I am no longer marathon walking, as the years of pounding the pavement have taken its toll on me, as have the sports injuries from my youth. Like everyone, a half a century young, I have many bumps and bruises. One of my ankle ligaments is now completely gone. I had walked enough, between the miracle surgeries, to stay alive. When I stopped, my testosterone levels plummeted. The same doctor who fought the insurance companies on my behalf, saw this in a blood test and immediately put me on hormone therapy. He said I was going through “manopause” and my hormones were off from the sudden change in lifestyle. He implanted some Tic Tac sized pellets in my abdomen that helped my body manufacture more testosterone. My body made a ton of it. All a sudden I was losing weight. My belly that had been growing, without explanation, melted away, well, most of it. I started to grow hair all over my body and I woke up with a woody every day. It was like I was fifteen again. While I had remained mostly celibate for several years, I was now hornier than a hotdog on Viagra. I wanted to stay committed to my sexual sobriety, but there was just no way. I had come full circle. Shortly after putting myself on several dating services as “Husband 4 Hire,” I started to get tons of likes, winks and chat requests. I had girls from around the globe contacting me through online dating services. Big data and members of those networks, were spreading my profile all over the world. I already made the decision to meet my soul mate organically, so although I chatted with hundreds of women, I only dated a handful. One such woman joined me to go sailing, but as it was raining, we never made it out of the marina. We put the time to good use and were all over each other.
By this time I was shooting for almost every modeling agency from NY to LA, as well as some of the most elite models from all over the world. I was living in Hell’s kitchen and just getting to know the city. Other than family events, or as a child, going to work with my father, I didn’t know Manhattan. For the first time in my life, I was learning the streets of New York. Not just as a passenger in my father’s car, or a school field trip, but by living and working in the city. It was a virtual playground with huge nightclubs and millions of women from around the world. I was in a single man’s paradise, as there was a plethora of opportunity and a smorgasbord of women from just about everywhere. That is why I found it so strange that I was falling in love with a shy coal miner’s daughter from Allentown, Pennsylvania. I don’t understand how I could fall in love so often, or why certain women immediately triggered that love at first sight switch in my brain. But those love hormones, like dopamine and all the others, would simply drive me wild at times. I would experience these amazing floodgates of love for certain women. She was one of them. After our first shoot I thought we would spend a lot of time together. It was a simple shoot. She modeled in a torn pair of jeans and a ripped t-shirt. She was slender and much cooler looking than most models. She carried herself like the main character in the feature film “Flash Dance.” That was the style at the time. She was definitely a tomboy, but shy. Acting and modeling was drawing her out of her shell. She had long curly brown hair. Not naturally curly, just part of the act. Kind of her unique style. She was very fashionable. She wore outfits that looked like they came out of Vogue or Elle’s sportswear section. She came off as a sexy, hot, jock, dancer chick.
After REDS I started promoting many nightclubs part time to help pay for college. I started in high school, when I would throw keg parties for my fellow athletes. It carried over to college. In addition to promoting clubs I started bartending also. One of the bartending jobs I already shared was at the Salty Dog. That gig turned into more than just bartending. The restaurant was failing and the bar was not doing the kind of business it did in its heyday. I thought it was ridiculous that a bar and restaurant across the street from two colleges was serving whisky to locals, as opposed to promoting college nights. So, I asked the management for an opportunity to take on marketing and promotions. Within a few months they went from grossing less than seven thousand a week, to over twenty-one thousand, with the majority of that revenue coming from the lady’s nights and college nights I was promoting. I was effective as a promotional and marketing manager. One way I promoted was to carry free drink cards with me everywhere I went on campus, give out a few hundred a day and then meet the people at the bar that night. The free drink cards always expired quickly, so people would often come for their drink that same day. I engaged them in conversation at the bar and introduced one to another. As a result, the people who I invited became friendly with each other. I loved bartending and the combination of bartending and marketing was a natural fit for me. But, it was not always so easy. There was tons of competition. The only thing we had going for us is that we were within walking distance or a short taxi ride from the colleges. The huge discos were always more exciting. I was doing everything I could to grow revenue. I would go to area colleges, including the one I was attending and seek out the cheerleaders and athletes. I would flirt with the most beautiful girls I could find. It was working so well that I bought a tuxedo, purchased roses and gave them out daily to the cheerleaders. I did not let anyone see me give out multiple roses to many girls. I only carried one at a time. I would leave them in my car, see a beautiful girl, walk up to her and hand her a rose. I would flirt with her and make believe I purchased that rose just for her. They were always flattered, often blushed and would ask what the rose was for. I would always say the same thing, “Come to my bar tonight and I will show you.” Then I would either walk away, while making eye contact as I walked, or walk her to class. I did this hundreds of times a week, for months.
I went to Switzerland to test my heart while it was still freezing in the Swiss Alps. At the time, I was living in Southern Florida. I had to leave New York, despite my life-long love for the city and the beaches of Long Island. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I was depressed, lonely and lost, as I knew no one and nothing about Florida. I did know it was over eighty degrees, year round- It was the perfect climate for walking, but it was the most boring place I have ever lived. It was like being stuck in a perma-vaction nightmare. Granted, if you were on vacation for a week or even three months and living as a snowbird, it was paradise. But to give up everything and everyone I knew; friends, clients, family, to live in Naples, was nothing short of waiting to die in paradise. I was deathly homesick. I left New York knowing that the cold winters would kill me if I stayed. I cheated death so many times, despite the fact the surgeons couldn’t fix my heart completely for almost fifteen years. I was walking a marathon (26.2 miles) every two days, seven days a week, for almost six months. I recently learned, when one has stents inside failed stents, the arteries become less flexible. When it gets cold, there is more pressure. You can feel it because the walls of your arteries do not give as much as they normally would. It could cause a heart attack. So, when I left Florida for Switzerland, I did not know if I would survive. A heart attack was a distinct possibility. Yet, this was a rare opportunity to live on a farm in the countryside, so I packed my three hundred pounds of production gear and computers and was on my way. At the very least I would know if I could move back to New York, or if I had stay and try to build some kind of life for myself in Naples. Or even more concerning, If I could survive in the cold again at all. I was going to stay with one of my best friends. I photographed her for years. On her birthday, she would always fly to NY, without her husband, to shoot with me. She did this for eight years. She extended an invitation to stay with her while we looked for backing for a feature film we started in Florida, months earlier. It was definitely an experiment. My friend was a world-class model, but I didn’t know if she would to be able to develop her acting skills fast enough to pull this off. I cared about her and we were very close, but we never crossed that line. She was married. I thought that there might be something between us, but I would never lure a married woman away from her husband, no matter how beautiful she was, or how close we had become. I had been in love, with creating with her, for at least five of those eight years.
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.
Not long after I broke things off with the cadet, I moved to New York City. I was subletting a friend’s apartment on 45th street in Hell’s Kitchen. Once I moved to New York City, my career started to take off. I was photographing many more models and making a lot of money, most of which I spent on photography gear and going out with those same models. I was photographing hundreds of guys as well. I became friends with many of them. Often, we would go clubbing or should I say, hunting. I shared some of the funniest and best moment of my life with those guys. We hunted and partied from New York to LA. My social life was on fire. I was popular and felt appreciated as a person, as well as for my photography. I wanted to help artists advance their careers whether they could pay me or not. Often, I would take things in trade. Once, I even got a python. Often I would trade those items for things I did need. It was a surreal time in my life. In addition to my wild ways, I had a reclusive side. This came out when I wrote or edited and almost always when I printed in the dark room. Occasionally, I had actual photo shoots in the darkroom, which were typically followed by sexual encounters under the red lights. I was bartending at the Palladium when I met my ballerina. Getting a job at the Palladium was not easy. It was a hot spot and there was a lot of competition. My friend who was one of those professional models knew a dancer whose boyfriend was the head of security. She was a tremendous break-dancer. After I photographed her, she introduced me to her boyfriend who got me the job with Steve Rebel. I was very fortunate. It turned out to be a tremendous experience. Like every young man, I had both wild sexual desire for a variety of women, as well as a need for real love and companionship. It seemed as if I couldn’t find both passion and an intellectual connection in the same person. So, I had many different chapters. That too I am grateful for. How boring would life be to only have had one lover and one soul mate. Boring, but perhaps fortunate. I honestly do believe that there is a novel of love waiting for me somewhere out there.
I was very naïve about love; despite the fact I was sleeping with more women than I could have ever imagined. I was bartending. It was the 80’s. Just about everyone was experimenting with fetishes. I was no different. This was a very strange chapter of my life. She was a police officer in training who really liked her handcuffs. I had no idea she was training to become a cop when we first met, at my bar, as she was in street clothing. I was still shy, so I occasionally tapped into the liquor supply to give myself a little extra boost of courage. I had worked in the hospitality business for a short time, but typically as a waiter. This was both my first full-time management and bartending gig. By the time I found out she was an actual cadet she had me in handcuffs. While in uniform, she started cutting up lines at the then infamous Bethpage Hotel on Hempstead Turnpike. I was ridiculously nervous because I couldn’t believe a future cop was doing blow. There was no way for me to escape. Frankly, I did not want to. But, I never did blow and never wanted to. This was going to be my first time, except for one tiny bump when I was drunk with a cheerleader. She was not only hot, but also very persuasive. For those unfamiliar, blow is an extremely dangerous drug, especially to anyone who has obsessive or addictive personality. This was a very bad decision. It became a weekend ritual. She would handcuff me to the bed and go to town on me. She was the more active participant in the actual thrusting and pumping. I was kind of her sex slave of sorts. Our relationship was completely based on role-play and sex. I really didn’t know her. I did know that she was related to many different families of cops to much later on in our relationship. Almost every working adult in her family was a police officer, so the fact that she was bringing blow to the hotel freaked me out. As much as it terrified me, the sex was so different and so intense I couldn’t bring myself to end it.
I was in elementary school. After a sixth-grade graduation, I managed to convince the principal to let me have the flower arrangements at each end of the stage. I combined them into one nice bouquet and left them outside the classroom of a, very cute, girl who I was taken with. I included a note. It worked, for soon afterwards we were experimenting in my tent, playing Spin The Bottle, or Truth Or Dare. Each of those games was a popular way to tempt girls into fooling around, while at the same time being somewhat innocent. But, by this time, I was not sure how innocent I was. I had already gone through communion class. I figured I was going straight to hell for having gone all the way with my babysitter. I believed it. The nuns at church solidified that belief when I hinted I was not a virgin. There was something about going to confession I could not stomach at that age. I was not about to ask for absolution from fucking, when I was ten. It just seemed a bit much. Since I was going to hell anyway, I said screw religion. I do not believe in a God that would condemn me to hell. But, all the same, it was always in the back of my mind. I went through communion, but as soon as it was over I never went back to church again. Well, at times I had to and I always sat in the back and never ever went for confession again. I had not real mentoring when it came to religion as my father rebelled against the catholic church for beating him while he was an alter boy in a Christian boys home. We would mostly pick Truth Or Dare. We would play with other kids who knew we were fooling around. Word spread like wild fire. Not only were we the first kids in the school to be dating, we were the youngest. None of the sixth graders were dating. Most were feeling the first throngs of sexual awakening, but had no concept of what to do about it. When we started to get nervous about fooling around in my backyard tent, we thought that we could use a secluded area of the park. At first, we were going to use that same tent for privacy, but tents were not allowed. So, we improvised and took our bicycles and a blanket to the park.
I did not know her. I knew nothing about her. I don’t believe I ever spoke to her. But, when I saw her, I felt I knew her my entire life. She felt familiar and connected and I recognized the feelings. This was a connection I have made many times, so it was not out of the norm. It was not just infatuation but as clear a feeling of love as I have ever felt. This was not just passion; it was a distinct feeling of love. I felt it instantaneously and I do not understand why. Not only did I feel it, but I could tell instantly she felt it as well. She was staring into my eyes. She did not blink or move, or say anything, for at least five seconds, which seemed much longer. We were standing in the middle of the dance floor. She was not staring into my eyes for any reason other than that she too was mesmerized. It was unexplainable, but it was real. Like so many times before, I was feeling love for a woman I knew nothing about. I was not manic, or drunk. I was simply drunk with love.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.