After settling down in the apartment, I hit the streets to find an agent. The well known agency of Wormser, Heldfond and Joseph scooped me up on the first day out. I wound up staying with that agency for fifteen years. Janette Walton, my agent, was like a second mom. I’ve always had a strong sense of loyalty to those who proved to be friends in my times of need.
Not knowing a soul in Los Angeles except Jim, I had no choice but to take Toni with me on my auditions. Desperate for a job, I’m sure the hunger showed through. At first, nothing happened. The competition was stiff. At every audition, fifty to a hundred models vied for the same job. They flocked to L.A., all hoping to land that big part. Most of them would do anything for a shot at the big time. I was just another pea in a very large pod.
My ego wasn’t hurting–my pocketbook was. I needed money. That was the bottom line. I knew it would be a matter of time before I’d get established, but could I make it for that long? I could survive more easily alone, but I had to feed Toni too. The pressure was on me, but I was determined.
After three weeks of pounding the pavement, I went on an audition for Fuji Film. The faces of the Japanese men lit up when I entered the room. I had this one. Toni sat quietly while they sifted through the pages of my portfolio.
“Hmm…You’ve done a lot of work for Kodak, I see.”
I didn’t even think about that.
“Uh, yeah…but that picture is at least ten years old, and that one is-”
“Ten years? How old are you, anyway?”
Put your foot in your mouth, White, then shove it down your throat, why don’t you!
“Oh, I’m only 22…I started young.”
And then out of the mouths of babes…
“Mommy,” Toni said, “you’re not 22, you’re 26!”
It’s hamburger tonight, kid.
After an awkward moment of silence, I turned three different shades of red, smiled and shrugged. The attention was turned toward this adorable little child and everyone burst into laughter.
“What is your name?” one of the men asked.
“And how old are you, Toni?”
“Six and three quarters.”
“Have you ever had your picture taken?”
“Lots of times.”
Maybe all is not lost–but pray she doesn’t say “Kodak.”
“Can we take a picture of you today?”
“Can I, Mommy?”
Do you want to eat, kid?
“Of course, honey.”
Hmm…beat out by a seven year old.
Toni charmed her way into their hearts–as well as their pockets. She was no stranger to the camera. She’s been only six days old when she’d done her first national ad for Kodak. With her platinum-blonde hair and dark brown eyes and brows, she was a photographer’s dream. Needless to say, Toni got the job. We were able to eat for the next two weeks from the proceeds. Toni made me splurge and buy her a steak when the check came in.
We celebrated in our empty apartment. We didn’t have a table, so we spread a sheet on the living room floor, lit a few candles, and toasted each other with wine glasses filled with milk. Then we ate as if it were our last earthly meal. Toni rolled with the punches well. We had each other, but, more importantly to Toni, she had me–totally to herself.