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So Raquel Welch grabs my arm and pulls me close. “We’re losing the light,” she says. “And I need you to fix my body makeup.”

“Look at this,” she says, pointing to her cleavage. “You have to make this look better.”

Some days you just don’t want to go to work. I am in LAfor the weekend, shooting the cover of the “Playboy Guide to Fashion,” a magazine I started and edited. We are not shooting this in a studio because Raquel will only be shot with natural light. So I rented a mansion in Bel Air for the weekend.

I had to fly in a photographer from Rome, because she was Raquel’s favorite photographer. And whatever Raquel wants, Raquel gets. And now this holdup with her body makeup. I shook my head and looked at my watch. There was no way I was going to make my flight back East today. I call my wife.

“I’m not going to make it home tonight,” I tell her. “I have to stay here and fix Raquel’s body makeup. What a bummer.”

“Listen to yourself,” my wife said. “I’m here taking care of three little kids with hacking coughs and runny noses, and you’re complaining about putting body makeup on Raquel Welch. Do you really expect to get sympathy from me?”

A little harsh, I thought. Yes, this was my dream job. Yes, I was putting out a magazine that was read every month by millions of people. And, yes, I got to hang out with some of the most beautiful women in the world. But, come on, you can get a really bad sunburn in LA in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, the more my reading audience grew, the more my friends would ask me if this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my career. “No,” I told them. “When I get near retiring, I would love to go small. Maybe a small-town newspaper or magazine. A place where people who read me weren’t anonymous. Where I would run into them at Redstone and T.J. Maxx and they would give me their feedback, tell me their interests and show me their kids.”

Funny how things work out. About 15 years ago, I got a call from a man who was putting out hometown newspapers in my hometown. And the towns right around it. He was looking for help in making them grow a little. He told me he couldn’t figure out how.

To me, the answer was easy. Put them all together. Make them one nice-sized magazine that told the stories of the people and families of South Jersey. And we did that. And we called it SJ.

Over the years, as I tried to balance it with my other businesses, I’ve been everything from consultant to editor to columnist for this magazine.

When I retired a couple years back, I decided there was only one work thing I was still going to do. Write a column for SJ. But calling it work isn’t quite right. It’s a labor all right. But a labor of love.

I’ve lived in South Jersey for over 40 years now. Met a lot of people, seen a lot of things. What makes me happy these days? Well, my family comes first. Especially my grandkids. But right after that, comes getting an email from a reader who had a laugh or shed a tear over something I wrote on these pages. Or having people I don’t know recognize me from my picture and tell me they feel like they’ve been my friend for years.

Vicki from Voorhees might not be a movie star, but she lets me know every month that this idea I had for a magazine 15 years ago keeps growing every day. And I’ll never get tired of hearing that.

So, if you see me out there, come on up and say hello. I have only one rule about that. Don’t ask me to do your body makeup.

March 2015
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