[Ed. note: This article was originally published on May 8, 1995.]
There was just the slightest stir as “Gregory Roque,” the conspiracy filmmaker, slipped into Bowery Bar on a recent Friday night. The auteur of such controversial films as G.R.F. (Gerald Rudolph Ford) and The Monkees, Mr. Roque was wearing a tatty tweed jacket and keeping his head down. Surrounding him was a swarm of six young women, all new models with a well-known modeling agency. All of the girls were under 21 (two were as young as 16), and most of them had never seen Mr. Roque’s films and, frankly, couldn’t have cared less.
Functioning like two small tugboats in keeping the swarm moving and intact were the modelizers, Jack and Ben—two self-employed investors in their early 30’s, men of nondescript features, save for the buckteeth of one, and the stylish spiky haircut of the other.
Mr. Roque sat in a banquette, flanked by his beauties, while the two young men sat in the aisle chairs, as if to ward off any unwelcome intruders who might try to talk to Mr. Roque or, or even worse, steal one of the girls.
Mr. Roque would lean toward one or another girl, engaging in snippets of conversation. The young men were lively. But it wasn’t quite as charming as it appeared. For one thing, if you looked closely at the girls, you could see the boredom pulling down their features like old age. They had nothing to say to Mr. Roque, and even less to say to each other. But everyone at the table had a job to do and they were doing it. So the group sat and sat. Looking glamorous. After a while, they went to the Tunnel in Mr. Roque’s limousine, where Mr. Roque danced dispiritedly with one of the girls and then realized he was bored up to his eyeteeth and went home alone. The girls stayed for awhile and took drugs, and then Jack, who had the spiky haircut, grabbed one of the girls and said, “You stupid slut,” and she went home with him.
That sort of scenario is acted out just about every night in New York, in restaurants and clubs. There, one invariably finds the beautiful young models who flock to New York like birds, and their attendants, men like Jack and Ben, who practically make a profession of wining and dining them and, with varying degrees of success, seducing them. Meet the modelizers.
Modelizers are a particular breed. They’re a step beyond womanizers, who will sleep with just about anything in a skirt. Modelizers inhabit a sort of parallel universe, with its own planets (Nobu, Bowery Bar, Tabac, Flowers, Tunnel, Expo, Metropolis) and satellites (the various apartments, many near Union Square, which the big modeling agencies rent for the models) and goddesses (Linda, Naomi, Christy, Elle, Bridget).
Not any man can become a modelizer. “To get models, you have to be rich, really good-looking and/or in the arts,” says Barkley, 25. He’s an up-and-coming artist, and he has a face like a Botticelli angel, framed by a blond pageboy haircut. He’s sitting in his junior loft in SoHo, which is paid for by his parents, as are all the rest of his expenses, his father being a coat-hanger magnate in Minneapolis. That’s good for Barkley, because being a modelizer isn’t cheap—there are drinks at clubs, dinners, cab expenses from one club to another. It also takes time—lots of time. Barkley’s parents think he’s painting, but he’s too busy spending his days organizing his nights with models.
He’s pacing around his loft in leather jeans, shirtless. His hair is just-washed. “You’ve got to treat them just like regular girls,” he says. Then he lights up a cigarette and says, “You’ve got to be able to roll into a place and go right up to the hottest girl there, otherwise, you’re finished. It’s like being around dogs, you’ve got to show no fear.”
The phone rings. Hannah from Amsterdam. Barkley puts her on the speaker. She’s lonely and she’s stoned. “I miss you baby,” she moans. “If you were here right now…Aaaaah.”
“See?” Barkley says.
“There are two kinds of modelizers—those who are closing the deal, and those who aren’t,” says Coerte Felske, author of The Shallow Man, an upcoming novel about a man who chases models.