AMERICA’S NEXT TOP MODEL, OR MAYBE NOT
by Todd Hartley
I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I’ve actually done precious little modeling in my day. That may seem shocking, given my rugged good looks, ripped abs and flowing mane of thick, lustrous hair, but it’s true.
This is not to say that I’ve never been a model, mind you. I’m sure some of you remember me from my days as the face of the Sporting News preseason NFL television-viewing guide.
What’s that? You don’t remember? That’s a little surprising because I was kind of a big deal. I mean, “days” might be somewhat misleading, as it was more like a couple of hours, and “face” isn’t exactly honest, but still, I was in the Sporting News, one of America’s finest sports publications.
Here’s the story: Some years ago, my brother was working for a marketing firm whose biggest client was NFL Properties, the merchandising arm of the National Football League. NFL Properties had partnered with the Sporting News to produce a TV-viewing guide that was going to run as an insert in a late-summer issue of the magazine, and they needed an advertisement to hype it — hence my brother’s involvement.
The ad, as envisioned, required a model, and my brother, sensing my natural star quality, asked if I’d be interested. I said I would, and an oral agreement was struck.
The day of the photo shoot, I rose early, showered, shaved, brushed my teeth twice and spent the better part of an hour in front of the mirror making sure my hair was perfect. Then I dressed in my finest suit and drove to the studio, ready to dazzle the photographer with my je ne sais quoi.
When I arrived at the studio, the first things I noticed were dozens of cases of booze. As it turned out, the photographer’s biggest client was Sauza Tequila, and he’d just finished doing a photo shoot for them. The second thing I noticed was a full set of football gear, including a helmet, which apparently was meant for me.
I silently chided myself for making such a fuss over my coiffure, but I had no problem donning the pads. I played JV football in high school, after all. I could look the part of a pro football player reasonably well.
Once I was dressed, the photographer instructed me to sit in a chair and hold up an oversized version of the viewing guide in front of me as if I were reading it. This left only my hands, feet and calves and a tiny slice of the top of the helmet exposed. In short, it could have been anyone in the football getup behind the viewing guide, so I wasn’t exactly Fabio, but I was still a model.
Anyway, the ad ran with my picture, such as it was, and I was paid $100 and a bottle of Sauza Conmemorativo. I considered that a fair trade for two hours of my time.
The reason I bring up my modeling career is that just last week it was jolted back to life. My wife, an accomplished ski journalist, was commissioned to write an article on family activities at Squaw Valley for next winter’s issue of Squaw magazine, and the editors requested photos to accompany the piece. Thus, my wife, my son and I found ourselves at Squaw Valley for three days being trailed by two photographers who documented our every move.
My son, who was fortunate enough to get his mother’s looks, was the real star, hamming it up at every opportunity and drawing approving cries from the photographers. My wife is similarly photogenic and also proved excellent fodder for the cameras. I, on the other hand, was usually asked to step out of the frame so as not to ruin an otherwise lovely shot of mother and child.
I did manage to photobomb at least a few of the pictures, though, and if the photographers and editors aren’t especially diligent about weeding me out, I actually might make it into the magazine. So if you happen to be in Squaw Valley next winter, pick up a copy, and see if you can spot me.
I’ll be the guy in the background with the big nose and bad sunburn desperately trying to get himself noticed while his wife and kid hog all the glory. If you find me, let me know; I’d like to add the photo to my modeling portfolio, right alongside the shot of my hands and calves.
Todd Hartley once met Fabio (seriously!), and he was a hell of a nice guy.