Lying On The Beach
by DC Stanfa
Discovering that my boyfriend and my non-rent-paying roommate were sleeping together made me change the locks on my door and my heart, for security purposes. My heart was temporarily dead-bolted. However, not one to remain self-imprisoned for long, I planned a breakout.
August 1985 had been no day at the beach. But luckily I was planning one. Make that a long weekend. Suffering the possible withdrawal of no more Spring Break trips with high school and college friends, a group of us, including my two sisters (the three of us are so close in age that we’re considered Catholic triplets), made a pact to continue “girls trips.” Despite my move from Toledo to Dallas, and a couple of the girls’ marriages and divorces, we managed to keep the beach party happening once a year. Dewey Beach, Delaware was this year’s choice, largely due to its reputation as a non-family-friendly, single-and-looking beach community.
I needed to be on solid sand, a more stable foundation than the recent days in Dallas. What I needed was the comfort and security that only family and old friends can provide, and a little vengeful fun with male egos. I was basically fed up with dating in Dallas, or, the “land of no commitment” as I called it.
My theory was that Dallas had a unique form of gravity. Three months was the amount of time it took for two bodies to revolve around each other’s orbits until the gravitational pull (of commitment) from one body exceeded that of the other. Then the slingshot effect would take place. One body would go careening out into the universe in search of more heavenly bodies. Trust me, there were plenty of those.
I was in charge of “entertainment” for this Dewey beach trip, and was luckily still in control of my imagination, if not my libido. I’d developed entertaining activities on previous trips for our group, informally named the “Infidels”. One year we staged a unique in-the-bar scavenger hunt with points for college logo clothing items, after-bar party invitations and hotel room keys we’d never intended to use.
My friend Sue and I also designed theme T-shirts for several trips. The previous year we had “Infidels World Beach Tour” on the front and a list of famous beaches of the world on the back. We told everyone we met that we’d quit our jobs for a year and traveled to each one listed. The vacation and our egos were enhanced by the harmless fib.
A few days before the Dewey Beach trip, while I was admiring the photos in a GQ magazine photos, a couple of pesky subscription cards fell out. I noticed the nice little black and white GQ logo and imagined a new fake career path, something a little more glamorous than selling corrugated boxes (my real job). A quick trip to the quickie print shop, and I was Muffin Hardgrove, Vice President, Talent Division, GQ Magazine, according to the business cards.
Thursday night before Labor Day weekend, my sisters Lori and Sherry, two girlfriends and I converged at the Dewey, Delaware beach house, mulling over high school and the cool guys who were now either fat or exiled from the state of Ohio. The ultimate dreamboat, Don Spencer, an ex-Bowsher High school quarterback, was rumored to be in rehab for coke or hiding out in Florida with his third D.U.I pending. A couple of cases of Tuborg Gold beer made us feel superior to the entire high school experience. We were not only drinking legally, it wasn’t on the railroad tracks outside of school before a sock-hop, and it wasn’t Pabst Blue Ribbon (the beers we used to rip-off from our parents’ fridges.) A lot can change in eight years.
After Sue had dished out details of her recent divorce from the perpetual phys-ed major I capitalized on a conversational lull. after. As the spokes-model for relationships, past, present, and imagined, I got down to business with the GQ scam.
“We’re going to do what?” Janet asked, laughing. Apparently, my sisters and Sue had not filled her in on the “entertainment” for the trip.
“C’mon. Muffin Hardgrove. It’s, like, unbelievable,” Janet said as she flipped the GQ card at me, dealer style, across the kitchen table. The resident skeptic, and real-life accounting manager, she paused a beat before buckling. “Okay, I’ll play along , but on one condition. I want to be the GQ traveling physician.”
On the beach the next morning, we set up camp per our usual vacation ritual: lounge chairs, blankets, books, and cooler, preparing to bake out the beer in our bodies to make room for more later. By noon I was bored and antsy. As scoutmaster, it was my job to get the fire started, so to speak.
“Sue, set up the tripod.” I directed the amateur “professional” photographer. “Lori, Sherry, Doctor Janet, let’s start scoping for our first models.” The girls had agreed to use their real first names so as not to complicate things further. Sue initially wanted to be ‘Babbette,’ but gave in after a brief argument.
“What exactly are we looking for, big and stupid?” Janet appeared to be balking.
“Holy Stone Age, Batgirl, I mean, Muffin . There’s a Neanderthal at nine o’clock.”
Sherry stood up and lowered her sunglasses for effect after her proclamation.
We laughed for a moment until we checked out the “subject” for ourselves. It was a contest. He was either the tallest or the tannest guy on the beach. My guess was both. He looked like he spent half of his time at the gym and the other half in front of a mirror (often horizontal and not alone).
“There’s your answer Janet,” Sue said, as she finished positioning the camera on top of the tripod. “The perfect specimen.”
I threw on a Yankees jersey for a cover-up and an NBC baseball cap I’d picked up on my New York trip and headed over. I was a method actress. The perfect specimen was popping a tape into a boom box as I approached.
“Hi, sorry to interrupt.” No, I thought, a VP of GQ from New York would never imagine she was interrupting, let alone apologize. Confidence shaken, I didn’t follow up with anything else. I just offered him the bait… I mean, business card. He read the card, then me.
“What’s this all about?” He either had violet colored contact lenses or was the offspring of Liz Taylor. Difficult as it was, I just maintained eye contact.
“Are you currently signed with an agency?” I countered.
“Uh, no.” He was on the line. Time to reel him in.
“Good, because we’re looking for new talent to sign. What’s your name?”
“Jeff.” He ran his fingers through his short black mane.
“Go for it, dude,” one of Jeff’s friends said.
“O.K., what do ya want me to do?”
“You see that camera over there?” I pointed. “Just follow me.”
Sue was white-balancing the camera against a T-shirt.
“Jeff, meet Sue. She’s our photographer for this project.” The rest of my entourage was ineffably silent as they contemplated Jeff. “Sherry, here, is an editor at GQ, and Lori, over there, is our, er, grip and legal advisor. Doctor Janet is here for safety.”
Jeff nodded at each. Sherry grabbed a generic talent release form (which she’d obtained from a PR internship at a rural Ohio newspaper). Sue posed Jeff in a beach chair. After a few shots, I grabbed the latest issue of GQ from my bag and planted it in Jeff’s hands. Sue snapped a few more with him holding the magazine, then she got him into some very interesting beef-cakey poses. Jeff was such a good sport, I almost felt bad about scamming him until this blonde, bronzed sun goddess with double D’s stepped out of a centerfold and into the perimeter of our photo session. She was predictably giggly and jiggly.
“Oh my God! Like, my friends over there said you’re with GQ magazine. I can’t believe my boyfriend is gonna be in GQ magazine!” Jeff’s grin blocked out the sun as he winked at her.
“That’s a wrap,” Sue said.
“Honey, it’s not a done deal. Look around you. There are a lot of very buff and attractive men here. We’re going to be at Dewey all weekend and only a handful will make it into the magazine.” My words deflated Double D.
Janet was on her feet. “I’m a doctor and I couldn’t help noticing that nasty sunburn on your chest. You’d better run and get some sun block on that right now. Better yet, a T-shirt. You have a suspicious looking spot on your shoulder and, um, melanoma is nothing to mess with.”
We all managed to contain our laughter until Jeff and Double D departed.
“This is a riot, DC. I mean, I think he would have done anything we asked,” said Sue.
“Yeah, this is pretty damn funny. But what if someone calls our bluff? I mean, that phone number on the card, DC, I assume it’s fake. They could call and find out,” Lori said.
“Well, actually Lori, it’s real. But it’s the phone number of GQ’s regional distribution center. They’d just get a recording, and it is Labor Day weekend. So they couldn’t even get through to talk to anyone.” I answered.
“Pretty cagey,” said Sherry.
Sue and I decided to team up and walk the beach in search of prospects. After a couple more successful shoots, it became almost routine. It felt almost real. By mid-afternoon, Sue and I were both heady with our own power. For fun, we started staging little tiffs where we expressed our “artistic differences.”
At the end of the day, Sue and I were tired and sunburned. We’d been focused on the intensity of our “work,” and had neglected sunscreen. It was the only physical condition we shared with Double D.
That Friday night at the Rusty Rudder, one of the popular Dewey Beach bars, we were recognized by a few of our “models” and were quickly surrounded by them, in addition to some wannabe models. Apparently, word was traveling as fast as the speed of lies.
“Wow,” said Lori, as we accepted another free round of drinks. “These guys are ignoring their girlfriends and the hottest looking babes her to hang around us,” she said.
“Yeah, this is like a dream come true. Except, of course, that if they knew our real story they’d never even be talking to us,” I added for clarification.
“Hey, check out the bartender.” Sue did a subtle elbow-point toward your standard tall, dark, and handsome. Before we could discuss the matter, she was bar side, presumably ordering up something tall and cool.
The Saturday shoots went more smoothly, therefore more quickly, which was good since we had lined up appointments with several guys from the night before at the Rusty Rudder.
Sue’s favorite bartender, Brock, was first on the list at 11:30. After his photo session, Brock joined our lounge chair entourage to observe Sue and me in action. Luckily, we didn’t have to do much prospecting. We had attracted quite a crowd, picked a few and had some others volunteer. I was responsible for the photo release forms since Sherry was already tiring of the scam and was deep into reading The World According to Garp.
A new model sauntered into our view. He approached as if he’d just been to Saratoga and his horse had naturally won... but that was impossible, because I recognized him from the Rusty Rudder. His hair was a mixture of sand and gold. Was it natural sun bleaching or professionally highlighted? He was gorgeous in the Hollywood sense. He had a small entourage of his own, two male friends and a golden retriever.
“Sorry I’m late. I just had to pick the right thing to wear for this and couldn’t decide. I spent all morning checking myself out in the mirror and couldn’t decide.” He pulled several swim trunks and shirts from a duffel bag for our approval. The choices ran from surfer shorts to Speedos.
Sue and I voiced our opinions. Brock voted for the surfer shorts. Lori and Sherry remained neutral. “I think you should go for the grape-smugglers,” said Janet. The model and his friends looked confused.
“She’s talking about the Speedo,” I interpreted for them.
“How about if we do a couple of wardrobe changes?” offered Mr. Indecisive.
“How about you WEAR THE DOG?” It was early, but Janet was already at the top of her game.
After an hour in front of the camera, Mr. Indecisive, AKA Dog-Boy, was opting for another “wardrobe change.” His love for his taste in clothing was only surpassed by his love to hear himself talk. “I know! I’ve got a great idea. How about if later, around five or six, I come back, you know with an ‘out on the town’ look? Besides, I think that with the sun so high in the sky right now, I might have been squinting.”
“Sorry, we’re already behind schedule. Thanks anyway. O.K., who’s next?” Sue blew him off like a true professional.
“Wow. I guess he’s hoping to be the poster boy for the cure of vaginal dryness.” I concluded to the group when he finally left.
A while later I overheard Janet telling Brock about her med-school experience at MCO (Medical College of Ohio) and him asking her very intelligent and specific medical questions. It turned out that Brock was in his last year of dental school. Janet, on the verge of getting caught, offered to go grab lunch for us.
Sue was obviously getting distracted by Brock relaxing, and her “working,” so I told her to take a break. I photographed our last “appointment model” myself. The crowd of observers had dispersed in the blazing sun. I shed my beach cover-up and stepped into the ocean, contemplating DC Stanfa and her quest for fun.
As I floated on my back, out to the buoy line, my mind simultaneously swam . The difference between this “entertainment” and the previous years’ is the depth and breadth of the scam. We have to stay in character all weekend to make this work. We’re trapped in our roles and have to constantly be on guard.
The anxiety of these thoughts and the pressure to continue the scam to keep from getting caught made me realize that there was no way I could really relax. This wasn’t a “vacation.” My entourage was already bailing. I longed to lay back in a lounge-chair as DC and swap real stories and memories with my sisters and friends, but we had created a monster beach party of hunks and Tom Cruise wannabees begging us to “discover” them. A Zen conundrum came to mind. Master, will I be punished for my lies? No, grasshopper. You will be punished by your lies.
When I returned to the group, Sue and Brock were gone. Janet, acting as spokesman, addressed me in her usual reverent manner. “Hey, Muffy, we’ve decided we’re tired of this shit. Can we, like, wrap up the entire project? You know, put it in the can?”
“I’m sorry, you guys. I didn’t realize how, like, intense this was gonna get.” I dug my toes into the sand and stared down at my disappearing feet as I spoke. “I’ll just say we’re done working for the weekend and don’t want to talk shop if people start coming around again. Hey, why don’t we go into Ocean City tomorrow? We can be ourselves there.”
“Great idea.” Sherry agreed.
Saturday night was a near repeat of Friday night at the Rusty Rudder. We were surrounded by the wannabees and had a paltry bar bill, due to our model benefactors. Only our attitudes were different this night.
Janet was giving flippant advice, medical and otherwise, to everyone who spoke to her. Sue ventured in and out of conversations, keeping an eye - and her mind - on Brock behind the bar.
Dog-Boy had attached himself to my hip and was working his way toward my groin. “Muffin, whaddya say we get out of here and go for a walk on the beach?” Through the fake lust and false promise in his eyes, I saw my reflection. Is this what I was looking for? Janet overheard Dog-Boy and answered for me.
“Listen, Muffin’s really not supposed to screw the talent. That’s your agent’s job. But, since you don’t have one, just leave Muffin your number and sit by the phone. She’ll call soon. Right, Muffy?”
“Yeah, I’ll call you, hon. Really, I will.” In that brief moment, my sisters, Janet, Sue, and I all connected with amused, affirming glances. The lie felt so good. No wonder guys tell it all the time. Of course, a one night stand feels good at the time too. I wasn’t so sure how I’d feel about it a week later.
On Sunday, our GQ talent crew put the scam to rest. We escaped our celebrity status in Ocean City, Maryland, about twenty miles south of Dewey.
After Sue verbally guided us through a Glamour article: ‘Can You Trust Your Man?’ Janet spoke. “Let’s have a toast. Here’s to the first day of our real vacation.” We clinked cans. Compulsive as I am about having the last word , I felt certain I should say something. “Here’s to true friendship and the timely death of Muffin Hardgrove”.