The intercom next to the metal door of the industrial unit in Plympton, was answered immediately. The metallic voice that emanated from it, was quite specific.
“Come in, turn right, and the changing room is the second door on the left. Find a gown, get changed, and come straight into the main auditorium. Hurry up. We’re running late.” Adrian hesitated. It was not the sort of response he was expecting. His agent had sent a brief text. ‘Be at Unit 12, Glen Road, Plympton at 1300 tomorrow. Short piece of filming, not sure of the theme, but am sure you can wing it. Top fees being paid. My usual 10%’. It was still only 1250.
He hesitated, then after re-checking his mobile, turned the handle on the door. There was a gloomy, damp-smelling passageway in front of him, with subdued lighting, peeling paintwork, and a stained, well worn carpet. As he approached the second door he saw it had a handwritten sign ‘Ace Films’.
He entered what appeared to be a small storeroom, utilised as a changing room. On a wooden batten along the wall, hung a variety of male and female clothing. There was a table adjacent to the door with a dressing gown on it. It appeared to be a man’s garment, so whilst retaining his underpants and socks, he removed his clothes. Passing a mirror fixed to the wall, Adrian saw that it might equally be considered suitable for a woman, and drew it more tightly around him.
A whole series of arc lights faced him as he walked into the next room, causing him to temporarily blink, and hold his hand up to his eyes. There were a number of figures behind the lights, and one of them appeared to be perched on a raised platform. As his eyes adjusted to the room, Adrian saw was in fact a a stepladder. The person, who was also wearing a gown, spoke directly to him.
“I’m Jason the Director. You’re late. Everyone’s been waiting ages. Appreciate you’re new here, but don’t have time to make lengthy introductions, so you’ll have to catch up as the action moves on.” The man speaking had a pronounced lisp, and a sing-song falsetto voice. Momentarily, Adrian’s brain went into overdrive, trying to understand the message and frame a response. In the end he gave a simple nod, which seemed to satisfy Jason.
At both ends of the arc lights were tripods with cameras mounted on them, with a fully dressed person, making adjustments to them. Adrian, in his pursuit of a career as a male model, had participated in indoor and outdoor shoots for various products; this one felt quite odd.
A number of other people were also in gowns like the one he was wearing. His instinct about oddness, had been correct. Apart from himself, there were four men, and two women. They were of a diverse range of ages, sizes, and languages. The latter became apparent as he cautiously moved towards them. Whilst they were in full conversations with one another, English appeared to be minimal. The women were in their mid-40’s, thin, and both had dark cropped hair. Adrian hesitated for a moment, as they suddenly embraced , kissed one another fully on the lips, and then moved to a nearby carrier bag, withdrew matching blonde wigs, and put them on. Jason spoke again.
“If any of you fancy a loosener before we start there’s a couple of bottles over there.. Whisky, Gin and some mixers. Jason’s eyes seemed to embrace the room, and in particular, the men. Adrian began to feel distinctly uncomfortable. “As for you boys, there’s a little dish on the side with some special sweeties. Ethan as you’re new here be careful. Not too many. We’ve only got the studio for 2 hours, and need you to be able to ‘walk’ out of the door, if you understand my gist.”
Adrian certainly didn’t. He thought to himself ‘Why is he calling me Ethan?’ but decided to explore the drinks table and the mysterious ‘sweeties’ anyway. He’d occasionally used a spliff, and once on a shoot in London, had followed a number of other models sniffing a white substance from the top of a low level suite in the Gents.
This sweet was different. It was blue, and had a distorted rectangular shape. One of the other male models picked up three and tipping his throat back, washed them down with a large scotch. His cheeks puffed out briefly, he grimaced, and then a broad smile spread across his face, as he held the dish out to Adrian. “Fizzers. Fizzers.” he repeated with a strong Eastern European accent.
Adrian took a tablet from the dish and examined it. It had letters inscribed. Looking at his companion Adrian laughed. “Not Fizzers! They’re Pfizers! That’s the company that makes them. Swiss. Multi-national.” he continued. His companion shrugged and walked away, still muttering “Fizzers”. Adrian paused, reached back into the dish, then lifting the whisky bottle poured himself a large glass. ‘First time for everything.’ he thought as the purpose of the afternoon’s filming began to sink in. This was reinforced, as he walked further down the set, and saw the Romanesque dais, covered in red silken material, with two fairly large plastic cherubs at each end.
“Right everyone. Gather round. One last briefing and then it’s Lights, Action and Camera.” Jason paused. “Any problems?” One of the wigged women put her hand up and complained about the cold. He looked over his shoulder and signalled to his camera assistant. “Tony. Can you fix that?” Tony nodded and moved towards a nearby electrical panel and touched a few switches. “Anything else?” asked Jason impatiently. The other wigged woman held her hand up, then indicated she wanted to go to the toilet by jabbing at her groin and grimacing. “Oh for Christ’s sake. Hurry up Rulenska.” She returned after a few minutes looking quite subdued. Her female friend moved across and gave her another pronounced kiss on her lips. “Thank you Zita. That’s enough of that, for now.” said Jason.
With that, he dropped the gown he was wearing, placed a gold coloured crown of thorns on his head, and walked completely naked over to the dais. He sat down, carefully crossing his knees, reclining back and composed himself. As he clicked his fingers, Tony moved across the room and switched on a music centre.
The sound of a classical harp boomed into the room. Rulenska dis-robed, picked up a bowl containing a large bunch of grapes, and similarly naked, walked across to the dais, nodded in deference to Jason and then held the bowl out to him. She was joined by a naked Zita, who was carrying a small flagon and a slender stemmed glass. She spoke. “Glorious Emperor what is your command?” The Emperor clicked his fingers dramatically, and with that, the four men in front of Adrian, now naked, paired up, held hands, and with their arms forming two arches, proceeded to skip across the floor in unison.
Adrian noticed that Mr Fizzer clearly had an erection, as he and his dance companion, moved towards the dais and began to gyrate on the spot. The Emperor observed their movements for a few moments, before clicking his fingers once again, and they danced backwards to be replaced by the second pair of male dancers. Adrian glanced down at their groins, but saw nothing untoward, however, clearly they were of little appeal because they were quickly waved away by the Emperor. Then with pronounced crooked finger, The Emperor beckoned Adrian.
He remembered the opening sequence from Saturday Night Fever, when John Travolta had danced down a city pavement holding a can of paint and decided to replicate it. The other two pairs of male dancers, were still gyrating around one another to the side of the dais. Ethan could see that Pfizer & Co was now having its effect on them; and him.
Taking a deep breath and with the image of Travolta in his mind he strutted forcefully towards the Emperor. The reaction was immediate. The Emperor was pointing at his feet, and Adrian realised that he still had his socks on. He’d seen a film called ‘Gypsy’ once, and halting briefly, tried to replicate the artistic movement of the main character in the film, as he pulled his them off, and again moved towards the dais.
The Emperor was still pointing. Adrian, who was by now beginning to feel the impact of the whisky, slipped his gown off, and after swinging it carelessly around his head, threw it into the darkness. It landed over Tony who looked surprised, delighted and anticipatory in sequence.
Adrian took another deep breath, then with the thumbs of each hand hooked into the elastic of his Y Fronts, pushed downwards, just as the door of the studio opened and several policemen entered.