“In 1981, I turned 19 and came to New York City to go to a New Year’s Eve party. And never left,” says Daryl Janney, now fiftysomething and fictionalizing his experiences as a young hottie in the Reagan-era Big Apple.
Those cheekbones, though. He had the look the world wanted to know better, and the young Illinois innocent became an internationally booked model, just like it was supposed to happen. More or less.
All of those bookings led to a book.
“The novel was one of those crazy ideas,” he says.
Today he’s a Connecticut-based writer and master carpenter, and the father of seven children. 19 is his paen to just one of his nine lives, based on his own impressive modeling portfolio (as you can see from any of his photos, this ain’t no fan fiction; he’s the real deal).
19 is everything you expect from a novel about the modeling biz, and less: sure, the glamour and high drama are there, but the story conventions are overshadowed by a little something extra: the naked truth.
“I thought it would be great to write about it the way it really was,” he says. “There was [a novel about modeling that had already been published] that was a little too glitzy and played up all the stereotypes. I said, ‘That’s not true.’ I always kept a journal and my mind is always thinking in terms of ‘How do I put it into words?'”
He’s a writer, but he’s also a carpenter, so he stripped down the shiny bullshit and hammered in some hard truths.
“It’s like the experiment where people walk around in a fat suit,” he says, “and then they walk around in their normal size. There is a very different reaction. It was incredible to me how much being a model and being in a magazine made a difference to people.”
Like most successful male models, the idea of modeling never even occurred to him. While working in a small store in his hometown in Illinois, people took a lingering look at him and said, “Daryl, move away from there. Modeling is the place you ought to be.”
The modeling business agreed strongly with this suggestion. Just like any rags-to-riches story, our country boy got swept up in the churning sewage of big-city superficiality, shady photographers and agents, shallow wanna-be’s, hangers-on with agendas, and questionable gigs. It wasn’t all nighmarish, though; there were the high-end (now classic) editorial and catalog jobs, the heart-racing excitement of working the catwalk and the surreal satisfaction of seeing your puss on the newstand. All novel fodder: The good, the bad and the ugly.
“No,” he says. “That’s why I didn’t think modeling would be this amazing story. I was there, I was at all those things, but I didn’t do drugs. I would have a beer. I was very big on observing people and getting into conversations with models, photographers, art directors. From a practical standpoint, if you do a lot of drugs and drinking, you are not going to look good enough for the shoot the next day.”
His modeling career was spectacular but short-spanned, a brightly flashing bulb that left disorienting dots in his vision. Once his eyesight cleared, he attended Boston University, studying English literature and American Studies. He graduated cum laude, with honors and distinction. His hero: Hemingway.
“My time at Boston University was transformative for me,” he says, “even more than modeling, because I challenged myself, maybe even too much.”
Yet, as they say, even the most shallow and superficial of experiences can leave you with some damn deep thoughts.
“I think modeling softens you,” he says. “It’s like you start to think, ‘This is the way life goes.’ Modeling, especially if you are successful, everything comes easy to you. You show up, you put the clothes on, they take pictures of you, and they make sure you have food. But when I went to Boston University, nobody is going to pick you up if you fall by the wayside. You sink or swim based on your own hard work.”
Now, with a sequel in the works and some interest from Hollywood, Daryl has to make with the words while raising seven children. Not quite the challenge of Boston University, but can do?
“It’s a huge challenge,” he admits. “When I have time to do anything, I just do it. 19 was written when I had five kids. If I had the last two when I started, I don’t think I would have been able to do it.”
Just like modeling had changed him, being a superdad had transformed him to the tenth power.
“I don’t take myself as seriously,” he says, “so any kind of introspection that would lead to morose feelings, or depression, I don’t have that as much with the kids because there is just so much that you need to do. The most important thing that we do is care for our children, I think. 19 was my declaration of ‘I am an independent person that really wants to do this.’ This ia a part of me. Any kind of angst or inner turmoil, when I write, it’s all gone.”
As a master carpenter, he does residential construction, among other things, including cabinets and kitchens.
“Most of it I learned was from books,” he says. “I tried to learn from the very best.”
Books have taught him a lot, both by reading and writing them. To best understand how he was motivated to write a true account of his quick leap in and out of the limelight, he paraphrases Mark Twain: If you don’t find any books that you like reading, try writing one.
Find out more about Daryl, and help him Kickstart that long-awaited sequel here.