Never Cover for a Con Man

In the early ’80s, I got a fake job working for a fake person — and exposed his house of lies

Vivian McInerny
Human Parts

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Photo: Ken Chernus/Getty Images

II was a slasher. That’s how I’d describe my early 1980s self, when I was cute and young and scrambling to make a life. I was an aspiring journalist-slash-student-slash-model-slash-waitress. The more slashes, the more chance I had of eking out a living.

I’d modeled in retail ads, fashion shows, and a couple of decent-paying television commercials. So when my agent offered me a part as an executive at business downtown, no audition required, I assumed she meant for a commercial or corporate film. Turned out, the client actually wanted actors to pose as office workers to impress his clients. It sounded shady. I declined. My agent said I was perfect for the job. (I was available and owned a suit which was the extent of my perfection.) Had she mentioned it paid well? She had. She offered me more money. This was highly unusual. Client fees were negotiated upfront, so I assumed any extra money would be coming out of her own pocket. Still, I declined. At that point, she reminded me of high-paying jobs she helped me land in the past, and suggested more would come my way in the future, if only I’d help her out.

Back then, half my annual income came through this agent. Granted, I was earning just above the…

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Vivian McInerny
Human Parts

Career journalist, essayist, fiction writer, and life-long spirit-quester.