The love was gone and she lay empty in my arms like a ghost with no heartbeat. I was falling endlessly into the dark eternity of despair, not knowing just how far the crack in my heart would grow, or if the gap would be beyond repair. Years of emptiness and lost hope were my daily companions. I was alone and unwilling to settle for anyone less than my soul mate and then I met her. But how far had the cracks in her heart grown? Was her smile just a front to hide her own pain? She was no stranger to betrayal and her heart was also challenged. This she shared candidly, when I first met her. And of course, I saw it in her eyes. Maybe the cracks in her heart is what attracted me to her, as I am so accustomed to rescuing broken hearts, as I recklessly expose my own. I have fooled myself before, blurring the lines between love and despair. What is it about the fluttering of a broken wing that blurs my vision? After so many years of shielding my wounds have I healed? How is it even possible that after so much pain and betrayal I could even consider trying again? Why her? How could this possibly be happening, or was it just in my imagination? What is it about these chapters of love that can be so painful that it takes years to recover, if ever? I do not know if I can or if she is even willing, but she could be the one that will bring some sense or meaning to the years of waiting, hoping and longing for a true soul mate. Is love even under our own control? Is it beyond our own capacity to limit or create, or is it simply destiny? Why would she ever choose me? I am so flawed. Even as I write this I know that beauty like hers, both inside and physically is a once in a lifetime encounter.
The first time I looked into her eyes, she was walking into my studio. It was just after sunset. She was late. At least two hours late, but she had walked miles, taking several trains and finally a taxi to get to my studio, a good four hours from her home. I lit candles in the studio and had both fireplaces going. I was hoping to start at sunset, one of my two favorite times of the day to shoot, with sunrise my absolute favorite. But, one of her trains was delayed. I had a glass of wine waiting for her, as I was both flattered and interested to see what kind of person would travel so far to shoot with me. As I opened the door I was quite surprised to see that her beauty matched her online photographs. That was not always the case. The golden flame of the fireplace lit her face as she entered the door. She looked like an Indian princess. She was petite, dark, with eyes almost black and perfect cheekbones. Not to mention, a slender well-curved body. I will never forget her first words to me. “Oh my God, you are as handsome as your Facebook photographs.” I was both flattered and taken aback. Despite her four-hour adventure, her hair and makeup were perfect and she was ready to shoot. She walked in with her flight attendant style rolling wardrobe and immediately gave me a kiss. It was a kiss of friendship like those given in so many countries. I knew she could not be from here and later learned she was from South America. She took a glass of wine, sat on the stool in front of the seamless backdrop and lights, as if she had been modeling her entire life and we started shooting. She was great. Her eyes were strikingly beautiful, so deep and dark, yet alive and sensual. She was very much a model though she was new to the New York modeling scene. She had modeled and danced her entire life, so the studio was a natural and safe environment for her. I found out rather quickly, photography was not why she came to my studio.
One night while working late, I received a video chat request from a beautiful actress I recognized from her television appearances. She was not only a romance novel cover model, but also acted with very famous people, in some major roles. While she was not as famous as those she acted with, she was a very successful actress and model. So, of course I answered the call. When I picked up, she asked me if she had reached a depression outreach service. I said no. She said, I am often up late at night and wanted to volunteer. Within five minutes, I knew that it was not volunteering she was calling for. She was in trouble. Serious trouble. I stayed on the line with her all night to make sure she was ok. I was still living down south, as I had not yet reached my target weight. I had at least seventeen pounds to go and nothing was going to stop me. I had already gone through massive surgeries and walked thousands of miles to rebuild my circulatory system, but still, I was not myself. That being the case, I was not exactly sleeping around. In fact, I was intentionally avoiding relationships. The last thing I needed was a passion induced heart attack while I was recovering. Also, the surgeries were so challenging and caused such a massive amount of pain that in time I became immune to the effects of pain killers. I suffered greatly. In retrospect, I likely suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was in agony and the recovery period was beyond intense. I reasoned that if I walked thousands, or even tens of thousands of miles, my arteries would grow stronger and my heart would follow. I was ready to move back to New York and almost ready to test out the ticker the hard way. But, at this point in my life I did not want to engage in casual sex. I decided that the next time I was going to be with a woman, it would be for love, not a hook-up or anything remotely casual.
Obsession is typically defined by a thought that preoccupies or intrudes into one’s mind to such a degree that he or she is powerless to resist the object of that obsession. It is an all-consuming passion that takes hold of your thoughts until you are totally dominated by your compulsion and persistently overwhelmed by your desire. There is no question in my mind, that without ever realizing it, most of my life was spent powerless to my obsession with romance. I was so obsessed with romance, that for the better part of my life, I spent most every waking hour searching for it. Typically, I would find women who were also obsessed, but most of the time, with me. I would go so far as to say that most of my relationships were based on obsession… not love. I was powerless. I spent much of my time pursuing that obsession. Photography was a means to feed that desire because I would meet thousands of women from every corner of the world. Typically, I would be alone with those women and we would almost always be shooting in the most intimate of settings. I am not sure what came first, the camera or the obsession, but they fed each other. Not that there is anything wrong with a healthy sexual desire, but I was consumed. Beyond consumed. That is one of the reasons I stopped dating. I wanted to break the addiction. But, as hard as I tried, it did not work. I literally had to take medication to stop myself from obsessing so enthusiastically.
I was promoting a nightclub and bartending in the early eighties. Eventually I found myself bartending at the Palladium, in downtown New York City, the largest and most popular nightclub in the world, at the time. It was an incredible time for music. MTV was all the rage. I was actually featured on the first MTV music awards, drinking champagne and toasting with Mark Goodman. BB King, Robert Palmer, Robin Williams, Andy Warhol and Deborah Harry, were just a few of the celebrities that I hung with at my bar. Hundreds of other celebrities, in the peak of their careers, came to the club and drank with me. In truth, they were not drinking with me, but at my bar in the Michael Todd Room. It was there that I bartended for many celebrity parties. I was in my early twenties and getting bookings that would have me flying around the country. I stayed in places like the Beverly Hills Hotel. I photographed everyone from Miss Canada to Andy Warhol, Deborah Harry, Mohammad Ali, Brooke Shields, Patty Duke, Tina Louise, as well as other actors and celebrities I had seen on television most of my life. I was even invited to Tina Louise’s (Ginger on Gilligan’s Island) home for tea and to pray with her minister. That same minister invited me to photograph the King of Tonga and to become his personal photographer, offering me an enormous amount of money. I didn’t, because I was concerned about leaving New York City when my career was exploding. My popularity was growing exponentially and there seemed to be a never-ending source of clients who wanted me. It was a surreal experience. Not only did I tend bar at the club, but the manager and head of security often had me personally work the VIP list and the ropes at major events like the Directors Guild of America Annual Awards Ceremony. I kept a tux in my locker and I was “that guy.” I had no idea that it was such cool thing. I was just working. Initially I preferred to be inside, at the bar, flipping glasses and meeting beautiful women. After a while, I realized that being, the club gatekeeper and holder of the VIP list made me considerably more desirable. Women thought it was a position of power, but I had no power at all. I simply followed the list, except for that occasional hot model who wanted to slip through.
She became a famous actress, but it was long after our chapter of love. Her stardom occurred in her native Israel. When she lived in the America she was a particularly emotional chapter of love for me. She was my first real “international” romance. Reflecting back, I believe the relationship meant more to me than to her, sometimes you never know. We fell in love, even though she was already pre-committed, through family and political arrangements, to marry someone else. It was an old-school, arranged marriage. She kept her commitment. I believe she wanted to stay with me. That would have meant leaving her entire family and everything she knew, for a city she barely knew and for me. It was not a risk she was willing to take. It hurt deeply to lose her. It was crushing when we split, but I knew it was what she wanted and was obligated to do. Her politically powerful father gained considerable fame by having set himself on fire. He was a formidable man. His political statements were intense and his power base impressive. I could not compete, certainly, not at those levels. Of course, the reality was that it was her choice. For her, New York City was a prolonged bachelorette party prior to the big event. Ours was a heated sexual relationship. It was smoking hot love and photography. Nothing much else. It was intense and we created beautiful images. She turned her modeling and business trips into quite an adventure. I was a big part of it. She was one of the loves of my life. I cannot even remember how long we were together. It was hot. It was constant. And then, it was over.
When I walked the runway for Macy’s in Roosevelt field, I thought I was acting quite professional and looking supremely confident, but it scared the shit out of me. At this point in my life I was no performer. I was still growing up and becoming comfortable in my own skin. Being the subject of cameras or on a runway, in front of so many people, frightened me. But, modeling was proving to be a great way to meet gorgeous women and to score great clothing for free. I was building my wardrobe and getting paid! I couldn’t believe people were willing to pay me to stand in front of their cameras. But walking down a runway in front of hundreds of women was embarrassing, especially because I had a hard-on the entire time. And it showed. I did not model for long because I was shy and I preferred photography to modeling. But for a moment, I was modeling professionally. At first, it was kind of an ego thing. It felt good that professionals wanted to photograph me and pay me for it. As happens with most who model, it gave me a confidence boost and of course it was profitable. I had a pup tent in my pants every time I went behind the runway to change. Backstage there were always ten naked, beautiful older, well-developed models. They were exceptionally beautiful women. Two of them were assigned to undress me and re-dress me super-fast. So fast, that they did not have time to get dressed in between walks. So, they were nude. They were models. They were beautiful. And there I was, naked, in a small tent like changing area with them. To top it off, I was the only guy in the fashion show. The music started and every time one of the females was walking the runway, two of the models were ripping my clothing off and quickly getting me into a new outfit. They did not want me to wear underwear. Looking back, I believe they knew what they were doing. The pants were designed to show the male anatomy quite effectively.
If ever I could say I was in an open relationship with a Playboy Bunny-esque woman, she would be the one. It also was the long-term affair that was my midlife crisis romance. She was different than any woman I had ever known. She was carefree, extremely sexual, and had a stripper vibe. As a bonus, she was a tremendous athlete. We fooled around a bit prior, but she seriously entered my life after she suffered an abrupt breakup of a long-term relationship. It was then, she moved in with me. I was a single father and had two children to consider. It was important to me to make sure it was in the best interests of my children. After all, a woman that hot, who exuded sex out of every pore, was not your typical suburban mom or even girlfriend. Fortunately, she understood and respected the situation, so she had a home. In return, she became the inspiration for my first real professional video and DP work. She brought her Panasonic 720p state of the art HD camera with her. The rest is history. I took to shooting video as if it was photography. In the process of producing videos with her, I learned the art of editing. We produced amazingly sensual beach and love scenes together. It started when she attended a holiday party in NYC. We were both invited to an after-party and dinner. Later we all went to a nightclub. As is the unfortunate case with many beautiful women, the host was inappropriate to her. She asked me if I would get her home safely. She was drunk and quite vulnerable. I walked her to her door and we shook hands. She promised to call me about a shoot date. I felt good that I got her home safely and that she seemed to be interested in more than photographs. I was inspired to say the least..
I wrote several songs for my rock star long after we broke-up.” Tomorrows not so far away, she’ll come back and she’ll come back and stay. So, close your eyes now and go to sleep and pray to god her soul he’ll keep… “The first couple of lines from one of those songs, “Tomorrow,” which still resonates deep within my soul. I have sung that song for other chapters since then. Love with my rock star was an organic reaction. It was a reaction I have felt and shared so many times. I still do not understand it, despite the scientific evidence proving love at first sight is in fact, a legitimate and very real phenomenon. There is no explanation for it, but some say they fell in love the moment they first laid eyes on one another. If ever in my life I was so smitten, she was the one. I had not heard her voice in over twenty years, but after a single word “, John,” my heart started beating uncontrollably and I felt the love as strongly as I did the last time I saw her. It was decades ago and it was a true heartbreak. Until I heard her voice again, I did not realize I was carrying the loss with me for all that time. She was my rock star. Anyone who looks back on his or her chapters of love knows that love can ignite in a millisecond. It doesn’t always grow stronger over long periods of time. Nor does love have to last forever to be true love. Or does it? In this case, we were together for years. We planned on spending our lives together. I had just moved back to Long Island from New York City. Not long afterwards I met her on the Long Island Rail Road. I was recovering from a relationship with my NYC neighbor that taught me a lesson about love or what I thought was love. As such, I was not looking at that moment. When I saw her, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I mustered up the courage to speak to her, as I was quite shy despite the act I put on. I do not know why she even spoke to me. She was not just pretty, but stunningly beautiful. Men would constantly stare at her. I was no exception.