Wigged UpApril 24, 2012 at 4:45 am | Posted in Memoir -- Non-fiction Stories | 8 Comments
Tags: Gloria Dawn, Mario Cassilli, Shannon Moeser
My agent phones right after breakfast.
“Mario Cassilli wants to use you,” he says. “I told him you’d be there at 10:30.”
Great, I think. Maybe I’ll appear in Playboy.
A quick brush of my teeth, light touch of lipstick, thin stroke of eyeliner, and I’m off. Cassilli’s studio is a ten-minute drive through congested Hollywood streets. A one-story, white building with a rear parking lot, its front façade has no door or windows, no sign indicating the nature of its business. But the back door – the entrance – displays Playboy’s famous rabbit-head logo.
Cassilli has a pleasant face and a bushy moustache. When he sees me, his smile disappears. “I need a blond,” he says. My agent failed to mention that I had dyed my hair black.
After a pause, Cassilli says, “We’ll rent you a wig.” He tells me exactly where to drive – a Max Factor boutique specializing in wigs – and gives me a voucher for a one-day rental.
An hour later, I’m sitting on a chair in the back of the store. The woman takes one look at me and says, “You have a very small head.” She doesn’t need to measure; she has fitted thousands of models and actors.
She moves to a storeroom and returns ten minutes later. “Right now, I have only one that will fit you.” After she adjusts it, I examine myself in several mirrors. My hair is now light blond, four inches long, with a soft wave. Exactly right. It looks natural. When I brush my hand across the top, it feels coarse. My own hair has fine strands and flattens easily; the thick strands on this wig will remain bouncy.
“I’ll take it,” I say, giving her the voucher. She reminds me that the wig must be returned within 24 hours.
By 12:30, I’m back in Cassilli’s studio. He likes the wig.
In a small, black leather case, I carry my modelling accessories: black bikini panties, white bikini panties, a front-opening black bra, black garter belt, white garter belt, extra pair of nylons, and gold, open-toed, high heels. A makeup kit contains bright pink lipstick, bright red lipstick, pale coral lipstick, eyeliner, black eyebrow pencil, brown eyebrow pencil, and mascara.
For makeup, Cassilli wants me to use coral lipstick, brown eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, and mascara. For clothes, he requires only my black bikini panties and gold shoes. He provides the other props – a gunfighter belt and quick-draw holster, plus gun. I tie the holster’s drop-loop around my leg and point the gun at the camera. It reminds me of playing cowboys and Indians as a child.
After Cassilli takes several photos, I remove the gunfighter outfit and he arranges his lights and camera tripod for a close-up. He instructs me to hold my right arm across my upper chest and my left arm at a 90-degree angle. He spends time getting me to hold my arms and hands exactly right.
I’m worried. Cassilli viewed my body a year ago. Since then, I’ve lost five pounds. My legs are slimmer, my bum less prominent, but my breasts have lost some fullness, and consequently have a more pronounced droop. I know how to hold my body to hide this defect but the pose Cassilli wants, with arms pushed forward, emphasizes my less-than-perfect bosom. As Cassilli tells me to move my arm “a bit lower” or “a bit to the right,” I feel uneasy, even though I’m smiling.
We finish by four and Cassilli hands me a $50 cheque. I’m too shy to ask where or when these photos will appear, but see that the cheque has been issued by Playboy.
I have time to return the wig but instead drive home to the Hollywood Studio Club. At dinner that evening, everyone admires the wig. Next morning, I buy it. The store applies the rental fee towards the purchase price, although the $150 is still high on my budget.
For the next year, I search through each month’s Playboy but I don’t see the photos. Rejected, I think, because of my flabby boobs.
A year ago, I finally saw these pictures. They were published in the September 1964 Topper. Cassilli must have sold rejects to Topper. I almost didn’t recognize myself in the wig. Although it looked like real hair and not a wig, it was fuller than my natural hair, and this fullness altered my head shape. In the gunfighter scene, I appear between the legs of another gunfighter – a parody of Gunsmoke. In the close-up scene, boxes of beer were drawn between my arms. Cassilli had placed my right arm across the top of my chest, which hid the fact that my breasts drooped. But although my mouth formed a toothy smile, my eyes looked sad. I forgot that emotions felt by a model show on the photo being taken. The photographer didn’t screw up; the model did.