Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Age 23
Eyes Green
Hair Fair
Height 5' 3-4"
Weight 7st  7 lbs
Bust 34"
Waist 22"
Hips 34"
Shoes size 5

Friday, September 21, 2018

An Imperfect Life


Sluice to studio


Chapter 32


Life was good.  The bungalow would soon be ours, the agent had given us wallpaper books to choose our décor and once the contracts were exchanged the decoration would be done at no cost to us so we nipped over to Epsom to take measurements. William was happy to leave all the choices to me and I had endless fun choosing colours.

  Back at the flat we were greeted by Renata.

“Pat there has been an urgent telephone message from Marta.  It is very important that you phone her immediately.” 

“Thanks Renata.”  I stared at her - she looked as if she had been crying and kept her head down. I put my arm round her shoulders and dropped my voice.

 “Look are you alright?  You look a bit down.”

“No no I’m fine – just a bit tired.”

“Come and have coffee with me in the morning and we can have a good chat.”  She nodded and then disappeared upstairs.  I told William about the message from Marta and asked him what I should do.  After her previous rudeness I wasn’t keen on jumping when she snapped her fingers.  To my surprise William said I should give her a second chance.  It was an opportunity and if I spurned it I may regret it later. It made sense. I didn’t enjoy relying on William financially and there was such a lot I wanted to do to our house – once we were in it.  If Marta were right and I could be accepted as a model I would be earning much more than I had ever earned as a nurse.  After dinner I phoned Marta.

“Pat!  Meet me at my agent’s office tomorrow at eleven.  And look your best- DON’T let me down!”

“Oh Marta I’m so sorry I can’t - I’ve made arrangements to…

“CANCEL THEM!  Pat this is important.  There are hundreds of girls who would give their eye teeth to get on Paula’s books and I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to…”

“OK Marta – I’ll cancel it.  And thank you – I really am grateful- umm- can you give me the address please?”

She did – it was a block of Mansions in Soho.  I hadn’t a clue how to get there but felt sure it wasn’t in Marta’s remit to give me travel directions. I dashed upstairs to apologise to Renata and to ask if she would mind postponing our coffee date.  She was fine about it but I felt guilty.  I didn’t go in because I knew the spiv was at home and the less I saw of him the better.

  Thank Heaven for William!  He worked out that I should get a tube to Leicester Square and then walk up Charing Cross road to Cambridge Circus.  Easy peasy!

Praying it wouldn’t be wet or windy - or Heaven forbid both – I washed my hair and decide to wear the same outfit I had worn when Marta stood me up- freshly laundered of course  and this time - a pair of flatties for my feet with a pair of heels in a smart carry bag I had just bought. 

  It was a lovely day and at Leicester Square Underground I popped into the Ladies for a last tweak and scrutiny- something I would be doing regularly for the next eighteen months.  I felt excited walking up to Cambridge Circus- there were exotic book shops and weird men in hats and mackintoshes.  The Mansions had a lift like a giant iron cage which somehow added to the atmosphere of decadence and sleaze.  I told the lift attendant I wanted the sixth floor and we slowly rattled our way up in full view of people braving the stairs.

  Outside the agent’s office was a narrow passage where three beautiful girls were sitting.  They looked more like show girls than models and look surprised when I said good morning to them.  From inside the office I could hear the constant ringing of phones - interspersed by bursts of conversation - then more ringing.  Suddenly the door burst open and a large untidy woman appeared.

“I’m only seeing people with appointments” she bawled. Two of the girls left and then she spotted me.

“Who are you?”

She was quite imperious and scary and her eyes looking me up and down felt as if they were going right through to the marrow.

“I’m a friend of Marta’s.  She asked …um - we were supposed to…”

“You’d better come in then!”

  I followed Paula in to the most chaotic office I have ever seen.  The walls were covered with black and white photographs – mainly men- she was noted for her stable of excellent male models – many of them ‘resting‘ actors and some glamorous women.  Marta had pride of place – cheeks sucked in and looking amazing.

Two long narrow windows looked out over Cambridge Circus and Paula’s desk was placed so that her face was away from the light which illuminated anyone else in the room.  Her desk was covered in papers, directories, notebooks and a large diary.  The two phones on the desk were constantly ringing so there was plenty of opportunity to look round but where was Marta?

  One of the photos of a long legged beauty looked familiar and further scrutiny revealed it was Paula herself, a decade or two and a few gallons of gin earlier.  In spite of the chaos it was clear as she answered each call she was superb at her job and subtly changed her approach depending on whether it was a client or a model and if a model whether they were in or out of favour.  I soon realised you didn’t want to be the latter.

“Dawn!” she yelled”The studio have just been on the phone and they said you were half an hour late.  I’m not having anyone on my books who is unreliable.  I have queues of beautiful girls outside waiting for an interview.(pause) It’s no good saying the bus was late- get a taxi for God’s sake – you’re paid enough.  I’m not gonna argue Dawn – this is your final warning.”

She slammed the phone down which immediately started ringing again.

“Paula Day Agency.  Robert- how are you darling?”  The contrast was astounding – Paula was purring.

“How did it go?  Did they like you?”

(Pause.) “I should think so.  I told them you were the best I had.  Lunch?  Marta’s coming. (Pause) No I didn’t think you would.  Ring me tonight sweetie.”

  In between the phone calls Paula peppered me with questions about my age, my marital status, where I lived and what training I’d had.  She thought I looked younger than my age and that being married was an advantage - she didn’t want any more silly young girls going off the rails.  The nursing training didn’t impress her but she latched onto the fact I had done some Am Dram which in agent speak would be translated into my being a very experienced actress.

  The door burst open and in breezed Marta- surprised that I was here already(she was half an hour late)  There were kisses all round and she suggested we went off to lunch away from the incessant phones.  I gathered myself and prepared to leave.

“Pat where do you think you are going?”  Marta looked amazed.

“Well I …”

“It’s alright Pat – don’t take any notice of Marta- you’re invited and we can finish getting your details over lunch.”

I blessed William for giving me some spare cash – for emergencies.

We arrived at a smart Italian restaurant where both of them were obviously known and respected.  Marta had a campari and Paula a gin and tonic.  I wasn’t sure about campari so settled for a G and T.  After the first sip I found myself relaxing and enjoying myself.  They gossiped about other models, photographer and actors – some of whom I had heard of so found it fascinating.  At one stage Paula was talking about a society osteopath and suddenly said.

“Look out Pat.  He collects young girls from the provinces.”

I didn’t take it seriously as I felt I had my head screwed on and I wasn’t that young – 23-24 I think.  Paula was quite astute but I think even she would have been surprised when a few years later the government was rocked by a scandal, a cabinet minister was disgraced and Stephen Ward- to whom Paula was referring - committed suicide on the last day of his trial - deserted by his cowardly false friends.  That was the Profumo affair with a Russian spy, Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies who immortalised the phrase “Well he would say that wouldn’t he?

  Marta – late for an appointment had to rush off.  Paula said I must get some decent head shots taken.  She would give me a list of all the studios and then I would have to take the photos round and introduce myself.

“Here’s the address of a reliable photographer – he’s just round the corner in Gerrard Street so you can get started right away.”

“Do you think I’ll be any good?”

Paula looked at me with raised eye brows.

“I wouldn’t be wasting my time on you otherwise dear.  You’ve got to start believing in yourself.  As long as you do exactly as I say you’ll be fine.  Phone me morning and evening.  Got the phone number?”

I couldn’t help wondering if Marta always did as Paula said.  Somehow I couldn’t quite believe it.  As for the phone number- my memory isn’t what it was but if I live to be a hundred I shall never forget that Temple Bar number.

As I was in Soho I decided to get stuck in right away and went to look for the studio.  The street was interesting with various ladies standing around keeping a distance between each other.  I suspected they were ‘ladies of the town’ and to me they looked quite old and raddled.  The studio was over a night club and walking through its shabby décor – which didn’t suit daylight and which smelt of booze, stale fags and sweat I decided that nightclubs were not for me.

  The receptionist was friendly and when I told her Paula had sent me she called out to the photographer – her husband - to come and meet me.  We fixed a date when he would do my head shots and they asked me to bring a variety of tops.  Tentatively I asked how much it would cost - I would have to have masses of prints to take round the studios.  The total bill would be more than I earned in a month as a nurse but back at home William said you have to speculate to accumulate. 

“I have to phone Paula morning and evening.”

“Well there’s no point until you have the photos!”

Paula had been quite firm about it so at 6pm I phoned her.

“Pat write down this address.  You have to be seen at 2.30pm tomorrow, looking very glamorous.  Don’t let me down.”