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To further soothe his fears, Storme often phoned Ferguson at 3 a.m. to ask, "Are you okay? Is everything all right? You do love Storme, don't you? Well, you know I love you guys, don't you?" And before each photo session, Storme would gather Ferguson and the rest of the crew into a circle, where they'd hold hands and pray. "God was a big part of it," the photographer says. "I'm a Christian. So when people pray like that and bring religion into it, you tend to believe them. You don't go into church wearing horns."
The devil was in the details, too. Storme acted like a temperamental supermodel, right down to wearing a hooded sweatshirt and dark sunglasses in public and sulking after she had to eat at Denny's. One night Storme rented a stretch limo, flew in a male model and treated the entire crew to dinner -- after taking the model, who'd arrived in slacks and a T-shirt, to a Men's Wearhouse.
"Then out comes the gold Visa card, and 35 minutes later, this kid has a suit on that was tailor-made," Ferguson recalls. "When that kind of stuff happens, you think you've hit the big time. You really start to believe it. We really thought we were going to Puerto Rico to make these cool calendars. You're never too old to have sugarplum fairies dance in your head."
Ferguson wanted to believe, and he had reason to: In front of a camera, Storme created a certain quirky magic. "Man, he could move," Ferguson explains. "He sure moved like a broad to me. I tell you, he was one of the best workers I'd had in a long time, and I'd worked with a lot of models. My wife and sister-in-law came along during one session and said, 'Jesus Christ, she can move,' and I'd kill for those legs.'"
A few weeks before the crew was to leave for Puerto Rico, Ferguson hired a videographer to film a session featuring Storme in a red dress, black gloves and black pumps. The next day, the videographer called.
"Get down here," he said. "Now."
When Ferguson arrived, the videographer delivered the bad news. He'd seen that model's face before -- and not in Vogue, either.
"That's Charles Daugherty," the videographer said.
"Charles Daugherty. Remember the guy who got in trouble for impersonating a high school cheerleader? That's Charles Daugherty. And Shannon Ireland is Charles Daugherty."
The videographer handed Ferguson a few snapshots for comparison purposes. The photographer looked at one, then the other, and then back again.
"Aw shit," he said.
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One day five years ago, the phone rang at Castle Custom Cycles in Colorado Springs. Owner Kenny Castle found himself talking to self-proclaimed supermodel Shannon Ireland, who wanted to use one of Castle's bikes for a charity poster. Castle agreed, opening his shop after hours, ordering in food, plugging in the stereo, wheeling out a bike and welcoming Storme's entourage, which included an unwitting Ferguson. "They were very professional," Castle recalls. "And I've seen professionals before. They had a makeup girl, a manager and about four or five other people running around. They really went through a lot to fake me out."
And fake him out they did. Although Castle remembers telling a colleague, "That's the ugliest woman I've ever seen," the photo session clicked along smoothly. Except, Castle remembers, that "the goddamn idiot knocked over my bike. He was leaning back with the wind in his hair and all that shit, then all of a sudden, he knocks over my bike. That's the thing that really pissed me off. The asshole."
Still, a few of the black-and-white posters, which feature a sexy Storme astride the bike in cut-offs, high heels and black leather jacket, actually hit the streets. After Castle was tipped off to the model's true identity, he confiscated as many of the posters as he could find. "It was embarrassing as hell," he says. "I would have been the laughingstock of the motorcycle industry. Here I am, trying to promote this as the baddest-assed bike around, and then I have an ugly gay black guy dressed as a woman sitting on the back? The only thing I lost was a little bit of dignity."
Jay Soulia worries that some people lost more. Storme's bodyguard for ten months back in 1989 and 1990, Soulia watched Storme work the phones, choreograph fashion sessions and lure potential models into his schemes. On occasion, Soulia and a limousine driver, who had been hired to complete the illusion, were asked to recruit models themselves.
"Some of these kids were still in high school," says Soulia, a muscular guy with a blond ponytail and missing front tooth. "He even took one of these kids to the prom."
Although Soulia never witnessed anything criminal, Storme "really messed with a lot of kids' minds," he says. "One went through a lot of heavy therapy after he found out the truth. He's warped, man. I don't know how else to say it."
He was also clever. Storme always arranged to meet Soulia at night. Whenever they spoke face to face, Storme hid behind baggy clothing and dim lights. And as he had with Ferguson, Storme tried to build trust through personal notes and little gifts, such as autographed photos. But the biggest prize was a $270,000 contract that the supermodel promised the bodyguard.