Oct 14, 2013

Spring 1979: My Modeling Career

One of the highlights of my freshman year at Augustana was my brief -- very brief -- modeling career.

I had my own radio program, the "International Pop Hour," where I played pop songs from Europe.  In between, I interviewed anyone who might have the slightest international connection, from the political science professor from China to the Italian-American manager of Langomarcino's Chocolates.  One day in April, shortly after I got back from determining that my friend Mary's brother was "straight," I interviewed Lars Lundquist (not his real name), who came to Augustana as a foreign student in 1968 and now had his own photography studio in Chicago.

"I do everything -- kids, dogs, weddings, even passport photos," he said, "But I'm specializing in fashion.  I want to get some clients and go into talent management."  He paused.  "You know, you've got a nice fresh-scrubbed all-American look.  Did you play football in high school?"

"No, I was an athletic trainer.  But I saw more moldy towels and stinky athletic supporters than any football player."  I cued the laugh track.

"Can you come out to Chicago next week?  We'll do a shoot, and see what happens."

It's a scam!  My inner skeptic told me.  But then..."He's got a studio in Chicago, on Michigan Avenue!"  Besides, my listeners -- all 5 of them -- wanted to know what happened.

So the next weekend I drove out, and he took some shots of me wearing an orange leisure suit, a polo shirt and jeans, and a yellow turtleneck sweater with green pants (bright colors were "in" that year).

I quit my job at the Carousel Snack Bar, and through the spring and summer of 1979, except for my 10 days in Colombia,  I drove out to Chicago every few weeks and let Lars photograph me.  I got some work: see if you can find the Christmas 1979 catalog for the Marshall Fields department store, or Chicago Magazine in the spring of 1981.  I didn't keep any copies -- the photos were too embarrassing.

The money wasn't very good, and I was too busy with classes, clubs, and my job to drive out to Chicago every five minutes, so I was getting tired of it by the fall of 1979, when Lars asked, "Would you consider working for the gay market?"

"What?" I asked, stunned.  "What kind of market is there for gays?"

"All you have to do is pose nude -- there's no sex involved.  And the pay is good."

Was it legal?  And where could you go to buy nude pictures of men?

Apparently there were several gay porn magazines available in the adult bookstores of big cities.  Plus a mail order industry of nude male photos, marketed to gay men who couldn't get to big cities, and didn't want a porn magazine delivered to their home.

I could be a beacon of light to gay men in small towns!

But I would be out to millions of people.  Ok, hundreds.  They wouldn't be seeing my real name, but still...what if my mother saw the photos...or my friends at school....

A few days later, I met Fred, my ministerial student boyfriend.  I was sure that he would disapprove, so the nude photo shoot never happened, and my modeling career fizzled out (except for the adult movie I made, sort of, a few years later).