The Broad Was a Fraud

As con or cover girl, Storme's career had legs.

A tearful Storme -- allowed by the court to use the name Shannon -- ultimately pleaded guilty to impersonation and was sentenced to two years' probation and more mandatory counseling. After sentencing, Storme told reporters that he did not plan to have a sex change, but would continue living as a woman.

And how.

Flat Chests and High Hopes

Charles Daugherty as a high school cheerleader.
Charles Daugherty as a high school cheerleader.
Charles Daugherty at the prom.
Charles Daugherty at the prom.

In the spring of 1995 -- Ernie Ferguson is not good with exact dates -- a woman calling herself Shannon Ireland phoned his photography studio in Colorado Springs. The woman -- at least, it sounded like a woman -- said she was the illegitimate daughter of actor John Ireland and the half-sister of model Kathy Ireland and was planning to shoot a swimsuit calendar in Puerto Rico. She needed a photographer. Was Ferguson available?

At the time, Ferguson -- an outgoing, cantankerous fireplug -- had been in the fashion business for half his fifty years. If this was a scam, he told himself, he'd sniff it out faster than the flash from his camera strobe. And as soon as he wheeled into the driveway of the supposedly famous supermodel's home, he caught a whiff of something fishy.

"The first thing I thought was, a supermodel wouldn't live in this part of town," Ferguson recalls. "I mean, it was a nice house and a nice neighborhood, but southeastern Colorado Springs has a bit of a crime problem, and you'd expect a supermodel to live in a $300,000 home instead of a $110,000 home."

But the model dismissed Ferguson's observation with a shrug. A suburban home was less conspicuous than a mansion, she told the photographer, and she valued her privacy. That sounded reasonable enough to Ferguson, who settled back in the dim light of the living room and watched the husky blonde -- Storme, who else? -- slink around in silk pajamas.

Storme's crew had just returned from a photo session in Hawaii, she told him, where the hotel had given them free rooms and rental cars in exchange for a mention in the upcoming calendar. The model planned to arrange the same deal in Puerto Rico. After a little more chitchat, Storme produced a portfolio of what appeared to be covers from major fashion magazines, including Vogue. "The only thing missing was Cosmo," Ferguson recalls. "I knew they could be computer-generated, but they looked like the real deal to me."

Storme then launched into a story about an ongoing rivalry with her half-sister and described how she planned to snatch the Sports Illustrated calendar away from Kathy Ireland. They discussed approaches, themes and the itinerary for the Puerto Rico trip. Storme presented Ferguson with airline tickets and a slick contract that promised a commission of $200,000 or more. The photographer was impressed but still wary, so the model dialed the hotel in Puerto Rico and booked luxury suites for Ferguson, his wife, his sister and his brother-in-law. "We were all going to go," Ferguson recalls. "First class, the whole bit. And I was told, 'Pack your golf clubs, because you're going to have plenty of time to play.'"

So Ferguson signed on. Over the next several months, in preparation for the Puerto Rico calendar job, he shot more than a hundred rolls of film. Storme in skirts. Storme in dresses. Storme in jackets. Storme in shorts. Storme in a black leotard flanked by two bare-chested members of Denver's now defunct semi-pro hockey team, the Grizzlies.

And yes, Ferguson admits, he did notice certain masculine features bulging through the designer clothing. "I mean, this is not the most attractive person in the world," he says. "The guy's got shoulders like a basketball player. But, hey, I've photographed lots of women who are built like that. They wear silk blouses really well."

He also noticed that Storme always wore gloves. "When I asked about that, I was told, 'I don't like my hands,'" Ferguson recalls. "Well, I know models who don't like their ears, and when you see their photos, you never see their ears." Then there was the model's "absolute lack of cleavage," coarse hair and layers of foundation, blush, mascara, lipstick and eyeliner. "But that's not a giveaway, either," the photographer reasons. "In this business, not everyone is Cindy Crawford. And they all wear tons of makeup. I've had to tell some models to go back in there and scrape some off."

Besides, Storme had an explanation for her dusky appearance. "Her dad had an affair with a black lady, so that made her half black and half white, but leaning more toward the white side, because it was harder for blacks to make it in the modeling business," Ferguson recalls. "Then she said something about her sister not talking to her and her dad not talking to her, and after a while, you just begin to feel sorry for this person."

When the doubts lingered -- and they did -- Ferguson was told to call Storme's alleged agent in New York City. "And they verified the story word for word," he says. "Every time I thought something wasn't right, they answered it to my satisfaction."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help