Chapter 26 – A Bitter Sweet Chapter

By this time I was shooting for almost every modeling agency from NY to LA, as well as some of the most elite models from all over the world. I was living in Hell’s kitchen and just getting to know the city. Other than family events, or as a child, going to work with my father, I didn’t know Manhattan. For the first time in my life, I was learning the streets of New York. Not just as a passenger in my father’s car, or a school field trip, but by living and working in the city. It was a virtual playground with huge nightclubs and millions of women from around the world. I was in a single man’s paradise, as there was a plethora of opportunity and a smorgasbord of women from just about everywhere. That is why I found it so strange that I was falling in love with a shy coal miner’s daughter from Allentown, Pennsylvania.

I don’t understand how I could fall in love so often, or why certain women immediately triggered that love at first sight switch in my brain. But those love hormones, like dopamine and all the others, would simply drive me wild at times. I would experience these amazing floodgates of love for certain women. She was one of them. After our first shoot I thought we would spend a lot of time together. It was a simple shoot. She modeled in a torn pair of jeans and a ripped t-shirt. She was slender and much cooler looking than most models. She carried herself like the main character in the feature film “Flash Dance.” That was the style at the time. She was definitely a tomboy, but shy. Acting and modeling was drawing her out of her shell. She had long curly brown hair. Not naturally curly, just part of the act. Kind of her unique style. She was very fashionable. She wore outfits that looked like they came out of Vogue or Elle’s sportswear section. She came off as a sexy, hot, jock, dancer chick.

She took the train from Allentown to the city. She would stay with me as often as she could. We always shot at sunset. There was a beautiful golden glow emanating from the windows. The entire floor to ceiling wall of windows, facing the sunset, was the reason I sublet the place to begin with. That wall of light was my first natural light studio. She would come by unannounced. I was always happy whenever she buzzed up. It made the apartment start to feel like a home. She was generally in the city for casting calls and to see her agent, so I was pretty much last on her list. But I was a steady stop. She had a boyfriend back in Allentown, which is why, at first, we never became more than, friends. We would order in Chinese food or pizza and hang out. She was very affectionate and was always hanging onto me. I loved that feeling.

What we became is rather difficult to describe. I did have that initial love at first sight feeling, but it took so long for us to become intimate, that I was screwing around with a lot of other women. Plus, I had to control my feelings, because she had a boyfriend. It was an entirely different story after she broke up with him. We would have sex every time I saw her, even though I was screwing around with everyone else. So as much as I began to love her and build on that incredible, love at first sight feeling, I was in a strange place, juggling many women at the same time.

I may have had many chapters of love, but I did love every woman I slept with. I have chosen to love them all, almost as a religion. I often think that love is the universal foundation of any religion or society. Even though we had great sex, often in front of those enormous windows, we were never exclusive. Oh yes, the windows. At first we thought the coating on the windows would prevent people from seeing in. Later we learned that at sunset you could see everything. We were more careful after that, but we were certain scores of people had seen us.

It must have been very erotic for our neighbors whose windows faced ours. There was a month we were going at it almost every day while we were playing house together. Sex with her was almost always the same. We would shoot at sunset, smoke some herb or hash, put on Cat Stevens and screw. Most of the time we would just strip in front of the windows and make love standing up. I think she got off on it. Outside of photography and sex, we didn’t speak about too much else. We had three to five hours for each other at a time and then we were both off doing our own thing.

Eventually she started getting a lot of attention, becoming quite a bit more polished, but had less and less time for me. When she wasn’t there I hooked up with other women, but I always hoped it would be her who rang my buzzer. I started to feel I was as much a hotel room to her as I was a fun hook-up, but nothing more. Over time, we drifted apart, but occasionally, we would meet for lunch. Our relationship turned into more of a friendship again. We just hung out instead of hooking-up. We never discussed why. It just changed. I had a feeling she was seeing someone else in town. I wasn’t jealous. I was kind of relieved, as by that time, I was hitting everything that moved. She became family to me. I loved her like I would if I had grown up with her as a neighbor, or true friend. The city was no bed of roses. I started to see the real underbelly of New York City, especially with what was about to happen to her. It was a playground, albeit a dangerous one.

She didn’t know where she was or what had happened when she awoke, naked in a strange bed. She had no recollection of how she got there. She knew she had been violated. She was terrified. She saw guys with guns standing outside the doorway of the bedroom she woke up in. She heard a voice she thought was her agent. She told me she never trusted him. She said there was something creepy about him. Somehow, she got caught up with some bad business dealings and now she was paying the price.

When my phone rang, I didn’t know who it was at first. The woman on the other side of the phone was crying and absolutely terrified. She sounded familiar, but as she was whispering I thought it might be a crank call. But, the crying was too real for it to be anything but a call for help. As she started to calm herself, she told me everything she knew. What she couldn’t tell me was where she was. She was terrified of the guys with the guns. She saw them on their ankles through the doorway that was intentionally left open. As she became more lucid, I could tell it was my friend. She told me she had been raped and she was afraid to get up and leave. She was afraid the guys with the guns would kill her.

Since she thought she heard her agents voice I told her I would call him and to hang up and not say a thing. I told her to call me back in a few minutes. If she didn’t hear a phone ring she would call me back, or the police. As soon as she hung up I called the agent. He picked up as if nothing was wrong. I asked him if he had seen her because I had a booking for her first thing in the morning. It wasn’t unusual for me to call him, as I originally booked her for a gig through him. He started to get suspicious but I played it cool. I could tell he was lying when He said, he would have to make a few phone calls to find her.

Then the impossible happened. She picked up the other phone and started dialing me. I couldn’t believe it. She was dialing as I was speaking to him. Now, I was terrified for myself as well. If he was a rapist and killer, he would come for me as well. She heard my voice and said “John, Is that you?” I played it so cool. I couldn’t believe I thought of this. I said “yes! I was just asking for you. I have to come pick you up right now. We have a shoot at dawn.” I acted like I had no idea she was in trouble. She just kept saying, “Ok. Ok. Ok,” to everything I said. She couldn’t say much more. I said she sounded tired and she took the hint. She said she had fallen asleep and asked me what time it was.

The agent thought he had gotten away with it. He said he would send her down when I got there. When I got there, she was a mess. They did a job on her. Her makeup was running down her face from crying so much. I said, “oh man you look drunk. Are you drunk again?” They fell for it and let her go with me. I saw the guns and knew that if anyone said anything about it, we were both dead.

I took her home to my apartment and bathed her as if she was my child. She cried a good part of the night. Later, she admitted that she had taken advances from the agency to pay for her family’s food and other bills, thinking that she had a huge booking coming that would pay for it. I had no idea her family was having such a tough time of it. I began to realize that the reason she started spending time with me was that her agent wanted her to. When she stopped being his eyes in my apartment, he punished her.

Apparently, all the hash and herb we were smoking was stashed in my sublet apartment. She was picking it up and transporting it to him to pay her family’s bills. I was the fall guy in case the place was raided. He was also using her to make sure none of it went missing. The very night she came back to my apartment she asked me for a pair of socks. I didn’t have any so I went to my roommate’s drawer to borrow a pair. He was never there, so I didn’t think he would mind.

When I opened the drawer, I saw at least a hundred kilos of Lebanese brown hash. I was done. I knew I had to get out of there. I told no one what happened and that I just had to move downtown for work. My roommate helped me find a place downtown. I learned later that there was more of a connection between my roommate and the agent than I knew, but it took months for me to find out. When I left her at the train station we both said we were going home, never to return to the city. She left. I stayed, but I never spoke to her or her agent again. Her last words to me were that the only reason she slept with me was because she wanted to and that she loved me. No matter what she did, or how she deceived me, I loved her and was devastated by what happened to her. It taught me how dangerous the city could be. I thanked God my father taught me how to survive challenging situations.

Later, I learned the rest of the story. She took an apartment from her agent on credit. He promised her she was going to get that big break and threw phony contracts at her to convince her she was going to be rich and famous. He advanced her money for her fancy outfits and she got lost in the dark underbelly of the industry. She was a great friend and a unique chapter of love. If it were not for her getting into that trouble and me learning from it, I could have been next in line, as there were so many notorious people working within the entertainment industry back in the 80’s.