NEW YORK model Greg Fortune was filming a commercial with director Harold Becker, who remarked that the model had good hands.
"And you have good feet," snapped Fortune.
Fortune was kidding, Becker wasn't. In fact since then, Fortune has become the foremost male hand model in the business.He won't say how much he makes annually, but Fortune's hands are the focus of most of the table top demonstrations both on print and television for Chivas Regal scotch, Revlon cosmetics, Polaroid Land cameras, Taster's Choice coffee and at least a half-dozen beers.
He is one of a group of specialty models, admired and hired for their hands, feet, ears, busts, thighs, whatever. And they are paid at least as much (and in the case of underwear ads more still) than the going rate for models who are pictured more fully in ads and commercials.
"Why not?" asks top model agency head Eileen Ford. "It is the model you hire, not the appendage." Ford estimates that specialty models usually make between $75,000 and $80,000 annually in New York. And while it may not be as much as the most popular general models earn, "it beats babysitting."
Anne Schwab, who runs the Model Store, a Washington-based agency, says she has had more requests for specialty models recently, specifically to hold calculators or books in ads, ears for earrings and feet for shoes. She checks out models for these special good looks -- small hands so that the held item looks bigger, small feet with no bunions or callouses, well-shaped ears "that don't look like they might take off," she says.
Julie Marcellino, fashion stylist at Hecht's, who books models for ads, says that she has been in the dressing room with models so much she checks for "nice tight legs, trim thighs that aren't too muscular, tight, round cute derriers and a trim torso without thinking about it."
Bra models are always 34B or they won't fill out the garment and there is seldom a problem finding this size. What is more difficult, says Marcellino, is finding a lingerie model with small thighs, yet still a shapely waist.
Christian Seyller, an army sergeant at Walter Reed who does underwear modeling for Hecht's says he often doesn't recognize himself when the ad appears. A chaplain's assistant who once thought of going into the ministry (but now only wants to get out of the service as quickly as possible) says he's only done the Hecht's underwear ads two times, but has done commercial bathing suit shots for a hotel advertisement.
"Women like small behinds (on men) in photos," says Seyller. "I don't know what that means," he says, but believes that is why he has been chosen for this type of modeling.
He keeps himself on no particular program to hold on to his 30-inch waistline. In fact, since modeling he has had to give up running. He lost too much weight.
Sandra Falconer has a strict regimen for keeping her hands in order for modeling. She started creaming her hands at age 8 and now treats them with Crisco or vegetable oil each night before she goes to bed with gloves on.
A classified sales assistant at Legal Times, Falconer said it was model agency head Schwab who first noticed the potential for her hands.
Falconer remembers that her grandmother had pretty hands. In college Falconer would "down great gobs of Jell-O" and it kept her nails looking great, she says. Then she read a nutrition book saying that gelatin didn't help any. Now she thinks it is her penchant for Brussels sprouts, raisins and fish that helps. No nutrition expert has testified to it, but she finds that it helps her.
She doesn't limit activities to protect her nails. She works out three nights weekly at a local spa and bangs away on an old typewriter at home. But when she does break a nail, which is rare, she passes on all synthetic nail formulas and lets her own nail grow back naturally. The one time she was scheduled to use her left hand in a print ad and she broke a nail before the shooting, the ad agency resketched the layout so that her right hand could be used.
Janice Bird, a Washington model with a foot specialty, is rarely out of her running shoes. Even as a nuclear medicine technician at the National Institute of Health. It is not only because they are comfortable, but because they never injure her feet. No bunions. No callouses, not even a red mark, ensuring the proper health for the most photographed corner of her anatomy in ads for Woodies and Hecht's.
She gives herself a weekly pedicure and always keeps her toenails polished in a shade close to her skin tone. "I never want to call particular attention to my feet with bright colors," she says.
Margaret Connelly moisturizes her ears regularly, along with the rest of her face, just in case her ear is the focus of a photograph. She is paid the same if they photograph her ear or the whole body and she says that sometimes a very specific kind of modeling is more difficult than having pictures taken of the whole person. "Sometimes you have to hold yourself in a particular position to get the right angle on the ear or the hand and it can give you a cramp."
Admittedly, she prefers it when the photographer uses her whole face. "Everyone is a ham," she says. "Everyone wants to get their face, their whole face in the picture."
When part of her face shows in bra ads, Kimberly Wood has no trouble recognizing herself. Sometimes she can tell just from her long torso, thin waist proportions. The same moisturizer she uses on her hands, she applies all over her body.
She says she is always "up" for these jobs. There's usually more than one model used in bra and panty advertisements, which makes her more comfortable. And the double rate ($120) is comforting as well.
Twelve years ago Greg Fortune quit his job as vice president of a steel company. He was bored.He got a job singing in a West Coast night club. He quit that. "While all my friends were having dinner, I was working," he said. He quit his job in summer stock for the same reason.
He resented director Harold Becker's suggestion that he try hand modeling until he tried it and found it was a natural talent. He has "God-given cosmetically good hands, for starters," he says.
"I don't drink and I don't shake," says Fortune. "And I have the knack of pouring beer to just the right place in the glass." He is currently pouring beer on television for Schaeffer, Miller's Lite, Kirin and Lowenbrau. And showing a peach for Revlon. He calls himself "an actor with hands" and says that because he understands camera angles, lighting and timing, he saves television commercial makers time and money.
He won't say how much money he makes, "Only that I eat regularly, which not everyone can say in this business."
He does nothing to take care of his hands "except to be sure that I never get a manicurist and never clip anything on my hands." And if he cuts himself, there is makeup to obscure that, so he doesn't restrict his activities.
Currently, he is doing magic tricks for a Taster's Choice coffee commercial and carving turkeys for another client.
"I seem to know just where to cut to make the turkey juices flow," says Fortune. "It takes some guys 30 to 40 turkeys to get a commercial done. I can do it with just six turkeys," he says.
That not only saves the company money. But think of the turkeys.