Assessing Heather Locklear for a Dollar
By Natalie Bettencourt
"Do you girls drink milk?" It was an innocent enough question. Still, I was leary of the woman who had approached my sister and I at the Glendale Galleria. The woman had a clipboard and wore glasses. She looked official.
"We'll pay you a dollar to answer a few questions. It will only take a few moments of your time." The woman was persistent. I wondered what she meant when she said "we" because there was no one else around.
I looked toward my sister, older and wiser, for affirmation as to whether we should participate in this woman's cause. Irregardless of the warnings our parents had drilled into our heads over the years to never talk to strangers, my sister shrugged like it was no big deal. "Okay," she said to the woman. Which meant that I was okay with it too.
The woman with the glasses and the clipboard asked us to follow her. We trailed her from the safety of the Orange Julius area to a door that led through a short maze of construction and unfinished hallways. Other than being asked if we drank milk, I had no clue what we were going to be questioned about.
A feeling of excited anticipation mixed with the unease of apprehension tingled my nerves. The feeling was not altogether unlike the time the school nurse visited my kindergarten class to cheerfully announce hearing tests and some sort of vaccination that we would be participating in that day. "Is it gonna hurt?" I had wailed from the back of the classroom, dissolving into tears of anxiousness.
Now, at the Galleria Mall, I was twelve years old and a lot less of a crybaby. Nonetheless, following my sister and this woman to the secret door brought about the same feelings of unease. If I started to cry, would my sister halt the journey and bring us back to the plethora of mall merchandise and into view of familiarities like Foxmore Casuals and The Gap? Could we resume our trek to The Wherehouse and find the Bay City Rollers forty-five I coveted?
Knowing I was going to get a dollar at the end of this event helped a little. I decided to withhold any tears. We finally arrived at a small, makeshift conference room.
The room was stark, except for a folding table and a few hard plastic chairs. A questionaire and pencils were placed in front of my sister and I. A projector was aimed at the white pull-down screen unrolled on the opposite wall. We filled out the questionnaire which sought generalities such as our age, the number of parents living in the household, and our zip codes. When we finished, we placed our pencils neatly beside the forms on the table.
"I'd like you to view this picture for a minute, and then I have a few questions to ask you," said the woman with the glasses. She had placed her clipboard on the table in front of her and the sound made a hollow noise in the sparsely furnished room.
She got up to dim the lights in the small room and then she turned the projector on. The white background of the screen was illuminated with the beautiful, fresh face of a teenage Heather Locklear.
In the mid-seventies, TV viewers had yet to hear the name of Heather Locklear. But today, I was about to provide my input to her "wholesomeness," her "all-American appeal," and her "marketability."
The Milk Advisory Board had commissioned a campaign to increase milk consumption through popular advertisement. Heather Locklear, a young unknown at the time, was under consideration as the spokesmodel for the reinvention of dairy goodness. Her blonde, blue-eyed freshness was the focus of our little question and answer session. I was about to be paid a dollar to assess Heather Locklear and her ability to sell milk to young girls just like me.
My sister and I had known girls like Heather in school. We were nothing like them. Heather had a long mane of lovely, feathered blond hair and sun-drenched highlights appeared like a halo around her angelic face. She had bright blue eyes, the color of the ocean. She had perfect white teeth and flawless, glowing skin. Her rosy lips had a simple slick of natural gloss. In the picture, Heather was holding an icy cold glass of milk. The caption at the bottom of the advertisement read: "Milk, It Does A Body Good."
I wanted to drink milk right at that very moment. Gallons of it. I wanted to be just like this All-American girl holding the glass of refreshing, nutritious, liquid white-gold. Milk was the word. Certainly, my own dark swarthiness and meek hairstyle were the result of inadequate milk consumption. I should have drank up when I was told to do so all those years. I fidgeted with the strap on my training bra while I gazed at Heather's image. I licked my lips so that they would appear glossy and natural like hers. I wanted to morph right into her likeness, a likeness representing all things adored, popular, and accepted.
The woman with the clipboard turned the projector off and the lights back on. Our eyes adjusted to the brightness.
"I have just a couple of questions, girls, and then you can be on your way," said the woman. I hoped she had not forgotted about the dollar.
"Did you like the advertisement? On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate how much you liked the advertisement?" My sister gave it a score of seven. I rated it a ten.
"Does this picture make you want to drink more milk than you do now? Or less milk than you drink now?" My sister answered that she only drank milk at dinner time and that she had no plans to increase her milk intake. I answered that I would be drinking "more" milk. I tried to keep my voice calm, but I was already getting excited about the joys of popularity that lay ahead of me and could hardly wait to get my hands on a nice, tall, icy glass now!
"On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the model's wholesomeness?" I associated "wholesomeness" with the commercials for Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies I watched on TV after school; attractive, sweet and very adored. My sister rated Heather's wholesomeness with another seven. I rated her wholesomeness at ten.
The entire meeting took less than ten minutes and we were thanked with a friendly smile and of course, a dollar bill. We pocketed our bounty and made our way back through the maze of hallway, and back out to the familiar mall surroundings. My sister and I spent the next hour flipping through stacks of records at The Wherehouse and settling on a couple of forty-fives. Even with the extra dollar, we decided not spend our hard-earned money on a whole album.
Over the years, I would consume gallons of milk. I bathed in it and made fruity-milk beauty mask concoctions to slather on my face. As Heather's popularity with the public grew, I felt a sense of ownership with her destiny and an "insider" privy as the golden girl of Milk Marketing appeared on popular shows like "TJ Hooker" and "Dynasty." Now older, I learned to appreciate the fact that I was not the golden girl that Heather represented, but rather a darker, exotic beauty with a look of my own.
I felt eerily responsible for Heather's success. Afterall, it was me who gave her all those scores of ten when she was still a virtual unknown. It was my nod in favor of wholesomeness that started her on her way to stardom and fame and all things rich and good.
Drink your milk, you hear me?