Sunday, September 08, 2019

An Imperfect Life

Chapter 37

I make a decision

“I have to see Paula tomorrow.”

“Any particular reason?”  William was interested enough to put his book down.

 “It’s time to settle our finances - she owes me quite a bit of money – minus the fees
from the studios who paid me direct.  And she wants me to fill her in on the Pickles’

“Well don’t be getting upset.  Remember they didn’t even know you so don’t take it


 Easy for William to say but my confidence had taken a blow.  Anyway my carapace

 was too thin -  Jamie’s rejection had been enough for one lifetime.  I felt it was only
fair to tell Paula I didn’t consider this a job for life – it wasn’t a passion and I would
like to wind down preparatory to starting a family.

  Next day sitting outside Paula’s office I was rehearsing what I was going to say when I noticed a youngish man waiting.  He didn’t look like either a model or an actor and when Paula herself ushered him in, I was even more curious.  At last the secretary popped her head round the door and asked me to go in.  To my surprise the mystery man was still there, sitting alongside Paula.

“Pat dear, I want you to meet Mr X of X nylons.”

This was Paula at her most charming.  Mr X stood up and we shook hands.  It appeared he was starting an advertising campaign, had observed me in the waiting room and wanted to use me for his ads.  I nearly laughed out loud but slowly I was learning a bit of common sense.  I had always had a thing about my skinny long legs which tended to be a bit knock kneed.  The fashion then was for more muscular, curvy pins and mine didn’t cut the mustard.   A modelling chum had recently been on the town with a party that included the ‘leg’endary star Marlene Dietrich- her legs were insured for thousands of pounds and according to my friend, the precious pins were encased in the palest, sheerest nylons which blended seamlessly with the colour of her high heeled shoes making her legs seemingly go on for ever.  This seemed like a good idea to me and I was trying it out this very day.  The result was a contract – Mr X was happy, Paula was happy and I decided to keep my worries to myself and carry on a while longer.  Paula had already worked out my nice large cheque so I didn’t need to hang around and future plans were put on hold for now.  When I spoke to Paula that evening there were lots of bookings and she said it was time to get a photo in Spotlight.

“What’s Spotlight” demanded William?

“It’s supposed to be world famous for its casting directories and Paula reckons it’s a must if you want to get anywhere in the media.  It’s expensive…”

“But you have to speculate to accumulate…” William added.

“Don’t forget Mum’s coming down tomorrow so I’m going to book myself out for a couple of days.  I’ve got plans.”

I really wanted to do something about her hair.  It was soft and silky- a lovely strawberry blonde colour – that’s titian in my book- but she wore it in a long plait which she wrapped round her head like a hairy Alice band.  My own hair was done by top stylists for modelling jobs but my personal choice was a Mr Ralph who was employed by a new up and coming stylist – Vidal Sassoon.  Although hairdressers were keen to use me they found my hair (soft, fine and fly away) difficult until they got used to it.  I would tell them the best way to cope with it, but hairdressers never listen – it’s in their DNA and once a whole photo session was ruined when the stylist put brilliantine on my hair in spite of my warning her what would happen.  Not only did I look like a drowned rat the sticky goo had to be endlessly washed out again.  Mr Ralph was different - quiet, unassuming and a gifted stylist.  Mum was doubtful about having her long hair cut so I suggested she watch him do mine and then see how she felt.  Thoroughly reassured she decided to go ahead.  I rejoiced as I saw her lose the dreaded plait and at least fifteen years in the process.  She now had a short pretty style which allowed her natural curl the freedom it had been denied for years.  Everybody was delighted and she never had long hair again.  I just hoped Dad would feel the same.

  I had chosen Vidal’s salon as my regular salon because it was a fun place with rocking music, a real buzz and discounts for the modelling profession - in contrast to some of the Mayfair salons full of ladies dripping with mink and diamonds.  I first met Vidal when he was a young apprentice and had been given the unenviable task of attaching a solid rubber ring to my hair to represent a ‘Juliet‘ hair style.  It was an impossible task and the brushing got more and more violent until finally he flung down the brush and flounced out saying he was a hair stylist – not an ‘effing genius.’

He became world famous for his geometric styles- closely associated with the fashion icon Mary Quant.  My type of hair was anathema to him and we had a friendly agreement for the rest of my modelling days that I would never ask him to cope with my hair again.  My favourites of the many famous stylists were Steiner, who did wonderfully romantic styles and French of London.

  It was lovely having Mum to stay and we had lots of chats but I didn’t talk about my marriage- I remembered her retort when Maddie was in trouble:

“You’ve made your bed – you must lie on it.”

On my recent birthday I had asked William if – as a birthday treat - we could go up to town and see the latest Ava Gardner film and he refused.  Of course he came up with an alternative but it wasn’t anything I was interested in so I in turn refused.

  Mum and I did talk about starting a family- she was just eighteen when she got pregnant and Maddie about the same.  I suddenly realised the next birthday I would be twenty-six; the bookings were pouring in and unless I made a stand, another year would fly by- but how would I break it to Paula?  A fait accompli seemed the only answer; so I made a decision and my New Year’s resolution was to start a family.  For once William was in complete agreement and we set about the task with gusto.  We didn’t have pregnancy tests then so after I missed a period I trotted down to the local hospital.  They told me I was pregnant and gave me a resounding telling off; I should have – they said – waited at least a couple of months before seeing them.  I explained I often had to chase around London carrying cases with accessories and I didn’t want to risk having a miscarriage.  A month or so earlier I had had a shock when I fell backwards off a chair balanced on a table.  I was working with one of my favourite photographers; he was expert in colour, had come down from the north and we bonded.  I was touched when he said he and his wife used colour transparencies of me to put round their lamp shades.  Sometimes he was like a bull in a china shop, but I found that quite endearing.

I can’t remember what the shoot was for but Jim persuaded me to wear shorts and sweater and balance on a chair which was balanced on a table.  As usual he was darting between me and the camera; tweaking and rearranging until he got the right shot and suddenly I felt myself going A over T backwards, crashed on the floor and passed out.  I was taken to the nearest hospital and felt such an idiot dressed as I was.

I was seen by a sweet young doctor with black curly hair and freckles.  I was reluctant to let him examine my spine as I was very self conscious - still am – about a birth mark I have.  He finally persuaded me and assured me the birth mark was nothing to worry about.  After X-rays he said I had bruised my coccyx, there would be no permanent damage but I should rest for a few days.  As he left the room I noticed he had a club foot and felt thoroughly ashamed of my stupid embarrassment.

These were not litigious days and I don’t think it occurred to Jim that I could sue him; it certainly never occurred to me.  He showed me a series of photos which illustrated how he had pushed the chair closer and closer to the edge of the table with the inevitable results.  The studio insisted on paying me the equivalent of two weeks work which I was happy to accept. From now on – as a pregnant woman I would be more careful.