Mojitos, Rugby and Futbol!
Ok, hopped up on Bricktown Cafe caffeine, time to put a few words down on…virtual paper? We wrapped up the “Female Muscle” piece for HBO Real Sports, you can view it now on this page, I think it looks and sounds great! We ran out to eastern Long Island for ABC News to talk to an anime-obsessed young woman about the recent trend of using colored contact lenses to make your pupils look cartoonishly large. Ah, the folly of youth! When I was young all we did was…..never mind, no time to talk about that now! A better example of youthful energy was the Good Morning America piece we worked on with producer Liz Sintay. Arnold Chavez is a Penn State student spending a large chunk of his summer playing rugby in South Africa. The story of how he got there is incredible, and an inspiration to GMA Weekend weather anchor Marysol Castro, hence the title of the piece; “Marysol’s Inspiration.” All of the Good Morning America on-air talent are doing similar pieces, and we were lucky enough to work with Marysol again, as she is one of our favorites! A few years ago while working on a piece about female rugby players, which she herself was in college, she came across Arnold’s story. An adopted kid growing up in the second largest housing project in New York City, The Bronx’s Edenwald Houses, Arnold was admittedly on his way to no good. Tempted by gang life and the general dead-end fate that his environs pointed to, he caught the eye of a history teacher that saw something redeeming in him. Eventually, with her help, he was able to see the possibilities of life outside of the Bronx, and rugby was his ticket. Now, even with the struggle of college life, and paying for it, he finds time to “pay it forward”; still working with that same teacher, he’s coaching another generation of New York City rugby players in the few weeks before he heads off to his second summer in Durban, South Africa! A special young man, a special teacher, a great story, and one that we took real satisfaction working on. Even though the first day of shooting (outdoors!) saw the temperature hit 103 degrees! But, that’s what we do! We even shoot commercials in crowded restaurants! Hot, crowded, raucous restaurants! For a thirty-second spot featuring the Times Square branch of Havana Central, we spent an entire day on location capturing all aspects of this lively, exciting, intoxicating, delicious vendor of Cuban food, drink, music, and even hand-rolled cigars! From shooting the chef and his staff at work in the kitchen, to the mixologists pouring perfect mojitos, cuba libres, and cervezas at the bar, to recording the infectious live band, Yerason, the shoot was long and challenging, but that just made it all the more rewarding.
Did I mention the mojitos and delicious food?!? Credit and thanks are due to our partner in this gig, Marhull Productions, and our director Jay Weiss. You’ll see the finished product when it’s all cut and dried!
As a side project, I helped out on a teaser trailer for photographer Marc Baptiste. Along with Jeb Bergh of China Blue Productions, and Jason Bergh of UXEntertainment in Los Angeles, Marc is hoping to bring attention to a really cool program right here in NYC. Basically, a couple of local soccer nuts realized that there were so many great amateur players from different immigrant groups, why not bring them all together into a league of teams representing the different groups, and create, in essence, a mini-World Cup? With Mayor Bloomberg’s blessing, over the next two weekends the COPA NYC tournament will take place on Pier 40 in downtown Manhattan, and the championship will be decided in Flushing Meadows Park here in Queens, with the final victor being awarded the Mayor’s Cup. And our mayor is a billionaire, so who knows what that cup may be filled with?! All I can say is GO BRAZIL! But that’s only because Colombia, sadly, is not represented in this year’s COPA NYC. Really, I was just too busy with all this TV work and writing about it, but maybe next year…..
Well, I’m off to partake in another of the joys of NYC summer life. Every summer the Museum of the Moving Image, literally down the street from me, puts on an Outdoor Cinema series of films in Socrates Sculpture Park, on the banks of the East River across from Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Each Wednesday a different country is featured, with some type of live performance, film(s), and food from a local restaurant featuring that county’s food on-site! Last week it was Ireland, and I caught the Oscar-nominated animated “Secret of Kells” (fabulous!), with music beforehand by Jameson’s Revenge, featuring four-time All Ireland champion fiddler Denis McCarthy. To say they were smokin’ is an understatement. Tonight’s featured country is Sweden, and I’m hoping for those cute little sweet meatballs! Or a Swedish supermodel! Till next time!
I Salute You, Soldier, and Happy Birthday America!
Overdue, I know, but I don’t know if anyone even reads these, so… anyway…it was a nice holiday weekend here in NYC. Mine started with a Long Island funeral and ended with french cinema at MoMA followed by margaritas in the Flatiron and Astoria. More later on that, but first, the goings-on at NOA since the last post. The Female Muscle (that’s what it’s called!) piece for HBO Real Sports took three more days of shooting, and again it was fascinating, humorous, compelling stuff. First stop was the West New York, NJ (think about it for a second) home and studio of photographer Brian Moss.
In a previous life Brian opened the Better Bodies gym in downtown NYC, which became a mecca for serious bodybuilders, both men and women. When his creative talents showed themselves, shooting his own motorcycle beauty shots for biker mags to save them the cost just so they would run them, his life took him from sculpting bodies to photographing them. Among other things. His deep association, indeed membership, in the bodybuilding world allowed him access no one else with a camera could have gotten. The resulting work offers powerful, arresting glimpses into the process of turning oneself into an über-image of human physicality. Naturally, the interview was fascinating. I know, enough already, but really, the stories are wild, the insights, juicy. Same for the next interview, back in New York, at Primus Studios in Soho with bodybuilder Lauren Powers.
Again, Lauren was open and honest, funny and gracious. The little-known world of female muscle worshiping non-bodybuilding men (whew!) was a major topic of exploration, and in a moment of incredible candor we were later allowed access to a hotel room visit by one of Lauren’s many fans. Any more details and I’d have to kill you. July 14, HBO Real Sports, you really gotta check it out! The last two days were spent back with Colette Nelson at home and in the gym, and finally an interview with bodybuilder Brandi Mae. Colette not only showed her considerable skill as a cook, but was kind enough to send me off with some of her homemade peanut/almond butter blend. Delicious stuff, but what else to expect from a licensed nutritionist? And accomplished web designer? Truly, a woman of many talents. Anyone seeking training/nutrition guidance would be wise to seek her out. At the gym we were delighted to see photographs of a younger, very muscular Brian Moss gracing the walls! Turns out the 19th Street Gym was the Better Bodies Gym once upon a time! Many of the photographs on the walls are a special record and homage to the location’s past and ongoing influence, and other photos are contemporary examples of Brian’s work. We finished up two days later with Brandi Mae, whose story was another great tale, of victory over adverse situations, of the hopes to reach the heights of her sport while avoiding the very real hazards along the way. This shoot was back at Primus Studios, which, by the way, is a great location not just for photo/video shoots, but for all sorts of private events. The guys there are helpful, accommodating, and make some damn good coffee, which is always ready for drinking!
What else? Well, there was a quick ABC News shoot at People Magazine on the break-up of “The Bachelor” Jake Pavelka and…. whatever her name is. I mean, not groundbreaking stuff, but every assignment requires the same level of professionalism, so we did our job for the nice folks at ABC News. Call us! Finally, there was a gig shooting a conference whose mission was to discuss strategy and direction, but that’s all I can reveal. But be assured, it was neither fascinating nor compelling. A bit of humor, though.
And then the Independence Day holiday weekend was upon us. Mine started a bit solemnly, with the funeral of Joseph A. Gazza of Huntington, NY. Mr. Gazza, as I knew him, was a veteran of World War II, and fought in the terrible Battle of the Bulge (look it up, people!) against the Nazis. He had been born on a farm in Long Island to immigrant parents from Italy, on where the Walt Whitman Mall now stands. After the war he started several ventures, eventually helping found the Huntington Fuel Oil Company. He married relatively late, in his early forties. Luckily he did, and had four children, one of whom became a Led Zeppelin/ZZ Top/Grateful Dead freak, and my friend for almost thirty years! Yikes, can that be true?!?! Anyway, I liked Mr. Gazza, and he was always good to me. At his funeral on July 2nd he was given his military honors, with soldiers in dress uniform, the playing of “Taps”, and the flag draping his casket folded and presented to his children. It was the most moving part of the day for me, and on a beautiful sunny day on Long Island it seemed the most appropriate birthday gift to America; the honor and recognition shown a citizen who not only fought for his country, but came home and realized his dreams for himself and his family, in the country he loved. The following day my hosts took me along to a Fourth Of July party further out east, in Selden. This party has been held every year for over fifteen years, and not been rained on once! The food was unending, and the cold drinks the perfect weapon against the hot sun. I had the pleasure of meeting Jill Nicolini of WPIX’s morning news show. She showed her musical chops when she sang a great version of Extreme’s “More Than Words”. I told her of my admiration for the support she shows our troops by taking time out of the winter holidays to visit them in war zones and bring them presents from home. She seemed genuinely thankful for my remarks, flashing her beautiful smile. And her little relatives are so cute! On the Fourth I came home to NYC, emotions and body drained from the previous two days. A friend’s invitation to see a rare screening of Catherine Breillat’s “The Last Mistress” at the Museum of Modern Art seemed like a nice, quiet, and COOL way to quietly celebrate. The movie was a powerful exploration of how our wants and needs, if not controlled, will instead control us. Great film. It gave us lots to discuss, which we did as we walked down to Madison Square Park, the sun casting long shadows in the early summer heat. The streets of midtown Manhattan had that rare, peaceful quality of being slightly abandoned, with just a few tourists milling about with their cameras and maps in hand. We imagined the mobs gathering on the west side, the crowded rooftops somewhere overhead, the parties in sprawling apartments with views of the Hudson, all awaiting Macy’s annual stupendous fireworks display. We instead sat outside at Almond on 22nd Street, cold drinks, bread, and butter fueling our cinema talk. Then we crossed the river to Astoria, and as the N train emerged from under the East River we could see the faint flashes of colored light as the big show got underway. At the Broadway stop we got off to find our next drink, and the streets were teeming with residents celebrating close to home. As the big show boomed to it’s conclusion, smaller displays started all around the neighborhood, and we finished the evening with a pina colada and margarita toast to the good ole U S of A! Happy Birthday America!
Brains, Brawn and Beauty, and an Incredible Heart
Three VERY different women were our focus last week, taking us from the bucolic and cerebral to the sweaty and physical, and finally to the heartrending and life affirming. A veritable roller coaster, with a brief drenching downpour thrown in for good measure! Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, graduate and later Dean of the Harvard Law School, has maintained a close friendship with two former classmates and housemates who married and are now living in New York’s Nassau County. Their memories of Kagan’s scholarship and later leadership at Harvard Law painted a portrait of an engaging, inquisitive, thoughtful scholar with interests far beyond just jurisprudence. A diehard Mets fan, for instance! In other words, someone Americans should be proud of having sit on the nation’s highest court. The interview was conducted by ABC News’ Claire Shipman, who is truly one of the sweetest, nicest correspondents in the business. Always a smile and a warm greeting when she arrives, and a sincere thanks when she leaves. If only she wasn’t based in D.C.!
A few days later we were carrying load after load of gear down three flights of stairs to a dark, hot gym in downtown Manhattan, setting up for an HBO Sports interview with professional female bodybuilder Colette Nelson http://www.colettenelson.com/ Despite the difficult location and uncomfortable temperature, and some VERY personal questions by Bryant Gumbel, we rolled for almost two hours on an interview that was among the most fascinating and humorous exchanges that I can recall. Colette was gracious and honest in her answers, and I went away impressed not just by her candor, but with the psychic strength she shows in living a lifestyle misunderstood by many, and reviled by some. Just another example of scratching the surface to see the treasure hidden behind the public facade.
Finally, ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition’s new fall season will include a family from New York’s Suffolk County as the lucky recipient of a new, fully furnished home. Good Morning America was on hand Sunday at Yankee Stadium to cover the behind-the-scenes as Ty, Paul, Paige, and Tracy surprised the family with the news that their lives were about to be fundamentally changed for the better. Details will have to be few at this time, but suffice it to say that being present during the reveal was heartwarming, especially as several Yankee players, and Manager Joe Girardi, came out to meet the family, posed for photos with them, talked a little baseball, and presented them with some very cool swag! Just being out on the infield, where a few hours later the Yankees would beat the Mets in the last of a three game weekend subway series, was exciting! Not that we had time to watch Mark Teixeira’s grand slam homer that sealed that victory; we had to hightail it sixty miles out to East Setauket to set up for an interview with two of the family members. It being a typical New York hot and humid summer day, the threat of an afternoon thunderstorm was not far away. But the skies were mostly clear when we arrived, and expediency dictated that we set up on the front lawn. Sure enough, and skies then darkened and thunder rumbled, and soon the skies opened up and the rains came. Heavy, and then heavier still. Luckily the EMHE crew had left a large pop-up tent with us just in case, and we had set it up and pulled all the gear under it before we could be drenched. True to form it was a brief downpour, and we managed to get the interview done without too much delay. Fourteen hours after I left my place, I dragged myself home and hit the shower, spent from the day but with a good feeling of a good day’s work done. (www.abc.go.com/shows/extreme-makeover-home-edition)