By Lolo Anderson
There is a rugged steep ridge running down to a point of switchback of the Noyo River. To the west of this high ridge, you overlooked the Noyo fishing village below. To the East was a steep tree and fern covered drop off back down to the river. The river made a 180 turn around this point where the ridge ended at the Noyo river.
At the point of this ridge there was a kind of bed and breakfast hotel/restaurant. It was called the Casa Del Noyo. It was owned and being operated by the wife of my mother’s cousin. Yes, I don’t remember any names. Point here is that Casa Del Noyo was owned and being operated by my relatives at the time.
Things were going south for me and my wife of 15 years at this time. We had come to an agreement to separate for one year before filing for a divorce. I was looking for a place for me and my 14-year-old son could move into for a year. My mother knew everybody in town, so I asked her to ask around. She called back to tell me to call your aunt at Casa Del Noyo.
I leased the house right next to Casa Del Noyo for a year. It was a modern style house hanging over the steep east side of the ridge. It was the perfect bachelor pad in a perfect location. It was a very steep driveway down from the street on top of the ridge. A carport at the end with the main entrance to the house. Step into a nice modern stainless steel kitchen with a granite top island.
It was like one giant room all open from kitchen to dining area to main large front room. As you walked into the front door the entire back wall was all glass out to a big redwood deck. The wall to the left was a giant granite fireplace. Step onto the deck and you were in the middle of the deep forest. Full canopy of tall Fir and redwood trees. Fern covered steep ground down to the river. The deck was awesome. How many great shots of so many teenage beautiful girls out on that deck.
My son was so happy with his tiny bedroom upstairs in the attic. He had a funky ladder/stair to get up to his mattress on the floor. The stereo and speakers and boxes of his clothes. Posters of models on his walls.
My brother, Tony was graduating from High school that year. Now Tony’s claim to fame is the class of 80 had 80 keggers. Let’s just say the class of 1980 knew how to party. Tony asked if I could take some senior portraits for some of his friends. He said our cousin, Kari is graduating and she would be a good one to start with. It was clear that Tony was very proud of his cute cousin. I know they were very good friends.
I do not remember who call who but we talked on the phone. I told her to bring 3 or 4 changes of outfits and make-up. Bring your mom if you want, my studio is in my house. Keri’s mother, Phyllis is my cousin on the McCullough side of my mom’s family. She was just a year or two ahead of me in high school. This was her oldest daughter and she knew all about me. Knowing all that she still trusted me enough to let her crazy beautiful sexy daughter come to my playboy pad for “senior photos”.
Kari was one of those natural models. She was so fresh and young full of energy. I remember her golden light brown hair and soft blue eyes. Such a pretty face and perfect little body. Kari had more than just all the physical assets to be a super model. She had the sweet and light hearted personality that made photographing her so pleasant and fun. The crazy part was I was not the only one enjoying this so much. Kari just loved to be photographed and it showed.
Kari showed up on time and brought a girlfriend along to help her with her make-up and hair. I had photographed many beautiful girls before but nothing close to what I was about to experience. I had the studio lights and white back ground all set up in the front room studio. Kari spread all her outfits on the bed in your bedroom and you talked about each outfit and what color backgrounds for each. Then I took her and her girlfriend into the bathroom and we talked about make-up and hair for each of the three outfits we decided to shoot.
The two girls laughed and smoked pot while they put on her make-up in the bathroom. I asked her friend to put on some of Kari’s favorite music on the stereo sitting on the giant fireplace. Kari came out of the bedroom wearing a tight little cut-off Daisy Mae jean and a tight tube top. She stepped on the white background with her bare feet and started to dance to her favorite song. All I had to do was just take pictures of this beautiful girl dancing in her own little world. She started looking into the camera like she was looking at her imaginary lover. Her eyes seem to reach right through the viewfinder right into mine. I knew I was witnessing something special with this little girl. It was like she had been practicing since she was a little girl how to pose for the camera.
I forget just how many outfits she changed into that first night. I am sure there more that the 3 changes we first talked about. Each time she changed clothes she came of the bedroom a different little person. She had on her prom dress to a mind blowing little yellow bikini. I re-arranged the studio and filled the set with pillows and stuffed animals. Kari came of the bedroom in her night gown dressed for bed. She was very sensual and sexy but all the shots she would be proud to show her granddaughters.
By this time, she was getting so comfortable with you taking her picture. It was like you and your camera did not exist. It was just the loud music on the stereo and she was in her own little world. She give you one great pose and expressions after the other. She moved form pose to the next without direction. Tossing her hair and looking directly into the camera as the strobe lights flashed back lighting her light golden hair.
I thought the actual photo session would be the highlight of the experience. Later I asked Kari to come back and help me select the shots to be proofed. I had taken so many frames that I could not afford to have them all proofed. My darkroom was back at my wife’s house and I had to send out for contract proofs. I was sure she was high again but she was so much fun to be around. We laughed and enjoyed looking through the magnifying loop at the negatives all scattered over the light table.
No question we had to set-up another shooting as soon as possible. The next shoot was all out doors with natural light. Whatever it was, it carried over to the wonderful shots out on the redwood deck. The green foliage and trees in the background with just the right light to make her golden hair glow against the dark background. Her soft blue eyes were even more fantastic. The ambient soft light was just enough to make her pupils small to make the blue of her eyes just pop out at the camera.
We went next door to gardens at Casa Del Noyo for our next session. By now our chemistry was in full sync. I walked in front of her as she walked slowly down the romantic garden paths as she gave her imaginary boyfriend one sensual sweet look after the other. All I had to do was just focus and shoot as many as I could.
I set-up the battery powered studio lights and umbrellas at a romantic little spot in the garden. Kari said there were people looking out the restaurant window at them. It was like giving her candy or something. I think she really got off posing and acting for the people watching the photo session going on in the garden.
Somehow, my brother got some of Kari’s proofs and was showing them around at one of the 80 keggers beer party. Remember Tony and Kari were not only classmates they were cousins. Next thing I remember Kari called and said she was being asked by her friends if I would take their high school portrait to. I said I would but she would have to set it all up for me. I had a full-time job driving line trucks for PG&E.
Next thing I knew Kari was setting up appointments with just a few girls at first. Then some of the girls had Kari set-up appointments with some of their boyfriends. A few of the girls brought their boyfriends to watch. It was turning into a kind of a party instead of a photo shoots. Three beautiful teenagers all being photographed in one session with their boyfriends watching through the window from the redwood deck outside.
I tried my best to treat all the kids in the same way I did Kari. I really don’t remember the number of girls I was so blessed to photograph that first year at Casa Del Noyo. I know I had to rent a tiny little souvenir shop down in the Noyo Village next to Captain Flints.
Kari had been doing such a great job setting up all my appointments and distributing proofs at school. It was getting hard to organize appointments now she was dealing with proofs and taking orders. I set her up an office desk and chair in that small little shop in the parking lot. The front wall was all glass so I put up some of my pictures on the wall and Kari was my little business manager.
The owner of the restaurant had to warn me to help reduce the number of high school kids hanging out down by Kari’s office. A lot of boys would drive up in their hot rods, just to flirt with my little office manager. Kari got after school credit for working for me. That allowed her time to get out of school early and get set up for the kids coming after school to look at proofs or order prints.
I remember pulling up to the shop after work and seeing my cute little manager sitting at her desk. I though how lucky I was. I don’t know how I could have made it without her help. It was like a dream, photographing and making so many friends and to have such a beautiful office manager working out all the details for you.
All the while I knew it was mostly her mother, Phyllis doing most of the bookkeeping in the background. It was the crazy of crazy year for me. Wading through the pain of separation and divorce and flying so high with each little model I was photographing.
Kari graduated from high school and I hired her equally beautiful younger sister to work the office. I have racked my brain trying to remember her name. My dementia is showing. I remember she was just about as beautiful as her sister. She did not love being photographed like her sister Kari did. While I really did enjoy taking her photograph it was nothing like Kari’s natural modeling instincts. Then Kari’s modeling made all three-dozen beautiful teenage girls I photographed at Casa Del Noyo just normal girls.
It did not last much longer after Kari left. My year of separation with my wife was coming to a close and so was the lease on my bachelor pad. I made the difficult decision to go ahead and divorce my wife and take a job out of town at Lakeport. I was a lousy business man and ran into financial problems. Shooting $50 of film and $50 for proofing for a $30 senior portrait plus paying my cute little business manager. Thank God Kari’s mother helped me out financially.
As you can see my story about Casa Del Noyo was really all about Kari and how remarkable she was for me. She came into my world just after my world was falling apart because of another teenage girl. I was so afraid to be open to another teenage girl because of what happened with Pam. I had prayed for God’s help and strength and He gave me Kari.
She was so much fun and happy to be around. She was having so much fun with all the other models and was giving them all pointers. She would first demonstrate how to pose and play with the camera then act as the set art director. All I had to do was just be the photographer. She would help the girls pick out outfits and help get in the right mood for each setting.
That was quite the year at Casa Del Noyo. Almost every night either shooting 1 or 2 girls in the studio or helping them select the poses on the light table. Each weekend shooting a session on Saturday and another on Sunday. Weekend session were all out doors either on the redwood deck or in the garden next door. I remember Kari setting up shots at Pudding creek beach and Hair Creek beach for sunset on the beach shots. Best part was I always got a few shots of Kari when she was showing the models how to pose for me. Kari was having so much fun in her tiny bikini that it made all the models feel so comfortable for me to get some really great shots of some really beautiful girls.
Something else was going on here. I felt like I had such a good relationship with so many young girls it did change me into a new direction in my life. There is no question the relationships I had with all my models ,especially Kari, had a lot to do with me becoming a Christian youth counselor in Napa just a year later.
I put my camera away and brought out my King James Bible the following year in Napa. The year at Casa Del Noyo was all about satisfying my dream of being a real high fashion model photographer with the most gorgeous little art director and business manager possible. The next few years it was all about showing God’s love to the most hated animal in the world, a troubled abused teenage girl.
With Kari right beside me to help make all the girls feel comfortable around me it made everything so easy to make real friends with all the models. The results were obvious that they all always had a very good time acting like a high fashion model once in their life.
In Napa, God kept bring me troubled and broken teenagers for me to express the love and friendship they all needed. The fun and friendship part I learned from Kari to give to these little outcast teenagers.
Thank you, Kari.