The train pulled into Grand Central Station at dusk. Three young models in search of not just fame, but their own identities. The sun had shone continuously throughout the six hour ride as we anxiously peered out the window with wonder and excitement. New York was no longer a distant dream, but a reality. I was on my own in the city that doesn't sleep. As old blue eyes said, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." Only the cream rose to the top in the Big Apple, and I had something to prove.
Linda, Susie and I, burst onto the scene looking like hicks. We had dressed comfortably for the train ride in shorts and tee shirts, but we now felt a little out of place. Sweat dripped from out foreheads as we dragged our out-dated luggage behind us out to the street. We summoned a cab and headed to the Barbizon Hotel for Women. The brochure had described both its security and stringent rules, which was the reason my reluctant Mother had let me go. The Barbizon was famous for attracting young women, who came to New York from around the world seeking their dreams on Madison Avenue. "Wait here till we check it out," Linda said to the cab driver.
Linda was a platinum blonde with gorgeous blue eyes. But a hardness glinted from within them, as though she had lived far longer than her eighteen years. We didn't know it then, but she had. Linda and I had met at a photography studio while shooting for a Sears catalogue in New York City about a year earlier. She’d been living in Boston and we'd both been flown in for the shoot. Like me, Linda wanted to move to New York City after finishing school, so we kept in touch until the day finally came.
We followed the matronly looking lady from the front desk down the narrow hallway to what was supposed to be our room. The hatchet-faced woman stood looking down her nose at us as we stared at the tiny room in disbelief.
"All the girls are quite comfortable here," she said indignantly with a clipped and very precise English accent.
"This is smaller than my bathroom at home!" Susie said, wide-eyed.
Susie, a twenty-year-old Southerner from Charleston, whom I'd met when I was fourteen at an after-school soda fountain called the Candy Kitchen in East Rochester. She and her gorgeous boyfriend, Ralph were sitting in one of the booths sipping on cherry cokes as the after school crowd began pouring in. Not many strangers showed up around town without being immediately noticed.
All the girls, including myself, were going ga-ga over Ralph. Being the curious type, I immediately walked over and introduced myself. Susie, just having arrived in town, hadn't met anyone except Ralph and was happy for the intrusion. We became instant friends. Taking her under my wing, I introduced her to the modeling world, in which she was not unfamiliar. She'd done some modeling back in her home town. She stood an inch taller than me at 5'7', with a mane of light blonde hair almost reaching her waist. Famous for her gorgeous legs, she'd always beat out the other models whose milky thighs just didn't measure up. Although she came across as a bit of an air-head, I soon learned that this was primarily due to her Southern accent.
"Speaking of bathrooms, where is it?" I asked.
"It’s just down the hall. You’ll be sharing it with all the girls on this floor. We lock the doors at two o’clock, and there are no men allowed in the rooms," Ms. Indignant said, as she paused to looked at each of us with an eyebrow raised.
"You can have your gentlemen friends wait for you in the lobby," she added sternly.
We looked at each other without saying a word, turned and walked outside to our waiting cab. I'd worry about explaining this to my Mother later.
"Take us to a hotel where they allow men past the lobby!" Linda commanded, and we all cracked up.
The cab driver took us to a hotel on 46th Street, near Broadway. I can't remember the name of it now, but it was a real dump. The three of us stayed together in one small room, but it was cheap and we needed to economize until we could find a more permanent place to live. Little did we know this hotel was a haven for hookers.
With adventure in our hearts, we quickly rummaged through our suitcases and pulled out our favorite bar-hopping garb and hit the street for our first night out in the big city.
Linda looked smashing. She shimmered with steamy sensuality. She wore a short clinging dress, cut dangerously low. Her platinum blonde hair was piled casually atop her head, a few loose curls escaping around her exceptionally beautiful face. Susie and I felt pale compared to Linda. Our outfits were a little more conservative, at least from the waist up. But still, even with our unsophisticated hair styles and tops that left something to the imagination, we thought we looked pretty hot in our fashionable leather mini-skirts and knee-high boots.
We’d heard about a place called Fridays, supposed to be the "in" spot. TGI Fridays are all over the country now, but then, that was the original and the only one in existence. We had no idea in which direction to go. Spotting a cop standing on the corner, we walked toward him to ask directions. He eyed us as we approached.
"What are you girls doing, working?" the cop asked before we had a chance to speak.
"We’re not working yet, but we’re looking for work," Susie answered innocently.
"Yeah, I know," he said looking kind of sad. "But you girls are too pretty to be working."
"Well, how are we supposed to make any money if we don’t work?" I asked quizzically.
The conversation went on for a few more minutes before everybody realized we were talking about different subjects. We were right in the heart of hooker's paradise. Guess the cabby had taken Linda literally. It started to rain, not heavily but enough to take the curl out of the hair-do's we had taken so long to get looking just right for the evening.
"Look, I’m gonna to be off in ten minutes," the cop said, glancing at his watch. "Why don’t you girls duck under that doorway for a bit, and let me take you to Fridays? I think I need to enlighten you on some facts about life in the Big Apple."
Grateful for the escort, we entered the smoky bar and began to make our way toward the back in search of a vacant table. Imitation Tiffany lamps hung everywhere from a high tin ceiling, with red and white checked table cloths setting an inviting atmosphere. Excited and ready for action, we pressed forward. Between the loud music and noisy patrons we practically had to yell to be heard. I bumped into an overweight slob at the bar who obviously had eaten too much pasta, and who was smoking a cheap cigar. He swung around in his stool.
"What can I do for you honey?" he asked with his best I'm a stud smile.
"You can refrain from calling me "honey" for a start, after that, nothing," I answered flatly.
Linda and Susie giggled as we continued walking. Next barstool to the right of that disgusting old fart sat a pot-holed faced youth with a wasted bleached blonde draped all over him. They both looked like they were in desperate need of a life. But the scene got better as we moved along. Pushing our way through the crowed bar area, we noticed plenty of trendy men with great physiques and lingering hungry eyes.
Louie was a pretty nice guy for a cop. He was probably in his late thirties, and not bad looking either. Although we were skeptical at first, he really did have good intentions. Over drinks, he lectured us about the many dangers for pretty young girls living in New York. We listened the way most teenagers listen; in one ear and out the other. I wondered how he would react if he knew he had just bought a drink for a minor? I had a month to go before I turned eighteen, the legal drinking age. I took the innocent route, agreeing with everything he had to say. Louie stayed long enough to finish his drink and got up to leave.
"Well, gotta be going. You girls be careful now," he said, trying to sound authoritative.
"Thank you, officer. Nice talking to you."
Soon after Louie departed, three men that had been eyeing us from the bar headed our way. They were exactly the kind of guys we had just been warned about. As they approached, Linda sat up straighter, flashing a mega-watt smile and plenty of cleavage. Susie shifted in her chair, crossing her impressive legs and flipping her blonde mane behind her shoulders.
They were slick looking guys, weighted down with heavy gold chains and too nicely dressed for the place we were in. I recognized the type immediately. They were Italian and exhibited the same traits as my Rochester friends. The way they talked and carried themselves I felt like I hadn't left home. I had seen the tough guy syndrome many times before. The familiarity of these fella's made me immediately at ease with their presence. If nothing else, I knew they’d be amusing.
"Mind if we join you?" asked the big man with the squashed nose as he shook a cigarette loose from a pack of Lucky Strikes.
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