Painter Pants A body-painting session leads to one sportswriter's brush with greatness

February 13, 2004

La-z-boy endurance tester. Ferrari reviewer. Ray Charles's ironing
lady.

Those are some of the sweetest jobs in the world, but they are
oil-well-fire capper compared with my job this weekend:
painted-on-swimsuit assistant.

Hey, you take the assignments they give you. What are you gonna
do, file a grievance?

There are four of us in this villa in the Florida Keys assisting
Joanne Gair, who will paint swimsuits on five naked, wriggling
canvases. Life is very good.

Day 1: I am not allowed anywhere near a brush. I am Broom Boy. I
am Empty the Empty Trash Can Guy. I try to look busy, whistle a
lot and catch good mirror angles. You learn the Rule right away:
Keep meaningful eye contact going with the model's feet or else.
Like you could do that?

"Dude, your eyes are gonna get you tossed," whispers Richard at
the paint table. "We gotta get you a pair of training
sunglasses."

Richard is a slave to his work. Poor bastard. He forces himself
to focus, hour after hour, on painting supermodels' butts and
breasts. At one point he is doing a particularly tricky section
of buck-naked Marisa Miller, who is just slightly more gorgeous
than a winning Powerball ticket, when she pulls his chin up and
says, "Uh, maybe this is a little late to ask, but you're gay,
right?"

Richard's eyebrows slide up his face and he squeals, "Oh, please,
girl! My boyfriend is going to be pissed!"

Later I'll say, "You're not gay, right?"

He shrugs and whispers, "Nah, I'm straight. But from here on in
it's gay all day, O.K.?"

Please, girl!

Day 2: My eyes attempt to stick to the general vicinity of their
sockets as Jessica White, who is just slightly sexier than twins
in syrup, gets the best-fitting suit of her life. Body painting
is exhausting work, not just for the boss and the assistants but
for the model, too, since she must stand eight hours while being
shaved, airbrushed, painted, touched-up, rubbed down, sponged,
grease-penciled, decaled, Sharpied and blow-dried. One model
likened it to getting a pap smear and a tattoo at the same time.

Day 3: You could not imagine in 1,000 lifetimes that working
around naked supermodels could get tedious, but it does--for the
rest of the crew. It does not for Broom Boy. In fact, the peak of
my career arrives as we create a swimsuit on 25-year-old Melissa
Keller, who is so beautiful she could make a corpse sit up and
tip his hat.

"Strip her and put on nude," Joanne tells me.

Yes! Cool! What? Strip her? She's already stripped! Put on nude?
How much more nude could she be? She's as nude as a newborn calf!
She's nuder than Eve in a sauna! What do they want me to do,
remove her skin? But do I make these protests aloud? No, I drag
Richard by the elbow to a corner of the room, where he whispers
that I'm supposed to remove Melissa's old toe and fingernail
polish and put on the color nude, while they continue to fill her
nooks and fanny.

Why do I get all the lousy jobs?

It is a little kinky to hold a nude woman's hand as she reads
Vogue. It is downright J. Edgar Hoover-ish to blow on a nude
woman's little piggy as she talks on her cell to her boyfriend.
Perhaps the nude woman wonders why a five-minute job is taking 45
and includes painting parts of her knuckles, but she doesn't say
a word. This might be because she hardly knows I exist.

When I'm finally done, she does something which shall bond the
two of us forevermore. She looks at me and says, "Hold your hand
out." I do. Because she can't move while being painted, she spits
her gum into my palm. It's on eBay as we speak.

When she is finally perfect, we fling open the door of the villa
and present her to the waiting photo crew, as though she is a
debutante at a nude coming out party. Ladies and gentlemen,
wearing a suit by Benjamin Moore, young Melissa Keller!

My 16-year-old son, Jake, is out there. His jaw drops to his
sternum.

I hand him my training sunglasses.

COLOR PHOTO: JENNIFER KAPLAN

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)