MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Car sales are in the tank, and two of the Detroit Three automakers, GM and Chrysler, are teetering on the brink of collapse. But that won't stop hundreds of thousands of people from flocking to Detroit this weekend, as they do every year, for the North American International Auto Show. If you're not into cars, take heart. This story isn't really about cars. It's about professional auto show models, the women who use their talents and yes, their looks to make the cars on display look much more appealing.
Margery Krevsky runs an agency that selects and trains auto show models. She's been doing it for years, and she's also the author of a new book about the business. It's called, "Sirens of Chrome," and Margery Krevsky joins me now. Welcome to the program.
Ms. MARGERY KREVSKY (President, CEO, Productions Plus; Author, "Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of Auto Show Models"): Thank you very much.
NORRIS: Margery, your book is full of photos of women in various stages of undress. In one case, she's got a silver jumpsuit on. In another, she's got a nude bathing suit on. There's all kinds of pictures of women wearing all kinds of things. But when you got into the business, it seemed like you were trying to make sure that this was a business that wasn't just about eye candy. How did you do that?
Ms. KREVSKY: Well, we have to understand that there is a great culture with the automobile, and when people come, they wanted to see attractive women. But as the natural progression of women, education, going into the workplace, happened, that just came along with the history of the auto show. When I got into this business initially, I saw it, and this was in the mid-'80s.
Actually, I had friends and models that worked for my company that did the auto show, and I would go to see them. And I would ask them questions about the car, and they would say, oh, I am not allowed to talk about the car, but I do know about it. And so, I presented to several automotive manufacturers an idea of product specialists, highly trained men and women and people of diversity who could talk about cars and become real gearheads. They would be well-dressed. They would be well-groomed. They would be attractive, but they sure could talk cars.
NORRIS: Now, in your research you found all kinds of photos. You found a picture of women swimming in the bed of a dump truck that was filled with water. A model dressed as a mermaid on the hood of a Plymouth Barracuda that graces the cover of the book, even a BMW model posing with a great big lion. What was the strangest modeling stunt you came across in your research?
Ms. KREVSKY: That was the strangest modeling stunt. In 1966, there was a BMW press conference in New York, and Miss BMW was posing with a lion, and the lion was a very bad kitty because he, all of a sudden, sunk his jaws into her thigh. Fortunately, the handlers removed the jaws of the lion from her thigh, and from that moment forward, you do not see many wild animals at press conferences anymore.
NORRIS: Does the model really make a difference if you're selling a car that might be somewhere close to mediocre? I mean, can a great model make a difference for a car that otherwise wouldn't go flying off the lot?
Ms. KREVSKY: Well, let's answer it this way. The cars are great and gorgeous, but none of them can talk. They can't tell you what's under the hood. They can't tell you what makes them special, and that's what the products specialist do. And these are not the magnets that are running the companies. These are the people that are right there, to use the saying, where the rubber meets the road, with the American public.
NORRIS: Margery Krevsky, thanks so much for your time.
Ms. KREVSKY: Thank you.
NORRIS: Margery Krevsky runs a talent agency. She is also the author of, "Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of Auto Show Models," and to see photos of auto show models over the years, go to our Web site, npr.org.
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