San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Model of Propriety: A Tragedy

A writer should expect to have complete control of his characters, but it ain’t necessarily so; sometimes an engaging maverick will sneak in, and the only solution is to go back and write it out.

In the particular case I’m thinking of, I had a good plot, advancing briskly with the cooperation of reliable characters, when suddenly an exquisite model broke into the story and upset everyone.

But there was something so attractive about the waif that I took my finger off the delete button and so had to start all over to accommodate the lady. But there was a snag: I had no personal experience of exquisite models, and without that she could never appeal to the reader as she did to me.

So I called my good friend Solly Kravitz, who runs a highly respected modeling and escort agency on 42nd, and begged him to let me escort his most attractive model on her next assignment.Accordingly, I found myself riding uptown with the elegant Belinda to one of Marcellini’s showings.

 Solly is a stickler for propriety: no boozing, no shenanigans, and home in bed by 10, but that was no problem to me; my job was to get inside Belinda’s skull, not her knickers.

The drive uptown was uneventful, as Belinda spent most of the time in a minute inspection of her makeup. Once inside, there was no opportunity for contact, but I watched my girl moving gracefully from one personality to the next, balancing a plate in one hand and a glass in the other, without ever touching either. But judging from her warm smile and tinkling laugh, each of the customers was happier for the


Marcellini had social directors all over the place to make sure the rules were observed, and one girl who burst into tears for no apparent reason was swiftly removed from the scene. I drifted around, sampling the petit fours and admiring the decor until it came time to go, and right on cue Belinda detached herself from a handsome film star and we walked out together, no sweat.

I had already booked a table at the Four, so finally had an opportunity to find out what little models were made of, but I was doomed to disappointment. The warm smile and the silvery laugh were strictly in response to my own pleasantries, and any attempt to find out what made her tick proved futile. I did elicit that she had finished high school, but her only reading was Variety, and aside from an excellent recall for famous names, there wasn’t much to find in this particular skull.

Nevertheless, in a last-ditch effort to get some kind of reaction, I asked if she knew why the other girl at the bash had burst into tears, and this evidently hit the right button, as she let loose a torrent of words: “For the same reason I feel like doing it most of the time! Do you realize we are held to no more than a thousand calories a day – less than they got in Belsen?

“Our clothes are loaned by the rag merchants, our pearls belong to Cartier, and your buddy Kravitz deducts most of our pay for deportment and elocution lessons; and I suppose someone else owns my soul, because I certainly don’t. Beauty? Argh! The hell with it!”

It was my turn to be struck dumb, but I managed to ask why she put up with it. “For the stock tips,” she said. “Most of these people are insiders, bound by law not to profit from their knowledge, but they can’t bear to keep quiet about it, so they tell us, figuring we’re too stupid to know even what an IPO is. Well, we aren’t.”

And she showed me a minute notebook filled with stock symbols and dates. I mentally noted a couple of them myself, and they turned out to be winners. But she wasn’t finished yet.

“I’m getting out just as soon as I have my first million,” she said, “and I’ll find a decent job where I don’t have to talk to another moneygrubber.”

I got her back to her apartment by 10, as promised, but abandoned my rewrite; I’ve never been much good at tragedy.

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