I had been singing with Tom Metz for a while before we did our first bit.
He'd joined In The Buff a few years after me and immediately began parading his awesome all over the place. As a performer with a fragile ego, a new kid with awesome exuding from him is enough to challenge a world view.
It's been a long time, and memory is fuzzy. What I remember pre-Tom is an era of being one of the funny guys. I had a series of bits myself, in fact; Pete's Joke Corner (in which I told a joke with smokey jazz backup about a leprechaun and a 12-inch pianist), and MasterPete's Theater (in which I performed metal lyrics in a style loosely reminiscent of slam poetry). There was even rumor at the time that MasterPete's was in the running for a slot on the Contemporary A Cappella Society's humor compilation CD. Didn't happen, but that there was rumor that it could happen is enough for me.
This was pre-Tom.
Then Tom came. The guy is impossibly, magnetically charming. Invite him to a light dinner reading of The Fountainhead and Tom would bring levity dressed up in school-boy awkwardness and leave the room thirsty. You see, Tom has been gifted with more than his fair share of social grace. No, I don't mean he trucks with Emily Post. I mean, he operates in a social context with a surreal fluidity; his humor is precisely timed and rarely off-target, always self-deprecating, and never beneath the audience.
His antics on the performance stage one-up his moves on the social stage, and that's where I feel I met Tom for the first time. Stage lights are for Tom just as Superman's yellow sun: they give him immense power. They sharpen his already keen wit and polish his improvisation.
Tom is not an actor as such. But as I quickly grew to appreciate his gifts on stage and work with him, I began to learn from him. I have yet to come into orbit of someone who has such a gift to connect with people as Tom Metz, and what he has taught me through observation alone makes a catalog of subtlety and nuance that I think about in every broadcast I deliver, every photograph I make.
Insofar as this project is about giving thanks for the people and relationship that have made me who I am today, Tom has given me career-defining insight in how I create for the public. It's a very short list of people that sit in the back of your mind, festering, searching for opportunities to work together again someday.
Tom is at the top of my list.
For this project, there were only three people for whom I had an idea for their portraits from the start, and Tom was one of them. To me, he's always represented this sort of timelessness and class that I associate with gentlemen of the screen—Gable. Bogart. Welles. Tom would have to do the 1940's headshot for me. And to do so in the beat-up CU cap and the trucker-plaid shirt? Icing all the way down.