All images on this post are copyright by Michael Drejza* and F. P. Dorchak, 1987/1988.
As I began working on my current work-in-progress (WIP), I thought about a part of my life that definitely influenced the manuscript: years ago…in another life…in a galaxy far, far away…I’d attempted…a career change.
Or, I should say…I studied modeling…. I studied under the John Casablancas (JC) Modeling and Career Center, in Denver, Colorado (don’t know if this is the same place I studied at, but it having started in 1983 implies that it is….), and received my “Fashion Modeling” diploma on Nov 13, 1987. I learned about cold readings, applying makeup, being on-camera, doing auditions and commercials, photo shoots, runway fashion modeling…even a little acting. It was a great time.
It was the 80s.
I was interested in two different tracks at that point in my life and thought I’d explore a little: one was the acting world…the other the writing world.
I remember when I signed up: I was 26 years old, weighing in at 185 pounds, at 5 feet 11 1/2 inches (rounded this height down in the resume, for some reason)…and was promptly told I should lose 10 pounds. Right, that wasn’t gonna happen—and never did. I later learned all about how film “adds” 10 pounds to people (so when you see these “twiggy” models, try to understand just how really thin they really are), but I was already as lean as I was gonna get. Anymore was high school weight and that just wasn’t gonna be any kind of healthy. I worked out (still do) and there was no way I was gonna shed an additional 10 pounds. Heck, I was looking to add muscle, not lose it….
As I’d mentioned, JC training involved everything from applying makeup to performing ramp fashion shows. It also taught acting basics, and I remember having had a great time the second time through (yes, attempted this course twice), whereas the first time through, I wasn’t “as psychologically ‘loose,'” you could say. The first time I’d gone through was a year earlier (1986), but my work schedule had been too rough, so I had to back out. The next year, however, I stayed with it.
Back to the acting class. In it the instructor would eventually have us students stand up and he’d throw character types/situations at us and we were supposed to “act” them. After the initial attempts, it was rapid fire. As I mentioned, the first time through (1986) I was extremely self-conscious and psychologically “stiff.” However, the second time through it was so funny, because as we did this the instructor had people again stand, and kept those of us standing who were able to “perform.” I was one of those—and it actually kinda surprised me. But he would again rapid-fire throw out characters and situation to portray, and he quickly got faster and faster with his requests, weeding us out until only two of us were left standing.
Myself and another guy.
He literally only allowed seconds to perform his requests before he hit us with another. It went something like this: “You’re a farmer…construction worker…astronaut…grieving mother…gay politician…circus clown….” This went on for some time and it was like channeling the Divine (for me, anyway), because I didn’t even have to think about how to act or what to say…it all just flowed (channeled?!) through me. In fact it seemed the same for the other guy (the instructor even had the two of us playing off each other). Once it was all done I was amazed at how easy that had been…and I seem to remember applause erupting from our fellow classmates….
Another event that had an impact on me was our graduation project, a ramp or runway show.
In order to graduate, we had to split up into groups of four—two guys and two girls—so we could “play off” each other…we had to not only create the ramp show, but perform it…and in front of a live audience. We had a limited amount of time to do it (and had to do it there—no take-home work!). But, once we were ready, our audience was ushered in.
Who was our audience?
A very large, very kinetic, excited, and fun children’s group!
They were all giggly and smiles, their faces bright with anticipation, and they were ushered into a very small area not much larger than a good-sized living room that was part of the building’s own wing. This wing had large windows around it. There were so many children that the instructors had the overflow go outside and watch us from there, hands and faces pressed into the plate-glass windows. It was actually quite cool, with a lot of “fun” energy emanating from the kids (I remember their ages on the order of maybe 5 or 7 years old up to pre-teen?). Once we started it was nonstop children whooping it up, shouting, and applauding!
It really was a blast, and I was surprised at how much fun I had not only with my group, but also in “playing it up” for the kids! Winking at them, making direct “model” eye contact, displaying full-on “ramp attitude,” that kind of thing. So much excitement and joyfulness from the kids!
After graduating from JC, I went on some “Go-Sees,” or “calls” for commercials or anything else that requires a body. I remember one of my go-sees was for a beer commercial…whiiich I didn’t get. Another was for a Moneycard commercial. Nope, didn’t get that, either. While it had been fun doing these things that were so outside my military world…I had also started writing every day. I’d always written (off and on) since I was six years old, but also in 1987, I had begun treating writing as a business…doing it every day, logging my expenses, my submissions, all of it. So, as this energetic 26 year old I was: working full-time shift work, working out nearly every day (weight training, running, hiking, two styles of martial arts, swimming, biking, handball, skiing, tennis…), studying modeling/acting, going on go-sees, and writing. And, if I remember correctly, was getting about 4-6 hours of sleep.
Something had to give.
I ended up having to cut back tremendously on my workouts, but also realized this modeling gig was getting a wee bit expensive in terms of both time and money, what with having to have “a wardrobe,” keep a current and running portfolio (i.e., go to professional photographers and get shots—like the ones on this post—done), and to keep having to drive places (usually outside of town), yada-yada-yada. Writing…writing was cheap [in terms of materials]…but I also found that I had more of an affinity for the written word.
So, I withdrew from the whole modeling/acting world. I’d learned a lot about myself—and the industry—and it was definitely a fun experience…then, some years later (1997), I searched for a new writing project. I’d wanted to write about something that would stretch my writing abilities…would push my growth as a writer…and the idea I came up with merged with my modeling training. It was way outside the typical plots and “world views” I inhabit in my books, and, though a bit nervous about it…because of all the (at times, graphic) sex…I took it on. It’s a powerful story, at least to me, and I rank it as probably my best effort—even above ERO, which, so far, has been my personal favorite. This new WIP will startle—even piss you off, perhaps—and it will be something readers will either love or hate. Depends on your…sensibilities…but it won’t just “sit there.” That’s my humble prediction. I’m still planning to release this novel this year (2015, for future readers…), but it’s not going quite as quickly as planned…though it is moving along….
Over the years, I’ve often wondered about my classmates from that 1987 graduating class, so I contacted the Denver John Casablancas agency. I’ve left two voice mails and one e-mail, but have not heard back from them. If I do, I will update this post. I’m hoping I can find out how some of our more successful from my class have fared!
Incidentally, in my top photo I was wearing a really cool purple tux—yeah, purple—and the bow tie was a really neat mixture of purple and silver. It was quite striking! I’ve included some other material from my portfolio, like contact sheets. Below are some of my portfolio shots. A couple of them are from slides, so their resolution is not the greatest. Untouched photos.
This was definitely a fun time, but I’m glad I never fully got into it. The writing life is more suited to me, my personality. I’ve since dipped my toe into the acting world once more, and let’s just say…I’m glad I never “went there.”
Writing is where this “me” is meant to be…where I want to be…and I’m glad I made the choice I did….
All images on this post are copyright by Michael Drejza* and F. P. Dorchak, 1987/1988.
*I believe Michael Drejza was the photographer; he’s the only name I have on a receipt for some of the work.