Monday, October 30, 2006

Operating system.

[If you're new here you might want to skip back one, as this is the second of a two-parter. No pressure, but this entry is not going to make any sense otherwise and I think we all want clarity in our blog reading.]

After three misbegotten attempts, I now had an IV in my arm and thanks to some lovely drugs, a song in my heart. My plastic surgeon leaned over me and I attempted to focus my eyes somewhere on his forehead.

“Quinn,” he said, “if there is any bleeding when we burr down the bone, I’m going to need some filler. I was going to use bone wax, but it’s a petroleum-based product and the skin might not grow well over it. I’m going to harvest some fat from you.”

I cannot tell you how funny that whole statement is when you’re high.

Before I continue, I must add this: I will not be on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue anytime soon. The model booker for Victoria’s Secret has not been trying to get in touch with me. I would pay an exorbitant amount of money to have a build which could be described as “Lanky”, “Leggy” or “Balletic”. Even when I was taking ten hours of dance a week and traveled everywhere with my hair in a bun and a dance bag over my shoulder, I was never identified as a dancer. Instead, I am described as “in good shape”, “athletic” or “sporty”. I was born with a naturally muscular build and my a father died of heart disease before he was sixty -- two facts which keep me fairly vigilant about working out and sticking to a vegetarian diet. No one will ever hand a picture of me to a plastic surgeon and say “Give me that”, and I don’t stand in front of the mirror and gaze in respectful awe at my body, but I am in the pleasing position of rarely thinking about the diet book of the year.

Summary: it’s a flawed body, but I work with what I have so the following information should in no way be perceived as bragging.

Back in pre-op, the doctor started poking at my abdomen. After a second he said unhappily “You don’t have fat for me to harvest here”.

Remember, I was drugged.

I started visualizing my body as a series of rolling fields of fat; my doctor with farmer’s overalls pulled up over his surgical scrubs and a stalk of wheat projecting out of his mouth is saying things like, “Yep, them fat locusts stripped this here field bare”.

I can only assume my giggling was distracting; or my saying things like, “Oh, try the back forty! Plenty of fat to harvest back there", which might be why the doctor told Princess Anesthesiologist “You can increase the IV now”. Had I died on the operating table, my last thought on earth would have been: “You want fat? Give me some Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche and come back in two days! The fat will be as high as an elephant’s eye! Heehee!”

I slept.



I blinked at the bright light above me. I was alive and someone was very interested in what time it was. The voice sounded familiar. I played it back in my head. Oh, it was my voice. Apparently, I wanted to know what time it was.


The nurse leaned over me.

“It’s ten-thirty, Quinn.”

Oh, good.

I don’t know why, but every time I have had general anesthetic, I come out in a frenzy to prove how not under anesthetic I am. When I had my molars removed, I couldn’t rest until I could account for my purse. Of course, having just had my molars removed and a mouth full of cotton gauze, it came out “Ere eh I urse (spit)?” This time, I would vanquish unconsciousness by knowing how long it was until Oprah was on.

I touched my head. It was covered in something stretchy but tight. I tentatively touched the top of my skull; my fingers moved from ear to ear laterally in a near-perfect semi-circle. The bump was gone.

I said softly, “Whee!”

I then asked loudly, “WHAT TIME IS IT?” because my desire to be not stupid after anesthetic is compromised by how stupid I am after anesthetic.

I slept some more.

The next time I awoke, my mother was standing next to my bed; I was to stay at her house until Consort could come home and make sure I didn’t fall over or starting wandering down busy streets, asking strangers what time it was.

She and the nurse helped me get up and changed. I shuffled towards the exit, bestowing “Thank you” and “What time is it?” on anybody I passed. At some point along the way, I caught a look at myself in the mirror. The stretchy and tight thing I had felt was a bandage of some kind which covered the top third of my head, and then went around my chin and neck. It resembled this, only blinding white and very, very tight. It is a credit to the plastic surgery industry in Beverly Hills that my modified noose drew absolutely no notice on the way down to the car. I imagine I could have had a gecko riding a surfboard on the top of my newly-rounded head, singing “Un bel di" from Madame Butterfly, and anyone in the elevator would have thought “Oh, the gecko treatment. Where is my parking pass?”

We got to my mother’s house and I learned several new facts about Quinn:

1) I was starving.
2) All food sounded disgusting.
3) I was incredibly thirsty.
4) My noose was pressing on my esophagus, thereby rendering me incapable of swallowing.

This led to a delicious snack of Saltines and water, most of which ended up down the front of my shirt. I went into the bathroom to blot and caught another glimpse of Pretty Girl Quinn. My face wasn’t so much puffy as resembling the top of a muffin, blurrily running over the sides of the head-sleeve. My forehead appeared to be ready to give birth to another forehead. The thigh where the doctor had found his fat had a bruise the size of a giant starfish, which struck me as supremely unfair considering as how the doctor said he needed less than a thumbnails’ worth of fat.

The doctor called a few hours later and asked how I felt; I complained about everything I could attribute to the surgery and a few things which might have just been a coincidence.

“My head aches.

“Well, since I had to undermine you all the way down to your jaw in order to get enough skin to pull over the hole, I imagine it would.”

My Darvocet-addled brain puzzled over that one. Undermine? That’s what people in marital counseling accuse one another of doing (“You consistently undermine me in front of the gardener” “I’m not the one who calls the lawn mower a ‘grass thingy’”). My brain worked for a few seconds and suddenly recalled a fact from an article about plastic surgery. Undermining in plastic surgery means separating the skin from bone; the doctor was saying he had done to my face what you do to a turkey when you’re cooking it and want to feel fancy. I checked the mirror to make sure he hadn’t left sage leaves under my skin, to flavor me.

“My thigh hurts.”

“That would make sense. I accidentally hit your muscle when I was harvesting the fat. If you had more fat, this wouldn’t have happened.”

That’s right; I now lived in Bizarro world, where my low body fat made me a bad patient. I choked back the urge to holler “Had you given me a week’s notice, I would have had what amounted to a stick of butter on each thigh. A month’s notice and I would have been a stick of butter.”

But I needed some dignity and kept my affinity for butter to myself.

“The head-thingy is tight.”

“It has to be, it’s keeping the swelling down. Is it too tight?”

“How tight is too tight?”

“Are you uncomfortable?”

“Yes, but then again, you did unzip my skin from my skull.”

“You’re talking, so you’re breathing. I’m sure it’s fine.”

[He was gracious enough to say “talking”, not “bitching and moaning”.]

I asked, “What about the dizziness?”

“The painkillers.”

“The nausea?”

“The painkillers.”

“The pain?”

“Not enough painkillers.”

Nearly two weeks have passed. The swelling on my face is gone, as is the head-sleeve (The doctor removed it and looked at the red welt on my neck and said in a somewhat accusing tone, “You should have told me bandage was much too tight”.). The bruise on my thigh has faded to a festive lemon-yellow. I am still on pain pills in the evening, but they are the kind where I am allowed to operate heavy machinery, so how fun can they be?

But how’s my head?

It’s just like a regular person’s head, thanks for asking.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Operating Instructions.

As per the request of a few ardent yet misguided readers, I am now going to tell you about my head surgery. If you get squeamish easily, might I suggest some earlier blogs?

Like this?

Or something like this?


Okay, if you’re still here, you have no one to blame but yourself.

I had to be at the surgical center at 6:30 am. I was to eat and drink nothing after midnight. The doctor’s nurse who set up the time two weeks previously was clear on that; the scheduler from the surgical center who called me the day before was clear on that; my operating nurse who called me at eight the night before was downright adamant. I had to be there at 6:30 in the morning, and I had to be there without so much as a restorative swipe of my toothbrush for fear some liquid might actually trickle past my uvula. Got it.

I arranged for a cab to take me, so Daughter and Consort could sleep the sleep of the just, not to mention the round-headed. We sped through town on empty streets; I imagined this is what Los Angeles would be like if everyone who ever complained about LA actually, you know, left.

I arrived at 6:20 am; the door to the surgical center was locked. I sat down on the ground and gave my head bump a pat.

I said, “You’re leaving, you know.”

The head bump sneered. It had heard that before.

6:30 came and went. At 6:40, a woman in full make-up and office-suitable clothing walked past me and unlocked the door. I went to stand up to go in, and she started in surprise. I can imagine she had thought I was a pile of used surgical rags (I had been told to wear clothing that was comfortable and warm; this outfit could also have been described as “Stretched-out and linty”). I smiled pleasantly at her without actually opening my mouth and letting my morning breath out.

“I’m your 6:30” I hissed through a clenched jaw.

She pointed to the sign-in sheet.

“We’ll be with you shortly”, she lied easily.

The windows looked out upon the midnight-blue sky, the dark grey hills, the occasional car; nothing to see there. The magazine racks produced a six month-old Newsweek, four issues of popular magazines all of which mysteriously featured Tori Spelling, and several issues of Golf Digest. I had no book with me, being as I was their 6:30 appointment and I had arrived at 6:20 and it didn’t occur to me a surgical scheduler might be a lying sack of skin. An hour later I knew everything I never wanted to know about Tori Spelling and I had some fascinating tips on how to increase the distance and accuracy of my five iron.


A woman in scrubs stood in the doorway into pre-op. Like an angel in mint green, she beckoned to me. I entered the next room and found all sorts of comforting medical-type hustle. I changed into something unflattering and lay down on the bed. The anesthesiologist came drifting by. I am neither tall nor especially large physically, but this woman made me feel like a rather butch Yeti. She had blonde hair to her waist, wrist bones like the straws from Daughter’s juice boxes, and eyeliner carefully outlining her Bambi eyes. I was to be put under by someone who appeared ready to sit in the front row at Total Request Live.

She explained that since they would be burring down the bone on my head, I was to be under general anesthetic because, as she correctly surmised, “You really don’t want to be awake to hear or feel that”.

She left, possibly to reapply lip gloss, and my new friend the nurse who had liberated me from Lobby Limbo swooped in, carrying an IV tube.

“I’m going to start an IV,” she explained, swabbing my wrist, “and then we’ll be ready to go”.

I stared at the ceiling and focused on my breathing. I’m not going to put “Getting stuck with a needle on purpose” on my hobbies list anytime soon, but I’ve had enough blood drawn to know I have the kind of veins phlebotomists find pleasing. She was clearly a competent nurse, it will just be a small stick and then sweet Mother Valium will be coursing through my…


My head snapped down and stared at my wrist, which she was now trying to pull back towards her. My wrist, having felt a searing pain unlike anything it had ever experienced, was equally adamant about getting the hell away from her.

“What just happened?” I queried fiercely, no longer concerned about morning breath.

She said under her breath, “Sorry. I think I hit a valve.”

Readers, I don’t have a medical degree, but I do have some awareness of human anatomy. We don’t have a valve in our wrist. We do, however, have a bone in our wrist, and the sensation I had just felt was, now that I was thinking about it, exactly like what it might feel like if something pointy and metal scraped against a bone. I wondered if “Valve” was code word for “Bone”. I thought about telling her how “Valve” makes people think she’s lying to them, where if she said something friendly like “Unicorn” instead of “Bone”, patients would just think she had already started them on their medication. I thought about sneaking out and living life with an open hole in my head.

She flipped my arm over and swabbed the crook of my arm. I can’t say as I was happy, but I eased up a bit. I have a great vein there, if I must brag. Junkies worldwide would gaze upon it in awe and envy. This should take no more than…


The nurse whispered, “I’m going to get the anesthesiologist”.

Dr. Video Vixen swam into view. She and the nurse had a whispered conference. I tried hiding my arms someplace neither one of them would look. The anesthesiologist looked at the arm with Dead End #1 and Dead End #2.

I whispered pathetically, “I thought I had good veins.” I waved the crook of my arm at her, now blooming what appeared to be a subcutaneous pansy. “Phlebotomists love this vein.”

“It’s a good vein for drawing blood, but a bad one for establishing an IV.”

I tell you, I just won’t live long enough to learn everything interesting there is to know about myself.

She started poking at my other arm. I grew generally more miserable. Anesthesiologist by day/pole dancer by night leaned over me and said, crisply but not without a certain kindness, “I know, it’s not fun. But the reason we’re having these problems is that you’re dehydrated which flattens out the veins and if you keep crying, your veins are going to get flatter.”

I cannot imagine why, but this didn’t put me in a calm and reasoning frame of mind. It put me more in a “It HURTS and I want to feel sorry for myself but it’s all my fault because I actually listened to you people when you said to be here on time and not drink stuff and now my veins are two-dimensional and you’re NEVER going to stop poking me oh God, why can’t I stop crying!” frame of mind.

It took another two attempts on the other arm before we made contact.

Next, it gets weirder.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Camera Obscura.

(Two blogs ago, I started to relate how I am the worst model in the world. Mercifully, this is the last entry)

The photographer put the camera to his eye and brought it down again.

“Try slouching.”

Another thing you don’t know about me. I don’t slouch. Or, rather, I don’t slouch in that sexy “Been everywhere, done everyone and couldn’t be bothered to be confined by the bourgeois constraints of good posture” kind of slouch. When I slouch, I hunch. Less Lou Reed, more Richard Nixon. I tried hunching in an appealing way.

“Lean forward. Hand on your knee. Now, lean into it, elbow on your knee, and straighten out the other leg a bit. Stare down the camera.”

I chanted to myself, I’m hip, I’m urban, I’m challenging the viewer to a knife fight. I’m doing all this wearing a cashmere sweater with little rhinestone buttons.

Straight outta Darien.

I imagine the combination of my hunching, squinting and wincing caused the photographer to give up on this particular pose. He had me stand upright again. He peered at me. He looked from me to the hair and make-up woman.

“Can you do something about her hair? I mean, can you give it some…movement?”

Oh, sweet crud, my hair. I had been so entranced with the sensation of a jumbo bar of Crisco on my face and my utter lack of correct pants that I had briefly forgotten that my hair is straight and as fine as a child’s hair. The hairdresser tip-toed onto the seamless and poked at the sides a bit, trying to get them to defy gravity; this attention made my hair feel shy and caused it to try to hide behind my ears. She took the opportunity to reapply lipgloss; I was now creating enough glare to qualify as light pollution.

The photographer said to his assistant, “Get the fan.”

A medium-sized fan was lugged into place and directed towards me. The fan was turned on to “Gale-force wind”; my hair responded with movement more in the keeping with “Hamster sneezed nearby”.

The photographer had an inspiration. “You were an actress, right?”

Well, I can argue what child actors do isn’t exactly acting as much as mimicry, but I doubted we were having a philosophical discussion here.

“Yes, I was.”

“So, I could give you adjectives and you could act them out.”

It will tell you how bad things had gotten that both the photographer and I beamed as if he had invented cold fusion using nothing but a stale scone. I could…act! And he could take pictures! And I would stop looking awkward and miserable! Unless, of course, he told me to look awkward and miserable! Because I could…act!


“Okay, look surprised!”

I dropped my mouth open, and I raised my eyebrows which, thanks to Botox, is something very few women in Los Angeles over thirty can do. He snapped a picture. I held the expression and the voice in my head said calmly, “You know you look like a complete lunatic, right? Your mouth is ajar; your eyes are wide and expressionless. You’re wearing cashmere with tennis shoes. All you need is for a fly to get stuck to your lips and die and this should provide a nice rebuke to anyone who reads this article and thinks you’re sane.”

Clearly, “Quinn as malleable acting clay” wasn’t pleasing the photographer any more than it was pleasing the voice in my head, because he didn’t ask for another emotion. Instead, he changed cameras.

While things were getting set up, the photographer and I started talking. As it turned out, he grew up out here, as did I. As it turned out, when he heard where I went to high school, he asked about the one friend I had in high school I hadn’t thought about in twenty years. I lit up with joy. We shared a few stories about this person. He snapped some pictures. I finally felt as if maybe, possibly, this might not be the most misbegotten photography session in the history of the world.

“Great!” he enthused, “Do that spontaneous thing again!”

Here’s a new fact about me; when something is going really badly, my brain will fixate on something outside itself upon which to go into lockdown. It is truly like the computer screen which is my brain freezes, and only a major reboot will allow me to move ahead. “Reboot”, of course, meaning “Gin and tonic”. My brain heard the photographer and leapt upon what he said with glee:

I can either do a spontaneous thing, or I can do a thing again, but if you do a spontaneous thing again, then it’s no longer spontaneous. It’s like saying “I plan to be impetuous tomorrow”, which is something, I will admit, I have thought on occasion, but the fact remains, I cannot do a spontaneous thing for a second time.

I came back to Planet Photography. A few second had passed while I went into my linguistic reverie, during which time I had done nothing but stare off into space. The photographer was patiently waiting for me to do the spontaneous thing again.

“I’m sorry,” I said finally, in a very small voice, “I can’t do the spontaneous thing again. I have no idea what I did.”

“That’s okay,” he said in a bright tone which leads me to believe Los Angeles Magazine pays extremely well, “we’ll just go back to giving you instructions.”

“Chin up.”

“Not that far up. Back down.”

“Too far down.”

“Shoulders to the light, eyes towards me.”

“Lift your eyelids.”

“Too far.”

“Drop your shoulder.”

“The other one.”

“Too far.”

A few more adjustments more suited to a yoga class and he put down his camera.

“I think we got it.”

Fearful of moving my shoulders, eyelids or chin, I said “Really?”

“Yeah,” he said, sounding surprised, “at least one”.

Keep in mind, we shot for an hour. Five rolls of film, and we might have gotten one picture.

So, here is what we know:

It takes four different eyeshadow colors to make my eyes look as if they have no make-up on.

I am an archetype.

My hair doesn’t lift for anyone.

Los Angeles Magazine likes head-to-toe shots for their archetypes.

Here is what we do not know:

What this picture is going to look like.

Here is what I will be doing the day after Thanksgiving:

Running to a magazine stand.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Shoot me.

(I was interviewed by Los Angeles magazine for the December issue. Last time, we discussed what a hugely bad interview I am. Now, we shall discuss my modeling abilities)

The photographer came out and let me into his parking space. I grabbed my bag of shirts, and he looked over my shoulder into my car.

“You have any other clothing?” he asked.

“No” I said, puzzled. Oh, I thought, maybe he wanted to help me carry any bags. He clearly didn’t know that I had done my research on what kinds of pictures he took.

I walked into the photographer’s studio was introduced to his assistant, and the make-up/hair person and without further ado, dropped my psychic kimono.

“I split my head open. They’re closing it a week from today. You’re going to have to shoot around it.”

The photographer said, “Can I see it?”

I obligingly undid my hair. All three people stared at in silence for a second. One of them hissed through their teeth. Were they not being paid handsomely to work with me, I believe someone would have bolted for their car.

The photographer said to the hairstylist “You can…cover that, right?”

She said professionally, “Sure, it’s far enough back. And really,” she said sweetly, patting my arm, “it’s not that bad at all.”

The dressing room was in the back of the studio; I walked through what was to be the set for the shoot. It was a seamless white sheet of paper coming down from a roller attached to the ceiling, on to the floor, and rolled out about eight feet. There was a three-legged stool on the corner of the roll, and on the stool was the Polaroid which the photographer had taken of his assistant, to check the lighting for my shoot. I looked down at it, and did a double-take. The photo of the assistant was head to toe. I picked up the Polaroid and waved it nervously at the photographer.

“Are you shooting me head to toe?”


My stomach dropped down past my day-old jeans and into my ragged Chuck Taylor shoes. I had no change of clothing for the waist down.

“But,” I expostulated in horror, “I was told it was a portrait!”

The photographer shrugged.

“They told me they want head to toe.”

I nearly hyperventilated.

“You take close-up portraits!”

He shrugged.

“Usually. This time, they want head to toe.”

No wonder he looked so puzzled when I brought out a single bag of clothing from the car.

I started to do frantic math. If I made every single light, I could get home in fifteen minutes and grab…what? Those gray flannel pants? Which would mean grabbing every single sweater I had; the sweaters which were still in winter storage, because it’s still seventy degrees here and I had thought I needed a simple neckline because I thought when they said portrait, they meant portrait AND WHY IS GOD TOYING WITH ME?

The make-up and hair person, sensing she had one of those fragile models on her hands, started to gently steer me towards the make-up chair.

“It will be fine,” she crooned, patting my head while staying clear of the tremendous demonic lump erupting from my skull, “t-shirts and jeans will be very cute.”

Readers, let’s start adding up the problems. Problem one; even under the best of circumstances, I dislike getting my picture taken. Problem two; what with a freak-show head and a lack of attractive pants, we were nowhere near the best of circumstances. I tried to focus on the woman who was applying my make-up, who was talking about nothing in that soothing way make-up people have.

“…so I’m going to do a light foundation for you and a pretty eye, with a light lip. I can either curl your eyelashes for you or you can do it yourself.”

My heart rate started to slow a bit. The clothing might not be ideal, but I would look pretty. I would have curled eyelashes. Maybe every single person who read the article would accidentally spill coffee across the bottom half of the picture, negating my horrible shoes.

She applied foundation. I was reminded again that one of the reasons I had been happy to give up acting is that I find even light studio make-up to have all the dermal appeal of butter-cream frosting from a can. Having removed all the color from my skin with foundation, she then reapplied it with blush, thereby adding another layer of rosettes to the cake which was me.

The make-up woman pulled out her eye shadow box.

“Your eyes tilt down a bit.”

She was telling me? I’ve spent my entire life with a cast to my eyes which makes strange old men in the street say things like “Smile, girlie!” and “It can’t be that bad!”. My completely neutral expression leads people to believe I have just lost my purse. And gravity certainly isn’t helping this any. I nodded in agreement with her statement.

She said, “I’m just going to apply some shadow to correct that.”

Again, not a problem; I’ve had make-up people putting little eyeshadow wings on the outside of my eyes since puberty. A little gray here, a little brownish-black there, and I’m the proud owner of a cheerful expression. She commenced to coloring.




Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush. Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush. Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush. Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush.

New color.




Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush. Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush.
Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush. Brushbrushbrushbrushbrush.

New color.

Twenty-five minutes were spent contouring my eyes. At about minute fifteen, my fragile good mood was completely shot and I was ankle-deep in paranoia. Did I, in fact, resemble a basset hound? When my no-pants-carrying, horn-having self walked in, did the makeup woman look at the photographer and mouth “Oh my God, she’s a heroin addict”?

My eyelashes needed curling, which meant I was allowed to open my eyes and gaze at myself. I complimented her, as she clearly was an able make-up person, but I was instantaneously plunged into despair again. If someone spends the better part of an hour applying layers of goo to your face to the end of making you look good, shouldn’t you look great? I mean, had a special-effects person spent that much time making me look horrifying, I promise you that I would have turned your stomach. So why did an hour of improvement just leave me looking like me with little wings on the ends of my eyes?

I kept my thoughts to myself as I curled my lashes and she applied lip gloss to me. There was now not a single part of my from the collarbone up which didn’t have adhesive properties. She then combed my hair, moving it this way and that, finally deciding straight back and down was the best bet. I removed a strand which was plastered to my lower lip, and went into the changing room, where I changed into Shirt #1. It was less flattering than I remembered.

I walked out and started to walk on to the seamless. The photographer and his assistant yelled “STOP!”; I came to a Wyle E. Coyote running-in-place-over-the-cliff stop. They pointed downwards; in order to keep the seamless clean for the picture, I had to wipe my feet on a rag.

I wiped my feet on a rag. I then long-jumped on to my mark and stood very still, trying not to leave smudges.

The photographer said “Okay, give me some poses”, and what little resolve I had crumbled, and behind the resolve was a very loud and brassy voice in my head saying, “Quinn, you look like an ass.” In order not to just collapse in a heap, thereby both ruining my make-up and leaving marks on the seamless, I said through gritted teeth, “I don’t have poses. Just tell me exactly what you want me to do with my body, and I will do it.”

The next few minutes sounded like this:

“Chin up…not that far…back down…now back up. Look at me. Look at the light. Now, point your chin at the light and look at me. Chin up…not that far…back down. Now, back up. Lean on your hip…further….too far. Drop your shoulder…the other one. Turn your foot. Arm on your hip…too high…too low.”

It was solitaire Twister.

I changed into Shirt #2. I noticed a stain I hadn’t seen before. I started to walk back on to the seamless.


I wiped my shoes and leapt on to the seamless.

(The unspeakable glamour will continue…)

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I had my operation!

The head bump is gone!

I am on Darvocet!

I don't trust myself to write!

Seriously, though, I will have Part Two of the photo shoot up very shortly. Right now, I have a date with staring blankly at the television screen.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wet your lips and make love to the camera.

The email was an interesting change from the usual “Where can I purchase a Hiphugger in North Dakota?” and “Never make her unsatisfied again! Buy Viagra online!” The email said I am trying to contact Quinn Cummings for an upcoming story I am writing for Los Angeles magazine. I'm on a tight-ish deadline and can give her more details about what I'm looking for. I called her.

The story, as the reporter explained it, went like this. Los Angeles Magazine is doing a new segment called “Archetypes”, which will be an interview with people who really personify L.A. “Like,” she continued, “a trainer or a valet parker”. I think both types exist outside of Los Angeles, but I got where she was going. I also knew it was extremely unlikely I was being approached as the archetype of suburban mom, dog rescuer, or a candy hoarder. I was right; I, Quinn Cummings, was to stand in for all others as the archetype of the Former Child Actor.

I said delicately, “You realize I’m not a car wreck, right?”, which isn’t exactly true, because anyone who has read this knows I am a bit of a mess, but relative to many other Former Child Actors, I am spotless enough to run for office (actually, better; I haven’t found sixteen year-old boys attractive since I was fifteen). If she was looking for the kind of anecdotes which end “…this is when the transvestite ended up in my trunk, which of course was a complete misunderstanding!”, I wasn’t the best candidate. No, she assured me, she wanted a Former Child Actor without an arrest record.

Hey! I fit that profile!

She told me the interview would run in the December issue. Seeing as it was the last day of September, she wasn’t kidding about a tight deadline and pretty much had no margin of error. The interview and the picture would have to done right away.

Um, the picture?

For years, I kept looking at pictures of myself and thinking in a disappointed way, “Oh, I look tired in that shot”; it took until last year for me to realize “Quinn, you idiot. You don’t look tired in that shot, you look tired all the time.” Hard to get excited about something which is going to strip away your illusions about looking lifelike. It’s like owning a jewelry box which, upon opening, intones “Everyone you love is going to die someday”.

Nevertheless, this was free publicity. The more I talk about Hiphuggers, the more Hiphuggers we sell. The more we sell, the more likely it is that someday I will be writing this blog from Monaco, decrying the appalling lack of good servants. So, shot I would be.

She and I got off the phone and I started to plan an attack on Mount Grooming. I needed a facial, I needed an eyebrow wax, I needed to do something with my hair, which was starting to resemble Willie Nelson’s hair-

My hair. My hair, which sits on top of the hole in my head. I promised you I wouldn’t write about this any more, so I won’t, except to say that I have the hole closed this week, but as of right now, it is still a horrible little conversation piece. I was going to have to get a haircut in a public place, which would be one conversation, and then there would be the make-up and hair person on the shoot, which would be another conversation. While my eyebrows were being waxed, I plotted a version of the story which ran less than twenty-five words. I ended up with “I split my head open. They’re closing it a week from today. Yes, that’s my skull. It doesn’t hurt, much. Please ignore any seepage.”

This was on a Friday. The reporter and I planned to meet on Wednesday of the next week, which was the first available day for both of us. The photo editor called me not long afterwards. The photo shoot would also be on Wednesday, after the interview. It was to be a portrait, the photographer was in East Hollywood, and the parking around his place was dodgy. I add all these details because of what I wasn’t told, and didn’t think to ask. I wasn’t told what to bring as far as clothing went. Over the weekend, I went through my clothing with an eye towards the shoot. Portrait means waist up, or even breastbone up. I checked the photographer’s website; his portraits were close-up, frequently framed at the collarbone. Ignoring for right now exactly how little I could stand up to such close scrutiny, I would need shirts with a simple neckline, in either a jewel tone or a dark color. It could not be worn out, and it couldn’t have stains on it.

In my closet, those are limiting requirements. I ended up with three shirts, which seemed sufficient for a portrait shoot for a little one-page interview.

Wednesday came. I dropped Daughter off at school and raced over to the restaurant where I was meeting the reporter. I had chosen the restaurant, which means only I can be blamed for how it was off the main thoroughfare into Hollywood, which meant I was one of fifteen thousand people in a three-block, two-lane crawl to oblivion. Nothing says “The sane child actor” quite like flinging yourself out of your car, throwing yourself into a restaurant and screaming at the first woman holding a notebook “OH MY GOD, I HATE BEING LATE HI I’M QUINN ARE YOU MARY?”

Mercifully, she was.

Also, having chosen the restaurant, I can also be blamed for picking a French breakfast place, which meant endless breaks in the conversational flow while we waited for the cappuccino maker to stop gargling. Not that I was saying anything of consequence. This kind of piece lends itself to brisk and (with any luck) witty little sound bites about What it All Means, but the more I talked, the less I heard Dorothy Parker, the more I heard the woman who sits behind you in a movie theater who won’t stop talking about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. At some point, I just wanted to take myself by the throat and scream, “Oh, would you just shut up!”

I didn’t do that, though. Because I’m the sane Former Child Actor.

I bet you’d forgotten that by now.

NEXT; the photo shoot. Kate Moss rests easily.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Woman in the Gray Flannel Pants.

Consort got off the phone and smiled in anticipation. I stared at the demonically difficult Saturday crossword puzzle and frowned in confusion.

“Andrew and Kathy have invited us out for dinner a week from tonight and I’ve already arranged for a babysitter”, he said, pleased.

I looked up, head clouded by the crossword.

“Where are we eating?”

“The Inn in the Glen.”

My brain, which had been trying to remember the main tributary of the Amazon River, leapt to attention.

“So, we’re dressing up” I said with apprehension.

“Not too fancy, but nice. You could wear your-“

Oh, like he had to say it.

Almost ten years ago, I chose to become a talent agent; apparently, I hadn’t screamed at people, or been screamed at, enough in my life. Leaping from actress to agent wasn’t as jarring as it might have been, what with my acting career having wound down pretty thoroughly (Casting Directors were disinclined to see me for roles where the character was described as “A Quinn Cummings type”).

But, I still had the actor’s wardrobe, full of “Look at me, I can still pass for sixteen in dim light, from a distance, unless I am surrounded by actual teenagers!” outfits, and those simply wouldn’t do as an agent. An agents’ wardrobe has to murmur “Pay no attention to me. I’m just an expensively-dressed person going through your wallet while eating a deep-fried human baby”.

Within a short period of time, I collected a small wardrobe of neutral yet luxurious separates, all of which coordinated and none of which made any impression whatsoever on the retina. The highlight of this wardrobe was a pair of flannel pants I found at J. Crew. They were charcoal gray and flat-front; they had no other qualities. While trying them on in the dressing room, I swung this way and that, admiring my sober wisdom in buying such a practical pair of pants.

“And think,” I congratulated myself, “these don’t have to be just for work. I bet I could even wear these out for dinner once or twice!”

I wore them to work at least once a week. Had I been capable of not spilling things on myself, I bet I could have worn them every day without exciting comment; they are just that anonymous. The Witness Protection Program really needs to look into outfitting all Mafia turncoats in these.

Within two years, I had stopped being an agent, and became one of those deluded saps who joined an Internet start-up. The pants, looking no different than the first day I wore them to work, loyally followed me to San Francisco. Most of the employees at this company wore hemp board shorts and Phish t-shirts, but the pants and I didn’t care; I was five years older than any of my underlings, and nothing says maturity quite like gray flannel. Actually gray flannel pants and not cutting out of work early to hitchhike to Burning Man.

I wore the pants through that job and through the first trimester of my pregnancy, until my patented rubber-band/paper clip/bungee-cord button-closer stopped working. The winter after Daughter was born, I wore the pants to a couple of holiday events, and discovered the only thing less noticeable than these pants were these pants being worn by someone who was carrying around an angelic infant in a red-velvet ruffled dress; it’s debatable whether anyone would have noticed had I chosen not to wear pants at all. However, as pants from my pre-pregnancy life, they did serve the purpose of propping up my wilting self-image. The back of my hair might have been unbrushed, there might have been spit-up in my ear, but I was in my old pants, damnit!

The years passed, as they are wont to do. Consort and I did very little adult socializing in the evenings, but when we would do something in the fall, winter or early spring, the odds were good that my bottom half would be covered by gray flannel. Waistlines went down and down, pant leg widths went in and out, but what did I care? The gray flannel pants and I have the perspective that only extreme old age can give you. If you have been worn through three Presidential administrations, what can Vogue throw at you? “Plaid is the new gray”? Oh, please.

Considering the pants and I are about to celebrate our aluminum anniversary, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but why won’t these pants just…stop? I cannot in good conscience give them up; they are in very good shape and still fit me. Their very dullness is what has allowed me to attend Thanksgiving dinners and memorial services in them (it must be said, not in the same day). These might be the Platonic ideal of dull, useful pants. So, the thing which first attracted me is now the thing which is driving me out of my mind. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; isn’t that what most people say after ten years together?

I just pulled them out of the closet and stared at them in harsh light. It is possible that, just maybe, the fibers are getting of bit of a worn sheen to them. Another twenty years or so, and I might be able to justify giving them away. But if something dreadful happens to me between now and then, Consort know to bury them with me. If the afterlife has book-signing parties, I need to be prepared.