A long-time friend and colleague passed away two weeks ago. He was someone I'd worked with a bunch of times. Someone who, for at least a decade, was my competitor, fellow pretty girl shooter, and my friend. His name was Richard. He was 53 years old.
I was supposed to meet with Richard the day of his passing. He had texted me the day before and asked if we could hook up. "Today," he said. "It's important."
Too important, apparently, to discuss on the phone.
But I couldn't meet with Richard that day and on such short notice. I was on a set, working. I texted back telling him the next day, "tomorrow," would be good for me if it was good for him. Richard agreed. "No problem" he texted back, adding that he'd call me sometime "tomorrow" to set up a meet.
But for Richard, "tomorrow" never came. Sometime, during the night, he passed. Alone. In his home.
I guess I'll never know why he wanted to meet or what was important enough that we had to meet in person.
The following day, when Richard didn't call, I thought little of it. It wasn't the first time he said he'd call for one thing or another and didn't. Because of my long-term experience with Richard, I knew that his version of "important" often wasn't, in fact, all that important. Besides, we were about to begin a long, holiday weekend. For all I knew, he had plans for the weekend and hooking up with me wasn't as truly important as he first indicated.
Richard was one of those guys who lived life in the moment. Leastwise, in terms of his work life. (I didn't know him all that well outside of work.) And, for the most part, he did so with blinders on.
What was important to Richard in one moment, the things he was momentarily and intensely focused on, often weren't so important to him a short time later; sometimes, mere moments later. I knew this about him. Knew it from having a long-standing acquaintanceship with him. It's how he rolled. Often enough, he rubbed others the wrong way with his bursts of intensity, extremely dry and jaded wit, and single-minded focus.
He often seemed, in many ways, the tortured artist.
Richard recently pulled me aside on a set we were both working, one where he was the main shooter so, technically, I worked for him. He informed me, in no uncertain terms, that he'd appreciate it if I would quit being funny and witty with the girls.
"There's only room for one funny person on this set," he said quite seriously and emphatically. "You're working for me today, Jimmy. So that person would be me," he advised me.
I smiled and nodded and said, "No problem."
And it wasn't.
A problem, that is.
I thought his words and exaggerated seriousness were funny as hell. Richard didn't mean it to be funny. He didn't mean it be rude. He just meant it.
And that was quintessential Richard.
I didn't hear from Richard over the weekend either. Again, I thought little of it. Then, come Monday, I received a phone call from the production boss at one of the companies I regularly work for. A company that Richard regularly worked for as well. (Think well-known high-profile company built on "pink.")
"Have you heard from Richard?" the production honcho asked.
I told him, basically, what I wrote above about Richard wanting to meet with me but never calling me back to set up the actual meeting. The production boss told me he'd been trying to get in touch with Richard for two days at the end of the previous week, as well as all weekend.
"It's not like him to not return my calls," the production chief said.
He told me that he'd thought it odd enough for him to go by Richard's house, which he did, on Sunday. He told me he knocked on the door, repeatedly, but there was no answer. He said that both of Richard's cars were parked in the driveway, the porch light was on, the drapes drawn, and that a couple of days worth of mail were in Richard's mailbox. He felt that either something was very wrong or that Richard got "lucky" for a few days.
This didn't sound good at all. In fact, it sounded ominous. Not that Richard wasn't capable of getting "lucky," but to not return phone calls? Phone calls that, Richard would most likely assume, meant some new work?
If Richard was "all about" anything, he was all about his work. He had no family.
The production boss decided to call the police. I wholeheartedly agreed it was the thing to do.
To make a long(er) story short(er), Richard, it turns out, was dead. Apparently, he died days before, most likely during the wee hours of the night before he and I were supposed to meet.
There was some concern, on the part the production boss, a few others, and myself, that Richard did not die of natural causes. That he might have either purposely or accidentally been the cause of his own death. You see, there were some things going on in Richard's life that were causing him intense stress. Only a few people knew about this stuff-- the production boss and myself being two of them.
Richard's recent problems weren't common knowledge around the industry. Those who knew about it, myself included, kept it confidential. And its been kept that way, even after his tragic death. For a few weeks before his death, people were guessing that something wrong, something troubling, was going on with Richard. But only a few knew the details. Only a few still do.
Just a few days ago we received word that Richard died of natural causes. It was a relief to hear this. According to an autopsy, he suffered a heart attack. Apparently, and also according to the autopsy, Richard had undiagnosed heart disease. Unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling that his recent problems greatly contributed to his sudden demise: He was only 53 and seemed in pretty good health despite the autopsy's results. I had just worked with him a week or so before his death, on a 5-day shoot, and he seemed just fine, health-wise at least.
The autopsy results were, in a sense, good news, i.e., in terms of our suspicions. That he died naturally was something good, welcome news, wrapped around something tragic.
Richard was a truly masterful pretty girl shooter. I'm not just saying that because he's gone. He was good. Really good. And he could deliver some of the best shooter-to-model banter, aka direction, I've ever heard, bar none! That skill, IMO, was his strongest skill as a pretty girl shooter. In fact, and I've said this before, once you've learned what you need to learn about lighting and exposure and all that, interaction with models is probably the most important part of your pretty girl shooting game.
And Richard had game. Top-notch game.
Rest in peace, Richard.