When I was younger, my family and I would go to NYC for The Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall. We’d see “the tree”, go to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and eat at any one of the small restaurants in the area; very fond memories. I never had a reason to understand what street we were crossing, what part of town we were in; I just took everything in and enjoyed the time I could as a middle class white boy in NYC.
“You don’t know how to get to Lafayette St.? Hmm, ok. Where are you coming from?”
“I’m not sure, I guess somebody I know will drive me in.”
“Ok, well it’s pretty easy. Just find a N or R train and take it down town. Get off at the Prince St. stop and walk a block over; that’s Lafayette. Our building is right on the corner, we’re on the 3rd floor. Just make sure to sign in when you get here. Sound good?”
“N or R … down town … Prince St. Corner. 1499. 3rd floor. Yeah. 9 A.M.?”
“Right! Can’t wait to see you! We have a busy day! Oh! Wear a tank top and blue jeans please! See you soon!”
Yarvis hung up first, I was still scribbling words and numbers on a piece of ripped off notebook paper. Many of my friends drove but I still didn’t want to burden them with driving me into NYC. Instead I had a friend’s friend drop me off at Port Imperial in Weehawken and took a $10.00 ferry ride to 34th street. From there, I didn’t know my ass from my elbow.
By the time I got into the city, it was already 10 to 9. I wandered around for a bit, looking for any kind of subway line where I could ask somebody how to get to the N or the R train, still had no idea where exactly they went.
At about 9:30 and still hopeless, Yarvis called me to ask where I was.
“Uhhh … I’m on …” I looked for a street sign, “37th and Lexington?”
“You still haven’t found the train? We have to get you a subway map. Just get here as soon as you can!”
Maybe it was for a divine reason; maybe I couldn’t find the right station because I wasn’t supposed to. I’ve always been one to look into things, sometimes a little too deep, but this time maybe there was something to it. As thoughts turned towards getting back on the ferry and chalking it up as a bad decision, I found a station with two yellow circles, N and R. Maybe there was a reason for this, too.
I decided on the N, since I had a choice. Took it down town and heaved a sigh when I saw Prince St. as the next stop.
Finally, something’s going right.
Got off, went the wrong way at first, turned around, and found 1499 Lafayette. Bingo.
When I made it up to the 3rd floor, I noticed a lot of vacant work space. A printed paper read “F@ Model Agency” and an arrow pointed to the right. Without the sign I’d have known where to go, Shakira was blasting loud and clear from down the empty, white hallway.
“FINALLY!” Yarvis threw himself out of his chair and rushed towards me with a manila envelope in his hand.
“You’re … very late.”
“Sorry. I really had no idea where I was going.” I laughed nervously, tried to make the conversation a little lighter.
He handed me the envelope.
“Sit down, relax! It’s ok! You’re late! So what? I’m hungover. There was a big party last night. UGH! You should have been there! How did I forget to invite you? There will be tons more! Don’t worry!”
Around Yarvis’s workspace were postcard sized pictures of all the models represented by the agency, about 50 or so. Next to him a man sat airbrushing a model on a desktop computer, focused on centering his name on the card.
“Anthony, this is Anthony! Oh my god, you guys have the same name! Haha! Much easier to remember!” Yarvis’s energy didn’t seem to have any limit, he acted mostly the same with our without a hangover.
“Ugh. That party last night. Anthony, er, old Anthony. Do I still smell like alcohol?”
“Yeah, a bit.” He laughed, “Nice to meet you, Anthony!”
“Ugh. I feel sick. No more tequila for me.” Yarvis sat down rubbing the temples of his head, nursing an iced coffee, but still pumping Shakira out of mounted speakers.
“You remind me of a young James Dean! Has anybody told you that before?” Old Anthony was in his mid-twenties, Asian, and looked like he belonged on one of the postcard model printouts instead of touching them up.
“Hah, I’ve gotten that before. Thanks. Nice to meet you too!” I sat down on a leather couch and opened the manila envelope. There was a lot of paperwork: confidentiality contracts, release of information and likeness contracts, payment contracts, and many other things I barely glanced over before tossing a signature on. Included in the envelope was a map of the NYC subway lines.
“I’m all finished.” I took the paperwork to Yarvis.
“Ok, we need you to take this home and have your parents sign it. Or you can just forge their signature!” He smiled through a 5 o’clock shadow.
“So, you came pretty late today. We had some appointments set up for you, some photographers we wanted you to shoot with, but that’s ok, they’ll be there tomorrow! First thing we have to do is get some shots of you for your cards.”
With this, Yarvis took me to a bench lined up near a window overlooking Lafayette St. I took off my button down and sat nervously in my undershirt.
Yarvis pulled a camera from his desk and walked to me.
“Give me …” He made a face I tried my best to mimic. My mouth slightly puffed out, head tilted; trying to look seductive I guess.
“Unbutton the top button of your jeans.”
I did. I kept giving the look. After about 10 shots, Yarvis looked to Old Anthony. “Got it!”
Plugged the camera into the computer, uploaded the images, and soon I was watching Old Anthony airbrush New Anthony on the screen.
“Hmm … your name is a little too long. Do you go by ‘Tony’?” I can’t stand that nickname. The only person who ever called me that was my childhood barber, who also went by Tony. To me, Tony represented a stereotype of Italian Americans; it embodied something in it that I didn’t consider myself to possess. I was not a Tony. I was ,am, and will always be Anthony.
“Yeah, Tony’s fine.”
“Great. Awesome. You really do look like a young James Dean. Wow.” He praised my looks as he brushed away my adolescent impurities.
“Oops! Shit! Forgot! Fill this out quick!” Yarvis passed me a piece of paper asking for my height, weight, and other details about my body. I scribbled what I knew, made up what I didn’t, and passed it back to Yarvis who gave it to Old Anthony.
When the cards were printed, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I had done it; I had a model card from a modeling agency. I was being set up with photographers. The picture looked nothing like me. On the back, the embellished stats I had provided were printed with my contact information.
“This. Looks. AMAZING.” Yarvis squealed.
“Here! These are yours! Make sure to give one to each photographer you shoot with over the next few weeks!” He gave ma stack of about 20. He took others and placed them behind him on a glass mount where other model’s cards rested.
“Go have a seat, read a magazine. I got a shoot for you in about an hour.” I did; rifled through some fashion magazines never stopping on a single word. My mind was racing, everything was happening so fast. I was lost and considering going back to NJ defeated less than 4 hours ago, next thing I was staring at a copy of seductive Tony and waiting for my first real shoot.
Two arms flung themselves over my shoulders and Yarvis’s head leaned into mine.
“You’re going to make us millions!” He whispered into my ear. Suddenly I felt panic. Old Anthony was right, he did smell like alcohol.