The Bertster


© Joe DiMaggio

To all the ships at sea, if you ever decide to write a book (an autobiography, a memoir, etc) and you’re involved in the arts; whether you’re a musician, an oil painter, a sculptor, or even a photographer, I’m going to give you the tip of the century. Before you write the book, go into your archives and find ALL of your artwork, photography, and illustrations before you put a pencil to paper. Okay, a new ribbon in the typewriter. Okay, a new tape in the tape recorder. Buy a new laptop? Oh, remember the save button; always remember the save button. Now that I’ve given you this great advice, anyone who knows me knows that I did what? Didn’t pay any attention to it. So now my publisher is screaming because the book is finished, but the illustrations go back to the black and white film days and Kodachrome one and two, and the sheer numbers are astronomical. As a subtext to this, you also find out that the quote “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” from Henri Cartier-Bresson was accurate times ten. While looking for several book covers I did with my dear friend Bert Sugar, I stumbled across a few frames. The Bertster was a true Damon Runyon character, and as I recently found out, he was one of the original Mad Men. He also wrote what is (in my mind) one of the greatest jingles of all time; N-e-s-t-l-e-s Nestles makes the very best… chocolate.

© Joe DiMaggio


© Joe DiMaggio


Birthday. The Bertster.

Everyday of our lives, is an important day. Six months ago I made a decision to teach a work shop at Gleason’s Gym. When my studio manager reminded me that it was my birthday I said great. I consider work a privilege and what better to do then teach photography at Glesons’ Gym. Its just does not get better then that. I knew it was going to a very special and an amazing eclectic group. From Brazil, Chili, Colombia, England, Norway, and all over the east coast. A great balance between men and women, and great help from JoAnne Kalish, Larry Malang, Peter Poremba. It was a hell of a great day. Life is funny, I was on a great natural high, and I got back to the studio. Did not check my voice mail, did not check my email, downloaded the cards, checked facebook. I don’t check it that often and I find one of my close friend died of a heart attack. It was Bert Sugar. On Wednesday, I called Bert, he answered me as usual “Uncle Joe.” I always call him the “Bertster”. I asked him how he was feeling, and he said” I have lung cancer, and have internal bleeding but that’s not the problem.” Then I asked him what the big problem was? He said, “I have F@$!#ing terminal acne.” Thats the Bertster, no matter what the dialogue is he always finds humor in it. He was loved by millions, hated by thousands, he was a true Damon Runyon character and a great friend. I will miss him, yes I will miss him… Off the record, he suffered “Cuttysheimers”, his words not mine. RIP Bert Sugar.

                                 Bert Sugar, Playwright Budd Schulberg, and son Benn Schulberg

                                                           Bert Sugar

                                            Captain Lou Albano, Bert Sugar

Bert Randolph Sugar at his finest at Gleasons’

All photos copyright Joe DiMaggio