A memory

by jamesbharris

At times like this I comfort myself with the time I played a tiger in a Lana Del Rey video. Oh, I remember – the way we filmed the long takes, the heaviness of the tiger suit, Lana’s preternatural calm. I remember most of all though the breaks, when they’d winch the head off me, and I’d have a brief few minutes to prowl about. One day my walks took me to the back of the studios where I met, all alone, Lana. She was standing there smoking in that beautifully-sculpted, slightly-taller than you might think hipster way. And I remember approaching her, stooped, my paws raised, and going ‘Ra!’ And Lana saying ‘God – you scared me!’ And me saying, ‘Sorry.’ And then her, ‘Are you a real tiger?’ And me replying ‘No, I’m a translator from Nottingham.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘Lower your paws.’ And so I did and stood before my idol; she was so radiant I had to look at my feet. And Lana said, ‘It’s so stressful all this, don’t you think?’ ‘And the lights are hot – especially for me.’ ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I have to search really hard to find a moment for myself. You won’t tell anyone I’m here will you?’ ‘Nottingham men,’ I said, ‘are famously taciturn.’ And she laughed at that, and I really felt that it was going well – who knows where the conversation could have gone from there. Maybe she liked men dressed as big cats. But next moment one of her people had found her and could be seen approaching with a coffee and an ashtray for her cigarette and also an arm leading her back to the set. She was gone.

That was nine years ago. I’m still a translator from Nottingham, and she’s more famous and respected than ever. But I’ll always have the time I played a tiger in her video. Often as the nights draw in I find myself looking at photos; look, that’s me on the left. The other guy’s a tiger.

Video to ‘Born to Die’ (2013), directed by Woodkid.