By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
"No," he responds. "She actually died four years ago."
Before I can awkwardly swallow my tongue, he adds. "It's a tribute to her."
I start to feel sentimental and gushy, but moments later the mood lightens when we start talking about my shoes. They're white slingbacks, a style I've never worn. I put them on and walk around Moskal's rack of clothes. With each step, my heel smacks up and down. I ask Moskal if this is normal for slingback shoes.
"Yeah, they'll do that a little, I think," he says staring intently at my foot. His face breaks out in a smile. "Oh wait, how would I know? I've never worn slingbacks before!"
We laugh over this for a moment, until it hits me that I'm going to be wearing a pair of strange smacking shoes on a runway in front of hundreds of people. My nerves kick in.
Back at the Labrador table, I watch Barrett hammer a snap on a lime green shirt. He looks up at me with a wide smile and pretends to bash himself on the head. "I'm done!" he cries.
I spend the next 20 minutes quietly panicking in a chair. My eyes are open and my mouth is half smiling, but inside, I'm imagining my ankles shattering the moment I step on the runway. I stare at my choreography notes and wipe sweat beads from my forehead.
"Labrador, line up!"
We jump as if the floor has been electrified and form a line: five men, five women, sun burnt and catwalk-ready. The other models watch with wide eyes as we saunter down the metal stairs in the back of the VIP room. I practice my walk through the underbelly of First Avenue: sashaying past the fenced-off liquor closet, strutting around the furnace, gliding past a trio of employees sneaking indoor cigarettes.
We emerge through a door near the coat check window, next to a line of concertgoers clutching jackets and winterwear. They gaze at us as we file by, witnesses to a high-fashion freakshow.
A black tarp dangles from the ceiling, preventing the rest of the audience from glimpsing the runway lineup. I watch Dance Band set up equipment behind a giant screen that separates the stage from the runway. After a few minutes, the screen lifts and they open with crashing chords, jolting the audience to life. The show has officially begun.
At the start of Dance Band's second song, Annie Larson's models prance out onto the catwalk wearing brightly colored jumpers and wielding jump ropes. I lean into Molly, one of the other models, and express my relief that we aren't doing any prop antics onstage. "I'd whip somebody in the face with that thing!"
After Annie Larson's set, Dance Band begins their third song. The choreographer motions for the first Labrador girl to take the stage. She walks, a male model joins her, and they exit. It's my turn.
"Go," the choreographer whispers.
I climb up four wobbly metal stairs and reach the runway. The lights are so intense I worry that my faux-sunburn could turn real. To my right, Dance Band slams in my ears, bouncing around in skintight bodysuits. I throw my chin up, march six feet to the platform, and hit my first pose. Nathan, a male model, enters the runway and walks to the end. He poses, turns on his heels, and heads my way. I step off the platform and strut down the catwalk, taking my turn in the limelight. It feels powerful, holding the attention of the entire nightclub.
We line up again behind the black tarp and walk the runway once more with Johanneson trailing behind us. The crowd hoots and hollers approvingly.
As soon as my feet hit the floor, I race upstairs to George Moskal's station. I spot a hanger with my name on it and throw off my clothes. Moskal has me wearing a grey jersey tee and gold cowl skirt that I tried on for a fitting two weeks ago. I change hurriedly and flop into a chair in front of Lindsay, Moskal's hair stylist. She rats the curls that I wore for Labrador and wraps a gold scarf around my head.
Someone yells, "Five minutes!" and I start to panic. What about my makeup? Di, my makeup artists, slaps some eyeshadow on my lids, slicks on a bit of liner, and sends me on my way. "What about lipstick?" I ask.
"You're good," she says. "Go!"
I race down the stairs and fall into line with the other George Moskal models. We're marching to the tunes of Black Blondie: slow, sexy, and sultry. I feel like a seductress as I climb onstage and glide across the runway. My nerves have calmed since the Labrador set; I feel as though I'm getting the hang of this walking thing. I strike my poses, turn on my heel, and come to the sudden realization that I don't know what to do. Am I supposed to switch places with the girl on the platform? Wasn't she supposed to stay on the end and I take the platform? Oh, man. We screwed up.