Sunday, October 2, 2011

Life Lessons: Favorite Quotes From My Blogs

The one and only reason I started a blog was to keep my photographs in front of people's eyes.  Three years ago the whole industry had changed and suddenly steady work wasn't so guaranteed.  Respected creative types were all wondering where would the next check come from?  Budgets went down dramatically overnight.  It would be easy to be forgotten.  The blog seemed like a natural way to showcase what I do.  As for the writing, I would simply talk to the people I was photographing like I always had, but with a recorder near by.  I had a bit of experience with this part.  In 2002 being a little ahead of the game, I put Alan Mercer's PROFILE in a part of my then web site as an internet magazine.  Honestly it was hard to find more than a handful in 2002!  I was able to post four quarterly issues that featured among others my buddy Danny Trejo and Actor Perry King. 

Even with this history I didn't have any idea how much I would enjoy the challenge of creating a (mostly) weekly blog.  I've recently been thinking of how much I've learned about life since starting it.  I'm going to share some of my favorite quotes and stories in this almost three year journey that has actually changed my life. 

I've heard it stated that having a blog is just another unpaid job.  I'm not sure I would agree with this thought.  What I have received from not only my subjects, but even more so my followers, has been priceless. 

On January 19, 2009 I posted my first statement. 

    I have decided to start my PROFILE magazine as a blog. This seems to be a sign of the times. I have the occasion to work with such fascinating people and I want to share some of those experiences with you. I will be talking with my friends like Mamie Van Doren, Julie Newmar, Sally Kellerman, Danny Trejo, and Dayanara Torres, as well as new friends I meet along the way. I will be posting new photos from recent shoots and interviews I do with my clients and friends.

The very first conversation I posted was a five minute talk I had with my darling friend Mamie Van Doren after lunch, along with a couple new photos.  Mamie told me, " This is the 21st century. It’s here, get with it. I’m looking forward to the 22nd Century."

On March 8 I posted the first conversation along with my second photo session with Gilles Marini, who had already become a friend.  He just scored a giant career boost by being cast on 'Dancing With The Stars.'  I predicted he was about to become a household name and I was right! Gilles told me, "Being famous is just part of the job."

On April 29 I posted a fascinating conversation with Julie Newmar because Julie is fascinating!  We talked about aging gracefully and Julie told me, "We notice how important it is to do the right thing. All the things our parents taught us, and if they didn’t teach us, it is three times as hard to learn. If you are not doing the right thing you won’t make it long after the age of fifty. I guarantee you if you are not doing the right thing."

Next I met with the iconic porn star of the 80's Ginger Lynn.  She had this to say about her relationship with Charlie Sheen.  "The first and last time I have ever been in love. He was the first man ever to break my heart. All the hearts that I broke all came back when he broke my heart. For me…he was a wonderful, wonderful man. I fell in love with him the day we were driving along the beach and he saw a homeless man. We went to a sporting goods store and bought him a sleeping bag, a back pack and some water bottles. We went and found the homeless guy and gave him all these things. He was wonderful to me and we had a wonderful relationship."

One of my favorite rock stars of all time is Gregg Allman.  He saw my portfolio on my phone in a coffee shop and told me I had to photograph him!  Truly one of the luckiest days of my life!  When we were talking I asked him why he didn't make any more films as he was so good in 'RUSH' and he told me, "I would like to do more films and if the right one comes along I’d do it. They send me scripts all the time but the dialogue is always filled with cuss words. RUSH only had one f word. I just don’t choose to say this in a movie. Then producers ask me why. I said my Mother might watch this film. They were all stunned."

Blues Singer Candye Kane and I were talking about life's blessings and she told me, " You can create your own blessings by your attitude. We have a tendency to plant a seed and then when it doesn’t grow as fast as we want… we think it won’t ever work. But if you keep watering that seed and giving it what it needs to grow eventually something comes up, and that’s the thing. We give up too quickly because we are all so used to everything fast. We use the drive through Starbucks!"

Is anyone more insightful and funnier than Playwright Del Shores? I asked him about some of his famous lines and he said, "  I never thought the stuff like ‘sweet baby Jesus’ would be so popular. I did know when I wrote ‘heads are gonna roll’ that it would be one of the ones."

When I asked him if his faith had waned over time due to so many challenges he told me, " My spirituality, my faith, yes, has altered, had faltered, but now has been redefined. I feel that I am a spiritual person, on a journey, connected to this universe through love and humanity. I don't pretend to know the answers."

 Wanda told Eric he was better looking than Elvis.  "This is the best compliment I have ever received because Elvis is King!"  Eric Venturo... pictured with Wanda Jackson

My afternoon with Wanda Jackson is one the most memorable times of my whole life!  When talking about her trademark growl she said, " I was the first one to try it at Elvis’s insistence and challenge. It was my music because I was a teenager when I started doing all this. I was seventeen so I wanted to do it. I didn’t think I could but he said, ‘Certainly you can. You have the voice for it.’ So I decided to take him at his word."

I visited with Gilles Marini again for the blog in August of 2009 after he came in second on 'DWTS' and he was so humble telling me about his experience on the show, "I had the chance to learn something new and in life when you learn something new it is always magic."

On August 24 of 2009 I posted my conversation with Ruta Lee and she told me a little about her friend Lucille Ball, "Lucy was just wonderful. She was a tough dame. She didn’t want to do anything that she didn’t want to do."

My dear friend Sally Kellerman told me about her difficult decision to focus on music instead of a film career that was going full speed ahead, "In the 70's at the height of my film career I turned down all these great films so I could concentrate on singing and go on the road because I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted people to know that I was the real deal. I wanted soul, but it would take another thirty years to get it."

Hee Haw's Lulu Roman talked to me about the importance of forgiveness. "When you make a choice to forgive that person who so mortally wounded you, that person no longer defines who you are. There are so many people walking around out there that are so mortally wounded because they have been so abused. For years I woke up every morning and would say OK God I choose to forgive today, but I wouldn't feel it. I just kept saying over and over again I choose to forgive, I choose to forgive and then one day you wake up and it is gone."

Famous Songwriter Allee Willis told me something surprising, "I still do not know how to read, write or play music. I don't know how to do anything that I do."

I had the pleasure to feature on of my idols, Miss Rona Barrett on October 4, 2009 and she told me about her passion which is caring for the elderly, "We are having a crisis in so many areas of this country and the people who seem to be getting hit the most are seniors. Seniors really are the people who do not have the funds to buy insurance and get the health care they need. I'm talking about the elderly poor. Seniors are the first, along with children, to get attacked by any crisis. Then they are eliminated."

Comic Actor and Writer Taylor Negron told me about his show where he talks about growing up, "In LA and being a model as a child and then being an actor. I was exposed to some really rough stuff. I grew up in a time before kids were considered sacred."

Jane Lynch commented on her huge success with, "That is so nice but it's almost too much. It either really humbles you or takes you to the other side where you feel entitled. I rarely get very excited or very upset anymore. I have found an even keel."

Hawaiian Singer Yvonne Elliman told me some of the challenges of being so famous from Jesus Christ Superstar, "I went to hospitals and actually had to touch this girl who had been in an accident and she wanted me there. The parents were praying for her to make it through...and she did. They gave me the credit. It was getting too heavy. I did that twice and I thought, no I can't do this anymore. I became an Agnostic actually. I was getting so much flack from people who were Buddhists and Krishna's. The 'God' thing was getting on my nerves."

The sensational Linda Gray helped me celebrate the first year anniversary and talked about when she was a UN Goodwill Ambassador, " I traveled around the world helping women and children with their health issues. Once again I feel very blessed to be able to have done this. I saw places that a travel agent would not send you, sitting in little huts with concrete floors. I always asked them what they wanted and was told they wanted clean water, a healthy child birth and an education. To this day if I have a little bottle of water I have to finish it. We take so much for granted. It totally changed my life. The first day I was in Nicaragua I went back to my hotel and sobbed and started journaling. They don't have anything."

Legendary Jazz Vocalist Marlena Shaw told me about maintaining her positive attitude, "I know that I have been chosen to do what I do so I get on with it. I don't want to hear no excuses. If you really take the time to be in a loving mode, because let's face it we've all had times when we are mad at the world, you will return to a loving place."

Actress Sean Young told me why it's hard to get anything going in the Los Angeles movie business, "Most of these people in a position like that, such as a studio person or a producer, are afraid to say yes because yes is opening them up for a mistake. can't argue with. You're not going to make a mistake with no. It's yes that is the potential mistake."

Jackee Harry talked to me about staying employed, "I have put my career first and sacrificed a lot of things to be successful. Another one of my sayings is, "Being successful takes courage." Maya Angelou told me that. I said, "What do you mean? I'm just working." Then she said, "How many young black women would be on the road by themselves working darling?" She's right, I don't take it for granted anymore. It takes courage to work and to survive."

Sam Harris told me what it's like being a Dad, "It's beyond my imagination and beyond what I thought was my capacity to love. It is everything. It's hard to describe. I always say, "How much does Daddy love Cooper?" and he says, "More than everything." It's true, being a Dad is the great leveler and priority maker. Everything else in my life is now secondary and pales by comparison. I have a great life and I've had a great life. It keeps getting richer."

French Action Movie Star Olivier Gruner talked to me about physical pain, "We found out that every time you get hurt and feel pain the body sends that signal to your brain and your brain analyzes it and tells you right away in a split moment if it's important or not. If you touch something hot right away you react to it. Now if you are used to touching something hot the body will get used to it which means the signal is so different. We found out that to condition your shin for kicking you have to develop a pain tolerance so when you do that over and over the brain doesn't react anymore. The brain thinks it's normal. That's why sometimes you have a toothache for days and then you don't feel it anymore. The brain tells you it's not an emergency."

In June, 2009 I had my first opportunity to photograph the now iconic Rock Singer Bebe Buell.  We became instant friends.  We talked about her position in pop culture history.  "You know it finally got interesting when I got called a Pop Culture Historian. I felt then at that point my life had made sense. I think even my Mom was finally proud when I got called a Pop Culture Expert. There's validity in being a part of musical, cultural and artistic trends. There's something to be said for being a part of that. I've experienced and witnessed all the different changes."

Italian Pop Singer Gazebo told me about his life philosophy, "Be sincere and give priority to the things that are important like your family. At the end of your life that is what's important. Try to be as clean as you can with your projects. Try not to be influenced by things that are not important."

My friend, Former Miss Universe and World-Class Beauty Dayanara Torres told me about some of the challenges of doing dramatic film work.  "Sometimes it's hard because you are working so hard to get out of certain stages or things that have happened in your life. Say you have tried real hard to let go of certain things then you have to go back and film it. So I think if anything my life experience has been like 'gold in my pocket.' That's what I call it. I have it there and when I need it I use it."

Actor William McNamara talked to me about his interest in producing reality television, "It's much more of a proactive lifestyle. Being an actor is about waiting around for Hollywood. It may or may not come. While it's in limbo I want to be involved in other things. This is the perfect place for me. There's no unions in reality so you can go do your own stuff. You just need a video camera and you can do anything. I've done great so far."

Vocalist Eloise Laws talked to me about her challenges with the recording industry, "The record industry has not been an easy industry for me. It's been a struggle. To be known and appreciated by a few is better than none at all."

Actor Patrick Kilpatrick talked to me about the benefits of organic food.  "When I was nine years old I made a decision and I don't know why, but I said to myself that rich or poor I'm going to eat well. I didn't know it at the time but I was pretty much raised on an organic farm by my parents. So when I left home I was still into it. We've got one body, we've got one voice."

The very funny Ruth Buzzi told me she was seriously retired from show business. "I've been everywhere. Been there, done that. I don't care anymore. Thank goodness my husband is at a point where he doesn't care anymore either. I really just want to stay home. I love home. I LOVE home."

Carla Laemmle, who was 101 when I talked to her told me, "I've had an amazing life and this is the best part of it. One of my little secrets that I saw in a book years ago is the quote "Harm no one, especially yourself" and I try to live by that."

In September of 2010 I featured my darling friend Mamie Van Doren in a longer conversation than my first blog.  We talked about why she joined the AIDS movement very early. "My friends were dying left and right, and I felt like I had no choice but to help, because few celebrities would have their names attached to HIV/AIDS. I continued making appearances at clubs to raise money throughout the eighties. Much of this is lost in the sands of time, since hardly anyone is left alive that was there at the time."

Writer/Actor Charles Casillo talked to me about why he wrote a fictional book about Marilyn Monroe.  "I realized Marilyn was a fantasy figure who existed differently for all of us. What if I recreated her as she exists for me. Then I thought that everyone is interested in a diary which is very hidden and forbidden. Who could resist peeking into someone's diary? I decided to write it as a diary. That was my first book and it did well."

Entertainer Jimmy James talked to me about the 'It Gets Better Campaign' and his early self acceptance struggles.  "I did have thoughts of suicide when I was younger. I did because I felt like I was born a boy but I look like a girl. That was not of my own design. That was just nature that made me that way. Knowing that killing yourself was a sin, I couldn't do it. I came from a very strict Catholic family. Suicide is not an issue but I did think as a teenager that I wanted to kill myself."

Hip Socialite Diet Guru Nikki Haskell let me know that she gets asked for advice all the time.  "I have an opinion on absolutely everything. Anything you want to know I'll tell you about!"

Handsome Actor/Singer John Schneider talked about his frustration with the public not knowing he is a singer.  "I'm a realist. Not a day goes by where I don't sing somewhere and somebody comes up to me and says, "Hey I didn't know you sang?" I should have done the fourteenth album I guess because thirteen just wasn't enough! (laughter) I should have had more number one songs. It's a weird thing that I don't understand."

The lovely Michelle Phillips let me know she adores being a grandmother.  "It's really a beautiful experience. It truly is. Who could have thought that I would one day be a grandmother? I love spending time with my grandchildren. We go shopping and make dinner and we paint! It's all fun time!"

I'm going to end with my second year anniversary blog featuring Gilles Marini's third and best appearance.  We talked about what he learned from his father.  "My Dad showed me the good in the world. Sometimes people ask me if I'm really that nice. I'm not trying to be anything. This is just the normal me.  It's not complicated for me. Everyday if you do something good it will be contagious. Doing something nice for someone you don't know is so awesome I think."

Yes I would say I have learned a lot from my blogs and I hope you have at least enjoyed them if nothing else! 


  1. Yes I know that you are an amazing photographer, but I also think you're a psychologist. You create such a warm and safe environment for people to be themselves; that is one of the reason people's eyes are so deeply revealing in your photos. Bravo on this blog Alan .I love it, so interesting.

  2. Alan, I am incredibly proud of you! What an amazing blog this is! It brought back memories of some terrific interviews and the photos are beyond beautiful!!

    I have always said that you are one of the most grounded people anywhere, and I think your choice of quotes to use is a testament to that! There is a lot of wisdom contained in this blog! I really love the fact that you included Paul(Gazebo)in this, because I always tell him how much wisdom he has. He loves his children so much and the photo of him with Eva is great!

    You started out by saying, "The one and only reason I started a blog was to keep my photographs in front of people's eyes." I would say that you have certainly succeeded in that in a big way!

    It doesn't surprise me that you were ahead of your time, because you have an innate sensitivity that is rare in so many people. You can pick up on what people need, and when you combine that with your superior talent and creativity it is pure MAGIC!!!

  3. Your nature is a comfort for the soul. Whether you are taking a photo, interviewing one of the greats, professionalism and true character is felt in each and everything you do. I for one, enjoy reading your warm, entertaining and sensational blog. After I read it, I can't wait for the next one.!

    You have certainly proven what a great talent you are!
    I am proud of you and proud to call you my friend.

    It was such a pleasure recently to have my photo taken by you. What a thrill!

    Along with all your professional talents, you get the "sugar" award, for one of the sweetest people I have known.

  4. Bravo Alan, this compilation is brilliant! Your talent behind the camera is indisputable as you capture the essence of your subjects beautifully. I always find your conversations fascinating and believe that it is your warmth and genuine interest that melts walls and elicits honest responses resulting in delightful and/or inspiring stories. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  5. Alan!!!

    This has truly, truly moved me to tears! How wonderful and inspirational.

    I need to take this moment to say that I am blessed to have crossed paths in this life with you. I still cherish our conversation and interview -- and I would love to do another piece with you. I think you should expand this into a book -- titled exactly the same.

    What a privilege and honor it must be for you to sit down with these beautiful people and hear these 'Life Lessons'!

    For the rest of my life, Gilles' kindness to me has changed my life, fanned a flame in my heart -- he IS that nice - his heart is so pure and I know his dad would be so proud of him!

    You do the same, Alan, with your art, with your insight into people and what drives them and shapes is a rare and beautiful talent to discern someone's spirit and capture it so beautifully on film and in your Blog Conversations.

    You deserve every wonderful thing that comes your way. God Bless You and thank you always for sharing your light with the world (and with me!)


  6. Enjoyed this very much...i feel honored that you took MY picture :)

  7. Such wonderful memories, photographs, and most importantly life lessons. I loved this. Thanks Alan. As always. You are the best! Keep up the great work.

  8. I just stumbled across your blog due to some searching on google about Sean Young (my goodness I hope someone hires her again - she is fantastic). Your photos are wonderful and love how you recapped the essence of all of your interviews. TFS