The Dead and the Naked

Denise Clemen
6 min readAug 19, 2021

How I Never Made it in Hollywood

Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

“You would be the dead girl,” the director said. I could do dead. A low-budget independent film was a step up from the student films I’d been doing. At least there would be pay.

The director had graduated from USC film school and made sure to insert this impressive bit of his resume into our conversation. A framed diploma hung from a nail behind his desk. He didn’t want to drop names, he said, but he had an uncle in the business that would set him up with something bigger if this project went well.

Maybe his uncle had rented this office for him. The two-room suite was on the corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga in a partially vacant bank building, and the metal desk and filing cabinet looked like survivors of a moving van accident. You could see the Hollywood sign if you pressed your face against the grimy window and looked north.

In the adjoining room four blond girls, who’d been called back for the lead,sat on cockeyed folding chairs. The director was going on about how my part was really the most interesting one. “There’s a lot of meat in the two scenes you have before you die,” he said.

“We’ll need you to fill this out for us,” his assistant said, handing me a clipboard. “And there’s no problem with the nudity, right?”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “My character is nude?”

“She has clothes on for the first couple of minutes,” the director replied, “but then the killers force her to strip. It makes the scene where she pleads for her life so much more powerful.” I would be dead and naked.

The blond girls rustled their scripts, and I imagined them craning their necks for a better view of me. The pay was a small fortune. And I wouldn’t have to work very hard after my first two scenes were shot. After that I just had to lie around and be dead.

I’d had worse jobs. I’d sold blood. I’d auditioned for a humiliating TV talent show with a friend where we’d worn tube tops and mini-skirts and did a juggling act while singing an Irish drinking song containing the lyrics “The Saxons have stolen my balls.” I’d been an art model for figure drawing classes in college. I had even free-lanced for a certain photography professor. He’d taken pictures of me lying nude on a fake…



Denise Clemen

Birth/first mother, recovering wife, retired caregiver, traveler, collage artist. Advocate of #adopteerights and #reproductiverights and other good things.