I would like to wish everybody a healthy happy, new year (hey idiot, it’s the 15th-where have you been?!) Sorry guys, the last 45 days have been brutal, and I’m not going to go there today. I decided to take Saturday off, and I went to visit my former English professor/football coach, who has just been admitted to the Stoney Brook VA Nursing Home. It was the best 60 seconds and the worst 19.5 minutes I’ve ever spent in my life. I’ve loved this man for 50 plus years, and I’ve resolved myself to the fact that will be the last time I get to see him. I drove 7 miles to see one of my former assistants, he showed my three photographs that blew my head off. They were just gorgeous. He explained how he did them,why he did them, not that he had to; the photographs did not require any information, they moved me from a very negative place to a very good place. 15 miles west and an hour later, I went to see my oldest friend Pat Nap and he looked great! In the day he was a great football player and a world-class amateur wrestler, and ya know what, he still looks great today. OK-this moves us another hour and a half down the road and I stopped by to see my spiritual advisor, Jess Weiss. We had three or four emails in the last week, and three or four phone calls. His lovely bride of 38 years passed away four weeks ago. I went to see him because he’s my hero. The first time I walked into his office, above his desk was the silver star and ten other medals. I told him he was a true hero. He explained to me that he was a coward. He felt guilty that he left Omaha Beach alive during the D-day invasion and thousands of his brothers did not. Jess has written five books, I strongly recommend reading one of them or more…he’s not only a true hero, but he’s a visionary. He is one of the most spiritual people I have ever met. His 97th birthday is in two weeks and looking into his eyes, I saw a 20 year old man. Thank God for Jess. My life partner JoAnne Kalish reminds me that I’m a photographer and filmmaker and that my blogs should be about photography and filmmaking. This blog IS about communication and respect and history. That’s what photography is. I remember someone telling me, life is hills and valleys. In twelve hours I went from the highest mountain to the lowest peak and back to the highest mountain, so I guess that person was right. LIFE IS PRECIOUS. Please spend every second you can enjoying what you have.
Over the last two decades, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of calling Bill Shatner a dear friend. Out of all the people I know, Bill Shatner is probably one of the most sophisticated, well-read people I’ve had the opportunity to meet. If you had an opportunity to see Bill in Boston Legal, you would believe that he was on camera for all 44 minutes. He’s that strong and that powerful a figure, and the combination of his improvisation and his unique voice adds so much to that particular character. He may only be on screen for 10 of the 44 minutes, yet he literally steals the show. William has the ability to laugh at himself. I one time made a mistake and complimented him on his huge comeback. He came close to taking my head off. “Comeback?” he said, “I’ve never left!” The strength will carry him on and on. I’ve had an opportunity to watch him direct. He has great style and never raises his voice. He doesn’t have to. He is a true entrepreneur, and an extremely giving individual who supports several different charities. The flagship charity being the Hollywood Horse Show, wich will be held again this year on April 30. Along with his beautiful, creative, intelligent wife, Elizabeth (an accomplished world class horse woman and fine arts photographer), the two of them will continue to ride from sunrise to sunset. Last but not least, with all due respect, he is an absolute lunatic behind the wheel of an automobile. The man just loves to race! I can’t wait to see him on Top Gear. I’ve had the pleasure of racing with him, and like everything else in his life, he’s competitive with & doesn’t like to lose. Happy Birthday, William! I know you’re going to continue the ride for many more years.
A Year Ago Today I spent New Year’s in The Hospital. A few weeks later my son Joseph went to heaven. Two months later I had bi-lateral hip surgery. It was a year I will never forget!
I dreamt about New Years Eve and was hoping the forces that be, would allow the year to end on a positive note and luckily my prayers were answered. A new friend of mine by the name of Don Sargent, a hero and humble visionary came into my life in the middle of the Upper Delaware Forest. Don was an eighth grade drop out, crew chief, & machine gunner on a Huey combat attack helicopter. A mere 40 years later, he now has a doctorate degree and is saving the lives of many wounded soldiers from our wars. I was fascinated and so taken by Don life that I wanted to do a short film on his story. With Dylan, as my director of photography, and also acting as sound man, we set out to do just that. Yesterday, Don agreed to allow us into a very private and joyous cathedral. We filmed his native american prayer service. The cathedral ceiling was the sky, the alter was the land and the walls were made up of trees and snow.The ceremony was truly beautiful and inspiring. As we were leaving, he gave me a hug and explained he would normally never do this; but did it, not only for the New Year but for the spirit of friends and relatives, and also for my son Joseph. For that I will always be grateful. Thank you Don Thank you Dylan Thank you JoAnne Happy New Year To All My Friends Joe D
Every time the Holidays come around I tend to get melancholy. You think of old friends, old times, and of singing Auld Lang Syne. I think of the good old days. A psychologist friend of mine tells me it’s normal. I was working with a new intern today and noticed he was removing some digital dust from a photograph of a dear friend of mine, who passed away. My friend’s name was Gary Nicamin. He lived in Hollywood, Los Angeles While I’m feeling in the mood, let me tell you about Gary. He was one hell of an amazing artist. I met Gary in 1970 and he was the photographer for Chicago, The Beach Boys, Blood Sweat and Tears, and The Turtles. He photographed all of the great sixties and seventies bands. He was also a full blown art director and master of cut and paste. When I had an artistic technical problem I always went to Gary. He also could answer any rock and roll trivia question you could think of. Gary wore a long Raccoon coat, drove a car that was originally a taxi, and had a penchant for colorful bowling shoes (he had a closet full) which he wore all the time. At a time when everybody seemed to be stoned on something, Gary NEVER drank or did any type of recreational or prescription drugs. His only drug of choice was Pepsi Cola. When he wanted to get really high he would eat a chocolate chip cookie. I could spend a long time telling you stories about Gary. So for purposes of this blog we’ll call this Gary Episode One.
Here’s the story behind the photo; It was approximately a little after 5 AM in the morning. Gary was in his bedroom and I was sleeping on the couch in his studio. I always stayed with Gary whenever I was on assignment in L.A., and in those days it was at least several times a year – usually more. Anyway, I heard sirens screaming, so I got up looked out the window and it seemed like the building next door was on fire. I ran into Gary’s bedroom – he was sitting there reading the LA times and watching the local news. I said “Gary I think the building next door is on fire.” He said”calm down it’s an abandoned building that is being used as a crack house.” He non-chalently, mentioned that it caught on fire frequently. He led me to the window and we climbed through to get a better view. I obviously took the opportunity to make this environmental portrait of Gary. Notice the bowling shoes, one of his trade marks. I loved Gary and I sure as hell miss him. A true renaissance man.