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!