Chapter 43 – My Co-Pilot

I tried to come back to New York several times. Each time the winter was too much for me, so I would have to leave. When I tried at the end of 2011, I was back in the hospital within a few days of my return. Three months later, all the mayhem started. This was long after I had gone through more surgeries than I could remember. It was, however, before my leg bypass and several of the more extreme surgeries. I was told years earlier that my heart arteries were fixed, but I knew they were not.

I was about to leave Florida for New York in my RV when a model I photographed asked if she could come with me. I was still producing reality series, but I lost my financial backing. So, in-between surgeries, I was attempting to reboot my career as a producer and director. When I started architecting an online broadcasting company, it was not to get into technology or build a social media platform. My goal was to start an online Netflix or Hulu, long before high definition streaming was mainstream. As a result of trying to buy content to stream, and learning how expensive it was, I started producing my own. I produced feature films, documentaries and entertainment series. My IMDB profile was going off the charts. So was my career, but eventually, I couldn’t even hold the cameras, let alone produce a series. I shut that part of the company down. For years, my partners and I continued to build that application. I was living in an RV. We never had enough capital or the right team of software developers to complete the project. I have since tried to talk every person, who asks, out of building apps. There is too much competition from gazillion dollar software companies. The process of building software is equivalent to playing chess with ten masters at the same time. It’s very challenging and risky.

Eventually, on the advice of some investors, that company was repositioned into a security platform based solution. A new management team and board of directors took over. They asked me how secure the platform was. When I explained how we combined a unique set of open source technologies, they asked if I could make it even more secure. It took me months, using every technical skill I possessed, to design what I believed to be an unhackable network architecture. I used biometrics, security protocols and cloud computing, along with a cryptology that, in theory, seemed more secure than anything out there. I never believed that we were so unique, but they thought we could patent it and were sitting on a gold mine. When we did sell the company, financed through a note to the new board and team, they immediately started to argue with each other. They undermined each other’s efforts before the design was ever upgraded or completed. Eventually Adobe bailed on the flash player for mobile devices and the open source coding languages we were using and the company folded. I was already working on trying to get back into producing. Returning to New York was going to be my test. Years later, we learned that the military used just about every concept and design we tried to patent in one way or another. We found no evidence that anyone had tried to combine the entire design, but patents were not going to be issued.

By the time we left Florida, I had already taken tons of nude and implied nude photographs of her. She was as interested in using her assets to promote her career as I was in using them to market her. I had planned to put out a book featuring nudes, or at least hoped to. I was building my book if nothing else. She was well built with a body like an FHM model. She was not shy about showing it. She paraded around the beaches completely naked, even during the day. We even shot in front of construction workers, who would whistle and howl. She loved it. It didn’t bother her, so it didn’t bother me. I was doing everything possible to stay on Hollywood’s radar, even though I was MIA for years.

I was shooting documentaries in Nashville, The Grand Canyon, Vegas, even dune buggies in the desert. I would shoot anything that could help snap the production side of my company back into gear, while at the same time walking six to ten miles a day, still bleeding from two failed surgeries. I barely had enough money for gas. One model was very generous. She gave me a huge check, as an act of kindness, to thank me for the love I had shown her on her sixteenth birthday. She was an heiress who inherited a substantial trust fund. My generosity to her was repaid with her own to me. I now had enough money to return to and possibly stay on Long Island.

Before we left, my co-pilot told me that she too was sick and that she couldn’t afford health care. She was in serious trouble. She might have been even sicker than I was. I was moved by her situation and motivated to help her. The only way I could, was to help her jump-start her career. I couldn’t afford my own health care, so I certainly couldn’t pay for hers.

As our departure date for New York neared, she started to pack and told her boyfriend she was coming with me. He was not happy, but she didn’t seem to care. I believed she was coming for health reasons and because she wanted a future with me. That is, if I was going to have one. A few days before we left things went downhill between her and her boyfriend. As a result, she had to bring her children to Nashville, where her former husband lived. She had no money and no way to get them there. So, we loaded them into my RV and drove. I had the opportunity to service the RV there, so it was a dual-purpose trip. We camped several times. Her children were young and as adorable, as was she. Well, she wasn’t adorable in the traditional sense. She was more like a Raquel Welch or Kate Upton, with a country girl personality.

We cooked together and lived in the RV as we made our way to Nashville. When we arrived, her former ex was drunk, so there was a lot of drama. I was shocked she left her kids with him, but his new wife assured us she would take care of them. We got the RV serviced and left for New York. As we were leaving Nashville, she used her skills to motivate me to take her to Virginia first, to see her mom. She said she had not seen her in years and that her mom was sick. We shot the entire trip, and we were making record time. It was much easier with her helping and it was so much less lonely. Anyone who has spent a lot of time on the road, knows how isolated it feels.

When we got to her mom’s house, I was busy editing a video I hoped would be the start of my come back. I shot with the trust fund model just prior to the road trip and was committed to editing it before we got back to New York. I parked outside her mom’s house and opened the RV, as she spent time with her sick mom. Her mom was sweet and kind. That day, I found out that she wasn’t sick at all. I was disappointed in my new co-pilot for lying to me. That’s why I stayed in the RV that night. We were supposed to go back to New York, film a flash mob and then hit Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The temperature was dropping and I was not in good shape. I was bleeding again and I couldn’t feel my right leg most of the time. Regardless, I wanted to get back to New York to see how my heart would hold up. It seemed to be fine in the 85-95 degree Florida heat.

By the time we got back to New York, I was bleeding all over the RV and could no longer keep it a secret. I was in bad shape. She was concerned. She was also excited, as this was her first trip to New York. I shot the flash mob. The following day I went to the emergency room and had surgery. They botched the surgery. I would bleed for years. However, we were in New York and I was not going to let a little surgery stop me. I was taking painkillers so I didn’t feel much. For the second time in my life, I managed to get onto the main stage at Times Square, on New Year’s Eve. I shot a reality series episode with her that night. I could not believe I was granted access to the main stage. I joined Ryan Seacrest and a host of A list celebrities. I brought her with me for the first act. She left the stage at intermission. They wouldn’t let her back, when she started acting like a diva. The security team heard her being disrespectful to me and wouldn’t let her back on stage. There was nothing I could do about it.

She wanted me to come back down, but I was busy photographing Taylor Swift and a host of other celebrities. I knew the shots would be critical to restarting my career. It was significantly more important than attending to a model who lied about her mother being sick and who now was acting like a diva. I shot the entire New Year’s Eve program from that stage. She went back home a few days later. I tested her by offering her health care or cash, as compensation for her services, a few days after New Year’s Eve. When she took the cash, I knew she was not being honest about her illness either. Shortly after the new year she went MIA. She was hooking up with another photographer in New York City. I knew that this chapter was not even going to get started. I canceled my contract with her the next day when I learned her children were calling and telling her that their father was drinking again and the school was not allowing them to attend. We exchanged a few nasty words. It wasn’t easy for either of us as she stayed with me through some of the worst days of my life in a very small RV.

You would be surprised how close you can become to someone you travel with, especially a co-pilot who used her beauty to play you. We were going to produce twenty-four episodes of that series. The New Year’s Eve episode was our first and last. It was one of the best New Year’s Eves I ever had. The performances by so many major celebrities took place not twenty feet from my camera. It was a “Make A Wish Foundation” evening for me and I photographed everyone and all of it. I will never forget the moment Taylor Swift walked up to my camera and smiled directly at me. There were only a few of us on stage for her performance. All the other photographers and media were asked to step away at that point. However, I befriended the one photographer who had clearance. I guarded his gear when he went to the bathroom earlier. He slipped me his ID and they allowed me to stay for the entire show. It was a great night and a short-lived chapter of love. I did start to fall in love with her and her children, before I realized she was playing me. I figured I deserved it, as I was not always an angel myself. It was another lesson well learned.

She was my co-pilot and we shared some great shoots together. One day when I publish my human figure collection, a coffee table book, you will see just how shapely she was. Another chapter gone, but there were so many in my life. I was interested in a soul mate, as opposed to another hook up. I had grown so much, mostly spiritually, as a result of dealing with my health challenges.One thing was very apparent during this aborted chapter of love. I no longer had the luxury of wasting time on someone who was obviously using me for my creative talents. I did not want to go back to that lifestyle. I know my soul mate is out there somewhere, perhaps looking for me as well.