Yesterday, I stopped by my favorite, local, coffee house for a cup or two of Joe.
Walked in, sat down at my usual table near the back (with a good view of everything and everyone) and pulled my laptop out. They have free WiFi there.
I was quickly handed a (real) coffee cup by Chris, one of the kids who works there. (It's one of those joints where you pour your own.) I go in there often enough that there's a chorus of Hi Jimmy! from various mouths, mostly the employees mouths, whenever I walk in. And since I'm a regular, I get great service! (Not that people who aren't regulars don't get really great service. They do. I'm just saying.)
I noticed an old guy leaving the joint as I walked in. I vaguely recalled seeing this old gent there before. He was wearing a tee-shirt with "Old Guys Rule" printed across it's back. "Gotta get one of those," I thought to myself... when I'm old enough to officially qualify as an "Old Guy."
"You should talk to that old guy sometime," Chris advised me, pointing at the man who was just walking out the door.
"Why?" I asked.
"He was some kind of famous photographer or cameraman or something." (All the kids who work at the coffee house know what I do for a living-- I say "kids" cuz they're all about 18-25 years old.)
I looked up and, through the front windows of the coffee house, could see the "old guy" getting into a newish, green, Mustang GT convertible.
"Never too old to be a kid and still drive a high-performance car," I thought to myself.
Then, I noticed the old guy getting back out of his Mustang and coming back into the coffee house. As he walked by, he smiled at me and said, "Forgot to take a piss," with a grin on his face.
I seized the opportunity, ice broken and all that.
"Hi!" A warm, friendly smile on my mug. "Chris says you're a photographer. Me too."
The old guy stopped, regarded me for a moment--sizing me up I suppose--then said, "I haven't had a camera in my hands for a long time."
"Why not?" I asked, kind of challenging him. "You're never too old to shoot a camera."
The old guy stared at me with one of those "looks" that said "What do you know?" then moved on. "I gotta take a piss," he said, rather gruffly, as he headed for the bathroom. "I'll have a word with you when I'm done."
"Uh oh." I thought to myself. I was mildly concerned I might have offended him which certainly wasn't my intent but, you know, sometimes I do that. To say I'm not shy with strangers is an understatement.
So as not to overly milk the set-up for this update, I'll fast-forward a bit to the old guy, post-urinating, sitting and talking with me at my table. Turns out his name is Bernie Abramson, he's 86 years old, and he lives only a few miles from where I live.
If you checked out Bernie's IMDB profile, via the link I provided above, you'll notice he was, indeed, a photographer and cinematographer. And he worked on more than a few notable films. He also, it turns out, knew and shot more than a few very famous people in his career as a shooter, stills as well as motion pictures. And, it turns out, he was friends with some notable and iconic photographers: Guys like George Hurrell and Yousuf Karsh and Edward Steichen. (Yep! Steichen!!!)
For the next three hours I was engrossed (and basically mesmerized) while engaging in a conversation with this man. Bernie regaled me with stories that included names like John Wayne, John Ford, Barbra Streisand, Desi Arnaz, Jerry Lewis, George Lucas and more. Not too mention commentary that included the names of those photographers I listed above. Bernie, BTW, told me he believes he was the first Hollywood star-shooter to adopt 35mm SLRs into his production work flow. I also discovered Bernie was a Nikon guy. But hey! He had nothing negative to say about Canon!
Bernie agreed to let me interview him--officially interview him--in the very near future. He's also going to let me shoot some portraits of him. I'm stoked!
Before leaving, Bernie took me out to his Mustang and retrieved a magazine, I think it was Los Angeles magazine, that included an article about him and some other photographers who were the guys who shot so many stars in the 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond. BTW, Bernie detests the paparazzi.
"They're not photographers," Bernie told me. "They're vultures!" He said with a disgusted look on his face. "Back in my day," Bernie explained, "Hollywood was like a small, tight-knit, family. Today," he added, "It's like a big, ugly, family feud."
I'll share more about Bernie in the near future including this mostly-bald, white-bearded, Mustang GT-driving, octogenarian extolling the virtues of Viagra. Not that those little blue pills have much to do with glamour photography! But, just like with glamour photography, sex sells and makes for interesting copy... and just so ya know, I'm not gonna ask this 86-year-old guy about his sex life. Nope. I'm just, you know, gonna add some color to the text with a few hints that Bernie might drop during our conversations-- like when he leaned in and confessed to me in a low, barely audible, voice, "I still wanna get laid everyday."
Yep. Old guys rule!
Leastwise, some of them do.
I posted a pic I shot of Tera Patrick at the top because, during our conversation, Bernie happened to mention that he, uhh... admires her beauty quite a bit.