Working in an office meant I got to read all the freebie magazine’s like ‘Miss London’, ‘Girl About Town’ and ‘9-5’. They were mostly full of financial and legal secretarial positions, as well as interviews with pop stars and many an article on how best to apply your make-up. The last few pages of ‘Miss London’ regularly featured an advertisement for ‘Starnest’ model agency, based in George Street W.1. I was intrigued, and most happy that it stated ‘Boys welcome’. I rang them, described myself and very quickly arranged an appointment to go and see them. ‘Have you any catwalk experience’ asked the lady on the telephone. ‘Oh yes’ I replied, without any hesitation. My appointment was for the Friday morning of that week, and I thought I would call in sick rather than ask for the day’s holiday at last minute notice only to be refused. Friday soon came, and although I was excited I was of course a bundle of nerves. However, I had no spots that week, my hair was looking good and I was pretty much ready for anything. It was easy as pie, Debbie (the lady on the telephone) was most welcoming, as was the really fat guy who asked me to walk up and down the room so he could ‘get a good look’ at me from all angles. I was on their books in a flash. Just like that. Well, I would have to pay seventy five pounds for some photographs to be taken, then another fifty pounds to print up my agency card, complete with all my measurements and contact details. Fabulous, I was now a model AND journalist, as well as still working in a bank.
I thought long and hard about what to wear for the photo session. Mum loaned me her suitcase (threatening me with my life not to damage or lose it) and off I went to Totteridge And Whetstone for my first foray into the grown up world of professional modelling. I remember Dad’s face looking at me as I left, most likely baffled as to what I was up to next. On arrival at the house (not for one moment wondering why it wasn’t a west end studio) I was met by Derek, a mid forties Reginald Perrin look-a-like sporting a very bad wig and a huge gold chain around his neck. ‘Pleased to meetcha Grant’ he said, squeezing the life out of my hand as he offered me a stiff drink. I didn’t have a drink, I wanted a cup of tea.
As I excitedly showed him all of my ‘Top Shop’ clothes he kept saying ‘very nice’ yet never even glanced at them. I was feeling awkward but not wanting to blow my chance at fame and fortune. He told me all about this magazine called ‘Vulcan’ which specialised in male models and glamour work. I had no idea that glamour work meant I might have to appear scantily clad or worse, naked. However, I really didn’t care and would have done anything to be professionally photographed. He told me that the boy who was supposed to be the centrefold ‘Boy of the week’ had cancelled, and asked if would I be interested. I jumped at the chance, oh BOY I was excited. And I didn’t want to let them down. I had never heard of the magazine, but trusted that it was a quality glossy magazine that featured boys who went on not just to be professional models but also actors and agents themselves. The many clothes I had carefully selected, ironed and packed were a waste of time. ‘Here, have these’ he said, handing me a pair of white shorts. I didn’t have the beefiest legs aged seventeen but it didn’t seem to matter to them. ‘You’re perfect’ he said, reassuring me.
The studio was in his conservatory, complete with a sun-kissed, palm tree lined beach scene backdrop. There were various props including a wicker chair, a few polystyrene cubes and a huge beach ball. And all the lights, the lights really made me feel like a star. The pictures were to ‘hint’ at eroticism, as that was the new ‘genre’ in male modelling I was told.
Another man appeared, a much older man who was there to help. I had to strip to the waist and make my hair wet, as well as smear suntan oil over myself and apply a pair of sunglasses. I said I was fine applying the oil myself. The huge beach ball was for me, to play with, and ultimately lean over on my belly for the crucial shot they wanted for the centrefold photo. As I leaned over the huge plastic ball, slipping off several times as I had made myself way too wet with the oil, I was given a small bottle of what I thought were eye or nose drops. The older man, helping me unscrew the lid said ‘Here, sniff these’, and I did. My head went really hot, and I felt a bit sick at first, but it quickly became really nice. There was music on but I had no idea what it was. As I leaned over the ball the older man came up behind me and pulled at my pants ‘Perfect’ said Derek ‘Let’s do some more’. More of the smelly stuff was shoved under my nose and many MANY more photographs were taken. I was in heaven, being adored by these two men and feeling really hot in the head, plus I was going to be a star.
I told David all about it the next day, and he said he wished he could have been there. A few weeks later I recieved a copy of the magazine and I was indeed the centrefold, they hadn’t lied, they were honest men. There I was, glistening under the spotlight like a star in my tight white shorts, bent over the huge beach ball as a ‘strangers’ gloved hand came into the right hand frame, tugging at them and pulling them off, complete with a ‘shocked’ look on my face. I was even mentioned on the very front page as ‘Fresh Essex boy centrefold’. I was immensely proud, so very pleased that I had done this all myself, a mere young boy from Rainham, a star in the middle of a big selling magazine. The only down side was that the staples were placed right over my naked arse, spoiling the photo.
Unfortunately I didn’t get anymore modelling work, ringing Debbie at the agency each week to ‘check in’ she could only ever inform me that nothing else had come in. My modelling career was over, but by then I had decided to write a book on Donna Summer.