Arts & Culture News

Behind the Scenes: How We Made Our Motels Cover

Photographer duo Sarah Reyes and Daniel Driensky, known as Exploredinary, were commissioned to shoot the photos for this week's cover story by me, an autobiographical account of my adventures with my boyfriend at Dallas' crappiest motels. It was decided said boyfriend, Stephen, and I would be on the cover. The idea was to capture us having a lavish time at one of the motels in the story. We picked the Como Motel for the shoot because their rooms are large enough to accommodate photo equipment.

We all arrived last Friday night at the same time, and Sarah went into the office to pay for the room. She came back a while later saying that she'd argued with the lady at the front desk, who had spotted us and wanted to charge her extra for having additional guests. Sarah had managed to convinced her that we were only joining them for dinner.

For ambience, we decorated the room. We hung some of Daniel's drawings, threw condoms around the bed, and filled the ashtrays with a month's worth of cigarette butts. We further set the mood by putting on '60s French pop, which felt appropriate given my false eyelashes. We took different shots on and inside the bed; even some while jumping on it. Stephen, a relentless libertarian, had the idea that he should be naked and covering his junk with Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, because surely Ms. Rand would've loved to have her life's oeuvre violated with a dick used as a bookmark.

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We took a cigarette break in the parking lot and the attendant immediately rushed up to us and peeked into our room, which looked like a scene out of Boogie Nights. She scanned the photo equipment — tall camera lights with umbrellas flanking each side of the bed — the colossal piles of cigarette butts, and the scandalous variety of condoms, polaroid pictures and rose petals on the bed. She glanced at Stephen and me, still in some form of undress, and her disapproving facial expression made it pretty clear she believed she'd stumbled onto the set of a porno.

It was hard to hear anything through the flattery of being misjudged as a porn star, but I'm certain that the Como attendant lectured Sarah in Spanish for neglecting to mention the photo shoot, which supposedly goes against the motel's rules. "You said you were having pizza with your friends," she said, seemingly heartbroken at Sarah's deceit. "Yeah, the pizza is actually on its way," Sarah said with charming sincerity, like the pizza's presence mattered one bit.

The lady wanted us to leave but ultimately told us to go back into our room so the other guests wouldn't see us and complain, as if anyone at the Como was there for a relaxing stay. At the worst possible moment, the closed bottle of Champagne that Stephen was holding seemed to no longer have the will to contain its cheap fizz, and decided to pop itself, making a loud gunshot sound.

We ate the damn pizza as promised, took a few more shots, and called it a night. I waved politely to the attendant as we drove past the office window, but she gave me the mal de ojo stare of voodoo death. A few seconds after Stephen and I pulled onto the street, a police car appeared behind us and pulled us over a block away from the motel. Stephen has a legally ambiguous ticket situation and wasn't sure he'd survive the stop a free man, so he began saying a sorrowful goodbye to me and giving me precise instructions on how to bail him out of jail.

The officer asked for the usual documents, and just stood there silently. Only after I asked did he tell us the 
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reason for the stop was that my license plate light was out. He took both of our driver's licenses and came back shortly with a dog and with several other cops who rushed to the car and told us to get out and stand by their vehicle.

They drilled us with questions, especially about a minute plastic baggy that had allegedly fallen off my lap. They inspected it with utmost scientific interest, and I was almost afraid to disappoint them once I figured out that it contained a little necklace that says "Mom" on it. By then they were searching through every square inch of my car, asking several times whether they would find drugs in it, and the last time that we had any. "Um, never," I said, emboldened by my innocent Mom necklace.

A female cop finally explained that the thoroughness of the search was in response to their dog which had signaled that it smelled narcotics. At this point of the night I looked like Peggy Bundy with my red nightie, leopard robe and giant hair, so I told her about the photo shoot at the Como, hoping that it would explain our bizarre choice of dress and the props in the car.

When they heard it was for all for an article, they let us go with the fatherly advice that Stephen take care of his legalities, and made no other mention of the license plate light. We said goodbye like we were all old friends. The lady cop turned to us before she left and said: "Sorry, guys, it was a slow night. I can't wait to read your article."