Monday, June 29, 2009

Fashion Model for a Day

Everyone should have at least one chance to rock their inner runway fashion model, and last night I got mine. Interestingly enough, runway modeling was never even a part of my daydreams, the ones that included me as a famous actress, rock star, international spy or CEO of Paramount Pictures. It might have something to do with the fact that at a moderate 5'5" tall, and without the height to weight ratio of a string bean, I've never been what you would call "fashion model material." Something I'm honestly pretty okay with. Mind you, I can't sing worth a damn (see "Karaoke for Beginners") but I still have secret visions of tearing it up on a concert stage with the crowd screaming and singing along to my latest hit. But don't we all fantasize about that one?

I'll preface the rest of this story by telling you that I am a member of a 1940s/50's style pin-up performance group called the Diamond Bettys. We were invited by the designer for a company called Bettie Page Clothing to model her fashions as part of the grand opening celebration of her new store on Hollywood Blvd. And on Saturday afternoon, as the final touches were being put on the shelf displays and pictures were being hung on the once bare walls, we began a run-through of the twenty minute fashion show, and I took my first steps down the long, elevated runway.

I was excited to get started. Walking? In a straight line? No problem. But as I teetered down the path in my new black high heels, a gift from one of the vendors to wear during the show, I felt a bit like a newborn animal trying to find my legs. This was altogether different from walking on the ground. An elevation of about four or four and a half feet doesn't seem like much, but my innate fear of falling kicked in and it suddenly seemed very, very high. I'm afraid my first pass had little in the way of flounce or flair in it, but I made it down and back without realizing my fear and toppling over the side. The next two passes down and back got easier and once I got into the swing of things, and managed to convince myself that the likelihood of falling was, in all actuality, pretty slim, I was ready for a dress rehearsal.

I learned a thing or two more once we ran it again, this time with full dress changes. Timing is crucial, and all credit goes to Alika, who stood at the side of the curtain, saying "go faster, we're running out of music" or "slow down and take your time, we have too much music." It's really a well-orchestrated event. Not to mention the cooperation needed backstage to get everyone in and out of dresses in record time.

Then it was time for the big day. Yesterday, I had the misfortune to awake with a bit of a head cold so I downed some Sudafed and as much water as I could and set off for hair and makeup. Hey, you know what they say, the show must go on. I've been through the hair and makeup routine before, for other Diamond Betty events, photo shoots, etc. So this part was nothing new, though there's still nothing better to me than someone else curling my hair. Not to mention having someone else put on my fake eyelashes, something I am notoriously terrible at doing myself.

At the store the crowd built quickly - a motley crew if there ever was one. The rockabilly crowd was strongly represented - men in pompadours and rolled-up jeans, girls in Bettie Page bangs and colorful tattoos. Then there was the press and publicity group - the ones with the still cameras, video cameras and microphones. And then the regular folk, including the friends and boyfriends of the Bettys. Knowing how these things can go in a town where flakiness is the norm, I was glad to see a good-sized crowd in attendance.

First up on the performance schedule for the evening was Kalani Coconuts, a burlesque dancer, who shook her tassels and her tailfeathers for the eager audience. I was pretty sure we wouldn't be able to top an exotic beauty clad head to toe in Trashy Lingerie, right down to her pasties, but we were about to give it a go.

I have to say, I got lucky. I know not every girl was happy with her dress choices. I really loved mine. First up was a black and white striped circle dress with a belted waist and a petticoat. Probably not something that I would wear normally, but I loved it, nonetheless. 'll admit it - I was nervous when the curtains parted for the first time and I stepped out on the runway and saw the cheering crowd. As I made my way down to the end for the obligatory poses to the center and sides of the the stage, I felt like I was star. The flashes were going and the people were cheering. At it lasted about five seconds. I know, because I was told later that while I rocked my walk and my poses, I did it all just a little too fast. Nerves, I guess.

I found my stride with outfits two and three, first a girly red dress with hearts on it, the one that I eventually got to bring home with me as a thank you from the designer for modeling in the show, and then a sexy black pencil-skirted dress with a corseted waist and a cherry-printed top. I felt like a vixen in that one. But I couldn't breathe. Not much of a corset girl.

Everyone killed it during the show and the designer was incredibly pleased. I know I had a blast. Who knew walking down a runway could be such fun, especially for a self-proclaimed intellectual. But the flashbulbs, the crowd and the cheers out front, and the laughter, cooperation and camaraderie backstage made it something special. Something I would do again in a heartbeat. Especially if I could do it with those girls. And as long as they don't make the runways any higher.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blown Away

I'm a week and a day late for a new blog. Something I chalk up to two weekends out of town. And up until a few minutes ago, I was at a loss as to what to write about. Then my boyfriend flipped to a History Channel show about, among other dangerous things, the most dangerous weather events - tornadoes. It immediately took me back to that moment in the Spring of 1985, when I was just 11 years old, huddled under the mattresses, hiding from the storm that had already found us.

Since I had spent my entire childhood in Texas, by the ripe old age of eleven, the school tornado drill was second nature. We all knew it cold - the alarm would sound and all the students would file into the underground rec center on the school campus. We would all line up around the walls to be protected from potential falling debris and curl up on the floor in the fetal position with our hands crossed over the backs of our necks. After ten or so boring minutes our teachers, satisfied with the completed drill, would let us up and send us back to our classrooms.

I remember many a night too when the news would report tornado watches or warnings and dad would open the door to the crawl space under the house and set a flashlight beside it. We would all keep a close eye on the weather updates just in case the foreboding rain and wind started to form into one of the dreaded swirls and we needed to head under the house to take cover. Something that never actually happened. It was enough to make a kid convinced that all the precautions and weather warnings were just hype and that nothing that disastrous was ever actually going to happen.

It was a spring evening. I vaguely remember that we went to the movies, but I could be totally wrong about that. I do know that by ten, my then seven year old sister and I had gone to bed in the room that we shared, just down the long, window-lined hall from my parents bedroom at the end of the house. By the time my mother flew into our room and hauled the two of us off our beds, flinging us onto the floor and pulling the mattresses cross-ways to cover us, the bulk of the damage had already been done. But it was that moment when I was ripped out of my sleep and thrown into terror, that I knew I was finally in the midst of a storm I had previously thought I had little reason to fear.

As it turns out, it wasn't actually a tornado, but a serious of shear winds that carved out their damage in a straight path instead of a swirl. Damage that can be just as intense as that bestowed by their better known cousin. The storm that night left the city of Dallas fraught with destruction and left our house quite literally cut into two.

The story up to the point of my mother's abrupt entry into our room was told to me, and to this day, I am still in disbelief that the noise failed to wake up me or my younger sister. My parents were getting the house ready for bed when the mild winds that had been present earlier in the evening started to build to a blustering frenzy and the raindrops started to fall. It was when my father attempted to close the bedroom window and was unable to push it down against the strength of the wind that they began to realize something was terribly wrong. As a deafening roar started up, my mother turned to run down the hall, shouting to my father that it must be a tornado and she needed to get to the kids.

That's when the glass from the long wall of windows began to fly and my father recalls pushing my mother to send her down the now treacherous hallway faster before he turned and ran to the other side of the bedroom, seeking access to the bathroom and the safety of the shower stall. He told us later how he was unable to open the door because something was keeping it shut, and at the time he thought it must be the force of the wind. By then my mom had torn us from our beds and pulled us to the floor, shouting that we were in a tornado. I remember trying to carefully pull the fishbowl from the nightstand between our beds, terrified that I would slosh the fish out onto the floor in my haste. I remember hearing my sister scream to get the dog and my mom frantically pulling our boxer by the collar to get him under our mattress tent. I have no recollection of the noise, but I remember the deathly quiet and the way our voices echoed when we screamed for my dad.

It seemed like forever before we heard his response and relief flooded through me. He yelled that it was okay for us to come out and we carefully extracted ourselves, pushing the mattresses aside and cautiously looking out into the hall. I could hear my father talking to us, but I could not see him. The American Elm that had once stood outside in front of the hallway now lay across the hallway, through my parents closet and bathroom and out into the backyard, reaching almost to the creek at the back of our house. It was so tall on its side that I couldn't see over it. And it was raining. In our house. As I looked up, I could see a wide swath of night sky where our ceiling had been just minutes before.

As neighbors came to help us tarp the roof against the declining storm, we put ourselves back together and assessed the damages. My mother had glass down her back and bruises on her shoulders from where she had been hit by the falling tree branches as she had raced down the hall. My father had been unable to get into the bathroom because the tree had already fallen down by the time he got there, blocking the door. We had lost several trees all over our property and in a stroke of luck, trees had fallen on either side of the cage which held my pet bunny rabbit, leaving him wet and scared, but otherwise unscathed.

In the end, it turned out that the focal point of the entire storm in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex was just outside our house. There was damage all over our neighborhood, and all over the city. We were incredibly lucky that night. And now that I live in LA, much like I was in my early childhood, I am unfazed by the threat of earthquakes. But a hefty windstorm will always give me the chills.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Life Lesson #42B

Lest anyone think I was extraordinarily lazy about keeping up with my blog on a weekly basis, there was a entry here but I have chosen to take it down. I promise, in the weeks to come, there will be so many more that you will never even miss it.