Thursday, December 17, 2009

Body Doubles [2002]

[I wrote this hilarious little satirical piece in 2002, but, like so much of my work, it is as fresh and zingy years later as on the day it was composed.]

See him clothed, and you'd have no reason to imagine that 21-year-old Kevin Levine, a sophomore business major at DeWayne State University in Dearborn, Michigan, is anything other than an ordinary American college student. He enjoys the music of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park and favors preposterously baggy clothing. When conversing with others like himself, he begins every sentence with the word "dude," and finds a way to work the adverb "totally" into his every utterance. He vaguely aspires to a sexual relationship with Pamela Anderson, though he acknowledges that he will probably never have one, and identifies Vin Diesel as the living American he most admires. He maintains a B-minus average, a pierced left nostril, and a fractious relationship with his parents, who he believes love him, but don't understand him. The fractiousness of their relationship doesn't keep him from calling them an average of twice a month for money.

But where his average classmate earns $5.75/hour making unbelievably overpriced coffee beverages at Starbucks, or flipping hamburgers, Keith Levine makes $1800 a month without lifting a finger. Where the average American undergraduate has 2.7 tattoos, you see, there isn't a square millimeter of Kevin Levine between his waist and neck on which a bellicose, unintelligible, or unintelligibly bellicose pronouncement isn't tattooed.

Therein lies his remarkable earning power. None of the sentiments expressed on his epidermis is his own, but rather that of DeWayne sophomore guard Sh'niquaa Hairston. Kevin Levine is one of a growing number of so-called body doubles, persons who, for a monthly retainer of between $200 and $2000, walks around sporting tattoos for which their student athlete clients have no more room on their own persons.

For Levine, who, after failing to make his high school team in his freshman, sophomore, and junior years, and pretending in his senior year to disdain the whole idea of high school basketball, the arrangement could hardly be more ideal. "Ordinarily, Sh'niquaa totally wouldn't even speak to someone like me, dude," he exults, "but as one of his three body doubles, I'm like totally a member of his 'posse,' which like totally elevates my social standing on campus, especially during basketball season."

A product of the same Oakland mean streets that produced the Seattle Supersonics' Gary Payton, Hairston ran out of tattooable skin two weeks into his remarkable career at Skyline High School, where his stellar play inspired no fewer than 302 institutions of higher learning to tender scholarship offers. "If not for people like Kevin," he admits, "my self-expression would be substantially attenuated. Know'm sayin'?"

The idea for Body Doubles was originally that of senior economics major Josh Morgenstern, who, since recruiting body doubles for all of De Wayne's most notable student athletes, has put his own studies on hold and begun to recruit for such National Basketball Association notables as Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson. "The sky's the limit," he predicts. "Tats have actually become more, rather than less, de rigueur the past five years, and there's no end in sight."

The ideal body double, Morgenstern notes, is stout (the more skin, the better), but not flabby. "When you get folds, the tats get hard to read. It's a real balancing act."

It isn't only athletes he's signing up nowadays, but rock musicians too. "As the biggest names in youth culture run out of places to have pierced," he predicts, "you're going to see more and more Morgenstern Body Doubles in rock and rap entourages."

Body doubling isn't without its downside, of course. Many of the sentiments an athlete or rock star may ask his double to express elicit very strong, and often even violent, reactions. Kevin Levine recounts "chilling" with Niq one afternoon in Dearborn recently when the athlete decided to go to the lakefront with a female admirer and his two other doubles, leaving the shirtless Levine to get back to this dormitory on his own power. Hitchhiking, Levine attracted the attention of an off-duty homicide detective who took umbrage at his/Hairston's Fuck Da Police tattoo and beat him into unconsciousness.

[Facebookers: Lots more like this on my blog For All In Tents and Porpoises, to which you can subscribe!]

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