Friday, July 28, 2006
My Favorite Miami Photographers, Chopper Builders, and Models
The following piece was to appear in a Miami magazine (which shall remain nameless) that never got beyond its first issue. The picture and copy above are from the cover of what was to be the second issue. The copy and superimposed Emerald City picks up on a theme I used to describe the cover shoot and some featured topics that included a story on a Miami chopper builder, a downtown jeweler, and a local bikini designer. The parentheticals are my comments after-the-fact.
Let me tell you a true story about a young woman who got up early one morning looking for a fish market and ended up on the cover of a magazine.
It's six o'clock on a Sunday morning. The sun still isn't up and I'm waiting below the Watson Island bridge feeling a little foolish holding a bejeweled bra in my hand and a little uncomfortable watching the homeless emerging from the shadows with the stray cats.
When I'm not looking over my shoulder, I'm thinking about Noel Rosquete. He's with TotalBank (www.totalbank.com) and he bought the first ad the magazine ever sold. He stopped me in mid-spiel (that's right, I also sold advertising) and said he'd take the back page. It was 3:33pm on February 10th. A Friday. A very good Friday as it turned out to be. I will never forget it. His faith in the magazine gave us the courage to go for a second issue (Little did I know that this courage was not shared by the publisher). That's why I'm there, to shoot the cover and pin-up pages (okay, so it wasn't very politically correct-- at least we offered both sexes), alone in the dark with the rats, the cats, homeless zombies looking for a smoke, and an over-the-top bra in my hand that would make a jaded Las Vegas showgirl blush with envy. Thanks a lot, Noel Rosquete.
The bra is made of red acrylic and covered with Swarovski crystals. It's on loan from a downtown jeweler for the photo shoot which, God willing, will happen in a few minutes. I'm looking for cops patrolling the island but there aren't any because it's too damn early!
I know my faith in mankind is being tested. The photographer who had agreed to do the shoot, bailed at the eleventh hour. In desperation I turned to Dennie and DK Cody of Cody Photo (www.codyphoto.com) who shot our first cover. They agree to help me and suggest we schedule the shoot for 6am under the bridge to catch the early morning light on the water and the downtown skyline. This probably had something to do with Dennie's pioneer spirit bloodline (he's a descendent of Buffalo Bill) where no one ever gave a thought about getting up before sunrise.
I know the Cody's will show, but I'm not so sure about the others. I've never met them. I've only spoken to them over the phone. Knowing that they are trading their time only for publicity and copies of the magazine makes me wonder if they will really show. The longer I stand there alone in the dark, the less I'm sure they will.
Dennie and DK are the first faces to appear out of the darkness that don't ask me for a cigarette or money. I hear myself paraphrasing the Cowardly Lion, "I do believe in people, I do believe in people." Now, if only the rest will show so I can shake loose of my Cowardly Lion tail: the owner of Miami Choppers (www.miamichoppers.com) who agreed to bring one of his custom bikes down to the shoot, and the models.
Patrick Jones is the first model to arrive. All the way from Ft. Lauderdale. He turns out to be a great guy with lots of enthusiasim for so early in the morning. I suspect he's from pioneer stock too. Before long, Miguel Suarez and his lovely wife Yami of Miami Choppers drive up with the first light of the day and I feel my faith in humanity rising with the new day's sun.
Since the pin-up pages are single, full-pages devoted to a "Downtown Dude" and "Dame," we start shooting Patrick on the bike immediately to catch the kind of light only insomniacs, milkmen, intrepid fishermen, farmers, buffalo hunters, and people living in Broward who have to get up early for the commute into Miami will see. An hour later I'm beginning to think our Dame has either cancelled without telling me, or is lost. You can only pose a guy so many different ways on a chopper before it becomes impossible to avoid posing him for some kind of gay publication-- not that there is anything wrong with that as Seinfeld and Castanza have reminded us over countless reruns.
Home is only a short drive away. I decide to go back and see if I can get hold of our female model via an email. While I'm on the net, I call her cell phone. Nothing. I haven't a clue where she is. I drive back thinking we can't just have a guy posing in the magazine. We're already skating on politically incorrect thin ice as it is what with pin-ups for crisesakes, but having just a guy and not a girl really would paint a different kind of picture of what the magazine is all about. So, it's with great relief when I turn onto the dirt and gravel beneath the bridge that I see Dennie talking to a woman. I can't believe it, but our model finally showed up! I park, jump out and rush over to shake her hand but the young lady stops me short with "I'm not her." I look at Dennie. He's smiling broadly. Seems this woman was looking for the fish market on Watson Island. She had gotten up early to score some fresh fish for dinner that night. She grew up in Miami but hadn't been back in ten years. Since she was away, the city moved the fish market and the commercial fishing boats to build the mega development Island Gardens (scroll down further in this blog to see my thoughts about that). What I didn't know was that in the short time I was away, Dennie convinced her to pose for our magazine.
She's only wearing flip-flops , shorts, and a t-shirt-- and no makeup. But we don't care. She's adorable, smart, and has a great self-deprecating sense of humor.
And she's brave, the kind of personality that says "yes" to new adventures; the kind of person that has helped this magazine get published. She's perfect. Her name? Alecia Walker. She's on vacation, visiting her brother in Miami. Her home is in Maryland where she works as a Surgical Technologist.
Within moments we have her ditching her t-shirt and wearing the "bejeweled bra." When I see the light bouncing off those Swarovsky crystals, I know it was meant to be. If we had shot the pictures with Alecia any earlier, we wouldn't have gotten that startling effect. Call it serendipity-- I can't let go of my Cowardly Lion tail long enough to say it was meant to be. That might be assuming too much. Only time will tell. (I made the mistake of letting go of the tail at the launch party for the magazine that followed this shoot a few weeks later).
I also can't promise if you say "yes" to the magazine your life will change for the better. I don't know how being on the cover of our magazine and becoming the second ever Downtown Dame will make your life better, but hopefully for this young spirited Ms. Walker, the Cody's, Patrick Jones, the Suarezes, and Noel Rosquete, something good will come out of saying "yes" to us (or at least to me).