My mother and I had recently moved into a new apartment in downtown LA. She had just gotten divorced from her second husband of a few short years, and was on her way to getting back on her feet again, financially and emotionally speaking. We settled in just fine as I began my second semester at a nearby university, while my mom was looking to resume her career in the modeling industry.
But at 45 years old, my mother, Donna, now found herself struggling to get hired for jobs she normally would have no trouble getting. She was still a very beautiful lady, having that California beach blonde look most men go crazy over; with her wavy blonde hair, a golden brown tan, and a perfectly fit 5’7″ body to top it all off. But no matter how gorgeous she looked, there was still the issue of this city having more models than anyone knew what to do with. And of course there’s the long lay off she’s had from working in this business.
My mother always used to complain, ‘There isn’t much modeling work for women my age,’ when looking for a new job. But sure, there were a few gigs, here and there. Mostly modeling for clothing ads, for women her age.
All of that changed when she met a man named John. She never said much about him, other than he was a very wealthy businessman, and that he was paying her a lot of money for small jobs. She was vague about the type of work she was doing for him. But the only thing that mattered to me was that our financial worries were gone and that it was the happiest I’ve seen her in a very long time.
It was another typical night for us, having a quiet dinner and just being relaxed. She seemed upbeat lately, and tonight was no different. There was even an air of excitement about her.
“Mark, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” my mother said as we finished dinner.
“Sure, what’s up?”
Mom sat upright and smiled, “I know this sounds a little odd, but remember that person I’ve told you about who’s been hiring me lately? Well, we’ve been chatting, and when I told him I have a 19 year old son, he expressed a lot of interest in having you participate in some of our shoots.”
It came as a total shock, naturally. Me? Of all people, me? And why? Mom looked at me with wide eyes and anticipation, that smile still lingering on her face. She clearly wanted this to happen.
“Really? I don’t know about that, mom. And even if I was interested, you know I’m not a natural in front of the camera like you are,” I replied.
She nodded, expecting my reluctance. “I understand how you may feel about this and how you don’t always enjoy being in front of the camera. But he has a lot of connections with local modeling agencies and he’s willing to put in a good word for me if we do this. Plus he’ll be paying a lot of money. $10,000 dollars for about an hours work.”
Holy shit. I nearly jumped out of my seat.
“$10,000 dollars for an hour of modeling? Jeez, that’s a lot of money he’s throwing around. What does he want me to do anyway? And why does he even want me there at all?”
“Absolutely that’s a lot of money, which is why I intend to keep him happy,” she said, sounding defensive in her response. “He’s interested in adding family photos to his collection. It’s difficult to explain, in fact, I’m not fully sure if I understand it completely myself…but…well…he’s got an odd fetish, I think. When he brought this up, I was under the impression that he has a liking for this type of thing.”
Mom’s lips pursed and her body tensed a little. She suddenly looked a little shy and embarrassed, while forcing that smile to remain on her face. The innuendo was clear. I understood what she was implying.
“Oh god, mom…please tell me you’re serious. I mean, really?”
“Yes, really,” she replied, hiding her natural embarrassment. “At least that’s the vibe I got from him when he made the offer. I mean, the type of questions he was asking and things he was implying about what he wanted us to do…”
I cut her off right there as she said that, “Implying? Like what?”
“Well…he asked if I still kiss you goodnight, on the cheek or forehead, and how I felt about possibly doing that in front of the camera…”
“…Okay, now I know that this guy is a weirdo. There’s no way in hell I’m ever going to do anything for him,” I told her.
Mom suddenly wiped away her embarrassment and presented herself in an assertive manner, pushing her chest out and raising her voice.
“Now wait a minute, Mark, I know how odd this may be for us, which is why I’ve given it a lot of serious thought before asking you. But think about how much is at stake here. He’s willing to pay us $10,000 dollars in cash; even more if he likes what he’s getting. Get that, he could be paying us more.”
I sat quietly as mom took control of this conversation. What else could I do when mom was on fire like this?
She continued, “On top of that, he’s going to put in a good word for me to all of his friends in the industry, so that I can get more modeling work. Now all we’d have to do is just pose for a few pictures, which will never be made public, maybe share a small kiss on the cheek here and there, and that’s it! Besides, that education of yours doesn’t come cheap mister. And neither does this apartment, so think of this as helping your mother out a little around here.”
I was impressed by my mother’s strong case. She definitely raised some great points. But still, there were natural concerns.
“These pictures will never be made public?” I asked. “Are you sure?”
“He promised. And he wants all of us to sign non-disclosure agreements. This will be a secret photoshoot, in essence, for his personal enjoyment.”
That was a strange choice of words, that last part. His personal enjoyment.Nonetheless, the money offer was great, and mom really wanted this with all her heart.
I had no choice but to relent. “There’s nothing else I can say. Fine, I guess I’ll do it…”
She raised her eyebrow. “You guess? You don’t sound so sure of yourself. I won’t do it unless you’re absolutely sure about this.”
There was a look in her eyes, like she was trying to put me on a guilt trip if I didn’t fully agree to this.
“Fine, I’m 100% sure, mom.”
A broad smile suddenly appeared on her face. “Fantastic! I’ll give him a call tomorrow morning to make an appointment.”
She left out of her seat and planted a big kiss on my face. Little did we know, that kiss was only the start of things to come.
A week later and we headed over to the downtown studio on the third floor of a building. It was a large spacious area with camera equipment and different backdrops and props laying around. It also had areas for dressing and makeup. The only real surprise to me was how few people there were. There was only the man who was hiring us, a male photographer, and a female assistant. But then again, this is a private session.
John was a man in his 50’s. He had a very serious look to him when I first met him, but his mood quickly turned around when he saw our ID’s and family photos, confirming that we were in fact mother and son. He then insisted on showing me around the studio to chat while his assistant was helping mom with her wardrobe and makeup.