In my experience, the flight between New York and Los Angeles has always been fraught with interesting characters. I once had the opportunity of sitting six bodies away from Catherine Keener, whom I identified first by her booming alcoholic witch cackle of a laugh. Needless to say, I felt very honored to be in the same vessel with such a talented actress. That and having a celebrity on a plane usually makes me feel more at ease with the flight, as I would like to believe that God would not strike down an aircraft carrying that variety of superior human. Celebrities die in private planes, not a Jet Blue Airbus.
More often, though, I am surrounded by people that God would gladly take down during Freak Accident Quota Deadline, weather permitting and myself included. Back in 2002, I got trapped in between a drafty window and an young vaguely Indian man who introduced himself as Anand Jon. I am tirelessly wary of people who introduce themselves to you using both their first and last name. These are people who want to establish “Names” for themselves. These are people who want you to remember them down the road. These are people desperately attempting to prematurely stake out a legacy for themselves or are sociopaths who believe they’ve already done so. These people are douche bags. Apparently Anand Jon does double duty, also taking some time out of his busy schedule being a lame ass to design clothes.
Quickly into the flight, Anand Jon puts his press kit in my lap. At this point in my life I was a first year Communications student who got drunk on Long Island Iced Teas because it was economical. I bought burnt orange Jones New York sweaters from Century 21. The closest thing I had come to regular perusal of a fashion magazine were the issues of Seventeen I subscribed to back in middle school where I learned to mash avocado and mayonnaise together as a remedy for dull hair. I had no idea what a press kit was or what designers were cool. Nothing. I was delightfully immune to the whole machine; as immune as someone who had grown up in South Jersey.
So when the black binder of magazine clippings and badly written articles gets passed my way I did not know that I should have pretended I didn’t speak English and ask him to kindly leave me alone in the universal language of physical violence. Nor do I laugh in his face and tell him he’s an attention grubbing egomaniac and I’m just a college student who really doesn’t care about his clothing line. Instead, I politely flip through page by page while he breathes over me, superfluously pointing out which pictures were of him with Paris Hilton.
Despite being an age when I was not so fashionable, I recognized that these bedazzled, Bollywood-inspired hankerchief dresses were not fashion. Wet Seal wouldn’t even sell this stuff. But I smiled and placated, said “Wow…” a few times. And eventually the flight was over.
Aside from the irritation I developed like a light rash from the five hours I spent being a captive audience for the equivalent of an Amway salesperson, I also honed in on something else. This guy was creepy. The creep seeped out of his pores and over his seat and into my seat. This was before I really developed a radar for this kind of thing. But humans are animals and the “Fight or Flight” instinct is alive and well. I surmise to guess that the only thing stopping Mr. Jon from touching me inappropriately was the plane full of bothersome witnesses.
A few years later I get a casting to shoot for his clothing line. The address is on Maple Street, a residential area. I realize it is his apartment when I park my car. This is something that happens often in this industry and goes against all common sense and rules of safety that your mother teaches you when you’re in kindergarten. Hold hands when crossing the street, don’t eat candy you find on the bathroom floor, when a strange man asks you to come into his car/house/pants you run away screaming “Fire! Fire! Fire!” A few months into modeling I had to put all of this training behind me for the sake of actually booking work. Although I do admit that in the beginning I would say a little prayer and hope that this wasn’t the last casting I would ever go on.
When I got inside, there were a few other girls trying on jeans. He was in the living room taking pictures with a digital camera. There was no music. There were no sounds. Just the eerie quiet that usually signifies ill intentions or judgment (most often it’s just judgment). When he didn’t recognize me I decided not to offer our shared plane trip as a proverbial olive branch. He pointed to the bathroom and told me to try on a pair of jeans on the counter. There was another girl in the bathroom. She was quiet as she pulled on her pants.
A sneaking suspicion crept over me that it would be reasonable to think that he had cameras hidden in between towels and toilet paper rolls and that this casting was only a ruse to acquire more footage for his personal perv collection. “At least I’m not getting raped outright,” I think reassuringly.
I leave the casting and like hundreds of times before, I don’t book the job. This time I really didn’t care. I do, however, take interest when three months later I hear that Anand Jon has been arrested for the sexual abuse of minors and young women, some models. Apparently instinct isn’t as sharp in some people and for this I am terribly sorry.
When I Google Anand Jon, a website comes up asking to support him in the egregious injustice he faces. There is a quote from Ghandi and a picture of him looking like a doe-eyed, innocent angel. Even facing life in prison, this guy is a completely ridiculous tool.