Happy Birthday Jay: Mel Di Giacomo

To whom it may concern or anyone remotely interested in Jay Maisel:

I don’t understand what all the fuss is about… so he’s taken a couple of nice photos. Alright maybe more than a couple. Let’s be honest, if it weren’t for the photo nerds he’s hired for the past 40 years to make technical decisions for him, he’d be where he truly belongs: on Delancey Street selling Schmattas to Polish immigrants.

From the Jay Maisel Studio cork board.

The man does not know an F-stop from a bus stop – seriously. And nobody likes him! (Marty Forcher liked him, but Marty liked everybody.) His parents did not like him. His mother used to pack his lunch in a road map. When Jay came home from Hebrew school , he found his parents had moved. Speaking of Hebrew school, the Italian kids on Mulberry Street would beat the snot out of him because Jay didn’t speak any English. He was bi-lingual however. He spoke Yiddish and Hebrew fluently. You can just imagine how well that went over with the “wops” who walloped him weekly. My Pisanos used to stuff his sweet Peyus into cannoli shells. For a decade, he was a poster child for Ferrara’s. I know for a fact this didn’t go over well with the Sicilians, i.e. having a 6’4″ Jew wearing cannoli shells, when the average height of my warm-skinned forebears was 5 feet.


Fast forward to 2011. Nineteen sixty-eight seems so long ago. We were wild, competitive and mischievous. Always ready to top one another, not with images, but with jokes.

I did beat him once at hoops after 17 consecutive losses. (Nobody beats Mel Di Giacomo 18 times in a row.) He insists that only Walter Iooss beat him. He wouldn’t accept that a 5’7″ Sicilian with 2 artificial hips kicked his butt. Figuratively of course. I can’t get my leg high enough for a literal butt-kicking.

Why we are friends after 40 years is simple. We are passionate about photography. Jay shoots in color, I prefer black and white, and we appreciate one another’s achievements.

We are also too old to have children under 20. I am sure I speak (in English) for Jay when when I say our kids are the motivating factor in our lives. I am enormously pleased that Amanda shares L.A.’s Italian blood. Some may point out that Amanda and Linda are only part Italian. Look at it this way.. the Lord knows what he’s doing – some people can’t take a full dose of Italian, so he gives one all that they might handle. I am only half Italian and I’m half Sicilian.

Basta cosi, sufficiently with shameless Sicilian passion and a kiss on both cheeks.

-Melchior Anthony Pasquale Di Giacomo

P.S. One thing I can say with certainty is that Jay is a better human being than he is a photographer. If you do not believe me, pick up a Yiddish to English dictionary and find the word “mensch.” There is no written definition, simply a picture of Jay Maisel.