The Beautiful and the Dead

About two hours and ten shots of espresso later the models emerge from the fashion van in all their splendor, only to be greeted by the three As, dressed to the nines and armed to the teeth.

Story by Teo J. Babini - Photos by Giovanni Gastel

It’s heroine chic Miami Beach sometime in the early nineties and there is only one large pink building to the far left of the sand reflected in the black Wayfarers of a little bright blonde boy in shorts who sits on the back of a bike. A man, probably his father albeit of a much darker complexion, comes out of Puerto Sagua wearing the high waisted, ponytailed, white tee uniform of the time with matching shades and hands the boy a little take out box containing a feast of Cuban croquettas de jamon y queso. When the boy grows up he’ll eat the very same meal at the very same restaurant in what will become a very different neighborhood adding hot sauce and a Presidente to appease his adult pallet, but that’s another story. The man sparks a Camel Light with a shiny Zippo before hopping on the bike.

Photo ©Giovanni Gastel

Inside this pink palace is a free roaming Iguana named Maud. Maud spends most of her days basking peacefully in the rays like the bronzed beach bods roller blading in bikinis on the boardwalk, but she occasionally seeks the company of tenants by way of their balconies. In this particular instance, she pays a visit to Anne, a shorter than your average Canadian model with black Irish features and an alien beauty. Maud likes to watch Anne play with little plastic figurines of her pre-historic cousins while tripping on high doses of expired ‘shrooms.

Anne: “There’s a dragon on our balcony again!”

Anya: “Is no dragon… Is like house fly in Siberia.”

Anya is a pale Slavic giant with a deep Soviet voice in nothing but a blue tee shirt. Her hands shake as she swigs from a big bottle of white rum, but her face registers little emotion while it sweats out her speed addiction into the black leather couch with chrome trim. It has been a day since her last salad and her chlamydia is acting up. Anne holds up one of her toys next to her reptilian visitor.

Anne: “It’s like a baby stegosaurus. Look at how pretty her eyelashes are.”

Anya prepares to volley another indifferent response in Anne’s direction when a cloud of cigarette smoke rolls into the apartment in the form of Anna, a rail thin, sunbaked, Italian madwoman with several shopping bags dangling by her knees. Anne and Anya watch in silence as she blows down “Scarface” lines to the point of pressurized explosion and then pops a Valium to mellow out. She completes this process three times before uttering her first words.

Anna: “Bitch! Fucking bitch! How many times have I told you bitches to get your shit together? Are you outside the mind?”

Anne takes a moment to process the philosophical implications of this last statement.

Photo ©Giovanni Gastel

Anna: “It’s those fucking Ford girls, I tell you. Blowing their way to the top, one cock at a time. Get dressed, ladies, we’re going out!”

The phone rings. Anna picks it up and screams an obscenity ridden Italian rant into the receiver. This would be alarming to the average person, but the girls know that this is just how she communicates. Anya appears from another room holding a .38 snub nose revolver and a Dirty Harry .357 Magnum.

Anya: “Ve go heels or flats?”

Anne angelically floats over and gently takes the Clint Eastwood special into her hand, caressing the side of her breast with the barrel with eyes closed almost orgasmic.

Anne: “I don’t wear flats.”

Photo ©Giovanni Gastel

She let’s out a long sensual sigh. Anna slams the phone down.

Anna: “That was the location scout. Let’s go, girls. It’s about time IWG took some new head shots.”

It’s an empty lot with a big white wall on the other side of town. The photographer is an import from France with a penchant for espresso that he drinks from a thermos tied to the tripod. He’s one of those smokers who just let the cigarette burn while it dangles from his lip, but never seems to actually inhale. The first assistant loads the camera and checks all the batteries of all the equipment every five minutes while the second assistant sort of jogs around the set looking very busy because he knows better than to sit down, the third assistant masturbates while crying in the bathroom of the fashion van because he’s been kicked off the set for wearing Bermudas.

Unaware of his presence is a gaggle of gals wearing silk robes in different stages of primping by the usual unit of fashion industry folk. Jenny, a red head from Montana, whose childhood past times included falconing and illegal gun smithing with her father and eight brothers, is being stripped down to her lingerie and redressed in some fifties inspired ensemble by a young, overzealous stylist and assistant to the fashion editor, a mysterious woman whose gaze alone instills fear in the heart of interns who flock from around the world.

Photo ©Giovanni Gastel

Stylist: “So, like, I’m imagining something geometric, you know, using these scarves in an unconventional way. What do you think? Too strong?”

The editor tugs at the dress, moving the portable steamer away from the clothing rack.

The Editor: “The shoes aren’t right. Try the green heels.”

Jenny: “All these colors feels like hunting season. My pa told me the day I skinned one he’d let me shoot…”

Yvonne: “Enough of the American gothic, darling, please. I’ve told you a hundred times, it’s unbecoming.”

Yvonne is very dark skinned with short hair and high cheekbones. She has a natural grace and elegance even in the most commonplace motions. The make-up artist, who wears a caftan he acquired on a recent trip to North Africa, paints cat eyes on her face. He talks incessantly trying to cover up his blind jealousy at not having received a page from his boyfriend for almost four hours.

Photo ©Giovanni Gastel

Make-Up Artist: “Totally, babe. Way provincial! Anyway, so we’re on a shoot in Tangier during Halloween, and so I totally improvised a ghost costume when we went out to dinner. Not gonna let a little travel get in the way of tradition. I really should have taken more pictures. I mean it was just sssooo funny.”

The final girl, Luiza, listens to samba on her Walkman with the headphones upside down so the hair stylist can work his magic. He is a small Asian man with tattoos and a large mustache who says nothing and communicates with his overdressed assistant exclusively in subtle gestures and the occasional oral grunt.

About two hours and ten shots of espresso later the models emerge from the fashion van in all their splendor, only to be greeted by the three As, dressed to the nines and armed to the teeth.

Yvonne: “What the hell are you IWG bitches doing here? This is our shoot.”

Anna: “You’ve taken jobs on our turf for the last time, sluts. Let’s show these broads how it’s done.”

Photo ©Giovanni Gastel

And with that, a shoot out ensues. Bullets fly in every direction like a John Woo movie with the Ford gang producing their own pistols from pocketbooks. The photographer, seemingly unfazed, snaps away like a regular war reporter who happened upon the O.K. Corral. Blood and mascara mark the cement as models and bystanders drop one by one. Luiza lies against a car crying red tears from numerous gunshot wounds. She is dying and the picture before her is a less wounded Yvonne, her beloved leader on her knees in front of a scary Carey looking Anne, who still maintains a sociopathic calm.

Yvonne: “Fuck, okay okay, let’s work something out here…”

Anne surveys the scene; her too best friends slumped over each other like some kind of mass grave. She locks eyes with Yvonne and cocks the hammer.

Yvonne: “Be reasonable now, be reasonable. There is a lot to gain if we both walk away from this.”

Anne steps toward a slightly shaking Yvonne, gun trained on her forehead.

Photo ©Giovanni Gastel

Yvonne: “(sigh) Whatever, bitch, just do it already.”

Yvonne spits in the face of the executioner. Anne paints the sidewalk with her brains. In a final breath, Luiza unleashes a entire clip from a discarded AK-47, tearing Anne to pieces, as well as, several cars.

When the dust settles, the photographer calls up to his second assistant, and only other survivor, who had the dumb luck of being stuck on a ladder while holes were blown in the white wall just below his feet.

Photographer: “Get these to the MAC, they go to print next week.”

The newspapers would say that the shooting was the result of a conflict between two street gangs over the cocaine trade in Little Haiti… But those in the industry know that all the dead that day were really just fashion victims.

6 Responses to “The Beautiful and the Dead”

  1. Dr B says:

    Amazing pictures!

  2. Gaya Holmes says:

    Stunning photography and writing !!!!

  3. filippo says:

    Great writing, I wish it was an extract from a book so that I could o buy it straight up…

    Damn good rythm to it.

  4. phil says:

    hell yeah…