving to be a great way to meet gorgeous women and to score great clothing for free. I was building my wardrobe and getting paid! I couldn’t believe people were willing to pay me to stand in front of their cameras.

But walking down a runway in front of hundreds of women was embarrassing, especially because I had a hard-on the entire time. And it showed. I did not model for long because I was shy and I preferred photography to modeling. But for a moment, I was modeling professionally. At first, it was kind of an ego thing. It felt good that professionals wanted to photograph me and pay me for it. As happens with most who model, it gave me a confidence boost and of course it was profitable.

I had a pup tent in my pants every time I went behind the runway to change. Backstage there were always ten naked, beautiful older, well-developed models. They were exceptionally beautiful women. Two of them were assigned to undress me and re-dress me super-fast. So fast, that they did not have time to get dressed in between walks. So, they were nude. They were models. They were beautiful. And there I was, naked, in a small tent like changing area with them. To top it off, I was the only guy in the fashion show. The music started and every time one of the females was walking the runway, two of the models were ripping my clothing off and quickly getting me into a new outfit. They did not want me to wear underwear. Looking back, I believe they knew what they were doing. The pants were designed to show the male anatomy quite effectively.

They would quickly restyle or change my hair, tuck my shirt in, never thinking twice about what else they were tucking in. Most of the time they were doing so with little or no clothing on. So, when it was my turn to go back out onto the runway, I was erect and there was not a woman in the audience who didn’t notice. There was no fucking way I could turn it off or tone it down. This went on for about thirty minutes when I was on the runway, but it seemed like hours to me. I pulled it off because I did not have time to think about it. If I knew what was coming, I would never have done it. I only did runway work one other time in my life. Before the fashion show every model was drinking. Afterwards as well. It was very free spirited for such a corporate event. Later I realized that most of the runway modeling gigs, no matter how large or corporate, were always the same. I would go so far as to say that the few models that were helping me dress were intentionally fondling my package, not because they wanted the pup tent for the fashion statement, but because they wanted me.

After the fashion show I wanted to bolt. I was so embarrassed. I did not want to see any of the females who were in the audience. As I learned from the models, no one pays attention to such things. Half the models had their breasts showing through the outfits. That was considerably more suggestive than a pup tent. Given my age and my rather shy ways back then, it was all too unbelievable. As the show ended the models quickly dressed and prepared to leave. I had no idea that one of the models who was dressing me had other plans for me. I was quite happy she did. We went back to her apartment, which was nearby, in Garden City. Before we even had our coats off we were going at it. She was about ten years older than I was, tall and slim the way most runway models are built. There was not much more about it I remember, other than the fact that she was not from the US and was one of the first older women I was ever with. Frankly, it ended almost as soon as it started as I almost came in my pants several times during the runway show itself. The only really unique aspect to the encounter was the mask she wore while we were fooling around. No one really ever did that before other than Halloween.

We kept in contact for a short while but it was obvious that this was just one of those casual hook-ups that happen in the entertainment industry. The age difference made it awkward, other than when we were in bed. This was to be a very short but memorable chapter of love for me as well as a very funny event in my life. But not nearly as funny as the next time I did runway, which was my last. At the time, New York City photographers started booking me more frequently. One of them was publishing a book about lifeguards and Chippendale dancers. He was looking for one more male runway model to walk the runway at Studio 54. It was a world-famous nightclub, even though I did not know it at the time. I was to be paid a grand cash, which was more money for a one-hour gig than I was making in a month. Of course, I accepted. I didn’t even know where it was, or how to get there, so the model from the Macy’s runway show drove me there. She dropped me off backstage where the models were meeting before the show. She parked and went into the audience. It was the last time I ever saw her. I was too embarrassed to call her or even pick-up the phone when she called me. Here’s why.

When I entered Studio 54 via the stage entrance, everything was very dark. We were corralled into a changing room and given tiny speedo like white bikinis. I never wore a speedo or anything like it in my life. My idea of shorts was cut-off jeans that went down to my knees. I was very self-conscious as the bathing suit was small and my package did not fit entirely. I was literally bulging out of the suit. In retrospect, I realized they did it on purpose as that was one of the selling points of Speedo style bathing suits. It was a fashion and sexual statement. I had never seen anyone in a suit like that other than in body building competitions. It was what body builders and professional wrestlers wore not everyday people.

We were brought up to a second-floor stage like platform that surrounded a dance floor we were curtained off from. We lined up around a lifeguard stand and fake beach and were told when the lights came on to start dancing. We were also told, at the end of the show, to follow the guy next to you and jump into the pool. They built a temporary pool on the dance floor. This was a lot more than I bargained for when I took the gig.

The music started and the professional Chippendale dancers started dancing. I felt like a string bean next to them. Not only were they better dancers, but they were much more developed muscularly than I was. I started to dance. The curtains came up, and before I knew it spotlights came on. They were as bright as auto headlights and I couldn’t see a thing. So, I just kept dancing and waiting to follow the guy next to me into the pool. I realized while I was on stage that we were not jumping thirty feet, into a four-foot pool. They set up a slide. But, we were not given proper instructions. It was all happening so fast. The professional dancers/ performers / male models knew what to do. So, as the song was ending, the models began to zip down the slide. Once they were in the pool, it looked like they were hitting beach balls to the crowd. I was trying not to puke from stage fright.

The water was freezing! As nervous as I was, I remember it being shockingly cold. I still couldn’t see a thing, as there was a spotlight on each of us the entire time. It was blinding. When I hit the pool, I was frozen! I quite literally, went into “cold shock” and knew I was going to get the hell out of that pool no matter who was watching, or what future opportunities I might be sabotaging. At the time, I was hoping to get noticed and book bigger gigs.

My eyes adjusted to the light and I started to look for a ladder or some other way to get out of the pool. It was then I was shocked to learn that the entire audience was comprised of gay men! This was Studio 54’s Gay night. I realized I was totally tricked by the photographer. I knew he was gay, as he lived with another man. They would openly kiss. Until them, I didn’t even know a gay person. For a straight guy, from the suburbs, this was humiliating.

I quickly got out of the pool and went backstage to get my pay envelope. The photographer who was the author of the book eventually came backstage with the other models. He and the few male models that knew me were laughing hysterically. I would never have agreed if I knew the audience was comprised entirely of gay men. I got my thousand dollars in cash, left through the back door and totally ditched my model friend out of sheer embarrassment. I never saw her again. That was the absolute end to my modeling career. I was not going to go through that kind of experience again.

How ironic, that years later, the same photographer who tricked me into doing that runway show became my photography mentor. I was working at New York Film Works, the premiere photo-finishing studio in NYC. He requested that I manage his account. My first lighting equipment came from him. Most everything I learned about the technical aspects of photography, I learned from him as well. Ken Haak was the photographer. He has long since passed away. Even back then he was as old as god. Like many photographers, he lives on through his work and the thousands of careers he helped develop.

I am sure the runway model that brought me to Studio 54 got a good laugh that night. I would never see her or anyone else that knew what happened again. I was too uptight about it. Now I look a back on it with great fondness, and think of it as the funniest scene of my life, or at least one of them.

Shortly after the runway show, Gazelle, the manufacturer of the bathing suits booked me and I was photographed and published in GQ Magazine. This was a huge deal for me at the time. There were three of us including the cover model from the Ken Haak’s book “Working Out.” To my disappointment they just used a close-up of our packages in the suits. Our heads were completely cut off. A fitting, and very appropriate end to my modeling career. It was rather uncanny that over thirty years later, I was shooting runway shows for Simon Mall, with some top Macy’s models. Ironically, they had a very similar tent setup. Some things never change.