Queen of Hearts

This was our first Valentines Day: talk about first impressions, Tom didn’t even bring me a card! This is an outrage to me made all the worse by the fact I am a greeting card designer. Tom tries to explain Valentines Day is nothing but a capitalist plot but I’m not letting him get a word in edgewise as I give it to him with both barrels of indignation.

Tom is standing on the set in my studio. There is a 9 foot wide roll of red seamless paper rolled down behind him. I am running out of words when he pulls out a tool of his trade, a Swiss Army knife. He turns and starts cutting into my precious red paper before I can stop him. Now I’m in shock. He is ruining it as far as I’m concerned.

Tom takes out a pen and writes on the piece he has cut out and hands it to me. Now speechless, I look down and see Tom has made a red heart, and written on it is “Be Mine Valentine”. This is a Valentine I will never forget.

Over the next 15 years we continue this battle over whether Valentines Day is a special occasion or just a commercial conspiracy to make Tom crazy. It’s 1998. We are preparing for my Queen of Hearts shoot in front of the fountain at Lincoln Center at night. The weather forecast for this important event is 24 degrees with a wind chill below zero. My costume leaves a lot of skin exposed, but I am too excited to let that stop us. The media is alerted and the designer has arrived.

It takes a team of three to get me into makeup, costume and wig. I am really proud of the heart-shaped bouffant. Bouffants are my trademark and this variation on the theme, like the costume, is breathtaking. The whole team is puffed up with pride and inspiration. We shoot some film in the studio before Tom and our photography assistant literally pick me up, tilt me sideways, sliding me to lay flat into the back seat of our Toyota. There was no way I could sit in the front seat. The wig was too high and the dress too big.

I adore being in the spotlight but this night is beyond all expectations. I am warmed by all of the attention from my team and everyone here at Lincoln Center. I don’t notice the cold wind. I may never stop smiling. I want to sleep in this costume!

The shoot takes all of ten minutes. It took me longer to get out of the car. The lights, the stars above, Valentines Day; I couldn’t be happier.

Tom and I celebrate our 31st Valentines Day together this year. I still have that red paper Valentine and of course the photographs of the Queen of Hearts. Tom still can’t remember to do anything special for this holiday every year. He knows now I won’t eat the chocolates and when live flowers die it just makes me sad. But I can still bet on him surprising me with that quick thinking sure to make new memories I will never forget.

Kat Caverly as the Queen of Hearts, photographed on location at Lincoln Center, New York City February 13, 1998 by Thomas Hudson Reeve


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