Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Few pics for Exile

The last two are examples of artist's reference pics.

Monday, November 12, 2018

An Imperfect Life

Getting known.

Chapter 33

“You’re very lucky Pat – this is a big advertising campaign for the Milk Marketing Board and they particularly want a small blonde.  Be there at 2.30pm looking very glamorous.  Don’t let me down!”

  Paula had already told me that although my height 5’ 4” was fine for films it was short for modelling.  Even though most of my work would be hair, teeth, make-up and sweaters photographers sometimes lacked imagination – like casting directors, and liked to have the whole package.  I was frequently called ‘Little Pat Manwaring.’

  William and I pored over a street map of London to decide how to get there and I asked Renata if she could come earlier for coffee – I didn’t want to let her down again.

  I gasped when I saw her. “Renata! Have you had an accident?”  She had a large fading bruise on the side of her forehead.  Was that why she had kept her head down the last time I saw her?  Had that brute been hitting her?  I couldn’t bear the thought of it but she said she had left a cupboard door open and walked into it.  She seemed much happier and was wearing a pretty silver necklace with a heart on it that the spiv had given her.

“It is so exciting Pat that you have this important audition.  Just think your photograph will be everywhere.  On those big bill boards at the station – everywhere and you will never have to buy milk again!

However when I reached the studio – dead on time, bright eyed and bushy tailed I was greeted with “Sorry darling – we had to give it to Zoe.  She’s just perfect for the campaign.”  And I had to agree.  Zoe was a good two inches shorter than me with white blonde hair and an elfin face.  For the next few months her photograph was everywhere - her white blonde fringe complementing the large glass of milk she was drinking.  I felt a bit shamefaced when I rang Paula but she glossed over it and told me to get a move on with getting my photos round the studios.   Rejection was something actors and models had to get used to and goodness knows - I already had had some experience of it.  Onward and upward!

  William was supportive when I bleated to him but when I voiced my fears about Renata he said.

“We mustn’t interfere.  If she comes to us for help that’s different but you should never come between husband and wife.  And anyway she’s probably telling the truth.”

  Life was hectic; I enjoyed having the head shots taken – it gave me a foretaste of what I would be doing for the next couple of years.  I liked Reg the photographer and found it easy to respond to his instructions.  You couldn’t always rely on a rapport with whoever was shooting – either for stills or filming.  I learned to have a secret scenario going on in my head to portray real emotion and a smile that spread to the eyes and made them sparkle.

   Back at our new home the decorators had done a great job– and all for free.  We got the furniture out of store and moved in.  I decided to give myself a week delivering photos – why were they scattered all over London - and then concentrate on settling in.  I was fairly sure there would be a waiting period before I would get any bookings.  I had seen enough of the girls hanging round Paula’s office to realise there were many more models than jobs.  I had to trust that Paula knew what she was doing.  On the back of each photo I had to write my details.  I’m sure now it must all be done electronically but then it was a truly hands- on job.

You turned up cold at the studio, introduced yourself, offered them a photo complete with your details and then hoped they liked you enough to remember you the next time they were casting for a shoot.  The receptionists were the worst part as they examined you like a piece of meat before deciding if it was worth calling the photographer.  One particularly frightening woman with jet black hair scraped back in a chignon – a real female Dracula- glared up at me from her desk.

“Have you got a plate?” she snarled.

Feeling like a bumbling idiot I asked her what she   meant – I was still getting used to people who didn’t have a Northern accent.  She meant a dental plate.  When I’m nervous my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth and sitting below me she had glimpsed it and concluded I had shop clackers.  I managed to convince her that they were mine – all mine, but felt I probably wasn’t going to be top of her list.  Eventually when I became known she would ask for me by name but was always more dragon than pussy cat.

  One place where I was always treated with charm and courtesy was Tower House, Southampton Street which housed Woman’s Own.  I immediately felt at home and they were the first to use me regularly for artist’s reference, fashion and eventually covers.  Artist’s references were fun to do.  The models were first photographed and then the artists would make a drawing from that.  Rix was one of the top names and I found his drawings more compelling than photographs to illustrate the short stories.  Woman’s Own seemed to take a personal interest in my modelling career and couldn’t have been more helpful and encouraging.

  I used the Underground to get around London as I felt I was less likely to get lost.  I would look for the nearest station to the studio and often was doubling the distance travelled when I could have just walked round the corner from A to B.  It was a nightmare if the weather was wet and windy.  Arriving at the studio looking like something the cat has dragged in didn’t impress them much so more cash was expended on taxis.

 I began to get migraines. Throughout my nursing career with all the stress involved I never had a migraine but the stress of always having to look tip top started me on a cycle of migraines which lasted until I had my first child.  Touch wood I have never had them since.  The lift man at Gloucester Mansions said I always looked a if I had stepped out of a band box.  It was expected.  Barbara Goalen, the top model de nos jours was the epitome of elegance.  Some years back whilst shopping in London my DIL pointed out one of the top models.

“She can’t be.  She looks so scruffy!”  But I was assured she was.  Times change!

Many of the male models were struggling actors.  There were far fewer acting jobs then and many paid a pittance.  Modelling provided them with useful earnings to keep the wolf from the door, feed the kids and keep them free for that golden opportunity which was just round the corner.

  The next six months were a hard slog going from one end of London to the other.  I didn’t mind the hard work but was worried about the expense of travel – we were a couple of miles from Epsom - and keeping up appearances with no money coming in from me.  William convinced me it would all be worthwhile and he was right.  Slowly but surely I would be asked for by name and there seemed justification for phoning Paula twice a day. 

“When it comes right down to it - it doesn’t matter that you’re not the tallest hollyhock in the bed.  If they like you they’ll book you!”  William turned out to be right.

I was somewhat of an oddity amongst all that glamour and urban sophistication.  Since then, all the years of living with William has nurtured a supposedly, pleasant speaking voice but at that time, if you think of the character that Jane Horrocks occasionally plays - a simple girl who ‘comes right out with it’ – that was me in the fifties.  No surprise that Jane and I were born and bred within a few miles of each other – in different lifetimes.

  One still had to audition for important jobs and contracts and it was a reality check sitting in waiting rooms with these gorgeous creatures – not just models but also film starlets. Jill Ireland and Audrey Hepburn were just two around at the time.  I really had a problem with my lack of self confidence but one day sitting outside Paula’s office waiting to do my accounts I got into conversation with a very pretty starlet.  She was similar to Barbara Windsor- a cockney sparrow – I think her name was Vera and she gave me a real good talking to.

  “You think they’re something special don’t you?” indicating the photos on the wall.

  “Well let me tell you you’re every bit as special as they are and a bit more.”

Bless her!  I remembered that the next time I felt inadequate.

Once when William was away I had three auditions in one day.  I decided to take Havoc our corgi for moral support and I swear it was Havoc’s charm that got me all three – Phillip’s Stick a soles, Bayer Aspirin and Harvey’s Bristol Cream.  She got special doggy chocs that night.

  William pointed out that I would have to pay tax on my earnings so I decided to go and see the tax man and ask his advice.  I was confident I could do it myself once I knew the rules.  The man I saw was – to me – an elderly gentleman who was very interested in the whole business and helpfully told me all the things I should take into account in the way of expenses and that I should keep all receipts and dates of bookings etc. Times change!

  I really enjoyed a bit of book-keeping.  The payment was a bit haphazard; sometimes the studio would pay you on the spot and sometimes the cheque would go straight to Paula.  We had a session once a month to sort the finances.  One dark day I left Paula’s office laden with notes and stopped in Leicester Square Underground to make a phone call.  I discovered I hadn’t enough change, dashed into the tobacconist’s – purse in hand- leaving my handbag with a stuffed wallet and, more importantly, my diary with all my bookings  It was seconds before I realised and dashed back but my handbag was gone.  I went to Bow Street Police Station (now defunct) and left my details but they didn’t hold out any hope.  I few days later I received a parcel containing my handbag and diary but no wallet.  A thief with half a conscience?  I was grateful.