Jimmy Stephans Stories - Photographer Tales

Small World Weirdness

Posted: 2023-04-11

To protect the innocent, and foolish, I'm changing names in this story.

Way back about 1990 I'm doing the model photo thing and just making a living however I could. Some stock photos sales, some magazine submissions, and some paper products, like a calendar with girls near show cars (pic below) that myself and the partners produced and sold, renting out the studio to others, and putting on "workshops" where amateurs could come point their camera at a pretty model or two.

This photo near the jet is from one of those workshops. Notice the guy shooting with an old school Polaroid!

This photo is the same two girls later that night at a local club for an "Autograph Party". NOTE: The sign says "Penthouse Pet", but that isn't accurate as the blond was only in one of the side books called "Newsstand Specials" and not the full magazine. And, yes, that is a 31 year old me in the yellow shirt watching over things and looking as goofy as I do to this day!

Moving on... because these pictures have little to do with today's story.

To get photographers to pay us for the "workshops" in these pre-website days we would advertise in normal paper magazines, such as Shutterbug or Popular Photography. One guy that came in for a workshop was named John and he came all the way to Colorado from North Carolina (1400 miles).

A few weeks later John calls - yes, calls on a telephone, not email or text, but a real voice call - about a girl from little old Kingsport, Tennessee that he felt would be awesome for the work I was doing. He described her as being much like the blond signing autographs (Leandra) and sent me a letter with her information and some photos. Yes, a letter, like in an envelope and some photos because it was 1990 and we didn't yet have wide access to email, scanners, and digital images.

Her name was "Tammy Langdon".

The letter included a form she had completed by hand. It stated 20 years old, something like 5'6" tall and perfect bikini measurements. In the pictures she looked very photogenic. Within a few days I called her to talk about getting her out to Denver for a shoot.

Back in those pre-internet days models posing without clothing was rare and hard to make a profit from as there wasn't a giant market outside of paper magazines. The plans with a girl like this would be to get her in town, shoot what could be one or two nudie layouts, but also bust ass doing bikini shots, model with car shots, and all sorts of other shots that would become stock photo inventory and might not sell for a year or two, if at all. It was a very speculative business at the time.

We had two things I would consider primary to being able to pay ourselves. (1) Car show / car magazine related stuff such as layouts in the magazines, and (2) nudie stuff sold to magazines such as Gallery, Genesis and Fox.

The first attempt to get her out to Colorado failed for reasons I can't recall. Then the second failed, and the third. Over and over again things would get in the way and it was always something on her end of the plan. Maybe she couldn't get time off work, maybe mom was sick and she couldn't leave, maybe sister had an emergency, and on like that for about a year!

Oddly, over that same span of months we spent a ton of time on the phone chatting about things other than the pretty girl picture business. I would say we became remote friends.

Eventually, I became convinced she was actually avoiding doing the very style of photo shoot she had been so positive about. When I finally put her on the spot by saying it was "now or never" she broke down and explained that she was really 26 years old and had a 3 year old kid. Many of the pictures I had been sent were 4-6 years old at the time.

I was Catfished... maybe the very first Catfish!

Clearly, there was the lie about age and the older photos, but the main reason keeping her from coming out was the baby. I was pretty pissed off. More so than a normal shoot cancellation because we had sort of become friends over the phone.

Fast forward all the way to 2007 when I get an online application to be a nudie model on TrueBabes from Brittany, a 19 year old girl in Bristol, Tennessee. She is reasonably cute, sounds cool on the phone, and we fly her down to Florida within a week or two.

When she arrives she looks worn out. Super tired. Its late afternoon and we get her checked into the hotel. She skips dinner to nap and be ready for the next day.

Shoot day I go to pick her up and she isn't answering the door. I look around the place thinking she may be outside or in the coffee shop, but she is nowhere to be found. Because the room is in the company name I go get a spare key. I try to open the door but the chain is across it. Calling the room, yelling in the door, calling or texting her phone - nothing works. I have no idea if she is alive in the room or not.

Maybe 30 minutes later I get the hotel people to bust the door open because I'm thinking it's a medical issue. We get inside and the girl is there asleep in the bed. She is 100% passed out asleep while I'm standing next to the bed and calling her name. She moves a little but doesn't open her eyes. Maybe five minutes later she is growling "leave me alone", so I do.

I guess she had consumed something that put her in the deep sleep and decide the photo shoot isn't happening, or at least not at 9:00am as it was planned. I leave a note for her and also a voicemail message on her phone.

Around 1:00pm she finally calls and I run back to get her. She explains that her rude, possessive boyfriend and she had argued all night before she came down because he didn't want her doing that style of work. She claimed she hadn't slept in 48 hours before arriving in Florida. I have no idea, all these years later, if that is true or if my theory of her consuming something is correct.

That afternoon back in 2007 we did our best to get some work done before her flight back home, but it was hard because the make-up girl and other helpers had gone home.

Maybe a month later she calls and wants to shoot again but I pass on the idea based on the previous experience.

Another few months go by and the studio phone is ringing with the name "Tammy Langdon" on the caller ID. I answer, and it's Brittany. She had forgotten her model password to the website and wanted to show her mom the photos.

Her mom? Meaning she was at her mom's house? Bristol, Tennessee, which is just down the road from Kingsport, Tennessee? "Tammy Langdon" on the Caller ID?

Yep, you got it - Brittany was the daughter of the very same "Tammy Langdon".

This, of course, means that the girl that messed up my photo shoot plans in 2007 is the same girl that messed with my photo shoot plans as a two or three year old way back in 1991.

The world is not near as big as we think it is.

Jimmy Stephans
Clearwater, Florida, USA
April 10, 2023