It started out as a pretty normal call. “We’re doing an ad for the new FIAT 500 Abarth Cabrio and there’s a shot of the car and, oh yeah, another shot of a Topless Supermodel. Would you be interested?”, asked Andy Coulston, the art director from The Richards Group. Yeah I know, we’ve all heard that a million times, but I thought, “The FIAT is a pretty wicked little car, it might make a great shot – I hope the car is black” so I said “Sure Andy, I think we can do that.” And then Andy made it really interesting, “Oh yeah, we want a scorpion in the shot”. Excellent. “What, like on the steering wheel, driving the car, or on the dash, or hangin’ out across the Abarth scorpion logo?!” “All that would be cool” Andy said, “but I want it crawling on the Topless Supermodel’s hip?” “Sure, OK, that’ll work too – but no scorpion on the car?” I said. Andy replied with an understanding “Nope.”

When I show up on set, the car is already there – yes, black, and the Scorpion-Handler is also there. She had all kinds of scorpions in jars and little cages. Brown ones, black ones, and even an albino white one, all just chillin’, scorpion style. “What do they eat? Do they fight a lot? Can I hold one?” I had a million questions, but we had to get our shots. Catrinel, our Topless-Supermodel was in makeup when we discussed the shoot and introduced her to the Scorpion-Handler (from, appropriately enough, Reptile Rentals) who was holding a rather spunky scorpion. Catrinel didn’t seem warm and fuzzy toward her costar, but no matter, everything was ready. The lights were in place, Mitzi Spallas-Hair-and-Makeup person and Jen Pinkston-Stylist were at the ready and, of course, the sand was perfectly manicured. I showed Catrinel where she needed to be on the set and she nestled into place, just like she’d been to the beach before. Uncanny. Everyone’s eyes were riveted and I could hear the chatter from the crew. “Did you see how easily the top goes down?, Really nice rims, too. I understand she’s fast and sounds amazing.” I had to interrupt “Hey, I’m up here – working on this shot right now – leave the car alone. Focus! Focus!”

Cue the scorpion. Brown? Black? Stinger capped or bare? Decisions, decisions, decisions. We went with the black scorpion and uncapped stinger. Catrinel was not terribly amused at our choices (maybe she preferred brown scorpions over black) but the shots were looking just as we envisioned. Catrinel looking at the scorpion like a beloved cuddly pet, a “familiar” if you will, self satisfied with her command over the wicked little creature. We were shooting away, the scorpion was crawling around, whipping it’s tail everywhere as scorpions will. I felt like we already got our shot but wanted to make sure we were covered, so I kept shooting. Over time Catrinel, while very professional, seemed to be losing her “excitement”. In a number of the shots, that sense of calm and pet-like control of the scorpion just wasn’t there in her eyes. I mean, what’s up? It’s not everyday you get to play with a predatory arthropod. Awesome, right?

I asked our Scorpion-Handler if the glycerin we sprayed on Catrinel might be bothering the scorpion. She replied with a short “we’ll see”. Somehow that was not the answer Catrinel was looking for. I’m not sure if it was fear I was sensing, or maybe she was just getting bored. After all, just the day before, they shot the TV ad with the scorpion crawling up Catrinel-soon-to-be-Topless-Supermodel’s back (ya gotta see the ad…). I gave the Scorpion Handler a “whats’ up?” look and she said that “during the TV, Catrinel couldn’t actually see the scorpion because it was on her back. Now she has to watch it crawl all over her hip. Maybe that’s a problem?” Catrinel’s eye’s lit up as if to say “Bingo” (or whatever that is in Italian). So I asked her, “Are you having a problem with the scorpion today? Does it bother you to see the scorpion crawling on your bare hip?” She paused in that oh so Topless-Supermodel way and said, in quite clear English, “I don’t want to die.”

And that, my friends, would be a wrap.