Tag Archives: art

Chapter 19: Shooting for Playboy and fantasy artists Boris Vallejo/Julie Bell

25 Apr

playboy4When you were in school, did you ever just tune the teacher out, gaze out the window and lose yourself in some dream? Like the day you pass the bar exam-how proud your parents would be to know that their money really wasn’t wasted? Maybe getting that record deal? Or making a pro sports team? Hitting the lottery for big bucks and buying Mom that house she deserves?
Right there with you. My fantasies included being an Olympic gymnast, that I was a direct descendant of Brian of Boru and Gormlaith, to be a veterinarian, travel the world, and do Playboy magazine. Well, I’d grown too tall to compete seriously as a gymnast… am still hoping to be Boru’s descendant… would later be fortunate to not only visit many countries but live in some…may possibly finish med school in a bit after I’ve gotten modeling out of my system… and had I just found out I’d gotten into Playboy.
wkend1I grew up a skinny, gawky, bookworm with tangled hair, a flat chest and thick glasses. To me, I’m still her. I don’t always see what everyone else sees. To actually have a shot at Playboy was a big deal to me. After about nine years of submitting every six months and getting rejection letters (“While you’re certainly an attractive young lady, you’re just not what we’re looking for at this time…”) my friend, Devon Michaels, was at the Playboy office in Chicago and showed them my pictures. They called and wanted to know if I could come in person. I wasn’t going to be in Chicago, but would be closer to NYC. The next day I was set up to do an audition in New York. From my own experiences and from those of my co-workers, it’s very hard to get into this magazine. I was pretty much overjoyed and shitting my pants simultaneously.
Naturally, I got this call the day after Thanksgiving. This holiday for everyone else is a fatty fat fat feast. But when you have a little Italian grandma at home in Philly, who gets super insulted if you don’t take seconds and thirds of the meal she slaved all day over a hot stove to cook you…fatty fat fat takes on a whole new meaning.
Translation: Absolutely ab-less for a Playboy shoot. I went… they took Polaroid’s and promised to call the next day. I was like, “Yeah, OK.” But, they did. I had to go back to NYC the next night for a shoot the following day.

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As I checked into the beautiful hotel that was arranged for me the night before the shoot with my hair up, no makeup on, in baggy sweats, the front desk girl loudly announced that Playboy would be covering all expenses and incidentals. 789 business men turned around to stare…in disappointment.
I was ecstatic. I can’t sleep when something’s coming up. I’m like a little kid at Christmas, and this was a fantasy dream come true. I surrendered to the night and opened my 14th story window overlooking Manhattan, twinkling full of Christmas lights for about an hour. I love this city. I’ve spent so much time here lately, I feel like an honorary New Yorker. Almost as rude at times, too… I love the rudeness, but I prefer the term directness. Saves time.
I had to be up at 7 a.m. without ever falling asleep, which worked in my favor because the hotel forgot my wakeup call. Around 6:30am, I just gave up and got in the shower. Did I ever feel like complete shit. With all the traveling, I was now on day 3 of no sleep.

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OK. So, the makeup artist Jay arrives – and he had his work cut out for him. I’m going to call him Really Gay Jay…because he was Jay and really gay. He primped and pampered and blended away. I’m usually wary of makeup people. I started doing my own makeup for photo shoots pretty often after dealing with a slew of bad ones. One woman actually made MY lips look thin. My lips. I have big Latin lips (and ass). It’s damn near impossible to make them look thin, but that girl managed. Jay had lots of great stories about super models and celebs he’d done for Playboy… and some great makeup tips that I stole. Loved the way he cooed in his Southern lilt: “Ooh, just look at all that hair! Fab-u-lous! And that color! Who DOES your color?” All the while he just kept brushing my hair and telling me gossip.

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This was already fun. I decided I was a big Really Gay Jay fan. We grabbed a cab and headed to the studio. It was set up like a gym. There were lots of people around and half were Japanese. It felt a bit odd because I wasn’t used to this many people around on shoots. Most of the time, it’s just the photographer and me out in a desert somewhere.

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Playboy had:
– the makeup guy,
-the art director,
-the photographer,
-the guy who owned the property,
-his wife,
-their maid,
-and the girl who did castings.
There was even a Nivea lotion guy. Hate to ruin the myth, but Playboy isn’t as airbrushed as you might think. It’s a lot of Nivea. This is a shiny lotion that bounces the light back to the camera and makes your skin appear smooth and flawless on film. I think they’re still hiring for this job, so hurry now boys.

-Oh yeah, there was also the lighting guy.
A hair light. A face light. A boob light. A thigh light. And a butt light. All of this was very, VERY important.
Playboy puts a lot of effort into their shoots…via a lot of people.

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What do you think a butt lighting guy gets paid? Imagine that conversation at the bar after work with his friends…they probably think his life is awesome. Meanwhile, he’s truly a stifled artist dying a slow death under butt lighting and developing a deep resentment for Playboy models. He begins dating chubby girls out of defiance…and keeps the lights off. Just my guess.
Then we went to it. Gen Nishino, (who reminded me of a younger version of Mr. Miyagi) clicked away while I hung naked from the equipment in a way that I’m sure it had never been used before. For my main shoot, I wore a Crunch Fitness bright yellow sports bra that was too small so my breasts were mostly falling out of it while doing back and shoulders. The next set was a naked treadmill session for a special edition of Hardbodies, because we models ALWAYS do our cardio in the nude while bending over the handlebars naked to stretch. And finally a Playboy Lingerie shoot in tight black lace and red strappy high heels by the stairs. Gen shoots in a ‘voyeur’ style that took getting used to and also made the almost unforgivable comment, “Wow-you’re massive!” I suppose I am next to the bitty things he usually shoots. Plus the fact that he’s Japanese. Probably not the best comment to make to a model while you’re trying to get the best out of her.
It was forgivable, because this shoot would later lead to a ton of other opportunities, including an open door straight into the wrestling business.
After the shoot, Really Gay Jay looked out for me very protectively; made sure the cab driver didn’t rip me off and told me the easiest way to get home. Incidentally, the parking garage at the hotel “lost” my car for about an hour, and no one spoke English. I was so tired and sore (long contorting shoot) and didn’t have the energy to freak out on them….which is universally understood, I believe.

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I got back to Philadelphia and fell into bed just to get up in the morning and head north again to shoot with fantasy artists Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell.
This was supposed to be my week off between nonstop national burlesque tours , but there’s no way I’d miss these opportunities. I’ve always wanted to work with Boris and Julie. I’ve loved their work since an old boyfriend turned me onto a calendar when I was about 19. I can’t believe both these calls came the same week.
Boris is from Peru and we chatted about the popular book, The Celestine Prophecy. He told me it was completely made up, because the Inca’s had no written language, and therefore couldn’t write the prophecies. Bummer. Guess there’s no Santa Claus either?

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I shot with Julie first. This woman was just incredible looking. She looked 10 years younger than she really was, and has one of the best fitness bodies I’d ever seen – and 2 kids. Not to mention, she’s really beautiful. She attributed it to twice-daily workouts with Boris, organic foods and veganism. I couldn’t believe she could have that much muscle mass as a vegan.large
She had me get undressed completely, stand on a pedestal and pose with lots of barbaric-looking cool weapons. I was a lone female, wearing nothing but buckskin and a shield, battling off Norse invaders to my village with their own battle axes to protect my King, who had been critically injured while fighting a fierce dragon. He’d saved me, a sacrificial, ginger virgin left on an alter, from the beast… I had a little movie running in my head the whole time, and was having fun losing myself.
Boris shot me next, and was quick. He knew exactly what he wanted.
I especially enjoy my job when I get to do fitness-related shoots and play with weapons. I was told for so long to “soften up and stop scaring people”, that it’s nice that my fit look is not only accepted but sought after now. Plus, it beats a desk job, right? Two major dreams fulfilled in one week. If I wasn’t so tired, I’d be dancing around the living room. But after all the fantasy shooting that week, I think it was perfectly acceptable to fantasize about dancing around my living room instead.

 

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COPYRIGHT APRIL HUNTER. NO PART OF THIS BLOG MAY BE USED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.

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Chapter 10: There is no “I” in C*nt. But there is a “U”. Pt.2

11 May

Continued from Part 1: https://aprilhunterblog.com/2013/04/27/chapter-9-if-darryl-dies-we-all-riot-if-darryl-riots-we-all-die-pt-1/

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HorrorHound Comic, Pop Culture & Horror Convention

Cincinnati, March 22-24, 2013

The Ugly, The Bad & The Good

Day 3, Saturday: The alarm went off after what seemed like a short nap. Lying there, I realized that there is no ‘I’ in cunt. But there is a ‘U’. With that nugget of intelligence, I hauled myself out of bed for a god-awful hotel breakfast and even more tragic coffee. ‘Coffee’. I had a laborious makeup job to become Poison Ivy, a redheaded character from Batman. I was told spirit gum would hold the winged eye pieces on. They fucking lied. To my dismay, they kept peeling back. Out of desperation, I tried eyelash glue. This worked. So well, in fact, that it ripped part of my eyebrow off later that night when removing them.

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I’d found an artist on Etsy and had the Ivy outfit custom made when fans kept requesting me to do the character. Steven Griffey arrived, with a huge Starbucks skinny vanilla latte. Huge brownie points. HUGE. I’d met him in Indianapolis when he shot a model I knew. His photos are artsy and incredible, so I was really excited to work with him. (Stephen Griffey Photography-> https://www.facebook.com/StevenGriffeyPhotography?fref=ts )

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He set up a ‘studio’ in the room and clicked away. It was snowing green glitter from my costume everywhere. I’d worn the skirt kilt-style (without undies) to avoid lines, so I ended up with a glittery jay-jay. But, in a nutshell, the photo shoot kicked ass.

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The idea of emerging from the hotel wearing nearly nothing in 32F degree weather wasn’t thrilling. We headed to the convention a bit late and the line was wrapped around the building. “Hey, are you Poison Ivy?” Insert a new blonde joke here. I smiled and quipped, “Nope. Today I’m Jessica Rabbit.” Confused look. Jesus. Just go away. Or buy something. Whoever said “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” clearly never dealt with people.

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I saw a variety of cameras…including the disposable film camera. “I bought the last one at WalMart before coming here.” Really? Did you find them next to the 8-track tape players and Betamax video recorders?

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There was a guy standing in front of my booth. “Hey, I was there the night that you and your roadie kicked that guys teeth in when you were doing a show at Alley Cats. I remember that clearly.” Holy shit. So did I. Touring as a burlesque act, it was a rather interesting career at times. “Were his teeth really kicked in? We didn’t stick around to find out.” “Oh, yeah. I was with that bachelor party. Hey, don’t feel bad…he deserved it.” Yes. He did. The ‘roadie’ – my ex husband – was a laid back soul. Not much ruffled him, and he let me handle my own issues. He knew I was much quicker to punch someone in the face and break their nose than he was…and, unlike him, I would get away with it. But we had a signal…and on that particular night, he’d been on edge with the wild group that had been seated at the stage. That is a whole ‘nother story, detailed in the Behind-The-Scenes Diary section on my site. (HERE-> www.AprilHunter.com)

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Two batman’s (batmen?), one cat woman, Bella Dementes the giant dirty nun and many smiling fans later, the convention ended. I had fun. Thank you so much to those who follow my twitter and newsletter.  Also, thank you to the fan who forwarded my info to www.WrestlingFigs.com. A little help from my friends never goes unappreciated.

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Here’s a little video diary from Saturday:

I had a shoot for the latex booth across the way after the show. They’d asked Steven Griffey if he would shoot me for their catalog, so we planned on doing the funky masks and jewelry after dinner. We headed out for Japanese restaurant, figuring it was a healthy choice.

When I got back to the hotel, my room looked like it a giant fairy had a party and left glitter dust everywhere. As I got ready to shoot, I realized too late that the food had been loaded with MSG. It causes me to puff like blowfish. I was pretty much ruined for the shoot, but we did our best to work around it and managed to get some neat shots the latex people liked.

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It was LATE, and I’d literally worked from 7 a.m. til midnight. I jumped into the shower and lazily decided to stick pink sponge rollers in my hair instead of blow drying it & crash in bed.

Day 4, Sunday:  I stumbled down to the office to grab Yucky Breakfast with no makeup and a head full of pink Grandma rollers. The room had been empty on the previous day, but was bustling that morning, packed with fans and vendors. SHIT. I tried to shrink inside myself and go unnoticed.

Nobody look at me, nobody look at me, nobody–“Hey, April!” Crap. Everyone turned; Nik was calling out to me. I waved and ducked out.

I packed for my check-out and then added a stolen pillow into my bag. Lovely Single Girl Apartment desperately needed it. On second thought, I unzipped the bag and threw in a blanket, too. For what they were charging for these rooms and the terrible quality of coffee and breakfast,  they should give us pillows out as a consolation prize.

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Sunday was fairly uneventful at the con other than signing and selling a lot of new Stripper Vikings. People love dirty comics, especially this one. It was also Stupid Question-less. I walked around and snagged some photos. The car from Christine..pet a duck…admired some quirky and gruesome art…said hello to Rhino. He told me he’d quit caffeine. Clearly, he’s more man than I’ll ever be, because I rely heavily on it.

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After looking back on the slew of snapshots I took posing with others, I apparently like to do that “ooh, yeah!” thing with my hand in most of them. Not sure what that was all about. Maybe I was trying to pull in more energy.

Unfortunately, the money in sales for all three days added up to what I normally make on just a Saturday at other shows. That was exactly what I’d been afraid would happen. There are times when I really hate being right…this was one of them. While it’s GREAT that so many fans support independent artists, movies and music, I think things would have be happier for all if there was more organization involved.

I’d also missed a Shine Wrestling iPPV (where I was involved in a hot story line  and a Slammin Ladies custom videotaping for this and I could have earned the same amount staying home.

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But I would not have gotten to see friends and done kick ass photo shoots. So, hey. Speaking of, Joe arrived and we hit the road for Louisville before the predicted snowstorm hit.

He entertained me with this story: “So, I was in the men’s room washing my hands. The dryer wouldn’t turn on. I waved my hands in front of it…nothing. I waved them again, no luck. So, then I stepped back and waved them under it one more time, wondering if it was broken. It still wouldn’t come on. Suddenly I realized it was one of those dryers that I had to push the button to turn on. Geez. This is what technology is turning us into.”

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142 lbs of luggage lugged back up the creaky stairs. Evidently, I sold 8 lbs of DVD’s and photos. I tried to calculate in my head exactly how many photos would make up 8 lbs…but after a few hours sleep over the course of three days I couldn’t figure out jack shit.

Eat. Shower. Bed. I snuggled down with my newly stolen comforts in the chilly apartment. Until I remembered I had to get up and go out into the front hallway to shut off the only bedroom light. Balls.

Day 5, Monday:  The newly acquired pillow made life just a little bit sweeter. Translation: it was exceedingly difficult to get up early for a photo shoot.

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Hotaru is one of my favorite photographers. She’s a stunning half Japanese, half Filipino former model herself with a fun attitude. Very easy to work with. I’ve always enjoyed shooting with model-photographers. Julie Strain was probably the most well-known that I worked with. She would shoot me topless, barefoot and in boxer shorts…then throw a wig on and jump in for photos herself. (I appear in a couple arty coffee table books she published.) Former models tend to create differently from male photographers. Sadly for YOU, Hotaru kept all her clothes on.

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Freezing floors. Filthy stairs. Dirty door jams. Anything for art. We created some cool stuff. Everything I am has been created from NOTHING. Photos, video, comics, matches, writing, my site…it only exists because I created it. It’s one of the things that I love that about my career. Made In America! Buy American! I do – as much as I can. From buying my costumes to having my hair done in a privately owned hair salon, I put it right back into our economy. It’s extremely appreciated when those of you who are fans purchase anything from me, and it truly matters.

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I knocked a few custom videos out and then I was done. Ahhh. Sitting on the comfortable red ottoman, trying to relax, I still had that “I need to be somewhere or be doing something with my time” feeling.

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After thinking hard about everything, I emailed a very honest letter to Horror Hound, telling them how disappointed I was with the lack of professional courtesy. Then I asked Nik if he knew any others shows in his area, figuring that people hate honesty when it’s pointed at them, so I should probably find other work options. That’s something else I really enjoy about being my career: the freedom of having the option to say, “you should have handled that better” and going somewhere else to work. If I had all my eggs in one basket, I would literally be a basket case. It doesn’t exactly offset the lack of benefits, non-existent health insurance or long hours working without weekends or holidays, but there are a few upsides.

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Joe picked me up and we headed over the one of the best Indian restaurants in the entire world, Dakshin. It’s the Indian place where Indians eat, located in…Louisville, KY. Go figure.  I won’t eat in ethnic places where their own people aren’t present. It’s a bad sign to go into a Japanese place and not see a single Asian. We had a hard earned naan-tastic cheat meal. Their slogan is “Try us once and be ours forever.” It’s true. It’s damn true. (Dakshin -> http://www.mydakshin.com/)

Day 6, Tuesday: Five days without exercise guilted me into bundling up for a walk. With cutting wind, it literally felt colder than Canada did at Christmas. I walked around the University of Louisville campus, ran stairs and then made my way over to Quills Coffee for a cappuccino and Hunter S. Thompson quotes. “Let’s get down to brass tacks. How much for the ape?” Hunter was from Louisville (and one half of my namesake). This is the thing Louisvillians; they will always let you know who is from there. And fairly quickly, as if clawing for the recognition they deserve but don’t quite receive. Abraham Lincoln. Larry Flynt. Tom Cruise. Muhammad Ali. Thomas Edison. Diane Sawyer. I hear it’s a now legal obligation for every Louisville resident to see all Jennifer Lawrence films…punishable by death. Kentucky has given us a little common sense and a whole lot of crazy. Crazy makes the world more interesting. “If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.” I wonder who said that…and where he was from.

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After years of driving by the consistently incomplete bridge to Indiana from Kentucky, it was finally open to walk. And I wanted to before I left. As in, it was on my Bucket List. Not high up mind you. It wasn’t ranked like ‘cruise to Barcelona’, ‘speak Spanish flawlessly’, ‘walk the Great Wall of China’, ‘live in a tree house’, ‘buy a mountain cabin or tiny Lovely Apartment with nothing around’ or ‘eat a snail’.  It was more on the level with seeing an IMAX movie. (The Hobbit! I finally went this year!) Nonetheless, it was on the list. After several not-so-subtle nagging texts, a couple of the artists from Open Gallery came over, scooped me up and we all proceeded to freeze our asses off for the walk. Music blared at the halfway point. It was pretty neat. I always thought the bridge views into Louisville were stunning. I also think the artists took  me so I’d leave them alone. 😉

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Back to the Lovely Apartment for my final night of solitude and more carb-gasmic Dakshin Indian food.  I was exhausted, but also felt happy and accomplished. I loved all of what I did: the con, shoots, who I worked with, seeing fans, visiting friends…so nothing was a burden.

Day 7, Wednesday: I scrubbed up Lovely Apartment and fluffed up Stolen Pillow. Thank you, my friend. Enjoy your new home. 142 pounds of luggage down three flights of stairs. Airport. A solid frisking courtesy by TSA without so much as a kiss. Oddly enough, I flew out of the other gate I used to visit Mom from. Landing in Tampa. Straight to the gym. That is all.

I know it’s hard to believe, but the Horror Hound email was never replied to. Shocker, huh?

Perhaps it’s the situation of bad convention once, shame on you. Bad convention twice, shame on me.

A huge thank you to Open Gallery! If you’re in the Louisville area, be sure to check out this little art gallery gem!

 

See Part 1: If Darryl Dies, We All Riot – https://aprilhunterblog.com/2013/04/27/chapter-9-if-darryl-dies-we-all-riot-if-darryl-riots-we-all-die-pt-1/