- PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
- BALD IS BEAUTIFUL : Cancer survivor Leslie Neely (she’s the bald one!) is surrounded by the models who donated their time and considerable talents to an American Cancer Society fundraiser that you sadly missed.
Naturally, breast cancer survivor and model Leslie Neely is here. I could see over her shoulder a stunning black-and-white photo of her taken by featured artist Jimmy de. Her plump but now scarred milky white breast dangles like a gift below her shining bald head and naked shoulders.
“It’s kind of interesting,” she confides. “I used to be a very shy person. With breast cancer, your boob becomes public property. People—technicians, doctors, radiologists—are always feeling ’em up. I decided if showing my boobs could inspire others, it’s worth it. I joke that my new pickup line is, ‘Hey, baby, wanna see my scars?’”
I glance to my left and see a very sweet pair of ta-tas covered by some tasseled black pasties. I look up and the person to whom they belong is making eye contact. Caught!
“Um, hi, I work for New Times,” I stammer. “So, um, will it be embarrassing having people leering at your boobs all night?” I ask the tall, raven-haired beauty whose name I learn is Nicole.
“It’s for a good cause,” she says, adding, “My brother-in-law’s mother is a cancer survivor.”
I sidle over to the expansive catered spread to get a glass of donated J. Paul Rosilez wine—delicious!—and introduce myself to the pourer, who happens to be Michelle Adel Carroll of It’s A Wrap catering, who donated all the food—transcendent puff pastries, caprese-on-a-stick, and that lamb stew I’m planning on marrying. It’s a lot of food to give away, even for a double mastectomy breast cancer survivor.
“It is,” she admits, radiating spunky, can-do spirit. “It’s a little of everything we do.”
“So, are you cured?” I blurt; I have no filter.
“I’m 100 percent right now, but I never take anything for granted,” she says.
Breast cancer survivors are a feisty and upbeat bunch, I think. I like them. They don’t give a shit about the little things anymore. They feel free, bold, open; they lost a part of their bodies, but they gained soul. I could see why Jimmy de was interested in photographing Leslie, who absolutely glowed with life even though it had almost been taken from her. Jimmy’s work always features gorgeous young girls in highly orchestrated cheesecake milieus.
As for Jimmy de, he looks like he combs his hair with buttered toast. His sideburns swoop down his face like Olympic ski jumps. He has pierced ears. He dresses all in black. In short, he looks like a badass. It’s OK to hate him. He gets to hang out with stunning, mostly naked babes. I hate him. Let’s hate him together! Except one problem! He’s a super nice guy.
A saucy young girl walks by in clothing so skimpy I want to cover her in the paper napkin I’m using to dab lamb stew from my goatee.
“How do you keep from perving on your models?” I exclaim (no filter, dammit!).
“I’ve known her since she was in diapers,” says Jimmy. “They’re like my kids.”
“Then why do you let your kids walk around in such states of undress?”
“Because they’d walk around in less if I let them,” he quips, intensifying my deep, relentless hatred of him.
But seriously, folks, the man’s a saint, donating his photographs to the cause. Why does he do it?
“Everybody I asked to do something for this event—every one of them—graciously jumped in,” he says, glowing a little. “I can’t tell you the sense of pride … you doubt yourself, but then people you know and people you don’t know just come forward and give. They come through.”
“Seriously, Jimmy, this is a lot of expense—all these prints! Why’d you really do it?” I ask.
“That’s my friend right there,” he says, and, honestly, he starts to tear up as he points at Leslie Neely. “And I don’t want to lose anyone else.”
Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.