Monday morning. I'm at the corner of Grand and Baxter when my phone goes off. It's Joey.
Hey, are you there yet?
I can't find it.
I can see him on the wrong side of the street, a block away.
I see you. Cross the street.
Together we find the studio, sitting right where Hopstop said it would be. We enter the building and an awesome, industrial, cage-like elevator takes us up to the top floor and the doors open up to white, white, white. We've arrived in heaven.
It was a Saturday evening. I don't remember what I'd been doing - I'd had rehearsal till six and then gone and done something food-related, probably. Whatever it was I got off the subway at my home stop - Columbus Circle - and in an act of habit pulled out my phone for the messages I'd missed while underground. New Voicemail. I skipped the first two messages (people I'd been meaning to get back to) and went straight for the third, the new one. Hi Sam, it's Ryan from PR, it began, I'm calling because we've got an interesting publicity opportunity for you.
I didn't think much of it. We'd just filled out a questionnaire - Would you be willing to be in this publication or that publication, Would you be willing to sing the national anthem at a baseball game, etc. - so I thought it was gonna be something run-of-the-mill.
We'd like you to take part in a photoshoot for Vogue. (Sharp intake of breath). If you're interested, you and nine others from the cast will appear in the February issue in a fifteen to twenty page spread mixing photos and editorial (stop breathing altogether).
I started hopping up and down right there at the intersection of 8th and 60th. I didn't even know what to think, how to react, what to do. I was just hopping up and down. Up and down. The excitement was physical, visceral, consuming. I was going to be in Vogue.
We enter the studio and everything is bathed in white. High white walls, vaulting white ceiling, white morning light streaming through the giant east and south-facing windows. It's a big barn-like space, with a couple of side rooms and a loft. A set has been constructed in the big center of the space - basketball hoop, streamers, balloons. The girls are already there, hair in pin curls. The rest of the guys arrive and we sit in the back of the space, on the couches by the food (lox sandwiches, hot chocolate, coffee, OJ, fruit, muffins) in an early morning daze. We've not been allowed to style our hair, the girls weren't allowed to come in wearing makeup. We look like something the cat dragged in, sleepy and unkempt.
One by one the hair, makeup and costume people come for us, and over the course of the next hour magic happens. People return to couches severely altered. A girl leaves looking the worse for wear, bags under her eyes, and returns stunning, if not piecemeal - face perfect but hair a mess and still in sweats. Then a boy comes back, hair perfectly coiffed. Slowly but steadily we're transformed. My cheekbones are suddenly sharp, my jaw masculine, my hair combed up and back in that could be fifties or could be eighties. I don slacks, sweater, shoes. The tiny digital cameras we've brought come out and snapshots are taken of friends in groups and pairs, solo portraits with Isaac Mizrahi in the background.
The real photography is nothing like what I'd expected. Arthur, the photographer, sits in a chair smoking a pipe, camera on a low tripod in front of him. He's been in this business more than twice my lifespan and is completely likable, loud and funny. He's on the older side but not remotely out of it, even if his references and jokes are a little out of date.
A tableau is set up and he takes a single photo. He looks at it on the lcd screen, and calls for adjustments. This person needs to move left, that person needs a more upright pose, somebody go fix that girls hair. Five minutes later, another single shot. More adjustments. This continues through six different tableaus, and I find it remarkably easy. Intoxicatingly easy.
Soon enough, the photos are over, and I haven't even broken a sweat. Everyone get out of your costume, we're told, and then lunch.
The breakfast was delicious, but lunch is a feast. Chicken and mushrooms, shrimp and rice, salads, sandwiches, beautiful deserts and chocolate covered strawberries. I go back for seconds, thirds, and - yes - fourths, followed by desert. I've done no work and I'm being fed for it. I can't believe my luck.
I leave the studio with Joey. Sam, he says as we get back in the elevator, we've got to find a way to break into this business. Looking back at how ridiculously fun and easy my morning was, I couldn't agree with him more. Yes, Joey. I don't know how. But we're gonna find a way.