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.