It was destiny’s song before we met, but I didn’t know it until long after I woke. She was a teenager. Somehow, she came to me, as she once was. A time long before her heart became callused and bruised, even broken. Before she lost hope and faith, or maybe a time before I lost mine. It was as if she was with me in a dream, sharing the deepest feeling of love we ever experienced together. She was not cold, or mean, or damaged. Her body language and her eyes showed me she was completely healed. She was looking directly into my eyes, something she had not done since we parted. We were walking arm in arm as if we were again in love. Time was irrelevant to our circumstances, circumstances that split us apart as if a giant dagger had been plunged into our hearts and split our souls. As we walked down a golden pathway there was no direction, no sense of time, or urgency or motion. It did not matter. All I could focus on were her eyes. We were older now but her eyes were as young as the first day I saw her, somehow even younger. We were walking arm in arm. She was focused completely on me and I on her. I don’t know how we were walking, as we didn’t look to see where we were going and for some reason we didn’t have to. We were walking as if we were being guided by a divine source and did not need sight. We were feeling our way along the path. There were twists and turns as if we were in a maze and yet there was no structure to it. Nothing had color or substance, but I could feel her and she could feel me. She was flirting, laughing, and smiling; more so than ever before. Even though we spent many years together, I had never seen her like this. I was happier than I had ever been. The feeling was euphoric, as if we were in heaven itself. Even so, I knew I was dreaming. It was an experience reminiscent of the angel of love who came to me when I was waking from surgery, in agony, with painkillers next to useless. But this felt more real. Here I was completely aware of everything and I was not drugged. I was with my destiny again and our souls were somehow brought back together.
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.
When I look back at my life I truly cannot believe how young I was when I first fell in love, even if it was puppy love as they call it. It was the first day of kindergarten. We walked to school that morning. My mom almost always walked us to school the first day. My older sister was with us as well. It was not very far, probably less than a half a mile down Newbridge Road, to Newbridge Road Elementary School. I was five and my younger sister was only two and in a baby carriage. For some reason, we were told to bring a record with us. I had one of my father’s favorites with me. I was really small. When I was born, I weighed only four pounds, fourteen ounces. I was never put into an incubator and it would take years before I was eating or holding food down properly. I was a runt and had health problems from the time I was born. Eventually I grew almost a foot per year and as time went on lost my runt status, but my parents were surprised I survived. I was not exposed to more than the friends I had on my block, or near my block, as we were not allowed to walk very far from home. All the same, there were plenty of kids on my block. We had a nice little niche gang that played together. There was one girl who caught my attention as we walked up to the brick doorway to the school. She had jet-black hair. She was beautiful. She wore a pretty white dress and what looked like ruby slippers. That was the style back then. She was more dressed up than anyone and was the prettiest girl I had ever seen.
I was floating in the most serene of spaces. I had no idea where I was; only that it was very peaceful. It was the most comfortable and relaxed feeling I ever experienced. It was as if I was weightless and floating above whatever it was I had been laying on. It felt warm, like bathwater at the perfect temperature. It felt like I was touching nothing. I was just there somehow. I couldn’t open my eyes, but I wasn’t sure why. I felt like I was dreaming, yet awake. If there was a heaven on earth, that is where I was. I felt no stress, no worry, no fear, nothing but peace. There were no birds, no trees and no blankets. I was just floating. But, there was light. It was as bright a light as I had ever seen; only I couldn’t see anything. I was aware of my body, but couldn’t feel it. It was as if I was in an incubator and didn’t even have to breathe on my own. I was confused, to say the least. And then, I heard a kind and gentle voice that seemed to be whispering directly into my brain. As her voice became clearer, I began to feel my heart beat again… but very slowly. And then, the voice would fade away. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, even though the message seemed to be coming from within my own body. Then, another heartbeat. But, still no breathing. Then her voice became clearer. She was saying, “breathe, Mr. Dowling. You have to breathe.” I was still floating. Each time I heard her voice, I would suck in air. While everything else was effortless, the breathing was not. It was almost impossible. Even so, I did not feel as if I was suffocating. I just wasn’t breathing. It was as if I was in suspended animation.
I was promoting college night parties with Keith Hart from Uncle Sam’s. It was a natural extension of my high school days promoting and hosting keg and victory parties for the entire school. I brought in a ton of people from various local colleges for a Halloween Party. Subsequently, I promoted many other parties with Keith But, I was never really interested in promoting night clubs. I just wanted to meet a lot of women. At the time, the most beautiful women were always at Uncle Sam’s. It was like the Studio 54 of Long Island. Keith was the kind of guy who would hook you up if you hooked him up. He followed a similar philosophy of paying it forward, in millions of dollars of funds raised for cancer research later in life. When I met him, he was one of the Long Island elite promoters who held the keys to getting into Uncle Sam’s, which of course then afforded the opportunity to meet the girls at the club. When I was modeling, he even put me on a Dating Game style show at Uncle Sam’s and I was chosen by the bachelorette. She dressed as a cheerleader for the occasion. Shortly afterwards, she took me upstairs and convinced me to take a few bumps. At the time, I had no idea what she was doing. She told me to snort white powder off her fingernail. She said it would make the sex better. Until that point, I had no idea we were going to have sex or what cocaine was. We did it on the stairs about thirty seconds later.
For me, junior high school was a time of sexual experimentation. Most of the kids played games like Truth Or Dare, Spin The Bottle, Seven Minutes In Heaven and a host of others. The only real difference between me and the other kids, was that I created my own game, “Sex Games,” at about the age of eleven. Unlike the other games, this was an actual board game. Yes, a sex board game for three or more people to play. I completely forgot about it until at my 30-year high school reunion, my junior high school girlfriend asked me about it. Many memories were rushing through my head when I first saw her. She was my girlfriend at the time we played the game. Mostly, we played it with her girlfriends. It was a throwback game…sort of a mix of Monopoly or Sorry with some Mousetrap thrown in. Players would roll dice to determine the number of spaces to move forward on the board. In that regard, it was like Monopoly. There were slides and ladders that advanced you past the serious sexual options. If you landed on pick a card, you had no idea what you might be asked to do. There were spaces for a “Truth” challenge and a “Dare” challenge. Some spaces would require actions similar to those from Seven Minutes In Heaven. I even adapted a spin type gizmo from another board game to determine who players had to make out with, when they landed on that spot on the board. Once, I landed on a space that required female players to change seats according to breast size. When the few girls playing kept arguing over who had the largest breasts, I was chosen to determine who was going to sit where, by feeling their breasts to make the determination. Do you think a preteen boy would create the game any differently? Life was good. The entire game was geared towards experimentation with kissing, touching, foreplay and more. And, when I say more, I mean a lot more. It was all based-on chance. I remember playing the game for the first time with my girlfriend and two of her friends. I had just finished developing it and this was to be the test. The girls loved it. As an additional benefit, I thought I could market it. I was entrepreneurial, even as a young man.
I had not seen her, or even spoken to her, in over thirty years. As soon as I heard her voice again, the rush of adrenaline and love overwhelmed me. It was as if an arrow from Cupid’s bow pierced my heart. I have felt this before, with my rock star, so I knew the feeling was real. It was unbelievable that love could last that long. She felt the same way and wouldn’t meet, for fear of losing control of herself. I met her at a disco bar called 1776 when I was seventeen. It wasn’t legal for me to be drinking. A rather legendary bartender who lived down the block from me owned an interest in the place. When I arrived, he let me in, along with some of my other under aged friends. He was friends with my father and knew I would never say anything. Almost everyone there was older. There were a lot of local college girls there as well. I had never dated a college girl. I was bouncing between different girls from my high school. At the time, I was throwing keg or victory parties for my classmates at other people’s homes. At almost every one of them, I hooked-up with someone. My father knew we were drinking, but if it wasn’t excessive, he seemed OK with it. Dad drank a lot himself at times and wanted me to be careful, but have fun. Dad was my pseudo wingman that night, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Dad was always my wingman. I try to be that for my own son to this day. I was almost six-feet tall, one hundred-forty-five-pounds. I was an athlete with very little body fat. I was as obsessed with sports as I was with sex. I ran marathons and earned four varsity letters in high school. My favorite sport was wrestling, but I wasn’t a great wrestler. I was just good enough to give the talented wrestlers a run for their money. On occasions, I could outperform them on sheer heart and conditioning, but I was no match for true grapplers. All the same I was in Olympic condition when I met her. She was dancing with some girls on a mostly empty dance floor. The disco lights were flashing and the DJ was playing the Bee Gees. She was beautiful and sexy in a wholesome way. I don’t remember how, or why, we started dancing. I do remember that we weren’t dancing for long before she started kissing me.
One of the oddities of the entertainment industry is that many models and performers use stage names. A stage name affords performers a certain amount of anonymity. In the 80’s, it afforded a hint of actual privacy, before everything about everyone was captured and stored on Facebook, The NSA, Chinese, Russian and countless other databases. In the eighties, you could maintain some level of anonymity simply by changing your name. Most models would have two first names, like Cindy Ann or Deborah Mary; just like strippers. I was listed as John Joseph on my modeling comp card simply because an agent told me to use my first and middle name. That’s why so many people who leave the industry are typically almost impossible to locate. They can’t be found using their stage names. In some cases, it’s for the best. In this case, I just turned eighteen. She was sixteen. I didn’t know she was only sixteen when I met her. To compound the issue, she hadn’t actually turned sixteen yet. She was dancing like a disco queen at a club called Feathers, in Levittown. As far as I knew, they proofed everyone, so it never crossed my mind that she might be under eighteen. She was one of a few under aged girls I ever dated. I didn’t understand why they were considered too young. I was only two years older and had just turned eighteen myself. However, I never pursued relationships if I found out a girl was using fake I.D. and lying about her age. The first time I met her she was dancing in a particularly suggestive manner at Feathers. Girls from all over Long Island would frequent that disco. The guys would dress like John Travolta. We mimicked the dance moves we saw in movies. No one had a clue as to what we were doing. But, some of the girls were hot. They seemed to instinctually know how to move their bodies and were far superior dancers. They had natural rhythm and it showed. Dancing is, and always has been, as much a sexual expression as a creative or romantic expression. When a girl who was dancing was also very beautiful, it could be quite erotic.
After my tomboy girlfriend had enough of New York City, I was still having a great deal of fun. While it was terrifying to see a person go through such a horrific experience, she was alive and smarter for it. I can’t swear to it, but I think I saw her on a few television commercials as well as in a television series. Knowing that she was succeeding, or at least making some headway, was a relief. It was also part of the reason I continued to stay in the city. Unfortunately, her earlier experience would be far from the worst I would see. At the time, I was bartending and being treated like a rock star. I loved every minute of life. I would wake up at dawn and photograph models at sunrise, take a quick shower and make it to the early business-networking bartending shift. I’d work through the early morning, closing out the registers and counting out the drawers. After the FBI raided our registers and gave us all polygraphs, only a few of us from the original crew were left. The others, who they caught stealing or drug dealing, were fired. The few of us who were honest, became the default head bartenders at each bar. They let go almost the entire bartending staff and quickly hired some great new bartenders. The ones who were fired continued to hang out at the club, selling drugs or promoting their modeling or acting careers. In the 80’s, it was about being seen by someone who could help advance your career, or the next hook-up. One night, I was uncharacteristically working the main bar. That bar was predominantly for the tourists. You had to know someone to get to the upper level bars. If you got to the next level, you needed to know someone to get to the ones that were even more private. There was VIP and then private VIP, up to seven levels and specific bars. The most exclusive was the Michael Todd Room Bar. That was the one I worked at most of the time. Just like in the movies, we would flip glasses and bottles and entertain our customers any way we could. We did not originate the practice, but we did make it popular in the eighties. Hollywood and Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail, made it even more visible. Regardless, we had a shit load of fun throwing glasses twenty feet into the air and catching them, spinning bottles in our hands and using Sambuca to light our fingers on fire.
I do not know many people who have their own waterfall. For almost twenty years, I did. I didn’t own the actual deed to it, but it was “mine” all the same. I have many memories of that waterfall, but only a few photographs. My buddy called me after reading some chapters of love after I was posting them on social networks. He was a model, as was his girlfriend. The very first day I introduced them, they stole my waterbed and kept it for three weeks. When they came up for air, they got engaged and later married. They have kids now and have spent their lives together. We often laugh about the times they joined me at my waterfall. The reason we laugh is that it was on a very expensive piece of private property. I met the owner when I was lost, trespassing on his property without knowing it. We became friends. He said I could come back anytime I wanted. I went to that private waterfall for almost twenty years, until long after I found out he sold the property. That same waterfall became a robust local tourist attraction. But when it was just vacant land I would camp there, photograph models and fish where it met the Delaware River, lower down the mountainside. I even brought my children camping there when they were very young. Too young to remember it now. Before I brought my friends and children to my waterfall, I would go there to take photographs. It was a few hour drive, north of Port Jervis, on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. I would drive along the river for about an hour and then hang a left at the railroad tracks, where they crossed the river on one of those, marginally safe-looking, bridges. I’d hang a quick right at a clearing in the trees. There was no real road, just dirt and gravel. Unless you knew it was there, you were not likely to find it. Over the years, I probably brought a hundred different models to that waterfall. Often, I brought groups of models. One time I was there with my wife and another couple. The same couple I introduced who took my waterbed over for weeks. It rained heavily in the mountains. The roar of rushing water woke us just prior to the flash flood that wiped out our campsite. At that point I realized how dangerous camping on a waterfall could be. The flat area, where the tents could be pitched, was only ten feet from a fifty-foot drop.
The memories of my chapters of love are quite vivid and clear in my mind. Not just the visual or auditory memories, but the actual kinesthetic feelings associated with those chapters. Recently, I watched a video that explained love at a biochemical level. They use a functional MRI to look at the brain chemistry of people who are in love, who are mourning a chapter of love and those who claim to feel love at first sight. What they found is that the same area of the brain that releases endorphins when you are in love, becomes more active when you lose love. So, at the end of every chapter of love, biochemically, you feel that you love that person more and yearn painfully for them, despite how you may think you feel. We feel more when we are longing for love than we do when we are in love. Love becomes stronger with desire, especially unrequited love, even painfully so. With respect to love, the way our brain works is the greatest mind fuck in nature. Other mammals react to losing love this way as well. Scientists have even tested people who experience love at first sight and proved the biochemical reaction is not based on lust and is identical reaction to those who have been in love long term. That is why love at first sight is more than simple infatuation. In my case, I carry the deep memories of love with me from everyone I have loved. My reflections of love, as I call them, are so clear that at times my heart races. I see and feel the love I have shared so vividly that I am often moved beyond my current state of being. The sparks of feelings that have stayed with me, my entire life, spur these vivid memories. Writing about them helps me channel that energy and is an emotional outlet for any lingering emotions that are still very much entangled deep within my heart. Many people have near photographic memories. Some for history, some for math equations, or science. For me it is feelings. Scientific research suggests that we remember through our visual memories, auditory memories and kinesthetic memories. I am extremely kinesthetic. That’s why it is such an emotional process to share these chapters of love. I am very often moved beyond words. I share them as vividly as possible to share the passion that was shared between my lovers and myself. Every one of my lovers are extremely significant to my heart no matter how long we have been apart or how long we were together. Sometimes it was the act of creating together that built so much sexual tension. With one woman, who came to live with me, that tension became unbearable. In many cases, it was unfulfilled passion that drove me to extraordinary levels of originality and creativity.
After the first few short chapters of love after my divorce, I realized that I could possibly find love again. If I met someone I thought might be my true soul mate and we spent years together, I would consider living with her. I thought if by some miracle they came up with a cure, I might even get married again. I was flip-flopping on the commitment and love thing. I had hope, but then again, I never thought I would survive, or have a life partner again. But, with each new chapter of love, and time, the crack in my heart was healing. I didn’t know it, at the time, but it was. I started to believe even more, as I picked up my camera again. I was shooting like I did when I was a younger man. All the interaction with women gave me even more confidence. Then it started. Everyone I knew was trying to set me up with someone. It was obvious to them that I was heartbroken. They wanted to help me through these rough times. I was shocked when some of my friend’s wives’ and my children’s friend’s mothers, were throwing themselves at me. I couldn’t understand their thinking. I would never fool around with a married woman, period. Then a family member set me up with her best friend’s sister, not realizing that I had been in a serious chapter of love with her best friend, decades earlier. She never told my family that we were involved. She wanted to keep it that way for some reason. I had not spoken to her in years, although I saw her occasionally. I knew she had gotten married and had children. Clearly, there was no future for us. But maybe there could be with her sister. At that point, the more absurd the possibility, the less fear I had of the opportunity. As I thought more about it, the full ramifications set in. I was being set-up with a woman who was the sister of my former lover, a woman I would have married in a heartbeat, if she had wanted me and I was not in such a wild stage of my life at the time. I was confused. This was a bit of a moral dilemma.
She worked for one of the local vets and lived on a makeshift farm of sorts out east. She would come to my house to take care of me, my aquarium fish, my home, just about everything, with the one notable exception of my children. When my children came to dad’s house, they were always the focus of my attention. My ex was living with another man. Any chance of reconciliation was over. I was so medicated I was a just short of being a walking zombie. The surgeons had tried many times, but the arteries in my heart and around my body were failing faster than they could be repaired. My health was again deteriorating quickly and the medication that was meant to keep me safe had so many side effects I was in constant pain and tired all the time. She was cute, shy and down to earth, a real country girl. She flirted with me every time she came to clean, organize, or help with the laundry and maintenance. I was so weak and limited I couldn’t do it myself without painkillers and I hated the way they made me feel. Often I would just lie there in bed, trying to not have a heart attack. Just walking, in the cold, from my front door to my car was life threatening. I resigned from my friend’s software company in Northport and started working for a much larger software company near Penn Station, on eighth-avenue. Getting out of my house and into the city was nearly impossible, but they were paying me a shit- load of money. Taxis and trains became my way of getting around. I walked as much as possible every day, but always with pain radiating throughout my entire body. I would go about twenty yards and then have to rest and catch my breath. She started coming more often than she was being paid to. I wasn’t paying her very much at all. She seemed to love my plethora of pets from my dog and cats, to my salt-water aquarium fish. When she was around I was much less sad. It was easier when she was with me on the days my children were at their mom’s house. No matter how badly I felt, she would make me laugh. She wore very conservative baggy sweat pants and sweatshirts every time she came to my home and although she was very pretty she hid her body quite well.
Some people believe that our souls are transformable, or that we live many times, moving from one life to another. While Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected in the physical sense, many believe it was a spiritual awaking and resurrection. I was never a very religious person, but that would not always be the case. I stopped going to church as a young boy. I just followed the traditions of religion. When the truck left my home with my soon to be former wife and most everything we owned, I thought I would die right then and there. My mind was a blur of regrets, confusion and anguish. She didn’t leave me due to the lack of love or at least I thought so at the time. When I begged her to tell me why, she was direct. She said it was for power and money. She wanted both more than she cared about anything else. The man she left me for was very successful financially. She was lured away with power, the promise of country clubs and money. I was enraged at first and incredibly jealous. Anyone would be. I drifted between wanting to kill him and wanting to win her back. I thought I could somehow reinvent myself and build a financial fortune, a fortune that would bring her back. Although it was almost impossible to walk, with the help of pain medication, I made the effort. I dusted off my camera. Walking and taking photographs became my way of mourning. At first, I would walk alone on the same beaches and parks I had photographed all the models. I started to pray again, mostly for her, hoping that she would find happiness with him. I forgave them both. It was the only way I could survive. I put her life and happiness above my own. I felt I never deserved her in the first place. I would live on until my heart condition took me, dedicating my life to my children. The first time they she brought them back I broke down, not because I was seeing her again, but because I knew that, with or without her, I had my children. Although I was still alive, something died inside me. I didn’t think I would ever get it back. My heart was broken. Not only was I suffering emotionally, but physically as well from the intense pain. The mega dosages of statins, experimental drugs and peripheral artery disease was ravaging my body. My liver was failing, as were my kidneys. Between the mega dosages of medications and the pain, I was all but dead anyway. There was no way that I was going to allow my four-year-old son and my newborn daughter to see me suffering. I would take large doses of pain meds each time, prior to their arrival.
We met in the airport. I was so hung-over it was almost impossible to stand and talk without getting queasy. Her plane was cancelled. So was mine. It was going to be a several hour delay, a reroute via Puerto Rico and then our flights home. She was chain-smoking and walking back and forth to the airport bar. It was obvious she wasn’t happy with the delays. Personally, I didn’t care if my flight was cancelled. For me it was just a short trip back to the casinos and the girls. She had me enamored the first time I saw her. She was intelligent, laughed at every one of my jokes, had a beautiful accent, and most of all, seemed to have be sculptured by some great Nordic artist. She was perfect. Eventually, she got her flight to Connecticut, where she was living and I flew to Long Island. We immediately were on the phone and talked for hours. The Saturday after we returned, she took the train from Boston to New York. It was not much longer than two weeks and we were engaged. We eloped a few months later. I barely had time to check with the women from Saint Maarten to make sure none were pregnant. Prior to all of this, upon my return from Saint Maarten, my former fiancé came to see me. She had lost a lot of weight and was looking incredible. We had sex a few times, but I couldn’t see her again. I didn’t want to go back to a woman I knew was not ready for marriage and a family. I was also falling hard for the girl from the airport. I had already been diagnosed with the terminal disease. The doctors at the hospital didn’t know which variety of the disease I had, only that it would kill me. I never told my now unofficial fiancé about my diagnosis because I thought I could exercise my way through it and beat it. More likely I was still traumatized by my diagnosis and obsessed with having a child.
I was getting in and out of quick hook-ups and quasi relationships faster than I could get to know many of the women I was screwing around with. I knew I had to slow down. I was going night and day. What I wanted was a real girlfriend, like my friend from Allentown, but we all know how that ended up. I seemed to attract some of the most beautiful woman in the world, but every one of them seemed to have issues, or maybe the issues were with me. I started on a period of intense self-evaluation and psychotherapy, wondering why I kept choosing the wrong women. I was frustrated. I wanted a soul mate, a wife, not just a girlfriend. I was approaching the age when most men and women start to dream about having their own families. It seemed like I was a better lover and sexual partner than a life partner. Or, was I just choosing the wrong women? Mostly, they were choosing me. Typically, I was just going along for the ride and I was still as naïve as ever. By this time, I was a seasoned New York City bartender. I was working twenty-four seven, trying to build my photography business while bartending six days a week. I did not bartend on Sundays, as traditionally no one would put me on the schedule. I never thought much of it. I figured the bar was closed after the two late nights on Friday and Saturday. I would shoot at the beach all day, rush to the bar for the corporate networking events that started at five and then bartend until four in the morning, often getting home two hours later. I was working twenty hours a day most of the time. I was also hitting the psychologist twice a week. He told me I was playing the role of a rescuer in my relationships. He helped me recognize that I was naturally attracted to women with broken wings. I started to re-evaluate my playboy lifestyle. But it would be decades before I could manage my obsession with sex and my attraction to wounded souls. For a short time, I dated many fewer women. The experience with my friend from Allentown had a lot to do with that. I was also a bit wiser by then. At least I thought I was. Some of the back-story, I have not shared in my chapters of love, will help clarify where I was in my life at that time. After finding out my roommate was doing blow every day, I moved from Hell’s Kitchen to SOHO. I thought I would put some distance between us, despite the fact he was a good friend. He was in and out of rehab. His girlfriend was doing so much blow she might as well have been a dealer. I had no other real friends in the city and was starting to get lonely. All the parties and sex in the world doesn’t replace genuine friendship or love.
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.
I was in many school plays in elementary school, even the holiday concerts that were optional. I loved the theatre even though I had terrible stage fright. I would get so anxious before I was going to sing or act that it took much of the joy out of performing. However, I generally loved to entertain people and it was as close to a feeling of love I believed anyone could feel. It was all love and warmth when an audience was enjoying your performance. When I graduated from elementary school and went to Junior High, I continued with the arts by participating in chorus. I sang a solo or two during those three years. Until I started to wrestle, in seventh grade, I thought I would always be involved in the theatre. I was auditioning for one of the school’s major productions, when sports won me over and I made it my priority for the next six years. I didn’t think too much about theatre for the rest of high school, other than going to every performance I could. I stayed engaged with music, thanks to my godfather, who bought me a guitar at a garage sale. I loved it and brought it to school often. I was taking lessons during lunch breaks from a member of the school band. She was hot. My father’s cousin Michael was a world-class photographer and musician, who toured a lot. I always looked up to him. He played with the Eagles from time to time and many of the sixties bands. He lived on the West Coast, but would visit every time he came to New York. He gave me some lessons and from that time on, I knew I would be playing the rest of my life. I continue to write love ballads and play guitar to this day. As talented a musician as he was, he also was an amazing photographer. He would sell stock photographs through a photo agency called The Stock Market, which later became Corbis Stock Market, when Microsoft purchased the company. He always photographed our family when he visited, to say thank-you for the hospitality. He would hand color the prints. To me he was amazingly talented and we had a great rapport, even though he was my father’s age. The summer after I graduated high school, he wanted to photograph me for the agency he was selling his work to. He asked me to find the prettiest girl I could and invite her to model.
When I first started modeling I did not talk about it much because I didn’t think I was going to get a lot of work. Not when I saw the competition, guys who looked like chiseled statues. I always loved photography, so I moved to the opposite side of the camera. Not only because I loved photography, but also because of my passion for the female figure. As fate would have it for a brief period in my life, I was modeling and going to interviews and casting calls. Often I would meet incredible models who looked like goddesses. They had to have super hero DNA, or the blood of actual goddesses running through their veins. They were not mere mortals. She was one of those models. When she walked down the street, everyone, stopped in their tracks and stared. People thought she was a movie star. She looked very much like a European Barbie doll. Perhaps I put her on a pedestal, but she was undeniably gorgeous. She had golden blonde hair and blue eyes, a combination I found particularly alluring. Add perfectly cut cheekbones, full lips, almond eyes and perfect curves and you have a true goddess. Every man, especially if he is a male photographer, wants his mate to be his muse, no matter what else she does. I don’t remember what the casting call was for, but only the top male and female models in the city were invited. An agent tipped me off to it. I wasn’t with an agency at the time. When I arrived at the casting call there were many female models, but only a few men. They wanted a very specific look for the male model, so the invitations were limited. As I waited my turn to see the casting team I met my goddess. She was shy. She shared a few stories of her modeling experiences. She modeled all over the world. She was staying at John Lennon’s apartment, near Strawberry Fields at the Dakota. We laughed and flirted. She was very calm and tranquil, as if she had everything anyone wanted and not a care in the world. Girls, well goddesses like her have so many opportunities it creates a certain inner confidence. In her case, it was accompanied by inner beauty.
I was walking up fifth-avenue with a friend who had worked in sales for Playboy magazine and a few other high-end publications. He was also an actor and a director. We were on our way to Bryant Park. We were going to have a beer or two and then catch one of his students who was appearing in a small stage performance of monologues. Over the years, I had taken my friends head shots. In return he often referred me to different magazines when he knew about a shoot. I was not sure how talented he was as an actor, as his stand up was ok, but nothing special. As we got closer to the park we would stop at different restaurants to warm up, as it was bitterly cold. I didn’t have much experience acting. At the time, I was focusing on photography, almost exclusively fashion and glamor. Mostly, I photographed women. I was coming off a bad breakup. My heart was again injured and I was feeling insecure. I think we all go through those times when everything seems to go wrong with a chapter of love, no matter how hard you work to make it successful. I was living on Long Island and although I was long divorced, I was still licking my wounds. I was working hard to recover from my most painful chapter of love. I was trying to make the best it. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right for me to be dating, when I just ended what was to be a lifetime commitment to my former wife. So, despite the feeling of freedom most people experience after divorce, I felt nothing but sadness. My health was a roller coaster of despair and hope. This made it even worse. I never knew what each day would bring. Walking during the, freezing cold New York City winter, in the snow and wind was not a very good idea, but I needed the camaraderie of friends to help me get to the next chapter of my life, never mind love. As we got closer to the venue, a woman dressed in all black leather walked up beside us as we waited for a light and the cars to pass at the intersection. When I saw how she was dressed, I thought she must be freezing, so I offered her a pair of gloves. She was only too happy to accept. As we continued past the intersection, she started to walk with us and as we made small talk it became obvious she was from Germany, as her accent was distinct. She was not a particularly good conversationalist, but she was beautiful and her leather outfit was form fitting. It was obvious that she had an amazing body. I asked her for her number. She gave me a comp card with her hand-written number on it. She was clad in leather, in all the photos. There was a definite vibe to her and it was all about leather. It went beyond the head to toe black leather outfit and jacket she was wearing. Every shot on the card featured whips and chains. I thought it was hot and as we made a turn towards the theatre, we parted company, but not before we agreed to have dinner the following night. Presumably she was going to give me back my gloves. I thought it was an ingenious way of picking up a girl on the streets of New York City. My friend said I just lost my gloves. He doubted she would ever show. I didn’t care. Losing a pair of gloves was worth the risk. The upside was a date with this hot, leather-loving, German actress. We decided we would meet at the View, which is the glass walled restaurant in the Marriot Marquee in Times Square. It was her idea. I was unfamiliar with it. With that, we parted ways and headed for my friend’s student’s performance.
I worked at the Palladium during the height of its popularity. I photographed many of the bartenders in NYC and played a significant role in helping start some of their modeling and acting careers. Richard Grieco was a bartender there. I photographed him in Central Park, two weeks later Elite signed him and he got the 21 Jump Street gig. The bartenders were mostly male, as Steve Rebel, the owner was more into guys than girls. He gained a reputation for being flamboyantly gay, but more so as a, tax-evading, drug addict despite the fact he created one of the most amazing nightclubs the world had ever seen. Quite possibly it was the availability of drugs that made those clubs so popular, worldwide. He would come to the main bar and impatiently say, “get me a glass of vodka.” It had to be Stoli or he would fire you on the spot. We were all coached that if Steve came to the bar to give him anything he wanted. And, if it was vodka he wanted, to give it to him quickly so he would calm down. It seemed he would always come to me when I was working the main bar. Typically, I worked the second level bar, for the celebrity parties in the Michael Todd Room. That was where Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd screened movies before the venue became a nightclub. On this night, the place was slower than I had ever seen and Steve was not in a good mood. He literally dumped what looked like an eight ball on the bar, rolled up a one-hundred-dollar bill and snorted it right there. Not that I had all that much experience, but it appeared to be several grams of blow. I don’t know how anyone could do that and survive. He also dumped a handful of pills onto the bar. As he was going through them, he shouted, “where’s my vodka,” many times, even when it was sitting right in front of him. Not that he was mean or even loud just totally drugged and typically intoxicated. Most nights you would never even know he was there as he was back stage with a celebrity or a musical performer. No matter what else he was, he was as cool is it got back then. He was the host of the most popular night club in the world twice. First with Studio 54 and then with the Palladium. In any case, I quickly poured him another glass of Stoli. He downed the first one like it was water. I served them up and chilled the way he liked them. Shortly afterwards he downed many of the pills and then asked who the bartender was next to me. I said I had no idea. He said, “he’s fucking ugly, fire him right now.” The guy was one of the new bartenders. He was friendly and most of us thought he was a good bartender and co-worker. I did not want to see the poor guy fired. I heard that he screwed around with Steve to get the job. It was obvious what was going on. The guy was not putting-out for him any more so he was going to fire him. I told the guy to hide, but Steve called the manager who fired the guy on the spot. I was pretty shaken up, so when the manager asked us if anyone wanted to leave early, one of the female bartenders and I accepted the offer. She saw the entire incident and wanted out of there. We knew that Steve was messed up and didn’t want to take the chance that we would be the next one fired, especially me, as I ignored his demand to fire the guy.
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 was working at REDS as a promoter. Each week I would recruit thousands of teenage girls to come to a REDS Teen Dance Party. I originated the idea, handled the marketing, business development and exclusively promoted it. The lines around the club on Sunday afternoons were longer than the lines at the movie theaters. They were not paying me the way they promised, so I said screw it, and started to work as a bartender and part time manager at the Salty Dog. There are so many stories from my time at the Salty Dog, I could probably write a book about those experiences alone. However, the one that stands out as the most memorable chapter of love, was with the coat check girl. She was not the coat check girl when I started bartending there. Over time, she hung out at the bar so often that the GM gave her the job just to keep her busy. She was very beautiful, petite, black hair and a body to die for. She was down to earth and smart. We talked all the time. She became a good friend. There was a lot of sexual tension between us. But, she was shy and also, engaged. I don’t know why her engagement ended, but as soon as it did, the flirting became much more extreme. I started hanging out at the front door, with the bouncers, just because I wanted to spend more time with her. She started working just before the holidays. It was cold, that year, so there were always tons of coats. In fact, there were so many that they could barely fit in the coatroom. Often, coats would be tagged and brought to the second floor. That was the restaurant area. That area closed at about ten pm so all the booths became another spot to store the overflow of coats the de facto second floor coatroom so to speak.
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.
The same day I was diagnosed, I quit my job and started spending eight hours a day at the gym, or working out elsewhere. I would walk around the indoor track so many times I would lose count. When I couldn’t handle the gym anymore, I would ride my bicycle in the park, at least ten miles. I was up to a few hundred crunches a day and lost at least fifty pounds. Not that I was fat, but I could be as in my past, extremely skinny. Prior to my fitness commitment, I hadn’t been eating well, but I had been eating a lot. Money was plentiful and so were my restaurant visits. Salad was hardly an intimate acquaintance. In between the exercise sessions I would cry. In fact, I’d cry all the time. Why I cried, I did not know. I was never afraid of dying, at least not consciously, but I was concerned for my parents. They had suffered so many heartaches. I didn’t want to be the biggest one. That was what helped me through some of my toughest times. I was not sure if I was going to live long enough to go on what was supposed to be my honeymoon. However, as the months passed, I began to realize that I might live long enough to do so. At the time, I was being paid ongoing commissions despite the fact I left my job. I was also working part-time as an analyst, after I resigned from AT&T. I think I was having a nervous breakdown. I told my sales manager that I would be dead in mere months. A more empathetic company might have put me on a trauma-based leave of absence or on disability. Instead, they just accepted my resignation. I was experiencing major chest pain when I exercised. For some reason my hips hurt as well. I thought from riding my bicycle and walking so much, but as it turned out it was related to poor circulation. I went from out of shape and just a bit overweight, to a rock-hard cardio machine. But, I knew something was very wrong. My second set of blood tests showed my numbers were off the charts. What made it even worse, was no one could even tell me what I had. It would take a very expensive blood test and genetic mapping to make that determination. That technology did not exist commercially at the time. One doctor concluded I had asthma and another said I had asthma and eczema on my elbows. They could not have been more wrong. Another doctor told me it was my inner ear that was causing the issue and put me on steroids. The doctors were literally just guessing and the plethora of diagnoses made a dire situation even worse. My hands were turning orange and xanthomas, growths of rock hard cholesterol, were growing all over my body and inside it as well. It was disgusting to say the least.
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.
The sun had barely risen. It was a golden haze partially hidden by the morning fog. As we walked through the sea grass, the morning dew was cold and wet against our ankles. We were approaching the shoreline. The waves were lightly rolling in. They were large enough to create the beautiful white and blue highlights that compliment my swimsuit and body shots. The seagulls were flying low across the horizon. It was a typical, tranquil, sunrise on Jones Beach. I was quite young and would often shoot at the fields I grew up on, field 3 and 4, sometimes the West End and Robert Moses. She was a native Long Islander. Despite the fact I was now living in New York City, I continued filming on the beaches, as I have most of my life. I was not making a lot of money as a photographer, but I was making a living and meeting women from all over the world. It was unusual that this model was from Long Island. She was gorgeous, very sculptured and European looking. She was a tall blonde. For a model, she was exceptionally well endowed. When she took off her top, it became evident as to how curvaceous she truly was.. She was a teen model who just turned eighteen. I was only a few years older. I had shot hundreds of models, but I had never photographed anyone with breasts of that size. Most models were considerably less well endowed. I never understood why models loved to get naked when we shot. Later, I learned that they are just as free spirited as I am. For them, it made the shoot more fun and fulfilling. Despite what people might think, every one of my chapters of love was a beautiful experience, even the ones that began quickly after meeting. I never judged any of the women I was with, at least I tried not to. My father once told me, “For every willing guy there is always a willing girl. What makes you think women are any different than us?” He was right, but I was still very naïve when it came to women, what they wanted and what they were willing to do to get it. This was despite my obsessive sexual appetite.
I’d never been in the lady’s bathroom before. This was no way to get my feet wet, but she was making it impossible to refuse. When we agreed to meet by the bathrooms I had no idea that she was going to drag me into one, lock me inside a stall and rip my clothes off. I was working the bar and I would never just leave it, except to use the rest room. Certainly, not for this purpose. She was hot. She wore a tight red dress that hugged her body perfectly. She had an amazing body. She was all-American looking with brown hair and bright blue eyes. She was not my usual type. I was taken with her. I knew I had to get back to the bar, but with every thrust I also knew that this was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I didn’t want to get caught away from my bar for an extended period of time, certainly not with my pants down, in the lady’s room, I just could not resist.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.