Wednesday, March 12, 2014


By Elizabeth Dunphey

  Midtown.  Just the name sounds powerful and booming, beautiful and glittery.  Yet it depends on where you are, at what time of the dark night, that you can see the gorgeous nature of this neighborhood.  Jay McIrney could inform you more clearly in Bright Lights, Big City than me.  But at the college girl age of 19, I knew his alienated pain.

  Christmas off of Lexington. 

  I have that German-American, Goethe- induced, poetically severe temperment.  My hair is a natural ripe chesnut yanked into a tight bun,   basically the current urban Girls coda: blood red lipstick, messy hipster gorgeous, long faux diamond earrings.  People tell me I look like a young Barbara Minty, the Playmate and Steve McQueen’s girlfriend.  I take the compliment.

  One cold Christmas, I was stranded at a midtown NYU dorm, with the song “Brandy” playing in the background.  Not to sound all Holden Caulfield, since it’s a great song, but it was a pretty lousy party for sophomores -- mostly goths and theatre students.  HBO’s Girls was blaring from the TV.  We watched as Lena Dunham mugged for the camera. 

  “This show rules!” screamed one raven haired girl.  I nodded my head in agreement. I worship the show lately, on lonely nights.  ”My neighbor knows her!”

  The girl I will call Raven, sings along with the stereo’s words:

Brandy wears a braided chain
Made of finest silver from the North of SpainA locket that bears the nameOf the man that Brandy loves. . .
  Stuffed in her tattered Hermes bag, was a list of LA contacts to every Hollywood actor’s PR connection. 

  I could take the short haired goth girls, despite their grating quality, but the theatre kids were absolute hell. They were transfer students, basic egotistic drips who had not gotten in last year.  They knew the name of every Brando movie, and the goths loved Warhol.  It could drain a truly humbler person.

  To get away from this fake atmosphere, I sank into the brandy stained couch, which was dimly lit by candles. I thumbed through a brand new, shiny, slimy, sexy magazine.  Ironically, like the song, and the sofa,  it was called Brandy.

  One bespectacled boy, Simon French, who wanted desperately to be a director, and to date or at the very least kiss me, filled me it.  He wanted to be Somebody in caps.
  “It’s this new trendy garbage that’s trying to compete with Maxim and Playboy.”
  “I’ll take Playboy,” I murmured in a snarky art school way.  I was always bold that way.  “If I was a guy and needed to see women,        I want the whole pictoral.  I want the babe. Not these cooking articles.”
  “I second you!” crowed Raven.  “But keep a copy.  It’s a hit with 20 year old men.  Some of these articles are very modern.”  

  I gazed at the cover, a 23 year old Suzette Heaton.  A complete drop dead gorgeous Jemima Kirke doppelganger: honey blonde, great voluptuous body, bright blue eyes, pale skin.  Husky hips too.  She was garbed in a lithe blue cotton tank dress.  Her thin lips matte with red Chanel lipstick. 

  “Suzy Heaton’s Heat!” The magazine proclaimed.  “Hot off her new series, and girl toy of Howard Stern!”

  Life changes so randomly.  Because of this offhand party, with this tarty men’s magazine, I snagged an internship at Brandy.

  And I thought the theatre kids in midtown were hell,     I had never encountered dirty old men in midtown. Otherwise known as my coworkers: Ruben, Noah, and Joachim, who discussed temple, holidays, shiksa movie stars, and the fact that they were slaves to the movie industry.  There was one obvious goy besides me.  Wess Avon, in his uptight yuppie business suits.  He was always ignored- like me, sadly.

  Pasted on the wall above Wes’s desk, sandwiched between old gorgeous photos of Raquel Welch and Victoria Silvstedt, was a quote by Andy Warhol: “I’ve decided something.  Commercial things really do stink.  As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market it really stinks.”

  The one noteworthy fact about Brandy was our boss was a woman.  And a total, incorrigible brat.  She was 33.  Flame haired Jesse Roland grew up in Kansas City, and rose to the top of events planning.  She never wore makeup.  Her clothes were wrinkled GAP.  She smelled a little, by mid afternoon.  And she was a butcher, with no pity at all.  Grown men feared her. 

  Our staff of five, nicknamed her The Python

  There was another woman on staff, who was also PR.  The exquisitely  obnoxious, English born, dark maned Sally Buckstone.  Looks-wise, she was very Bebe Neurwith.  It took me forever to be able to watch an episode of Cheers, without projecting vibes.

   Sally was my supervisor, and she ordered me to book models for the Brandy parties, which were held in a tacky hotel bar near Bryant Park.

  It was a little odd for me to book models, seeing as in Ruben and Noah and Joachim’s eye, I looked like a teen model – of the sultry Famke Janssen variety.  I had her dark, German good looks.  I was fresh, exotic, voluptuous and naïve.  Nadine Ludwig.  I could see my name on the cover. A perfect candidate for their magazine.  But here I was, cold calling the Elite and Click agency for fresh faces, most of whom were way older than me, sometimes in their 30’s.

  To put things to the point, Ruben fell in love with me and broke up with his PR girlfriend.  We had a lot of sexual tension, sitting next to each other, listening to Alicia Keyes.  I liked his profile, the strength of it, and he worshipped my button nose.

  Poor Wess spied on us the whole time.

  Joachim yelled at everyone, while ditching his real responsibilities of retouching the cover ingénues and spraying a smooth tan on their hairless bodies.  His good looking girlfriend was the receptionist, and he made her do his work sometimes.

   Sally never broke a smile at me once, and proved some of the British have icy Anna Wintour hearts.  Jesse, the boss, handed me faxes to pass out, and treated me worse than a flight attendant on Howard Stern – the man that paid their Brandy paycheck.

  My flight attendant mother had warned that women who are masculine and insecure with power, will pick on pretty. feminine women, and I should ignore it.

  Jesse fired me after two months.

  For the first time, I looked at her hostile face.  I can see her going about her day, to her meetings and the gym and the Whole Foods store, not even thinking about me, how this has affected my experience with men. I drop out of her life, like a wad of bills from your pocket, like a stranger.  Warhol had his 15 minutes.  Mine felt like ten.  Here I was in midtown, with a bag of peanuts and diet coke.  My stupid diet. I thought of Sally.  Maybe I was turning somebody you will never know the name of at all.   

  I looked around me.  It was nearing spring.  I was free.  I tossed the diet coke in the garbage, and bought a brand new cheesesteak for the train back to upstate NY.

Elizabeth has modeled, written stories forever, and loves winter.  Read more of her in the Eunioa Review and Milk.

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