Photo by Tenaya HillsTwo months ago, feature editor Steve Lowery, an admirer of such films as ToweringInferno,Backdraftand TheBombingofDresden,offered this really high concept for our annual summer issue: “Summer is hot,” he said, “and what's hotter than fire? Let's run fire in every picture in the summer issue!”
More cautious minds pointed out the implications of his aesthetic—that we would either have to Photoshop the hell out of every photograph or set actual fires during every photo shoot and run the risk of burning people.
“I bet Duane Peters would set himself on fire for the issue,” Lowery said.
We puzzled on this for a moment while recalling that Lowery owns the director's cut DVD of Firestarter, has called Drew Barrymore's role in it “Sophoclean”—and decided we'd set just one of our sales people on fire.
We asked Jennifer Besheer to assume the position because, on an amazingly attractive staff, Besheer is among the most attractive and because Matt Coker has already been on the cover three times. Then, too, Besheer's “friend” Brian Carsten—who gets something like 10 grand for each modeling gig—had agreed to join her for free; in this issue, you'll see him frolicking with Besheer under the shower at Big Corona and, dressed as Yoda, banging Princess Leia during the same shoot.
But before Carsten joined her, Besheer posed alone for the cover. Unsuccessfully.
We asked her to wear a bikini and heels and wield a fire extinguisher as if she were surrounded by flames; we'd Photoshop the flames later, we told her. The day of the shoot dawned sunny and warm—and then turned into something like upstate New York in February. She arrived at Laguna's Main Beach at 6 p.m., stripped down to her bikini, and felt the heft of the extinguisher. Office manager Ofelia Ramirez had okayed the use of the extinguisher—so long as Besheer didn't actually fire the thing (something about leaving the office unnecessarily exposed to dangerous conflagrations). Nevertheless, photo editor Tenaya Hills positioned Besheer toward the weak sun—which meant Besheer was also facing a cold wind from the northwest—and ordered her to fire the extinguisher.
“I had no idea what would come out of it,” she says. “On TV, you see just this white stuff, like smoke. Did you know these things shoot powder? I didn't. And this powder got in my mouth, my hair . . . everything.”
“It was gross,” says Hills. “The powder doesn't just fall to the ground. It has to adhere to something. So it just floated down the beach like a cloud of sulphur.”
The photos came back grainy. Hills' diagnosis: “Too little sun.” And maybe too much powder.
So Besheer got back into the bikini and climbed up to the roof of the Weekly'sWorld Headquarters in Santa Ana, where we finally got the right shot. There, in the teeth of another angry wind, her fire extinguisher emptied in the Battle for Laguna, Besheer looked angry and beautiful at the same time.
Asked about her motivation for the successful session—a childhood accident involving bacon? A Fourth of July mishap?—she said no, it was nothing that hot. “It was really windy up there. Freezing. I told Tenaya, 'Let's just hurry the hell up.'”
The fire was supplied by graphic artists Dar Atman and Heather Swaim.