One in a Million Alan Joseph Fortenberry, Jr., 1970-2015

I first met photographer and friend Alan Joseph Fortenberry, Jr., one early afternoon several years ago. I walked into Philip Marie, and Chef/Owner John Greco III said, “I have someone I want to introduce you to. He can help with your magazine.” So we walked over to Alan’s table, I sat down and we spoke a few minutes. I saw this photo he was holding to show John. I said, “Wow, that photo would be perfect for a cover.” He agreed, but said John owned the rights to it. I said, “Well, maybe we can borrow it?” Alan said, “Well, you will need to ask John.” As I recall, I texted him a few days later saying, “Listen, I want that photo for the cover. It’s my favorite one.” Alan again said to talk to John about it and added, “I can maybe even let you meet the model!” That would later become the first of many covers Alan shot for Get Out! magazine.

The next time we met was at Posh Bar. He said, “I know you need help with your magazine and need more ads to keep it going. I believe in you and your magazine, so I want to purchase an ad to help you.” And help he did. After a few months went by, I remembered saying to John, “I think you found me an angel. I think he was sent to me from up above. He is the nicest guy in the world. Whenever I need something, he is right there.”

Shortly after getting his ad, Alan told me, “You need to expand into Jersey. I will help get you ads, and I will deliver for you.” I said, “I don’t have enough profit, Alan.” He replied, “You will soon enough. I am going to help you. I believe in this magazine, and Mike, you are a super great guy.”

Fast-forward three years and Alan was still delivering Get Out! magazine and selling ads in New Jersey. When I was laid up for seven months after an ankle operation, Alan took over delivering throughout the entire NYC area as well. Every Monday he would text saying, “See you tomorrow! I want to get these beauties delivered in the city then head to Jersey.”

Alan was close with his loved ones, especially his mom and family and friends, and was always driving around Jersey looking for that next great photo to put a smile on someone’s face.

We had a few talks about life and relationships, and I learned some things from Alan that really only he could teach me from his own experience. When it came to business, we always ended up on the same page. If I didn’t agree with his suggestion, his response was always the same: “You’re the boss.” At first it made me feel uncomfortable, but soon it was regular vocabulary from him to me. If I did not agree, he would step back, think about it, then come back with the same idea but improved. The ideas always seemed to get approved, and he always smiled thinking he changed my mind.

Alan had a few small parts in a film—”Well, if they don’t edit me out!” he would say—and worked as the still photographer for the film, “Diamonds to Dust,” the bio-pic of Hollywood legend Jayne Mansfield, being released on iTunes and other video platforms April 7. Alan had been getting occasional promo ads for this movie for over a year, so finally I said, “I keep seeing this promo, but when the hell is this movie coming out?” We laughed, and he said, “It’s coming, it just takes a while to finish them off.” Three weeks ago, Alan called, so excited that the film was about to be released. He said, “Can you write a short summary of the movie?” I said, “Alan, you are so proud of this film. Instead of a quarter page summary, why don’t you get the actress, Hailey Heisick, to do an interview?” He had it arranged within minutes, and even sent more photos he had taken for the article. He was so happy. That was Alan—always wanting to help others.

That interview was set to run last week, but we decided to hold it back an issue until this week. I texted Alan to say, “Alan, after five years of doing the magazine, can you believe Jody Watley is going to be on the cover? I always wanted her. And the Thousand Gowns event promos are in the same issue. It would be so great to put Hailey and the movie ad in that issue. It’s going to be the best.” His reply: “You’re the boss!”

Unfortunately, “the boss” messed up. My dear friend Alan Joseph passed away last week. He will never see the final project. I just hope, Alan, that you would be proud.

Now, this week I will be delivering this issue the same way you did it, with pride and a smile on my face. Instead of getting your weekly text saying, “I’m finished with the city, now I’m headed to Jersey, nite nite,” I will be looking in the sky saying, “The city delivery is done. I’m on my way to Jersey to make you proud, Alan. Rest in peace. Nite, nite.”

Mike Todd


Mike Todd

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