|Photo: NY Times/Words: F LoBuono|
Many years ago I produced and wrote a documentary on the legendary Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist, Nat Fein. We used a quote excerpted from one of the expert interviews that we conducted for it as the title: Nat Fein: A Talent for Living.
I choose that particular quote to describe him because it fit him to a "T". He was so much more than a great photographer. His sketches with pencil and crayon (which he gave freely to others just for fun) were often of sufficient quality as to rival those in the Saturday Evening Post. He told jokes - most of them pretty bad - but, he could sure entertain a room. And, man, he could sing! Fein's father was a vaudvillian who toured with Iriving Berlin, so it was in his genes. Nat inherited not only his love for entertaining but his sense of timing from his father which, I believe, he used not only with his singing but in his photography, too. And, these were just some of his skills - he loved to cook, too!
Another interview we conducted to tell our story of Fein's life was with the musician, Loren Korevec. Korevec was the the consumate "piano man", having earned his stripes providing the entertainment for over 15 years at New York's legendary speakeasy, Elaine's. During that time, Korevec played host to the Hollywood royality on whose map Elaine's was clearly marked as a must-go spot in New York.
While playing a local gig at a spot closer to his home in Rockland County, NY, Korevec was approached by a charming, older man who asked if he could sit in and sing a song or two with him. That gentleman turned out to be Nat Fein. Korevec figured "what harm could it do" and said, "sure". Korevec was not so much blown away by Fein's skill as a singer but more by his energy - he put everything he had into every song. Nothing was held back. The collaboration between the two lasted for years until Nat's death in 2000.
During our interview with Korevec about his collaboration, he had this to say:
"Nat was like this huge fountain - creativity was just constantly pouring out of him. He simply could not turn off the spicket. When I think about Nat, I have to remember to be like him".
Well, Loren, we all need to remember to be like Nat - everyday. I think that he may have been what Buddhists call a bodhisatva, or spirit guide - someone to light the way. Whenever I feel myself down, like no one cares, I think of this. It can be as if we were so busy giving, we don't have the time to think of what might be dragging us down. The path is clear. We have been shown the way. All we need do is follow.