The Thing About Being a Thing
If the A/side of life is about making hits while we’re still young, it’s also much ado about bullsh*t. Sometimes youth lacks the wisdom to say no to nonsense, or it trades power for the price of validation.
For me, that meant signing a recording contract… written in Japanese. My bad.
But others fell prey to even worse. For example, being scammed into attending a Trump sex party in the eighties.
For young women new to professional modeling, partying with the owner of The Plaza Hotel, and his VIP friends has A/side debacle written all over it. Sure, fancy chandeliers and free refills of Dom Pèrignon look promising before things get weird. It’s hard to see your future going down, face-first into a pile of cocaine on a marble table, or – whoopsie – having non-consensual sex with an older business man.
Trick or Trump?
These tender maidens were sold the same old clichè, that the men who were there could help make them famous. According to whistle blower, Michael Gross in The Daily Beast, the girls were underage models from “second-tier“ agencies who attended such parties freely, hoping to date rich guys.
I raised an eyebrow to his assumption. What difference would it have made if they were first-tier teen models? Underage is underage. Grown men aren’t supposed to serve them drinks and screw them. It’s against The Law.
It was time for some straight-up girl talk with my friend — She was there.
Um... Elite Models weren't "second tier"
My friend is a willowy blond with glowing skin that could be mistaken for a mermaid riding her bike through Bed Stuy. For her privacy, I will call her Jane. Jane's story began decades ago, with a move from Germany to sign with Elite Model Management in New York. This was a BIG break. Elite was the international gold-star-standard of the Fashion world. They represented superstars like Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford back in the day.
“My agent said YOU HAVE TO GO.“ Jane said, pointing her long finger at me, like the Uncle Sam, if Sam were a Botticelli goddess.
“Wait. You HAD to go to a party?” I sat up in my chair, alert.
”Yes.” she nodded. ”We were told it was an industry event. Models were required to go, some as young as fourteen attended with no chaperone. We went like good little girls doing what we were told. Some didn’t know how to handle the situation, being doused with alcohol by a pack of creepy old rich guys. It was so obvious what was going on… Our bookers were women we trusted — they lied to us!”
The fuckery farm
Over the next hour, Jane would peel away cringe-worthy details, of fat, hairy palms, pawing at milky teenage skin, of cigar breath and scotch. I almost choked on the cloud of old man cologne in the room she described.
Her eyes narrowed into tiny blue sequins. “I saw Trump hitting on the younger girls! He trolled around with the owner of Elite, John Casablancas, also notorious for dating a new underage model every month.”
Jane dismissed the bullshit with the wave of a hand, “I just left the party.” She paused, gazing at the ceiling, “I’m sorry. I don’t have a juicy story for you..." looked my way, "But the next day, I got yelled at for NOT staying.” She folded her arms across her chest.
“Wait.” I tilted my head to the side. “You got in trouble? My mouth opened and closed several times before saying, “But…you showed up. You did what you were told.”
“Yeah.“ Jane blinked in slow motion. “But I didn’t ‘meet’ anyone. I didn’t play the game.”
I felt the shock spiral from my belly, a mix of motherly rage and sadness. Where was the media outrage?
The press had dismissed a bunch of high-school-aged girls as desperate wanna-bees, looking to land a sugar daddy. Unless they were over eighteen and there was a choice involved, this sort of transaction falls under indentured servitude, or worse, human trafficking. These girls weren’t given a choice; they were being pimped out by the modeling industry to Trump and his cronies. What was in it for them?
The Plaza party was her wake up call. Jane walked away, learning something she'd never forget. She realized by working as a professional model, she wasn’t considered a person; she was a sandwich, a thing on a menu to be consumed for a price. Her managers treated vulnerable girls like disposable diapers; Modeling no longer felt safe. Or worth the risk.
There was the catch — The thing about thing-ification. Yes, our society is obsessed with the power of youth and beauty. Yes, there are huge perks to having model-looks. But what about some of the trappings — like illegal exploitation? Thing-dom doesn't have an ally or a human resources department to report crimes; it isn't real power. Women can be the first to blame and slut-shame, or in this case, pimp each other out. And boys, will be...well, first-tier total jerks.
Because I am thing-doms' ally, and misogynys' worst enemy — This is where the truth is told.
Donald Trump is no longer the owner of The Plaza; he's now our President. To observe him tricking America, the beautiful lady he can sell to his cronies is nothing new. The man is doing what he's always done.
B/sides — Wisdom is power
Jane's next chapter was all about opening her restaurant, which has been a Brooklyn hot spot for over twenty years. Thriving on her B/side, she's built a successful business, and continues to employ and empower others.
I watch Jane glide from table to table, radiating warmth to every guest. When it's my turn, the Botticelli goddess lifts her chin to whisper her sister-power secret, “I tell every waitress on the floor: Remember, you are not part of the meal.”
Jane is what the world needs today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
Rx — B /side track
Duran Duran, held mainstream eighties pop in their pretty-boy palms. They were so BIG, apparently they didn't have time to bother with B /side tracks...
But here's one that doesn't totally suck.