When I met her, I didn’t know she was involved with someone, nor did I want to ask. I just wanted to get to know her. She was the embodiment of fashion and beauty, white gloves and all. I was bartending at Pierre Cardin’s extravagantly expensive Maxim’s, one of the world’s most famous French restaurants, located in the Helmsley Carlton House on 61st and Madison Ave. in New York. It was an outpost of the famous Parisian belle époque cafe founded in the 1890’s. It was a weekend and she was alone. I had never seen a woman of that beauty, dressed so formally, alone at a bar. I was waiting for the plethora of men who would soon line-up to capture her attention. I was trying to play it cool, although I could not take my eyes off her. I was pathetically shy. She had such an effect on me that I became clumsy behind the bar. I was ogling her and she liked it. I am sure she was taking a good look at me in my tuxedo as well.
The patrons were extremely wealthy. Most dressed as if they had just come from the opera. Many had. Occasionally, mere mortals, from the middle class would come in. This was generally for special events such as engagement parties or anniversaries. While I was bartending I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge in the culinary arts. I would skip my lunch and dinner breaks to take lessons from the French chefs in the kitchen. I had often thought I would open a restaurant, so whenever I wasn’t bartending, I volunteered to work with chefs, for free on my lunch an dinner breaks. I probably have more kitchen hours logged than many chefs. I have mastered numerous cuisines. I can really cook!
But this chapter is not about cooking. It is about this incredible woman. I wasn’t even thinking about sex when I first met her. I just wanted her to agree to pose for me. I couldn’t wait to get her into my studio, which at this point in my career were primarily the South shore beaches of Long Island. She was a work of walking art from head to toe. As I learned shortly after meeting her, she was a model, designer and also, a fine artist.
The food and atmosphere at Maxim’s was always refined and world class. A string quartet would often play on a mini cabaret style stage. We all wore tuxedoes. Patrons would come similarly dressed. Some even wore top hats. Other than in the movies, I had never seen anything like it. I had never even been to a black-tie event prior to working there. As for the food, the duck was incredible, as was the chateaubriand in a demi-glaze. I would eat there most nights when I bartended, right in the kitchen with the chefs who were training me. I spent very little time with the head chef. Usually, I trained with one of my friends, who was the fourth or fifth chef. He was the one who introduced me to the restaurant management. He was also instrumental in helping me get the bartending gig there. In all, I was taught by about four of their top chefs who appreciated my interest in learning French cuisine. When I was bartending I would make them cocktails and sneak them into the kitchen. That was totally against the house rules, but I paid for them out of my own pocket so I didn’t see the harm in it. They weren’t supposed to be drinking on the job, but they also weren’t supposed to be teaching me how to cook the entire menu either. My manager knew. As long as I kept ringing up more sales than any other bartender, he looked the other way.
After a quick dirty martini, she ordered beluga caviar and Cristal. This was far too expensive for me to comp or buy for her. She asked for two glasses and two plates, so I assumed she was waiting for a guest. She seemed to be as enchanted with me as I was with her. I have never been particularly fond of any body type or figure other than totally fit and she was as fit as any fitness model I had ever seen. Her accent was intriguing, different than anything I ever heard. It was the glamorous way in which she presented herself that made her so irresistible and alluring. This was amplified by the fact that she did not stop staring at me.
Her accent was Eastern European, but I don’t recall where she was from, other than I don’t believe it exists anymore. As she was waiting for her champagne and caviar she perused my portfolio and told me that she was also an artist. She wanted to paint self-portraits from photographs I would take of her. She loved the way I used natural light and the reflections from water to create glowing, golden, bodies with dynamic highlights. This was my style of shooting for both headshots and body shots. I was starting to gain a reputation for showing the human figure in this way, in contrast to so many photographers in the eighties who were using the new Speedetron studio lights. I always brought my print portfolio to work with me. I never knew when I was going to meet someone who was interested in shooting with me. I always recruited none agency models and actors to shoot with me, even if they were not pursuing careers any longer or never had. Often I would use photography as an icebreaker and very often because I loved the human figure. She was mesmerized by my work. She couldn’t believe that with such talent, I was a bartender. It was obvious that she came from money. If not, someone was paying for all that beluga and Cristal. Someone with lots of money!
Although I was more than willing to photograph her without any fee, as I often did for others, she offered me an enormous retainer. As I served her the Cristal and the waiter brought the beluga, I realized that she ordered the champagne and caviar for the two of us. I immediately asked for the rest of the night off. It was the only time I ever asked and the manger agreed to let me off early. He knew what was going on. Despite the fact we were not allowed to socialize with the patrons, he looked the other way. We shared several bottles of Cristal. The caviar was new to me. The champagne was delicious, as was the caviar. To me it tasted like a woman, so I thought that must be why it was so expensive. I didn’t understand why a woman would like it. I wondered if it was a universal aphrodisiac. It definitely was to me!
This would be my last bartending job. My life as photojournalist, portrait and event photographer had begun. It was not until later in life that I became educated in software development methodologies, telecommunications, data mining and analysis. Careers I became very accomplished at for a short period of time.
She would top tiny, crispy crackers with caviar, chives, and other accompaniments. She would feed me one, eat one herself and then we would both toast with Cristal. We went through several bottles. I knew the tab would be over a thousand dollars. Later, she asked me if I needed a ride home. At this point, I was living at my parent’s apartment, while I was looking for an apartment in the city. She thought I was living in the city when she offered. I told her I had to go to Long Island to get my equipment out of storage. She suggested that we take her car. I was taking trains and commuting, so this was all new to me. Before we left, she ordered more caviar and Cristal to take with us in the limo. At that point I shouldn’t have been surprised that she also purchased the silver crystal caviar plate and mother of pearl spoons as well. But, I was.
While I believed that she had her own car parked in a lot nearby I found out shortly she had a limousine with a driver. She directed the driver to take us to my Long Island apartment. The entire trip she flirted and poured glass after glass of Cristal. I ran in, retrieved my equipment and we went right to the beach. It was as if I was dreaming. This was not what a woman of her stature was supposed to be doing with a middle-class bartender who was driving a Plymouth Duster. We didn’t need any clothing for what was going to be an abstract and implied nude shoot, although she had an entire wardrobe in the trunk of the limo. She had it converted into what appeared to be an upscale portable closet, so she must have owned the limo. So, no clothes were needed. All she needed was a towel, which she did not have, so I took two from my parent’s house. Her only requirement was that I give her all the negatives. She offered me five grand for the shoot so I didn’t care if she took the negatives and a pint of my blood. But, as we became more and more flirtatious she became just as important as the money and the shoot itself.
She had her driver drop us at the beach. We were going to shoot and then sleep on the beach. It was late fall, but it was unseasonably warm. There was no one on the beach that morning. The sun was rising over the horizon and the first bits of sunlight were peeking through the clouds that were low in the sky. The gulls were scarce, yet somewhat audible with their chirping. The tall tufts of dried sea grass were gently rolling in the breeze, on the dunes, beside us. The rest of the sky was golden. Her skin was glistening in the orange glow of the morning light. The wind was gentle and soft. It cooled our skin as the sun warmed it. It was a beautiful day to be at the beach. Truly, a beautiful day to be alive. I felt as if I was living in a fairy tale. It was all so surreal. The water had turned from a green tone to a cool reflective blue, as the sun rose higher in the sky. It wasn’t the mild chill in the air that gave me goose bumps. It was the sheer magnitude of her beauty, as she slowly undressed. She did not rip her clothing off and change behind a towel, as many models did. She turned it into an art form. She took her sweet time, knowing that she was seducing me.
She was wearing a long black gown. There were many buttons on the side of the dress. She slowly was undoing them, one at a time, as she looked over her shoulder at me. I was in a black turtleneck with my black photographer’s vest and black jeans. I always wore black when I was shooting. She had a confident smile on her face, mixed with a look of satisfaction. As she laid her dress on the sand I could see that her body was even more sculptured than I imagined. My heart started to race. Under that gown, she was wearing black garters and lace lingerie.
She removed the garters very slowly. Every few seconds she would look back at me and smile. Each time she did, I became more and more entranced by her seductive striptease. She took off the garters and gently laid them on top of her dress. Then she took off her bra and put it on top of the garters, while carefully covering her nipples with one arm and hand. She was staring at me each time she turned and was intentionally keeping enough to my imagination. I was hypnotized by her grace. Then, she sat down onto the sand, facing away from me and slipped off her panties, using her feet to kick them away. She was on her side facing away from me, acting very modest. That combination of grace and pure animal sexuality totally stunned me. I couldn’t bring myself to start shooting. I stood there gazing at her for what seemed like an eternity.
She rolled onto her stomach with her arms still covering her breasts. I could see her back and the curve where it met her buttocks. Her dimples were as perfect as were her curves. She was lightly covered in a thin layer of sand. I fell to my knees and started shooting. Back then we used motor drives to advance the film. We were engulfed in silence, broken by only the occasional high-pitched screeches of the gulls, the surf, the sound of the shutter and the camera’s motor drive advancing the film. I was shooting faster than I had ever shot in my life. It was instinctual with her. I didn’t have to pose her. She would turn gracefully while covering her nipples and vagina with her hands. The sand would stick to her body and fall off as she moved. It was getting much warmer as the sun rose higher above the horizon and I began to sweat, so I took my vest and shirt off.
I switched to a telephoto lens, to blow out the background and put the 300 2.8 on my camera body, so I had to move far away from her. Before I did, I walked over to her and dropped to my knees, as she was lying on her back. I moved the few strands of hair that were in front of her eyes. She reached up to me and pulled me towards her to kiss. It seemed as if that kiss lasted for minutes. I felt as if I was floating. It was a gentle but passionate kiss. I was the modest one, but I hadn’t expected it. I starting to mount her, but she pushed me away, covered her breasts again and with a nod of her head let me know the kiss was as far as it was going. She was shy despite her courageous posing. It might have been the Cristal, or the moment. I have no idea what prompted the kiss, but the goosebumps were again moving up and down my body. I was rock hard. I knew she was checking, as I caught her staring as I was getting up. First it was my groin and then directly into my eyes.
I put the camera on my tripod, to keep it steady, as my hands were shaking. I was about thirty yards from her. As I continued shooting and directing her, she took her arms off her breasts and vagina. The distance and the kiss had emboldened her. I was lying with my head practically in the sand to get a low angle. I could feel my erection against the cool sand, which made it even harder. I thought I was going to cum right there. She waved at me to come to her. This was it. She wanted me
I closed my eyes and lowered my head. My heart started beating even faster. Before I got up I took one last look through my lens. All I saw were legs… hundreds of legs. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of marines in full battle gear, running between us. There were so many I lost sight of her for a few seconds. Then as gaps between them opened, I saw her rolling into the water, trying to hide herself. We both were so focused on each other; we never saw them coming, until they were directly between us.
It seemed to take forever for them to pass. When they did, I ran over to her and gave her my vest and shirt. She was freezing. The water was cold. Her mouth was wide open the entire time, as if she was in shock. As our eyes met, I wrapped my body around her to warm her. She did not put her dress on. It was far too expensive to come in contact with wet sand and salt water. It didn’t belong at the beach. Once she stopped shivering, she looked into my eyes and we both burst out laughing uncontrollably. She asked if I took any photographs of it. Of course, I had. That excited her. Her body was amazing. She had a look almost identical to Natasha Kinski in Richard Avedon’s famous snake photo. That shot inspired me. When I saw the actual photo, it was startling how much she looked like her.
We walked back to the parking lot quickly, as she was freezing. It was empty, as the beaches were not open that time of year. Not even a single marine was anywhere to be seen, as they disappeared into the distance. To their credit, not a single one broke formation, said anything, or stopped running. Within thirty minutes her limo was back at the beach. She dried off and cleaned herself up in the car. I called a friend to have him bring my reflector, which I had forgotten. The sun was now too high above the horizon to shoot without it.
We shot in the sea grass with him reflecting light for us. At this point she was not willing to do nudes. She was too rattled by the sudden appearance of the marines. Utilizing her wardrobe, we shot all day, through sunset. My friend swore she was the real Natasha and always told that to people. I never could confirm or deny that it was, despite the similarity. Just before sunset, we asked my friend to leave, as we were done shooting. We made love on the beach until it was dark and so cold we were both shivering.
We cleaned up so her driver wouldn’t suspect anything and went back to the limo. She asked her chauffeur to drive me home, but on the way, we were feeling so close we didn’t want the day to end. She didn’t want to go back to the city, so we handed him the film to take to the lab and she gave him the rest of the night off. I was embarrassed, but I drove her to a hotel, yes the infamous Bethpage Hotel, in my Plymouth Duster. It was the same place I had gone with the cadet. It was the only hotel I could afford, especially since the processing of the film was going to cost almost as much as the Cristal. At this point I had decided not to accept her offer of the five-thousand-dollar fee. I checked us in and as soon as I set up my strobe lights we were going at it again and taking photographs as well. She was getting so turned on, she coaxed me over to the bed with my camera in hand. She was rolling around in the white sheets and alternately hiding and exposing different parts of her body. Later, after we slept a bit, she went into the shower and posed erotically behind the shower curtain, to seduce me to join her. I couldn’t resist, even though I was exhausted.
The next morning, we went to the Empress Diner for breakfast and then to the NYC lab to pick up the film. I mostly shot black and white, as per her request. To say she loved the photos was an understatement. Back in the limo, she kept hugging and kissing me. Suddenly, her mood changed and she started to get upset. I asked her what was wrong and she admitted that she was involved. Her driver met us at the lab and handed her an envelope when he first arrived. She hugged me and gave it to me. As she left, I could see tears in her eyes. I teared-up as well. I knew I would never learn her name or anything more about her. I would never see her again. I knew it and of course I was correct.
About a month later, I found a roll of film with a frame or two shot from my “Natasha” shoot. I cherish those two shots, as it is all I have to remember her by. She was my Natasha and I will never forget the day a thousand marines crossed our path in the middle of a shoot. For weeks, I was heartbroken and shed a few tears every time I thought of how connected we were. She was committed to someone else. That someone else was the one who paid for the caviar, limo, dinner and my $5000 fee. It was painful, but gave me hope that I would find my true love one day. Even if she was not my soul mate, we did have an amazing chapter of love.